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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Italy Trip Day 4

You don't want to miss Day 1, Day 2, Day 3

May 7 - Day of our Tuscany Tour (Siena, San Gimignano & Pisa in 1 day)!

We all woke up pretty early so we could be at the Firenze train station by 8:15am. At 8:30 our bus was leaving for our day long tour of Tuscany along with about 50 other people. This was an English speaking tour recommended to me by several people and had very high review on viator where we purchased our tickets.

Our amazing tour guide Stefano was exactly what you would expect a 30 something year old Italian to look like with a wonderful Italian accent while speaking very good English. He gave us history and information on the ride to our first stop - Siena.

In Siena we met up with a Siena tour guide that took us on a mostly uphill walk through Siena's streets. Everyone had headsets so they could hear the guide but didn't have to be within earshot. We saw the world's oldest bank, the site of the famous horse race. We got a tour of the Gothic Cathedral which also used to be a hospital.


Then we had some leisure time where we bought some fruit as a morning snack and then wandered back to the meeting place before checking back in at the Piazzo del Campo.

checking us in with Stefano
 Next we got back on the bus to go to a family run farm and winery. Side note: As we boarded the bus, Eric and I found another couple in our seats where we had left stuff etc. at the suggestion of the tour guide. I nicely told them they were in our seats and they said someone else had taken their seats and would only move if I got the other people to move out of there seats. So now like we are in middle school or something, I have to go tell these other people to get out of their seats so we can have our seats back. Honestly now if you wanted to be particular about where you sat you should have gotten to the Firenze train station sooner to pick out your seats for the day. We had planned that out as Megan and I can get motion sick especially on hilly roads - we don't mess around.

On the way, Stefano talked a little more and we watched a video about the horse race in Siena.  The farm/winery was in the Tuscan countryside with amazing views of the city, San Gimignano, on a hill in the distance. 

We went on a little tour of the vineyards, the barn, and the wine cellar. It was really interesting to learn about the olive oil making.

olive trees

Then we had a delicious lunch of bread with ah-may-zing olive oil, handmade pastas, meats, cheeses, salad, veggies, and almond biscuits dipped in wine for dessert. There were various types of wine on the tables to try with the different courses. Everything came from the farm and winery right there and we were served on farmhouse style long tables.

After lunch we had a picture taking session outside with the hills in the background :)

Next we got back on the bus to climb the hills up to San Gimignano, or as said by Keith with a pirate voice San Germinyarno. Here there was no tour and we just strolled through the streets.

Of course no day was complete without gelato and the shop that won the gelato world cup was just the place to get it. Eric and I had cinnamon and vanilla and it was spectacular and well worth the line we waited in.

Oh and I had to get a pic with the Volterra sign. Alas we were so close.

The final stop was Pisa, you know leaning tower of Pisa. We rode this "choo choo" train into Pisa while hearing about the city and then we had around an hour to roam about.

This was plenty of time as honestly we only wanted to see the tower and take some of those cheesy pictures with it. Any more time would have been overkill.

Did you know vespas started in Pisa?

Then we rode the bus back to Firenze and arrived at 8:30pm to end the tour. At that point we were ready for a late little dinner. We pulled out our guidebook and picked a place sort of on the way back to the apt near the mercato centrale. It was a little restaurant owned by two cousins with a cool display of wine bottles.

Megan and I both had the stuffed chicken (there really didn't seem to be a ton of chicken dishes in Italy so that was nice). As part of Eric's meal he had tomato bread soup which sounded strange and only looked ok but we all tried it and it was fantastic. Who knew?

We walked back to the apt and all slept so well after a fun packed day. We highly recommend the Tuscany tour if you are looking to see a few hill towns and only have a day to do so. Stefano was humorous and really engaging. San Gimignano was my favorite. The tour is a lot of walking but it didn't bother us and meant working up an appetite for yummy Tuscan food and gelato!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Roasted Red Pepper and Green Onion Dip

I was in need of a new dip recipe to take to a neighbor get together and after a little searching I found this at Kraft Recipes. I wanted it to be a cold dip that could go with veggies since we are up to our eyeballs in cucumbers from our garden! Anyone want some cucumbers? When my parents mentioned that cucumber plants tend to run when they grow they weren't kiddin.

Roasted Red Pepper and Green Onion Dip
by Kraft Recipes, makes about 3 cups

7 oz jar roasted red peppers, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped green onions, divided
1 cup light mayo
1 cup red. fat sour cream
packet of Good Seasons Italian dressing mix (I just use half the packet)
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese (fresh or grated in the bag.. not the powdery stuff)

Mix all ingredients together except 1 tablespoon of green onions. Chill for several hours or until ready to serve. Top with that 1 tablespoon of green onions. Serve with crackers, vegetables, etc.

I have already made this twice now for get togethers and both groups loved it! People started eating it before I could even take a picture haha. Even someone who doesn't like peppers very much liked it - the red pepper flavor isn't too strong. Highly recommended especially in this summer heat and very easy to throw together. Let me know what you think!

Linking up at these fun parties:

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Abby's birthday outfit

Our adorable niece Abby turned 4 a couple months ago but we weren't all able to celebrate until a few weeks ago. Like the capris I made for her awhile back, I set out on another sewing adventure to make her a skirt!

I had found the fabrics back in the spring at a huge fabric warehouse here and knew they would be perfect for whatever I decided to make her next. Since my niece is a girly girl a decided on a simple toddler skirt and then I could make or buy some matching tops.

I found a great tutorial here on how to make a simple skirt and it helped me with measurements but I didn't want a double layer skirt especially with her living in Columbia... aka the armpit of the south. So I made it single layer with about 2/3 of the skirt in one fabric and about 1/3 of the skirt in the other.

Her waist is 21 so I cut the fabric 42 inches long and then I wanted the finished skirt to be about 11 inches long (4 of one fabric and 7 of the other) so I added seam allowances to both sides and to where I would be sewing the 2 fabrics together and cut my pieces the appropriate lengths.
First I sewed both fabric together long-ways.

Then I did decorative stitching at the suggestion of my mom and to also hold down the seam allowance on the inside.

Then I sewed the side to each other to make it a circle.

It's starting to look like a real skirt!

Then I did the hemming at the bottom and at the top. For the bottom I did 3/4 and turned that edge under 1/4 for a finished hem of 1/2. For the top I ironed down 1 1/4 and then turned under a 1/4 of that so that would be the casing for the elastic. Remember to leave an opening when you sew the top so that you can slide in your elastic. I mark my opening with pins so I don't forget to leave it open (2nd picture below).

After putting in the elastic you sew your elastic ends together at the desired length and then sew up the opening. I found that to be the hardest part since the skirt is all cinched up at that point so it can be hard to get it flat under your presser foot.

Then you can even out your elastic and you have a finish skirt!!

I used my silhouette heat transfer vinyl to add graphics to a white tee to match. And I also bought her a little pink tank top from target for a different look.

She absolutely loved her gifts

Isn't she just so priceless with her cheesy grin. She must be taking smiling lessons from her uncle Keith :)

Oh and we also got her a new bathing suit. I had the best time picking this out at target.. they were all so cute! This girl seriously love the pool and is doing a great job at learning to swim. (There's that Keith square smile for sure)

So the skirt sewing adventure was even easier than the capris and I had more fun making it since I'm a skirt kinda girl too. AND Abby had a very special 4th birthday celebration. I can't wait to go get some more fun fabric to make her another skirt!!

Linking up at these fun parties:
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