Golden Birthday: The Big 3-0

Thursday, June 30, 2016

30 on the 30th! Yep, today’s my 30th/Golden birthday!

I think I’m supposed to be upset about turning 30 and kissing my 20s goodbye, but I’m not…at all. If I’ve learned anything this past year, it’s that change can be a wonderful thing. So, I’m looking forward to what a new decade will bring.

Obviously I’m too late for a ‘30 before 30’ list, so I decided to put together a ‘30 for 30’ list instead. It’s the first time I’ve ever done one of these, so we’ll see what happens. There’s no particular order to the list and items range from exciting adventure (white water rafting) to boring, but necessary (organize/de-clutter). You can follow my progress on my ’30 for 30’ page (see navigation bar at the top), plus I’ll report back on my progress in six months. OK, here it goes:

Visit 4 States I've Never Been To
Run a 5K
Learn a New Language
Grow a Veggie Garden
Get a Makeover/Update Beauty Routine
Explore More of Arizona 
Refinance House
Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride
Go to a Concert
Learn to Play Chess
Watch Top 10 Greatest Movies of All Time
Go White Water Rafting 
Send a Handwritten Note Each Month
Spoil Myself with Something Lovely
Visit 2 Museums Around Phoenix
Organize/De-clutter the House
Ride a Zip Line
Learn How to Shoot in Manual/Photoshop 
Read 3 Classic Novels
Get Dressed Up and Splurge on a Fancy Meal
Hike a Mountain
Bake a Perfect Batch of French Macaroons
Backup All My Photos
Get In Shape
Random Acts of Kindness
Take a Roadtrip
Sign Up for a Class (Interior Design/Pottery/Something Fun)
Visit 5 National Parks
Finish 2 Rooms in the House


Travel Tuesday: Rome, Italy - Part 2

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Today we’re back in Rome for Part 2 of our adventure! You can see Part 1 here and details on Vatican City are coming in a separate post.  There’s just too much good stuff in Rome to pack it into one post!

Let’s start at Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore – one of the four major basilicas (the four highest-ranking Roman Catholic churches). We stopped here after spending the morning/early afternoon at the Vatican.


I don’t think I’ll ever reach a point where I’m not completely impressed by all of the time and skill that goes into creating the interior of these churches. The mosaics, the statues, the art – everything down to the tiniest detail is impressive. We ended up spending quite a bit of time inside because it started raining while we were there…I can think of worse places to have to wait out a storm!

The rain eventually stopped and we were close to our hotel, so we managed to stay dry that day. Although it probably wouldn’t have mattered because we didn’t go out again except at dinner to stuff ourselves with food, wine, and gelato.

The following day was our last in Rome, so we decided to take the hop on/hop off bus tour around the city. There are multiple companies to choose from, but we went with City Sightseeing because there was a stop close to our hotel and they sold tickets in the lobby. We were happy with our experience with them and it ended up being a fun way to get see the city. Plus it took us to one place we probably wouldn’t have stopped at on our own, but ended up being one of our favorite places of the whole trip – more details later!

The first stop we hopped off at was the Colosseum. We had already been there with our tour group a couple days prior, but we wanted some extra time to check it out and take pictures on our own.

From there we walked down the Via dei Fori Imperiali and took more pictures of the Roman Forum that we had also seen a couple days before.

Our first new stop of the day was Il Vittoriano (nickname: “the wedding cake”). It’s a monument built to honor Victor Emmanuel, the first king of unified Italy.

Up the first long set of steps is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, watched over by a statue of the goddess Roma.

I highly recommend going inside and climbing the steps to the terrace. The view of Rome from there is absolutely beautiful. You can also pay a fee to take a lift to the very top of the building, but I decided to save my money and enjoy the amazing free views. 


After that we hopped back on the bus and hopped off at the next stop to see Castel Sant’Angelo. Our original plans didn’t include this stop and we almost didn’t pay the fee to go in, but it ended up being one of our favorite spots of the trip!

Castel Sant’Angelo was built in 123 A.D. by Emperor Hadrian as a monumental tomb for his family and himself. Because of its strategic position, it was later reinforced and used as a fortress for attacks against the city. There’s also a tunnel between the Vatican and the fortress that was used as an escape route by various popes over the centuries.

If you’ve seen Angels and Demons lately, you might recognize Castel Sant’Angelo as the Lair of the Illuminati from some of the final scenes of the movie.


The views from Castel Sant’Angelo are pretty amazing. On one side you can see St. Peter’s Basilica and the Tiber River runs along the other side.


After we finished exploring Castel Sant’Angelo we hopped back on the bus and rode it around the entire loop again so we could listen to the audio guide and enjoy the beautiful weather and see the sights for the last time.


For our final night in Rome we had a big group dinner with everyone on our tour. The main tour ended in Rome, so about half of our group would be leaving the following day. The rest of us had booked the optional tour extension and would be continuing south in the morning. There were a lot of hugs, e-mail addresses, and Facebook friend requests exchanged that night. It was a great way to end the main tour and our time in Rome. Our next stop: Sorrento!



Friday Five

Friday, June 10, 2016

One – Funny Cross Stitch

I’ve been working on updating the gallery wall in the office for months now and I’m *thisclose* to being done. My friend Michelle made this cross stitch for me to hang in there. Isn’t it hilarious?! It’s a quote from Ron Swanson from Parks & Recreation and it perfectly sums up how I feel about being invited to events a lot of the time. If you want to make your own, you can find the pattern in this Etsy shop (although Michelle changed up a few things from the original on my version).

Two – Ringo and Abby Road Trip: Montana or Bust!

My boyfriend and I are taking a road trip to Missoula, MT in about three weeks…and we’re taking Ringo and Abby with us! I’m definitely nervous about taking them, but I think it will be so fun to go on this adventure with them. I’ve never been to Montana, so I’m really excited to check out a new state. I’ve also never been to Utah or Idaho and we’ll be driving through both of them.

I’ve been doing a lot of research about road tripping with dogs and I’ve ordered Sleepypod car safety harness for both dogs, but I would love any advice anyone has on driving long distances with dogs. We’re planning to stop every couple hours so we can all stretch our legs and do some exploring. We’re staying with a family friend the first night and at an Airbnb the next night (it’s a farm!), so we won’t’ have to worry about them barking in a hotel. Any other advice?

Three – Phoenix Mercury Game

A couple weeks ago my boyfriend and I went to our first WNBA game. I know women’s basketball gets kind of a bad rap, but we actually had a really good time. The level of play is obviously different than men’s basketball, but the women are really talented and work hard on the court. It’s fun to watch, especially since we were surrounded by season ticket holders that were really into the game. It’s hard not to get into it when you’re around that kind of energy.  Plus it’s nice because you can get good seats for pretty cheap, especially compared to NBA tickets. I definitely see us going to more games in the future.

Four – Backyard Update

I swear the heat and weeds are determined to wreck my freshly landscaped backyard. Last weekend the heat was record breaking in Phoenix (115 degrees on Saturday) and my newly planted bushes/trees are struggling. I’ve upped the water on the drip system, so that should help. I’ve also been thinking about moving the rocks away from the plants and adding mulch or something else that might protect the moisture in the soil better. I have some more research to do.

On the other hand, the weeds are back. I’m not going to lie, I was pretty angry to see them back so soon. You can definitely tell where the landscapers didn’t do a good job overlapping/laying the weed plastic in the yard and around the pool. So I’ve been pulling them and spraying them. Hopefully I can get them under control soon!

Five – San Francisco

My mom and I going to San Francisco in September! I’ve never been before, so I’m really excited. We’re planning to do the usual tourist stuff (Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, Alcatraz, etc.), but I would love suggestions from anyone who has visited before or lives there. Any recommendations for things to see/places to eat? Let me know!     Cup

Exploring AZ: Tonto Natural Bridge

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A couple weekends ago we decided to get out of town for the night, so we headed an hour and half north-east to Pine, AZ. We stayed one night at an Airbnb rental and then set off for Tonto Natural Bridge State Park in the morning.

The park was discovered in 1877 by a prospector while he was being chased by Apaches. He hid for two nights in a cave inside the bridge. On the third day he wandered out to explore the tunnel and surrounding valley. He claimed squatter’s rights and eventually moved his family out to settle the land.

Now there are four viewpoints and four hiking trails for everyone to enjoy the bridge. We started on the Gowan Trail. It’s only about ½ a mile long, but it’s dirt and pretty steep in some parts. It leads to the observation deck at the creek bottom. 

From there you can climb the rocks and cross under the bridge. I’m not going to lie, it’s not easy. There’s a creek at the bottom so you have to stay on the rocks to get across. Depending on the wind, some of the rocks are wet and can be slippery. You also might get a little wet from the waterfall above. We made it through, but I was a little scared and definitely not comfortable.

Once we made it to the other end of the tunnel I didn’t want to go back through again, so we picked up another trail and headed out the other direction. We missed the Anna Mae trail, which would have been way shorter and easier, and ended up on the Pine Creek Trail. Most of the trail consisted of maneuvering over rocks and isn’t an actual dirt trail until the last bit.

Once we made it back to the top, we decided to check out a few of the viewpoints. These are perfect for those who don’t want to do any hiking, but still see the bridge. We didn’t check out Viewpoint #1, but did stop at #2. From there you can see part of the bridge and we were able to spot where we had just hiked along the creek.

Viewpoint #3 and #4 are great views from the top. You pass over the creek that feeds the waterfall and can look down to the observation deck and tunnel below.

We ended up spending about 2 hours there and that was about perfect. Although, I noticed some picnic tables in the park so it might be a nice spot for a picnic depending on the weather and if you can find one in the shade. The park is open 7 days a week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. with last entry at 5 p.m. Park entrance fees are $7 for adults, $4 for children 7-13, and free for 6 and under. No pets are allowed on the trails.

If you live in AZ and have never been before, I highly recommend it. It’s a beautiful adventure not far from home. We made an overnight trip of it, but the Tonto Natural Bridge could easily be a day trip from Phoenix. For more information you can check out the State Park website here.

Check out my other Exploring AZ adventures -

A New Look

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Some of you have probably already noticed, but Away She Went has a fresh, new look!

The template and feather are from Éclair Designs, but the header is just the Coffee Break font from PicMonkey. I loved the previous look, but after seeing Meaghan’s blog redesign I knew I wanted something simpler too. I’m still doing a few tweaks, but everything should be working so please let me know if you have any issues or find any broken links. Or is there anything else you’d like to see on the blog or something that would make it easier to use/navigate? Let me know!

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