Thursday, May 27, 2010

Awww...She Shouldn't Have...

Amici buona giornata!
It's been a few days since I've been online...another busy week of antiquing, planning for summer, potty training, tripping over toys, and not necessarily in that order! I was hoping to get my next edition of Paris, Anyone? ready for you, but that post still needs a good tweaking before I release it. If you're just joining us and you have no idea what I'm referring to, you can go here, here, or here to find out!

Today I just had to write about something very special that I received this week and from a special someone, to boot! Whenever a package comes in the mail, it's almost always for the kids, and almost always from the grandparents! This week was different, in that a package came for me and it was most unexpected!

This special someone is my friend Brenda that I met my very first day of college - actually it was the day I was moving into the dorm as a brand new freshman. Let's see...that would be right at 24 years ago. We were instantly friends, and the best part is that we have maintained our friendship for 24 years, and on two different continents! We have watched each other date the wrong boys, meet the right man, marry, have children, and cheer each other on through mommy-hood.

So, my sweet friend Brenda who lives in Switzerland, sent me a little surprise this week. It's the cutest table linen you've ever seen, and best of all, she picked it up in Italy! She knows me well...

When I brought in the mail a few days ago, this is what was waiting for me...

The colors are fantastic. I have it pictured with some French china that I picked up a few years ago.

She and I have a love for The Froggy King or as you may know him, The Frog Prince. We both went through several toads before meeting our Froggy Kings.

I just love the fact that she saw this and thought of me. It makes me want to finally get my act together and start writing real letters again and blessing my friends unexpectedly.

God has graciously given me the most amazing lifelong friendships. Because we move so often, I am always starting over every few years - in a new state (or country!), in a new house, and knowing no one locally. That can be tough, but I always have my golden girls that are there for me, no matter where I'm calling home.

Thank you Brenda for blessing me this week!
I treasure my new Froggy King collectible and I treasure You!

Here's who I'm hanging out with this week...
My Romantic Home

Thursday, May 20, 2010

You Got a WHAT?!

Just recently I added something new to my trousseau, and let’s just say that it’s going to be with me…forever. Yes, I crossed over into the world of tattoos.

For those of you who don’t know me personally, this is not a biggie - practically everyone has a tattoo these days, right? But for those of you who know me well, you’re screaming, “You got a what?!”. My personal style is somewhat a mix of Sarah Jessica Parker meets Jennifer Garner. In other words, a mix of classy and casual and no tats in site!

Here’s how I came about getting this new little addition. My husband is an infantry soldier and is gone quite a bit. I miss him terribly when he’s away. I often take off my wedding band to read the inscription that’s stamped inside it. When we were getting married we kept our inscriptions a secret from each other prior to our wedding, so on our wedding day, we quickly peeked inside our rings to see what the other had chosen to write. Guess what we both chose? “My Beloved”.

About a month ago my husband was away at a training for several weeks so the kids and I headed “home” to Texas (and many of you followed my Texas travels via my blog!). While I was there, I gathered two of my bestest girls and after a hefty margarita, we headed to a tattoo shop in downtown Austin. One of my besties was sweet enough to let me crush her hand during my ink-needle torture! True friends...

I guess you’re wondering what I chose to get (unless you cheated and scrolled down to the pics…)? Let’s get onto the photos!

Here it is…

Just kidding. That was for shock effect.

Here’s me signing my rights away…

This is Jim, my tattoo dude. If you look closely at the reflection in this photo, you can see me in the background, already squeezing my sweet friend's hand - and the pain hadn't even started yet!

Let the excruciating pain commence... I do have to say that this was nothing compared to child birth!

And the final result…”Beloved” in script across my ring finger.

Remember the saying, “Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt”? Well, I did just that.

Best of all, He loves my sweet tatty-poo as well!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Paris, Anyone? Part 3

How’s your French coming along? Have you been stuffing more cash into that Europe envelope each week? Here we are at week three, in the frugal way to Hop the Pond. If you’re just joining us, here’s what we’ve got going on.

Week 1 was an overview of “crossing the pond”. Many people have a false notion that travel to Europe is crazy expensive and unattainable – not true!

Week 2 covered booking your flights the cheap-o way.

Week 3 covers fabulous yet frugal lodging in Europe. (that’s today!)

Week 4 will chat about Eating your way through Europe on just a few euros a day…don’t read this one on an empty stomach.

Week 5 will cover Shopping (the best for last!) and a little snippet of traveling with monkeys (aka children).

So, onto this week! Today’s info gets a bit wordy, so I’ve included several pictures of some of the apartments that we have stayed in, to add a bit of splash between the paragraphs!

Okay, so your plane has landed, you have your luggage (prayerfully) and you’re ready to find a place to rest your tired little noggin. Forget those dingy European hotels – stay in an apartment! Our family finally caught on to the blessing of renting apartments all over Europe and I sure wish we had known more about them on our honeymoon….that’s another blog all in itself!

Here’s why you’ll be glad you booked an Apartment:
1) The difference in price compared to a tiny European hotel room is staggering,

2) you have all the amenities of home and,

3) you get the experience of living like a local – that in itself is priceless!

Our family has used these two companies for finding apartments and we have never had a problem, mishap, or the dreaded…scam.

For Paris Apartments only, Centre Paris is our choice.

For Apartments throughout Europe, we choose Homelidays.

Look how cozy this one was. One of our favorites!

Finding the Right Apartment

Location, location, location…First you’ll want to figure out what area of the city will be best for your stay. Paris is the easiest place to book, as the entire city is mapped out by numbered districts.

If your stay includes major metropolitan areas (ie. Paris, Rome, Berlin, etc), make sure that it is near a Metro/Train station – if it is, they will definitely have this in the description.

After you have a good location in mind, play online and look through the apartments for location, size, pricing, etc. Don’t forget to check their availability calendar!

This was the first apartment we booked.

As you can see, it was kid-friendly!

This was the bakery that was directly across the street. I was there, um, several times during our short trip!

Booking Your Apartment
Once you find a few that suit your needs, pick out your most favorite one and contact the owner/property manager (each website has instructions on how to contact the owner or property manager). Typically they are very quick in responding and most of the time, their English is fluent enough to communicate all the details.

Here’s an example of an email we received from booking one of our apartments:

“The place is available.

This large family flat is located in the heart of Paris. The rooms are large, very well decorated and the flat is very bright. The flat is very comfortable, located on the 5th floor with a lift, it is very quiet .

There are many shops and stores for food around the flat and the open air market located rue Montorgueil is just 15 minutes by walk from your flat. There are plenty of food stores, and restaurants immediately around the flat.

This brand new flat is located in the heart of Paris. In less than 15 minutes you can walk to Opéra, 20 minutes to Louvre Museum. It has direct connections with the major tourists attractions such as Opéra Garnier, Champs Elysées and mains streets for shopping (10 minutes). The largest European pedestrian area “Rue Montorgueil” is located less than 15 minutes by walk. This area is full of restaurants, food shops. It can be reach easily by every airports and train stations.
Walking distances from the apartment are: 2 minutes for the nearest metro station and bus.
The area is safe and quiet. There is a supermarket just in your street .

For several days or more, benefit from the large space of the apartment with a living room, 3 bedrooms, a separate kitchen, a bathroom, a toilet.

Make yourself at home, cook for you, your family or friend. For leisure and for business, enjoy this fully equipped, brand new and ready-to-live-in flat. The flat has been renovated in 2004, equipment is brand new. A wooden floor is covering the floor.”

This email from the property management actually went on to tell us about check-in, deposits, etc., so you can see that you typically receive very detailed information prior to booking.

Here is an apartment we booked in Rome.

It had not been updated in quite a while, but you could tell that it had been an amazing home in the art deco era. Very fun!

I can almost assure you that there will most definitely be a deposit required (in Euros, no credit cards), that you leave with the property management upon picking up the keys. Some of these deposits are hefty, but we have always received ours back in full. Details on your deposit will be in the information you receive from the owner/property management. If they don’t mention a deposit, be sure to ask – you don’t want to be caught off-guard on this one!

So, that’s about it. You find an apartment, you book it, then you get to look really cool amongst your peers when you say, “I have the greatest apartment in Paris that I could recommend to you for your upcoming trip”. I promise that it's actually a very easy process and you will be so happy that you stepped out and did something different from the hotel route.

That’s it for now.
(Angela, I know you’re reading this, so if I've left out any details, gimme a shout! ) I’m off to do the more glamorous duties of my life, such as laundry, potty training and cooking.
Ciao for now!

This week I'm joining Twee Poppets for their Tuesday Tag-Along. Join us!
Tuesday Tag-Along
And, the Smart & Trendy Mom's for their Wednesday Social Parade.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

An Award? Seriously? WooHoo!!!

I got my first blogger award! I’m writing my acceptance speech just now…

Flory of Living Creatively gave me "the Versatile Blogger award" , and the best part about it is that I get to pass it on!

For this award, I have to...
1. Thank the person who gave me the award—
Thanks so much Flory
– and I love reading your comments every week!

2. Share seven things about myself:

I’m a later-in-life mother of two.
I have my own European antiques business.
Frugal shopping is my drug of choice.
I fully believe in the saying, “Change your shoes, Change your Life”.
I am domestically disabled.
I was born to travel – I’m happiest when I’m holding that crisp boarding pass in my hand!
I’ve lived in Europe and hope to be able to live there again someday!

And 3. Pass the award on to 15 bloggers who I have recently discovered and I think are fantastic (in no particular order), then contact the bloggers I have picked and let them know about their award.

To the following Fabulous Bloggers, congrats and have fun sending this little trinket on!

1. What's For Lunch at Our House
2. Grace Violet
3. The Thrifty Groove
4. Remodelaholic
5. The Shabby Chic Cottage
6. Funky Junk Interiors
7. Ruby's Upcycle Designs
8. Extreme Personal Measures
9. Tator Tots and Jello
10. Fabulously French
11. Piggy Bank Dating
12. Fingerprints on the Fridge
13. Double Wide Mom
14. My Romantic Home
15. A Soft Place to Land

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Paris, Anyone? Part 2

I’m back! What a week… I’m exhausted! I’ve had to neglect my blog for several days, and here’s why…It all started on Sunday, Mother’s Day. I was blessed with a few hours of solo shop time, and during my treasured solo shop time my precious brand new cell phone was stolen. To top that, I awoke on Monday morning with the yucky crud that my family has been passing around for a week now. No…!!! Everyone knows what happens when Momma gets sick – the kids still need feeding, potty training continues, and the house gets trashed in the midst of me trying to “work” while trudging along (do you hear my sympathy violin playing in the background?). So, that was my Mother’s Day! The good news is that next year’s Mother’s Day will be much better!

Enough of my blah week…let’s get on to Paris! Last week I did a brief intro of how we frugal mamas can realistically get “across the pond” (if you’re just tuning in, you can find it here). Now I’m going to get into the nitty gritty of travel to Europe. Here’s how the next few weeks of this series will go:

Week 2: booking flights and transportation abroad (that’s today!)

Week 3: booking apartments in Europe and eating like a local.

Week 4: Shopping. Yes, shopping always gets its own week!

Okay, so let’s chat about booking flights. I know this is not necessarily a Dreamy topic, but let’s face it, it’s probably THE way you are going to get there, so you need to know about it!

Do not (I repeat, do not) go through a travel office or a European tour service. If you have a ton of money to travel, these companies are great, but if you are trying to get there the frugal way, then you need to book tickets on your own.

1) I use the following airline’s sites: American, Northwest, United, and Lufthansa (Lufthansa is my favorite…better seats & better food!). I also use Travelocity and Expedia. This does take some time, but you will definitely get a good view of the very best rates available.

2) Hopefully your dates are somewhat flexible – flying midweek is much cheaper than weekends. Each airlines typically has a flexible fares chart that shows you pricing by day of the week or pricing throughout an entire calendar month.

3) There are often amazing flights leaving from NYC to Europe. I’ve booked flights using different carriers before. Example: A flight from Houston to NYC via Delta, and then a flight from NYC to Paris via AirFrance. You have to become your own travel agent, but it’s worth it to save some $$$ for other trip necessities(like shopping…). If you think you won’t have the time for this, carve some time away from your typical online duties (ie Facebook!) and use that time for your travel homework.

4) If you would like to see more than one country (which I would highly recommend), we often fly into one country and then fly home out of a different country. Example: Fly into Paris, take a night train to Rome, then fly home from Rome. To look at flights like this, most airlines have the “Multiple Destination” option to search.

5) Flight prices drop dramatically in early September and do not rise much until the end of April. I typically hit Europe in early September or early April as these are not peak months and the weather is still somewhat decent. Summer months are when you see the crazy flight pricing…try to avoid summer if you can.

Now that you’ve made it across the pond, let’s chat about how you’re going to get around those cobblestone paths!

Trains, trains, trains! Most major cities have a metro rail and that is what we always use – incredibly cheap, convenient and fun to figure out! Don’t be afraid to get lost – your fun little adventures will make for a great blog later on!

Most cities have their rail maps posted online, so you can study them prior to your arrival.

Here is Paris’ Metro

Here is Rome’s Metro

Here is Berlin’s Metro

Once you arrive in your city, you can purchase a Metro Pass that will save you a ton of money (see? Your shopping stash is growing by the minute…).

Most Europeans speak more English than we speak of their native language, so you can always ask for help. I have to say that the Swiss and Germans speak a LOT of English, even though they personally think their English stinks. The French don’t seem to speak as much English, and can be somewhat reluctant to help, but we have always found a good Samaritan in a pinch. In any country, the key to starting off right is being able to ask for help in the local language. If you do need help at some point, at least attempt a little of their language - they will find your horrible pronunciation endearing, and they will in-turn help you out.

Just a Note: Nothing is more annoying to me than sitting in a quaint European bistro, and being interrupted by a loud American screaming, “DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH ??!!!”. Funny story: When I took my mom to Paris, she had this weird theory that if she spoke SLOWLY and very LOUDLY then that would aid a non-English speaking person to suddenly begin to understand what she was saying.
This theory does not work.
Do not attempt this.

Two more Tips before we part for today:
1) To work on your travel cash, start cleaning out your closet. You’ll make some cash in the meantime (don’t touch it!) and you’ll be making room for your new precious purchases from overseas.

2) To get really inspired about your destination, go get a Rick Steve’s book and start planning. Rick has always been right on the money and he’s a frugal dude as well! Here are some of his books on Amazon. You can always buy last year's version - they don't change that much from just one year to the next (more pennies saved!).

Start your planning now and you may be posting a picture that looks something like this:

Thanks for stopping by this week! Stay tuned for Euro Apartments and scrumptious food next week! Now I'm off to read what you all are up to!

Don't forget about our Give-Away this week at Between Naps on the Porch!

And here's who we're linking up to this weekend:
The Girl Creative


Monday, May 10, 2010

It's a Give-Away Week!

hi Friends! I'm joining with Susan at Between Naps on the Porch to offer a fun give-away from my store this week. The prize? A $30 gift certificate, shipping included! Head on over to Susan's Give-Away page to get your sweet self entered!

Join us and make some new Blog Buddies!
Friday Follow

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

All Things Dreamy Thursdays!

Welcome back friends! It’s our third week of celebrating All Things Dreamy. This week I’ve been playing on my favorite blogs and sites, so I’m giving props to some folks who have some very Dreamy things to share. I think I must be hankerin’ for a wardrobe change, because everything I ended up drooling over this week is clothing related (although I guess that's pretty normal for me!). So here we go...grab a cup of joe, have fun perusing!

First off is one of my all-time Dreamiest designers - Shauna @ Poor Pitiful Pearl – she’s one of my Texas buddies! My daughter loves her apron dress that is similar to this one – I want one for Me!


Next is Angela’s vintage Murano glass necklace that she found while in Venice. Oh so Dreamy!

Ready for an amazing transformation? Check out this shirt-to-dress... A creation by The Sewer The Caker the Copy Cat Maker. I had to scroll up and down this blog several times before I could get it through my head – sew creative!

Here’s the Before…

Here’s the After…Oh my!!!

One of my favorite vintage dealers on Etsy is fabgabs. This vintage halter dress is not only scrumptious, but it’s also never been worn – see the tags?! Love it…

And last but not least, I always love a good tutu. Tiny Belles Boutique makes some fabulous tutus - aren't these two precious?!

I hope you enjoyed these fun finds & fabulous folks. Now I'm off to read your newest posts...

Here's who we're linking up to this week...join these fabulous blog mamas!
Show & Tell Friday at Romantic Home

Friday Follow
One 2 Try
Laurie with Favorite Things Saturday
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