Saturday, December 15, 2012

Siena & A Super Long Post For a Day and a Half

So I know I said Siena and Montalcinio would be up next in my Italy journal, and they are!  Just a couple weeks later.  If you are able to spend some time in central/northern Italy, I highly highly recommend going to one or more of the smaller hill towns.  You don't need much time, and it just gave us such a great feel for Italy. 

Initially, when we planned our itinerary, we just planned on going to Siena because so many people we know raved about this town.  We pre-booked rooms at a hotel in Siena for two nights, but we didn't pre-book any train/bus tickets TO Siena because we wanted to give ourselves some flexibility with the timeline.  We knew it wouldn't take long to get from Florence to Siena and that there are lots of trains/buses that go between the two.  We didn't know if we would want a bit longer in Florence to do anything or if perhaps we would take a short trip to Pisa to see the famous leaning tower.  I had seen the tower as a child so I was really leaving that decision up to Ben.  ANYWAY...our one truly spontaneous moment was then allowed to take place.

When we went on our day trip out into Tuscany, our tour guide, Marc, raved about the town Montalcino.  We like wine (hence our day trip to taste wine), and he said if we could fit it in, we absolutely had to go to Montalcino to taste the famous Brunello wine.  Well, it intrigued us.  We asked my cousin Jessica about it as well, and an idea was formed. 

We decided to take an earlier bus from Florence to Siena to have the full day in Siena and bypass Pisa.  Ben truly didn't care (again, his decision), even though he was passing up on one of the great wonders of the world.  Let's concentrate on Siena now though.  This town is truly amazing.  We stayed at the Albergo Bernini which I have to recommend.  You do have to share a bathroom, but there were several for the 11 rooms, and we never had to wait.  Plus there are sinks in your room.  It was clean, in a good location, and the terrace was truly unreal.  That's why I have to recommend it.  It is a large terrace with several tables and has an incredible view of the town.

Um, yeah, incredible.  We had lunch on that terrace both days and snacks the second night and just enjoyed being there.  We were lucky to have great weather that day in Siena.  It was really the only day on our trip warm enough to wear one of my dresses.  After we settled in, visited the local grocery, and ate lunch, we were ready to explore.  With our trusty Rick Steves guide in hand, we knew exactly where to head.  I felt like Rick was my best friend after that trip, just an FYI. 

We set out to the main part of town to the Duomo.  We payed the nominal amount to go inside, and it was there that I found my favorite church/museum in Italy.  It was so beautiful and full of fun facts.  If you go to Siena, you have to go inside.  Promise me!

Here's a fun fact for you courtesy of Rick.  In the church, the heads of 172 popes are lining the main nave.  If you look at them, it's really the same 4 heads, repeated over and over.  See the picture below.

After being awed by the Duomo, we went and hung out in Il Campo, the main square, to enjoy the sun.  In the summer, they hold a huge horse race on this square.  We bought some ricciarelli, one of the local sweet treats in Siena, to enjoy while relaxing.

 After some relaxation, we headed back to our part of town and visited the Church of San Domenico.  The church holds many of relics and paintings of St. Catherine including her head. Truly, her head. It's interesting. However, we actually couldn't figure out how to get into the church and since it was almost closing time, we gave up and decided to try again the next morning. We ate at restaurant called Osteria Il Campaccio for dinner which came recommended from some friends and was located just below our hotel. The wonderful daughter of the owner of our hotel, Carlotta, actually just yelled down to them that we wanted to eat there. When we arrived, they asked if we had reservations, and we said no. Turned out, we did. That was the reservation. So we ate in a lovely little courtyard and had some of Siena's trademark pasta, Pici. I also had it with some of the trademark cheese of the region, Pecorino. So I went all local. 

After dinner, we went back to Il Campo to enjoy the square at night. We got some traditional Italian drinks (Limoncello and Agrappa--don't care for either) from this bar, Key Largo, and went up their tiny little stairway to enjoy the evening out on their benches overlooking the square. Beautiful.
(I felt very Alice in Wonderlandesque)

The next day we went back to the square to eat breakfast. It was pricy, but we felt like we should do that at least once on our trip. I enjoyed a nice croissant and cappachino while Ben had some espresso. He came back from Italy an espresso fan.

When then tried our luck again with the Church San Domenico, and this time, we were successful. In a serious departure, St. Catherine is the patron saint of many things and one is the patron saint for miscarriages. Upon arriving in Italy, I had received an email that a close friend had suffered a second miscarriage. For some reason, my phone wouldn't let me send outgoing messages, and let's be honest, I'm not techy enough to figure out why, so I wasn't able to send her my support and sympathy. I am not Catholic and I don't pray to the saints, but I did send some prayers there for her. I was overwhelmed by thinking about her in that church.

And so ends the majority of our time in Siena. After the church and lunch on the terrace where we had some panforte, another local delicacy, we caught the bus to Montalcino. But that's for the next post after I just realized how ridiculously long this one is. Probably too long, but Ben's my only reader, and this really is going to be my journal of our time there so so be it. On to Montalcino and WINE. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

The (sort-of) Dilemma

So Wednesday night something both amazing and kind of awful occurred.  Of course it was only those two adjectives to me, my husband, and maybe a handful of other people in the country.  I'm also being a bit dramatic for the effect.  So here it is:

ACC-BIG 10 Challenge - Clemson vs. Purdue-DLP-6899

Okay, maybe it isn't obvious from that picture, but MY TWO TEAMS, Purdue and Clemson, met in the Big Ten/ACC Basketball Challenge.  Since I became a Clemson fan, this has only happened one other time which was during my first semester working at Clemson.  At that time, although I cheered for Clemson, I wasn't really a fan so there wasn't much of a tug at my conscience when I cheered against them.  That Purdue team included the four "baby boilers", and it was their first true road test.  We lost by (I think) 3 points, but as a Purdue fan I was really encouraged by the play of those freshmen.  I knew things were going to be good for the next few years, and I wasn't wrong.

Flash forward 5 years later.  I live in a different state now so I couldn't actually attend the game (boo.)  I am a true Clemson fan now, although as I said earlier, I do pay more attention to football.  So what's a girl to do???

I'll tell you-- 
Boiler up!

Yep, you BOILER UP!

I felt like a bit of a traitor wanting Clemson to lose, but my loyalty is and always will be with my Boilers.

(But I do want Clemson to win the rest of their games, unless they were to meet Purdue again in the tourney.)

Hail Purdue!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Ben and I were fortunate enough to take a two week trip to Italy and Nice, France following his graduation.  It was pretty much amazing as was expected.  I feel truly grateful that this trip happened, but as usual, it also sparked my MUST TRAVEL gene.  Unfortunately that's not always possible, especially with new jobs.  However, I will always have incredible memories of our trip, and I want to document it here.  We arrived in Florence and stayed for three nights.  We then stayed in Siena for two nights and took a day trip to Montalcino while there.  After that it was 2 nights in Venice, two nights in Cinque Terre, two nights in Nice, and one more night in Florence before taking off.  The only unfortunate thing (besides a migraine in Cinque Terre) was that it was a lot colder than the weather reports had predicted.  My one pair of jeans was worn everyday, and the majority of my pictures will have my trusty sweatshirt and often either my jean jacket or green jacket on over it.  Thanks heavens I brought those 4 items and a bunch of v-neck t-shirts.  My poor, cute, summer dresses didn't really get the showcase I thought they would.  I don't think I have ever wished I had packed my boots as much as those two weeks.  In the long run, it doesn't matter though.

So this blog post is dedicated to the great city of Firenze, our first stop.

We stayed at the Hotel Dei Mori which was a wonderful B&B.  Peter and Danny were incredible and made us feel so welcome.  Here was our room:

It was right by the Piazza della Signoria which was a great location.  Once we arrived, jet-lagged of course, we just went for a walk.  We stumbled to a random pizzeria for our first meal and had some wine on the Piazza della Signoria.

The next day we visited the famous Uffizi Museum in the morning and stopped by local shops to pick up our lunch which we ate on the terrace at our B&B.  

In the afternoon, we took a tour into Tuscany to visit some vineyards.  We really loved the wine at the first one and the olive oil at the second.  It was beautiful out in the countryside, and I'm so happy we were able to go for at least an afternoon.
That night we were able to meet up with my second cousin, Jessica, and her boyfriend, Nicco, and eat at Quattro Leoni which was across the Arno.  It was great to be able to see some family and get some advice from people who live in Florence!

It was a long but amazing day.

The next day we were up bright and early to visit the Accademia.  We were awed by the David.  I had seen the David when I was only 12 and visited Italy with my family, but age definitely adds a lot to the experience.  We also walked up to the Piazza Michelangeo across the Arno to see some absolutely incredible views. This was the one recommendation from Jessica and Nicco that they insisted we do, and it will be my major recommendation from now on as well. 

We did a lot of walking around, eating gelato, and drinking good Italian wine.  Here are some more pictures of our time in Florence.

So there were more pictures than anyone other than our parents need to see, but trust me, it's only a tiny little bit compared to the actual amount we took.  Next up on my Italy journal--Siena and Montalcino!!  Arrivederci!

Monday, November 26, 2012

More style than me

Over Thanksgiving, my family went out to dinner to celebrate my sister's birthday.  My nephew and I wore the same shirt.  My little Teddy is one stylin' guy, and I sure do love that little man.  I also love his old man sweater with elbow patches.  Is it weird that I want the same sweater as my 8 month old nephew?  Oh well, I told you he has style.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

It's Thanksgiving, and I'm thankful

It's Thanksgiving, and I really am thankful for so much.
  • My adorable, healthy nieces and nephew
  • My family.  I wish we lived closer, but it makes me that much more grateful for the time we are together.
  • My faith
  • Oliver, my faithful, fluffy buddy
  • Purdue
  • Old friends
  • Sports
  • A good historical fiction novel set in England (quite specific, but my favorites)
  • TV that makes me laugh
  • DVR
  • A job
  • Buffalo Wild Wings (What?  It's true.)
  • Wine, french bread, and brie
  • Pasta
  • Blogs
  • Memories from wonderful vacations (Ah, Italy)
  • The dream that I could someday have a beach home
  • My mom's mashed potatoes
  • Music and the ability to keep a tune
  • The Avett Brothers
  • My random, new found love for baths and french dip sandwiches (not at the same time)
  • My favorites Anthropologie mug
  • Rivalry games.  (Go Clemson--Beat the Gamecocks!  Go Purdue--Crush the Hoosiers!)
  • My health
  • Ben.  Last, but never least.
*Picture of Ben and Ollie watching a Clemson game.  All things for which I'm grateful. :)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I'm a FAN (a sports fan that is)

So if you want to know me, you should know that I'm a sports fan.  Most importantly, I'm a college sports fan.  I do love my Colts, but other than some NFL, I follow no professional teams.  However, when it comes to college, I start the seasons with my teams and by the end I'll watch about anyone.  And don't get me started on March Madness.  It is the all-time best sporting event.  As an adult, no time makes me feel like a kid at Christmas as much as the first weekend of March Madness.  I get excited just thinking about it.

So I'm a Purdue fan first and foremost.  They are my first love and my true love.  Nothing makes my heart proud like Hail Purdue and Boiler Up!

Purdue has been having a rough couple football years, but basketball season has been so much fun.  The players from the last few years (Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson, E'Twaun Moore, Chris Kramer, and Lewis Jackson) will probably be some of my all-time favorites.  I'm expecting some heartache this season with the team and the amount of freshmen, but I also see so much potential for the next couple years and that makes it bearable.

After Purdue comes Clemson.

Go Clemson!
Look at the sea of orange.  There's no stadium like Death Valley.

I worked at Clemson for five years, and Ben has two degrees bearing their name.  There's something about the amount of sports pride and the sea of orange that truly gets in your blood.  Their football team has been so much fun to watch this year.  They lost a tough one to Florida State, and I really wish there could be a re-match.  I don't follow them as much during basketball season because Purdue takes up my time. Besides, it's really a football school.

I normally want Northwestern to do well (except when they play Purdue) because I do have a master's degree with both our names on it, but I don't typically go out of my way to watch their games or get to know their players.

Finally, we just moved to Columbia, and I imagine that over the next few years, we will become Mizzou fans.  We did go to one football game this year, but the fourth quarter made it kind of rough.

Miz-zou. Had fun at the game last night if we can forget the 4th quarter. :)

So there you go. A little introduction into my sports loving heart (which unfortunately breaks quite often.) That's just the way it goes.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

It tastes better in red

Tastes better in red

I'll admit it.  I'm a Starbucks fan.  However, I don't vary my routine with my drink.  It's a Grande Skinny Vanilla Cappuccino all the time.  Well unless it's in the evening, and I just want a hot beverage but no caffeine.  Then I get a Tall Skinny Vanilla Steamer.  Why do I capitalize the Starbucks drinks?  I have no idea.  It just seems like they should be capitalized.  Anyway, my question--why are those drinks so much better in the holiday cups???  Why does that simple piece of marketing work so well?  Even Ben, who likes to claim he has a caffeine allergy (he doesn't), wants Starbucks in the red cups.  (By the way, he's a Tall Americano, unless he's doing the ordering in which case he's a SMALL Americano.  Rebel.)

I don't have an answer to this query.  I'll just continue to enjoy my drink in the red cup that much more than the classic white.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Change (they say it's good for you)

It's been a long time since I've posted. Ben's always telling me to get back on here so here I am! A whole heck of a lot has happened in the past year and a half. Here are some of the great things. I have a new nephew, Teddy. He's pretty great.
This cutie turned 2!
Ben graduated so he officially has his Ph.D. Yea Ben!
Ben and I took a celebatory trip to Italy and Nice, France. I could do a ridiculous amount of posts so here's just a sneak peek. I want to go back.
Finally, we now live here:
Okay well we don't actually live "there" but we do now live in Columbia, MO. I definitely miss Clemson and aspects of the South, but it's also great to be back in the midwest. Hopefully I'll get around to filling in the rest of year soon! I'll leave you with this guy. He's still the best.