Travel

Lake Como

We left Trento and headed west to Lake Como.  Our travel agent suggested we stay in the city of Como, which is at the southern tip of the lake. After the small, non-touristy town of Trento, Como was quite the busy city! We stayed at Hotel Terminus, which was right across the street and a few blocks down from the ferry terminal.  Ferry proximity proved to be very important as we traveled up the lake a few times to other towns.

On our first full day on the lake, we traveled to the town of Bellagio. We chose to take the fast ferry and I highly recommend that in order to save time. Upon arriving in Bellagio, we walked through the town, taking pictures, and eating gelato (of course!). While we didn’t eat at a restaurant in Bellagio, we stopped at quite a few shops.  Many shops featured Venetian glass, but since we had already been to Venice, we didn’t purchase anything. Here are a few of my favorite pics:

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From the town, we walked along the lakefront to Villa Melzi. It was only a few dollars to enter and well worth it.  While you can’t go in the actual house, the gardens are gorgeous and just fun to walk through and enjoy.

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Upon returning to Como (again, on the fast ferry), we wandered through the town visiting buildings such as the Como Cathedral. Our dinner at La vita è bella was delicious and had amazing tiramisu. I love that the restaurants in Italy have extensions of the restaurant in these air conditioned/heated buildings next to the actual restaurant.

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On our second full day in Como, we overslept and had to take the regular ferry up the lake, aka the extremely slow ferry.  While it is cheaper than the fast ferry, the price difference isn’t worth it.  I felt that we wasted so much time just sitting on a boat, bouncing from one side of the lake from the other.  Because of time limitations, we didn’t get to visit places such as the Villa de Balbianello. Here are some of the pictures from our journey up the lake. IMG_2232img_4340.jpgimg_4347.jpg

We got off the ferry in the town of Lenno, as we planned to walk the Lake Como Greenway to Tremezzo. This is a great way to see the lake, get some exercise and enjoy the quaint countryside between towns.  It’s a lot of up and down as you weave through streets and between houses, but well worth it.

img_4352.jpgIMG_4349Once we got into Tremezzo, we stopped for pizza at a restaurant along the water and saw sights such as the Grand Hotel Tremezzo and Villa Carlotta. Because we still had another hike ahead of us, we did not stop to tour the Villa Carlotta. I had read about some great hikes in Griante and wanted to make sure we had plenty of time. So, we continued our hike along the lake to Griante and never…found… the hike.  We didn’t find signs of any kind noting these hikes and there certainly weren’t any marked trails.  Needless to say, being the less adventurous types, we weren’t going to head into the hills without a plan.  Sad to say, we never found the Griante hikes or the church of San Martino. We ended up continuing along the road (at times very busy) to Menaggio where we caught the slow ferry (again!) back to Como.

Our last day in Como was amazing, and let me tell you why.  We had debated driving to Switzerland for the day but decided to head up the Brunate Funicular instead.  I’m so glad we did because the views from the Volta tower above the town were AH-MAZING! Let me back up a bit.  The Brunate Funicular is in Como and tickets are inexpensive.  Be prepared to pack into a small car with lots of noisy, smelly tourists as you make your way up the mountain.  Upon arriving in the tiny town of Brunate, there were a few restaurants, a church and some vendors selling touristy items.  From there you hiked up another hill for about 30 – 40 minutes.  Beware – this is not a hike for the faint-hearted.  While it’s completely do-able, it is steep at times and you are clambering over a lot of cobblestone streets.  I saw several families pushing strollers up the hill and I don’t know how they did it!  Upon arriving at the lighthouse, there’s a viewing platform, and/or you can pay two euros to climb to the top of the lighthouse.  My husband, who is afraid of heights, hung out at the bottom but I made my way up to the top.  As you will see in the pictures below, the views are breathtaking and were well worth the climb.

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After making our way back into Como, we spent the rest of the day relaxing, shopping and even walked over to Villa Olmo.  While the gardens were under renovation, it was a cool house to walk through and neat to see how people lived in the olden days.

My only negative comment about Como is that I wish I had had access to a pool.  I even looked into going to a public/private pool but decided it was too much of a hassle.  I think it would have been amazing to lounge in a pool while looking over the lake. There are a few hotels that offer these, so if pools are on your radar, I suggest looking into those.

Overall, Lake Como is a place you definitely need to visit at least once in your lifetime.  Be prepared for lots of ferry travel but lots of beautiful homes and mountain views.

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Travel

Trento: A City in the Mountains

For the first half of our trip through Italy, our travel agent encouraged us to rent a car.  However, after driving on Italy freeways for 10 days, dealing with numerous tolls and a speeding ticket, I don’t recommend it. Leaving Venice, we walked (with our suitcases) to the edge of the island and picked up our rental car.  It was quite a lengthy process but eventually we got our car and set off towards Trento.  The best thing we got with the car rental was a portable hot spot.  They gave us this instead of GPS and it was amazing!  I tossed it in my purse and it allowed us to have wifi at all times.  

Trento is a city in northern Italy, nestled in the Dolomite mountains.  I read about the Dolomites a few years ago and since then, they’ve been on our travel list. My husband and I love hiking and thought this would be a great place to visit.

Our first hike was to Mount Bondone, the local mountain of Trento. We decided to head there straight from Venice in order to save time and not worry about heading into Trento and then back out to the mountain. It seemed that Google Maps truly wanted us to get there as quickly as possible, because it took us on a treacherous trek up the mountain to the trailhead.  The one-lane road had hairpin turns and steep drop offs with no railing.  Let’s just say I was doing a lot of praying and hoping that we wouldn’t plummet to our death!  Bless my wonderful husband for getting us safely to the top, but that nerve-wracking trip certainly was a headache. 

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Here is the view of the three peaks from the parking lot for the trail.  We didn’t end up making it to the top because of weather, but it certainly is beautiful!

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We were lucky enough to see the beautiful wildflowers while we were climbing, as they are only around for part of the year.  Unfortunately the view was obscured by clouds but that’s the chance you take when you are in the mountains.

After our hike, we headed down the mountain in our car, on a different route of course!

We dropped our car off at our hotel, Hotel Trento and set out to explore the town.  It’s a very unique place and out of all the cities we visited, was definitely the most diverse. There seemed to be a lot of Eastern European influence, both with the people and with the architecture.  It also wasn’t touristy at all so I felt like I was truly in an Italian town.

Throughout our two days in Trento, here are some of the places we visited:

Castle of the Buonconsiglio – this is not to be missed!  It’s a 13th century castle full of history and architecture, with lots of information about the Trentino region.

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Piazza Duomo – a fun place to grab a bite and sit and people watch

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Muse Science Museum – a great place to go if you have kids. Lots of interactive experiences and fun displays.  My husband is a science teacher so he was in nerd heaven! Be sure and check out the butterfly garden, it’s quite enjoyable.

 

The next day we headed to the nearby town of Andolo to do this beautiful hike. I was so excited, because if you look at the pictures, it is absolutely amazing and just what I had in mind for a visit to the Dolomites.  Well, low and behold, we get to the lift in Andolo and it’s shut down. Completely closed.  The town was actually pretty deserted, and we couldn’t even find anyone to ask about the lift.  Our best guess was that it didn’t open until later in the summer, as the true hiking season is in July and August. On to Plan B…

Using our hotspot (always saving the day!) we found Molveno, a town about 15 minutes away. Their lift was open, and we were able to take it up into the mountains for a short hike. Here are some of our pictures:IMG_2191IMG_3117IMG_4232

Overall, I’m glad we visited the Trentino region of Italy and definitely would return to hike the Dolomites.  Next stop… Lake Como! 

 

Travel

Italy, Here We Come!

One of my New Year’s resolutions has been to journal and blog more about my travels.  My husband and I have been lucky enough over the past few years to travel to some pretty cool places, and I want to make sure I don’t forget our trips!

Since we’ve been married, Italy has always been a dream destination.  It wasn’t a feasible option for our honeymoon because of cost, but last summer, we had the opportunity to spend three weeks in this beautiful country.  We coordinated our trip with a travel agent, but many hours went into planning every minute detail.

Our initial flight to Venice was delayed because of weather at JFK, so we ended up having to rebook a flight the next day, cutting into our first day in Venice.  It was a bit depressing because we missed our scheduled tour of St. Mark’s Basilica, but that sometimes happens with traveling and there wasn’t anything we could do.

Upon landing at the Venice airport, we walked to the ferry docks to catch our boat into Venice (!!). Arranged by our travel agent, I highly recommend this as the best way to approach the city.  It was absolutely amazing and so cool to see the sights from the water.

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After checking into our hotel, Hotel Ca D’Oro, we wandered around the city, taking in all the sights.  Thankfully it wasn’t as crowded yet, so lines for things such as the Campanile Bell Tower weren’t that long.  This is a great option to view the square and surrounding area.

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Two of our favorite dessert places were in Venice, i Tre Mercanti and SuSo Gelateria. Desserts are of course one of the main culinary draws of Italy, and these two spots in Venice did not disappoint.  My husband declared i Tre Mercanti’s tiramisu, “the best of his life,” and he’s quite the connoisseur!

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My best tip for navigating Venice was simply Google Maps.  As hard as I try, I’m not the person who can roam through a city without having some idea of where I’m going.  Even with cellular data off, Google Maps will still track your location via satellite. It is also helpful when navigating the small bridges and pathways that wind through the city. Here is a link to the Venice Google map of our trip.

Things we didn’t get to, but would plan to do on a return trip:

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On to our next city… Trento!
Kitchen, Remodel

Out With the Old, In With the New

Before I post the final kitchen renovation pictures, I have a confession to make. Remember in the first post when I said we needed the kitchen done before a Christmas party?   Well, it happened!  Yes, believe it or not, our amazing contractor finished our kitchen in three weeks.  No, the range hood wasn’t up and the molding wasn’t finished, but I had a functioning kitchen and that was all I could ask for. It took him about three more weeks off and on to finish everything, but again, I had a working kitchen by party time.  Woo hoo!

Drumroll please…. here she is!  I realize it’s not staged, but this is my kitchen as it functions everyday.  My husband is completely obsessive about cleaning the countertops, so this is actually how it looks most evenings.

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On to some other details…

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My beautiful Kitchen Aid mixer tucked away when not being used.  The corner bottom cabinet opens to reveal a lazy susan.  I highly recommend one of these! Also, the small drawers next to the sink are used for storing spices.

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Now instead of a peninsula, we have a more functional kitchen with better traffic flow. This is the perfect space to move between the sink and pantry, the two doors on the left. Before the remodel, our kitchen didn’t have a pantry, so this is a huge perk of our new space.

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Another view of the sink and dishwasher area.

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I absolutely LOVE our decision to nest the microwave in the island.  It’s much more visually appealing now that it’s not on the counter, and it’s perfect above the wine rack. As you can see from the picture, we chose a mixture of drawers and cabinets in order to hold a variety of dishware.

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A final picture of our newly remodeled kitchen.  Thank you for taking the journey with us, I hope you found the process helpful in planning your own kitchen remodel.

 

Kitchen, Remodel

It’s All About the Accessories

In between picking out the cabinets (more on that in a bit), paint colors and rushing into our renovation, we needed to pick out appliances, as well as other minute details such as cabinet pulls and the faucet . While we needed a new dishwasher, stove and range hood, we decided to keep our LG refrigerator and Kenmore microwave. Both still worked and matched our stainless steel color palette. While I have read that stainless steel MIGHT be on it’s way out, it matched my decor and was most cost effective. Here are some of the options I found:

Range Hood 

Whirpool Wall Mount Range HoodGE Chimney Range HoodAncona Wall Mount Range Hood

Here is what we put in our new kitchen.

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Stove

I wanted a gas stove with a fairly simple display.  One door was fine and a griddle in the middle was preferred.  Here are some of the options I explored:

LG Gas RangeGE Adora Gas RangeFridgidaire Gas Range

Here is what we installed:

Dishwasher

Everything I read said Bosch is the best company for dishwashers, so I focused most of my attention on their different models.  I wanted one with a third row for utensils and other small items, and one with tines that folded down.  I also wanted one with a flat profile to make it look more streamlined.  With those in mind, the Bosch 500 Series was the only option that drew my attention.

Here is what it looks like in my kitchen:

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So far, I am very happy with all of our appliance choices.  The only note I will make is about the dishwasher as I swear this thing is smarter than me!  It has so many options, but doesn’t have an automatic dry setting. Every time we wash dishes you have to press the “Sanitize” option, which adds a bit of time to the cycle, already over two hours for one load.

Everything but the Kitchen Sink…

Ever since I have imagined my dream kitchen, it has included a white farmhouse sink. Hands down, that has been the one shining centerpiece in every kitchen I’ve seen and loved over the years.  There’s something classic, homey and altogether beautiful that this sink (yes a sink!) portrays.  After reading about these sinks, it turns out there is actually a downside to the porcelain/fireclay material.  It’s evidently very easy to scratch and the finish sometimes comes off.  I didn’t want to have to worry about maintaining a sink (the countertops would prove to be enough of an issue) so instead I found a Stone Matte sink by Vigo. It’s reversible, meaning it can have a fluted side or plain side and I went with the one basin option with the drain in the middle.  After going back and forth between one basin or two, I ultimately chose one because it would allow pots and pans of all sizes (as well as the oven griddle) to fit in it. So far, this sink has proven to be amazing at holding absolutely everything.  I can pile tons of dishes in it, which is nice on those days that dishes just don’t get washed.  I will say that the stone matte seems to stain very easily, but a quick clean with Bar Keeper’s Friend and it looks sparkling again.

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Regarding the kitchen faucet, I went back and forth between stainless steel and oil rubbed bronze and think either option would have looked fine.  We have a friend who works for a faucet company and we were able to get this Pfister faucet through him.  I absolutely love it and highly recommend the detachable nozzle.  I use it every single day and it’s great for keeping water off my precious marble as I can spray dishes in my deep, deep sink.

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Lights!

I remember seeing our kitchen for the first time when we bought the house back in 2012. It was dark, dirty and dingy. It had one single fluorescent overhead light. When we decided to paint the cabinets white in 2014, it was in an effort to make it feel somewhat brighter and lighter.  Needless to say, it helped some, but the yellow overhead light was less than flattering.  So, as part of a smaller project, we had recessed lighting installed in our kitchen and family room, which greatly brightened up the space. We also went ahead and installed pendant lighting over the peninsula.  We reused these and moved them over to hang over the new island.  Here’s a link to the pendant lights and we used Edison bulbs.

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I know cabinet knobs and pulls aren’t high on the priority list, but nonetheless something that needed to be chosen.  I wanted oil rubbed bronze as a contrast to all the white and stainless steel.  Here are the links from Amazon, Cabinet Knob and Cabinet Pull.

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As you can see from the picture above, this is what our cabinets look like.  We decided on a simple white shaker cabinet.  Made of wood, we chose stock over custom purely based on price. Our contractor recommended custom in order to avoid panels covering dead space, but I ultimately chose the stock because I didn’t think it was worth the price difference.  I am very happy we went with stock and the dead space turned out not to be an issue at all.  Here are some picture of the cabinets being installed:

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I think those are all the details for now.  Stay tuned for the big reveal, I hope you love it as much as I do!

Kitchen, Remodel

Countertops, Backsplash and Paint, oh my!

Now for the fun stuff, the actual decorating part!  Based on my intense online scouting, I knew that I wanted a gray and white kitchen. Whether it would be gray cabinets and white countertops or vice versa, I had my color palette. Let’s start with countertops first. I scoured articles including this and this to get ideas on the countertop material. Turns out, the final decision wasn’t made until an in-person visit to Levantina.  Here are a few of our favorite slabs:

Bianca Carrera
Bianca Carrara Marble
Sea Pearl Quartz
Sea Pearl Quartz
Stat Classico
Statuarietto Classico Marble
Stat
Statuarietto Marble

After much deliberation, my husband and I decided on the Statuarietto Classico marble. We decided that we really liked the character of the vein running through the middle of the slab and hoped that could be the piece for the island. Despite the issues that might arise with marble, we wanted the variation that each piece gave, instead of the “sameness” of quartz.

With our countertops chosen, we decided to go with white subway tile.  Both affordable and classic, it fit perfectly with my gray and white “theme.” Here’s a link to the tile I purchased: Subway Tile

Now, regarding paint color, that’s always a fun decision to make.  I’m known to be indecisive with paint colors and this time was no different. I purchased five paint samples to test, FIVE!  And I didn’t choose any of them… ask if my husband was happy. They included Benjamin Moore Pale Oak, Stonington Gray and Wickham Gray, Behr Flannel Gray and Porter Paints Flint Gray.  Also, here’s the link to my Pinterest paint page I used for inspiration.

After painting those five samples and staring at them for a few days, I decided I hated all of them.  So… onto Plan B.  I looked at Sherwin Williams Repose Gray and Agreeable Gray for approximately two hours online and finally decided on Agreeable Gray.  Without purchasing a sample, I told my contractor to go ahead and buy the paint and I would live with the outcome, fingers crossed.  Quite a gamble on my part, but I knew I couldn’t buy any more samples!  Here’s the final result, and I love it!

Next blog entry… it’s time to pick out appliances!

Kitchen, Remodel

Kitchen Renovation Part 2

While demolition was going on, we worked with our contractor to prepare the layout of the space.  I wanted an L-shaped kitchen with island that would allow for better traffic flow. We went to a local cabinet store and had a free in-store consultation done. This allowed us to get a 3-D visual of the new kitchen, including the placement of the island.  I highly recommend doing this, and if you hire an architect or interior decorator, they should do this for you.

Sometimes you don’t know things about your home until you start opening walls.  For our space, this included the location of ceiling support beams, if hardwood floors were under the existing cabinets and the location of water lines. Here is what it looked like while cabinets were being removed.  As you can see, there unfortunately wasn’t hardwood flooring under the existing cabinets.

Once the cabinets were completely removed, we were able to see that there was a support beam where the wall was pushed back.  This was good news!  We had planned to build in a pantry which would have been a bit awkward, because it provided us the structural support we needed.  But, now that the beam was in the ceiling, we could put a full wall of cabinets instead. This allowed the space to be a lot more open and to gain a few extra square feet.

My next entry will focus on appliances, backsplash… and countertop choices!

 

Kitchen, Remodel

Starting a Kitchen Renovation

I know I’m late to the world of blogs, but things like lack of time and self confidence issues got in the way.  The layout and pictures are a work in process, but bear with me as that piece slowly comes together.

My goal is to share adventures in life, whether it’s through home renovation, gardening, or travel.  Based on the name of my neighborhood, Brier Patch Life follows me through the highs and lows of this journey.

My first post is all about our recent kitchen renovation.  Whew, I can’t believe I’m even here to tell you about it.  Nah, I’m just kidding, it wasn’t that bad, but let me warn you – renovation is not for the weak of heart.  I even got shingles from mine!

This is our fourth year in our home, and it’s been one renovation after another.  Some necessary, some cosmetic, but this was the first big project by choice.  Needless to say, I wanted my kitchen to be perfect because of Pinterest and house blogs and kitchen envy every time I stepped into someone else’s house. So, after going back and forth for months, my husband decided we should try and squeeze the renovation into the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Great idea, huh?  Oh, and we had a Christmas party on December 17. The things we do for the ones we love.  Actually, it was all him, wanting to give me the kitchen of my dreams. And I can’t say I’m complaining, wait until you see the final product!

Step 1: Scour Pinterest and home blogs, and watch lots of Fixer Upper episodes.  Here are some of my sources of inspiration:

House of Turquoise   Young House Love Home Bunch

Also, here is a link to my Pinterest page: Rebekah – Kitchen Makeover

Step 2: Find a contractor.  We have a family friend who is a contractor, and after assuring us he could finish the project in our short time span, we chose him.

Step 3: Demolition! Here are pictures of our kitchen before the destruction began.

A typical 1980’s kitchen, with outdated appliances and a poor use of space. We painted the cabinets white back in 2014, but they weren’t working for us anymore.  They sagged in some places and didn’t have great storage options.

Stay tuned for more details, coming soon!