Basin Bath…

On our recent trip to Disney World, we of course had to make our usual stop at the Downtown Disney Marketplace for lunch and shopping.  I actually prefer to shop here than at the actual parks, so that I don’t have to worry about carrying around extra bags while riding.  We came across a shop we loved called Basin, an all natural bath and body products shop. For those who have read my post on bath bombs, you’ll remember that my daughter and I love these types of stores.  There are actually two locations on the Walt Disney World property for Basin. In addition to the Basin at Downtown Disney, there is another one called Basin White at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. The one we visited in Downtown Disney is right next to Arribas Brothers, near the by the clay pot fountain with the Mickey Mouse topiary, across from the huge World of Disney store, you can’t miss it.

Basin at Downtown Disney

Basin at Downtown Disney

Basin interior

Basin interior

Basin believes in producing the most natural products, containing no parabens, alcohol or mineral oils. Their products are not tested on animals and are made in the USA (both great things).  Try any of their unique bath bombs, shampoos, conditioner bars, or dozens of exclusive soaps.  You can also have some fun mixing your own bath salts for a unique fragrance all your own.  And if you’re a die-hard Mickey fan, the Mickey soaps and bath bombs, are exclusive items only sold at the Disney locations (there is also a store in Las Vegas). These Mickey items are not sold online, they can only be purchased in-store.

My  daughter getting creative, mixing her own bath salts

My daughter getting creative, mixing her own bath salts

Mickey soap bars

Mickey soap bars

We also loved the bath bomb “marbles”, essentially, smaller versions of the original bath bombs, making it easier to try all the different scents.

Checking out the bath bomb marbles

Checking out the bath bomb marbles

Some of my favorite items were the salt and sugar body scrubs and I love that the centerpiece of the store is a sink where as many as eight guests can simultaneously try out all of the different products.  My favorite of course was the lavender scented one, it left my skin as soft as a baby’s.

Various body scrubs

Various body scrubs

So on your next stay in the Disney area, make sure you stop by either one of the Basin locations to pick up some of their specialty bath items.  The descriptions of the scents are going to be exactly how you read them. And if you’re not visiting Orlando anytime soon, the online store sells the full line and ships throughout the US and Canada.

Basin at Downtown Disney Marketplace
1720 E. Buena Vista Blvd. Bldg. A
Lake Buena Vista, FL. 32830
(407) 827-8080

http://www.basin.com

Have you been to Basin yet? What were your favorite items?

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Louie Bossi’s Ristorante & Pizzeria

With so many dining options in South Florida, sometimes it’s hard to choose a place for dinner.  Over the 4th of July weekend, we decided to spend the evening on Las Olas Boulevard in downtown Ft. Lauderdale.  We hadn’t been in a while and I wanted to see what new shops and eateries had opened up since our last visit, and then head over to the beach to watch the fireworks. I was surprised to still see some our favorite restaurants and delighted to discover some new ones.  Our daughter was craving her usual Italian food, so when we stumbled upon Louie Bossi’s, we decided to give it a try. I had not heard of it (they only opened up about a month ago), so I was a bit hesitant, after all, Italian places are always popping up everywhere, but many of them are mediocre at best.  Well this place is anything but mediocre.

Louie Bossi's Ristorante & Pizzeria Photo courtesy of Urbandaddy.com

Louie Bossi’s Ristorante & Pizzeria
Photo courtesy of Urbandaddy.com

We started off with a delicious appetizer called Coccoli Fritto, which were basically these delightfully soft baked flaky pita breads topped with fresh parmesan shavings and served with freshly made ricotta cheese, olive oil and prosciutto.  Heavenly!!  Hubby also ordered a small side of Marcona Almonds roasted with sea salt.

Coccoli Fritto

Coccoli Fritto

Marcona Almonds roasted with sea salt

Marcona Almonds roasted with sea salt

On to the main courses….I really wanted to try one of the pastas, but keeping faithful to my healthy eating habits of late, I decided on one of the daily specials..a grilled branzino prepared with olive oil, lemon and capers and I ordered a side of their grilled veggies.  This was one of the best fish dishes I have ever tasted.

Grilled branzino and veggies

Grilled branzino and veggies

Hubby decided on another one of the specials, lobster served with pasta.  Also delish!  And of course our daughter being her adventurous self (not), ordered a margherita pizza, but she says it’s also one of the best she’s had.  And trust me, she’s beyond picky.

Margharita Pizza

Lobster with Pasta

IMG_2780

Margherita Pizza

Next, my daughter decided on a small dessert, Budino Cioccolata, a dense yet light tasting hazelnut pudding, topped with a light whipped cream and a bit of caramel and sea salt.  I couldn’t help myself and had a tiny taste….wouldn’t you:

Budino Cioccolata...heavenly!

Budino Cioccolata…heavenly!

And last but not least, hubby ordered his espresso and I had a creamy limoncello.  All I can say is that it tasted better than some of the limoncellos I’ve had in Italy!

Espresso & Creamy Limoncello

Espresso & Creamy Limoncello

So, if you’re in the Ft. Lauderdale area, head on over to beautiful Las Olas Boulevard and make sure you stop into Louise Bossi’s and experience an amazing Italian feast.  You will not regret it.

Photo courtesy of browardpalmbeach.com

Photo courtesy of browardpalmbeach.com

Louie Bossi’s
1032 East Las Olas Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale
(954) 356-6699
http://www.louiebossi.com

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Amazing Athens

With so much going on in Greece right now, I can’t help but have Athens on my mind.  Athens is the first European city my husband and I ever visited together at the start of our incredible honeymoon trip.  It will always have a special place in my heart, and it’s the reason my husband fell in love with Europe (lucky for me).  Through the years I have heard some negative comments about Athens but I have to say that my hubby and I really love it there and I can’t wait to go back for a visit.  A visit to Greece is magical, and perfect for a summer vacation. It’s warm, cheap(er), the people are friendly, the food is yummy (click here for my Greek food post), plenty of history and monuments for all tastes and the islands are stunning. Here are my top 5 things to see and experience when visiting this beautiful, historical city:

Stay at Plaka Hotel in Plaka (Kapnikareas 7, Athens)
If you’re familiar with some of my other travel posts, you will remember that I always like to choose hotels that and comfortable and very conveniently located. The Plaka Hotel is situated steps from Plaka, centrally located near Syntagma Square and a short walk from the Monastiraki metro station. However, if you’re looking for luxury, this is not the place for you.  It’s a 3-star, no frills, clean and comfortable hotel…and quite affordable by European standards.  If you’re only passing through Athens for a few days on your way to the islands, it’s perfect. There are plenty of nice hotels throughout the city, on our honeymoon we stayed at the Hilton, which was beautiful, but far from the city center.  Everytime we’ve been back, we have stayed at the Plaka.  Take a look at the panoramic views of the city from its top-floor rooms and rooftop terrace:

Rooftop view from Hotel Plaka

Rooftop view from Hotel Plaka

Outside of the Plaka Hotel

Outside of the Plaka Hotel

Our clean and cozy room...

Our clean and cozy room…

Strolling through Plaka
Plaka, the oldest neighborhood (and in my opinion) the most charming and beautiful, in central Athens. I love to wander and get lost through its labyrinth of streets (mostly closed to traffic) and whitewashed Neoclassical architecture.  We spent hours on each trip strolling along the narrow, cobbled streets visiting sidewalk cafes, souvenir shops and the random historical monument crammed in between, as is the case in many older European cities.  And of course, enjoying the stunning views of the Acropolis perched high above the city, through every side street. You will find some very interesting shops selling beautiful 18 karat gold Byzantine designed jewelry as well as Greek designed pottery throughout Plaka.  One shop I think is worth a visit is Golden Studio (142 Adrianou Street, http://www.jewelrygreek.com) selling some very nice jewelry.  I also loved various pottery shops such as Fotini (41 Nikodimou Street), and if time permits, stop by Forget Me Not (100 Adrianou Street), where you will find some amazing items for sale, most made in Greece by local artists.

Typical shopping street in Plaka

Typical shopping street in Plaka

One of the many shops selling Greek Byzantine Orthodox icons

One of the many shops selling Greek Byzantine Orthodox icons

Forget Me Not in Plaka

Forget Me Not in Plaka

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Store selling pottery with typical Greek designs

Monastiraki Flea Market
Shopping in Athens is a favorite pastime for tourists and Athenians and one of the best places to buy just about anything is the Monastiraki flea market. Literally meaning “little monastery” Monastiraki is named for the Pantánassa church monastery located in the center of the neighborhood’s square.  I should clarify, it’s only a flea market on Sundays when some of the stores close and people sell old toys, antique furniture pieces, records, all types of items…reminding me very much of El Rastro flea market in Madrid, where one can find just about anything, if you’re willing to rummage through the stalls.  Most of the shops are pretty similar to the souvenir ships you will find in the islands, with items made in Greece, as well as China.

Monastiraki Square, photo courtesy of www.visitgreece.gr

Monastiraki Square, photo courtesy of http://www.visitgreece.gr

Monasteraki, photo courtesy of y Giulia Blocal

Monastiraki, photo courtesy of Giulia Blocal

Also not to be missed in Monastiraki, is the beautiful Mitrópoli (Metropolitan Cathedral), an important Greek Orthodox cathedral and the largest church in Athens. The Mitrópoli is the seat of the Bishop of Athens and an important spiritual center of Greek Orthodoxy. It remains a major city landmark and the site of official ceremonies like coronations and important weddings and funerals. Look at this gorgeous church:

Athens Cathedral

Athens Cathedral

Mosaic of the Madonna and child at the south portico

Mosaic of the Madonna and child at the south portico

Lykavittos Hill
For a stunning 360 degree panoramic view of Athens, hike to the top of Lykavittos Hill behind the posh Kolanaki neighborhood. It’s a great spot for taking pictures, but can be a hot, sweaty climb during the day, so if you’re not up to the hike in the summer heat, the easiest way to reach the top of the Lykavittos is by funicular, which departs approximately every thirty minutes at Aristippou and Ploutarchou streets. The observation platform offers some of the most amazing views of Athens.  The view reaches as far as Piraeus and the Saronic Gulf, provided the sky is clear. Some of the landmarks that are clearly visible from here include the Acropolis, the Temple of Zeus, the Panathenaic Stadium and the Parliament Building. There is aslo a café at the top, so you can enjoy the view while taking a break. The view is also quite spectacular at night, when the Acropolis and many other major sights in Athens are illuminated.

View of Athens from Lyvitaccus Hill

View of Athens from Lykavittos Hill

Visit the Acropolis
Athens is of course home to the epic World Heritage Site of the Acropolis and its monuments, the most important ancient site in the Western world and must-see in Athens.  This magnificent temple is a great place to learn about the history of Athens, while also getting a magnificent view of the city and the nearby ruins. The Parthenon is a monumental beauty built in homage to Athena, the goddess of wisdom (whom the people of Athens consider their patron). During the summer, the place is swarming with tourists and sadly, the Parthenon is always under construction, but the views are breathtaking.

The Parthenon, source unknown.

The Parthenon, source unknown.

View of Athens from the Acropolis...breathtaking!

View of Athens from the Acropolis…breathtaking!

The Erechtheion is a  beautiful temple built on the most sacred part of the Acropolis, where Poseidon is said to have struck the ground with his trident and where Athena produced the olive tree, a gift to the city of Athens. The Erechtheion’s signature feature are the Caryatids, six maiden columns that support the weight of the south porch’s roof on their heads.  I love this structure, it’s my favorite on the Acropolis.

My favorite structure.

My favorite structure.

Another view...

Another view…

Feel free to ask any Athenian for recommendations, Athenians love to help tourists and share their city.  When we were much younger my husband and I wanted to experience a real Athenian club where the locals went (we had heard they were some of the best in Europe).  We decided to ask a very friendly shopkeeper, whom we had just bought some jewelry from, and she told us exactly where to go.  Needless to say, it was one of the best nights of our lives (and not a tourist in sight).

Here are a few more photos of beautiful Athens!

The Church of Panaghia Kapnikarea is a Greek Orthodox church and one of the oldest churches in Athens

The Church of Panaghia Kapnikarea is a Greek Orthodox church and one of the oldest churches in Athens

Photo Courtesy of Matt Barrett.

Monastiraki Flea Market.  Photo Courtesy of Matt Barrett.

One of our favorite restaurants, Yopia

One of our favorite restaurants, Yopia

View of Athens

View of Athens

The famous Flea Market

The famous Flea Market

Another magnificent view of Athens

Have you been to Athens?  I’d love to know what you enjoyed most.

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Summer Entertaining

Well the summer is flying by and I’ve been so busy in the month of June that I haven’t had too much time to blog lately. We’ve taken several short trips and had a few important family celebrations which I’ve had to plan as well.  The summer is off to a great start and now I have some time to blog again, before our big trip next month.  I am, what some folks call, a summer baby (my birthday is in August) and summer has always been my absolute favorite season and time of year.  I love that kids are off from school, so I get to thoroughly enjoy my daughter, without having to worry if homework and assignments are done (although there is that blasted summer reading list).  Lucky for me, I live in Miami…yes, it gets incredibly hot, but I love to hang out in my pool and go to the beach pretty regularly.  As part of my summer routines, I also enjoy having friends and family over and that of course, means yummy, refreshing summer meals.

So, when I was recently contacted by the folks at Paperless Post, inviting me to participate in a link-up about summertime entertaining, I thought it would be right up my alley. Paperless Post, an online invitation website that I have used many times, provides both virtual and printed invitations and other stationary as well.  They truly have beautiful invitations, announcements and greeting cards.  Take a look at some of their summer themed invitations:

Photo courtesy of Paperless Post.

Photo courtesy of Paperless Post.

Photo courtesy of Paperless Post.

Photo courtesy of Paperless Post.

Photo courtesy of Paperless Post.

Photo courtesy of Paperless Post.

So, I decided to create my inspiration board with all of the items that I think would look amazing and fun for an outdoor pool or beach party.  I always feel good food is the ticket to satisfying guests and making an event memorable.  Browsing through Pinterest I found some amazingly delicious and easy recipes. And you always need to keep the kids in mind, so they are entertained as well.  Here’s what I came up with:

entertaining

1) Individual Frozen Key Lime Pies | 2) Pottery Barn Mini Lantern String Lights | 3) Beach Buckets with Shovels for Snacks | 4) Bucket of Water Balloons | 5) Ginormous Burger & Brown Bag Chips | 6) Sunscreen & Bug Spray Station | 7) Shrimp & Chorizo Bites  | 8) Strawberry Shortcake Skewers  | 9) Watermelon Refresher

Do you  enjoy summertime entertaining?  I’d love to hear your ideas…

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