Travel Tuesday: Rome, Italy - Part 1

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Today I’m back to share the next leg of our Italian adventure – Rome! I was so excited for our stay in Rome and the Eternal City did not disappoint. I have so many wonderful memories and pictures to share that I’m going to split this recap into two parts, plus a separate Vatican City recap. OK, let’s jump into our first two days in Rome!

We arrived in Rome in the late afternoon and after dropping off our luggage, our guide took us for an optional tour around part of the city. We took the Metro to the Spagna stop to see the Spanish Steps. If you’ve seen the movie Roman Holiday, you might be familiar with the Steps. Unfortunately, the church at the top of the steps was under renovation and the fountain at the bottom was empty, so it was pretty underwhelming.

From there we walked to the Trevi Fountain, which was closed for restoration. We knew that ahead of time, but were still pretty bummed. I can only imagine how beautiful it is when the water is running. They had a small water basin set up so people could still throw their coins into the fountain. Don’t forget, it’s right hand over the left shoulder!

Our next stop was the Pantheon, which is the most preserved building of ancient Rome. It was constructed as a pagan temple in A.D. 125, but was given to Pope Boniface the IV to use as a church in A.D. 608. That’s the main reason it’s still so intact. Our guides told us that when Christianity began to gain considerable political power in Rome (late 4th century/early 5th) they started destroying pagan temples, sites, statues, and art. It’s such a shame to think about how much history was destroyed during that time period.

We ended our night with dinner at a cafe near Piazza Navona…and gelato afterwards of course!


The following day we went on a walking tour of Rome. We started at the Marcello Theatre, which resembles the Colosseum, but was actually built 80+ years prior.

From there we walked up the street to Capitoline Hill, one of the Seven Hills of Rome. Up the Cordonata stairs is Piazza del Campidoglio, designed by Michelangelo. The building straight ahead is the Palazzo Senatorio, the city hall of Rome.

The statue in the middle is Emperor Marcus Aurelius, but was at one point believed to be Emperor Constantine, the first Christian emperor. Our guide said that’s probably the only reason it wasn’t melted down and reused for coins or for another statue. One article that I read said it’s the only fully surviving bronze statue of a pre-Christian Roman emperor. Of course this is just a replica. The original statue is in a nearby museum.  

Once you pass the buildings, you can start to see the Roman Forum. As you continue down the hill, the view just get better and better.


Once we were back down the hill, we headed towards the Colosseum. On the way we passed a statue of Julius Caesar on the right and Trajan’s Market and the Forum of Augustus on the left.


The Colosseum was one of the places that I was most excited to visit while in Italy…and it didn’t disappoint. Built in A.D. 80, the Colosseum has survived almost 2000 years of weather, earthquakes, neglect, vandalism, and was even used for building materials in the 18th century (only about a third of the original structure remains). Fortunately, in the 18th century various popes sought to conserve the Colosseum as a sacred Christian site and now years of restoration will hopefully prevent any further damage to the arena.

Did you know that the arena could be flooded and filled with water for staged naval battles? Of course the main entertainment in the arena was gladiatorial combat and wild animal fights.

Did you also know that the Colosseum originally had awnings that could be rolled out from the top story to protect spectators from the heat?

The Colosseum was our last official stop of the day so we were free to explore on our own the rest of the afternoon. We decided to explore the city around our hotel, which was near the Piazza della Repubblica. Of course we had to check out the beautiful Fountain of the Naiads.

We also walked to the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Vittoria, home to Bernini’s marble statue The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa. Actually we walked over there twice because we didn’t realize it’s closed from noon to 3:30 p.m. daily, so learn from our mistake if you ever go there. You might also recognize the church as the “fire” location from the book/movie Angels & Demons by Dan Brown.

From there we just explored a bit more of the area, ate gelato, went for drinks on the hotel rooftop, and then had dinner. Part 2 of the recap coming soon!

Guest Bathroom Refresh Mood Board

Thursday, May 26, 2016

I know, I know…I shouldn’t start on yet another room makeover until I finish one of the other ones currently in work, but I just can’t help myself! I’m completely over the guest bathroom and I’m ready for a change. The guest bathroom was the first room in the house to get a complete makeover when I moved in five years ago. It was pretty gross, so it ended up at the top of my to-do list. I loved the room when I finished it, but my design style has really changed over the past five years.

I had originally planned to just replace the artwork, shower curtain, towels, and rug, but I ended up deciding it was time to upgrade the rest of the room too (I’ll explain more later). So this room is going to get a big refresh! Before I get into the plans, let’s look at the mood board I put together. These aren’t necessarily the exact pieces I’m going to buy, but the general vibe I’m going for in there.

So, I’ve already bought the artwork pictured in the mood board. The succulent watercolors are by Kiana Mosley and are being sold at Target for a limited time. I’m a big fan of her work and was so happy to find these at Target. I’ve also already bought that shower curtain. It looks better in person, trust me. Of course as soon as I hung up the artwork and new curtain, I knew I needed to repaint the room. The soft yellow just does not look good with those pieces. So, I’m thinking a very light blue for the walls.

However, before I can start painting, the room needs some drywall/wall texture work. There’s still some lines from the original mirror and the wall with the towel holder is a weird finish that doesn’t match the rest of the room. Plus the light fixture needs to be moved over so it’s actually centered above the sink, so that’ll need repair too. I also want to remove the piece of the countertop that goes over the toilet and I’m sure that spot will need some patching too. I really liked the guys who fixed my laundry room and hallway ceiling, so I’m going to see if they can come and fix the texture in here.

The vanity is also due for an upgrade. I still love the black, but I just don’t think it’ll look good with everything else, so I’m planning to paint it a dark navy color. As I mentioned above, I also want to buy a new vanity top. The current one is old and yellowing, plus I hate the way it extends over the toilet. The vanity base is still sturdy and in really good shape, so I think I only need to replace the top.

I’m keeping the double towel rack and toilet paper holder that are currently in the room, but I need to replace the faucet. The finish has not held up well and is starting to look pretty terrible. Luckily, that’ll be an easy switch.

Other than that, it’s just towels, a rug and accessories so I’m hoping this makeover won’t take too long…but we’ll see. Let’s take a look at the to-do list:

Center junction box/light fixture
Fix drywall/wall texture
Paint room
Paint vanity
Install new cabinet hardware
Replace vanity countertop
Install new faucet
Replace mirror
Buy new shower curtain
Hang new artwork
Replace Rug
Replace Towels
Accessories/Finishing Touches

Insta-16: Take 15

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

It’s time for another round of Instagram pictures! You can see the previous 14 recaps here

If you have an account, you can follow me at: sam_whit22.  If not, this recap is for you! I’ve rounded up my last 16 Instagram pictures for you here today. This roundup includes sunsets, giraffes plus a few doggy pictures (as usual).

As usual, my plan is to share a pretty collage of all the pictures and then pick a few of my favorites. For this round I don’t have any food or drink pictures, so I’m going to skip that category. I’m still sharing my top 4 in these other categories: Abby, Ringo, Cutest Couple (Ringo and Abby), and Wildcard (Non-Food and Non-Puppy).

OK, enough talk! Here’s the 15th round of Instagram pictures:

And here are my favorites:


I love that my favorite Ringo and Abby pictures from this round were taken in the exact same spot – the corner piece of the sectional. It’s by far my favorite spot on the couch (I even wrote a post about it) and the dogs love cuddling right there too. Isn’t this a cute picture of Abby?! I love the classic lab head tilt.


Oh, my sweet Ringo bear! This guy has turned into such a great dog. He was kind of a pain for the first couple years, but he ended becoming such sweetheart with a BIG personality. He still drives me crazy sometimes by barking at me to throw his ball or to get it out from under a piece of furniture, but that’s really the worst of it. He’s such a little cuddle bug now and I love it! Although I’m pretty sure he prefers cuddling with my boyfriend. Seriously, Ringo LOVES him and I love their bond. 

Cutest Couple

I don’t even want to talk about how many treats I had to go through to get this picture. It’s SO hard to get them to sit right next to each other! It was worth the trouble though, look at those cute faces!


I guess this post really is going to be all about Ringo and Abby. My wildcard pick for this round is one of my paintings from Paint Nite. As soon as I saw this option, I had to do it. Luckily, my friend Michelle owed me after I painted Dr. Who with her, so she had to go along with me ;) I’m not very artist, but I love how this painting turned out.

OK, who else is on Instagram? Leave your username in the comments, so I can follow you.

Master Bedroom Source List + Budget Breakdown

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Thanks for all the kind comments on my master bedroom reveal last week! I’m loving my updated bedroom and I’m still so happy with how it turned out.

As promised, today I’m sharing the source list for everything plus a final budget tally. I’m also going to look at my to-do list and see what’s still left.

Paint: Parisian Nights by Dunn-Edwards
Piccadilly Circus Sign: HomeGoods
Club Chair: Wal-Mart
Striped Throw: Target
Metal Side Table: At Home
Curtains: Target
Curtain Rod: Amazon
White Blinds: Home Depot

Bed: Wayfair
Nightstands: Wal-Mart
Lamps: Michael’s
Frames: Michael’s
Artwork: Bought on my travels and Etsy
Bedding: Target
London Pillow: HomeGoods
Blanket: Kohl’s

Hamper: At Home
Mirror: Hobby Lobby
Dresser and Chest: Amazon
Dresser Knobs: Hobby Lobby

Venice Print: my picture printed at Wal-Mart
Large Frame: At Home
Wood Sign: Etsy
Vase: West Elm

OK, let’s talk dollars. I know some people don’t like to share their budgets, but I like talking money and keeping track of my own personal budget (which is probably why I work in finance), so I have no problem breaking down the cost of this room makeover. I don’t really have a set budget when I start a room because I know my spending habits pretty well and trust that I’ll keep things in line with what I can afford. For this budget breakdown, I rounded everything to the nearest dollar to make is simpler and I didn’t gift card purchases in the grand total.

Paint + Supplies: $78
Bed: $317
Nightstands: $149
Piccadilly Circus Sign: $30
Club Chair: $269
Striped Throw: $20
Metal Side Table: $80
Curtains: $99
Curtain Rod: $50 (used gift card)
White Blinds: $94
Lamps: $30 $24 x 2 = $48
Frames:  $137
Artwork: $78 (from Etsy)
Bedding: already owned
London Pillow: already owned
Blanket: $90 $29 (used birthday gift card)
Hamper: $50
Mirror: $80 $40
Dresser and Chest: $698
Dresser Knobs: $5 $2.50 x 26 = $65 (used gift card from Christmas)
Venice Print: $14
Large Frame + Mat: $15 + $7
Wood Sign: $15
Vase: $19 $13

Grand Total: $2,251

I don’t think that’s too bad when you consider all the furniture I had to buy for the room. Plus about a third of that was purchased last year so I didn’t have to shell out all of that cash during the ORC.

Lastly, let’s talk to-do list. I finished almost everything during the ORC, but there are still a few small things that need to be taken care of -

Paint Walls
Buy Bed
New Nightstands
Buy/Hang New Curtains
New Dressers
Buy Chaise Lounge/Club Chair
Hang Gallery Wall Above Bed
Hang Additional Artwork
Replace Laundry Hamper
Paint Lamps
Re-Mount TV
Accessories and Finishing Touches 

I’m still looking for one more piece of art to hang on the left side of the window wall and I’m not completely in love with the lamps in here. They work for now, but will probably end up getting replaced at some point. I also need to hang the TV about 6 inches higher. And of course, I’m still looking for accessories and finishing touches around the room. Other than that, this room is done!

Backyard Landscaping Project: The Finished Yard

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Oh man, this post has been a long time coming! I’ve been wanting to get my backyard landscaped ever since I moved into this house five years ago…and it’s finally done!

My backyard is pretty huge, so it ended up being quite the project. It was definitely more work than I was willing to take on myself, so I hired a landscape company to re-do the entire thing for me. It was EXPENSIVE, but worth it. OK, enough talk – let’s look at the before and after pictures.



The patio table and chairs are the same set that I had before (from Craigslist), but I added new cushions from Wal-Mart and a colorful striped umbrella from Kohl’s. I also bought four plastic Adirondack chairs from Home Depot for the fire pit area. Luckily I already had the cushions (patio cushions are SO expensive).

I’m currently in the market for a small shed for the right side of the yard and eventually I’d like to add some raised garden beds. I’m waiting for a good deal for the shed and the garden will probably be a fall project. It’s starting to get too hot in Phoenix to mess with a garden right now. But other than those few things, the yard is done! I can’t wait for the plants and trees to start filling out.

We’ve already had one big party in the new yard and I can’t wait for more this summer! BBQ at my house!


ORC Week 6 – Master Bedroom Reveal

Thursday, May 12, 2016

It’s Week 6 of the One Room Challenge! We made it! I’m so excited to share my reveal today and to see the other linking participants’ rooms (see them here)! Of course I have to take a moment to thank Linda from Calling it Home for organizing the challenge and motivating me to finish my bedroom. Thanks Linda! Oh, one quick note - I’m working on a source list and budget breakdown for the room and will have that post up next week. *Update: See source list and budget breakdown post here 

OK, before we get into the after pictures, let’s walk through the before pictures. When I bought the house it was painted this yucky green color and had brown blinds.

Once I moved in, I painted the room gray and added furniture (including my stenciled upholstered headboard) and curtains. It was better than before, but it wasn’t exactly the look I was going for. Unfortunately, it stayed like that for years while I worked on other projects.

Finally last fall I decided to completely makeover the room. I painted the walls a dark navy color and added a few new pieces of furniture.

And then I lost steam on the project…but then I joined in on the One Room Challenge and here we are today!

So, I didn’t finish everything as planned, but I’m so much closer to finishing this room than I was six weeks ago. Seriously, this challenge was just the kick I needed to get things ordered and finished up around the room. There are still a few things I need to add/change, but I think we can all agree it looks better than it did six weeks ago!

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