Author: Michelle

Summer Book List: Reading Roundup

Summer Book List: Reading Roundup

Ah, is there anything more delightful than summer reading? I know most people like to post a summer book list for you to gather before the season and read throughout the summer… but around here we’re not that organized! Instead, we’ve compiled a list of […]

Favorite Italy Blogs and Resources

Favorite Italy Blogs and Resources

I loved reading about Melissa’s favorite France blogs and podcasts even though we have no trips to France on the horizon. I thought I’d share a few blogs and specific articles that I’ve found helpful in planning our upcoming trip to Italy.


I blame (in the best possible way) Georgette at Girl in Florence for our choice of Italy as a destination this fall. A year of following her on Instagram and seeing a barrage of gorgeous Italian food and street scenes had me humming Buona Sera and shopping flights. Some of my favorite parts of her site are the Florence-by-month guides, her tips for buying genuine leather in Florence, and her comprehensive Florence restaurants post. Georgette’s posts aren’t limited to Florence though; she has a tab for other Italian destinations and locations throughout well, the world!


Food maven Elizabeth Minchilli shares Italian recipes, restaurant recommendations, and musings on life in Italy through her books and on her blog. I’ve been pouring over her book Eating Rome before we go and it’s just a pleasure to read! I had heard she was a solid source for food recs, but seeing names like Barefoot Contessa and David Lebovitz endorsing this book really sold me on her work! Elizabeth has produced an app with restaurant recommendations sorted by city (free, with in-app purchase) that is a conveniently portable option for your next trip.


Castel Sant'Angelo Italy blogs

Expat Lauren Knight of the Aspiring Kennedy blog may live in London, but as a frequent traveler to Italy has created an Italy tab packed with beautiful pictures and practical tips for destinations like Venice, Florence, the Lakes, Cinque Terre, and more. And if you’re already on her site, you can lose hours watching vlogs about what it’s really like to have an au pair or having a baby in the NHS. You’ve been warned. 😉


Palatine Hill Italy blogs

An American in Rome is another blog with helpful information for your trip. Natalie is (naturally) based in Rome and has a plethora of posts about life in Italy and practical information. Wonder no longer what you shouldn’t eat in Italy while pregnant, how to get SIM card in Italy, or what a marocchino is!


Trying not to stand out as a tourist? Italy Chronicles blog has tips for blending in on your visit to RomeFlorence, or Venice. There’s also a helpful region-by-region guide to help you choose which area (state) of Italy to visit and so much more!


Italian nutella Italy blogs

If you’re visiting Rome, Smitten Kitchen’s trip notes from her vacation are a fun (and informative) read.


When traveling to an area that doesn’t feature heavily in the guidebooks, I often turn to Wikitravel. If you’ve never used it, Wikitravel has information on getting to your destination, getting around once you’ve arrived, sights to see, and where to eat (usually edited by locals!) I also find Wikitravel helpful for small segments of a big city – for instance if you want information on a specific neighborhood within Rome.


Finally, I’ll put in a plug for Rick Steves’ Italy book. I mainly prefer his books for the helpful information on sights, having sometimes found restaurant recommendations to be hit-or-miss. There’s a wealth of information in the back of his Italy book though – tips on eating with the seasons, wine and cheese terminology, and train ticket information. I’m already stockpiling books and movies off of his listing of “Books and Films about Italy.” Isn’t all this anticipation half the fun?


What are your favorite resources in planning a trip to Italy?

Gulfport Kids’ Train Museum Two-Fer

Gulfport Kids’ Train Museum Two-Fer

Of all the adventures Melissa’s and my kids had over early summer break, the Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum was the surprise favorite. Sure, when we told the kids we were headed to the beach or the Pensacola Children’s Museum, or the Airplane Museum, they […]

How to Find a Foreign Language Teacher or Conversational Group

How to Find a Foreign Language Teacher or Conversational Group

Though the idea of being able to speak in a secret language with your friends has appealed since childhood, I think I really got the foreign language bug when we moved to Germany several years ago. We immediately enrolled our four year old in a […]

Italian Food in Pensacola: Franco’s Italian Restaurant

Italian Food in Pensacola: Franco’s Italian Restaurant

Looking for delicious Italian food in Pensacola? Look no further than Franco’s Italian Restaurant near downtown. This Pensacola institution is celebrating their twentieth anniversary this month, and Melissa and I enjoyed revisiting it recently with our moms.

Italian Food in Pensacola at Franco's Restaurant


One of the awesome things about growing up with my husband’s family is the shared childhood memories. I can remember when “the grownups” would head out for dinner at Franco’s. (Being a teen though, I much preferred a movie and hanging out with the other kids!) Yet time marches on.. and now it’s fun now to be one of those grownups leaving the kids behind with a saintly aunt or uncle for a meal out. 😉


Italian Food in Pensacola  Shrimp Primavera at Franco's Italian Restaurant

Eggplant Parmesan, Spaghetti, & Shrimp Primavera (L to R)


Traditional Italian favorites that we order every time are their Lasagna and Eggplant Parmesan.  (I’m getting hungry now, just writing this!) Of course, you’re in Florida, so don’t miss out on ordering something with seafood! Melissa’s mom loves their Amberjack, and this time Melissa ordered the Shrimp Primavera. The rest of us found ourselves thankful for our tradition of family-style dining when we go out to eat because the primavera was so light and flavorful! It will definitely be a repeat next time we visit.

Amberjack at Franco's Italian Restaurant



The lunch specials come with a salad and garlic bread. We thought their house salad dressing (pictured below) was delicious, even though I found myself wishing those were English cucumbers and the iceberg lettuce was spring mix instead.

Italian Food in Pensacola



I haven’t tried their desserts, but their tiramisu sounds an excellent excuse for another visit. (As if we needed one! Because we’re pretty much always in the mood for some tasty Italian food in Pensacola.)


Franco’s Italian Restaurant

523 E Gregory St, Pensacola, FL 32502

(850) 433-9200

Lunch & Dinner menu

Closed Mondays

Open Sunday and Tuesday-Friday at 11

Open Saturday at 5

Mural at Franco's Italian Restaurant

Where to Find Delicious Indian Food: My Pensacola

Where to Find Delicious Indian Food: My Pensacola

As we drove into Pensacola last week, I couldn’t help but notice a restaurant that caught my eye with its bold yellow and orange exterior: Dinner India. With both Melissa and I being enthusiastic about Indian food (Indian Butter Chicken is a family favorite), I […]

Tulip Time in Holland, Michigan

Tulip Time in Holland, Michigan

Last weekend, we day-tripped over to Holland, Michigan, for the 90th anniversary of the Tulip Time Festival. Holland is about three hours west of Detroit and the festival this year is from May 4-12. (Good news if you’re wanting it check it out next weekend […]

Outdoor Adventure Center, Detroit

Outdoor Adventure Center, Detroit

Ever stumble upon a gem of a place and wonder “Where has this been? This place is awesome!” That’s how the kids and I felt about the Outdoor Adventure Center when we first checked it out last month. (And also how we felt at the chocolate factory! ;-)) Run by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the idea behind the center is to bring the Michigan outdoors into Detroit. Masterfully incorporating technology into many of the exhibits, the OAC gave our city kids a great taste of the “Up North” experience. Plus, it’s actually all indoors, which makes it a great rainy day activity. Follow along with us through the pictures below!

Hunting Outdoor Adventure Center Detroit Shooting Range

One of the kids’ favorite exhibits was the hunting section. With a duck blind, a tower blind, a tree stand, animal pelts, and a shooting gallery, my boys could have spent all day here! In this section, as well as throughout the center, there is more information provided than we’ve gotten through on our visits. There’s such much to learn here!


Outdoor Adventure Center Detroit Kayaking

Outdoor Adventure Center Detroit Fishing

The Rivers & Lakes exhibit has a kayaking simulator and a fishing experience – with the fishing pole pulling while you’re trying to reel in the big one on the screen! My boys were definitely pretending to drive the boat too and adding in their own sound effects. 😉


Outdoor Adventure Center Detroit Tree ForestTree

Climb a giant bur oak tree to the second level of the OAC in the Forestry section. Kids can also explore the tree roots or go down the slide, and don’t miss the bear’s den nearby!


Tahquamenon Falls Simulator Outdoor Adventure Center Detroit

Flap your wings and fly like an eagle over Tahquamenon Falls though this cool simulator. It’s on the top level of the OAC in the Treehouse display, a whole section about eagles.



Another favorite exhibit is the Outdoor Trail section with snowmobile and ATV simulators. On the mountain bike simulators, kids can race each other!


Kitchen/Conservation Station

Teach your kids about energy conservation in the Nature in Your Neighborhood display! With information on everything from energy efficient windows to composting, there’s a lot to learn here! Or your kids can just pretend to wash the dishes, like mine is here. 😉


Outdoor Adventure Center Airplane

There’s an airplane for the kids to climb aboard! Hopefully your crew won’t be loudly simulating bombing raids and pretending to parachute out like mine were.


I haven’t even mentioned the waterfall, full-sized yurt, or rope bridge! Archery classes are available, most with pre-registration. Can you tell we loved it here? My kids are already begging to go back to the Outdoor Adventure Center!  


Know before you go: 

Admission is quite reasonable at $3/child (over 2) and $5/adult. An annual membership is $50, and the last Thursday of each month is free from 6-8 pm. The center is closed Mondays and Tuesdays. You can check current hours here!

Free parking is located next to the building in a secured lot. Lunch facilities are available inside their cafeteria. There are also vending machines for snacks and drinks and lockers to store your lunch in while you’re enjoying the museum.

Outdoor Adventure Center lunch room Outdoor Adventure Center lockers

The facility is handicap friendly, so baby-wearing isn’t a necessity. It may give you a little more flexibility to chase after kids  and climb up the burr oak with them though. 🙂 For nursing moms, there is a nursing mother’s room.


Attractions nearby:

The OAC is only a five minute drive from the center of downtown! It’s located along the Detroit Riverfront and across the street is the 31-acre William G. Milliken State Park with picnic facilities, weekly nature programs, paved trails, a harbor, and lighthouse.

Outside the entrance to the OAC is the trailhead for the Dequindre Cut, a two-mile pedestrian/cyclist greenway built over a former railroad line.

The Dequindre Cut leads to Eastern Market, a public market with food, drinks, and Michigan-made products.

Interested in bike rentals? Wheelhouse Detroit‘s riverfront location is .3 miles away (1340 E. Atwater St., Detroit, MI 48207) with rentals available for adults and kids!

Reading Round-up: April 2019

Reading Round-up: April 2019

With Melissa having shared her March Reading Round-up, I’m taking the baton for this round-up with my favorite books I’ve reads from March and April (so far!)   Written by Mike Rowe‘s mother, this book is a hilarious collection of stories about Peggy’s relationship with […]