I believe in miracles.
I try to change the world every day.
I love my husband, my friends, and my family.
I plan my next great adventure constantly.
I think most occasions call for a dress.
I write what I know and believe.
Work has been a doozy since I got back a few weeks ago. My stress level has been off the charts. I constantly feel like I’m under siege. Even my back will seize up and make sure I know that stress is coming. It hasn’t been fun.
Thankfully, weekends are (finally) truly weekends for me – and that’s been good for my soul. Linking up with B!
Date Nights / Day Dates
One thing that has been great, however, is my husband’s commitment to date nights on the weekend. He surprised me with the idea the first weekend I was home – and so we got dressed up, went to Maggiano’s, and spent the evening at Half Price Books. Last weekend, we went furniture shopping and had a late lunch at Mariano’s, a place we both have wanted to try. This past weekend, we went back to Maggiano’s and wandered around NorthPark afterward. It’s been a really nice way to unwind and I look forward to the weekends more now than ever. My husband threw out the staycation idea this weekend, but I want to wait until it gets warmer so we can enjoy the pool.
We took my mother and my grandmother out to brunch at El Primo’s yesterday. Halfway through my mom asked if we had anything else planned for the day (we didn’t), and if not, we could go get manicures and pedicures. I think the last mani/pedi I had was for our wedding – no joke. It was really nice. I did the new gel/powder polish, and I’m interested to see how long it lasts. I am pleased with how it looks though.
Ever since my Seagate drive failed, I’ve been on the photo editing bandwagon. (I don’t want to find out I lose all my photos when I’m finally ready to edit them.) My favorite source of inspiration is others’ pictures – and I love to share my own. I hate to think that all our beautiful pictures just live on a hard drive somewhere. I’m going to start sharing photos on Thursday with a Postcard Photo post. (See the Italy Postcard Photo series / Europe Postcard photo series.) If you want to share pictures of places you love, I invite you to link up. It’s low pressure. You don’t need to write about it (unless you want to), just share pictures. If you want to just post on social media, feel free to use #postcardphotos and share your images on Thursdays!
I’m so excited about our guest bathroom renovation reveal today! It’s been a hot minute since I talked about anything related to our renovation. That’s for a couple of reasons. One, my husband and I agreed that we would take our time on furnishing and decorating the house so I could find things I really loved. Two, all the renovation drama took an emotional toll on me and it’s still not a good subject.
But, today! Today, I’m back and I’m rowdy. When we started thinking about our guest bathroom remodel, we had one objective. Add value but save money. I found a lot of ways to save money while remodeling, and I think the changes we made helped update the bathroom. SO. Mission accomplished.
Disclaimer: This post contains shopstyle/amazon links that may earn me a few pennies towards a future purchase if you click on them.
Jack and Jill Guest Bath Renovation Reveal: What We Changed
I thought I had pictures of everything before we started remodeling, but I can’t find any pictures of the guest bath right now. #BloggerFail
The biggest change we made was that we tore down a privacy wall and flipped the bathroom entirely. The reason I decided to flip the wall that the vanity was on is simply because everything would need to be extremely custom to stay symmetrical. Custom mirrors, custom sinks, custom vanity… the list goes on and on. While we are going to have to frost the window to prevent a peep show, I thought that was the lesser of two evils.
Another thing we did to keep costs down was keep things consistent throughout our renovation. We used the same quartz countertops throughout our entire house and used one cabinet and trim color throughout. We could have used the same wall color because there’s not a discernible difference between Glass Slipper and Whispering Spring.
Jack and Jill Guest Bath Renovation Reveal: The After Photos
Between the phantom 62″ bathtub saga and the stand your ground over a toilet nonsense, this bathroom showed us a lot about our contractor’s true colors (before things completely unraveled). That being said, I’m really happy at how it came out. (Now, if I could just figure out how to reinstall the pocket door lock that was installed upside down… #muchprofessional)
When I first started looking for the best place to stay in Cinque Terre, I was looking for creature comforts. (Disclaimer: I’m a hotel snob. My mom worked in the hotel industry, so I’ve been able to stay in some pretty fabulous places.) On our second trip, during our wine tasting tour, we spent a morning with a Manarola local. He explained that the increased tourism (and demand for apartments) has priced many young people out of the market, and there are less than 300 local residents of Manarola now. If this trend continues, Cinque Terre will soon just be a pretty place to take pictures (more so than it already is, but more on that later). His stories made me appreciate La Torretta even more. I can confidently say that it is the best place to stay in Cinque Terre – from both a comfort and sustainable tourism perspective.
The Best Place to Stay in Cinque Terre: The La Torretta Arrival Experience
It was difficult for me to fathom what Cinque Terre would be like. Similar to Venice, there are no(t many) cars allowed. I read of the winding stairs, cautionary messages of not bringing too much luggage, and the importance of being in shape. For that reason, I booked the luggage transfer from the Manarola train station to the hotel during our first visit. When we emerged from the tunnel, La Torretta was waiting with a golf cart to whisk us (and our luggage) up the hillside.
This year, our flight from London would arrive in Pisa at 5:00pm, so it was unlikely we would arrive in Manarola before the 7:00pm cutoff. We were so excited to be back in Cinque Terre though, it didn’t matter. The air was cool and crisp. The streets were mostly empty. We dragged our bags up the hillside, stopping a few times to catch our breath, and soon arrived at the plaza in front of the hotel. The hardest part of our journey being over, I scampered to check-in, leaving my husband to handle the bags – at his request, of course!
The front desk immediately ran to help my husband with the bags. They took our passports, escorted us to the terrace, handed us our glasses of prosecco, and headed off to prepare our room. Vacation officially starts here. It was the first moment I took a moment to just exhale. La Torretta does check-in especially well; it’s a great reminder that one of beauties of Cinque Terre is the ability to just slow down.
The biggest difference is the size and the sitting area, but honestly, the classic room was so cozy and romantic, I didn’t notice it. We preferred the terrace to the sitting area. The bathroom in both rooms is pretty small, but the water pressure is good and you can control the temperature well. Both got the job done. The one thing I would advise is to book a room with a terrace. We enjoyed spending our afternoons on it, enjoying fresh air (and prosecco). The breakfast terrace is always available, too.
The Best Place to Stay in Cinque Terre: Includes Free Breakfast
Typically, we aren’t into breakfast. Our health habits include skipping breakfast, but when we’re in Cinque Terre, we burn so much glycogen that it’s important to supplement our protein. La Torretta’s breakfast is perfect for that. In addition to hot dishes, including eggs and quiche, there are cold cuts and cheeses, fresh fruit, pastries and more. Sweet or savory, they have everyone covered. My husband loved going to breakfast on the terrace while I preferred to stay in the room. He would bring things upstairs for me, but every morning before we would head out, the staff would offer to make me anything I wanted. While I wouldn’t take them up on it, the service really is exceptional in that way. The best part is – breakfast is included with your room rate. It’s not an add on or a loyalty perk, it’s just part of the experience.
The Best Place to Stay in Cinque Terre: Why Manarola?
After our trip to Cinque Terre, we thought we might want to stay in another village. However, after this year, my husband declared we will only stay in Manarola.
Simply put, life in Manarola is easy.
Well, that hike up the hill isn’t necessarily easy… but it’s not the end of the world either. Manarola harbor is gorgeous in the morning. It’s absolutely stunning at blue hour. And, it’s pretty magical at night, too. It’s a quiet village – there aren’t a lot of things that stay open really late. (That goes for Cinque Terre collectively, at least in April when we’re there). Once you leave the harbor, the crowds thin out – even in the midday. The wine terraces are the best maintained in the region. You can even walk around the village through them! We think it has the best views of the entire village. You can see all parts of it. Most of the villages have one distinct view or vantage point, but no matter where you are in Manarola, you can appreciate everything it has to offer.
I’m going to apologize in advance. This post may make you uncomfortable. I try to keep things relevant and useful in this little space. And, that’s exactly why I’m telling you why you need a home back up and storage solution today. Learn from my mistakes, grasshoppers.
Disclaimer: This post contains shopstyle/amazon links that may earn me a few pennies towards a future purchase if you click on them. I only link to products that I personally recommend. You’ll notice that Seagate isn’t included.
The Seagate drive worked beautifully while we were gone. I had no problems downloading my pictures onto it, accessing them, and I even used it a few times after we got back. A few months ago, I sat down to start editing them. My computer wouldn’t recognize the drive. It would click but nothing would happen.
I reached out to my computer genius friends to troubleshoot it. No luck. I took it to Best Buy and MicroCenter, both of which needed $2,000 to try to recover the files. I decided to pay $50 to send it to Seagate Data Recovery Services for a diagnostic test and hopefully ($750) recovery. No dice. They sent me a replacement drive (thanks but no thanks) and a note that said sorry (not sorry). We can’t help recover your priceless pictures.
I was really upset; I was the only person who took pictures on this trip. My mom was counting on me to share our amazing pictures with her. I dropped off the drive with Ace Data Recovery on a Saturday. They called by midday Tuesday to let me know they could recover NOTHING from the drive.
Anyway. Now that I’ve given you that PSA about Seagate, let’s talk about why you need a Plan B. Simply put, technology fails. And, if you’re anything like me, you’ve stored all your memories on a piece of equipment that absolutely will fail. Eventually.
If you work in an office, you may or may not know that your files are (likely) backed up by a redundancy of systems. When I set up my husband’s office, I put in a system with multiple mirrored hard drives and the entire server is backed up to the cloud.
WHY WOULDN’T I DO THIS AT HOME?!
Because I’m stupid? Possibly.
Because I thought it was too expensive and unnecessary? Definitely.
Either way, I needed to change that and back up all of my files before all my external hard drives failed. (I live in a worst case scenario mindset. It comes from being married to an attorney.) Instead of opting for the Windows Server license set up, I decided to grab a QNap personal server. I installed two hard drives (for mirroring purposes) and backed it up to the cloud. No more catastrophic failures for me!
Why You Need a Home Back Up and Storage Solution: Setting it Up
The QNap system was SO easy to set up. The hard drives were plug and play; screw them into the trays, pop them into the box, and plug it into the wall and the internet. Done in less than 15 minutes (which included locating a screwdriver).
Once everything is connected, you login to the admin page, install the software, and let the system restart. This took me about 30 minutes from start to finish.
I chose to mount the server in my favorites on my computer. The QNap software has several apps to help you copy your music files, organize your photos, etc., but I just went for organizing everything into folders. I started with the Seagate drive (which took over an hour) for obvious reasons. I haven’t backed up my music yet, but I’ll get to that eventually.
I’m really hoping this system will keep me organized and prevent any further technology glitches. It REALLY sucks that we have no pictures from our Christmas trip to Europe. And, it sucks even more because Seagate KNOWS they are selling a defective drive. Buyer beware.
Somehow my dad’s semi-homemade chicken alfredo recipe has stuck with me throughout my entire life. I made it after he passed away. I made it when I lived with my grandmother. I made it for dinner parties in college. And, I still make it now. I like the combination of flavors. I taught one of my friends to make it, and her husband liked it so much that she swears that she made it up… she says it’s because he thinks she gets all her recipes from everyone else… and it’s one she can claim. (Maybe?) When I first started dating my husband, it was one of the recipes he was willing to try and eat. All things considered, this should be considered a HUGE success.
Whatever the case may be, it always gets rave reviews. You know what would be good with this? My easy garlic bread… why didn’t I think of this earlier? (What’s with the carb overload today? Must be the residual effects of being in Italy for two weeks.)
Furthermore, it’s easy to make. It’s also good as leftovers (cold or warm) – don’t judge me.
garlic salt (I used Paula Dean's House Seasoning this time -- tasty!)
2 tablespoons Kikkoman teriyaki sauce/glaze
1 (12 ounce) package dry pasta, any shape
1 (16 ounce) jar Bertolli alfredo sauce
Olive oil - I like to use roasted garlic and herb for a little more flavor!
Put on water on to boil for pasta. I like to use penne rigate because the ridges hold the sauce really well. Anything you like works well. Bowties are fun for dinner parties.
Cut chicken breasts into small, bite-size pieces, and season chicken with Lawry's season salt, lemon pepper, and garlic salt.
Coat medium frying pan with olive oil (about 2 tablespoons) over medium-high heat. Add chicken breast pieces and let them cook until white on both sides.
Turn down to medium low, add teriayki sauce (I like to use the Kikkoman marinade because it's a little thicker), stir until chicken is coated, and let chicken finish cooking until the teriayki is absorbed.
Turn chicken down to medium-low, add the alfredo sauce and stir well to mix everything.
Once chicken mixture is absorbed into alfredo sauce, turn temperature down to low. Allow it to simmer until the pasta is ready.
Drain the water from the pasta and add chicken and sauce mixture. Toss and mix well.