Adventure Tuesday // il Pizzaiuolo

italy

Let’s face it – about 90% of these posts about Italy are going to revolve around food. I can’t help it! It’s just too good to ignore. I have to tell you about the amazing meals we had. And this restaurant.. it’s a gem. A favorite is putting it lightly! 

italy-grid-pizzaiuolo2010

When Kallie, Natalie and I went to Florence in 2010, this restaurant was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. In fact, the night we went there has become almost legendary! Natalie randomly found it on a website of the best restaurants in Florence, so we trekked across the city to check it out. There was a long wait (always a good sign!); we put our names down and skipped off to enjoy a glass in a nearby piazza while we waited. Finally our table was ready and we excitedly ordered a pizza each (and more wine, obviously). When the pizzas arrived, we were immediately transported straight to heaven. It was incredible. Perfect doughy and crispy crust, flavorful but simple sauce, and excellent topping combos (to this day, arugula on pizza is one of my favorite things ever). We finished every bite, which was a total feat. After dinner there was a small limoncello incident (namely me drinking too much of it because Kallie and Natalie wouldn’t man up), and I think there was also some tiramisu? Regardless, we left stuffed in the best way possible, with a reservation in the books for the following night (and we didn’t even feel a little bit bad about it!). 

Needless to say, when Casey and I arrived in Florence, dinner at il Pizzaiuolo was at the tippy top of my list of things to do. I couldn’t wait to get back – not only for the best pizza ever, but also to prove to Casey that it would live up to the hype. 

italy-pizzaiuolo2013

And it didn’t disappoint. The pizzas were just as heavenly as I remembered, and we loved watching the pizza makers toss dough behind the counter. I tried to convince him to go again for second time, but it didn’t end up working out. I guess we’ll just have to go back! 

Friends, if you are ever in Florence, definitely get yourself over to the Santa Croce area and have a meal at il Pizzaiuolo. You won’t be disappointed! 

Adventure Tuesday // The City of My Heart

at-italy1-firenze

Do you have a place in the world that you love more than anywhere else? Maybe your hometown, or the place you went to college, or maybe even where you live now (lucky!), or perhaps there is somewhere in the world that you feel completely, inexplicably drawn to, even if you’ve never been there before? For me, that place is Florence, Italy. 

italy-grid-2008

I studied abroad in Florence when I was in college and oh man, it completely captured my heart. Italy as a whole is amazing and incredible and wonderful. I loved everything about my summer there – the cobblestone streets, the open air markets, the tomatoes, the gelato (oh my god, the gelato!), the language, the history, the people, the evening passeggiata, drafty stone churches, wine, leather sandals, nutella for breakfast (and lunch and dinner), the museums (oh, the museums!), the scenery – everything. But there was something about Florence that just drew me. It had an indescribable brand of magic that spoke directly to my soul.  By the time I got home, I was already trying to figure out how to get back.

italy-grid-2010

Fast forward two years – my sister was studying abroad in France, and I was about to graduate college and freaking out about what to do with my life. I offhandedly suggested visiting/backpacking in Europe after graduation to my friend Natalie and she totally made it happen. We spent two weeks city bopping, including an amazing 3-4 day stint in Florence (which included the best meal of the whole trip – in fact, we ate there two nights in a row and didn’t even feel a little bit bad about it!). 

Casey and I talked about an Italian honeymoon when we got married three years ago, but ultimately decided that it wasn’t the right time (due to both a lack of vacation time and funds). I was disappointed, but we promised each other that we would get there someday. 

at-italy1-guidebooks

Finally, about a year and a half ago, I got so itchy to get back to Italy that I started dreaming about it. I must have read Under the Tuscan Sun about a billion times that winter. On a whim, I bought a bunch of guidebooks and started pouring through them. I mentioned to Casey that we could charter a sailboat and sail the Mediterranean and he was immediately onboard (what?!! ahhhhhh!!). We realized that we could totally swing it if we went in shoulder season (late September) and booked our lodging through Airbnb (instead of staying at hotels). Casey even convinced two of our friends to meet us on the boat (for backup/safety). It was actually going to happen! Picture me jumping up and down and dancing around and singing/yelling and then making a thousand and one packing lists.

italy-grid-2013

So last September, we did it – we spent the most amazing two weeks traveling in Italy. I know it’s kind of weird to write about it now, since we’re smack dab in the middle of a brand new adventure, but I want to make sure that my favorite parts of this trip are recorded forever. 

I can’t wait to share the amazing little details and highlights that made this trip so incredible. Today I just wanted to share a quick overview of my love affair with bella Firenze and a brief itinerary that shows where/how we spent our time. I’m going to share more in depth stories every Tuesday – so come back and check it out! Reliving it has been almost as much fun as actually going. :)

I hope that this inspires you to plan a trip to your favorite place, or to that place you’ve always wanted to go! It’s possible! Take the time! Go!! Do it!!


WEEK ONE // MAINLAND

Sunday, September 15 – Tuesday, September 17
Rome

Tuesday, September 17 – Friday, September 20
Florence & Tuscany

Friday, September 20
Livorno

Saturday, September 21
Ferry to Olbia (Sardinia) 

WEEK TWO // SAILING

Sunday, September 22 – Friday, September 27
The Mediterranean
(Sardinia: Santa Teresa, La Maddelena, Palau // Corsica: Bonifacio)

Friday, September 27
Bus to Olbia

Saturday, September 28
Ferry to Civitavecchia // Bus to Rome

Sunday, September 29
Fly home :( 

27 x 27

27x27

Last year, I joined the birthday bucket list bandwagon. I have always loved making yearly goals and resolutions, but I realized that I love them so much more when they correspond to my birthday – a day all about me! 😉 When better to do some reflecting and figure out what you would like to accomplish during your next trip around the sun?

So! Here is the list of 27 things I would like to do before my birthday next year:

  1. Update kaciedesmond.com
  2. Revamp blog layout/design
  3. Run the numbers and make some big self-employment goals
  4. Become fluent in Spanish
  5. Volunteer at the art museum
  6. Invent three new traditions
  7. Go kayaking in the bioluminescent bay
  8. Organize/host a girls weekend/trip
  9. Catch a wave
  10. Take a Puerto Rican cooking class
  11. Learn to salsa dance
  12. Blog twice a week
  13. Explore town and find a favorite coffee shop
  14. Try stand up paddle boarding
  15. Go to a baseball game
  16. Finish the office
  17. Run 275 miles
  18. Drive a convertible
  19. Doodle/sketch/draw for at least an hour every week
  20. Create a signature cocktail
  21. Get our photos into albums
  22. Research grad school (is it worth it? take GRE?)
  23. Sign up for a “fun” class/lessons
  24. Explore the caves in Rio Camuy
  25. Complete five sewing projects
  26. Dream/plan our next adventure
  27. Finish paying off my student loans

This year is about tiny moments and big dreams. It’s figuring out what celebrations and holidays look like when we’re away from home and family and weather. It’s diving deep into island culture and soaking up life here and now. It’s digging in and doing the work and chiseling away at my definition of self employment. Let’s do this, 26. I feel like I’ve been waiting for you. 

26 x 26 // Recap!

Today is my 26th birthday! Last year I set 26 goals that I hoped to accomplish before today. Here’s how it turned out:

  1. Sign up for an art class (or two!)
    Pottery Class
  2. Organize and back up all files
  3. Read 26 books
    1. Perfect by Judith McNaught
    2.—8. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
    9. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
    10.—12. Fifty Shades series by E L James
    13. The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
    14. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
    15. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
    16. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
    17. The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank
    18. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
    19. Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
    20. The Art Forger by BA Shapiro
    21. The Witness by Nora Roberts
    22. Paradise by Judith McNaught
    23. The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett
    24.—30. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
    31. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
    32. A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
    33. This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
    34.—36. Divergent/Insurgent/Allegiant by Veronica Roth
    37.—39. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
    40. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith/JK Rowling
    41. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
    42. Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor
    43. Wild by Cheryl Strayed
    44. Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloane
    45.—47. Inn Boonsboro Trilogy by Nora Roberts
    48. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
    49. The Collector by Nora Roberts
    50.—55. Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan
    56.—59. Heroes of Olympus (1-4) by Rick Riordan
    60. The Magicians by Lev Grossman
    61. The Magician King by Lev Grossman
    62. Delancey by Molly Wizenberg
    63. Inferno by Dan Brown
    64. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
    65. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
    66. The Giver by Lois Lowry
    67. Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
    68. Messenger by Lois Lowry
    69. Son by Lois Lowry
    70. The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman
  4. Go to Italy
  5. Complete 26 personal, “just for fun” projects
    1. Wings Over Vermont
    2. Elephant in the Room
    3. Pottery!
    4. Un-beal-ievable
    5. Decorating Our New Place
    6. Bookworm Bridal Shower Invites
    7. Do Your Best Banner
    8. Reading Inspired Art
    9. Andiamo Block Print
    10. Gold Foil Valentines
    11. Soap as Me Card
    12. Awesome Posters
    13. Love You – Said it First Print
    14. Power Through It Koozies & Tees
    15. Surprise Party invites
    16.-17. Christmas Cards x2
    18. Adventure2013 Minibooks
    19. Moving Announcements
    20. Birthday Calendar
    21. Cornell Mafia, et al Buttons
    22. FashionABLE Design Contest
    23. I’m Just Not Feeling It Card
    24.-25. Mothers Day Cards
    26. Fathers Day Card
  6. Take a piano lesson (I have always wanted to learn to play)
  7. Blog (at least) once a week
  8. Refresh my website and update my portfolio. Related: jazz up this space too!
  9. Complete 75% of things on our seasonal lists
  10. Have a conversation in Italian
  11. Research and start Italian citizenship process
  12. Start a daily journal
  13. Shake up my fitness routine (Learn a new sport. Do a real pull up. Run more races. Take a yoga class. Find something new & get out of the post-marathon slump)
    Triathlon // PiYo // ExerStreak2013
  14. Buy a new couch
  15. Floss
  16. Find a hairdresser and get a cut that I love
  17. Be brave and lay on the floor of the Sistene Chapel (I wanted so badly to do this when I studied abroad, but was scared out of my mind to actually do it! This time, it’s happening.)
  18. Visit/host friends who don’t live in town
  19. Host a girls/craft night
  20. Run a sub 6:30 mile (my high school best!)
    I got close – does 7:20 count?
  21. (Finally) See a shooting star
  22. Visit a National Park
    El Yunque counts, right?
  23. Surprise someone (in a big–but good!–way)
    A surprise party for Mom & Dad’s Anniversary
  24. Quit my weekly (twice a week if I’m being honest) Starbucks habit
    (moving to a place where there is no Starbucks totally nipped that one in the bud!)
  25. Organize/file paperwork and create an emergency kit
  26. Do something spontaneous (I am terrible at this. I like to have a plan!)
    We moved to Puerto Rico! That is totally spontaneous.

 


 

I didn’t really expect to hit all of them, so 71% is totally good with me! The purpose of the exercise is to put my goals out there – if I say them “out loud” they are so much more likely to happen! I loved having this list to turn back to when I was looking for a personal project to complete, and I already made next year’s list (which I will post tomorrow). Cheers to another amazing year!

I’m Working On // Reading Inspired Art + A Free Download!

iwo-bookart-1One of the most exciting things about our new place is that it has an extra bedroom – ie dedicated office space for me!! I have been working on whipping this room into shape – buying furniture, hanging things on the wall… the fun stuff!

I’m super excited to not only have my own workspace (A pink desk! A wide open floor to lay out projects! A door to close when I’m in the middle of something and don’t want to clean up!) but also to have a spot for a little reading nook. Our corner shelves and most of our books ended up in this room, and I wanted to use the books as inspiration for some fun, simple, and inexpensive wall art. 

First up is this humorous, “I like big books and I cannot lie” print. I saw this saying on a bookstore tote bag and immediately knew it needed to be hanging up in my office. 

I set some type in a minty green circle in Illustrator, and printed it out. If I had big enough paper, this would have been the only step, but in order to fill a 12×12 frame I had laying around, I cut out the circle and pasted it onto a piece of spare mat board. I cleaned the glass and BOOM. Awesome and hilarious – it makes me smile every time I look at it. 

iwo-bookart-3

This next piece is (believe it or not) even geekier. As I was re-reading Harry Potter for the 297852930645034th time, I realized how awesome the drop caps are at the beginning of each chapter. I wondered if I could find an “M” (for our last name) or a “K” for my first name and cleverly crop it. 

I paged through several books and found a couple of “M’s” and one “K” – but the “K” was in the word “Kreacher” which… just… didn’t do it for me. So “M” it was! I took a couple pictures with my phone (this would totally be better if I had a scanner and scanned it in, but since I printed it so small, the quality didn’t matter as much).

Then I brought it into Photoshop, adjusted the levels a bit and cropped it to fit another frame I had on hand. Voila! Subtle HP fan art. 

iwo-bookart-2

I know you’re all dying to have such amazing art grace your walls too, so here is a free download of the “big books” art – it’s ready for printing and framing in any 8×10 frame. High fives to all my fellow book nerds! 

PS I turned all of our books around on a whim the other day. It’s definitely not the most practical, but it is a bit less distracting… not sure how long they’ll stay this way :)

In the Works

desk-7.7.2014This is what my desk looks like today. I finally feel like I’m getting into the groove of working alone/for myself. I’m feeling proud and happy that my to-do list is both full and fulfilling. Finally! Here’s a small taste of what’s happening around here.

Prepping a new brand for launch this fall/winter!

Wrapping up a fun side project with Casey that will hopefully launch next winter (we aren’t allowed to share too many details but I will definitively say this: it’s NOT a baby #notmenotnow).

Meeting with my (fingers crossed) first local client.

Working with a new (to me) web platform for a friend’s new business.

Training (finally) for a sprint tri next month (gulp!) 

Trying to be more creative with our vegetable intake.

Missing Vermont a lot after a slew of sunset/summer/July 4th posts hit my instagram feed last weekend.

Hoping to get my sewing machine out this week – I have big plans for pillows in the living room, plus a quilt to finish.

Looking for some new reading material. Any book suggestions?

Sketching lots of new website layouts.

Best + Worst // Puerto Rico

I know, I know, I live in paradise! It’s amazing! And, for the most part, it is.

But… there are some things that I can’t stand. And some things that I love more than others!
I thought it would be fun to share my favorite and least favorite things about living in Puerto Rico (so far).

best-worst-pr

Best

5. Mangoes. Casey and I are totally obsessed with them and have at least one almost every night for dessert. They are so fresh and sweet and delicious!

4. The People. In general, Puerto Ricans are some of the friendliest, nicest, most open people I have ever met. I can’t tell you the number of times someone has stopped us – on the street, on the beach, at the store – just to strike up a conversation. They are so inclusive and joyful!

3. The Coffee. Admittedly, the coffee in restaurants here has not been the greatest (someone was telling us that it is made with condensed milk? Gross). But the beans! They are so fresh and local and gloriously inexpensive – we’ve been giving our french press a workout! I’ve also been cold-brewing iced coffee which is super delicious too. I barely even miss Starbucks – which is truly saying something.

2. The Beaches. Oh man, there is something about spending Sundays at the beach that is so relaxing and vacation-like. I love ending/starting the week in such a zen-like state of mind.

1. The Sun. We’ve been here for two months and it’s only rained maybe a handful of times – always in the afternoon and never more than an hour or two at a time. We can’t get over it! I’m soaking up as much vitamin D as possible – I’m sure I’ve been deficient most of my life. :) 


Worst

5. Driving. It’s the worst! Everyone is totally unpredictable and completely erratic. Brake lights and blinkers rarely work. No one drives the speed limit… and even those are not definitive as speed limits are changed for construction and then never changed back – so you’ll see signs that say 65, 50, and 40 within a mile or two of one another and have no idea which (if any!) is correct. There are no rules – the left lane is sometimes the slow lane, people pull off the highway unexpectedly and randomly gun back on without so much as a glance at oncoming traffic, you have to fight to merge when you enter the highway. If you have someplace to be, prepare to give your gas pedal a workout and weave like a NASCAR driver with a chip on his shoulder. 

4. Gas Stations. There’s no such thing as pay at the pump here. I didn’t realize exactly how convenient and amazing that tiny feature is until it was not an option. I guess I am showing just how spoiled/young I am – I never even remember my parents having to go inside to pay for gas! It’s like the dark ages! :) 

3. The Library. I’ve been reading like crazy (going to the beach every weekend demands a good novel or two!) and so procuring a library card seemed like an excellent idea (if for no other reason than the detrimental effects of Amazon’s horrible wonderful “One-Click Purchase” on our budget). However, after browsing the (admittedly and obviously limited) English book section at the library and bringing my books to the circulation desk to check them out, I was informed that, “Oh no, books can’t leave the library.” Um, what?!! 

2. Groceries. After reading a lot about other Caribbean islands, I don’t think that Puerto Rico is that bad. However, after living in Vermont, the Kale Capital of the East and all-around healthy/whole/non-GMO/all-natural/farm-fresh/CSA/Hug Your Farmer-land, I am shocked by the lack of green vegetables and “all-natural” options at the store. I didn’t think twice about having ketchup free of high fructose corn syrup or peanut butter made from only peanuts and salt or low-sodium chicken stock when I lived in Vermont (or even when I lived in CNY and had a Wegmans!), but now, now it’s like, pick the least evil of them all. Peanut butter with hydrogenated oils but no high-fructose? Perfect. Ketchup with high-fructose as the last ingredient? Well, at least it’s not the first. OMG THEY HAVE KALE TODAY BUY IT ALL!!! 

1. GPS/Google Maps… does not work here. Sometimes you’ll get lucky, but most of the time, Google tries to send me somewhere near San Juan. It’s like the rest of the island doesn’t exist. 

I’m Working On // Bookworm Bridal Shower Invites

It’s no big secret that I love to read. Books are my favorite. So when my friend Beth asked for help with some invitations for her sister’s book-themed bridal shower, I was like:

And then I got to work! This was a super fun project and the final design came out so sweet. 

Beth, this was a blast to work on – I hope your sister had a wonderful shower!

On Change

cliff-3

In general, I am terrible with change. I need time to wrap my head around the next steps/possible outcomes and have to let the wheels spin for awhile before my equilibrium rights itself and I come to terms with what’s happening.

If big life changes are like cliff jumping, here’s how I roll: I climb up to the edge, fully enjoying the climb, loving every minute of getting there, psyched by the challenge and being able to prove that I CAN DO THIS. I toe the line, looking out over the water, and, realizing how high the drop is, I just… freeze. I can’t go back. I can’t go forward. I just have to hang out there a bit and psych myself up to actually jump. All the while my brain is spinning out of control – what if it’s not deep enough at the bottom and I break my neck? What if there’s a stick/log floating in the water and I smash into it? What if I forget how to swim? Are you sure I can’t turn back? No, climbing down would be way more dangerous (not to mention embarrassing!) than just jumping. Jump! Do it! Go! But what if.. what if… what if.

Finally, usually after rolling through every possible (and sometimes impossible) scenario, I just throw myself off the ledge, let out a huge whoop/girly scream, and plunge into the water. Once I kick my way to the surface, I feel exhilarated, invincible, incredible… ready to take on anything! Ready to do it again – maybe from higher up next time! 

This is how my brain works. I have to roll through all of the plausible outcomes, all the while knowing that jumping is the only option. I don’t know if it’s mostly stubbornness or fear, but I have somewhat come to terms with the way that I am. Armed with this knowledge, I can sometimes speed up or even ignore the process… or at least trick myself into thinking later. Other times though, I have to just let my brain work through all the noise. I have to be patient and sit tight and wait for that surge of energy to whoop with glee and fling myself off of the edge. 

Here’s where I am right now: I am on the ledge… actually I think in this case I wasn’t ready and got pushed off of it and am dangling over the precipice with one hand stubbornly holding on. This move, quitting a job I loved, leaving a place I loved, saying goodbye to dear friends… it’s a huge leap. And it happened so fast! One minute we were freezing our butts off in a never ending Vermont winter and the next we were getting sunburned and trying to learn Spanish. Needless to say, my brain is still trying to catch up. 

Working for myself is something that was always in the back of my mind (I think that most creatives dream or think of this) but never in a defined manner. I really did love working at Select – the pressures, the collaboration, the deadlines, the schedule, the work itself! So the idea of freelancing or starting a business was pushed completely out of my mind. Besides, it was drilled into us in college that we needed experience to be a successful freelancer – is three years enough? Will people hire me? How do I/should I present myself? Should I make things – like an Etsy shop or Big Cartel? Should I just put my work out there and do whatever people will hire me for? A combination of those things? 

All of those questions are swirling around, but the biggest one, the one that appears in big, shouty capitals is: WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO?

And that is the biggest adjustment of all. I am so used to people telling me what do – in college there were assignments and credits to earn and a portfolio to build, at work there were clients and deadlines and bosses and teams. Now there is just me.

So I’m removing one clenched finger at a time from the edge of that cliff. Loosening my hold bit by bit, learning to trust myself and my instincts, getting ready to fall. Because I know that once I do, it’s going to be awesome. 


PS Cliff jumping photo from Summer 2012, Lake Champlain, VT. Despite my hilarious tan lines, it was one of the best summers of my life. (Photo by my wonderful friend, Mega.)