Venice Is For Lovers

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Would any European honeymoon or couple’s vacation be complete without a trip to Venice? It is, after all, THE City of Love.

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To be perfectly honest, when we got to Venice on a Sunday afternoon- totally exhausted after a long train ride- having to sashay through the plethora of sweaty tourists wearing fanny packs to get to our Airbnb was definitely not romantic in any way. Venice on a Sunday is insane in the membrane, yo. SO. DANG. CROWDED. Apparently, because so many visitors opt out of spending the night on the island(s), day trippers flock to Venice from mainland Italy in hoards on Sundays. “City of love?” I thought resentfully to myself, “they probably only call it that because Cassanova banged his way through town… more like City Filled With Idiots I’d Like To Push Into This Canal.”

We got off of our water taxi at the Rialto stop and went in search of our host who was meeting us at the square at Santa Maria Formosa… In true frustrated travelers form, we got lost. If you’ve been to Venice, you probably know how much of an unfriendly wheel city it is. No cars, no bikes, just assholes like us wheeling luggage around the cobblestone and up steps and over bridges. When we did eventually find our Italian supermodel hostess, she led us to our Airbnb, which was a little slice of Venetian heaven… bad mood cured instantly.

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That first day in Venice was filled with the Italian treats I had been dreaming about all of my life: so much pizza and gelato with the most beautiful, historic views you could imagine. Plus, the humidity was working wonders on my freshly washed hair.

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Venice is truly a magical place. Everywhere you look, you see beauty. Beauty and tourists and lots and lots of pigeons.

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After exploring San Marco square and the surrounding area, we grabbed a prosciutto pizza (our second pizza in 4 hours) and some champagne to take home. We then spent the evening gazing at the most gigantic full moon from the top floor of our flat. Okay, Venice… You ARE the City Of Love. I salute thee.

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In case you find yourself wondering, the answer is no… we did not take a gondola ride. We don’t regret our decision either. I do, however, regret not taking more pictures of all the pizza I ate….

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Along with my dark pink YSL lipstick and some hair extensions, I left a piece of my heart in Venice… xoxo

How To Add POPS Of Color To Your Home

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I don’t know about you, but I love color! When it comes to home decor, though, I prefer to work with a more neutral palette for the permanent parts (grey walls + white trim FTW!), and then throw in some interchangeable pops of color here and there. This method is good for two big reasons: 1. it’s renter friendly (I know a lot of people stuck with white or beige walls because landlords can be dickheads!) and, 2. I get bored and want to change up the colors of our home periodically, and it might be kind of difficult to paint the dining room depending on my mood. Here are my personal favorite, tried and true methods of making our house more colorful:

  • Fresh flowers. A big fat DUH! Lavender roses, pink peonies, orange daisies- the possibilities are endless. Trader Joe’s always has a great selection of blooms to chose from.
  • Pillows. I am constantly rotating the pillows in our house from downstairs to guest room to our bedroom. We have so many good ones to chose from! The best pillow sources: Society 6, IKEA, Leif, Urban Outfitters, Lulu and Georgia, and Target. Pillows are ridiculously easy to make yourself too, so keep that in mind next time you’re at a fabric store.

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  • Shower Curtain. I specifically picked out this shower curtain because it had the colors I wanted to add to our mostly neutral bathroom. Also, science.

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  • SOAP! This is my all time favorite way of adding color! I picked out these soap dispensers with the intention of buying brightly colored soaps to fill them with. I was so happy the first time we ran out of green soap because it meant we could use pink!

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  • Fill a glass terrarium. Painted rocks, anyone? I had ordered some wood block garland that I took apart and spray painted. We used this and one other terrarium with colorful blocks at the bottom as card containers at our wedding. I loved the look so much I kept them how they were. One is a centerpiece at our table and the other is in our entryway.

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  • Display your colorful nail polish. I love the look of multicolored little uniform bottles on a shelf. It’s why I spend so much money on Essie brand polish.

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  • Spray paint your knick knacks. This creepy cat was an ugly greyish brown before I made him gold.

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  • Paint your door! Technically this might not be “renter friendly”, but my sister and I totally did this (sans landlord’s permission) at the little house we used to rent together. It’s much more permanent than the other options, but doors are SOOO easy to paint!

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I don’t know, man, I think this was all pretty solid decor advice. You’re welcome! Don’t say I never taught you anything…

The Whiz Palace: Before & After

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W.C., loo, bathroom, restroom, washroom, powder room, lavatory, toilet; whatever you want to call it, the whiz palace is probably the most used room in any home today. Sure you spend a lot of time cooking in your kitchen, sleeping in your bedroom, and maybe watching t.v. in your living room, but the bathroom is where shit goes down… literally. Gross, sorry, that got away from me for a second there…

As a girl who puts on makeup everyday, likes to relax in the bathtub, and is always in need of a place to hide from people at parties, the restroom is kind of my sanctuary.

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Now, full disclosure, I definitely did not hate the pink and black thing happening in the main bathroom of the house when I first saw it, but it needed some serious updating so it turned into a full gut job. There was a bulkhead hanging so low in the shower that Joel couldn’t stand up straight, so I bashed it right out of there. If you’ve never had the opportunity to smash and bash and tear tile down, I feel bad for you, It’s the best part of any renovation. The clean up, i.e. the million trips back and forth to the rented dumpster in the driveway, however, is not as much fun…

Several months later and wouldya just look at this!

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The combination of faux marble peel & stick floor tile, white subway tile + grey grout around the tub, a badass vessel sink, a colorful shower curtain, and a working soft close toilet really ties the room together.

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If you have the pleasure of visiting our whiz palace, be sure to notice the original 2011 Sarah Blumer artwork hanging above the toilet. I call it “Lord Of The Flies”. Not surprisingly, almost no women ever get to really appreciate it because of it’s location in proximity to the porcelain throne.

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My friend, Rachel, gave me this bathroom guest book as a wedding shower gift and, NO JOKE, it has more signatures than our wedding guest book. People draw/write the most hilarious/disgusting stuff in there…

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Who doesn’t love a good bubble bath? Rhetorical question.

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There you have it! The very first “fully finished” renovated room of our home. Someone alert HGTV because we have a lot more house to see!

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Hallo, Munich!

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I have a very important piece of travel advice for my fellow newbie world travelers:  BRING A TRAVEL JOURNAL AND WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN! Since we were taking trains from each city to the next, I spent the first 30 0r so minutes describing, in as much detail as possible, our experiences in the city we had just left. If I hadn’t been writing all of this down, I don’t think I would have even remembered our road raging Uber driver, our sweet Airbnb host who had an uncanny resemblance to the drummer of Mutemath, or the group of teenage girls that tried to push me over on the subway in Munich, Germany.

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If you ask Joel, my husband, what his favorite place we visited on our honeymoon was he would say Munich hands down! And I can see why, Munich is amazing. We stayed here which was absolutely perfect. Not only was our flat adorable and centrally located to restaurants and the train and subway stations, but our host left us delicious German snacks and chocolate: WIN, WIN, WIN.

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We didn’t have set plans for any of the places we visited, only ideas of things we knew we wanted to do. The only thing on our list for Munich was to visit the Hofbrauhaus and its neighboring beer gardens/breweries. We did just so on our first night in town! The Hofbrauhaus was not as touristy as I was expecting it to be, but had tons of locals who had reserved the same family tables for hundreds of years! On the third floor is a giant hall filled to the brim with people drinking and singing in German. Oh, the camaraderie is contagious up there! People of all different nationalities standing on their chairs to chug their beers while the whole room cheered them on then high fives all around. You couldn’t help but smile at the whole scene!

Across the street from HB, is a much smaller beer garden called Augustiner, that a sweet reader of the blog recommended. The beer was delicious, but I couldn’t get over the history of the place! Augustiner has been in Munich since the 14th century! Holy crap, right?! My fellow Americans should be impressed because Christopher Colombus wasn’t even born when the first Augustiners were being poured.

We also went to Ayinger to sit outside and people watch at the busy beer centered square. You wouldn’t believe how many bachelorette parties we saw!

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On the map left for us by our host, we saw Olympic Park (where the 1972 Summer Games were held) and decided it seemed worth checking out. We hopped on the subway that led us right to the park. It was a beautiful sunny, cool day! Perfect park weather!

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Bavarian food is my freakin’ favorite. The bratwurst on the right with the mayonnaise and mustard is mine.

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As soon as we got off of our train and into the park, we saw multiple signs pointing to a Star Wars exhibit called “Star Wars Identities”. Obviously our nerdy curiosity got the best of us and we paid 20 euro each to check it out. It was cool that we got to create our very own Star Wars characters, BUT OMFG THEY HAD THE ACTUAL SLAVE LEIA COSTUME, HAN SOLO IN CARBONITE, BOBA FETT, R2D2, AND EVERY OTHER STAR WARS THING YOU MIGHT CARE ABOUT FROM THE ACTUAL MOVIES ON DISPLAY. Learn more about Identities here and definitely go if it comes to your city!

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I think we were a little distracted by the displays because this is how our characters came out: I’m a sexy pink Ewok and Joel is a lizard bounty hunter.

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I will never ever stop gushing to people about Munich and how much we loved it. What an amazing city! With the exception of the wild pack of teenage girls on the subway, everyone was so nice and accommodating to us silly Americans. We attempted to say our “hellos” and “pleases” and “thank yous” in German, but just about everyone in Munich speaks English.

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We were sad to leave Munich so early on a Sunday morning, but a 6 hour train ride through the Austrian Alps and Italian country side was waiting for us. Next up: Venice.

Garden Party Hardy

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Road tripping four hours to Virginia is totally worth it if it’s for a wedding. Virginia is for lovers after all, so when Joel’s college buddy invited us to witness his and his beloved’s Garden Party nuptials last weekend, we happily obliged. The whole time we were there, I was wishing I had brushed up on my Garden Party knowledge by reading the quintessential Garden Party book: The Ultimate Guide To Throwing A Garden Party by James Trickington.

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I wore the prettiest low back J.O.A. dress (similar one here) with my blue wedding shoes and my Rolling Stones clutch. Just as I was double checking to make sure I was wearing the coolest shoes of anyone in the room, I noticed a wedges trend happening among the other ladies in attendance… Note to self: heels aren’t so great in grass/dirt.

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This is one of many weddings Joel and I have been to together, but the first as a married couple, and we loved going as guests all the more this time around. It’s so fun going to a wedding where you did 0% of the planning! Just show up with a gift and have fun! Yeah! My favorite part of a wedding is watching the newlywed couple together at the reception. I think that if those two are having fun, everyone else will too!

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T-minus 6 weeks until we get our wedding photos! BYEEEEEE.

Forget Y’all, I’m From Texas

On our honeymoon, I wanted to punch myself when, for the 3rd time, a stranger asked where I’m from and I answered “Pittsburgh”. I love Pittsburgh, but I ain’t from here. I’M FROM TEXAS! How dare I forget my roots! For goodness’ sake, I even have the outline of my home state tattooed on my body. I mean, sheesh! I spent 23 of my 26.5 years living in the best state of all the states and find myself in a really subtle, but constant state of homesickness.

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I was reminded via my Facebook “memories” that it was this time last year that Joel and I flew to San Antonio so that we could 1. see my good friend Ashely marry her high school sweetheart Cody and 2. to let my cousin throw us an epic engagement party. We spent 11 glorious days in the Lone Star State where, amazingly enough, Joel did not die of heat stroke.

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Joel had been to Texas a few times (it’s where we first met, duh), but he was always there for quick little weekend visits. This time I not only showed him all of my favorite places (Central Market, The Pearl, Annie Gogglyn, tacos at Caracheos, sneaking into and swimming at some random apartment pool), but my dad was our chaufferu for a couple of days too. With our VIP dad pass, we got to eat the best BBQ in the city and visit Garner State Park among other things.

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We also spent a few days in Austin which is always a good idea! Austin is the OG “keep it weird” city (suck it, Portland) and there is always soooo much to do, see, and eat! We were driving down South Lamar when I saw some pops of color on a hill in the distance… After cooling off at Barton Springs, we drove toward it and stumbled upon Graffiti Park at Castle Hill, which I had no idea existed, and took the above photos. It’s one of those Austin things, like the writing on the wall at Joe’s coffee, that you just have to see in person.

 

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My stomach is rumbling just thinking about all of the Honey Butter Chicken Biscuits from Whataburger I could have eaten in the time it took me to write this post. I miss you, Texas!

House! House! House!

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Before I delve into the before and after pictures of our home renovation, don’t you want to know the story of how we got the house in the first place?! Well, I should start by not saying “we”, because I had little to no input on any of “our” home buying process (what even is an escrow?). In April of 2013, before I even moved to Pittsburgh, I came up to visit my boyfriend for a relaxing long weekend. Joel said he had a surprise to show me and I got really excited because I thought he was finally going to take me to the Pittsburgh zoo. When we got to what was clearly not the zoo, I was a little confused, but then Joel said “SURPRISE! I just put an offer on this house!” and I said “oh cool, can we go to the zoo now?” and we did.

His offer was accepted, but it was something those in the real estate biz call a “short sale”…

Fast forward 8 months. I had just moved to Pittsburgh and was living in a shitty little creepy house with my older sister, Annie. We called it The Murder House because we were pretty sure some crazy shit went down there. On a cold December night Joel, came over and started scratching his face, saying how much it itched… “WTF is wrong with you? Do we need to get you to a doctor” I yelled at him. It turns out he was trying to show me the key to his new house by using it to scratch his face. THE HOUSE WAS FINALLY HIS!

We began renovating in January. With both kitchen and bathroom gut jobs on top of cosmetic changes, we had our hands full for the next 5 months. One of the things that makes me love and appreciate our home so much is all the work we did ourselves. We bashed through walls, knocked out tile, added new tile, and laid new hardwood. And if you’re thinking that I probably just sat around being the useless chick, I’ll have you know that I primed and painted every single wall, ceiling, door, and piece of trim in this house twice.

Joel lived with his parents after college in order to save up for a house which is one of the smartest things a person can do if they have the opportunity to. Plus, his parents are just awesome in general. They are OG home renovators so they helped with the house every step of the way. I remember one night when the four of us tackled staining all of the downstairs hardwood and then treated ourselves to beers and Wendy’s afterward. With Joel’s target move in date of Memorial Day weekend fast approaching, Ron, Sheila, and I used to sit on the front porch, drink coffee and talk about how crazy Joel was for thinking we could get all of our work done before then. Long story short, we did it! With furniture arriving the day of and paint still drying on the walls, we somehow managed to throw our first party in May of 2014 and have been partying ever since.

Though it would be a while before I could officially give our house my own unique girly touches, I’m glad it was Joel’s bachelor pad for a while. He had brown sheets on his bed for the first year and a half at least. I can’t wait to show you dummies what we’ve done with the place. As the wise philosopher Drake once said, we “started from the bottom now we’re here”. Yes we are, Drake. Yes we are.