Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Amalfi Coast and Capri, Part I

For my 100th and 101st posts, I'm taking a break from kid-related parties, decor, and activities, and writing about a very grown-up trip!

As an early tenth anniversary present to ourselves, my husband and I traveled to Italy last June, sans kids, for nine days on the Amalfi Coast and Capri. It was our first real vacation (as opposed to "trips" with family) in two years.  And we needed it --- time together, to slow down, to relax, to appreciate the world around us.

Miriam at Moonrings helped us organize.  Her recommendations were spot-on, and we highly recommend Moonrings' services for special occasion travel.  (Moonrings planned, and then replanned, our honeymoon ten years ago.  We had meticulously arranged two weeks in Bali, but terrorists struck on our wedding day, and we thus spent our wedding night reconfiguring the Bali trip into a safer Hawaiian getaway.  Moonrings worked overtime for us then, and we trusted them completely with this trip as well.)

Our itinerary: Fly into Naples then immediately transfer to Positano for five days.  Follow with three days in Capri, a day in Pompeii, and a night in Naples before flying home.

Every minute of the trip was perfect, but here are the first five of our Top Ten Highlights:

1. Il San Pietro.  

We stayed at this secluded gem outside Positano for most of the week.  If I could design Heaven, it would look and feel exactly like San Pietro.  The hotel grounds are magnificently landscaped; the service is exquisite; the mood serene. While there, we met several guests who vacation at Il San Pietro every summer --- one had been coming for more than two decades.  It is that magical of a place, to draw repeat visitors, across the globe, year after year.

Here we are, straight off the plane, jetlagged and tired, but still so happy to be at Il San Pietro:

Every morning I swam. This was my view from the San Pietro pool:

After swimming, we'd breakfast on our spacious, bougainvillea-wrapped private terrace and watch the yachts go by:

We'd also spend part of the day lounging by the sea:

We took a sailing and snorkeling excursion on the hotel boat.  Here is a view of the hotel from the water:

And sea views of Positano:

We spent a glorious afternoon at the Il San Pietro spa.  This is the walkway to the spa:

And this is the lemon orchard outside the treatment room. After my massage, the therapist picked lemons and made me fresh lemonade:

We drank limencello made from those same lemons almost every evening:

We also spent a lot of time walking the steep, narrow streets of Positano, admiring the Moorish architecture and beautiful open-air markets.

2.  Lunch at Da Adolpho.  

Anyone planning a trip to the Amalfi Coast must read Amanda Tabberer's gorgeous book:

We had purchased the book a few months before our departure and spent hours swooning over the stunning photographs and insider's perspective on Positano.  Tabberer lived and worked in Positano for years, marrying into the family which owns and operates Da Adolpho.  After reading her nostalgic description of the restaurant, we knew we had to try it.  We made our reservation for lunch, the wooden boat with the big red fish picked us up at the San Pietro dock, and within two minutes, we were taxied around the cove to the waterfront restaurant.  While there, seated amongst locals, we were delighted to spot some of the "characters" from her book, hosting, cooking, and serving.  They were as colorful in person as she described in her text.  And the food! Incredibly fresh, simply prepared, and absolutely the best lunch of our week.

3.  Dinner at Donna Rosa.

Owned by a mother and two sisters, this hilltop restaurant in Positano serves gorgeous handmade pasta.  And the staff are so, so charming.  We ate on the terrace, overlooking the lights of Positano, and savored every bite.

Just look at this truffle pasta!

4.  Ravello

We loved Positano, but for variety, took a half-day and evening sidetrip to Ravello.  Perched high above the sea, Ravello is one of the most charming towns on the Amalfi Coast. There is plenty of space to slow down and breathe in Ravello.

Our driver recommended we hike to Villa Cimbrone.  And although the long walk was steep and sweaty and not particularly comfortable in the dress and heels I had worn for dinner, it was totally worth it. The Villa Cimbrone gardens are spectacular.  I felt like I was in a fairy tale:

After drinking wine in the square, watching the sun set over the mountains and local children play...

...we capped the day with a visit to the gorgeous Palazzo Sasso and dinner at the exquisite Rossellini's.  Although difficult to choose, Rossellini's may have been my favorite meal of the trip.   Just look at this beautiful pasta!

A terrace view from our dinner table:

5.  Amalfi Drive

There is perhaps no better sensory experience than traveling the curvy Amalfi Coast at night, in an expertly chauffeured Mercedes, windows down, wind blowing, Pavarotti blaring on the stereo, intoxicated by the hibiscus perfume.  It was pure luxury, and although we certainly don't live like that every day, it sure was fabulous for a week. 

It's not time to go back to the real world yet! The journey continues tomorrow with Amalfi Coast Highlights #6-10! Please join me!

(Sharing with Savvy Southern StyleMemories by the Mile and Common Ground)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Girl's Bedroom Transformation, Part I

New house, new furnishings.  My three-year-old daughter had outgrown the colorful nursery we designed in our old house and wanted a purple "big girl room."  Achieving her dream was no easy task, because this is the "before" we started with --- a dark, cabin-like bedroom previously occupied, decorated, and loved by an outdoorsy teenage boy:

That's a lot of knotty pine, right???  

We're still working on accessorizing the space, but I wanted to give you a sneak peek of part of the room to show what a heckuva lot of Benjamin Moore Atrium White paint can do.  It's the same color used on the millwork through our new home, and the color I chose for the paneling in the adjacent playroom remodel.

With a new Pottery Barn Kids Catalina double bed, PBK lilac bedding, a new nightstand we bought raw and painted Atrium White, and a simple PBK bedside lamp, the room now looks fresh, youthful, light, and cheerful, just like my three-year-old:

The Little Castle black-and-ivory Central Park toile glider in the corner was repurposed from my eldest's old nursery and accessorized with purple and cream silk throw pillows.

The frame over the bed reminds me of the Organic Bloom frames I used in my youngest daughter's nursery, but I actually bought it unfinished from Cut It Out and painted it lilac.  The photograph was taken at my daughters' joint Woodland Fairy birthday party last summer:

The old laminate desktop benefitted from a DIY treatment like I used in the playroom: I used thick amethyst wrapping I paper I had leftover from my youngest's christening party, under a $35 glass top.  Lavender crystal drawer knobs and the lavender-trimmed Napa ruffle chair from PBK complete the look.

That's it for now. Check back again soon for more pictures and details!  Have a great week!

(Are you new to the cul-de-sac?  I blog about nesting, nurturing, reading, traveling, and most of all, celebrating life with my family! If you like what you see, please consider joining the conversation via GFC or email.  I'm trying to get this blog off the ground and would love to get to know you! :)

Sharing with Metamorphosis Monday at Between Naps on the Porch, My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia, Savvy Southern Style, Serenity Now,  RemodelaholicNot Just a Housewife, DIY By Design, A Stroll Thru Life, Seven Thirty Three, Southern Lovely, House of Hepworths, French Country CottageTransformation Thursday at The Shabby Creek Cottage, The Charm of Home, Tatertots and Jello, Six Sisters Stuff, I Heart Naptime, Homemaker on a Dime, Under the Table and Dreamingand Making the World Cuter.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Playroom in Progress

Last summer, we moved a few miles down the road to a house more spacious and in a better location than our old one.  We were thrilled by the large, shady yard and the generous interior square footage.  But every home purchase necessitates compromises, and among ours was this: the new house lacked a playroom.  Remember how I desperately dreamed of a playroom while in my previous home? I had to find a way to create the space that my daughters needed to dream and play, and that I needed to maintain my sanity.

So we started with this "before," an upstairs spare bedroom, as decorated by the original owners:

The original blue paint, crazy wallpaper border, and dark wood belied the spaciousness of the room --- about 18 x 13, with an additional 7 x 6 walk-in closet.  I knew it would be a lot of work, but with ample northern light and tons of built-in storage, the space had promise of transforming into a light, bright, happy, and practical playroom for my three little girls.  We tackled the project in four steps.

First: Paint.  After seeking pinspiration I decided on a turquoise, pink, and white color scheme.

Every inch of dark wood was painted Benjamin Moore's Atrium White, the milky color of the millwork in the rest of the house.

For the walls, I chose Benjamin Moore's Jamaican Aqua, which seemed to be just the right shade of turquoise -- almost a Tiffany blue.

Second: Update.  We removed the old ceiling fan and installed the airy Ikea Maskros pendant lamp, a bargain at less than $40, and replaced the old Roman shades with inexpensive white blackout shades from Lowe's and no-sew cornice boxes from Jo-Ann's.  The fabric on the window treatments is Premier Prints' Twirly Candy Pink.  

Third: Accessorize.

The ubiquitous IKEA Expedit serves as toy storage and seating. We ordered the custom bench cushion from Cushion Source and chose hot pink sunbrella fabric, to facilitate cleaning and mitigate fading.  Cushion Source offers fabulous customer service, by the way.

Target canvas storage bins work for now and are labeled with contents for easy clean-up; I am still looking for pink bins that fit the space more efficiently, though.  

The bare wall above the storage bench is still searching for the right piece of art. I am hoping to focus on that this summer.

Inspired and directed by the fabulous Sada at Casa de Lewis, my mother made the fun ruffled monogram pillows which spell out PLAY.  Each pillow measures 16 x 16 inches, and the colors mirror the art work on the opposite wall.

My parents also designed and handmade this beautiful dollhouse for the girls last year.  The facade is a replica of their lakehouse, which is perhaps my daughters' favorite place on earth.  The dollhouse was a labor of love and gets lots of play.  It's bolted to a table on casters, so even the little ones can move it around the room as necessary.

Above the dollhouse hangs this set of 11x14 prints from YassisPlace.  "You Are My Sunshine" is the lullaby I sing to the girls every night, and the first song each knew by heart, so I thought it was the perfect sentiment for their playroom:

Another etsy find: a bright pink "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" print from fieldtrip, which I hung in the reading corner, over a comfy owl beanbag we bought from Pottery Barn Kids years ago.  The girls often sit in that corner, read, and daydream as they watch the deer traverse our backyard.

In the center of the room, we re-used a tea table from my oldest's nursery and recovered the chairs in the same fabric as we used on the window boxes.  I'm still looking for a cute rug to anchor the space.  Suggestions are welcome!

The built-in desk and dresser provide plentiful storage for art supplies, puzzles, and board games.  I splurged and dressed them up with aqua circus calliope knobs from Posh Tots.  

The old forest green laminate desktop had to go, but where?  Turns out that replacing that small a piece of laminate is tricky, as most vendors won't take on that small of a job.  Painting the laminate seemed burdensome and risky --- the three-week cure time was a major deterrent.  So instead I opted for a cheap and quick fix.  I covered the laminate top with this whimsical "Princess Playground" gift wrap from The Container Store that I already had on hand, and hired a discount glass supplier to cut a top to fit.  Total cost: $35.  And, we can change the look anytime we choose!

These keepsake boxes from Aaron Brothers hold up to fifty pieces of artwork and allow the kids to rotate their art displays as often as they choose:

Above, books from some of our favorite authors are on display, along with stuffed animals to soften the space:

On an adjoining wall, this canvas print from Shutterfly:

Across the room, the Ella Bella Fairy Pendulum Wall Clock from Allen Designs is both practical and whimsical:

Fourth: Organize the Closet.  With 42 square feet, the closet is an integral part of the playspace.  The girls call it their clubhouse, as it includes their play kitchen, dress-up wardrobe, their fleet of ride-on toys, and all of their bulky toys and bins of manipulatives.  The shelving in the closet helps keep everything visible, organized, and accessible.  You'll note that the wood is still the original dark stain; I initially chose not to have it painted out of economy, but I regret that decision now.  In the next round of remodeling, we'll have our painters tackle the closet as well.  For now, though, it works, and the girls are very happy playing for hours in the closet! 

The not-quite-final result:

A big improvement from the "before" I think, and thus far, a peaceful and happy playspace for my kiddos.  It has made a world of difference in our family dynamic!

(Sharing this week with Remodelaholic, Involving Color, Metamorphosis Monday, Savvy Southern Style, Thrifty Decor ChickSeven Thirty Three, Transformation Thursday, Six Sisters' Stuff, Tatertots and Jello, I Heart Naptime, DIYbyDesign, Lil Luna, French Country CottageThe Charm of Home, Common Ground, Ladybird Lane, House of Hepworths, Serenity Now, Five Days...5 Ways, Nifty Thrifty Things, Suburbs Mama, Under the Table and DreamingHomemaker on a Dime, Making the World Cuter, A Stroll Thru Life, Southern Lovely, A Humble Creation, The Real Thing, The Girl Creative, Reasons to Skip the Housework, Fidlers Under One Roof, and My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia)

I Heart Nap Time

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My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia

By Stephanie Lynn