Friday Five

Friday, September 23, 2016

One – San Francisco

Last week my mom and I spent 5 fun-filled days in San Francisco, CA. We had a great time exploring and doing all of the touristy things in the area. I’ll write full travel posts soon, but I just had to mention our trip and share one of our pictures right away. We both agreed that our favorite stop was Alcatraz and the best meal we had was at Street Taco on Haight Street (although it was hard to pick a favorite).

Two – Blueberry Cheesecake Macarons

One of my ’30 for 30’ goals is to bake a batch of macarons. The French cookie is notoriously hard to make, so I’ve always been scared that it would end up being an epic fail. Well, I’m pleased to announce that they turned out pretty perfect. Although, I will admit that they took for-ev-er to make. I used a recipe from a Food Network magazine that I’d been saving for years (I think this is the same recipe). I was nervous because I don’t have a convection oven, but they turned out fine regardless. My boyfriend and I ate the whole batch in only a couple days!  I really want to make them again, but next time I think I’ll make chocolate with Nutella cream…yum!

Three – Presidential Podcast

I have a confession to make: I’d never listened to a podcast until a couple months ago. I know they are super popular, but I just never saw the appeal…until my boyfriend got me hooked on the Presidential podcast. Each podcast is about a different president starting with George Washington. The podcast is hosted by Lillian Cunningham from the Washington Post, but for each episode she brings on historians and experts to help explain the character and legacy of each president. We started listening to it while road tripping to Montana and at first I thought it sounded so boring, but I was hooked after the first episode. It is seriously so interesting! I’ve learned so much about each president and about the country throughout the various periods in time.

Four – America the Beautiful Annual Pass

While we were in San Francisco last week, we stopped at Muir Woods National Monument. Instead of paying the $10/person entry fee, I bought an America the Beautiful annual pass. They are $80 and cover the entry fees and day use fees at national parks, national wildlife refuges, and national forests for one vehicle of passengers or up to four adults. I used the pass for my mom and I at Muir Woods and I know my boyfriend and I will get a lot of use out of it too. One of my ’30 for 30’ goals is to visit five national parks, so this will be a great way to accomplish that.

The pass is free for current U.S. military members and for 4th graders. Seniors (over 62 years old) can get a lifetime pass for only $10. You can read more about the pass here.

Five – Laline Body Soufflé and Scrub

I’m currently obsessed with the Coconut Verbena body soufflé and scrub from Laline. We ran across the shop while we were exploring Pier 39 in San Francisco. My mom is loves fancy soaps, so we had to check it out. When we walked in the saleslady asked us our favorite type of scent (floral, fruity, or clean) and then she had us try the scrub and body soufflé on our hands. I like fruity scents so she recommended the coconut verbena and it smells ah-mazing! My mom likes floral scents so she tried the vanilla pink pepper and loved it. 

Anyway, my hands are usually really dry and pitiful looking, but they felt and looked amazing after the scrub and soufflé. They were having a buy 3 get 2 free sale, so we both ended up buying the scrubs and soufflé plus a men’s body wash for my boyfriend. I’ve used the scrub and soufflé on my hands every night since we’ve been back (I still need to try it on my body) and they look SO much better. I normally don’t like lotion on my palms, but the soufflé absorbs quickly so I don’t mind it. 

I hope you all have a great weekend! Anyone have anything fun planned? We’ll probably spend most of the weekend outside now that the weather is finally starting to cool down. Tomorrow morning we volunteered to help a nearby children’s home get their vegetable garden ready for fall planting. We’re trying to get our own garden ready too, so I see a lot of dirt in my near future!     Cup

Travel Tuesday: Sorrento + Capri

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Today we’re heading down the Italian coast to beautiful Sorrento! This was the last stop of our Italy trip and it was such a great place to end the tour. After spending almost two weeks in the bustling cities (Venice/Florence/Rome), peaceful Sorrento was the perfect escape. 

We left Rome in the morning and made our way down the coast. We stopped in Naples for lunch at a pizza shop recommended by our driver. His family lives in the area and he said it was the best. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name, but the pizza was delicious and the owners were so welcoming to our large group.

We made it to our hotel in the late afternoon and we were stunned by view from our hotel room. That’s the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius! The rooftop pool deck also had a great view of the city.


We spent the afternoon and evening in Sorrento exploring the area and shops. The area is so beautiful and it was so nice to be near the water again.

The next day we met up for a trip to Capri. We took a ferry to the island and thankfully I didn’t get seasick. I got really seasick one time on the ferry to Catalina Island, so I was nervous about the ride, but I made it! Of course the seasick band and other remedies I brought along could have helped…

Anyway, we were supposed to take a boat tour around the island, but it was too windy, so we ended up having to take a bus around the island instead. The views from the bus were pretty amazing.


Capri is a beautiful place, but it was so crowded! I’m glad I got to visit, but would never need to go again. I wish we could have visited the Blue Grotto, but we did see some other very pretty places while we were on the island.

I think Capri would have been better experienced by boat. We were pretty sick of the crowds by this point in our trip, so we didn’t enjoy our time on the island as much as we would have thought. After a few hours of exploring, shopping, and eating lunch we rode the funicular down the mountain and took the ferry back to Sorrento.

We spent the rest of the day shopping and exploring more of Sorrento. We ended up calling it an early night because we had to be up early in the morning for our excursion to Pompeii, which I’ll share in another post soon.

So long story short, we loved peaceful Sorrento, but weren’t impressed with crowded Capri. Have you ever been to Capri? Were we just jaded from spending so much time around crowds for the past couple weeks and it’s not really that bad? Sometimes I wonder if we would have enjoyed it more had it been earlier on in our trip…

MummyTravels “Inspire

A New Shed

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

This is the story of a shed that was bought Memorial Day weekend, but wasn’t fully set up until Labor Day weekend…

Let’s jump back to mid-May – After years of planning and saving, I finally had the backyard professionally landscaped. I mentioned in the reveal post that I wanted to add a shed, but I was waiting for a deal. Well, I got that deal a couple weeks later during the Memorial Day sales. I ended up ordering this Craftsman resin storage shed from Sears.

It was on sale for almost $200 off, plus I had $10 in rewards points to use! I also saved $70 on shipping by borrowing a friend and her pickup truck for an hour. It was still a big purchase, but it had great reviews and it should last for a very long time (10 year warranty!).

But then the shed just sat in its box for two months…June and July are ridiculously hot in Phoenix and we really didn’t want to build a shed in 115 degree weather. Finally one weekend at the end of July the temps were just over 100 degrees so we decided to go for it. We did as much prep work as we could inside and then waited until the sun started to set to start assembling the set outside. 

It took HOURS to assemble and we did the last few steps in the dark by cellphone light. I’ll be completely honest, it was not fun…at all. We were sweating like crazy and we made it harder on ourselves by not building it on a completely level surface. It made most of the pieces harder to line up, especially the doors. That was definitely my fault…I wanted the shed put together and didn’t want to waste time building a level surface. So the shed was built, but not on a level surface so it really wasn’t usable…the doors didn’t work correctly. 

Luckily my boyfriend is amazing and over the past couple weeks he built a level surface for the shed. He used some leftover pavers to create a level border and then filled/compacted the space with dirt. He finished up over the long weekend and we moved the shed into place on Monday. We’re using it to hold all of the patio cushions, extra chairs, wheelbarrow, and yard tools.

I love how it turned out…it was definitely worth all of the sweat. We did things out of order, but sometimes you just have to do what you can in the summer heat. Plus the shed provided shade for my boyfriend while he was working on leveling the ground…so I guess it worked out in the end. 

Did you notice the dirt patch next to the shed? That’s where we are going to plant a vegetable garden! We still have to dig it out and add better soil (we bought a bunch while it was on sale over the weekend). We are also connecting lines to the existing drip system so we don’t have to worry about watering the garden. For our region, September is the best time to plant most of the leafy veggies (lettuces, kale, spinach) and plants like broccoli and cauliflower, so we’ll probably start with those. I’ll definitely post an update when I have more than a dirt patch to show.

Travel Tuesday: Vatican City

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

I’ve already recapped our adventures in Rome (see Part 1 here and Part 2 here), so today I’m focusing on our day in Vatican City. Vatican City is a sovereign nation within Rome and is officially the smallest nation-state in the world (by area and population). It maintains its own banking systems, post office, newspaper, and television stations. Vatican City is governed as an absolute monarchy with the pope as the head of state.

We started out tour early because the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica can get VERY crowded later in the day. We went with our tour group so I don’t really have any tips for visiting on your own other than to get there early. Honestly, that’s my #1 tip for sightseeing anywhere. Go early!

We only got to see a small portion of the artwork and sculptures, but what we saw was amazing. The marble sculpture below is Laocoön and His Sons and is one of the most famous pieces in the museum. It was excavated in Rome in 1506 and tells the story of Trojan priest Laocoön and his sons Antiphantes and Thymbraeus being attacked by sea serpents.

Even the ceilings are gorgeous. Look at all of that detail!

But none of those can compare to the Sistine Chapel. It’s breathtaking! Michelangelo was commissioned by Pope Julius II in 1508 to paint the chapel ceiling. It took four years to complete and twenty years later he painted the Last Judgment over the altar.

No photographs are allowed inside the chapel. They strictly enforce that rule and kick out anyone caught taking photos. They also ask for silence while inside the chapel.

Our next stop was St. Peter’s Basilica. St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the largest churches in the world and remains one of the holiest sites in Christianity. It stands on the site where Peter was crucified and buried.

The most recognizable part of the basilica is the large dome, which was designed by Michelangelo. It can be seen all around Rome - you might have noticed it in some of the pictures in my Rome posts.  The façade of the basilica is topped with 13 travertine statues representing Thaddeus, Matthew, Philip, Thomas, James the Elder, John the Baptist, Christ the Redeemer (in the center), Andrew, John the Evangelist, James the Younger, Bartholomew, Simon and Matthias.

The inside of the basilica is even more impressive. Every bit of space is intricately detailed, elaborate and features pieces from some of the most talented artists of the time.

Michelangelo’s famous Pieta is just inside the basilica on the right. It’s protected behind a sheet of glass after a crazy man welding a hammer attacked it in 1972.

Below is the dark bronze canopy that covers the shrine of Saint Peter. At the top of the picture you can see where the dome starts.

St. Peter’s Chair, the gilded bronze monument below was designed by Bernini to enclose an oak throne from Charles the Bald upon his coronation in St. Peter's in 875.

As you can see the inside of St. Peter’s Basilica is beautiful and quite detailed. It’s definitely a little gaudy, but most of them are (is that sacrilegious?). After we finished exploring the basilica we stepped outside to enjoy the view out onto St. Peter’s Square. There was an event the night before so you can still see all the chairs that had been set up.

Of course what’s a trip to Vatican City without mentioning the Swiss Guards. Their uniforms may look funny, but they’ve been faithfully serving and protecting the pope since 1506, which makes them one of history’s oldest regiments. Membership is open to Catholic male citizens of Switzerland who have completed military school. Applicants must be between the ages of 19-30, at least 5’8”, and not married.

After that we stopped at the official Vatican gift shop. My mom and I bought angel ornaments for our Christmas trees (you can see it in last year's Christmas home tour post). For no additional charge, they’ll have your item blessed (by a member of the Vatican clergy I assume) and delivered to your hotel later that night/next day. The gift shop is definitely worth a stop.

If you want to see how we spent the rest of the day, you can read my Rome Part 2 post here.

Next Stop: Sorrento!

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