Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Home Sweet Home... Part 1

Hello dear friends! I've been home now for a week and I'm so happy to be here. I've been visiting with my mom and sister and been doing way too much shopping than I should be doing but I really don't care.  I'm happy to be back in the home I grew up in and every time I come back it's as if I never left. This is going to be a quick post but I wanted to blog about what I've been up to so far. 

When I got to the airport in Rome I was not expecting to see this....

 There was an INCREDIBLY long line for check in and since they were so backed up they eventually had me skip the whole line.  I was there two hours before take off but apparently it wasn't enough... Thank God they did because it was a very close call. I made it through security and all the check points on time and was able to make it running through the Rome Fiumicino airport. Security has become so strict since last time I came to the States it's crazy but I'm glad it's that way because you hear so many terrible things these days and I am just glad that I got here safely. So if you're traveling overseas my advice is to make sure you get to the airport at least 2 hours before your flight.

I made it eventually... It was a very smooth flight. It's about a 9 hour flight from Rome to New York.  I flew with Alitalia.  The food was ok...I mean let's be honest...airplane food always pretty much sucks but I've had worse so it wasn't too bad. The flight was packed. I watched some good movies. I can never sleep on a plane so I usually just watch movies or read. 

We landed on time and made it through customs pretty quickly.  I brought one big suitcase which was half full because I always end up buying a bunch of stuff and bringing it over...I never have enough room in my luggage... But I don't even want to think about that right now to be honest.

I landed in JFK and my mamma was there waiting for me. 

I was tired but I wanted to stay awake as long as I could to get used to the time difference. I landed at 2:00pm and stayed awake until about 8:30.  We drove back to PA and on the way home we stopped to visit my sister. I just couldn't wait to see her. She was very vocal as soon as she saw me and I knew she was just as happy to see me as I was seeing her. 

I didn't take any pictures with her the day I arrived.  This picture was taken the next day. She's such a cutie pie...she melts my heart whenever I see her. 

I had Mexican food the first day I was here...day number two was Japanese... 

Uhhh...love it! Cannot get enough of it! 

Then my mother insisted on taking me to an Italian place....womp womp... That was a bad idea. I guess I'm just so used to the real Italian food that this to me was just really bad... and we paid an arm and a leg for it!

Maybe it was just the place we went to I don't know but I've had much better seafood linguini... I'll just leave it at that...

Can't complain about the drinks though! This strawberry lime margarita was humongous and so yummy!

Other than that I've been shopping, shopping, and shopping some more.  I am loving all of the Halloween decorations that are already out. I am seriously ready for fall. I want to take all the pumpkins back with me but that is not possible unfortunately :-( I HAVE NO ROOM!!

 I'm so frustrated I can't take many things back with me.. I guess I'll just have to DIY some pumpkins when I get home.

I love it!! Halloween is a holiday that I truly miss so much in Italy.  It's just so much fun. 

My mom and I have been spending some much needed quality time together and it's nice be here with her.  I know she feels more secure with me being here for her and my sister and that makes me happy. 

We've been smothering her with TLC and it feels good...even though she looks rather annoyed about it in this picture I know she likes it LOL. 

Next stop is Florida to visit my Dad! 

Be back soon...



Saturday, July 30, 2016

Guest Room Makeover Complete!

I just finished making over my guest bedroom and I absolutely love how it turned out! I'm very excited to share it with you today. I only ended up spending a total of €150 and it looks SO much better than what I had before. It is such a cozy and romantic bedroom that I might just swap it with my bedroom :-) 

I finished everything in a day and a half.... I am exhausted right now as I write this but it's worth it. I love decorating. It's something that relaxes me and puts me in a good mood. I'm happy with a paint brush in my hand  When I see a fabric I love I can't help but think about all the beautiful things I can create with it. 

I know my style isn't for everybody and many may think that it's too frilly or girly but it's what I love. I love flowers, I love pink, I love lace and I love a warm and inviting space. 

Ok enough talk...I'll leave you with the Before...

and After

I added a small wardrobe that I bought for €50 on sale. 

I painted the wall behind the bed a light green and went with a romantic nature theme for the room.  I already had the fabric I used on the dressers and window treatments. I just quickly sewed up some runners and added the valence on top of lace curtains. 

I added some cute and quirky accessories and scented candles.

That bench is an old coffee table that I upholstered some time ago. I don't think it looks bad with the other floral patterns so I left it there. Plus it's a nice place for guests to leave their luggage when they come visit.

I already had all the art work that was just sitting in my garage and I incorporated the pieces I thought looked well together removing the ones that just didn't look right. 

I love the hardware I added to the dresser and nightstands. I already had the blue and white ones.  I had seen them some time ago and bought them not knowing when I would use them.  I just knew I loved them :-)

These pictured below with the red flowers I bought specifically as they were similar to the blue and white ones but they added a splash of color. 

I also added them to the small wardrobe I bought.  I really needed extra storage so I decided to keep the white wardrobe I already had and then I just happened to find this piece on sale at Ikea for €49! I immediately snagged it and I think it looks great. Plus you can't beat the price. I find that a lot of the Ikea furniture is plain but just by adding or switching up the hardware makes a big difference. 

I'm very happy with how it turned out and with the fact that it wasn't a huge expense. I'm a firm believer that you don't need to spend a lot of money to have good taste. All it takes is some creativity, willingness and the courage to take projects in hand and not be too worried with the end result. It just might turn out a lot better than you expected!

I think Gigia might sleep in the guest room tonight. She's a fan of my work :-)

Guest room makeover cost breakdown:

wardrobe - €49
paint - €16
hardware - €12 (€3 a piece for the new ones)
decorative pillow - €9
lace curtains - €10
bird lantern - €6
mirror - €49
rug - already had
 blue and white hardware for dresser - already had
art work - already had
floral fabric for the runners and valence - already had



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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Guest Room Makeover Ideas

Hello everyone! Hope all is well with you. I have been MIA lately just because I've been recovering from a terrible flu (I have no idea how that happened!) Being sick really sucks....but being sick in the summer is the absolute worst! I'm feeling better now so that's a positive. Other than that my honey has been out of town a lot for work and I get sad when he leaves for too long... my sister gave us another scare and was back in the hospital but thankfully she's fine now and I've been stressing out about my trip to the US this summer. Don't get me wrong, I'm super excited about going but I hear so many scary things on the news that it's just terrifying to think about traveling overseas. I watched the news for five minutes the other night and it was 5 minutes of children dying, bombs exploding, guns shooting, etc. It was just awful.. Then we ask ourselves why all these light hearted reality TV shows are so popular. I would rather watch an hour of those shows than 5 minutes of what they show on the news. I guess I just can't handle it right now..I don't know.

Anyways on a more positive note...I have decided that my guest bedroom is in desperate need of a makeover! I mean really bad.. It's one of those rooms that I just throw stuff into (when we don't have guests obviously..) I tidy up in there when I do have guests over so it usually doesn't look this messy but you know what I mean.. It's the room where I put the laundry that needs to be ironed...the old dresser that I don't know where else to put ... the DIY piece gone bad, etc. etc. It's THAT room.

Here is a panoramic shot of it. Prepare yourselves...

On the other end of the room I have a small wardrobe that I'm probably going to replace with something bigger since I need the extra storage space like I need water..

I will be painting the room and changing the chandelier as well as the fabrics (bedding and window treatments).

I want to do something creative with the nightstands and dresser as well as adding a large statement mirror  that is currently missing from the room. This is going to be a low budget makeover but I really want to create a nice space for my family and friends when they come to visit me. 

Here are some pictures that are inspiring me for the room.  I'm still not 100% sure on what to do yet but I would like a bold wall behind the white bed frame to make it stand out more. I love this bedroom pictured below. 

I still have not gotten over my love for blue and white decor though so I might decide to try it out in my guest bedroom. I love how in this room below the touches of yellow stand out. 

I am also thinking about playing it safe with a more neutral room that way I'm sure I won't tire of it too quickly. 

This one below is my absolute favorite. This room completely encompasses my style. 

I love that light blue wall color. 

When I come home from work I always watch this show called The Great Interior Design Challenge. It's a British Television Show that features amateur interior designers that are selected to make over rooms in actual homes all over the UK. 

I LOVE that show and it's so amazing what they are able to do on a low budget in such a short amount of time. Have you ever seen it? They probably don't show it in the States. 

So those are my plans for the next couple weeks. Hopefully I'll be able to show you some progress very soon. 

In other news... I bought new rugs for my living room / dining room area. I love how they look. 

It's the Ikea Valloby Rugs. Having pets in the house, I don't like to spend too much money on rugs because well...kitty claws... 


Moving onto food!

What's been cooking in my kitchen lately?

Cauliflower Rice with everything! It's low calorie - low carb - easy to make - and tastes great!

Just chop it up and coat in olive oil, salt and pepper and bake for about 10 - 12 minutes. 

I love to add it to a veggie shrimp stir fry. Sooo yummy!

Just mix everything, add the spices you prefer and you have yourself a healthy low carb meal. 

What have you been up to? How is everyone's summer progressing?

Be back soon hopefully to show you all my new guest bedroom :-)



Friday, July 8, 2016

Soft Sourdough Pretzels

I've told you before that sometimes I get these sudden cravings for foods from "back home"...well the other day when I was refreshing my sourdough (yes I still have it and I'm happy to say that it's nice and strong!) I decided to try making some soft sourdough pretzels that I love and can't find here...especially Auntie Anne's.... Is Auntie Anne's only on the East Coast? Hmm.. anyways they make really good soft pretzels and after thinking about how much I miss them and how mouth watering delicious they are...I thought I might give it a try. 

They actually didn't turn out that bad I must say! Still not the same thing... but they tasted great! 


 - 1 cup sourdough (from the fridge)
 - 1 cup lukewarm water
 - 3 cups of bread flour
 - 1/4 cup of milk
 - 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
 - 1 tablespoon of sugar
 - 2 teaspoons of salt
 - 1 packet of active yeast

Add the above ingredients to your mixer and put it to work!

Here is the sourdough that I used.  I will always thank my friend Alessandra for introducing me to this wonderful ingredient. I wrote a couple posts about making sourdough from scratch. It takes time and patience but it is definitely worth it in my opinion. 

Once the dough detaches from the sides of the mixing bowl and is nice and smooth it's ready.

Form the dough into a ball and place covered in an area to rise for approximately 45 minutes. 

It will not have risen a lot but you can definitely see that it has grown some. 

Now the fun part... divide the dough into sections as pictured below. Each section will be rolled into a pretzel form. 

While making each pretzel, I put the pieces back into the covered container so that the dough wouldn't dry up. 

Now roll out a long string of dough and form your pretzel. My first pretzel turned out really bad lol but the last couple I did were pretty professional looking I must say... it gets easier as you go.... 

Keep a mixture of water and baking soda next to you which you can use to make things easier in the rolling out process if the dough get too dry. The baking soda gives the pretzel the nice brown color while baking. 

I don't know if this is the right way to do it or not but it worked out pretty well for me. 

Meet pretzel. 

Cute, no?

Now all that's left to do is place on a baking sheet, brush on the water/baking soda mixture, add some coarse salt and pop them in the oven for about 25 minutes at 375°. 

So that's how I satisfied my craving for sourdough pretzels. I mean...I didn't eat all of them. Just one..or two...

with lots of mustard on top... obviously!

Have a great weekend! 



Monday, July 4, 2016

God Bless America

I'm feeling rather homesick on this Special Day. I wish I was with my family and friends back home celebrating America's Birthday. My heart is there even though I am thousands of miles away... 

I did finalize my travel arrangements over the weekend so that makes me happy.  I will be going to the States in just a few short weeks and I can't wait! Counting down the days...

I hope my fellow Americans are having a blast today. 

God Bless America...Land that I Love.



Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Original Italian Ragù with Fresh Tomatoes

Ragù is made very differently in each part of Italy.  Up north ragù is usually made with ground beef whereas in the south whole pieces of meat are typically used creating one dish used both as a first course (condiment for the pasta) and second course (involtini or "braciole" as typically referred to in the south).

Today I am happy to share with you our original family recipe for freshly made tomato sauce and Braciole that is a main dish served almost every Sunday in many many Southern Italian households, as well as my honey's favorite dish of all time.

I have to be completely honest with you, this is not one of my preferred dishes simply because I'm not a big fan of tomatoes but it is always a hit and never EVER gets left over...

Ok so for this recipe you will need a sauce strainer and if you have a pressure cooker you with significantly reduce the cooking time.

I'm not going to be too specific with quantities because this really is a "taste as you go" recipe based on many variable factors such as sweetness and acidity of the type of tomatoes you use, the type of meat you choose to use, etc. 

In this case I used 5 thinly sliced pieces of beef making 4 Braciole and cutting up the 5th slice into 4 sections adding it to the sauce as I will show you shortly.

Begin making the Braciole. Lay out the slices of meat adding a small piece of Pecorino Romano cheese to the center. Add a dash of salt and pepper to each slice.

Now fold the meat in half and fold in the sides eventually wrapping it up and holding it in place with a tooth pick as shown here:

Now chop up half of a medium size onion and add to the pot with about three table spoons of olive oil.

Let the meat simmer and make sure the heat is on low because you don't want to burn the onion, you simply want it to soften up and eventually melt into the sauce so the heat has to be very low.

You should see that the meat will slowly release water during cooking.

In a separate pot add the washed tomatoes cut up into pieces, the rest of the onion and a few fresh basil leaves.  I used 2 San Marzano tomatoes and 5 vine ripened tomatoes. Do not add any water, any oil or any salt. You are simply letting the tomatoes cook on their own and you will see that they too release lots of water once cooked. The tomatoes should cook on medium heat for no more than 10 minutes.

This is what they should look like after 10 minutes on medium heat.

Once cooked you want to filter them using the sauce strainer. Just add the tomatoes to the strainer and filter into a bowl making sure to scrape the rest of the pulp off the bottom.

Now you have your freshly made tomato sauce that you can add to the meat.

In the meantime the meat should have released some water and once you hear it start to simmer go ahead and add the sauce.

Make sure to stir everything together and add a half a cup of water. At this point go ahead and taste it to see if it needs any extra salt, pepper and if you like you can add some chili pepper to spice it up.

You can now put the lid on the pressure cooker and leave it cook for about 30 minutes.  If you don't have a pressure cooker you will have to cook on very low heat for a good 2 hours. The meat needs to really break down and become super tender in order to have a good ragu.

When the 30 minutes are up let the steam out from the valve, turn off the heat and open up to see what you have.

Look at that delicious ragù! If the sauce is too thick you can add another half cup of water and heat uncovered until you reach the right consistency.
Now you will find the meat breaks down very easily and is extremely tender. With this sauce you can dress any type of pasta and it will be fantastic, I assure you.

On another note, I bought a beautiful hutch for my dining room over the weekend!

Now since everybody who knows me knows that the term patience and I have absolutely nothing in common.... I had to take it home with me immediately and would in no way wait for transportation and the people at the furniture store were very nice and totally understood my immediate need for this hutch sooo they put the bottom half in my trunk and the top half on top on my car....securing it with...tape.

Yes, tape.

I was a little worried I have to admit ...but the guy was like "Lady, we've done this a million times...it works...just go slow..."

And that I did...I went very VERY slow.

You gotta love southern Italy...




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