Category: Travel

this is how it all went, part I.

Fresh Scratch, Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

It’s hard to believe that I broke my leg over two months ago and that the holidays have already came and went. I swear – you blink…and you know the rest.

I’m feeling a good 97% back to normal – last week I put my FitBit back on and started walking to school again. I know. I am practically Wonder Woman for healing up so fast ;).

Here’s what the first part of winter looked like for moi:


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Moms, take it from me, having the universe give you a solid week off from everything is equal parts just as amazing as you think it’d be and massively frustrating. It’s hard to be waited on. It’s hard to count on everyone else to do all the things. But, dang, sitting on the couch for a week looking at the Christmas tree and indulging in all your guilty pleasures while everyone else is at school and work? Not gonna lie. It’s a beautiful thing.

And so was getting back to my students. I was so happily surprised by these banners when I got back, along with the TWO MINUTE clap-a-thon from my favorite class: 4th period senior English. I might fail them all so they can’t graduate and have to stay with me forever.


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I couldn’t let a little thing like a broken fibula keep me down for long, though. A week after it happened, I was hosting my cousin’s baby “sprinkle” {we called it that so it wouldn’t sound like such a fuss – it was lovely and low-key and had NO GAMES! Yes!} because she is beyond worth it. And isn’t it nice to be the one hosting and the one who is all done giving birth forever?!

Hanukkah fell during my time of being laid-up, too, but we still managed to light the Menorah every night – just sometimes way later than sundown. And I wasn’t up to standing around in the kitchen for long periods of time until after it was over, so I made our big Hanukkah meal between the broken leg and before the stomach flu hit {because, yes, we hadn’t already had enough time lying in front of the Christmas tree being unable to move!}.


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And speaking of students, I love it when they come home from college and see me! When I ran into Hannah {first photo} in Trader Joe’s, I totally freaked out. Matt was a little embarrassed. She and Carolina {middle pic} came to Europe with me a couple of years ago and we bonded. Chloe {bottom pic} used to have lavender hair! I just want to put them in my pockets and bring them home with me.


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The holiday window at Browsers gave me all the winter vibes. Olympians: buy books at Browsers! It is the best book shop around and truly gives you the book shop experience. Every little thing Andrea does is magic.


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This year Annabelle didn’t want me to buy her a pretty Christmas dress. Instead, she wanted an ugly sweater and leggings to match. It will happen, people – they will start to grow up and get their own ideas of what is cool.

Their Christmas concert involved a song about UGLY SWEATERS! And can I tell you that nothing gets me into the spirit faster than kids singing Christmas songs at school?


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I drank more than my fair share of rosemary Meyer lemon drops over the holidays. And this Bouche de Noel my in-laws surprised us all with at their Christmas dinner totally flipped me out. I was excited in a very nerdy way. I think these are the coolest, but I’d never eaten one. It was delish, though you almost don’t want to cut into it and mess it up.


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When the girls camped out beneath the Christmas tree, I swear Natalie Merchant was singing “These are Days” somewhere very close. It broke my heart in all the best ways. These are the traditions they will talk about when they are big and I am more wrinkled.


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With the broken bone, the annual post-Thanksgiving cinnamon roll baking happened Christmas Eve this year. Whew! Just in time. I use PW’s recipe, btw. Works like a charm.


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The morning after Christmas we flew away to Maui for a beautiful, quiet week. I pretty much took zero pictures but the ones your see here – my big camera saw absolutely no action. It was glorious.

We’ve been traveling to Maui since our honeymoon – I think this trip marked something like our fifth or 6th time to that particular island together. The first time that we brought Clementine, she was 3 1/2 months old, but this time she was body surfing like nobody’s business and not even afraid when there was a shark sighting by yours truly literally right in front of us. Dang, girl.

Since we’ve been a few times, I wanted to give you the skinny on our favorite spots.

Best Shave Ice: Local Boyz. There’s one in Kihei and one in Lahaina – both are amazing. Get Kaui Cream and mochi balls and vanilla ice cream every time. There’s a fun koi pond in the back of the shopping area at the one in Kihei – we have logged many hours sitting there, eating shave ice.

Best Place to Watch Surfers and See Turtles: the beach just past Mama’s Fish House in Paia. We call it “Jaws,” but I have no idea what it’s really called. I wouldn’t advise swimming in that water unless you want to get thrashed by waves and drown.

Fave Beach: That’d be Po’olenalena. I call it our Boho Grove, as illustrated in the pic above with all our sarongs, etc, hanging off the roots. There’s a dirt parking lot just past all the fancy hotels in Wailea. Pull in. Do not go to the big beach you see before you. Instead, take the trail to the right of that beach, heading to what they call the north beach. Follow it til you get to another beach. This beach itself is awesome. Not a lot of people come there, the sand is a perfect brown, and most people you do see are couples getting married or naked old people. But… walk as far down the beach as you can until you come to some rocks that seem to be the end of the beach. They’re not. Climb over them and you will be rewarded with the best little beach ever. Seriously, we maybe shared it with one other group each day – usually the seven women I called “the bikini crew” whom my husband commented on more than once. If you park it right in the back left corner of the beach against the tall rock wall, you will have shade until 3:30 pm!!! Yes! It was a glorious feeling knowing the only two kids on the beach were my own. Makes it much easier to watch them. And the snorkeling out to the rocks on the right? Phenomenal. Tons of turtles. Watch for Tiger Sharks. First hand experience, yo.

Best Shopping: Sales abound at the GAP and Banana Republic at the Shops at Wailea. Massive, crazy deals on winter clothing every time.

Fave Restaurant: While we love our old standby of Maui Taco, we were blown away by the rad fusion cuisine we had at Star Noodle in Lahaina. Wow. Get a reservation or else be prepared to wait an hour in their parking lot. We took the girls, and even they loved it. I recommend trying a bit of everything and just sharing it all, especially the bacon and eggs, the pork buns, and the malasadas. Oh, and get a lychee martini because you know you want to. You won’t be disappointed at all!

So that’s how my holidays all went down. In Part II, I’m going to tell you about the best dang Christmas gift this girl has ever gotten! But that’s going to be next time, as y’all have got to be in need of a break from me at this point, if you’ve made it this far…


mrs. fresh scratch


ciao, bella.

Fresh Scratch, Assisi, Italy

Lately I’ve been giving a little attention to my photos from my time in Italy this summer, culling through them for my favorites. I thought I’d give you a little gift of sunshine today, wherever you are. Even the light in these photos shows you how hot it was, but in case you still can’t tell, it was the kind of hot where sweat drips down your back. Hot as Hades, only prettier.

Though we spent a couple days in Florence, I’ve got nothing for you. If you remember, I spent almost that entire leg of the trip in a tiny hospital with a sick teenager. And it only cost ten Euro!

Fresh Scratch, Assisi, Italy Fresh Scratch, Assisi, Italy Fresh Scratch, Assisi, Italy Fresh Scratch, Assisi, ItalyMy friend Steve and I wandered all over Tuscany’s hill town of Assisi, giving our cameras probably the heftiest workout they got the entire trip, aside from Mykonos {coming soon!}. While we captured all the beauty we could, our students shopped until they literally dropped – I’d come around a corner and find them sitting in a patch of shadow cast by a building, surrounded by bags of things like Birkenstocks. I will never understand this urge to blow money on stuff you could get back home, only to have to shlepp it the rest of the trip.

I’d much rather delight in passing two cute nuns on the street, wearing long-sleeves in 107-degree heat. Or feel like the luckiest person ever for spotting a baby-blue Fiat all alone with no people to mess up the shot.

Fresh Scratch, Assisi, Italy Fresh Scratch, Assisi, Italy Fresh Scratch, Assisi, Italy Fresh Scratch, Assisi, Italy Fresh Scratch, Assisi, ItalyWhat’s funny is that our first stop in Assisi {after the cathedral} was the castle ruins at the tip-top of the town – that’s a straight-up trek over the cobblestones with pretty much no shade. It was so hot up there – the kind of blown-out heat that made all my pictures of Tuscany look like they were covered in a thin film of white. Not one shot is really worthy of sharing, but it was still so beautiful it almost hurt to look at it. You know that kind of gorgeous scenery that on film never remotely translates? That. Only twenty times hotter.

Am I managing to warm you up a little?

Fresh Scratch, Rome, ItalyAfter Assisi, we drove through a thunderstorm and into Rome. Student travel is a funny thing for lots of reasons, but one of them could be that you could be staying in absolutely the sketchiest, dumpiest part of a city, yet wake up to find your breakfast is on a rooftop terrace with a lovely, bird’s eye morning view of the city and all of the pastries you can stuff into your face.

Everything was so still and silent that morning. All I could hear was the faint clang of cathedral bells coming from all over. It’s one of my favorite sounds on these trips.

Fresh Scratch, Rome, Italy Fresh Scratch, Rome, Italy Fresh Scratch, Rome, Italy Fresh Scratch, Rome, ItalyYou can see from the light that we hit the Colosseum and the Forum early in the day, thank goodness. It’s difficult to wrap the brain around just how very, very old this place is – it was built nearly 2,000 years ago! Though it’s truly a shadow of what it was during its prime, it’s pretty awesome to walk where Caesar Augustus and Virgil stepped, if you’re nerdy like that. And – oh! – I’m nerdy like that, alright.

Fresh Scratch, Rome, ItalyMuch like my hunt for the mosaic graffiti in both London and Paris, while I’m in Rome I like to keep my eyes peeled for funny stickers on these signs. It’s creative, and people seem to leave the stickers alone. It’s kind of like seeing a STOP sign here with the words “Hammer Time” below it.

Fresh Scratch, Rome, Italy Fresh Scratch, Rome, ItalyYou know evening is my very favorite time during summers in Europe. As soon as lunch is over, I am just so happy that we’re on our way past the heat in a matter of hours. Even though it’s gorgeous and super-cool and I know I am very lucky to be there, the hot days are something I just survive. Evenings are the parts I truly enjoy.

I’ve said it before, but the best, best, best place to get gelato is near the Pantheon at Giolitti – but beware! It hides. I even drew a map in my journal last year so that I could find it alone this time, and I swear I followed it to the letter and still couldn’t find it. Steve to the rescue. The guy won’t eat ice cream, but he sure has a nose for gelato.

This place has over 200 flavors and it is crazy busy. This year I seriously had two cones in a matter of hours. It was that hot. Favorite flavor? Pink grapefruit.

Fresh Scratch, Sorrento, Italy Fresh Scratch, Sorrento, Italy Fresh Scratch, Sorrento, Italy Fresh Scratch, Sorrento, Italy Fresh Scratch, Sorrento, Italy Fresh Scratch, Sorrento, Italy Fresh Scratch, Sorrento, ItalyOMGoodness – how gorgeous is Sorrento?!

After a sweltering morning spent kicking up dust in Pompeii, it was such a relief to disappear into the narrow, twisting streets of this beach town. There was fresh fruit everywhere, with orchards even growing in the parking lots – seriously, how cool is that idea? The orchards had been planted with space for cars between the rows and permeable surfaces underfoot to allow the trees to grow and get watered. Genius.

I began a week-long love affair with orange slushies on this day, let it be known. They were basically orange granitas with nothing but orange juice and ice, and I would catch my breath every time I saw them for sale because they felt. that. good. in this heat.

After raiding all the ATMs , we’d all taken out about as many Euro as we could in anticipation of leaving for Greece the next morning. If you’ll remember, things in Greece weren’t looking too promising last July. We had no idea if we’d be able to get money there or if there’d be riots or if we’d have to bag Greece all together and go home early. They had just voted the day before to exit the EU.

Which left that evening in Sorrento feeling extra-sublime…

Fresh Scratch, Sorrento, Italy  Fresh Scratch, Sorrento, ItalyYou do things a little differently when you think they’re about to end, right? You live a little fuller. So, though this was the view from my ultra-sweet and beautiful little hotel room, I let it go in favor of my swimsuit and a zig-zagged walk down a switch-back, cobblestoned road that led down the side of a cliff and to a little beach resort. I stashed my flip flops, and we found a good place where big rocks jutted from the cliff’s face and into the sea. We climbed them over and over and over again, jumping into the cool waters as the sun sank low, laughing those cackling laughs that come from truly feeling present and free and half your age.

I’ll let you guess who the first one in was.

Fresh Scratch, Adriatic Sea, Italy, Greece, High Speed FerryWe had to leave at 3 am for the drive to Italy’s east coast where we’d catch the high-speed ferry to Greece. I slept through the countryside, waking up for a foggy sunrise. By sunset, I was on a ferry crossing the Adriatic, along with a ton of German teenagers who were on what I could only gather was a beer-drinking tour of Europe. Unlike us, they didn’t have rooms on the ferry, so they stayed up dancing on the windy deck and putting their beer bongs to some impressive use.

We had no idea what lay before us, which is part of the high of travel, I suppose. I’ll fill you in…”next time, on Serial.”

{Just kidding. Not on Serial. But I thought that was funny for you fellow Serial podcast addicts. Haha.}

Ciao Bella,

mrs. fresh scratch.

PS: For the over-view of this three-week trip, click here.