My Trip to Italy

I’m back! Actually, I’ve been back for a few days, but jetlag is real. It wasn’t as bad for me coming home as it was going there, but it still smacked me down a bit. Fortunately I suspected that would be the case and left myself a cushion to readjust…except for the doctor and dentist appointments I foolishly made for myself for the beginning of this week. But that’s all under the bridge, and I’m ready to dive back into my craft room. First though, I’d like to share a little of my trip with you!

We left home on April 24th and took a series of LONG flights to Italy. In our airport here in Portland you leave the secured area, and can greet whoever is picking you up, before you pick up your luggage. In Naples, we had to wait for our luggage first. Which nearly drove me crazy, and my husband kept saying “Just go hug your boy. I’ll get the bags.” I finally took him up on it. A year is too long to wait for a hug from your kid.

Our son lives in a small town just inland from Gaeta, where he works, and he drove down to Naples to pick us up. The first thing I learned about Italy is that the driving situation is insane. A one lane road is turned to three, cars will pass each other with traffic in the oncoming lane, and it feels like everyone’s bumpers are touching because they drive so close together. Fortunately, the cars are tiny. If I lived there I would have to take public transportation everywhere!

The first place we spent some time was Gaeta. Apparently it’s not a big tourist area for people from outside the country, but it is for Italians. The weather was good, and being from Oregon anything over about 65 degrees is shorts and tanks weather. We were the ONLY ones. Everyone else was wearing muted colors, heavy coats and boots. Me and my white, flowery, sleeveless top and my pasty white arms stuck out like a sore thumb.

Of course one of the first things we did was sample some gelato and cappuccino. It’s probably good I don’t live there, or that’s what I would have every day.

In the afternoon, we stopped at an outdoor bar for drinks. We were sitting at a little table, when suddenly car after car started pulling up, filled with people clearly dressed for a wedding, including the bride and groom themselves. The bar was ready for them with champagne and snacks. We just sat at our little table while an entire wedding reception was happening around us!

There’s a castle next door to my son’s apartment building (!), so we spent part of a day exploring that. We were on our way to figure out how to get in, when an Italian man that works with my son happened to drive by. We asked him where to enter, so he hopped out of his car and gave us a mini tour. He grew up in the area, and talked about playing hide and seek in the castle as a kid.

Tucker had to work during much of our visit, but he was able to get about a week off, so we planned a trip. We decided to take the train, which made for a much more relaxing trek than I think driving would have been. Our first stop was Rome, where we stayed for a couple of days.

We visited most of the things you’d expect in Rome, like the Forum, the Coliseum, Trevi Fountain, etc. Being from the United States, and specifically the West coast, we just don’t have buildings anywhere near as old as almost everything there. It was surreal to me to be walking down the street and realize you’re walking by something that’s been there for thousands of years.

In addition to all the sites, you can find a café and gelato shop on nearly every corner. That wasn’t completely surprising, but what was is the number of Irish pubs. Who would have guessed?

When we left Rome we stopped in Pisa, long enough to see the Leaning Tower. I wish I would have taken a photo of all the tourists there, with about 75% of them taking the “Hey look, I’m holding up the tower with one hand” pic.

From Pisa, we continued on to a town called La Spezia. We had an airbnb there for a couple of nights so we could visit an area called Cinque Terre.  You know those photos you see of Italy with the colorful buildings climbing up a steep hillside? That’s Cinque Terre.

We took the train between each of the five villages, and each one had its own personality. They all sit on the side of a hill, so there is a lot of walking and climbing stairs. I think I understand how the Italians can eat so much pasta, gelato and bread and still be thin and fit.

 The views were absolutely amazing everywhere you looked. You can look to the hillside with all the colorful buildings, grapevines and lemon trees with the biggest lemons I’ve ever seen.

Then you can turn around and see an expansive view of the ocean. Beautiful in every direction.

We stayed in La Spezia because we’d heard it was easier than trying to find lodging in Cinque Terre, but it turned out to be a fun place to spend time also. Our airbnb was across the street from a music conservatory, so we were treated to amazing music most of the time we were there. We also visited an Italian Navy Museum and walking through the shopping and along the waterfront.

After our travels, we returned to our son’s apartment where we celebrated my birthday and Mother’s Day. He had to go back to work, but my husband and I were still able to have some mini adventures, like figuring out how to shop in an Italian grocery store, visit our favorite café for our daily cappuccino and try to decide exactly which shop had the best gelato.

On Tucker’s last day off before we left, he drove us up into the hills to a monastery. You could see all the way past Gaeta to the ocean. It was a perfect way to top off our trip.

We had an amazing time, not only visiting the tourist areas, but getting the opportunity to really experience living in Italy, if only for a short time. We were there for about four days when we decided we are definitely going back next spring!

Friday Favorites–Disneyland!

This time last week I was losing my voice on California Screamin’, waiting in the long line for Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy and trying to be the one person in the boat to not get soaked on Grizzly River Run.  That’s right my friends – I was in Disneyland.  It was a big family trip which included me, my husband, my daughter, her husband (technically on their honeymoon!), my son and his friend, who was a Disneyland newbie.  It was VERY hot, but we all had a fantastic time, and I’m still finding myself Disney dreaming now and then.  Since I’ve still got the mouse on my mind, I thought I’d share a few crafts today that relate to some of my favorite rides. Crafty Staci's Disneyland Crafts Friday Favorites

Pirates of the Caribbean

This one has always been one of my very favorite rides.  I think they did a great job of incorporating the movie aspects into the ride without ruining it.  This simple Felt Pirate Hat from Simple Simon and Company will have you feeling like a rowdy rapscallion in no time.  Also perfect for Talk Like a Pirate Day today!

Felt Pirate's Hat by Simple Simon and Company

It’s a Small World

The kids suffered through this one for me and my husband.  It’s a must-ride for us on every trip.  What would a day at Disneyland be without that song stuck in your head?  You’re welcome. If an occasional vacation isn’t enough for you, check out this It’s a Small World Kids’ Room Mural from Merryweather’s Cottage.

It's a Small World Mural by Merryweathers Cottage

Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters

My son was a huge Buzz Lightyear fan when he was a little guy.  We have a photo of him, beaming, next to the Space Ranger on a previous Disney trip.  He loves this ride now, but back then he would have flipped.  I remember at least one DIY Buzz costume, but this one from Fun at Home with Kids is really impressive.

DIY Buzz Lightyear Halloween Costume by Fun At Home With Kids

Sleeping Beauty Castle

We didn’t manage to get a photo out front or go inside the castle on this trip, but even without that it remains an unmistakable focal point in the park.  It’s also home to my favorite Disney villain:  Maleficent.  I think I just like that she turned into a dragon.  When you visit Paper Dolls by Cory’s Facebook page for this free download, you have to check our her other paper dolls.  They are incredible.

Maleficent Paper Doll by Cory

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

One of my favorite rides is my daughter’s most hated.  We started calling it the Tower of Terrific just to get her to ride it once.  After that we took a couple of turns sitting out with her so others could ride it again.  Yes, she hates it that much.  Maybe we need this iPod TV Dock from SHIFT! on Instructables so we can watch Twilight Zone instead of living it.

iPod TV Dock by SHIFT! on Instructables

The Haunted Mansion

We’ve been to Disneyland many times, but somehow we’ve always missed the Halloween holiday season.  This time we arrived on Tuesday and it started on Friday, which also happened to be my daughter’s birthday.  We managed to get through the Haunted Mansion with it’s special Halloween decorations only once, and the ride wasn’t even working right then.  I guess we’ll just have to plan another trip for the fall one of these days.  Darn.  In the meantime, we can get our scary fix with this Haunted Mansion 13 Hour Clock from DIY Nightmare Before Christmas Props.

Disneyland's Haunted Mansion 13 Hour Clock by DIY Nightmare Before Christmas Halloween Props

Radiator Springs Racers

Last time we were at Disneyland, Cars Land had opened less than a week before.  It was crazy.  My husband and I finally got to ride this by settling for the single rider line and happening by when it had just reopened after being down.  It was a little better this trip, but not by much.  It’s a popular ride, and for good reason.  Disney really did it right with this one.  Love him or not, Mater is a key component in bringing the world of Cars to life, and you can enjoy a bit of that at home with this Adirondack Chair from Jefferson Woodworks.

Tow Mater Child's Adorondak Chair by Jefferson Woodworks

Indiana Jones Adventure

Our son bought an Indiana Jones hat on our last Disney trip.  He brought it along again this time and wore it all week.  He even had people comment on it.  I think we’ve joked about him needing the whip to go with it, and now he can have it, thanks to Skip to my Lou’s Duct Tape Bullwhip tutorial.

Duct Tape Bullwhip by Skip to my Lou

Peter Pan’s Flight

This is another required ride whenever we visit the House of Mouse.  There’s just something special about flying in a pirate ship over London that makes you feel like a kid.  This Peter Pan’s Escaped Shadow Costume from Tikkdo is a stroke of genius, and it would keep trick-or-treaters from eating candy before they get home.

DIY Peter Pan's Shadow Costume by Tikkido

The Enchanted Tiki Room

The line for the pineapple treats outside this ride never let up while we were in the park.  The nearly 100 degree weather could have played a part in that, but I can tell you the pineapple float I enjoyed while watching the show inside the air-conditioned building never tasted better.  Now I can make them at home with this recipe from Finding Bonggamom.

Dole Pineapple Whip by Bonggamom

Stay tuned for the Disney craft I made the night before we left - coming soon!

Friday Favorites–On the Road Again

For some reason, my family tends to take a lot of end-of-summer vacations.  I can’t even blame procrastination.  It just seems that by the time we’re done flipping calendar pages to find a time we’re all available, that’s where we end up.  One year we came skidding into the driveway sideways from a cruise to Mexico the day before my son started school.  He politely requested that we never, ever do that again.  This year we’re giving him a whole week.

Travel DIYs - Crafty Staci's Friday Favorites

One of my favorite things about traveling is the anticipation.  I want this Vacation Countdown from the Dating Divas, and I want it to always have a number on it.

DIY Vacation Countdown from The Dating Divas

This Vintage Postcard Travel Journal from A Beautiful Mess is so pretty, I might actually remember to write in it.

Vintage Postcard Travel Journal from A Beautiful Mess

We, as a society and definitely my family, travel with an abundance of electronics these days.  They all need juice, which means cords.  Pin-N-Tell shares a smart idea for keeping them from exploding like a peanut can snake all over the inside of your suitcase.  My personal electronic advice:  invest in a wall multi-plug surge protector.  Many hotels haven’t quite caught up to the plug-in needs of today’s traveler.

Travel Charger Organizer from Pic-N-Tell

I like taking a bag on airplanes that’s large enough to hold lots of stuff, but small enough I can stuff it under the seat in front of me, rather than fight the overhead bin battle.  This Large Patchwork Bag from All People Quilt looks just about right.

Large Patchwork Bag from All People Quilt

Ok, those these don’t exactly travel, but they’ve got the look so I’m slipping them in.  Maybe you can make one, using the instructions from The Bark, so your dog has somewhere stylish to hang out while you’re gone.

Dog Airstream from The Bark

Studs and Pearls was able to make these Lace Aviator Sunglasses for under $7, and was probably able to do her nails to match.

DIY Lace Aviator Sunglasses from Studs and Pearls

Unless your kids fall asleep the moment their little behinds hit a car or plane seat, and don’t wake up until you’ve arrived, you have to keep them busy.  This Clipping Toy from Kids Activities Blog seems like it would buy you a few peaceful miles.

DIY Clipping Toy from Kids Activities

Back to that sleeping thing – even if they don’t sleep the whole time, you might be able to coax a nap out of them with these Travel Pillows from Imagine Gnats.

Travel Pillows from Imagine Gnats

This DIY Secret Hanger from Plan B is a great idea.  I could also see it used to hold the accessories to go with whichever outfit is hanging on it.  I love the map fabric she used!

DIY Secret Hanger from Plan B

This one isn’t a craft, but still a good idea.  Visit Stuffed Suitcase to find out how and why to back up your data before you take off.

Backing Up Data Before Vacation Matters from Stuffed Suitcase

Have you done all your vacationing for the year, or will I run into you in Disneyland in September?

Friday Favorites–Road Trip

When it comes to vacations, I love a good road trip.  I’ve traveled by boat, plane and train, but there’s just something about seeing the sights from your own car.  You can stop whenever you feel like it and you’re surrounded by all your own stuff.  And you certainly can’t threaten to tie your children to the top of an airplane if they misbehave.

The best way I know of avoiding having to yell in the general direction of the back seat is by keeping those passengers busy.  This DIY Travel Lap Tray from Prudent Baby covers that base, and even folds up for easy carrying.

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An actual barrier of some kind helps prevent the whole “She’s touching me” issue.  The organizer portion of this Travel Organizer and Seat Protector from Pickup Some Creativity would serve nicely, not to mention keep the inside of the car clean.

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When we took our kids on our 16 state road trip a few years ago, one of the smartest things we did was bring our pillows from home.  Everyone slept better, which made us all happy travelers.  These Road Trip Pillowcases from Amazing Mae takes that idea up a step.

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Since you’ll be spending a lot of time in it, you want your car looking its best for your trip.  I didn’t even know you could do this, but check out this interior upgrade from A Stepping Stone.

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Chances are, if you take a road trip you’re going to come across more than one flavor of weather.  On our trip, we had rain, lightning, wind, hail, snow and of course, sun.  In August.  Since you won’t necessarily be wearing your shades the whole time, this Sunglass Case from Vintage Zest might come in handy.

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Even strapped in the safety of your car, there’s bound to be an injury or two.  Be prepared with this Portable First Aid Kit from Positively Splendid.

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I never travel without at least a spool of thread and a needle.  It’s come in handy more times than I can count.  This little kit from Handmade Harbour is small, but can still carry enough for not only emergencies, but a little recreational sewing as well.

sewing kit tutorial

This Road Trip Date from Dating Divas includes fun printables for snacks and activities during your trip, but also includes a cute countdown for looking forward to getting away.

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What I Did During My Winter Break

Both of my kids started back to school today after the break.  The dog is very depressed about that, but for me it’s when the new year really begins.  As long as they’re home, I can pretend the holidays aren’t quite over, but once school is in session again it’s time to get back to reality.  Indulge me in one last hurrah while I tell you about my break.

If you’ve followed my blog, you know my husband left for a training program in Quantico, Virginia in September.  We’ve been married for 21 years and have never been apart for more than a couple of weeks, so three months and a couple thousand miles was a really big deal. 

He graduated in mid-December, so I flew there to join him.  I had never been to the east coast, so we spent a day sight-seeing in Washington D.C.

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I’d love to go back and spend more time, but the weather was beautiful and we got to walk around and see many of the popular landmarks.

After our D.C. adventure and my tour of the FBI facility in Virginia, we took a train to Baltimore, Maryland.  Before he left in September, we decided to take a cruise as our Christmas gift to each other and to celebrate his achievement, and Baltimore was our port.  Our ship was late, so we got to spend a few hours exploring downtown Baltimore, which was actually a nice surprise.

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Our cruise took us to Port Canaveral, Florida, where we spent some time at Disney World.  No one does Christmas like Disney.

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Our next stop was in the Bahamas at Nassau.  Another first for me – I’ve never been outside the U.S. besides Mexico. 

One of the interesting places we visited there was called the Straw Market.  It’s a brand-new building, full of people selling tables piled with handmade items.  There’s obviously some things mixed in that at least aren’t made by the person selling them, but the row of woodworkers actively making new items was fascinating.  If we would have had room in our luggage, there are a couple of things that would be in my house right now.

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Our last stop was at a little place in the Bahamas called Coco Cay.  It’s a tiny island that’s leased by the cruise line.  It was tough to lay there getting sunburned and floating in the Caribbean in December, but we suffered through it. 

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As you might imagine, the flight from Washington D.C. back to Oregon is a pretty long one.  I sat next to a young lady who was probably about 10 or 12 years old.  She spent most of the trip reading, but after a while she grabbed her bag and started searching for what I would later find out was a pen.  In the process, she pulled out a skein of yarn.  I was SO hoping she’d start working on something from it!

That’s what I did on my vacation.  If you’re having any bad feelings toward me right now, here’s something that might make you feel better.  The day I arrived in Virginia, my husband had come down with a cold.  Midway through our cruise, I had it as well.  We’re both still sick.  But it was totally worth it.

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