Friday, August 16, 2013

That's Amore! Our Day in Pompeii, Sorrento, Positano, and the Amalfi Coast

Europe Trip Post #7

That's Amore! The Amalfi Coast and Pompeii: Our day spent in Pompeii followed by a drive along the Amalif coast with stops along the way in the picturesque towns of Positano and Sorrento. We use Rome In Limo for this tour (http://www.romeinlimo.com/)

Pictured below, the amazing drive-by cliffs along the Amalfi Coast


5/27/2012, Sunday

Cruise: Celebrity Solstice: Today marks the third day of intense touring and our last Rome in Limo tour of the trip. I am most excited for our port today, Naples, as this is the gateway port to cities none of us have been to and know very little about. I did enough research to know what to see/do/etc. but wanted to be surprised so I watched very little shows on tv about Pompeii, Amalfi, etc. I did this because when I went to Europe in 2004 everything was a surprise to me and I loved that feeling so I wanted Naples to be a surprise too! The unexpected can be thrilling.

Breakfast again on the balcony; and as routine we met our Rome in Limo driver at 7:30am. Our driver met us promptly at the gangplank with a name sign. We often debate over who was our favorite RIL driver. Today’s driver, Rafael, did something that makes him a large contender for spot #1, you will soon find out!

Naples, Italy: Upon meeting our driver, Rafael, he informed us of some disheartening news… we could not go to Isle of Capri as planned. There was a ferry “Strike” and the ferry workers were refusing to allow anyone off of the ferry and onto Capri. Bummer. But “no need to worry!” Rafael informed us. He planned a very special day for us, so special that we would be saying “Capri who?” Ok, we put our trust in him! Lets go!

**just wanted to add, this is another part of the magic RIL provides. They are able to have back up plans that are just as spectacular as your original plans! 

Oh, and I will go ahead and mention this now. Rafael greeted us with a take-home bottle of limoncello and these pretzel-puff type crackers that were pizza flavored, he said we would need them later on! See, it is the little things in life, right?

Our first sights of the highly anticipated Pompeii, can't wait to get inside!




Pompeii: Our first stop of the day! We were all very excited for Pompeii from what we heard from other people who have been. As I mentioned, we refused to watch any tv specials on Pompeii so it would all be new to us. We greeted our guide GINO! Sorry for the caps-lock, but I just loved GINO so much I get so excited I have the urge to type in all caps! Ok, GINO, Gino was AH-mazing. Gino has been giving Pompeii tours for 30 YEARS, TWICE A DAY, yes you read that right! How the heck is he not sick of tourists like me asking a million questions? I am sure he gets the SAME questions twice a day... for 30 years! He just LOVES his job and Pompeii so much he encourages the questions and never acts annoyed. I think this is why Gino was so great, he has an authentic passion for his job and city. Of course he was full of information and was able to answer my millions of questions. And I probably did have close to a million questions, seriously.


Streets of Pompeii


Gino also has this was of being quick and efficient with his facts to avoid blobs of tourists in large groups! I observed his perfected trait and the rest of the trip I would say “Gino Time” and that meant my family needed to scoot out of the way and “pull over” because I had something to tell them. I kinda became the guide for the rest of our ports since we did not hire any. My family soon started calling me Miss Gino. I miss Gino!

To the right: My best friend for the day, Gino! THANK YOU GINO! If anybody knows how to track him down let me know!


I am not going to tell you all the facts about Pompeii, I will let you find them out for yourselves. But if you are a history fan, or just like neat old civilizations, I recommend you bring a notebook to take notes. I am so glad I did; when I look back on detailed pictures I know the stories and facts behind the pictures. Instead of telling you stories, I want you to find them out for yourself, you can just look at a few of my pictures.

Pompeii
Every story has a picture, your turn to go hear them! I want YOU to discover Pompeii! However,yYou can use your imagination for the bottom right picture.


By now we are getting towards the end of our Pompeii tour and the crowd is rapidly growing. I did not want to leave Pompeii, I wanted to hang out with GINO all day! We even dressed alike! I have to thank my family for putting up with me and not getting a word in all day with GINO because I was glued to his side trying not to miss a single word. Moving on, it was time to part with Gino and Pompeii. Gino told Tyler and I that when we have a family one day we must come back and he wants to be our tour guide! I will remember that! Wish there was a way to get his personal contact information! Thank you GINO for an unforgettable day! If anyone knows Gino, hook me up, ok?


Goodbye Pompeii! You can take the teacher out of the school but not the school out of the teacher! Tyler says I am a nerd taking notes. Hey, I want to remember the facts from my pictures!


Amalfi: Next up was when our original plans change, we were suppose to go to Isle of Capri. However Rafael would now be taking us along the enchanting, majestic Amafli coast, and he has a few surprises in store! He informed us we had a long ride ahead. It was now time to rip open the bag of pretzel-pizza puff things he gave us and enjoy the view. What a view it was! I didn't even get car sick!



Pictured to the right: you can see the chain netting up to hold loose rocks. 




Pictured below: One of our few family group pictures from the trip, a great one!

There really is no way to accurately describe the Amalfi coast and give it justice. Think jagged, tall cliffs; winding roads; water in shades of blue you cannot find in a 100 pack crayon box; street-side fruit vendors; pockets of charming towns; and finally, horizons that blend so well you are not sure where water meets sky. 

That is the Amalfi coast...

Amalfi Coast

Amalfi Coast



Positano: Next we made our way, winding and weaving between cliffs and lemon trees, to Positano. From this point through the next 3-4 hours are some of the most magical hours my family has ever spent together. I will attempt to tell you about it now. Forget worrying about car-sickness, no time to even think about that! We even forgot how hungry we were! Rafael had planned to take us to the most scenic restaurant any of us have/or will ever go to. In fact Tyler and I were discussing this last night and we could not think of a more scenic place for lunch, perhaps you can, but this is our opinion :-)

Lunch was at this quaint, family-owned cliff side restaurant (and I mean cliff side!). The restaurant's website is here: Ristorante da Costantino
The city was called Positano, some of you may have been there. We were handed menus and the adventure began! The inside d├ęcor features white stucco walls with rustic wood beams and wooden tables with white table clothes- just like you see in the movies. Windows with wooden shutters were open to allow the breeze from the coast to creep in. Flowers were blooming on the window ledges. Laugher and limoncello filled the room. We were greeted by the owner who was very charismatic. He told us about his trip to New York City and his attempt to find “fresh” mozzarella in NYC, to no avail.

Pictured below: Inside the restaurant, and the owner.


We ordered, gnocchi, pizza margherita, and a fresh “fish” plate. We were served bruschetta appetizer. First, let me say, I do not eat tomatoes, I do not like anything about them. However, whatever tomatoes were on that bruschetta must have had chocolate (my version of crack, HA) or something in them because I could not get enough! And the bruschetta was AH-mazing. The mozzarella we ate was 1 day old, as in made yesterday, that fresh. We found ourselves eating slowly as we did not want this (or this day) to end. But we knew it had to- the cruise did not care how amazing our day was, they were leaving with or without us, how rude (JK).

To finish our meal, the owner provided complimentary limoncello shots that were ice cold- they keep the glasses in the freezer and drink in the freezer (we learned limoncello is to be served ice cold).  And  to top off the meal, the most amazing cake I have ever had in my life! SERIOUSLY. I am sure most of you know this, but I have a rather large sweet tooth, and that is an understatement. My ideal meal would be 5 courses of nothing but dessert. So for me to say this was the best cake I ever had that means a lot. Of course I am sure the atmosphere added to that so it was probably a biased thought. This is actually what I wrote in my diary “fresh, OMG worthy, amazing lemon cake, wowwww!”

Pictured below: Some of the food we had for lunch, including the cake! Tyler actually took a picture of me writing in my mini-excursion journal “best cake of my life” but I did not have room for the picture


We were able to wander around the town of Positano a little and do some shopping before we had to get back in the van and head for our next stop, Sorrento. This is when Rafael scored major brownie points… As we are driving along he is playing music for us that matches the landscape... then...

OUT OF NOWHERE he bursts out


“When the moon hits your eye
Like a big pizza pie
That's amore… EVERYBODY”


Is this for real? I think I cried a little! What more could we ask for? Driving along the Amalfi coast, beautiful weather, full bellies, and our driver starts singing one of the most recognized songs and ask us to chime in. Do I sing? NO, not even in the shower, however you better believe I did not pass this opportunity up! Here is the video, don't make fun of me!

Video of our Rome in Limo driver "serenading" us:

Next we were dropped off in Sorrento.

Sorrento: We had to drive some distance to Sorrento. The water along the way is as clear as a swimming pool and beaches dot the coastline. Sorrento is another charming Amalfi coast town. This is where Rafael lives, he pointed to us the street he lives off. We did some exploring and shopping down the narrow streets. We visited some factories that made limoncello and bought some souvenirs. We met up with our driver and had to make the long drive back to the ship. Does this really have to end? Why?


Solstice: Back on the ship. I know this is TMI but since I am being very detailed I will go ahead and include this next part. As I stated in my last post, the lunch we had in Rome gave me heartburn for the first time. I was still feeling very uncomfortable. We bought some weird medicine in Sorrento that they said was for heartburn. I did the old "point to my stomach, bend over while making an ugly face" to act out my symptoms. I guess I don't have an acting career in my future as something was lost in my charades because the medicine caused me to foam at the mouth. So on to plan B! The front desk people had some tums-like things they gave me, but they were stronger than tums. These did seem to help. So if you have some stomach issues I suggest you ask the people at the relations desk; don't rely on your acting abilities!

One of the nice features Celebrity offers cruisers is to welcome you back with cold ice water, lemonade, and cool ice-cloths (see  below).  I do not have any notes about dinner from this night, probably because I was not feeling the greatest.



Tomorrow will be out first sea day, WOOHOO, we need a break! After 3 straight days of intense sightseeing we are SO ready to lounge by the pool! SO we stayed up a little later than normal and explored the ship at night. Just some advice, this itinerary is very intense. Having 3 big ports back-to-back was a lot. I would not change a thing, but just be prepared. The Amalfi Coast was mom’s favorite part of the entire trip. She says she could live there.

The only way to sum up this day is to sing “That’s Amore”
Come on, everybody with me… when the moon hits your eye….  :)

Ciao Ciao! 
 
 Other stops on our trip:
Barcelona Day 1 (exploring on foot)
Barcelona Day 2 (hop on/hop off bus)
Cote d'Azur and Monte Carlo, Monaco
Florence, Tuscany, & Pisa
Rome
Naples, Pompeii, Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, Positano
1st Sea Day
Kotor, Montenegro
Venice, Italy Day 1
Venice, Italy Day 2
Dubrovnik, Croatia




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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Why You Should Use Bloglovin' to Promote Your Blog

If you have not already heard about bloglovin or seen the "Follow me on bloglovin'" button on various blogs there is a pretty high chance you will be hearing about it soon!



Reading time: 3 minutes
Bloglovin' is the newest social media platform geared towards bloggers. It is like the pinterest for blogs. I have only been a bloglovin' member for a short time but it has impressed me enough to make an entire post about the benefits I have already received. In this post I will tell you reason and tips on why you should use bloglovin' for your blog!

Here are the top 10 reasons you should use Bloglovin:

  1. Link your blog to bloglovin' and your followers will easily see your new post on their feed
  2. Attractive "follow this blog on bloglovin'" buttons to place on your blog or anywhere
  3. Follow blogs of similar content to yours and leave helpful, meaningful feedback- this can lead to more followers and traffic
  4. Build friends in the blog world. Why should you have friends in the blog world? Blog friends can help you via electronic "word of mouth" and guest blogging to drive traffic to your blog.
  5. Easy, clean, and simple to use free app; get it here
  6. bloglovin' is compatible and easy to use with blogger, simply "claim" your blog
  7. When you claim your blog, you are now opening up your blog to the thousands of bloglovin' users who potentially could see your blog on their news feed!
  8. Link your bloglovin' to your other social media accounts for more traffic and hits!
  9. Simple and user friendly. I was hesitant at first to sign up for "yet another" social media site. But really, bloglovin' takes little effort to figure out and the potential traffic it can bring your blog is worth it!
  10. And finally, it is free :) Nothing like free advertisement right?

SO go out there, make a bloglovin' account. I think you will instantly see the benefits! I hope this was helpful for some people to understand what bloglovin' is and the benefits it can bring to your blog.

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Monday, August 12, 2013

Crowd Pleasing Veggie Casserole

Need an easy and filling vegetable side dish that will please even the anti-veggie crowd?


crowd pleasing veggie casserole

I remember the first time I made this veggie casserole, it was in 2011 at our rental home in Georgia. We went to Publix that day and were browsing through the rack of recipe cards when the casserole caught our attention. We were having a group of guys over and I needed an easy and filling (and somewhat healthy) side to fill the bellies of several grown men. This did the trick! I am now known for this casserole and my male friends always request it.

Crowd Pleasing Veggie Casserole
(From Publix recipe cards)
You can substitute whatever vegetables you want, also use light mayonnaise and reduced fat cheese for a healthier version.





Ingredients:
5 cups of broccoli
1 1/2 cups of squash (or zucchini, or both)
1 onion
2 carrots
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup cheddar cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
1.) Wash and chop all vegetables.
2.) In a large skillet, cook all vegetables in oil over medium heat 5 to 7 minutes or until crisp tender. Add mayonnaise 1/2 cup of the cheese to vegetables. Pour vegetable mixture into a casserole dish.



3.) In a small bowl stir together breadcrumbs, paprika, salt, pepper, and remaining cheese; sprinkle over vegetable mixture.

See, even the men help you make it! ;)


4.) Bake 20 to 30 minutes or until light brown.



Source: Publix recipe cards

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Sunday, August 11, 2013

6 Ways to Wear Leopard Print

If you are active on Pinterest, you know leopard print is all the rage!



For this post I looked at some of the most pinned leopard print fashion images. All of these images have one pop of leopard, no over-kill here! Keeping it classy with leopard, it is possible!

Lets take a look, here are 6 ways to wear leopard print:

1.) As a scarf




2.) As flats



3.) As a cardigan (I am still on the hunt for a leopard cardigan!)


4.) As an accent shirt


5.) As a belt


6.)  As shorts




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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Easy Baked Chicken Dinner and Vegetables



We cook almost every night and sometimes I am just not "feeling" it and need something easy to cook? As the guy from the new movie "We're The Millers" would say, "know what I'm sayin'?" Side note: We saw that movie last night, it was hilarious! Highly recommend it! Anyway, yes, this is our go-to easy chicken dinner!

This would also be great to bring over for a family who may have their hands full and could use the friendly help.

Easy Baked Chicken Dinner and Vegetables

Ingredients:



Package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Green Vegetables of your choice (I used broccoli and carrots, have done this before with green beans, even canned veggies! )
Potatoes (I use the red potatoes)
1 stick of butter
1 package of Italian Dressing Mix (I used zesty Italian)
Foil

Directions:
1.) Place chicken breasts in center of a 9x13 baking dish
2.) Cube the potatoes and place on one side, place vegetables on other side
3.) Sprinkle packet of Italian dressing over chicken and vegetables
4.) Melt butter and pour on top
5.) Cover with foil and back at 350 degrees for 1 hour



And voila, that's it! A super easy baked chicken dish. We make this often and change up the vegetables and seasoning. 

Sometimes my vicious sugar addiction kicks in after eating this and I end up craving something cookie-ish! I have made after this chicken dish several times M&M Cookie Bars and if I feel like only wanting the dough, I'll make edible cookie dough!  Gosh, I am so bad and really need to kick this sugar habit! Any tips?


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