Florence, a.k.a Firenze

Italy has so much to offer and I’ve made it a goal to travel around this country as much as possible. I’ve been wanting to go to Tuscany, and Florence was the perfect start.

I took a train from Rome to Florence and it was only an hour and a half. You could easily make a day trip out of Florence, but we stayed one night at the cutest Airbnb. When I walked out of our door, this is what I saw!

We started at Palazzo Vecchio, where you can see many beautiful, historic statues and lots of fun places to shop.

Palazzo Vecchio
Statue of David

The more I explore Italy, I realize every well-known town has a famous dome. This one by far is my FAVORITE! The detail of this building is absolutely incredible.

Florence Cathedral
Florence Cathedral Pt. 2
Isn’t this detail stunning?

The city of Florence is easy to navigate and all of the major things to see seem to be fairly close together.

Next, we went to the beautiful bridge, Ponte Vecchio.

Ponte Vecchio

As much as I want to live in Venice one day, I wouldn’t be opposed to living in one of these colorful apartments along the river.

Apartments along Ponte Vecchio
Look at all of the eye-catching colors!

My roommates and I stopped at a cute little cafe, known as Corona’s Cafe, for hot chocolate and a snack. I had fruit tarts and they were so cute and yummy!

Fruit tarts from Corona’s Cafe

For dinner, we ate at Al Acqua 2, which I highly recommend. Our waitress was so friendly and so sweet to make suggestions (in English!).

I had maccheroni alla vodka e mozzarella. (The closest thing I’ve had to mac n cheese since I’ve been in Italy). It was so good and I loved the vodka sauce!

Dinner at Al Acqua 2

I have a hard time saying no to dessert (and luckily so does my roomie), so we opted to split the dessert sampler. It had tiramisu, dark chocolate cake, lemon tart and strawberry cheesecake. It was the perfect way to end a dinner!

Dessert Sampler at Al Acqua 2

Saturday morning, we went on a food tasting tour with “Italy On A Budget Tour.” (Linked below) They do everything from olive oils (you would be shocked how many kinds there are) food (such as cheese, bruschetta and salami) and wines. It was a fun way to meet other people who are traveling and experience a little more of Italy!

Can you tell I might’ve snacked prior to taking this picture?

https://www.italyonabudgettours.com/en_GB

Lastly, if you miss home, I highly recommend going to the American Diner. It has a 1950s theme and all of the waiters are wearing roller skates. It’s so cute and you must go!

Thank you for reading,

Rach

The Perfect Morning Routine

If you’re not a morning person, this post is for you!

I have put together a few tips and tricks for you to enjoy your mornings a little more – even if you don’t think you can ever be a morning person, adding a few of these steps to your day before you leave for the day will make you feel MUCH more productive.

(1) Drink a warm/hot cup of water with lemon in it BEFORE you have your coffee.

Yeah yeah, I used to go first for the coffee, too. But since I’ve started drinking water with lemon, I’ve noticed a couple of things: (1) I digest my food better throughout the day, (2) Water with lemon helps me to feel fresh and rehydrated, (3) I feel more awake.

Water is the most important thing you can give your body, so might as well start the day with it! It’s not really anything you have to slow down for either, you can just carry your bottle around with you while you’re getting ready.

Shop my favorite water bottle here: Corkcicle “Unicorn Magic” Canteen – 16 oz. I love the sparkly white!

(2) Whether you’re a coffee or a tea drinker, make the time to drink it with a healthy BREAKFAST! We all know how important it is to start your day with breakfast, and how it helps you perform better with whatever tasks are at hand. Breakfast doesn’t have to be hard either! My go-to lately has been whole-fat or Greek Yogurt mixed with granola or cereal, topped with banana slices or strawberries. Takes no time and you can even make it the night before to enjoy in the morning!

(3) Make your bed! There’s a lot of studies out that say either “Why It’s Better to Not Make Your Bed” or something like “Why You Should Make Your Bed.” I don’t know what to believe, but I do know a room looks much neater when your bed is made, and you feel much more productive.

(4) Journal at least three things you’re grateful for. This is a great way to start the day with positive thoughts. It can be ANYTHING, as long as you’re acknowledging the fact that you’re happy to have whatever it is in your life.

(5) One more thing to write down – anywhere from 1 – 3 tasks that are PRIORITIES for that day. If it’s just one that’s great, at least you’ve accomplished something! I don’t recommend doing more than three because then that can be overwhelming. Just stick to the plan and get it done!

Thanks for reading,

-Rach

Athleta Athleisure

Boy do I have good news for you!!!

My favorite top and leggings from Athleta are BOTH on sale!

Running along the Tiber river in Rome, Italy

Reasons I love this top:

(1) It keeps you warm, but it breathes well and doesn’t get too hot on you.

(2) It’s a TURTLENECK!!

(3) It has the cute pockets on the end of the sleeves for your thumbs to go through.

(4) I tuck it into a denim or black pair of skinnies and it still looks so cute!

Reasons I love the leggings:

(1) They stay right in place during my workouts.

(2) They have a snake print that’s not too obvious, but is the perfect amount of detail!

Shop the top and leggings here:

Top | Leggings

Another Year Older

As much as I love New Years Resolutions, I feel like my goals are typically more common: eat healthier, work out everyday, etc. etc.

Someone once told me that each year on their birthday, they took time to reflect. They took time to be grateful for the things they have, the things they wish to change, and the things they aspire to be. So, I started doing that on my twentieth birthday.

In this post, I hope to encourage you to find the sweeter things in life.

(1) “You can be the juiciest, ripest peach, and someone is still not going to like you.”

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a people pleaser. I’ve worked really hard to minimize that mindset and follow my own heart, but it’s something we all struggle with from time to time and that’s okay!

(2) Don’t take people seriously.

Everyone has such different personality traits that you never know how they intend for people to read them. Sometimes it’s best to let what they say go through one ear, and out the other.

(3) Quit taking things personally.

You’ve probably heard something along the lines of “He who angers you controls you.” Well, it’s right. Just brush things off and keep right on moving!

(4) Keep a journal.

It’s your safe place to ramble about your happenings – we all know there’s a lot of things that are best to keep to yourself, your friends don’t want to hear it, etc. etc.!

(5) While you’re keeping a journal, keep a budget journal too!

This has helped me so much – I can see what I need to cut back on or change!

(6) Do something for yourself everyday.

Even if it’s just making your favorite packed lunch before you leave in the morning, do something that reminds yourself that you care!

(7) Don’t participate in gossip.

I know it’s easy to fall into, but you’re putting yourself too low to do that. This is why insecurities exist!

(8) Do your best to speak only with LOVING words.

Think: Uplifting, encouraging, is it necessary, etc.

It’s easy to ramble and complain, but it’s better left unsaid.

(9) Remind yourself what you’re thankful for – EVERY DAY.

I’m working on a morning routine post, but every morning I do my best to start the day with a grateful heart. I try to journal 3 things every day I’m thankful to call mine!

(10) Don’t rush anything.

That job, finishing school, starting school, that relationship. Timing ALWAYS works out for the best!

(11) If you find yourself to have too big of a heart, it’s a gift and you share it.

Don’t beat yourself up because others don’t have the same big heart you do.

(12) While on the note of having a big heart, trust your senses when it comes to people.

If they’re just bringing you down, seriously CUT. THEM. OFF! You don’t have time or energy for those people.

(13) As much as I love “luxury” dogs, I’ve never been more content with a dog as I am my little rescue dog (even if she is deaf and still has house accidents). If you can, ADOPT! I can’t say it enough! (Cats too, if you please).

(14) Prepare for your day the night before!

My mornings are SO much easier and less stressful when I’ve laid out my clothes, packed my bag and lunch for work/school, packed my gym bag, etc. etc.

(15) Never go to sleep angry, or with a messy desk or a messy sink.

You know you’ll probably wake up angry the next morning, and everyone hates waking up to any kind of mess!

(16) Find your community!

When I left for college, this is something I really struggled with. Once I got plugged into a small group at church, I started feeling my best again! Whatever community makes you feel best, plug yourself in!

(17) Always save money from each pay check, and sometimes put some extra back too.

(You’ll thank yourself later when that surprise trip pops up, or you see some shoes that are to DIE for).

(18) REWARD YOURSELF.

Even if it’s a large raspberry lemon water from sonic after a long, tiring day. You deserve it! You should always be your biggest cheerleader.

(19) Complement people.

Not only are you building others up, but you’ll feel better too.

(20) Work your HARDEST.

What’s your hardest is your best, and your potential will only grow. You’ll feel much better knowing it’s YOUR BEST.

(21) Tithe.

As a kid growing up, I learned in private school how important it was to give 10% (or whatever you please) to the church. I’ve started doing this, and I feel as though my relationship with Christ has grown. It opens your eyes to the mission field, and has helped me grow my trust in Him.

Venice, Italy

This is the most magical little town and I would go again at anytime.

The train ride from Rome to Venice was beautiful. We passed through snowy mountains and little villages which made the ride pass by so much quicker.

The first day we arrived, we unloaded our stuff at the hotel and made our way to find dinner. We ate at Enoteca Rio Martin, which is my new favorite place EVER! I wish I could eat this same exact meal over and over. The restaurant was small with a beautiful set up and wonderful service.

For appetizers, we had a caprese salad and a charcuterie board.

 

Caprese Salad
Charcuterie Board

For my main entree, I had gnocchi made with Gorgonzola cheese and walnut. I don’t think I’ll ever find a better gnocchi dish than this!

Gnocchi

Lastly, for dessert we had tiramisu and panna cotta. This was my first time ordering panna cotta, and it’s definitely my new favorite dessert!

Tiramisu
Panna Cotta

The weekend we decided to go was actually the same weekend as the Venetian parade. I’m really glad we went this weekend because it was such an experience to see everyone’s beautiful costumes and of course Venetian masks!

If you go to Venice, be sure to buy an eye mask as a souvenir.

In San Marco Square, you can pay €8 at Campanile to take an elevator to the top and look out over the beautiful island of Venice and see how beautiful the water is.

Campanile

Not going to lie, it was very freezing at the top and extremely windy! Excuse my crazy hair!

Crazy Hair Don’t Care
Campanile Pt. 2
Campanile Pt. 3
Campanile Pt. 4

While in San Marco square, we also visited the Doge Palace.

P.S. – they offer a student discount!

This is an outstanding building – I loved seeing all of the court rooms and the detailed ceilings!

Palazzo Ducale

While you’re still in San Marco square, be sure to check out St. Mark’s Basilica, too!

St. Mark’s Basilica
San Marco Square

Also, be sure to try Rosso Pomo Doro. It’s an amazing Italian cuisine chain throughout Italy.

I tried fried pizza – it was great, but more like a dessert. It was too savory to eat as an entree!

Thanks for stopping by!

Venice Selfie

 

 

Foro Italico

Foro Italico is a complex that Mussolini created to implement the Fascist regime.

Here you can find many mosaics with Fascist slogans inscribed in them, a tennis court, a swimming complex and a track.

Mussolini worked really hard on this complex in hopes to host the Olympics, which were held at the Foro Italico in 1960.

The statues surrounding the track are absolutely beautiful!

Foro Italico Track

Valentine’s Day Gift Guide

Whether you’re looking for a special someone, for you girls to celebrate Galentine’s, or to treat yourself, I’ve included six of my favorite things that would be perfect for this holiday!

All of these can be found at https://shop.nordstrom.com/.

(1) Gold Mantra Band: I’ve been loving mantra bands lately – this brand has so many more cute mantras!

(2) “I’m Stuck on You” Cactus Pillow: How cute is this pillow?

(3) Sam Edelman PJ Set: These cute PJs would be perfect for Valentine’s Day – eye mask included!

(4) Rose Delight Candle: You can’t ever go wrong with a Diptyque candle, and this one is rose flavored!

(5) Red Velvet Mules: They’re red velvet and they’re mules, it doesn’t get any cuter than that!

(6) Silk Pillowcase: How many times have we heard it’s bad for your hair and skin to sleep on cotton? Too many times. This silk pillowcase is a total beauty hack and absolutely adorable!

St. Peter’s Basilica

If you have the opportunity to go into St. Peter’s Basilica from bottom-to-top, don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity! It’s definitely tiresome, but well worth it.

My tour was early on a Tuesday morning, which meant no one was there. After the tour, I was extremely grateful that we were the only people in there at the time, because it’s not a very spacious place. The earlier you go, the better it will be and the better experience you will gain from the tour!

First off, my group started two levels below floor level. The ceilings were low and it seemed rather humid, but what we saw was a great history lesson.

We looked at preserved tombs and caskets of previous popes. We were not allowed to take pictures there so I do not have any to show you, but I can’t imagine how long it took to create a single casket. They were made of marble, then had carvings of other people or animals on the outside. The carvings were 3-D and we learned that typically the largest carving of a person was the person who was inside of the casket.

For a tomb to be this old, it was very modern for whoever goes to see it today. They now have electric sliding-glass doors to make it easy to walk from point A to point B.

St. Peter’s Basilica is full of chapels that represent different cultures. Each one is very beautiful and diverse from the rest.

After visiting the tombs and chapels, we climbed to the top of the Basilica where you can have a breathtaking view of Rome. There were 550 stair steps, and as you climb to the top the staircases are rather narrow. Even worse, they curve slightly because of the shape of the dome.

After this exhausting trek, the view made up for it.

Mosaic within Basilica
The Pope’s Parliament

Roman Forum

Known for being located in the center of Rome, the Roman Forum is filled with beautiful elements of ancient government buildings.

It’s crazy to think about what this place was like when it used to be part of everyday life.

Elections, celebrations of triumphs, public speeches, campaigns, criminal trials and gladiatorial matches took place here.

Located between the Palatine and Capitoline Hills, the Roman Forum used to be the most celebrated meeting place in the world.

 

 

London, England

This is my all-time favorite place to travel from now on – just wondering when I can go again?

Here are the things I did and absolutely loved:

(1) The Buckingham Palace – We got there early Saturday morning about the time they were changing the guards. This made it a little more crowded, but I suggest going at this time because it’s such a neat process to see! You’ll also feel safe because lots of cops (in their cute BMWs) will be circling the gates.

(2) Hard Rock Cafe, London: I was craving a piece of home (aka a pulled pork sandwich). It’s almost baseball season and that’s all I can think about. Also, the loaded nachos – SO good. Who knew overpriced American food could be so tasty?

(3) Browse the National Gallery – then take a break for tea.

Check out their cute website here: http://www.peytonandbyrne.co.uk/the-national-cafe/

My goal is to have Thanksgiving here at this cafe one day 😉

P.S. – If you’re smarter than me, don’t forget to order a scone while at the cafe!

(4) Have breakfast/break time at The Pastry Parlor:

I had a breakfast sandwich with bacon, egg and cheese with a flat white. I sure will miss flat whites while in Rome! I tried HQ sauce for the first time on the sandwich and am wishing I bought a bottle to bring back with me.

(5) Visit the British Museum:

We went on a Sunday, which was free. Most museums in Europe allow free admission on Sundays!

Even on a rainy day, it was pretty crowded. There are four floors of displays, so make sure you allow yourself plenty of time!

There is also a cafeteria there as well if you’d like to break for tea and a pastry.

(6) Take a walk around Picadilly Square:

Here there is lots of shopping – including an M&M world.

Picadilly Square is basically London’s version of New York’s Times Square. Huge billboards, lots of lights, very crowded, but so much fun!

(7) Amorino Cafe – for gelato and macaroons!

I got dark chocolate with raspberry gelato – it was the perfect combo. I got a raspberry macaroon on top, which had raspberry gelato inside of it!

(8) Visit the Tower of London & the bridge – it’s breathtaking!

(9) Take a look at The Ritz Hotel and how BEAUTIFUL the decor is!

(10) Grab an eclaire at Maitre Choux – and a flat white!

(11) Take a look at the London Eye, and while you’re over there, take a look at Big Ben!

(12) Shop at Westfield Mall – this is the most beautiful mall you will ever step foot into. It’s also the largest mall in the world!

While you’re there, try Nando’s at the food courts. It’s a chain in England, and it tastes so fresh!

You get to pick the flavor / spice of your chicken. I got chicken wings with lemon & herb on them and they were incredible! The garlic bread is super good too. Also, order a side of rice!

This place has such a cute environment, I highly suggest it!

(13) Find a Paul’s – This is a bakery that’s also located in New York.

I got a hot chocolate with a slice of blackberry cobbler. No joke, the crust on this cobbler was to die for!

(14) THE BREAKFAST CLUB! This little restaurant was incredible and had the most fun waiters.

I got a flat white and the Croque Madame D’Arblay – with a fried egg on top!

Highly recommend the breakfast potatoes too, with HQ sauce of course!

If you’re on the go and want a smoothie to take with you, I highly suggest the “Morning Glory.” It has passion fruit, papaya, mango, apple, pineapple, turmeric and cashew nuts.

(15) Don’t forget to take a typical picture at a telephone booth!

(16) Don’t forget to visit the Harry Potter 9 3/4 platform in the metro station. The station is beautiful, and also has lots of places to shop and eat!

(17) HARROD’S – need I say more?

If I had more time, this is what else I would do:

(1) Take a look at Kensington Palace.

(2) Eat brunch at Elan Cafe (the most instagrammable place ever).

(3) Visit Sky Garden (admission is free, and it’s a beautiful rooftop bar).

My suggestions:

(1) The “tube” (metro station) can be a little difficult to navigate, but you’ll get the hang of it. Buy an “oyster card” and just refill it as you need. It will save you LOTS of money on transportation.

(2) Stay at the Wombat Hostel – there are other locations and I will most definitely stay here again. The service is very friendly, and they have a basement hangout area with lots of games, food and drinks.