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Italy Vacation - Part I - Tuscany

Extraordinary Living, Travel & Leisure

For those of us who love to travel, when visiting a new place, we hope to get the most out of our time and money. Undoubtedly, social media is a convenient and helpful resource that can make a huge difference on a traveler’s wallet and itinerary. Personally, I refuse to travel before reading the typically-reliable reviews, on websites such as tripadvisor, of those who have already “been there and done that”.

Chestertown Historic House Tour

Extraordinary Living, Travel & Leisure

Yesterday, I visited my first Chestertown Historic House Tour, in Pennsylvania. Scott’s Godfather, Uncle Curt, bought us tickets and graciously volunteered to coordinate and chaperone our day. (I must say he is as good if not better in coordinating a field trip than I am, and I was a teacher for twelve years!)

It was one of the most extraordinary days Scott and I have had in a long time. For me, it was a great opportunity to get to know Uncle Curt a little better. For Scott and I both, we desperately needed a break from and inspiration for finishing up the final phase of The House on High Street.

The past few weeks have been very hectic and stressful. I guess it’s normal when you commit to the restoration of a monstrous, 200 year old eye sore, that you will go through phases of “I can’t believe this is happening” to “Why the HAYLLLLL did you talk me into this?”  While most of our experience has been smooth, Scott and I have been challenged, stretched, and tested through this entire process.

The good news is that we learned more about compromise, sacrifice, perseverance, sharing the load, and NOT GIVING UP…EVEN IF IT’S HARD. We appreciate the friends and family members, like Uncle Curt, who have encouraged us to keep our eyes on the prize.

We could have never done this without doing it together. For every hour Scott has spent supervising, lifting, carrying, mowing, hauling, and running around (he’s probably been to Lowe’s and Home Depot over 300 times)…I have either been by his side, making everything easier for him at home (making sure a delicious dinner is on the table, his clothes are washed, his lunch and snacks are in the pantry, etc), or doing most of the behind the scenes things like this…


There have been many times when Scott or I wanted to call it quits, but thankfully, something always occurred to give us just enough encouragement and motivation to persevere. Yesterday, was one of those occurrences…


(On the first Saturday in October) the celebrated historic houses of Chestertown open their doors! This is one of the oldest regional house tours; join visitors…as they stroll through the streets of a community named by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the nation’s Distinctive Destinations, touring a dozen or more historic houses and properties. (Click here for Reference.)

So, I’ll share the day with you in photos. At one point my phone battery died, so I wasn’t able to capture the last few homes we toured. I also did not get photos of one of my favorite architect’s work. (Peter Zimmerman) But thankfully, I was able to take photos of dinner (at the Kimberton Innsince the very kind owner allowed me to borrow his phone charger. Talk about service.

2014-10-04 09.09.50
As you can see “Chester County Day” has been celebrated for 74 years. Uncle Curt has been attending for the past 20 years. He purchased our tickets and sent them to us along with a map and this paper in the mail a few days prior to the event.
Uncle Curt and Scott both reading the map en route to one of the houses.  Aren’t they adorable?
This was our first house. Uncle Curt’s favorite and my second favorite. It was definitely the coziest.
There were at least a dozen “nook” areas in this home to make you just want to curl up with cup of cocoa and a good book.
...And this house had hundreds of books to choose from!
…And this house had hundreds of books to choose from!


Scott said he would love this office. I would, too, actually!
Uncle Curt
Colonial Wall Sconce
Colonial Wall Sconce

Let me pause here. There were only a few homes that I was able to take some photographs. The daughters that were raised in this particular home were so lovely and gracious. I gave them my card in hopes that they will send me some more photos to share with you , on LE Woman, in the near future.

Here I am with Uncle Kurt. The day was warm...then rainy...then perfect...then cold!
Here I am with Uncle Curt. The day was warm…then rainy…then perfect…then cold!

We saw a LOT of these…



And, these…

No wonder why these are so expensive even at the auctions!


And, these…

Uncle Curt playing the part!
Remember this image ; )

And these…



Remember this image, too.

We visited old homes that were rustic colonial…

Rustic Colonial

When we were in this kitchen yesterday with several other folks, the volunteer was telling us that the floors were original…and the walls were original..and the ceiling was original.  I asked if the radiators were original.  What can I say? I just love an opportunity to embarrass my husband.

We saw homes that were traditional and elegant…

Traditional Elegant

Tangent: During the past few months, Scott and I have transitioned our style (sconces, furnishings, fixtures, etc.) from a rustic colonial to a more elegant feel. While we love the cozy Colonial look, the House on High Street is too tall and stately. Once we got into the interior decorating we realized we needed furnishings and fixtures that were more grand and ornate. We have already incorporated several period pieces that are shown in these pictures. You’ll need to wait and see…

Scott loved the HUMONGOUS BARNS (that were also used for game rooms, storing fancy cars, and hosting parties)


Don't get used to this, Hubbs!
Don’t get used to this, Hubbs!


I love the old stone walls.  Reminds me of the Ice House at The House on High Street.
I love the old stone walls. Reminds me of the Ice House at The House on High Street.
Horses EVERYWHERE in Chesterfield/Kent County!
Horses EVERYWHERE in Chesterfield/Kent County!

At one point when we were walking towards the front entrance of a house, I hear, “Rachel??”  I’m thinking, “Oh dear. What have I done, now?!” It was a teacher (or course) that I worked with a few years ago (a beautiful teacher). How ironic that we live in neighboring towns, but we bump into one another an hour away from home? That was a nice surprise. It was also nice to learn that she likes to read LE Woman. Thank you, Felice. You are looking mahvelous!

This reminds me of the brick floor we'd like to put down in the Ice House at The House on High Street.
This reminds me of the brick floor we’d like to put down in the Ice House at The House on High Street.
Many of the homes (Including The House on High Street) have a wooden spiral staircase for the Servants' quarters.
Many of the homes (Including The House on High Street) have a wooden spiral staircase for the Servants’ quarters.
Common Landscape of Chestertown/Kent County
Common Landscape of Chestertown/Kent County

Our day concluded with a wonderful dinner at the Kimberton Inn.


Uncle Kurt brought a friend of the family with us who only wanted to be in one photo!  She and I hit it off immediately!
Uncle Curt brought a friend of the family with us who only wanted to be in one photo! She and I hit it off immediately!
The Inn was charming, elegant, and cozy!
The Inn was charming, elegant, and cozy!
How Romantic!
How Romantic!


Our second night in a row (and my second time ever) eating lamb chops! HmmBoy!
Our second night in a row (and my second time ever) eating lamb chops! HmmBoy!
Crabcake cooked to perfection with the perfect balance of crab and savory filling!
Crabcake cooked to perfection with the perfect balance of crab and savory filling!
Creme Brulee
Creme Brulee
Raspberry Cheesecake - Heavenly!
Raspberry Cheesecake – Heavenly!
Dark Chocolate Mousse Cake.  Scott's Fav!
Dark Chocolate Mousse Cake. Scott’s Fav!

Overall, yesterday was an extraordinary day! Everyone needs to take a field trip from time to time, to break up the monotony, spend some quality time with loved ones, learn something new, eat something new, and/or recharge your battery. (Not your phone battery, silly!) I sincerely hope this post encourages you to look up something fun and NEW to do with a loved one, soon!

EXTRA Ordinarily Yours




***Thank you, Uncle Curt for thinking of us, yesterday! It means the world to Scott and me that you have taken such an interest in our endeavor and more importantly you have supported this venture and given us the hope we needed to finish the final phase. It shall never be forgotten. May God bless you. We love you. Rachel Maria & Scott  


The Special Occasion Countdown

Extraordinarily Yours, Travel & Leisure

I’m wondering if you can relate to this scenario in some form or fashion. I’m talking about the Special Occasion Countdown.  How it should go followed by what typically happens.

So, this is how it should go, for women, anyway…

Up to 1 Week Prior
* Select or Buy your dress in the size that you hope to be on the day of the event! 

1-Week Prior
* Get your roots touched up
* Start eating as little as possible!
* Exfoliate!
* Make sure you have the right shoes, handbag, accessories, or BUY THEM!
* Make sure your husband’s clothes are ready and persuade him to get his hair cut NOW!

Day Before
* Mani. Pedi.
* Buy the card.

Day Of
*Wash, Shave, Tweeze, and Moisturize…like EVERYWHERE!
* Husband should: Shave, Have gas in the car; CASH on hand, maybe even a quick car wash if necessary.
* Set or curl hair. Style.
* Apply Makeup.
* Get dressed. Add accessories, deodorant, lipstick, and perfume.
* Grab the card, put your necessities in your bag.
* Use the extra time to capture a few photo memories of your hard work!

Am I forgetting anything? This is how it should happen, right?


And, this is what really happens.

I’ll use this past weekend as an example. Scott and I had a wedding in New York. It was a Sunday afternoon wedding. An outdoor ceremony overlooking the Hudson River, and an indoor reception; Cocktail attire. The bride was a girl I nannied in college. I remained very close to the whole family, and so this was a very exciting event. We would drive up and check into a hotel one day prior so that we could spend time with my college friends on Saturday evening and get to the wedding by 11am on Sunday morning.

Ok, so here we go…

Several weeks prior – I book the hotel. Scott and I go shopping for a dress. (Remember, I am one size bigger than the clothes that I have in my closet!) We find a few that we like (I never thought I’d admit this, but I always get Scott’s approval because he is like AWESOME at picking things out for me.) Anyway, we decide to wait to purchase. One, I am hopeful that I will be at least 5 pounds leaner by the wedding. Two, we are house poor. And, I’m thinking, New dress? Or, new lamp?

A week before – I happen to pass a sidewalk sale with a lovely, simple dress for FIVE DOLLARS. It was a size six. I can get into a size six, but these days it is uncomfortable. REALLY UNCOMFORTABLE. I think, what the heck. It’s five bucks. I have nothing to lose. I buy the dress.

I go home that night and ask Scott to help me zip it up. Ok, I just can’t even put that scenario into words. I was laughing and crying at the same time, but we got it zippered.

“Hey, it looks cute on you, Rach!”

Success! I am feeling very proud of myself. And, wouldn’t you know, I had shoes, handbag, and accessories to match! (I think this was the first time I didn’t have to buy anything, over five bucks anyway, for a wedding.)

I decide from that day through the day of the event I would really cut back on the calories. Ok, stop laughing. I did manage to lose a few pounds at that point!

A few days prior – Scott and I go shopping for pants that would match his brown tweed sports coat, as he did not have anything that matched. We head over to Nordstrom Rack and we not only find pants that Scott likes, but also we have them hemmed right then and there. Another success. His outfit is ready to go. We are doing great!

Later that evening, at home, I specifically remember telling Scott to GOOGLE whether or not he should wear a tie for a daytime cocktail attire event. I figured that was something he could figure out for himself prior to the wedding.

The next day, I get a haircut and root touch up.

1 Day Before – (We actually did this 2 days before since we were traveling and checking into a hotel.)

I pack. I fix the clasp at the top of the zipper on my dress. I iron the belt. I get all of my makeup and hair accessories ready. (It’s very risky getting ready at a hotel. You never know what you’ll need from home!) I make a list and try to remember everything I may need…even scissors. (Don’t we always need them at some point?) I’m feeling pretty organized.

Afternoon Manicure & Pedicure.

I lay out Scott’s wardrobe. No tie. That’s for him to figure out.

Next Day (Travel Day) – 1pm  – We stop in the town where the hotel is located for a quick stroll and lunch. “Oh my gosh. Gyros! We need to eat Gyros!” They were so good! I think it was at this point that I forgot the whole eat very little until the wedding thing…

BEST Gyros at Lefteris Gyros in Tarrytown, NY
BEST Gyros at Lefteris Gyros in Tarrytown, NY

3pm – “Ice cream! We need to get a little ice cream!”

4pm – We check into the hotel. By the way, I am dealing with a head cold and menstrual cramps because everyone knows that my period will fall on the day of a special event no matter what day of the month it is held!

“Let’s relax before dinner, babe, and take advantage of this beautiful room!”
“Zzzzzzz” Nothing like sleeping after a big meal. This would be the first Saturday that Scott and I nap since we bought The House on High Street! It was just heavenly.

6pm“Wake up, babe!” We get ready to meet my friends from college for dinner, in town. We are 15 minutes late.

We have a GREAT TIME reuniting with old friends! Cocktails. Dinner. Desserts. (Obviously, I forget that I have a dress to fit into!) We even run into the bride and groom out with their families! It was such a great night.

Dinner at Prohibition River in Nyack.
Dinner at Prohibition River in Nyack.
Desserts at The Hudson House in Nyack, New York.  BEST DESSERTS EVER!
Desserts at The Hudson House in Nyack, New York. BEST DESSERTS EVER!

11:30pm – We are back at the hotel, getting ready for bed.

Morning Of – 7:45am – Knock. Knock. “Room Service” (I ordered a pot of decaf just to help inspire me to get up before rushing to get ready.) The coffee tastes like watered down tea. Scott makes the coffee in the room, and I call Room Service to let them know the coffee was awful so they would deduct it from our bill.

We make a plan to be in the car between 10:00-10:15am.  It was about 17 minutes away.  And we wanted to get there before the ceremony began at 11:00am.

8:30am – I get in the shower. Scott goes down to the hotel pool to give me some space to get ready. Here is when I like to play my music and hog the entire counter and mirror.  I actually enjoy getting dolled up, since it doesn’t happen very often.

9:00am – I begin making curls with my fat curling iron. My hair is curling beautifully. Of course, I never know what I’m going to do with it. I just start with curls and then I tease it a bit and pull it back in some way…or stick a hair accessory in there, somehow. I have a LOT OF HAIR. It takes a long time to do my hair.

Next thing I know. Scott comes back. It is 9:40am! “Oh, crap!”

9:45am – Scott gets in the shower. I move on to my make-up. Thankfully, I can do this in record time. Scott gets dressed. Now, I am trying to pull my hair back in a way that looks soft and pretty. “What the? Why is that piece going that way? Scott, can you help me?”

Scott proceeds to help me tie my hair back. Of course, I forgot a mirror, so I could check the back of my head. I realize that it looks kind of…flat.  I am preoccupied with the clock.  And, I’m starting to perspire.

“Is the air conditioning on?”

I try to make more curls to liven it up, but it turns out that my hair was foretelling the weather – which turned out very hot and humid. It’s as if it knew that it would end up flat and sticky no matter how much effort I put into it.

“It’s 9:58, babe.”

“I KNOW!” “Can you start packing everything up, please?”  (Since when does Scott care about being on the dot?)

I go to get dressed. “DAMN IT! I didn’t bring my Spanx!” This is a necessity when you barely fit into a dress, especially after a day out, eating!

The next few minutes were a blur. Somehow, we make it to the car at exactly the time we had planned (with enough time to get there a good 10 minutes before the ceremony). I am not happy with my hair at all. But, my make up is fine. The dress miraculously zipped up. I didn’t forget the card. And we would be on time. I tried to breathe a sigh of relief, but I couldn’t exhale fully in that dress.

En Route to Event

After the first few minutes in the car, I finally look at Scott. “What on earth did you do to your hair?”

Ladies, do you feel me here? Am I the only one that doesn’t even check on my husband until we are in the car?

“What’s wrong with it? Give it a minute. It has to relax!”
(Big sigh.) “Ok, whatever. Do I look ok?”

“You look beautiful.” (Gosh, I love him!)

“Babe, I’m hungry. I need to stop to get something to eat, first. 

“WHAAAAAT???” (Ok, now I hate him!)

“I have to eat! I can’t wait until the end of the ceremony!”

“And you couldn’t have eaten all that time I was getting ready at the hotel? You could have given me that extra 10 minutes to fix this (point to my hair) and you could have gotten something to eat. But NO! You rush me…so you can drive somewhere to eat?”

We stop to get something. A tuna fish hoagie (of course) at 10:30am. I know better than to refuse my husband a meal and go somewhere  on his empty stomach. Not fun. He is worse than a pregnant woman.

Somehow, we make it to the location a good 10 minutes prior. Or maybe it started a little late, but we made it!

Within minutes, I can feel my hair becoming heavier and heavier. It lost every single curl before we even took our seats. Thankfully, I wasn’t feeling uncomfortable in the dress.  Not yet, anyway.

That’s when I look around and notice how everyone else is dressed. I feel that I was dressed appropriately. Then, I look at Scott. He did not wear a tie. He was the only guy there without one…sporting a 1970’s Bee Gees look with a lot of chest hair exposed!

I’m whispering while trying not to move my lips, “Babe, didn’t I tell you to Google whether or not you should have worn a tie?” “I don’t think it’s a big deal, Rach.”

Who knows? Maybe he’s right. Scott does have great chest hair, so maybe it worked? Besides, he looked really handsome, and I can never stay mad at him. From that point forward, I decided to enjoy the beautiful occasion and focus on the BRIDE and GROOM.


The ceremony was beautiful. The bride was so beautiful! (I babysat this girl when she was two years old and I was eighteen.) I had become like a big sister and member of the family.  The entire event was just so extraordinary to experience. (Wardrobe and hair malfunctions aside.) It really was breathtaking.

Oh dear. My hair is a stringy mess.  Scott is working the no-tie look!
Oh dear. My hair is a stringy mess. Scott is working the no-tie look! This was after I made him button up and cover the Andy Gib chest hair!
My hair doesn't even look like I curled it!
How cute are we?
This was taken in the garden moments before my hair went completely flat.  Do you like the dress?
This was taken in the garden. Do you like my Five Dollar dress?

The venue was lovely. We had a lot of fun eating, socializing, and dancing.  The food was delicious. Maybe too good. Because by the end of the reception I was looking 4 months pregnant. As people were starting to leave I said to Scott, “Babe, I think we need to say our goodbyes before I bust out of this dress.”

Jumbo Shrimp served as an appetizer.
Jumbo Shrimp served as an appetizer.
Delicious Chocolate Cream Pies with Vanilla Ice Cream.  This was served before the Wedding Cake!
Delicious Chocolate Cream Pies with Vanilla Ice Cream. This was served before the Wedding Cake.

It was sad leaving. I only see these friends maybe once or twice a year. But, boy did it feel good to get in that car and unzip that dress! It also felt so good to have a food fest the next day to celebrate my victory in pulling off a Size Six dress for FIVE BUCKS!

It’s kind of funny reflecting on the special occasion countdown. Can you relate at all? I don’t think I’m alone here, but whether we spend five dollars on a dress or two hours on our hair, the most important thing is having the opportunity to celebrate with those you love!

I hope you enjoy your next special occasion!

EXTRA Ordinarily Yours

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