ADVENTURES IN ROME

Colosseum

Hey guys!

I am going to do a few posts about my trip to Europe.  I wanted to blog while I was there, but since we were traveling light with backpacks, we didn’t have anywhere to carry the laptop.  So I’m going to sprinkle in a few of these posts (with some pics of the different cities we went to) along with the more regular posts.

First off, Roma!

When I went to Loyola of Chicago, I spent a summer studying in Rome.  It lasted about 4-5 weeks and it was such an amazing time and I have the BEST memories from it.  So when me and J were planning on going to Europe I felt like we had to make this stop.  It ended up being our first stop and the longest.  We were there for 5 nights (I judge all lengths of time by nights, since that’s how I had to think when booking all of our rooms).

Rome Apartment

{The tree in our apartment’s courtyard and view from our bedroom window…We had to hand wash our clothes one night and hung them on the drying rack out the window like a little old Italian couple}

We used HomeAway here and stayed at this ladies apartment that was a 5 minute walk from the Colosseum.  It was a great location.  Just a little bit off the beaten path, but still in the middle of the action.

I can’t even believe how much we walked in Rome (…actually the entire trip was full of walking).  It was so fun to walk around and explore the city.  Oh hey, let’s walk to dinner…oh look an ancient ruin.  Oh look over there, that’s where Caesar was murdered.  Oh yea, this building is over 2,000 years old.

Walk some more…cappuccino.  Walk a little more…time for some wine.  How about some gelato?…are you ready for wine again?

Tiber River

Tiber River

And the food was fantastic…probably one of things I was most excited for.

Italian Food

{Caprese salad in Italy…J had the spaghetti and meatballs}

Roman Trees

{I had a slight obsession with the Roman trees  ♥}

Basilica de San Giovanni

{Those candlesticks were gold…and the bottom pic was just a very small section of that church}

And there were extravagant churches everywhere.  There seemed to be a church every corner you turned, and they were all ridiculously decked out with gold.  One of the church’s ceilings was made out of gold that was brought back by Christopher Columbus.  Kind of had my fill in the church department, I think I saw enough for a lifetime.

And a few days into our trip we bought a selfie stick…something we were initially making fun of until we realized the amazingness that is the selfie stick.  I mean, it gets kind of annoying to ask strangers to take pictures of you next to an ancient monument every 5 minutes.  And once we had the stick, we could get pics of us in front of some cool ass building without our heads taking up the entire picture.  That’s a win.

Rome Collage

So that was Rome in a very tiny nutshell…We took over 500 pictures here and many videos.  We were documenting the whole trip via iphone video, which was a blast to look back on because it totally captures the vibe of the moment.  I highly recommend taking videos of yourself : )

Where has your favorite place been to travel?  Any cool destinations on your bucket list?  I think my travel bug just exploded after being on this trip so I would love any suggestions!

♦ Stephanie

TOP 5 TRAVEL NECESSITIES

In the middle of my trip in Europe, I compiled a list of what I thought were the top 5 most important travel necessities to have with you.

5 Travel Necessities

I wrote this list on Day 13 of our 21 day trip.  So I feel like this pretty accurately represents what I found most important at that moment.  Then I checked this list again towards the end of the trip, and not only did these all still apply, I think they became even more important.

So here we go:

1.  Eye Mask + Ear Plugs

This is number 1 for a reason.  Sleep is the MOST important thing, in my book.  We stayed in hotels, HomeAway’s, AirBNB’s, and regular B&B’s during our trip.  And the one thing I can tell you for sure, is that you never know what you’re going to get.  Especially when it comes to early morning light and loud noise.  Since we travelled during a heat wave in Europe, it was ridiculously hot.  And there is hardly any AC.  So a lot of the time, you depend on opening the windows and having the night air cool you off.  The problem with this is, the sun comes up early and the noise levels can be unexpected.  For instance, we had an early morning violinist in the apartment in Rome we stayed in (and he wasn’t even good!).  And there was construction work going on near more than one place we stayed at.  And one night in a B&B in Florence we had a very loud couple staying in the room next to us.  I thought they were fighting but J thought they were just talking passionately (It was all in Italian, so we couldn’t be sure).  Anyway,  the eye mask & ear plugs were used EVERYWHERE.

2.  Osprey Back Packs

This was a tough decision when we were planning this trip.  Back packs or rolling suitcase?  I knew that I wanted to travel light.  I had read about capsule wardrobes and thought this would be a great time to really try something like that out and practice with packing good staple pieces that could easily be mixed and matched.  Let me tell ya, this was a lifesaver.   I had previously spent 1 month in Rome in my college days, doing a summer study abroad program, and I remembered all of the brick and cobblestone roads in Europe. I also remembered Venice (one of our stops) and all of the stairs to go up and down the bridges, along with all of the narrow sidewalks (pretty much everywhere).  I decided that backpacks would be the way to go and I was happy about that decision the entire trip.  It was so easy to move in and out of crowds and use the trains, while I watched all of these people struggling with 2 huge rolling suitcases.  After some research, we found AMAZING reviews for this Osprey brand of backpack and I couldn’t be happier.  There was a smaller backpack attached to the larger one, that could be detached and used for day trips or walking around town. I even saw this brand on other travelers all over Europe.  These were durable, light weight, multi functional, and could hold a lot of stuff.  We were also able carry our bags on the plane because they could easily fit in the overhead compartments.  The bags were very squishable (for lack of a better word).

3.  Trip Advisor

I would give this app 5 stars. We used this app for our entire trip.  When we were in wifi zones (pretty much at all of the places we stayed) we would download the city we were in and check out the map and things to do.  Then, when we were out of a wifi zone, we could still access the map and get walking directions (without having to connect to wifi), while also checking out restaurant recommendations around wherever we wandered off to.  If we were unsure of what to do on certain days, we would check out TripAdvisor for daily tours or tips on what other visitors have done.  It made for a very well rounded, delicious, and fun trip.

4.  Coconut Oil + Brown Sugar

I’ve talked about coconut oil more than once (here & here).  And I knew it would be an important staple in my travels.  I mainly used it as a face wash, make up remover, and moisturizer (hell yes to knocking out 3 things with one product).  I also packed a little jar of brown sugar to use to exfoliate with the coconut oil on my lips, face, and body.  And the whole trip I kept thinking, “Good call Steph.”

5.  Melatonin

There were a few nights in Europe where Melatonin was key.  Melatonin is “a hormone that helps control your sleep and wake cycles.” and once again, sleep is where it’s at when you want to feel your best.  I will talk about melatonin more in a future post.  But I would have to say it kinda saved my ass in a few situations.  Our first stop was Rome and we were doing pretty well with adjusting from the jet lag for the first few nights.  Then, the night before we were going to leave for Florence, we were wired and could not sleep.  I think it was part, excitement for the next city, and part, we were still acclimating to the new time zone.  We took some melatonin and within 20 minutes I was out.  I tried the 10 mg a few months ago and it made me feel incredibly groggy the next day.  I started splitting the pills in half so I was only taking 5 mg, and that has been the perfect amount.

◊   ◊   ◊

Whew!  That was a lot.  Do you guys have any “must-have” travel items that you would never go without? Let me know if you have any questions about anything!

♦ Stephanie

NASHVILLE RECAP

Nashille-Strip

Last weekend me and J met up with a few friends in Nashville. Nashville is such a fun city and I love that it’s only a 5 hour drive from St. Louis.  So here is Nashville through my iphone.

First, I want to talk about HomeAway.  If you don’t know about HomeAway, it’s pretty  much “a vacation rental marketplace.” This is my 2nd HomeAway experience and it has been pretty great both times (The first time was an apartment/condo in Breckinridge, CO last year).  We were checking out hotels in downtown Nashville and they were running around $275-300 per night.  We decided to take a look at HomeAway and found a 1 bedroom/1 bathroom apartment that was a cheap Uber ride away from downtown.  The apartment was about $130/night and it was big, very clean, and I would, for sure, recommend this spot.  My main tip for using HomeAway would be to make sure you read all of the details before you book so you know exactly what you are getting. Tip #2: book at places that have good reviews.

Okay, back to the trip…

For the most part, we hung out on Broadway (pictured above). It is a street downtown that has a ton of bars with live music everywhere.  If there is a bar with 3 floors, there will be live music on all 3 floors.  And every band is amazing.   We even had lunch on Sunday morning at a restaurant/bar and the band playing there at 11am was fantastic, so you can only imagine how good the Saturday night bands were.

The first day after we arrived, we had brunch at Pinewood Social.  This place is the BEST place to grab brunch.  One of our friends was in Nashville the month before, for a bachelorette party, and they all ate there and loved it.

Okay, quick side note, Nashville is the King of Bachelor/Bachelorette parties.  EVERY. SINGLE. bar we went into had at LEAST 5 bach parties going on.  I mean, I was actually there a year ago for one of my best friends bachelorette party and had a blast.  I would definitely recommend this city if you are looking for a fun place to kick it with the ladies.

Back to Pinewood Social.

Pinewood-Social

( They had this huge wall of cans that formed a crazy cool design )

The food was beyond delicious.  And outside, in the back of the restaurant, there was a dipping pool and lounge chairs.  There were a bunch of people straight chilling by this little pool and ordering foods and drinks.  If I was prepared, I would have brought my swimsuit and had a little pool party.

Oh yea, they also had an old school bowling alley in the back of the restaurant.  A definite do.

Then we went to Acme Feed and Seed.  This place was the coolest.

I think it was 3 or 4 stories and you could hang out on the roof with a view overlooking the river and the stadium.

I believe ‘charming’ is the word I would use for this place.

Acme Feed & Seed

Acme Feed & Seed

( Yes, those are church pews on the right )

Saturday night we went to this bar called The Stage.  Great bands!  When we left, there was a huge line out the door.

The Stage

( That hand-stamp says ‘Yeehaw!’ )

There was a violinist in one of the bands who was classically trained and in an orchestra before he quit and joined the country band he was playing in.  Gotta follow those dreams!

One last thing that stuck out to me…spicy food everywhere.  Everywhere we ate, they would warn us about how spicy something we just ordered was going to be and that they, “just wanted to warn us.”  Before we went to The Stage, we stopped in a souvenir shop and there were aisles of hot sauces.

Spicy SaucesSo that is my little recap of my weekend getaway.

I would love to go back and actually see more of the city, I suppose I will save that for the next time : )

Have you ever been to Nashville?  Do you live there (lucky!)?  What would you recommend?  And what are your favorite things to do there?

I want to get some ideas for my next visit!

♦ Stephanie

FINE DIMES: SPRINGTIME

Fine-Dimes-Springtime

Hey hey hey!  Check out some of my favorite things from the past few weeks.

This bag has been my favorite purchase recently.

I had been wanting a BIG, versatile purse.  To me that usually means black, white, tan or gray.  I was having trouble deciding which color to get because I am very indecisive…especially when it comes to the little things.  Then I came across this reversible tote.  How long have these existed?!?  This one happened to be in black and cognac.  Ummmm score (!!!)  I didn’t think twice.  It was meant to be.   This basically goes with everything I own.  I have been using it daily and love the little wristlet thing that comes with it.  They also have this in other color options too in case you want the benefit of 2 bags in one, but would rather have some pink and aqua colors in your life.

( Bamboo Trees )

( Bamboo Trees )

 I freaking love the bamboo trees in Miami.  It’s a weird little obsession of mine  (one of many).   They’re so pretty and I love the color of these bamboo.  The black bamboo ones are pretty badass as well.  I’ll have to get a pic of those the next time I’m there.  Now if only I could bring one back to my house. 

I saw this coffee table book at a friends house. Not only is it a perfect blend of chic and rocker, the book has a cloth textured cover which makes the whole thing soft and bendy.   Weird description, but once you get your hands on it, you’ll know what I’m talking about.  I am always on the hunt for a good coffee table book and this one just made my list.

Here are 2 books I’ve read recently and loved.

I  finished #Girlboss last month and it was very motivating and inspirational.  It’s an easy read that makes you want to run the world and kick some ass.  This is one of those books that you can read once a year and get something out of it every time.

I bought The Intern’s Handbook at the airport before my flight to Miami last month and so far it’s great.  The description is, “A sexy, darkly comic thriller” and I think that nails the essence of the book.  It’s about an assassin who is the best at his game and is on his final mission.  He documents his last assignment along with tips for all of the newcomer assassins. I kept chuckling to myself on the plane while I was reading.  Very witty and entertaining.  I haven’t finished it yet, but so far so good.

I love stumbling upon a great book.

◊   ◊   ◊

These are a few things I’ve been loving this month.  The weather has been making a change for the better lately so I am really looking forward to Spring and Summer and everything that comes with it.

♦ Stephanie

FINE DIMES: Winter Edition

Chicago View

( View of Chicago from our hotel )

Okay, I am back on my Fine Dimes game.  Here is a little glimpse of what I’ve been doing and loving lately.

While we were in Miami for Thanksgiving, we found out our really good friend was having a birthday party 2 weeks later.  His wife wanted me and J to come up to Chicago (where we all went to college together) to surprise him.  Chicago is about a 5 hour drive from St. Louis and we hadn’t been up there in just over a year.  We like to get up there at least once a year now that we live so close.  We freaking love Chicago (more so in the summer), but I feel like we always end up there in the dead of winter…still a good time, but damn cold, bring a hat.

So we booked a hotel on the river and it was great!  The only pictures I got of the whole trip was this view from our room (I’m the worst!  New goal:  Take. More. Pictures.).  We got a corner room, so the view was fantastic.

Then I finally ate at one of J’s favorite restaurants there, Gibson’s, where I had the best lobster bisque of my life. Like, it might have actually ruined all other lobster bisque for me.

Anyway, we had a lot of fun this trip and ended up seeing a bunch of our friends.

The drive to and from Chicago is usually a drag, but me and J both heard about the Serial podcast (my first ever podcast) right before we were about to leave.  J downloaded the episodes and it made the drive fly by.  I mean, we could not stop listening.  It’s about a murder case in 1999 of an 18 year old high school girl.  Her ex boyfriend was convicted of her murder and is still in jail for it, but the podcast explores the case and what may have been missed in the trial.  When we were having dinner at Gibson’s, we pretty much talked about Serial the majority of the time LOL  And we kept bringing it up the whole trip and were actually excited for our drive back to finish up the series.  We told everybody we know that they need to listen to it immediately, and the ones that have are equally obsessed.  Sooo….you’re welcome.

Loving this scent and the pretty bottle it comes in. I am planning on keeping the bottle when it’s finished and using it as a vase for some sort of flower or plant life.

( 2015 Planner & Heart Notebook )

( 2015 Planner & Heart Notebook )

Back in January, I ran in to Target on my lunch break to get a monthly calendar and found this flowered one for 99 cents.   Super cute and crazy cheap.  I can’t find it online, but it was in the dollar section right when you walk into the store.  Later that week, I was on an Office Depot run for work and saw this little heart notebook and it spoke to me.  So I grabbed it and made it my blog planner.  Each page has a cute little gray heart in the corner.  It’s the little things  : )

I had been wanting an oil diffuser for the longest time. I did some research and asked J for one for Christmas.  I am all about good scents in my house and this diffuser is also a little humidifier (great for the winter).  He got me the diffuser and this starter kit.

I use lavender at night to help with relaxation and chilling out.  Plus, I just love lavender (I think that was the main reason I wanted one of these).  Anyway, I was feeling nauseous around New Years ( I think I was getting sick from all of the traveling I was doing), and I looked up “what essential oil is good for nausea?” and found that peppermint is supposed to help with that.  I gave it a shot, and I’m not sure if it was a placebo effect, or the crackers I was eating, or the oil, but I definitely felt better.   I also found a floral essential oil set on Amazon that I am so excited about getting.  I’m kinda obsessing over rose smells lately.

My healthy, easy, breakfast this week…and most weeks.  I will have a post up shortly about how to make this. I love topping it off with different fruits to keep it interesting.  This week – blackberries.

I am definitely going to start posting more Fine Dimes on here because I am always finding little awesome gems that hopefully one of you will want to try out too.

♦ Stephanie