DIY Dish or China Organizers

25 Apr

I know it’s been a while…I’m ashamed.  I started a new job in September, and time has flown since then! Anyway…we have been doing work around the house!  One of the projects that I’ve actually been able to finish was quick and easy, and it’s made a huge difference! Our wedding china hadn’t been unpacked–ever.  For over 3 years it sat boxed, in its original packaging.  A few weeks ago I was bored, and I realized that all the china was sitting inside our house, easily accessible.  The hutch that’s in our dining room had been bought specifically with our china in mind.  So I finally brought it all together.  I unpacked our china, and came up with a plan on how to organize it within the drawers. My favorite thing about this project is that it’s not permanent.  I love the hutch that I’m using for our china, so I didn’t want to permanently alter it.  This project doesn’t require “ruining” anything. The first step was to cut an insert for the bottom of the drawer.  This insert has to be thick enough to give support to the eventual dowels, but can’t be too heavy because you don’t want to break the drawer.


{Cabinet hutch!}


{Drawer inserts, cut to size}

Once the inserts were cut to size, I made sure they fit…


{Insert inside hutch cabinet}

…and they did!  Next, I laid out the china the way I wanted it organized inside the drawer.


{China laid out inside drawer}

In order to get the accurate measurements of the dishware, I flipped it all over, and then traced the outlines of the dishes.


{Tracing china dishes onto the insert}


{China outlines on the drawer insert}

Once I had the outline of the dishes on the drawer insert, I had to decide how to corral the dishes with the eventual dowels.  Basically, you want your dishes supported in at least two places, taking into consideration the places that they’re supported against the drawer wall.  Mark those places as drill holes.  Does that make sense?  See below:


{Drill hole guides}

The dowel I used was 3/8″ in size, so I used a 3/8″ drill bit.  I drilled holes through the guidelines indicated above, making sure not to drill past the outline of a dish (that would impact the dish fitting inside the area).  Once the drill holes were there, I started putting dowels into the holes. The 3/8″ dowels I used came in long lengths.  I cut each dowel down to 5″ in length, which I had measured to make sure it would fit once the drawer was closed.  With all the drill holes drilled, I started putting the dowels into the holes.  If they had been loose inside those drilled holes, I would have added wood glue to the end of the dowels.  But they were fitting so snug that I actually had to use a hammer to get them into the holes.  Therefore, glue wasn’t necessary.


{Drilled holes in the drawer insert}


{Dowels inserted into the drilled holes…hammer required}

Once all the dowels were inserted into the wood base, I but the insert back into the drawer, and added the dishes!


{Custom china organizer!}


{Custom china hutch organization}

The drawer inserts fit very snug, which means they don’t shift around at all.  The dowels keep the dishes in place, and corral them against the walls of the drawers.  The wood base isn’t actually attached to the drawer, so I can remove it at any time and the drawer will be perfect, in it’s original condition. That’s it!  That’s all it took to get my china out of storage and safely organized.  In case you’re wondering, the china you see pictured is Vera Wang Wedgwood, the Grosgrain pattern.  I absolutely love it!  It’s classic.  By the way, my friends thought I was crazy for registering for china.  Nowadays, it seems old-fashioned and unnecessary.  But we did it anyway and I don’t regret it.  It’s special and I’ll treasure it.  But I also understand why it’s too formal for some 🙂 I hope this helps anyone looking for a way to keep your own china safe! Cheers!

The Bare Necessities

30 Jun

When I travel, I almost always carry-on my luggage.  I was raised by a father who travels for work constantly, and it was ingrained in my brain that airlines will inevitably loose your luggage, and that waiting at the baggage carousel is a waste of time.  It’s the way I’ve always flown, and it’s never been an issue.

Even traveling to Europe for 16 days in October of 2013 didn’t change our carry-on habit.  Yep…we didn’t check a single bag during our trip!

Everything fitting into my normal, nothin’ special travel luggage didn’t happen accidentally though.  It took a lot of planning to make sure I had everything I needed PLUS room to bring home souvenirs.

Packing clothes is usually the downfall of carrying-on.  “What if I need that?  I might wear that!  That would be great if I do this!”  All those thoughts run through my head when I pack, just like anyone else.  The key for me is laying everything out on the bed–literally, everything that I could bring if I could.  Then as I start to put stuff into my suitcase, I weed-out what I don’t need.  By the time my suitcase is full, the stuff that I need is accounted for, and the stuff that can be left behind is still on the bed.

Looking back on our trip to London, Paris, Cinque Terre, and Rome, I now realize what the real essentials were.  Here are the things that I 100% recommend for anyone traveling to Europe, and looking to pack light.

europe packing


1) Longchamp Le Pliage Tote: this bag is made for traveling.  It’s waterproof, has a zipper top for security, and can carry a ridiculous amount of stuff.  I like that there aren’t outside pockets, so there wasn’t any chance of pick-pockets having easy access to my things.  I chose the color black, because I wanted it to go with as many outfits as possible, but there’s a rainbow of options to choose from.  Not only was this my purse while sightseeing, but it was also my “personal item” bag while flying.  The one downside is that it’s not very structured, so if you don’t have a lot of stuff inside, then it just kinda flops over.  But that wasn’t really a problem while I was traveling 🙂

2) Dark jeans: I brought one pair of jeans with me.  Remember, trying to pack light here!  I brought the pair that I knew I could wear with every single shirt I packed, and the shoes I’d be wearing.  The great thing about dark jeans is that they can be casual, or dressed-up.  They’re versatile, and when you have limited space, that’s essential!  I buy my jeans from The Loft.

3) Sam Edelman Felicia Flats: because so much of our trip was walking, I researched the crap out of shoes to wear while traveling.  The Sam Edelman flats constantly were a top pick, and I pulled the trigger when I tried them on.  They’re so comfortable!  Unlike many flats out there, this shoe isn’t just a flat bottom–they’re actually padded and have support.  Completely necessary while doing the tourist thing.  I chose leopard print because I firmly believe that that is a neutral “color”.  Leopard print can be worn with any color, and flats look good with both jeans and dresses.  Plus it gives a fun punch to any outfit!

4) London Fog Heritage Trench Coat: we visited Europe in October, which meant the weather would be changing.  Being prepared is half the battle when packing!  Which is why I’m so happy I had my trench coat with me.  It has a removal liner, so I could add something extra if it got cold.  This trench can compact really well, and I’d often carry it around in my Longchamp bag while indoors.  Additionally, it doesn’t wrinkle easily.  It was fashionable and practical at the same time.  Also, trench coats were everywhere {especially London}, so I felt like I fit right in.

Those are the items that, looking back, I consider the foundations of my packing.  Almost everything else was built on these items.  Just add in a colorful shirt and I was good to go for the day!  Of course, I didn’t want to wear almost the same thing everywhere we went, so I brought another pair of flats, a second jacket, and a maxi skirt to mix things up.  Plus, jewelry is super easy to pack and can add a lot to an outfit!  But overall, this was the building block for my outfits.  Observe:

sacre-coeur clothes

Yep.  That’s me, in Paris, in front of Sacre-Coeur, wearing all of my essential items at once.

Also, disclaimer: a HUGE reason we were able to pack carry-on is because we had laundry throughout our trip.  Because we wanted to pack light, that was essential to us.  I didn’t pack for 16 days–I packed for 7 days, cause I could do laundry halfway through.

I hope this helps anyone out there packing for their own Europe trip!  Cheers!

Rome {4 Day Itinerary}

12 Jun

During our trip to Europe in October of 2013, my husband Andrew and I visited LondonParis, Cinque Terre, and Rome.  Months of planning went into our trip, especially concerning what we were actually going to do while we were visiting.  There’s so much to choose from!  Because there’s an endless array sights to see and things to do, I highly recommend planning your days before you arrive.  As first-time visitors, we wanted to utilize our time to the fullest, and make sure we didn’t miss something important.  I know that some people advocate the “wander and you’ll have more fun” method, but for us, we were less stressed knowing that we didn’t need to figure-out what to do.  And our itineraries were designed with wiggle-room and down time, so that we could do some impromptu things, and not get exhausted.  I hope the following is very helpful as you’re planning your own trip!  Warning: our itineraries are very active, mostly based around walking.  Expect to be on your feet for most of the day!

4 Days in Rome


  • Rome does not have an extensive subway system.  The Metro only has two lines: Line A runs east to west, and Line B runs north to south.  That about sums it up.  Granted, Rome is OLD–they probably had trouble building a subway through a city that has been around for thousands of years.  So just be aware that the subway won’t get you everywhere you need to go, unlike in London or Paris.  The bus system kinda makes up for it, it just isn’t as easy to use {we used Google maps to for the bus routes}.
  • The Roma Pass is worth it.  This pass allows free entry to the first 2 {participating} sites you visit, then discounted tickets after that.  It’s good for three days, which was perfect for our timeline.  Public transportation is free also, a huge perk.
  • Buy your tickets in advance for the Vatican {there is zero affiliation with the Roma Pass}.  I cannot stress this enough!  EVERYONE visits the Vatican while in Rome…don’t make the mistake of waiting in the endless lines.
  • Learn some basic Italian words and phrases.  Although most people speak English, especially in the touristy areas, don’t assume.  Get on the locals good side by trying, and they’ll be great sports about it!  We printed-off a cheat sheet to help us out.
  • Bring a guidebook…and your imagination.  Rome is the only city we visited where it was actually necessary to carry a guidebook with us.  The history and landmarks are not as well labeled as other cities we visited.  Plaques were either short on information, or completely in Italian.  On top of that, remember that Rome is ancient.  Many sights will {literally} be a pile of rocks in front of you, or in the process of crumbling.  It takes imagination to view the sights, and think about how it might have looked originally.
  • 5 general tips for traveling Europe.


When we arrived in Rome {coming from Monterosso in Cinque Terre}, our first impression was…interesting.  The subway is dirty and covered in graffiti, so just be aware this this won’t be the immaculate public transportation of London and Paris.  Also, we happened to arrive in Rome the day after street demonstrations took place.  We were greeted by news helicopters hovering over the city, brigades of police, and street cleaners cleaning up broken glass and debris.  Although we arrived to kinda sketchy circumstances, we were ready to go find our apartment.

And what an apartment we found!  We rented through AirBnB again, and once again the reviews did not disappoint.  Our flat in Rome sported a large terrace overlooking a quaint street full of restaurants and shops.  It had a kitchen and washer.  The fold-out couch bed was decent, definitely not bad.  But the best part was the view.  When we sat on the terrace we looked out over rooftops and church domes.  It was so picturesque.

On our first day we simply acquainted ourselves to the neighborhood and got our bearings.  Our walk took us to a police-protester stand off in the middle of a large square, which was kind of intimidating at first, but Rome is full of tourists and we never felt like it was a dangerous situation.  We ate at an amazing restaurant right down the street from our apartment, and we viewed the largest memorial I have ever seen.  It’s called the “Altar of the Fatherland”, and it’s ginormous.  Any visitor won’t be able to miss it, it sits pretty close to the Colosseum.

Rome Collage 1

{Rome, Italy, October 2013}

Rome Collage 2

{Rome, Italy, October 2013}


On our first full day in Rome, we did as the Romans used to do: we visited the Colosseum and the Forums.  It was within walking distance from our flat, so we got breakfast and headed out.  Side note–finding American breakfast in Rome was challenging!  After a weeks worth of pastries and fruit for breakfast {don’t get me wrong, it was amazing}, we were craving good ole eggs and bacon.  Much harder to find that we thought it’d be.  We ended up at a sidewalk cafe with sky-high prices.

Anyway–back to the Colosseum.  When you arrive, it’s very confusing where you need to go.  There are people everywhere insisting that you need to join their guided tour {scams}, and the directions are minimal.  But don’t be rattled…just take your time, and show your Roma Pass to the official-looking people.  They’ll point you in the right direction.  The Colosseum was one of the only places on our trip that we didn’t opt for the audio guide.  We had brought our guidebook, so we felt like we were fine on our own.  Once you’re inside the Colosseum, it’s still confusing to figure-out the route they want you to take.  Andrew and I did a lot of backtracking at first, trying to find our way along the right path.  But eventually we got it right, and we got to explore the Colosseum..or what’s left of it.  This is where it’s important to “bring your imagination”, like I mentioned above.  In its current condition, you certainly get the impact of the size of the Colosseum.  What you don’t get is the visual of what it looked like in its prime.  It’s crumbling, and even the parts that are still intact are different from what it was like over 2,000 years ago when gladiators were fighting for their lives there.  So, you really do need to just take it all in, and try to piece together the visuals.  The history is amazing, and it really is astounding that we were walking through a structure that has survived for over 2,000 years.

It took us about an hour and half to explore the Colosseum, then we moved over to the Forums.  A friend we know who had visited Rome told us before we left, “Be prepared to look at a lot of rocks, then read a description about what they used to be.”  And to a certain extent that’s pretty accurate 🙂  The Forums is large, there’s a lot to explore, but hardly anything is intact, so it doesn’t take very long to wander through.  We read through our guidebook, and learned about the history and all the significant landmarks.  In total, we probably spent a good two hours there.  To be completely honest, it was kinda underwhelming.  As a history major, I found the reading fascinating, but the sightseeing just isn’t that thrilling.  Andrew expecting this day to be his most favorite, since he loves all thing ancient and archaeological, but he was just as ready as I was to leave the crowds behind.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing.  Since we had an amazing terrace with wonderful weather (mid-70’s), it was hard to stay away from our own flat 🙂

Rome Colluseum

{Colosseum, Rome, Italy, October 2013}

Rome Collage 3

{Colosseum, Rome, Italy, October 2013}

Rome Collage 4

{Colosseum, Rome, Italy, October 2013}

Rome Collage 5

{The Forums, Rome, Italy, October 2013}

Rome Panorama

{Rome panorama, October 2013}


Vatican City.  When you are in Rome, plan to spend an entire day at the Vatican.  A LONG day.  But what a day it’ll be!

Please, start early.  As a tourist, there is no greater advice I can give other then to start early.  Get there at opening.  I know that this is a vacation, but sleeping in isn’t an option when you’re dealing with such a highly concentrated tourist area.  So get outta bed–there are amazing things waiting for you!!

The Vatican is its own city-state, meaning that they are their own sovereign territory, and are not ruled by Italy.  Which automatically makes it super cool.  It’s the seat of the Roman Catholic Church, and is ruled by the Pope, it’s most famous resident.  But it’s also home to the some of the most well known art in the entire world, plus the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica.  We bought our tickets beforehand online {link above}, which you should absolutely do.  The lines at the Vatican are record setting.  Literally, hours of waiting to just get in.  I don’t understand how people simply assume that they can buy ticket when they show up!  If you already have a ticket, you get to pick what time you enter {we chose 9 am}, and you skip all the lines.  Grab your audio guide and commence the tour.

First, everyone starts at the Vatican Museums.  Be prepared to be on your feet, because you’ve now committed to walking through 54 different galleries.  Umm…yeah.  That’s a lot of art.  Everything leads up to the most important part of your visit, the Sistine Chapel.  It’s last–they make you work for it.  You’ll be asked to be quiet, to not take pictures, and they will be very strict.  But the extravagance of the room is breathtaking.  And the history is enthralling–not only are you viewing a masterpiece that was painted over 500 years ago, but you’re standing in the very room where the Papal conclave happens {Dan Brown anyone?}.  It really is a spiritual place.

Once we escaped exited the museums, we stopped for lunch at the cafeteria before heading over to St. Peter’s Basilica.  The line was long, and there’s no way around it unless you’re on a group tour {extra money}.  But the reason it’s long is because of the security, since they use metal detectors as people are admitted {a lot like an airport}.  So it moves fairly quickly.  Now at this point, Andrew and I had visited our fair share of churches.  Westminster Abbey in London, Notre Dame in Paris, plus many others.  But let me tell you…St. Peter’s Basilica is HUGE.  It actually is the largest church in the world.  It’s incredibly impressive, and even more interesting is its history.  It’s the burial site of Saint Peter, one of Jesus’ twelve apostles; it’s home to Michelangelo’s Pietà; and overall it’s an architectural marvel.

As we exited the church, there are some good photo ops with the Swiss Guard {the personal security of the Pope}.  And of course the iconic St. Peter’s Square is perfect for pictures.

For many people, Vatican City is a historical and art attraction.  But for others, it’s a spiritual mecca.  Andrew was raised Catholic, and as Christians, it meant a lot to us to visit what many would consider the foundation of Christianity.  The history behind what we hold so dear to our hearts was beautiful, emotional, and sometimes heartbreaking.

Rome Collage 6

{Vatican City museums, October 2013}

Vatican City

{St. Peter’s Square, October 2013}

Holy Door

{Holy Door, St. Peter’s Basilica, October 2013}

Rome Collage 7

{St. Peter’s Basilica, October 2013}

Rome Pic

{St. Peter’s Basilica, October 2013}


This was our “explore Rome” day!  When I planned this day beforehand, I thought that I might be kinda crazy to pack as much into it as humanly possible.  It was the last full day of our trip, and I knew we’d be exhausted.  Plus, when you see it all laid-out on a map, it looks like a lot of distance to cover.  I based our day around a super helpful itinerary on Fathom.

Rome Walking Tour

{Walking tour – Rome}

But I’m happy to say that the map version of our day was much more intimidating then the reality.  All the sights we saw were relatively close to each other, and we ended up walking everywhere {originally we were going to rent bikes to help us move along faster}.  We took the bus from our flat to the (1) Piazza Navona {numbers correspond to the map above}, where there are 3 churches with original Caravaggio paintings {details in the article linked above}.  The piazza is beautiful, with big fountains, vendors, and of course an obelisk.


{Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy, October 2013}

From Piazza Navona we walked up Via della Scrofa, where we passed the (2) mausoleum of Augustus Caesar {1st century AD} and the Museo dell’Ara Pacis.  We continued north on Via di Ripetta to the (3) Piazza del Popolo.  It’s home to Rome’s most northern gate, along with the second oldest obelisk in the city.  Next, we headed south on Via del Babuino.  Our next stop was the famous (4) Spanish Steps, in Piazza di Spagna.  Then we criss-crossed through the streets {which is always a great way to discover random things!} while making our way to the Piazza Colonna, home to the (5) Marcus Aurelius Column.

Rome Gate

{Piazza del Popolo, Rome, Italy, October 2013}

Spanish Steps

{Spanish Steps & Marcus Aurelius Column, Rome, Italy, October 2013}

Just a few blocks east is the (6) Trevi Fountain, the iconic Roman landmark.  It was as beautiful as the pictures.  Funny story–I almost fell in.  While I was up against the rim, my back to the fountain, Andrew was taking a picture of me.  My feet slipped–just completely flew out from under me.  My butt hit the rim, and I almost toppled over into the fountain, except that my knees were able to hang onto the rim ridge until my arms could catch-up with my body and grab on.  I immediately started laughing, I couldn’t believe it had happened!  But I was also super happy and relieved I wasn’t that tourist who was dumb enough to slip into the fountain 🙂  We tossed our coins in, and moved on.

Trevi Fountain

{Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy, October 2013}

Trevi Throwing Coins

{Tossing coins into Trevi, Rome, Italy, October 2013}

Again criss-crossing through streets, we made our way west to the (7) Pantheon.  I have to say, after visiting the Pantheon in Paris, I wasn’t super excited to visit this one.  How different could they be?  Wow…was I wrong.  The Pantheon in Rome, the original, is really cool.  It is an architectural marvel, one of the best preserved ancient Roman buildings.  Unlike the Colluseum or Forums, where everything was crumbling, the Pantheon is amazingly unchanged.  It was so impressive to see in person, and imagine what kind of history the building has survived.  The famous painter Raphael is entombed there.


{Pantheon, Rome, Italy, October 2013}

Immediately east of the Pantheon is (8) Sant’Ignazio Church, which we just happened to pass and decided to step into.  It’s infamous for it’s “dome”, which is really just a flat ceiling painted to look like a dome.  After seeing so many extravagant churches throughout our trip, it was a funny dose of reality to find one that hadn’t been able to afford finishing its dome, so they improvised 🙂  Heading south we ended our day at the Alter of the Fatherland memorial.  We toured the inside military museum and took-in the amazing city views from the top.


{Sant’Ignazio Church, Rome, Italy, October 2013}

Wandering our way back to our flat in the mid-afternoon was the perfect end to experiencing so much historical breadth.  Later that evening we ate at the same restaurant down the street from us that we had had lunch at a few days before {it was that good!}, and then rode the bus to Trevi Fountain.  It’s a “can’t miss” sight at night!

Rome Dinner

{Last night in Rome, October 2013}

Trevi Panorama

{Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy, October 2013}

Trevi Night

{Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy, October 2013}


Flying from Rome back to the States was ridiculously expensive.  To save money, I booked our Portland –> London tickets round-trip, then simply bought us plane tickets from Rome to London for the day before.  For us, this option was way cheaper.  Flights within Europe are pretty inexpensive, so getting between Rome and London wasn’t too bad, and it only took a few hours.  We spent the night at a Heathrow airport hotel, and caught a flight early the next morning to the US.  The worst part of the entire trip was the 8 hour layover in Chicago on our way to Portland.  There was no avoiding it {believe me, I tried when booking!}.  But the silver lining was that I had missed a bunch of fall tv premiers while on vacation, so I was able to catch-up during our time in the airport 🙂  Thank goodness for streaming over mobile devices!

One Day in Cinque Terre {Italy}

2 Jun

During our trip to Europe in October of 2013, my husband Andrew and I visited London, Paris, Cinque Terre, and Rome.  Months of planning went into our trip, especially concerning what we were actually going to do while we were visiting.  There’s so much to choose from!  Because there’s an endless array sights to see and things to do, I highly recommend planning your days before you arrive.  As first-time visitors, we wanted to utilize our time to the fullest, and make sure we didn’t miss something important.  I know that some people advocate the “wander and you’ll have more fun” method, but for us, we were less stressed knowing that we didn’t need to figure-out what to do.  And our itineraries were designed with wiggle-room and down time, so that we could do some impromptu things, and not get exhausted.  I hope the following is very helpful as you’re planning your own trip!  Warning: our itineraries are very active, mostly based around walking.  Expect to be on your feet for most of the day!

Cinque Terre

When planning our trip, Andrew and I had to decide what kind of experience we wanted.  Did we want to see as much as we possibly could, not spending more than 2 nights in one place, hopping from one city to the next?  Or did we want to go at a slower pace, and experience the major “can’t miss” cities more thoroughly?  We opted for the latter, choosing to spend the majority of our time divided between London, Paris and Rome.  {General tips for traveling Europe was an earlier post}.  However, we couldn’t pass-up the opportunity to visit at least one “out-of-the-way” location, that would be unique and special.  We’re so glad we made the decision to explore Cinque Terre, where we spent 2 nights, on our way from Paris to Rome.

Cinque Terre literally means “the five lands”, which refers to the five towns it’s made-up of.  There’s Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.  They’re situated on the coastline of the Mediterranean, in the Italian Riviera {just typing “Italian Riviera” makes me feel fancy}.  The towns are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so they’re wonderfully protected and maintained, but it makes them a bit less accessible then other places.


Our overnight train from Paris arrived in Milan early in the morning, and we immediately caught a train from the Milano Centrale station to Monterosso.  Monterosso is the “largest” {approx. 1,500 residents} of the towns, and the only one with a sandy beach.  We chose to stay our 2 nights in Monterosso because it seemed the most suited for tourists.  The train ride from Milan was very cool, it was awesome to zip through the Italian countryside!  It made lots of stops along the way, but when we stepped off in Monterosso we were immediately relaxed.  It was sunny, tropical, and we were in Italy…what could be better?!

The train station in Monterosso is in “New Town”, and our hotel was in “Old Town”, so we walked along the beach, then through a tunnel that cuts through the cliff side into Old Town.  It was about a 15 minute walk from the train station to the hotel, and we got to marvel at the town along the way.  Our hotel was a little bit of a hike up some steep stairs, but that’s why the view was amazing!  We stayed at Hotel Villa Steno, which was definitely a splurge.  But we dubbed our time in Cinque Terre our “vacation from vacation”, so we didn’t mind paying a bit more.  We had requested an ocean view room, and boy did they deliver!  I’ll never forget our terrace, it was like something you’d see in a movie.  We immediately grabbed a bottle of local wine from the front desk {with complimentary bread!}, and enjoyed the sun and view.  It was heaven.

That afternoon we explored Monterosso, ate food, and reveled in the fact that were lucky enough to visit this amazing part of the world.  Generally, just relaxed.  After a hectic previous 7 days in London and Paris, it was nice to unwind 🙂

Cinque Terre View

{view from our room at Hotel Villa Steno, Monterosso, Cinque Terre}


{Monterosso, Cinque Terre}


If you only have one day in Cinque Terre, plan to hike.  The trails that connect the five towns are the reason this region is famous.  They are ancient agriculture pathways that used to be the only way to get from city to city.  They wind all along the coastline and hills, so there are many routes to take.  The most popular one is the most direct route, along the ocean.  Since the hiking is the main reason you should visit Cinque Terre, make sure to go during a time of year when the trails are open.  We went in October, and most of them were open, but a few weren’t {I’ll get to that later…}.  If you go sometime in the winter, mudslides and rain may close the trails to hikers.  Here’s a trail map online, although we didn’t research the routes at all beforehand.  We just followed the advice we got that morning from the hotel front desk.  Here was our route:

Cinque Terre Map

{our hiking route through Cinque Terre}

Make sure to start bright and early!  Also eat a lot for breakfast, cause you’ll be burning off those calories in no time.  Take trail “2”, the main trail, out of Monterosso.  You won’t be able to stop taking pictures.  But believe it or not, it only gets better 🙂  Once we reached Vernazza, we wandered around, took pictures, and got a snack.  This is probably one of the most photographed Cinque Terre cities.  We also picked-up another water bottle, after realizing how stupid it was to only bring one.  You’ll go through water pretty fast!  Next, we hiked to Corniglia, where we stopped for lunch.  We ate personal pizzas and gelato.  It was amazing.  Corniglia is up on a cliff, so while it’s pretty, it’s not ocean side.

CT Hiking

{Hiking Cinque Terre}

CT Hiking 2

{Vernazza, Cinque Terre}

CT Hiking 4

{Vernazza, Cinque Terre}

CT Hiking 3

{Corniglia, Cinque Terre}

This is where things got interesting.  Trail 2, the main pathway, was closed between Corniglia and Riomaggiore.  So we had to take an alternate route, which were trails 7 & 6.  Listen…there’s a reason trail 2 is the main one–because it’s the easiest.  It rolls along the ocean, with some, but not a lot, of elevation changes.  Unlike every other trail, which takes you up into the hills.  So just be aware, that if you deviate from the main route, that you’ll be in for some real hiking.

Up we climbed.  Up and up and up.  The elevation change was astounding.  I feel like we climbed {on ancient, worn, uneven, rocky paths} for.ever.  In real time, it took about an hour and a half to get up into the hills on trail 7, which connected us to trail 6.  Number 6 is what takes you across the hills, but getting up there was pretty intense.  However, it leads you through some of the most beautiful, picturesque scenery I have ever seen.  On this route, you get to walk through the olive groves and vineyards that cover the hillsides.  I can’t describe how out-of-this-world it was, and I hope the pictures below do it justice.  Although our route was technically forced upon us, we both agreed that it ended up being our favorite portion out of all the hiking.  Plus we got to visit another town, which is not included in “the five”.  Volastra sits up in the hills, and it’s wonderfully quaint.

CT Hiking 6

{Trails 7 & 6 through Cinque Terre}

Some stuff to know about the trails: there are tons of people who will be hiking along with you.  Since we were there in October, it wasn’t too crowded, which was nice, but if you’re there during the spring and summer, I can imagine how packed the trails could get.  Cinque Terre has gotten a lot of attention in the past couple of years, so there were people from all over the world hiking, and it was fun to exchange greetings with Americans along the way {especially those wearing college gear…Go Ducks!}.  Some people might want the security of hiring a guide or going with a group, but honestly, it wouldn’t be worth the money.  The trails are marked, and even at some of the confusing points, we were quick to figure it out.  Also, you’ll pass guides along the way…just ask them in passing!  We definitely did that, simply to make sure were on the right track 🙂

CT Tourist Info

{Tourist information — halfway point!}

Also, I feel I must address the fact that we hiked in sandals.  Let’s be real–I wasn’t going to pack sneakers in my carry-on luggage for one day out of the whole trip.  Not worth it.  BUT thank goodness it was a dry, sunny, and a warm day!  Otherwise…we might’ve had to make an impromptu purchase of footwear.  While we weren’t the most equipped hikers, we did just fine.  The paths aren’t too treacherous, and we survived unscathed.  Although like I mentioned above, the pathways do tend to be uneven and rocky {but that’s what you get for hiking ancient trails}.

Finally we arrived in Manarola.  It was late afternoon at this point, so we didn’t have time to hike on to Riomaggiore {even if we’d had the time, I don’t think we would’ve had the energy}.  We found a bar by the ocean, ordered drinks, and sat.  Our reward was well worth it.  I couldn’t help but order a Negroni, apparently the only cocktail whose origin is Italy.  It was strong.  Manarola is another very photographed town, with a public swimming area.  Yes, Andrew took a dive in and swam in the Mediterranean.

CT Hiking 7

{Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy}

CT Hiking 8

{Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy}

CT pic

{Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy}

There are trains that connect all 5 of the towns, but that weekend they were on strike.  One of those things you only learn once you’re out traveling!  So we took the ferry back to Monterosso, as the sun was setting.  Again, breathtaking.  That pretty much sums up our whole day in Cinque Terre.  The food was delicious, the people were so friendly, the exercise was awesome {especially after being tourists for the previous 7 days}, and the scenery was to die for.  What more could you want?

CT sunset

{Sunset from the Cinque Terre ferry}


The next morning we hopped on our Italiarail train to Pisa, where we caught another train to the central Rome station, Roma Termini.

Bachelorette {Free Printables}

23 May

I’m looking forward to throwing a bachelorette party this weekend for one of my BFFs!  Yay for Friday, and cheers to a long weekend filled with celebration, dancing, and crazy girlfriends 🙂

I think nothing adds to a party like custom details.  I put together some posters that we’re planning to use for decorations this weekend, and decided to make them available as free printables!  These versions are general, so they can be used for any party.  I made them in a pretty large format {11 x 14}, so they should print great in that size or smaller.

Be Married Printable

{free printable}

Drink Champagne Printable

{free printable}

Last Fling Printable

{free printable}

Simply click on the image{s} above, and the picture will open to its full size.  Right-click, “Save image as”, and save to your computer.  Then you can upload to a printing service {I use Costco}, and have them printed!  Remember to use “lustre” instead of “glossy” when picking your photo finish.  Also, turn off “auto-correct”, so it prints as-is.

Bachelorette Printables

{free printables!}


{Puppy Love}

2 May

I interrupt Europe postings {that are taking FOREVER!} to bring you a special announcement:

there’s a new addition to the Mast family!  He’s soft, adorable, and furry.

Yep, we got a puppy!  Internet, meet Max Mast:

{Max Mast, 8 weeks old}

{Max Mast, 8 weeks old}

Andrew and I have been very excited for the day when we could finally get a dog.  We started doing our research on the type of breed we wanted, and had it narrowed down to Golden Retriever and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.  Both breeds appealed to us for many of the same reasons: sweet personality, kid-friendly, not hyper, relatively easy to train.  The biggest difference between the two choices was size.  Golden Retrievers are medium-to-large dogs, while Cavalier’s are the largest of the Toy breed.  In the end, the Cavalier won the day due to the fact that we’re a one car family, and my compact car just wasn’t going to be a good fit for a larger dog.  Plus, I’ve never had a dog before, so we decided to start small and work our way up 🙂

Once we decided on a CKCS, we had to find our preferred color {either Ruby or Black & Tan}.  Both are less prevalent, so when Ruby colored puppies were born in December, available in February, we jumped at the chance to take one home.  We drove 3 hours to pick-up Max on Valentine’s weekend, and he was the best valentine ever!

Since we brought him home, he’s doubled in size, and has developed such a distinctive personality.  He loves cuddling on laps, but has so much fun playing catch and running around.  Max LOVES new people, and is just now learning how to play with other dogs {he’s doing pretty well!}.  I take him for walks most mornings before work, it’s now one of my favorite parts of the day.  We have a ridiculous amount of nicknames for him, but the most common is Mini.


{Max Mast, April 2014}


{Max Mast, April 2014}

We love him so much!

Oh, and I promise I’m almost finished writing the last posts about our Europe trip.  Coming soon!

Paris {4 Day Itinerary}

10 Mar

During our trip to Europe in October of 2013, my husband Andrew and I visited London, Paris, Cinque Terre, and Rome.  Months of planning went into our trip, especially concerning what we were actually going to do while we were visiting.  There’s so much to choose from!  Because there’s an endless array sights to see and things to do, I highly recommend planning your days before you arrive.  As first-time visitors, we wanted to utilize our time to the fullest, and make sure we didn’t miss something important.  I know that some people advocate the “wander and you’ll have more fun” method, but for us, we were less stressed knowing that we didn’t need to figure-out what to do.  And our itineraries were designed with wiggle-room and down time, so that we could do some impromptu things, and not get exhausted.  I hope the following is very helpful as you’re planning your own trip!  Warning: our itineraries are very active, mostly based around walking.  Expect to be on your feet for most of the day!

4 Days in Paris

First of all, let me congratulate you on being able to visit Paris!  Out of our entire trip, Paris was my absolute favorite…you’re so lucky you get to experience it!  For whatever reason, Paris {and France in general} has a weird reputation in America.  Not only did I find those preconceived notions to be false, I completely fell in love with the city.  It’s clean, easy to get around, beautiful, and the people are fantastic.  Soak it all in, and enjoy!


  • Download the Paris Metro app.  It will make using the Metro very easy!  Just punch in your starting point and destination, and it will calculate the subway directions for you.  It’s simple to read and follow.
  • Paris is divided into 20 districts, or neighborhoods, and they’re numbered clockwise.  Familiarize yourself with them, so that you have an idea of how the city is organized.  Also, research the different areas, and stay in a district that sounds like it will fit your own taste and style.  They are all distinctive and have their own flavor!  Most of the touristy stuff is in districts 1-8, pretty much the center of the city.
  • Try to speak French!  Even if you only learn a few conversational words, it will make a huge difference while interacting with the locals.  Andrew and I had never spoken French in our lives, but on the train ride over to Paris we reviewed a cheat sheet that I printed off beforehand {with pronunciations!}.  We memorized a few words, and we were set!  The cheat sheet made its way around with us, but we really didn’t need it too much.  Almost everyone speaks English…the key is not to assume everyone speaks English.  Just be polite and they’ll respond in kind.
  • The Paris Museum Pass is worth it.  One price covers your admission to tons of tourist locations around Paris, and allows you to skip lines.  There is so much to see in Paris, and much is covered in this package deal.  Being able to bypass the lines was an amazing time saver!
  • 5 general tips for traveling Europe.


We took the Eurostar train through the Chunnel from London to Paris.  It was fabulous.  Let me explain why: the BEST resource {in the WORLD} for booking European train travel is a website called The Man in Seat 61.  In case the all-caps didn’t get my point across, let me stress–I cannot recommend this resource highly enough.  European trains are confusing, and the process can be extremely convoluted.  Seat 61 answers every question you might have as you book train tickets, and gives step-by-step directions on what to do and how to save money.  Anyway, the reason I bring it to your attention is because that website offered two pieces of great advice:

  1. The direction which you sit: Seat 61 told us which way the train would be moving while we traveled from the UK to France.  Therefore, we chose our seats so that we were moving forward, instead of watching the scenery fly by backwards.  Seriously, who would have thought?!
  2. Bring food: unlike in the States, where you’re nickeled and dimed for everything while traveling, this train {and most others in Europe} allows you to bring food and drink with you.  We brought a loaf of bread, cheese, salami, and wine.  Oh sweet wine.  Just make sure you have a twist-off cap, or a travel corkscrew…we learned the hard way!  Didn’t even think about the fact that we would need to pop the cork of our bottle, and I’d left my purse corkscrew at home {yep, I carry a corkscrew in my purse–for emergencies just like this!}.  Thankfully a fellow traveler had the foresight to bring one, which we borrowed, and disaster was averted.

It bears repeating that the train experience was wonderful.  Watching the French countryside fly by as you’re sipping wine?  My idea of heaven.  We also go to know the British passengers sitting across from us, which was fun 🙂

Once we reached Paris, we took the metro from the train station to the stop closest to our flat.  We rented our Paris flat through Airbnb.  Again, you’re going to get an all-caps recommendation from me: the flat was AMAZING.  My whole life I’d imagined what Paris would be like, and this flat encapsulated everything I’d dreamed it could be.  French windows overlooking courtyards.  Thick white molding.  Wrought iron balconies.  Cobblestone walkways.  We not only got a kitchen, washer, and dryer, but we also got a true one bedroom with a living room.  The space was incredibly clean and taken care of.  I’m ecstatically happy we got to stay there 🙂

Checking-in to the flat and orienting ourselves to the city pretty much took up the whole day.  But of course we were so excited to be there that we just had to go see “something Parisian”.  We ended up walking 15 minutes to…the Eiffel Tower!  As the sun was setting!  I definitely recommend seeing the Eiffel Tower at night, it was beautiful.


{Train ride from London to Paris}


{Flat in Paris}


{Throwing up the Oregon “O” in front of the Eiffel Tower!}

20131012_192046DAY ONE

Our first full day in Paris was on a Sunday.  A good thing to know while traveling abroad is that Sunday is still observed as a day of rest in some parts of world.  France included.  Many restaurants and shops are closed on Sundays, so do your research.  Do not assume something will be open!  We went into the day knowing this, which made planning meals much easier.  This is the day I dubbed our “museum day”.  There are three main, “can’t miss” museums in Paris:

All three admissions are covered under the Paris Museum Pass, so just buy your pass beforehand {or at the first museum you visit}, and you’ll be good to go.  Now, three museums in one day may seem reasonable…but it’s really not.  Especially when you’re including the Louvre–the largest museum in the world {I don’t actually know that for a fact, but it sure seemed that way to me!}.  Andrew and I chose two and skipped the third.  It may seem like a crime to some people, but it worked for us.  We visited l’Orangerie {where Monet’s Water lilies collection is} and the Louvre.  d’Orsay will have to wait untill next time!

Reserving an entire day for two museums may seem like overkill.  When I planned this, I thought this day would be leisurely, relaxed, and low-stress.  And while there were parts of the day like that, there was also exhaustion, sore feet, claustrophobia from the crowds, and what I called “art numbness”.  When you’re looking at amazing works of art all day, there comes a point when you hit a wall mentally.  You know that what you’re looking at is genius, but you can’t really appreciate it because you’ve been surrounded by geniuses all day.  That’s what this day felt like by the end.  Hence, “art numbness”.  Monet’s Water lilies were truly beautiful, I highly recommend that museum.  The Louvre was overwhelming, completely intimidating and like nothing I’d experienced before.  The art it’s home to you’ve seen reprinted a million times, so it’s amazing to see in person.  Just be aware that “art numbness” will creep up on you!  And by the end of the day you’ll be happy to leave museums behind.  Since we walked home, we also stopped at some sights along the way:

  • Pont des Arts {the “locks” bridge, where lovers place a padlock on the bridge to symbolize their unbreakable love to each other}
  • Panthéon
  • Luxembourg Gardens
PicMonkey Collage

{some of the masterpieces at the Louvre}


{me and Mona Lisa}


{Pont des Arts — the “locks” bridge}


{Luxembourg Gardens}


{on the streets of Paris}


This was our sightseeing day.  We walked all over Paris, in awe of buildings and monuments we’d only ever seen in pictures.  Our route looked like this:

The tomb of Napoleon wasn’t on our original itinerary, but it happened to be on our way to the Eiffel Tower that morning, so we stopped to look around.  Since it was already paid for by the Paris Pass, it worked out!  The tomb is huge, just like you’d expect from someone short in stature 🙂

Next we headed to the Eiffel Tower.  We did not buy tickets to go to the top, but if you want to, buy online weeks in advance.  It’s not something we regret, although to some it might be worth the experience.  We passed underneath,  then crossed Pont d’Iéna over the Seine.  Just a heads up: the Eiffel Tower is very crowded with hawkers…you’ll practically wade through them!  We walked down Avenue Kléber until we got to the Arc de Triomphe.  Making your way up all the stairs to the top is worth it!  Admission is included in the Paris Pass, and the view is magical.  This is why we don’t regret not buying tickets to the top of the Eiffel Tower…because this view was included in a ticket we’d already bought, and the lines were way shorter 🙂  Next we strolled down Avenue des Champs-Élysées, admiring all the shops.  Andrew did not let me walk into anything.  That led us right to the Obelisque, which was brought to Paris from Egypt by Napoleon.

We took a break to eat lunch and sit in the Tuilleries, which we’d already walked through while visiting the Louvre the day before.  Then we crossed the Seine again on Pont Royal, and walked along the river until we reached Pont Neuf {quick note: I loved walking along the Seine.  It’s a great place to buy souvenirs and art, with tons of vendors everywhere}.  Pont Neuf takes you across to the island where Notre-Dame is located.  Also on this island is Saint-Chapelle, another Gothic architecture church.  We originally planned to tour it {price is included in the Paris Pass}, but the line was so long, and we were tired.  Oh well!  On to Notre-Dame, which is undergoing a massive restoration project, due to the fact that it’s 800 years old!  Again, the admission was include in our Paris Pass.  There was a line that we weren’t able to skip, but it moved pretty fast.  Once we were inside, it was very impressive.  It just felt old.  The atmosphere was distinctive.

This was the day that I fell in love with Paris.  The sights, the sounds, the language, the food {crepes in front of the Eiffel Tower!}, the feel of the city.  It was wonderful.

PicMonkey Collage2

{the Tomb of Napoleon}


{Eiffel Tower}


{Eiffel Tower}

PicMonkey Collage3

{Arc de Triomphe}

PicMonkey Collage4

{Notre-Dame Cathedral}


Versailles!  The name alone probably makes you think of wealth, privilege, and revolution.  It’s truly amazing to see how the kings {and queens} of France lived before the monarchy fell.  Versailles is on the outskirts of Paris, so you’ll need to buy a special Metro ticket to get you out there.  But your admission is included in the Paris Museum Pass!  Andrew wasn’t sure how he felt about devoting a whole day to Versailles.  He was on the fence, and went along with it because I was so excited.  But let it be known that he loved the visit!  It truly is fascinating for everyone.  Plus, it’s HUGE.  There’s much more to your visit than just the Palace.  It sits on 2,014 acres…yep, you read that right.  It’s practically a small country {over twice the size of Central Park in New York City}.

While the Palace was interesting, the gardens were wonderful!  We happened to be there during a Musical Gardens and Fountains afternoon, so we had to pay extra to enter {usually it would be included in your Paris Pass}.  But it was worth it!  We got to listen to 18th century music while roaming the gardens, and see synchronized water shows at some of the fountains.  It was easy to imagine what it would have been like during the time of Marie Antoinette.  Plus everything has been restored, or is in the process of being restored, beautifully.  Keep in mind that the grounds are extensive, so wear comfortable walking shoes, or rent the bikes or golf carts they have available.  Andrew’s favorite part was the English hamlet, the famous “playground” built for Marie Antoinette.  It continues to be a working farm, and it was fun to see the cute chickens, bunnies, and goats.


{Entrance to Versailles}

Hall of Mirrors

{Hall of Mirrors, Versailles}

Versailles Collage

{Marie Antoinette’s bedroom; Hall of Mirrors; hardwood floor at Versailles}

Versailles Collage 2

{The gardens at Versailles}


Andrew and I were able to check-out of our Paris apartment in the evening, since our train to Italy didn’t leave until 8:00 pm.  So we had another whole day in Paris before we left.  For the most part, we spent it in Montmartre {18th arrondissement}, where Basilique du Sacré-Cœur is located.  It was a part of Paris that we hadn’t even touched yet, so it was fun to explore an entirely new district.  The area was very fun to walk through.  The neighborhoods were picturesque, the food and shopping was great, and Sacré-Cœur was beautiful.  I picked-up one of my souvenirs from a perfume bottle shop, it’s basically my most favorite thing ever.

Sacre Coeur

{Basilique du Sacré-Cœur}

Sacre Coeur Collage


We caught our overnight train from Paris-Gare-De-Lyon station, which we took the Metro to.   Our train was Italiarail, booked with help from Seat 61 {again, practically indispensable}.  The train ride was…interesting.  One of my good friends had riden an overnight train through Europe when she visited during college, and she did not enjoy the experience.  Between motion sickness and rooming with complete strangers, it was an understandably stressful ride.  With that in mind, I really didn’t know what to expect.  Andrew and I had booked a 4-berth cabin, which meant there was the chance that 2 additional people would be sleeping in the room with us.  Especially for Americans, it’s a strange situation to find yourself in.  However, we felt really lucky when our cabin mates ended up being a delightful elderly couple.  They were nice, spoke a bit of English, and were completely nonthreatening.  That  helped put us at ease, and we did sleep on the 10 hour journey.

Train Collage

{Italiarail overnight train}

Next…we arrive in Italy!  Cheers!

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