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Italy has a special place in my heart. As an Italian American, I feel a connection with the people and the food. I also love it because one of my best friends from college lived in Torino for years. I’ve been to Italy more than any other country. This was my sixth sojourn and it was as incredible as my first. Venice and Lake Como have been on my list of places I wanted to visit for years. This trip was full of nostalgia and adventure which to me, equals a fantastic vacation.

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Our first stop was Venice. All of my friends told me I would hate Venice; that it’d be crowded and smelly. While is was overrun by hordes of tourists (which I did hate), I loved the quiet corners. I especially enjoyed the Airbnb we rented on the Grand Canal. Sitting on the balcony watching the boats gave me a glimpse into the daily life of a Venetian. We didn’t see any of the major tourist sites. Instead we wandered the streets of Venice and took a ferry to Burano. In Burano, I had grand plans for us to eat lunch at Da Ramano but it was closed for the August holidays. We also intended to ogle the the colorful buildings. Except it was too damn hot. Italy was having an unprecedented heat wave when we visited. Sweating a lot was a daily occurrence, as were stops for apertivos and Aperol Spritzes. After 2 nights and 1 full day in Venice, we hopped in our rental car and drove to Lake Como.

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Lake Como was impressive. We stayed in Como at a swanky apartment complex that overlooked the lake. Of course the unit we rented had a view of the garden and the apartment building next door. Since we were only there to sleep and cool off occasionally, our view didn’t matter. If I ever go again, I’d stay further north in Cernobbio or Varenna.

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Unfortunately, even though the average temperatures were supposed to be in the high 70-80’s in Como, it was 90+. We distracted ourselves by taking the funicular up the mountain. It was a gorgeous ride and the view was incredible.

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We did a “hike” (it was really a 20 minute walk up a hill), stumbled across this wonderful shrine and then stopped for an apertivo.

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We also took the ferry to Bellagio which was quaint and picturesque. While in Bellagio, the “great ferry adventure” took place. To get anywhere in Lake Como, you take ferries. You can take a fast ferry or a slow ferry. The day we went to Bellagio, we took the fast ferry. As we were waiting for the return ferry, we were told the fast ferry broke. The next ferry was in another two hours and we had already explored all parts of Bellagio. I didn’t want to wait two more hours so we hopped the slow ferry. It was supposed to take two hours. Instead it took three and the slow ferry broke too which required a boat switch. While it sounds complicated and terrible, this was actually my favorite part of the trip. We visited thirteen little towns around Lake Como. I had a seat in the shade with an incredible breeze. The scenery was incredible. I can’t imagine a better way to kill a couple of hours.

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Our last stop on the trip was a small town an hour outside of Venice called Padua. Padua was my second favorite part of our adventure. We stayed at a boutique hotel near the historic center of town. While the interior was modern, the exterior was a historic house surrounded by cobblestone streets. The staff was lovely and helpful. We only had a half day in Padua and we had grand plans to go see Padua’s famous frescos. When we started to wander around in search of lunch, we quickly realized the frescos weren’t going to happen. Padua was too charming and we had exploring to do.

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The main thoroughfare was lined with porticos and shops. As we walked along the streets, we glanced into the store fronts and realized almost everything was closed during the afternoon. Even though Italy isn’t known for siesta, it was clear by the deserted streets everyone was staying inside during the hottest part of the day. We were the only idiots wandering around in the 100 degree heat. We ducked into a pizzeria for lunch and had one of our best meals. Padua was the only place we visited that wasn’t overrun by tourists. The menus were in Italian (yes!), the restaurant was full of Italians (double yea!) and finally, we had a peek into the real Italy. It instantly reminded me of my visits to Turino. Padua also had the most incredible street art. This was my favorite. It’s so clever!

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While I don’t regret one iota of my trip, I came away with a couple of realizations. 1. We won’t be traveling at the end of July or in August unless we’re going to somewhere that’s not hot. The heat made things difficult. Already percolating in my mind is a trip to Copenhagen, Ireland or Scotland next summer. Germany is also on the short list since we had friends move there recently. 2. I enjoy the road less traveled. While I’m thrilled I was able to experience Venice and Lake Como, I don’t like the generic tourist experience. I don’t find it authentic or fun. 3. Adventure is good for the soul. I’m thankful I was able to get out of here for a week and away from the omnipresent news cycle. What’s happening in our country makes me weary.

 

 

 

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vencie

Tomorrow, I’m hopping a flight to Italy to spend 7 days visiting Venice, Lake Como and Padua. I can’t wait!

We’re spending 2 days in Venice (this will be my view from the Airbnb we’re renting!), then 3 days in Lake Como and 1 day in Padua. I’ve never visited this part of Italy and these places have been on my “to see” list for years.

Any suggestions??

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5 lessons from my Dad

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“Five Lessons from My Dad” is something I wrote a couple of years ago. While I rarely look backwards, many of my life decisions have revolved around these lessons and it’s worth revisiting. Happy Father’s Day!

Just like my Mom, my Dad taught me valuable lessons about life.  When you’re growing up, you’re not thinking about what your parents are teaching you.  You’re thinking “Man..this is so dumb.  Why are we talking about this again?”  (This was constantly running through my head while in middle/high school along with: “Why do I have to stop reading to listen to this?”)  In honor of my pops and Father’s Day, here are five things my Dad taught me.

Be kind.  This sounds like a no brainer but I’m constantly surprised by people’s bad behavior. It’s one of the tenets of my personality and a lot of days, it’s hard. Everyday there’s someone I want to blast but I don’t.  (Most of the time.  I’m not perfect and I complain a lot instead).

Be on time or early.  My Dad taught me that being late is rude.  It conveys a message to the person you’re meeting that their time isn’t important.  I’m always punctual and when I’m late, it stresses me out.

Pay your bills on time.  This lesson was one of the best things my Dad taught me.  I always had a job at our restaurant when I was growing up. When I got my first bills in college, my Dad made certain I knew the importance of paying bills on time and how it led to good credit. Having good credit has been instrumental in my adulthood when purchasing cars and my home.

Work hard and you shall achieve.  When I was growing up, my Dad worked incessantly. When I was little and we lived in Northern Virginia, he was a teacher, a painter, a driver’s ed teacher and a photographer.  He worked hard to provide my brother and me with a great childhood.  It also led to a beach house and a wonderful retirement.

Your actions say it all.  My Dad was an excellent athlete.  He still has football records that remain unbroken in his home state of WV.  When my brother and I played sports when were younger, he taught us  actions always speak louder than words. While I don’t play sports any longer, I apply this lesson daily to both my personal and professional life.

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gift guide fathers dayI can’t believe it’s Father’s Day this weekend! Here’s a few gift options that will please any of the men in your life.

j’s hot sauce four pack sampler   This is my friend Jason’s hot sauce company.  It’s delicious and for those who love hot sauce, it’s no joke! Especially #4.  It makes my husband break into a sweat every time he eats it.

grill tool set  The grilling essentials and it comes in different colors.  I’m getting orange because my Dad’s high school colors were orange and black.

kamado charcoal grill and smoker  New grill tools to use on a new grill and smoker.

bacon subscription Bacon is never bad! especially if you love blt’s. yum.

 

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chevron doorOn Friday, my husband and I took the train to Philly to visit with some cousins.  It was fast and furious but tons of fun.

My cousin took Friday off and set up an epic walking tour of the city. We explored a couple of new (to us) neighborhoods like Fishtown and Northern Liberties. This crazy door is the entrance to Frankford Hall, one of the many beer gardens that populate Philly. We also stopped off at the La Columbe and grabbed a snack from Snap Kitchen.

Side note: I’m fascinated by Snap Kitchen. It’s a fast casual, healthy meal shop and I can eat the majority of the stuff in there.  Do you know HOW EXCITING that is???  I asked if they were going to open on in DC and they said “real estate is expensive”.  Le sigh.  Anyway..I tried their Silken Chocolate Mousse and it was delicious.  Imagine-Vegan, Dairy and Gluten Free mousse and it was actually *delicious*.  See why I got excited?

minima

My cousin also knows how much I love decor shops and took us to one of his favorites, Minima. This store is incredible! FYI-they said a lot of their clients live in DC.  If this type of furniture is your jam, check out their website or better yet, go visit.

poppies

On Saturday, there was an art fair in Rittenhouse Square. We meandered through the show and my favorite part was the poppies. Next we did some shopping. Just like on our last trip to Philly, we hit Joan Shep, EYEsite and Egan Day.  Do not miss these shops next time you’re visiting.  They’re so fun!

In between all the walking and shopping, we also ate and drank well. We had lunch at High Street on Market (my husband LOVED his roasted pork with fermented broccoli rabe sandwich), cocktails at Circa Green and dinner at Veda. 

While it was a whirlwind trip (we were there a a little over 24 hours..I had to work on Sunday) we had a blast. Thanks for showing us your city, cousins!!

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five lessons from my mom

mom and me

“Five Lessons from My Mom” is something I wrote a couple of years ago and it’s one of my favorite posts.  Many of my life decisions have revolved around these lessons and it’s worth revisiting. Happy Mother’s Day!

My Mom has taught me a lot about life.  Throughout my adolescence and most of my 20’s, I rolled my eyes about these lessons.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized these are the tenents of my life and I’m grateful.  So Mom..despite all the years I dismissed them, these are my favorite lessons.  Happy Mother’s Day!

1. Work hard and you will achieve. My Mom always worked hard. After starting her career as a teacher, she worked in our restaurants and then for a publisher selling educational textbooks.  She won many sales awards, she worked insessantly and helped fund a wonderful retirement.

2. Wear lipstick.  Image is important.  For years, I thought this was the silliest, most superficial advice.  Then I realized she’s right.  People judge you as soon as they meet you.  If you’re pulled together, the impression is more favorable.  It’s sales 101.

3. Laughter is the best medicine. Whenever I’m having a terrible day, I try to find humor in something.  Laughing always makes me feel better.

4. Be curious.  My Mom is curious and she taught me to be the same. It’s why I love to read and travel.

5. Good grammer is important.  My Mom is a former English teacher.  While I used to find her corrections annoying, now I’m grateful. Poorly written sentences make me cringe.

 

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rise

Rise Bakery, located at 2409 18th St, NW in Adams Morgan, is a gluten-free bakery.  This is monumental news in my gluten free world.  A couple of months ago, my husband popped by there and grabbed a few things: a bag of bagels, a loaf of bread, a banana nut muffin and a cinnamon roll.  They were delicious and I was so exited. Good gluten free bread and pastries are hard to find.

I had an appointment today in Adams Morgan so I popped by the bakery. I grabbed a chocolate croissant and a cherry-ginger scone. I was not disappointed!  Is the croissant light and flakey like a regular croissant?  Nope but it’s pretty close in taste. I ate it in 3.2 seconds.
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The cherry-ginger sconce was also yummy. Out of everything I’ve sampled, I’ve liked the croissant, banana nut muffin and the cinnamon roll the best.  Their bread is also tasty. If you’re gluten free, Rise Bakery should be on your list of places to try in DC.

sconce

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life via instagram aprl

Why hello there. I’ve been a little lax on the ole blog because I can’t seem to muster up a lot of enthusiasm. I’ve been writing about real estate, design and things I love for TEN years. My creativity has dried up and work has been crazy. (Correlation? Possibly but I’m too tired to figure it out). I’m still exploring new places and things but really, I’m a kinda over writing about it. Kinda. There’s still a host of topics that pique my interest.  You’ll definitely still be hearing from me. However the days of daily postings are a thing of the past.  If you’ve noticed, I’ve been publishing twice a week.  That’s my plan for the future and I hope you keep reading.  Till next week!

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life via instagram

My trip to LA over President’s Day weekend was a ton of fun. The only downside: the weather! The weekend we were there, LA had a “monster storm” and it rained like crazy two out of the five days we were visiting.  Figures.  They’ve had a drought for four years but the weekend we visit, it’s a deluge.

We spent a couple days in Pasadena with my Aunt and Uncle then moved onto LA. While in Pasadena, we ate at wonderful restaurants and visited the Norton Simon Museum.  The museum was incredible and had a mix of old Masters and modern art.  I found a new artist that I like: Sam Francis.  I’d never heard of him but I LOVED the “Basel Mural 2”. I wish I could recreate it.

On Saturday, we met up with more family but on the Angotti side.  We spent the day with them at the LA Natural History Museum and then checked out their neighborhood in Hollywood.  It was cute! California has an interesting mix of housing styles and I enjoyed gawking.  Always a real estate agent.

We stayed at Santa Monica pier at the Shore Hotel for the rest of our visit. A few of my DC friends have absconded to LA and live in Venice Beach.  Santa Monica was the perfect location between Hollywood and Venice.  Saturday and Sunday we spent hanging out in Santa Monica and Venice.  Saturday evening we ate at Michael’s (which was seriously amazing) and Sunday we had brunch at Scopa. Venice was adorable and I loved all the shops on Abbot Kinney Rd.

Although we managed to pack a lot of visiting and wandering while we were there, there’s still neighborhoods that I want to explore.  Next visit!

 

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off to la

la sky

I’m off to LA tomorrow and I’m looking forward to sunshine and nice temperatures.  At least 2 of the 4 days will be nice. Even though LA has been having a drought for the last 4 years, apparently this year they’re getting record rainfall.  While I’m pumped for LA, I’ve been feeling a lot of *#%^ due to the weather forecast.  Le sigh.

I’m spending a couple days in Pasadena and then a couple of days in LA proper.  More on my adventures next week. Have a happy President’s Day weekend!

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valentines

Hope you have a wonderful day full of chocolate and champagne! xoxo

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bathroom after bed1

Although the guest bathroom renovation finished in July, it wasn’t photo worthy until recently.  I’m thrilled with the final result!

before after guest bathroom bed

It’s unbelievable how new tile adds to a space.  For the floor, I chose a 5 x 5 carrera marble hexagon tile.  It’s a small space so it made a big impact.  I used a matte white subway tile and grey grout for the rest of the  bathroom. I am overjoyed not to see brown, builder grade tile anymore.

before after shower stall

My only regret is not adding a niche in the shower wall for shampoo and soap.  I can’t believe I spaced on adding one!

before after guest bath hallway

I also replaced the original toilet with a Toto dual flush toilet, tiled behind the toilet for a more cohesive look, added a shut off valve for the shower and switched the shower hardware to match the sink hardware.

The art is by Kristi Kohut as detailed in this post.  The ocean print above the towel bar is from Urban Outfitters.  It’s by Tina Crespo and it says “the cure for anything is salt water. sweat, tears, or the sea”.  True words.

Total cost was around $3,000 for labor and materials.

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