Friday, September 27, 2013

Trip Recap: Bahamas & Florida

We are back from our weekend away and are digging out from under so much laundry... it's insane, why did I bring so much stuff!? Anyways, I finally got a spare minute to look at the few pictures we took and thought I would share them today. I forgot to get any pictures AT ALL of us dressed up for dinner, which of course was the only time I'd say we looked somewhat presentable.. Oh well, guess we'll just have to book another trip to get those pictures! :-)

We got into Miami on Friday morning and used the Royal Caribbean Shuttle to take us from the airport to the ship. We were able to get checked in pretty quickly and even though our room wasn't ready, we changed into our swim suits we brought in our carry-on and were ready for the sun! Here are some pictures of our boat, Majesty of the Seas on Royal Caribbean cruise-line.

Our first destination was Coco Cay, a small, private owned island in the Bahamas. The dock here cannot accommodate the large cruise ships, so they used smaller boats, called Tenders, to take passengers from the boat to the island. As soon as we got there, we headed over to Barefoot Beach which was a more secluded part of the island. However secluded, it wasn't too far from the bar & restroom - priorities, people!

So pretty, the beach was amazingly soft and warm water! We had a perfect day and would go back here for sure.

Our next stop was to the Port of Nassau, Bahamas. I had researched what to do here on and decided instead of doing mega Atlantis, sight seeing, or trying out the man-made public beach, we would check into a resort with a day pass. We choose the Breezes Resort and it worked out great- food & open bar included as well as access to their clean, private beach with chairs & beach towels. 

The upper left picture is what you see when walking off the boat at the port. Very colorful and lots of people around trying to give you taxi or horse/buggy rides. We peeked into the famous Straw Market but didn't really see anything besides t-shirts and tchotchkes so we quickly passed by.

The other three photos are from the Breezes resort in Nassau. We ate lunch at the Poolside Grill and tried the local Conch Fritters. Pretty good food and it was nice to try a lot some fruity drinks (Dirty Monkey-yum!) without the pricey cruiseship price. Also, the resort has three pools and they were not salt water which was nice.

The next day was Monday already and we were headed back to Miami. We got off the ship around 9am and rented a car so we could explore Miami until our flight later that evening.

First, we drove to South Beach. It was a Monday morning so it was pretty quiet  but I could definitely see how fun/crazy during Springbreak it could be. We went to the beach and it was very, very hot.. think insta-sweat, ick. We debating spending another day in the sun but decided to do some sightseeing around Miami since we had the (air conditioned) rental car and all.

After leaving SoBe, we stopped at a brewery close to University of Miami's campus called Titanic. Oh the irony of that name. The beer & food was really good, I had a Pumpkin beer that was ah-mazing. We drove a bit around the campus, had to stop for a picture with the "U" and check out their baseball field.. since they left the gate open for us.

At this point, we still had a few more hours before we needed to be back at MIA for our flight so we hopped in the car and headed to the Everglades National Park. We weren't exactly dressed for hiking so once inside the park, we just walked along their boardwalk and paved trail. We only saw a few tiny, striped alligators and a couple of vultures. I didn't realize this "park" was so huge! The park has tram rides and there are also boat rides so you can get up close and personal with the wildlife. We didn't really have time for that but I'm glad we stopped to check it out. I would go back if we had more time and would remember to dress appropriately!

We got really lucky with weather the entire trip, hot & sunny. The only time it rained was on the way back to the airport to turn in the rental. I'm so glad that we went, it was a nice weekend away, just the hubs & I, to celebrate our love for each other.. doesn't get much better than that!

hmm.. where to go next?? 

Hope you all have a nice weekend! 


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Tips for Booking Travel

 If you know me, you know that I love a good deal. Whether it's shopping for clothes/shoes, going to restaurants or activities, I love finding the lowest price! David & I are celebrating 3 years of marriage this week and wanted to do something special to honor that. Two weeks ago, I was looking at flights online- researching where to go, what would be a good deal and what we wanted to do. David mentioned looking at, where you can input your departure airport, choose your dates, and leave the arrival city open ended to see what good deals are out there. I had never used this before and just had to share with you:

You can scroll around the world to see the lowest price offered to fly into that airport. I found that looking out 2-3 weeks showed some seriously great deals! Why didn't I know about this site before?? We wanted to go somewhere warm and just relax, so I was looking at Florida. At the time, Ft. Lauderdale was $198 each + luggage fees (even a carry-on) through Spirit. I looked around to see if there were any nice resorts/hotels on the beach that weren't super expensive but I just couldn't find anything that got me excited. I always use Trip Advisor to check reviews before booking.
I noticed Miami was a little less at $166 each round trip and carry-ons are included through American Airlines, so no extra fees. I haven't seen a flight that cheap in forever!

Hmmm.. what do in Miami? I've always heard you can get good cruise deals especially last minute, so I checked on Expedia to search for available cruises. I just narrowed it by departure port and month.

I found one that matched up pretty good with our flight times, leaving Friday/coming back Monday, through Royal Caribbean to the Bahamas. The price was the same to book with Expedia or with Royal Caribbean directly, so I choose to purchase through Royal Caribbean. Not sure if they offer this on all cruises but when I booked, there was a room option called Ocean View Guarantee. Basically, a lower price and you are guaranteed an ocean view room but you do not get to pick where your room is. We ended up on the 7th floor and I feel like that's a pretty good location so we got lucky! The price was $320/per person including all the taxes & fees so we are going on a weekend getaway to the Bahamas for less than $500/person!

We leave early tomorrow morning and I still have to pack my bags.. better get on that!

What are your tips for finding travel deals?? I've heard good things about Groupon or Living Social but haven't used them yet.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Update: Built-in Bookcases

Finally got the painting done over the weekend and hung the doors up, making progress!

Still need to add the crown molding at the top. I couldn't wait to start filling up the shelves. These are not styled but just thought I would share the progress!

Updated with the finished crown:

If you missed the first post about the bookcases, you can read it here.
Hope you're having a great day!


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Around the house: Entryway

Just a little re-arranging around the house, this is the entryway. I still need to find something to put in that little frame with the fabric back I picked up at the thrift store. Any ideas? 


Monday, September 16, 2013

Loving: Horizontal Plank Walls

Tillman Long Interiors
One of my favorite things about older homes is the character and workmanship they were built with. Crown molding, chunky trim, some wainscoting - beadboard or board & batten, and even wood paneling also make more of an impact in any space. These details are not in most houses but it is fairly easy to add. We did this in our last house, when we added board and batten in the bathroom, picture frame moldings in the dining room and crown molding in the living room. In our current house, I want to add in some extra character and I'm dying over these horizontal plank walls that have become super popular. 

Tillman Long Interiors
This wall treatment looks amazing in any space. Like a hallway:
Muskoka Living

Suzanne Kasler

Structures Building Company

Southern Living
I'm thinking about adding the horizontal planks to the upstairs of our bungalow. It has the slanted walls and I think this treatment would make it so cozy. 

There are quite a few tutorials about how to DIY plank walls. These two caught my eye, so I'll probably follow their steps:

Domestic Imperfection
Little Green Notebook, Jenny Komenda
As much as this is a recent trend, I do think it is a classic look that will not go out of style. I'm glad to see more people adding character to their homes! It will probably be a little while before we can start this project but I can't wait!


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Loving: Turkish Towels

I was first introduced to Turkish towels on an HGTV episode of Dear Genevieve where host, Genevieve Gorder, did a bathroom makeover and gushed about how amazing these towels are. In this interview, she even lists them as a "cannot live without item".

Genevieve Gorder - 'Dear Genevieve'

A Turkish towel, also known as a peshtemal or fouta, is made of 100% cotton and known to be highly absorbent, lightweight and fast-drying. These properties make them ideal for bathrooms, traveling, the gym and the beach. I like that they are so versatile.. obviously use as a towel but also as a throw, a wrap, a picnic blanket or even a table cloth! 

l'aviva home

Etsy has a very large selection of these towels, in various colors and patterns, shop here. The hardest part is picking my favorite ones! I decided to try a few from Etsy seller, Turkish Linen & Towels, which ships from St Louis, Missouri. I must have caught them when they were running a special because I got free shipping and I received them so quickly! I bought these three and just received them yesterday:

Turkish Towels
Turkish Towels

Here they are in my home:

They are shades of gray and black mixed with off-white/white. I like that they are neutral but still pretty and warm. Close up:

They are so soft, I might designate one of them to be a throw only and use the others as towels. If they work as well as I think for towels, I will pick up a few more to replace our current bath towels.

p.s. did you notice I painted the bookcase trim white? Only 1 more coat to go, then the base molding, and the doors can go up!

Have any of you tried a Turkish towel yet??


Monday, September 9, 2013

Zucchini Bread & Muffins

Harvesting fresh vegetables from my garden has really been inspiring me to cook more and use what we have on hand before it goes to waste. My nice co-worker gave me a large zucchini (the same one who gave me the eggs!) so I thought I'd try making zucchini bread. I have never made it before but it was pretty easy! 

I used this base recipe from All Recipes and added the topping from my Mom's banana bread recipe. I'm sure it would be good without the topping but I really wanted it a little sweeter and this made it amazing!

This batter recipe makes enough for two loaf size pans but I wanted to break it up into smaller portions. I ended up making 24 muffins, 1 half-height loaf size and 1 small round loaf. I froze the latter two items, they will be great when we have guests visiting in the morning or when we need a quick treat. I also think this would be amazing warm and served with vanilla ice cream.

*I doubled the above topping recipe just because I wanted to make sure to have more than enough, I froze the leftovers with my Cobbler topping in the freezer.

Since I had never baked with zucchini before, I wasn't sure if I was supposed to cook it before shredding? I did not cook it, just washed it, cut it in half to scoop out the seeds, then used a cheese grater to shred it. Worked perfectly.

I brought in a bunch of the muffins to work and it was nice having them as individual servings. I really think the topping makes these muffins and the breads extra special. 

There is still some squash growing so I'll be cooking with that soon!


Friday, September 6, 2013

In Progress: Built-in Bookcases

We are still working on the exterior of our house but a few weeks ago, there was a week-long stretch of rain and started a new project inside. We tend to always have a couple of projects going on at once, it keeps us from getting bored and the time to think about the decisions being made.

The backroom in our house is an addition the previous owners put on. This is the listing photo of the space, they used it as a very large dining room. You can see the lovely air conditioner they put in the wall. Don't worry, there were 4 other sconces to match that black & teal one. :-)

This is the wall to the right of the french doors. You can see all the empty, wasted space.

Since that layout was not working for me, our dining table is in front of this window now. We had to move the chandelier back to where it was originally and of course replaced those sconces. Here is a quick pic.

Okay, back to the topic at hand.. since we moved the dining table over, we were able to create an extra living area in that space where the previous owners had their dining table. (This pic is pretty old, but was the only one I could find before we started the bookcases.)

To the left of the french doors and behind the pair of linen chairs, we wanted to do some sort of feature on that wall. We tossed around the idea of adding a gas fireplace, a TV unit, or a wall of built-in bookcases. We decided on the built-ins since a gas fireplace would be a pretty big job to run the gas line over there ($$) and nixed the idea of the TV because we like to use this space for entertaining and we usually don't have the TV on when company is over.

I thought about building from scratch but that would be pretty time consuming so we went with a pre-made option from IKEA. The Billy bookcases come in a couple of different sizes and have the option for a height extender, doors, extra shelves, etc. so that we could make it to fit our space perfectly. We chose 3 units @ 31.5" wide and added the extender for a total height of 93". Assembly wasn't too bad, only about 30 minutes for each unit. 

I like the look of the doors, so we picked up 3 sets of those for the bottoms. We installed one pair so we could see what they looked like. 

I wanted these to look built-in, so after screwing them together and to the wall, we added some trim pieces to cover the seams and also to make the shelves look chunkier. We used two different size lattice strips from Home Depot.

We still need to add the baseboard & crown molding, then fill & paint all the raw wood to match, and hang the other doors. Even though we are not finished, when you walk into the room, it really draws your eye to the back wall. Love them so far and can't wait to start filling & styling!

Do you also have project ADD? What are you currently working on?