Sunday, March 15, 2009

Almost there..

We have been so busy, and quite frankly, totally exhausted for the last week getting ready to move! Moving overseas is pretty insane as you must ship your stuff SO early, yet live with hardly anything for two months. You'd think this would make it easier to clean, but I just think the kids get even more bored with their toys gone and get into everything they aren't supposed to! :)

We have been painting and painting, and other than a coat in Val's room we're done. The paint here is water based, it's interesting and takes several coats. We washed the car and detailed it today so we can ship it out this week. It will take about 2 months to reach the US so we have a rental car for awhile. We are hoping to buy a 2nd car for Derrick within a week or two anyway which certainly will help! We've been trimming bushes, weeding flower beds, reseeding bare spots, and scrubbing the tile patio. Today we hired an italian couple to do a final cleaning on our home. We were up until after midnight last night shoving everything left (some dishes, pots, a toaster, our clothes,etc.) into one closet so they could clean the house from top to bottom. They were here from 8-5pm and the house is spotless! They even cleaned behind the appliances, the oven looks brand new, and even the window sills are completely spotless. Well worth 160 euro. (esp if you are pregnant or have toddlers that get in the way!)

Tomorrow we have to check out from all the places on base (it's a weird process) and pack our suitcases. 8am Tuesday morning the movers come to pick up our rent-a-couch,etc. and we have our final inspection.. than it's living in the navy lodge hotel for a couple days until our flight out Friday morning!! We will be with my parents for several days until we have a date set for the movers to deliver our furniture/household goods we had shipped back in January! On a side note, our anniversary is Thursday and Ellie turns 2 on Saturday! Those things are taking a back burner unfortunately to the move, but we will do cake/ice cream with grandma and grandpa when we get in!

So that's life over here for now. We hope you are all doing great--- and enjoyed a nice weekend!!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Nursery/Kid Inspiration Photos

One of my favorite things to do over a cup of coffee in the morning lately is to just browse home decorating sites/photos for ideas. I've been collecting photos for inspiration for several years, I guess I get that from my mom ;) I know many of my friends have either just moved, or are about to move (that's military life, right?), I thought I'd share some of my favorites! Sometimes it helps just to see an idea and then you can run with it! :) The best part of moving is getting to start all over again! :) These photos are just in order of how they're saved in my folder, not by preference.

I love the molding/structure of this room!

We are probably going to do a pink/brown theme in one of the girls' rooms. I can't decide if I like the walls brown or not, but it is certainly very soothing.

I love these scallops from PBK site. However, how do you do it so they are all even?

We are really leaning towards something like this for Madeline's nursery since she only has a white bedskirt for her crib with tiny pink, green, yellow,etc. flowers on it. I don't do the bumper, quilt, or any of that jazz.. and it's so soothing but gets away from the traditional pink for girls!

Another cute scallop idea from PBK.. again how do you paint it though? I like how it divides the colors without needing a chair rail.

I just love the "tacky" chandelier in this room.. perfect for a little girl yet too much for any adult!

I love this boy's nursery. I love that the bedding is full of solids and the stripes are just enough. I may do stripes in the play room like this with different colors. Super adorable.
This vine is beautiful and a lot like what I did in Val's room here, but I like how it separates the color which mine did not.

Another super cute boy's nursery. I love how the stripes only go halfway up and then there's something different, but the colors in the patterns are subtle enough that it works.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Paris- Day 3

Sunday was cold and misty out. We were pretty bundled up and I rarely took my camera out because I didn't want to deal with the rain issue. We were also exhausted from an extremely long (but awesome!) day before :)

We set out to find an outdoor market. Following the advice from the man at the front desk of our hotel, we set out towards the Opera and there is a wonderful market over there. Here we bought a kilo of huge, juicy strawberries and munched on them for breakfast. We also bought some baguette's and I had an eclair at a local bakery for like .50 euro. That is the way to do breakfast, super cheap.

The markets in France (and in Germany, if you remember from my summer trip) are so much cleaner, wider/less crowded, and organized than they are in Sicily. The fruit is beautifully arranged, so neat and clean. People wait and take turns and the isles were much wider so it wasn't like walking through a mosh pit!

We didn't do too much souvenir shopping on this trip. We bought the girls each a beret at the market and I bought a coffee cup at the Louvre. We had planned to go back up to the shopping district later to grab a few things but decided to relax instead.

We walked awhile through the markets and stopped at a little bar/restaurant that we obviously had to try ;) A few friends actually recommended it to us, and we came upon it by accident! It's across from the Bastille/next to the Opera House.

I ate a bacon cheeseburger, which wasn't extremely good.. the cheese was like a cup of melted nacho cheese and it was a MESS!! lol. It was ironic, I had just been saying how I really just needed something American and there it was! I realize to some, it's ridiculous to eat American food while in Europe but you have to remember that we've been living in Europe for almost 3 years. In Sicily you can go out for Sicilian food, or Sicilian food. There is a chinese place in Catania, but it's not something we frequent. Anyway, so when we travel, we like to try lots of different things!

From here, we took the metro back over near the Louvre and walked to the Orsay museum. Here, you can see much more modern art from the Louvre, including the Impressionists and so forth. We loved the giant old clocks on the sides of what used to be an old train station, now converted to the museum. It is beautiful at night.

Inside, we started at the top floor where the Impressionists were and found ourselves practically falling asleep on a bench. We so *wanted* to spend the afternoon there but just could not stay awake. We lasted about an hour and decided we'd come back another time, got a Starbucks and rode the train back to the hotel. I took a 4 hour nap before we went out for a late dinner at a little French Cafe near our hotel. It was so-so. There aren't a lot of options at 9pm on a Sunday night.. but it would do. The next morning we were at the train station by 8am and it was smooth coming back, minus our luggage being lost for a week in Milan. It was a wonderful weekend and we will definitely go back some day. We did not have time to visit the Notre Dame up close, the Montemartre area/Cathedral up there, Versailles, the Luxomberg Gardens, Normandy, or Disneyland Paris! :) It is amazing how much there is to do there.

I highly recommend it, with or without kids. It would be much easier if you go when your kids are out of the stroller age though, as I cannot imagine going up and down the thousands of subway stairs carrying a stroller. We did that in Barcelona and Rome,etc.. and it certainly was a hurdle!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Paris- Day 2 part 2

My last post ended with us walking down the Champs. We did stop in the Disney store to look around and peeked into one of the super fancy car dealerships for kicks. We kept going though because we knew the weather was wonderful that day and we had to get to the Arc and Eiffel Tower! I'm glad we pushed through because Sunday was rainy and cold, we didn't do too much!

At the end of the Champs is the Arc de Triomphe. There was a pretty long line to get to the top but we had the museum pass so we went right up. I also took the "handicapped" elevator because I had been walking for miles, up and down stairs all day, and quite frankly my pregnant body was about to collapse. (Just so you know, there is one. You have to ask the attendant to take you up but they were more than happy to).

From the top you can see the entire city including the Eiffel Tower towering over the city. It was really cool to see, although again everything looked grey and well, like winter!
View of the Champs:

Obviously the E. Tower area
At the base of the Arc is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from WWI. The flame is rekindled every evening at 6:30pm.

From here, we took the metro (It looks so close, but it's a good walk and there's nothing along the way) over to the Eiffel Tower. We took a few photos and decided to skip going up to the top. I know, right? How could you not do this? Well for one, we had *just* been to the top of the Arc and had seen the overview of the city. I didn't feel the need to do it 10 minutes later. It was also starting to drop dramatically in temp now, at almost sunset, and it was getting very windy. The queue for going up the tower had to be atleast an hour and there were hurdled like cattle into this tiny little waiting area, like at Six Flags. **FYI, the museum pass does not cover this so you do have to wait in line, and you do have to pay.**

We decided to watch the sunset and take some pictures of the tower as the lights came on instead. We had about an hour before then, so we walked around the corner from the Tower and had a drink at a cafe. I had my first crepes, with Nutella even, and they were fantastic. I can't wait to make some at home!

Afterwards, we decided to hop one of the glass domed boats on the Seine, right at the base of the E. Tower. I believe it was 12 euroish per adult for a 1 hour boat ride down the Seine. There are several companies, they run every half hour or so. We took an 8pm ride and it was lovely to go at night. Almost every monument or sight is on the Seine so you really see it all on this one trip, and at night it's especially romantic and beautiful! There is a headset at every seat that speaks several languages so you can hear some trivia if you'd like along the way. I listened to about half of it and then decided to just enjoy the quiet. I will admit by about 45 min in I was completely falling asleep from walking the entire day but it was just so relaxing!!
This was probably my favorite thing on the trip. a must do!

By now it was 9pm and we had to eat dinner. We were so incredibly tired so we took the metro back to our hotel area and stopped at a little Thai place. They were SO sweet and the food was great!! I think I took 2 steps into the hotel room before I passed out cold for the night. :)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Paris- Day 2 (Sat)

We used the Rick Steve's book a lot to help in our decision making for this trip, and for any of our trips through Europe so far. I highly recommend his books/shows!

The first Sunday of every month is free day for most museums, main attractions (exluding the E. Tower, and a few others). However that also means it's totally packed and the lines are long. Since we only had two full days we wanted to make the most of them and chose not to stand in those lines. We bought the Paris Museum pass, which I believe for 2 days was something like 32 euro per person. This gives you free admission to a long list of places, and you also walk straight in without waiting in line. Just to not wait in line, was worth it if you're short on time! We bought our pass when we arrived the first night at the TI booth at the airport also. Apparently you can buy it at some of the monuments but will wait in line.

Saturday morning we started off walking to a cafe near our hotel for breakfast. We had OJ, a delicious crossaint, and a cappucino. The cappo's in France are more like an espresso, not what I'm used to in Italy. I had to add about 4 sugars but it was still very nice. :) Derrick wanted to die because people were staring at me taking his photo but you'd think he'd be used to it by now!

From there we took a metro ride over to the Louvre and went in the basement entrance, underneath the pyramid. It's much less crowded underneath and there are several shops, including a Starbucks! This is me standing underneath the famous glass pyramid above.

Winged Victory of Samothrace:Venus de Milo:
Obviously, the Mona Lisa. She's behind glass, and much smaller than everyone expects
After we had our fill (you can only handle about 2-3 hours max.. so make sure you plan what you want to see) we ate at the Louvre cafeteria. We had fresh salads, baguettes, and they have some other options also. I had some kind of baguette with melted veggies, cheese, and chicken on top! We spent 31 euro, which is about as cheap as you're going to get a meal in Paris- super expensive!
On the way out we grabbed some Starbucks and sat in the Tuileries Garden (just outside). It's very relaxing. There are benches everywhere, and small ponds. I saw children running around and pushing boats on the water, seemingly the place to be on a rare gorgeous day in March! Outside the Louvre:
Arc du Carosel
You too, can be Mona Lisa.. for only a few euro ;) As you can see, the E. Tower is visible from here, although it's a couple miles away.

The above sidewalk starts at the Louvre's pyramid. It goes straight through the Tuileries, pass the Plaza de la Concorde, down the famous Champs Elysees, and ends at the Arc de Triomphe. It's a great walk, but very long, so stop along the way.

The Champs has the ritzy stores like Louis Vuitton and Cartier. There's fancy car dealerships, and cafes charging 15 euro for a drink. It's an interesting walk to people watch, although I can't imagine buying anything on that strip!

After this we went up the Arc de Triomphe and headed over the Eiffel Tower. It was an extremely long day so I will post some more tomorrow. Sunday we were so exhausted, we walked through a market, saw a few paintings at the Orsay and crashed for several hours at our hotel to get some rest. Ciao for now!

Paris Pics

Paris was wonderful! The weater was in the low 50's during the day and low 40's at night. After dinner the wind picked up usually in the evenings and we could only handle walking so long in it. We flew out of Catania with a layover in Rome (Milan on the way back) on Alitalia/Air France. Yes, it's the ghetto airline, but also cheapest by over $100 a ticket!! However, they did lose our suitcase on the way home and it has yet to be returned. Apparently it's sitting in Milan, didn't make our short layover.
Here is a photo flying over Mt. Etna. I wish we weren't on the wing, because it's truly awesome to see the top of Mt. Etna from an airplane. You realize how tall it really is, when the towns below are microscopic yet the volcano is seemingly so close!!

We arrived around 4:30pm and by the time we got our luggage, took the metro into Paris and walked to our hotel it was about 7. The airport is very large, and reminded me much of O'Hare. It was smooth and super clean. The metro system is efficient. We never had to wait more than 3 minutes for a train, and most of the time walked right on. It was fantastic! Quick tip: If you are going to use the trains multiple times (it's a huge city, I'm guessing you will) buy a "carnet" pronounced (car-nay) of tickets. It saves time as you won't have to buy a ticket every time. I think you get 10 tickets for 11.40 euro and so it's 5 rides if you're with a partner!

We stayed at the Grand Hotel Francais. It's located near the Nation intersection, a bit southeast from the Opera and Bastille. It's not in a touristy area, which is sort of irritating if you are tired and just want to walk right back to your hotel. However there is a metro stop a block from the hotel and it's super easy. Since it wasn't right downtown, we had a lovely room with a nice bed for half the price (I think it was 130 euro a night. not sure) The hotel itself is immaculately clean, the bed was the most comfortable I've stayed in Europe so far. I forgot to take pics of the room, very basic but recently renovated. It's rated #43 in all of Paris on Tripadvisor, and I would stay there again. Oh and I don't recommend spending the 10 euro per person for their breakfast. It's served in the basement, and you can get an entire baguette at a bakery for 1 euro. Here's the website:

We called the kids to check on them and headed out for dinner. We ate at Les Galopins the first night, near our hotel. It was recommended to us by our friends as well as the hotel.

It's a small cafe like setting, with very friendly wait staff and menus written on large chalkboards. It was so homey and I think I ate almost an entire loaf of a french baguette while waiting for my dinner. The bread was out of this world.. so fresh and delicious!! (I'm not a fan of italian bread). We hadn't eaten all day so we indulged. I had some sort of beef and augratin potatoes and Derrick ate a sausage the size of a coke can. He could barely walk afterwards, very romantic right :)

We were tired from a day of travel but had to atleast see the Eiffel Tower before going to bed so we took the metro over to the other side of the city. Stepping out of the metro these were our sites as we walked down the Seine holding hands. It was a lovely evening!

Plaza de la Concorde, Eiffel Tower. The Tower sparkles on the hour every hour for a few minutes.

Above- Notre Dame, one of the Seine boat cruises
Below- Grand Palais

Day 2 next post.