Italy, 2014

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I feel like I’ve been hoarding my memories of Italy to myself for long enough. Where to start?

There was that first day in Milan, where we hung out at a quaint café next to our hotel until check-in time. We were definitely desiring a little sleep and hot showers, and this was the perfect little haven to relax and drink a cappuccino in until then. Later this afternoon we would come back to this same café for another delicious cappuccino, and the barista would, with curiosity and humor in his tone, ask me why I was ordering said drink. Apparently cappuccinos are not ordered in the afternoon in Italy–I remembered reading about this only after making the mistake. Despite his amusement, he sweetly made me my requested beverage. Looking back, I love that I had the chance to learn by being that silly American accidentally breaking a cultural norm in Italy.

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(Venice, St. Mark’s Square)

There was the gondola ride in Venice. The gondolier sang and told us about the area, and the husband and I held hands whilst taking in the many incredible sights and sounds of Italy. It was like a storybook or a sappy romance film, so perfect was this ride around the gorgeous Venice.

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(Gondola Ride and our gondola dude)

There was huffing and puffing our way up 463 steps at Florence’s Duomo, only to have our breath taken away again once we got to the top. That view was more than worth every single step it took to get there. (And, honestly, even getting up there was kind of fun. Despite being seven months pregnant and feeling a little panicky climbing up such a narrow, never-ending space….It was an adventure. And I love me some adventures.)

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(View from Florence’s Duomo)

There was the best pasta of my life in Milan and the most delicious pizza in Florence. There was strolling the streets of Venice in the evening, eating gelato and checking out the corner shops, as the pretty hanging lights twinkled above us. Everything in this city, it seemed to me, was made of magic.

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(Florence’s famous Ponte Vecchio bridge and the bronze doors of The Baptistery of St. John )

There were the typical tourist sights, from Venice’s St. Mark’s Basilica and the surrounding St. Mark’s Square to Florence’s Ponte Vecchio bridge to the Sforezco Castle of Milan, all captivating and seemingly too lovely to actually be real. I found that it was nearly impossible to turn anywhere in Italy without being astonished by the beauty of this country.

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milan8(Best pasta ever, Duomo and creepy baby-man in Milan)

And then there were all of the moments in between. The moments that can’t be found on any top sightseeing lists that have turned out to be some of my most treasured. Early morning, sleepy-eyed hotel breakfasts of orange juice, croissants, salami and plenty of Nutella. Shopping at a narrow-aisled Italian grocery store; My husband happily purchasing cookies to eat as a late-night snack back at our hotel room. Every corner, shop, alleyway and café of Venice; Each one able to leave a hauntingly exquisite impression on my memory. Holding hands and sharing quick kisses and constant laughter as we excitedly explored our new surroundings. Laying in bed at night, cuddled up and chatting, exhausted in that mesmerized way that only foreign grounds can exhaust a person. The lively and delightful Italians; The hotel clerk who, upon our checking out and hearing my husband’s accent, started singing a song about a cowboy. Standing on our balcony in Venice, enjoying the view of the canal and the calm stillness of the night. Attempting to figure out the quaintly ancient hotel elevator in Florence. Being both amused and fascinated by the shops, talents and eccentricities of downtown Milan. Train rides to and from Milan, Venice and Florence; Whether reading a book, looking out the window while trying to capture to memory all of the stunning views, or falling asleep on my husband’s shoulder, these train rides completely enchanted me. There was just something magical about leaving one place, still entranced by the charm of the last city, and heading to another, with the childlike excitement of wondering what we’d find next.

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I could post a hundred more pictures, write a thousand more words, and still it would not be enough to explain how incredible our trip to Italy was. Nor could I properly explain how blessed I feel to have had the chance to explore this part of the world with someone I adore so completely. I’m sure more memories will come to me, more inspiration will hit, and more blogs will be written about all of the moments that made up one of the best weeks of my life. Words will never suffice, but still I will write them. I’m reminded even now of my husband noting, on our last evening in Italy, that we had unintentionally spent our first and last night eating at the same gelato shop. It seemed right that my trip should come to a close in the same way that it had started–with a full tummy and heart, next to the boy who never fails to remind me of just how beautiful this big ‘ole world can be.

Venice In The Rain

I haven’t made time to blog about Italy yet because it seems to me a very daunting feat. How to adequately sum up one of the most amazing, magical, awe-inspiring weeks of my life? It truly frustrates me because I wish the beauty and wonder I hold in my head and heart for this country could translate directly onto paper–or blog. But since it can’t, I figure I will just start small. Instead of trying to cover one whole week in one post, (Impossible.) I’ll start with just one night. Our first night in Venice.

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It took me two whole minutes after stepping out of Venice Central Station to know that I had found my favorite place in the entire world. I was instantly and completely smitten. It didn’t even feel like I was living real life anymore. We had stepped out into a fairytale. A fairytale devoid of cars and instead centered around a lively and lovely canal. A city full of bridges, cobblestone roads, enchanting shops on every corner and hundreds of alleyways and turns that were just begging to be explored. Our hotel was minutes from Central Station and fit right in with the magic of Venice; An old, homey building filled with friendly folks and knick-knacks, it had more of a bed and breakfast vibe than that of an ordinary hotel. We lucked out and received the only balcony, which gave an absolutely gorgeous view of the canal and was perfect for late-night or early-morning people watching. (That didn’t sound as creepy in my head.) Feeling the wind in my hair, watching boats pass as the night sky reflected on the water, and listening to the waves and Venice chit-chat from that balcony quickly became some of my most cherished Italy memories.

After we checked-in and got settled in at Hotel Canal and Walter, husband and I decided to do some Venice exploring. I had heard and read multiple times that getting lost in Venice was simply a must on the Italy to-do list, so that’s exactly what we set out to do. It wasn’t a hard task. One road nonsensically turns into the next, street signs come and go, dead ends are abundant and one bridge over water looks identical to another bridge over water that was encountered miles back. Even if we would have had access to GPS, which we didn’t, it wouldn’t have done us much good anyway. So get lost in Venice we did. And that was fun and wonderful and we were a wide-eyed, in-love couple aimlessly wandering the breathtaking streets of Italy.

And then the sprinkles of rain that were oh-so-romantic turned into droplets. And before we knew it, those droplets turned into a massive downpour of water. It was raining, hard, and we were now rather lost in Venice. Husband had had the foresight to buy an umbrella stores back, but this wasn’t really made for two people. Robby would maneuver his way under the umbrella occasionally, but for the most part he was just getting drenched from head to toe. I was staying a bit drier, though my boots were sloshing and soaked through from the puddles on the ground. Our picture-book perfect moment in Italy had quickly turned into a bit of a misadventure. My feet were cold and my poor husband was getting poured on and we were not-so-successfully trying to find our way back to our hotel in the dark. And then I just couldn’t help it. I started laughing.

Robby, who tends to have a happy disposition even in less than ideal situations, smiled and asked the appropriate question– “What’s funny?”

“I’m just tickled.” And I was. I knew how humorous this would all seem in retrospect. I knew even then that the moment—That moment where we were completely lost at night in the unrelenting rain of Venice, would probably be amongst my favorite moments of the trip. And I was right. It was. Because though we were lost and cold and tired and getting rained on, we were lost and cold and tired and getting rained on with each other. In Italy. We were getting uncomfortably wet and disoriented, side-by-side, on the confusing yet charming streets of Venezia. How lucky to have had the chance to be sopping wet and totally misplaced in a beautiful country with the person you love most in the world.

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Eventually, we found a café where we were able to dry off a bit, collect our thoughts and order a delicious tiramisu. The rain had eased up a bit by the time we left, and my husband, who has an uncanny sense of direction, eventually found our way back to the hotel. For the rest of our incredible stay in Venice, the skies stayed much clearer and we, much drier. Still, looking back on that evening will always bring a smile to my face and a rush of nostalgia to my heart. I never will forget that very first night of Venice in the rain.

Five Exciting Things

Five Exciting Things:

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1. My first maternity photo-shoot! I had a blast and was honored when my very talented photographer said I was “a joy to work with” on his page. Thanks to the amazing Dave Blake Photography! maternityshoot3

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2. Thus far this year, I’ve completed two 5ks. At the Foam Glow, my friend Becca and I danced in a pool of foam produced by a giant foam machine and were shot with a bountiful amount of colored dye. At Ranger’s Resolution Run, I took a picture with a giant sandwich. Running is only part of the reason I love organized races so very much.foamglow

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3. I held a baby python the other day. That was fun.

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4. I published my first short story! It was a goal of mine for 2013 and I actually got this up on Amazon Kindle a few months back. I went into a coffee shop one day with absolutely no idea what I was going to write about, but started typing. What eventually came from that was a fictitious story that questioned very real societal conventions. I’ve noticed that there are these different pockets of society, and each one of them seems to tell us that there’s only one way to be happy. And so all of us, in one way or another, are dealing with giving in or not giving into these norms when really what we should be worried about is finding joy wherever we’re at. I am of the humble opinion that there’s many different ways and lifestyles to happiness, and thus my twelve-page short story entitled “Don’t We All” came to be. But not without adding in more of my curiosity-sparkers like love and life and letting go and stuff. It’s definitely not perfect, but it’s mine and I’m very proud of that. (If you want to buy it to read on your electronic device, just click here!)

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5. My husband and I leave for ITALY tomorrow morning!!! Ahhhh!! It still hasn’t really sunk in quite yet that such a huge dream of mine is about to come true. Italy. The land of my ancestors and romance and breathtaking architecture and art and all of the CARBS! I’m going there. Tomorrow. And as usual, I need to stop blogging and finish packing. Arrivederci, y’all!

The Five-Year Plan: Reconstructed

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Though it’s not something I’ve talked about much on my blog, if you’re somebody who’s very close to me, you probably know that I came up with a tentative five-year plan shortly after tying the knot. It went like this:

1. Graduate college

2. Renew Vows

3. Go to Italy

4. Make Babies

All of this was meant to happen in that particular order, and all shortly after I turned twenty-five (which, at twenty, seemed like a lifetime away). See, there was to be a quaint little five-year vow renewal and, afterward, Italy was meant to be somewhat of a second honeymoon. A perfect, well-deserved vacation after my college graduation and then the husband and I would be all ready to make lovely little children!

But then, as it tends to do, life happened and not everything went exactly according to this adorable plan of mine. After transferring, I graduated close to a year earlier than the date originally estimated by my advisor. Soon after this, my husband and I found out that baby girl is on the way.

And so our upcoming trip to Italy becomes less of a second honeymoon and more of a baby-moon.

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There is a certain beauty to plans rearranging themselves and falling into their own place, isn’t there?

We leave in FIVE days (Really, where does the time go!? I meant to blog about this months ago.) and will be gone a week and a half. Hotels in Venice, Florence and Milan have been booked. This is such a huge and lifelong dream come true and it still doesn’t seem real quite yet. I’m going to Italy. With my husband. In less than a week.

I’ve always been both a planner and a dreamer. I like lists, and even more than that, I like putting a check mark by each item on said list. So it may have surprised my twenty-year old self to learn that so many of my most cherished memories and accomplishments were made before even the first goal in my five-year plan was ever checked off. That I would learn to dream even bigger. That there is endless beauty to be found in life’s in-betweens, rearrangements and surprises. That I would still be twenty-four, with a job directly related to my college degree, a baby on the way and a trip to Italy on the horizon.

Out of order as it may be, husband and I are still planning that little five-year vow renewal come October. I will, by then, be twenty-five. We’ll also have a six-month old little lady on our hands. But for now, I’m twenty-four and she’s in my tummy and all three of us are heading to Italy on Friday morning. And goodness. There is just so much behind me that I love looking back on, and so much ahead that I have to look forward to. My original five-year plan didn’t give nearly enough room for this full of a life.