Clover Vanity Stool (with a tweak!)

Since we began the bathroom construction, I had an image in my head of what I wanted the entire thing to look like: grey, white, and black with a little blue. Once it was done, we wasted no time going hog wild with the decor. And no double vanity is complete without a vanity stool.

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Courtesy of hayneedle.com

The vibe of the bathroom, and the house in general, is “updated” with a vintage feel. Surprisingly, there wasn’t a stool on the entire internet (trust me, I looked) that had the right vibe with the right color scheme. There was one product that I kept going back to, but couldn’t get past the wooden legs because they just didn’t go with the room — however, I loved the white, clover-shaped microfiber seat. Once I realized I could get the price down to >$50.00 with coupons and rewards, mainly from being obsessed with Hayneedle.com and singlehandedly keeping them in business, I pulled the trigger.

 

IMG_5894It arrived in pieces and I got to work modifying the legs with a simple paint sample from Sherwin Williams that we got it for about $4 at Lowe’s. At first I wasn’t sure whether the existing varnish on the solid wood legs would be a problem, but the paint went on easily and stayed put. If you look closely, there are some visible lines, but I really wasn’t looking for perfection. I just loved the shape of the seat so much that if I could make it grey and white instead of brown and white, I was happy. Overall, I’m glad I took the plunge. I think I’ll be less fearful to modify accent pieces now!

 

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The finished product

Elfa Closet Review

Those of you who have purchased an old house know the plight: a serious lack of closet space. The configuration of our home, when we bought it, was 4 bedrooms, 1 bathroom (on the first floor). After claiming one of those bedrooms to add a bathroom, we were left with 3 bedrooms and very limited closet storage.

Since only two people (three if you count the rather humanlike Yorkie) live in our house, the plan was always to use one bedroom as a dressing room. That way, we would still have a guest bedroom and the ability to use the downstairs spare room as an office.

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Materials delivered, pre-installation.

 

To make a long story short, we did some research and selected Elfa closets through The Container Store to fashion the space. As you’ll see from the pictures, the room is an old cape style, with no dormers and some complex architecture.

There was an existing closet, from which we removed the old accordion doors (for now).

There are also two eave spaces for storage with an open door frame. Due to the tough angles for the walls, the designer of the initial plan (I visited in-store, initially) took a few days to deliberate on what to do for the space. I wasn’t feeling particularly confident at this point, but was looking forward to seeing what she came up with.

After we received the plans, we worked with her to adjust a few small things, such as adding drawers and one shelf. We also confirmed the “Platinum” wire option. (The Container Store offers white and “platinum,” which is a dark grey, and, in my opinion, has a little more of a higher-end feel.)

From the plans, everything looked good, and with the 30% off sale going on at The Container Store, we decided to pull the trigger. The next three photos are “After” photos, taken right after installation:

Our installers were great, and even made a few small tweaks to the plan in order to make the pieces fit the space best. They were personable, taking an interest in our renovation and getting to know us. They really did an excellent job and I was even more pleased than I thought.

Overall, Elfa, so far, is a lifesaver for us. It has allowed us to fit all of our clothes — even off season clothes — in the system, so we don’t have to keep anything stored away for winter/summer.

Do any of you have experience with Elfa? How has it held up over the long term? Have you switched around the pieces on the tracks?

Gluten-Free Milan, Italy

 Oh, my heart. My heart! I miss it already. Che bello, Milano.

This post is a bit overdue, but my husband and I were fortunate to spend the end of January in Milan, Italy — followed by a short trip to Berlin, Germany. As a gluten-free-by-necessity individual, I carefully researched options beforehand. I hope this helps any fellow gluten free travelers that also desire to mangiare bene a Milano!

  • La GalleriaLocated inside the famous Vittorio Emanuele II covered street, La Galleria Restaurant was an absolute treat. The waiters and host were among the friendliest staff we encountered on our trip, and the gluten
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    Gluten free spaghetti for me and risotto per mio marito.

    free options were incredible. I was accommodated with ease! I ordered spaghetti both nights, but they also brought over a gluten free bread basket just for me. It is not tourist-trap quality food, despite the touristy location. A few guests on TripAdvisor noted that the items were pricey, but we didn’t feel it was pricier than an average Milan restaurant. Plus, to be able to dine under the world’s oldest (and most beautiful!) shopping mall? It was priceless to us. I think we would have been happy to pay even more for such an experience. 

    • Pro tip: This restaurant is one of the only ones in the area to be open all day. Italians usually eat dinner well after 7pm, but if you are just arriving and feel hungry, this place is a great for a first meal. Additionally, if you are attending an opera at La Scala, this is your best bet for dinner.
  • Cantina Piemontese. Gluten free dining abroad can be frustrating, but sometimes my husband and I marvel at the places that we are led to — some we never would have found if it weren’t for needing GF food. Cantina Piemontese is most definitely IMG_5253.jpgone of these gems. In my initial research, this restaurant stood out because it was AIC certified (Celiac Association of Italy). I figured they must know what they were doing. Did they ever! We dined here three out of our five nights in Milan. Serving traditional cuisine from the Piedmont region, the restaurant changes the menu every daylending credence to the freshness of their ingredients. As other travelers have noted on TripAdvisor, this place is a little hard to find. We had to put it in Google Maps when we were walking to be sure we were headed in the right direction. However, when you stumble across the antique-looking brown sign in the foggy Milan evening, you know you’re in for a real dining experience. The pastas were delicious, as were the gluten free bread baskets that were brought over to me each time. They even offer veal Milanese gluten free! 
    • Pro tipOrder the Dodicidodici wine!
  • PanPerMe Gluten Free Bakery.  This place was a saving grace for snacks, cappuccino, and a light lunch. IMG_5242.jpgThe owner’s wife is Celiac, so he decided to open a 100% gluten free bakery. It is a little bit out of the way from the main Duomo area of Milan, but not too bad — maybe a 10-15 minute walk. Locals and tourists alike came here to enjoy the delicious food. He was particularly booked for Sunday brunch. The first time we came, I enjoyed a cornetto (almost like an Italian croissant) freshly filled with chocolate cream. We took some cookies to go and finished them that night. When we ordered them, the owner didn’t throw them in a bag. No, he laid them out on a little decorative foam tray and packaged them up carefully with a sense of Italian pride in his product. We absolutely loved this place; the prices were really reasonable, too. If you are gluten-free (or even not) you can’t miss PanPerMe. We came back a total of three times! 

So there you have it! These were definitely the three highlights. A good thing to remember, though, is that Celiac Disease is common and recognized in Italy. Thus, not all restaurants with gluten free options outwardly say that they offer them; it’s always worth asking! Plus, in the land of pizza and pasta, there is always risotto 🙂

On Happiness and Fleeting Moments

Over the past few years, I’ve realized that the moments where I feel the fleeting buzz of intense happiness occur when I am with my husband and dog, doing nothing particularly special.

Before we bought our house outside of Boston, we lived in a condo, and I wanted more than anything to give the doggie her own yard. Just the other day, I peeked out the kitchen window and watched her run free in the back, panting and happy while my husband threw her tennis ball around.

I am jolted, profoundly, when I realize, in these moments, that bursts of happiness are not the product of where we place our energy.

Yet, we continue to work, buy, consume.

There is something called a “blue zone,” a place where more people have longer life expectancies than, perhaps, nearby areas. These identified blue zones consist of Ikaria, Greece; Loma Linda, California; Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; and Nicoya, Costa Rica. A feature piece in The New York Times Magazine from 2012 sheds a lot of light on what, specifically, the lifestyles of these people consist of—particularly Ikaria, Greece.

Researchers cite their diets as being primarily plant-based and preservative free, but also draw attention to lifestyle habits, such as community connectedness, socializing, and living with a sense of purpose. Most of us try for some of these to one degree or another, but the author of the article brings up an important point: when you are an individual in a community that is not conducive to such a lifestyle, it is tremendously difficult to maintain it. Basically, the habits contributing to longevity are cultivated by being near others who practice them too.

I sometimes wonder if even a reduction in stress levels could do wonders for us. Sure, the standard American diet leaves a lot to be desired in terms of health, but we are all depressed, overworked, and anxious. Thus, when the numerous advertisements showcasing fast food and restaurants appear, well, it’s easy to see why many of us turn to food as comfort. (For what it’s worth, an ad about fresh mozzarella is the extent of food commercials that I’ve ever seen on Italian television.)

Somehow, we need to do better. We need to stop chasing happiness and just be.

“HAPPINESS.—A butterfly, which when pursued, seems always just beyond your grasp; but if you sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” —The Daily Crescent, 1848

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4 Reasons to Visit Bordighera, Italy

After returning from an exquisite vacation based in Bordighera, Italy, I wanted to list the highlights to bring attention to this little city. Next time you think about booking a trip to Italy, consider Bordighera in place of the larger, more touristy Italian destinations.

 

1. The scenery. A small city rich in culture, Bordighera is famous for inspiring Claude Monet himself. There are beautiful gardens, such as the Pallanca Exotic Garden, as well as a charming old town to explore. Since Bordighera is on the Italian riviera, the beach is a big draw for vacationers. Some areas are private, while others are open to the public. For your convenience, there are a multitude of areas to rinse off before you head back to your hotel or one of the numerous beachside cafes. The Lungomare Argentina is the street to follow in order to find the public beach areas as well as some pranzo or gelato.59356f462300003e0f348da8 Not a beachgoer? Take a long passeggiata and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
 

2. The location. Bordighera flies under the radar a bit, but is actually in a tremendous location. In addition to the beach, the small city offers some fine dining, shopping, and easy transit for day trips.

By staying there for a week, we were able to visit Nice, France; Monte Carlo, Monaco; Genoa, Italy; Dolceacqua, Italy and more. We utilized a combination of trains and taxis, and found it easy to get where we wanted to go. It is also an excellent, but often overlooked option for those attending the Monaco Grand Prix. Hotels within Monaco and along the French Riviera often have exorbitant prices for race weekend; however, we found Bordighera to be both reasonably priced and a quiet respite from the hustle and bustle of Monaco.

3. The food. I would be lying if I said that my trips to Italy weren’t primarily motivated by the delicious food! Born into an Italian-American family, I have enjoyed Italian cuisine since I was a young girl. But nothing compares to the fresh ingredients found in Italy (sorry, United States!). While in Bordighera, we enjoyed three particularly delicious culinary adventures:

  • L’Aranceto at the Villa Elisa. L’Aranceto offers delicious, homemade Ligurian 593574282100001b00aa26b2food within a cozy, family-run restaurant setting. Located in the Villa Elisa hotel, L’Aranceto’s servers take care to ensure you are comfortable and happy. We enjoyed many meals here during our stay in Bordighera, including risotto, various pastas, and the freshest seafood. Gluten free options were available, which was a lifesaver for a Celiac like me. To the right is gluten free spaghetti bolognese—the best I’ve ever enjoyed in my life. Since we were staying at the hotel, we happily dined at the same table for each meal, as it was reserved especially for us the whole time. I already miss it. TIP: Be sure to order a bottle of wine from nearby Dolceacqua!
  • Sunrise at the Grand Hotel del Mare. The Grand Hotel del Mare’s restaurant prides itself on fresh ingredients, as well as catering to guests with special diets, such as vegans, vegetarians, or Celiacs. They impressively implement 593575e92300004a14348dd1traditional Italian recipes with necessary accommodations. I was offered a tailored, gluten free tasting menu, which was one of the highlights of our trip; it has been so long since I have been able to have gluten free tiramisù. We enjoyed four delicious courses poolside, taken care of by professional staff and entertained by the hotel’s cute resident cats. There is an extensive wine menu and an exquisite view of the coast in the dining room. TIP: Inquire at the restaurant ahead of time if you have food allergies or dietary restrictions.
  • Universo del Gelato on Corso Italia. Ahead of time, I researched which593577f32100001400aa26d0 gelato shops in Bordighera offered gluten free gelato. Upon arrival at Universo del Gelato, I was greeted with friendly staff who even offered me a gluten free cone for my gelato. I was blown away! The gelato was phenomenal, with a perfect texture and temperature. The owner and staff were always friendly and careful to ensure my gelato would be safely gluten free. We learned, upon reading their posted article, that their gelato had been chosen for the Eataly location in Genoa. I am not surprised!
4. The lodging. Throughout our travels, my husband and I have stayed at all types of hotels, ranging from 5-star giants to smaller, family-run establishments. We were so very impressed with the Villa Elisa in Bordighera. From the front desk attendants to the dining crew to our airport transfer driver, we truly enjoyed every minute of our vacation, and the Villa Elisa is to thank. We were assisted with just about everything we needed, and cannot wait to go back. Below is the beautiful pool area, complete with various colorful flowers and fruit trees. Check out TripAdvisor’s top ten list in Bordighera to see prices and availability.
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