Five things you should know before booking a trip to Italy

We booked our trip to Italy without knowing much more than cursory understanding of the culture.  Pasta, wine, ocean views.  What more did we need to know?  Well, once we got there, a couple things kept coming up that both Matt and I would say–“Someone should tell you this before you get to Italy.”  So here I am, doing just that 🙂

1. You can’t sit down for a meal at a restaurant at any time throughout the day.  Restaurants are only open from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. for lunch and 7:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. for dinner.  Any decent restaurant will be closed in the mid-day and will not be open for dinner anytime before 7:00 p.m.

We didn’t know that.  So we booked tours to see the sites from 11:00 to 2:00.  This was a bad idea.  We couldn’t eat lunch before the tour, and by the time the tour was finished and we figured out a good place to eat, we’d have about 15 minutes before the restaurant would close.  We made it work, but it would have been nice to planned around this a bit better.

2. Be a little picky when selecting your restaurant.  Great Italian restaurants don’t have pictures of food on their menus or translate their menus into other languages.  Matt and I are anything but foodies.  I do not have a refined palate and really like most everything.  So any food in Italy sounded amazing.  But there are some tips to get the best of the best.

If the menu has pictures of the food, consider finding another restaurant.  Italians know what that dishes look like.  They have been eating these meals for generations.  If there are photos, this likely is not the restaurant the local Italians are going to time and time again.  It is likely a tourist-focused (less authentic and delicious) restaurant.  In that same vein, if the menu is translated in another language, it is probably not a local’s go-to restaurant.  You want to eat where the locals eat.  That’s where the best food is at.

Also, typically the restaurants near the big tourist attractions are not going to be where you find your best meals.  The great, local Italian restaurant is probably going to a couple blocks away from the action.

3. You can make a lunch out of meats, cheeses, olives, and bread from the grocery store.  The grocery stores in Italy are full of fruit and vegetables that are unbelievably fresh.  Lemons are the size of your fist.  You can pick up a baguette, some cold cuts, and fresh cheeses and make your own sandwich.  The grocery stores have half bottles of wine that are perfect to split.  And get the buffalo mozzarella cheese.  It’s amazing.

Plus you can pick up food to try you over until dinner time if you are use to eating your dinner before 7:30 p.m.  On our second day in Italy, we picked up a bottle of prosecco, olives, and some cheese at the local grocery store and had a midday snack.  We saved a bit of money and kept the hangry Matt at bay 😉

4. Bring a water bottle to Rome.  Rome has water fountains with drinkable water by all of the major site.  Just toss your water bottle underneath and grab some cold water.  So make sure to pack a cute water bottle with you or save a durable disposable bottle.  There are people all over trying to sell you water bottles for a Euro.  Don’t do it.  Grab your own bottle and refill for free!

5. You have to pay to use public bathrooms.  Yes, if you have to use the restroom, you better be at a restaurant or near your hotel because otherwise you’ll be paying about a Euro to use the bathroom.  As someone who is thirsty most of the time, and drinks lots of water, planning was involved so that I wouldn’t spend our money on bathroom trips.

Even without knowing this information before we got there, our trip to Italy was amazing.  It was beautiful, relaxing, and everything we hoped it would be. But if we had known these things before getting there, it would have made the trip a bit more seamless at times.  Hopefully this will help you as you plan your trip to Italy!

Other Italy posts: Positano Travel Guide // A day trip to Capri // Rome! (to come)

 

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Lemon and Garlic Whole Chicken

It’s no secret that I am a working mom.  It is something I am deeply proud of.  I love being a lawyer, just as I love being a mom.  But most nights, I do not get home until 7:00.  If I start making a full dinner from scratch once I get home, we typically don’t sit down to eat until after 8:00.  As much I’d love to tell you that I pre-plan our weekday meals, that would be a lie.  There are weeks where I am great.  There are lots of weeks where I am not.

I am not a fan of take-out or even eating out in general.  It’s expensive.  It’s not as healthy.  And I usually end up feeling disappointed for overindulging or because of the quality of the food for the price.  Plus two little boys in a restaurant can be exhausting. We try to avoid it whenever possible.

So on nights when we haven’t planned dinner, our go-to meal is a rotisserie chicken.  The boys love it.  It’s not ridiculously overpriced. It’s not wholly unhealthy. But like most things, I’d prefer to make it myself than buy a premade meal.  Of course, there is no way I’d have time to roast a whole chicken on a weekday.  But I still wanted to try out a homemade version.  So last weekend, Maxie and I picked up a raw chicken and decided to make our own rotisserie chicken of sorts.

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A day trip to Capri, Italy

When I booked our trip to Positano, Italy, I knew that no matter what, we needed to fit in a trip to Capri. Capri is an island that’s about an hour boat ride away from Positano on the Tyrrhenian Sea.  It is known for having these gorgeous sea caves that are flooded with crystal blue and emerald green water when daylight shines in. Yet despite deciding that we were going to make our way to Capri, I never actually figured out how we were going to get there.  After settling into our hotel room in Positano, I jumped on google to try to solidify a day trip to Capri.  No luck.  The companies on Expedia and Trip Advisor were booked solid.  I was worried we may be stuck taking a water taxi.  Thankfully, there were three companies that were set up with tents on the beach offering full and half day tours. Surprisingly, the rates were comparable.  So we secured a full day trip with this company to Capri for 140 Euro for the two of us.

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I am a travel blogger today! Positano, Italy Travel Guide – Hotel and Food Edition

The fact that I am writing this post means my dream vacation came true–I went to Italy! And you guys, it was everything I dreamed it would be.  Breathtaking views. Wine. Pasta. Uninterrupted cuddles with my husband.  Kisses without kids tugging on your leg.  Ocean waves. Boat rides. Walks on the cobblestone paths. More wine. More kisses. And swimming in the gosh-dang Tyrrhenian Sea. Because that is a thing I’ve done now.  The entire vacation was magical. Yes, you should go to Italy.

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Lox Bagels

There are two types of people in this world.  Those who wake up and don’t need to eat breakfast.  And those who need to eat breakfast immediately.  Anyone who has spent any amount of time with me knows that I am in the second camp.  Most mornings I wake up starving.  Sometimes my stomach is actually growling when I wake.  Seriously.  Breakfast is my favorite meal, and I do not understand those people who can go until lunch before eating (husband, I am talking about you).

Weekends breakfasts are a favorite in our house.  Most mornings, we have a large homemade breakfast.  When Matt cooks, that means pancakes.  But when I am in charge, it means lox bagels.

i want to eat you.
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Animal Cookies

It’s spring in Minnesota.  So naturally, it snowed over a foot this weekend.  It snowed from Friday night until Sunday morning.  Nonstop.  There are snowdrifts, snow piles, and everything is covered in a thick layer of snow.

taken by Matt Sunday morning. It snowed at least another 3 inches after taking this photo.

If you didn’t have to leave the house, you didn’t.  The boys were especially restless by Sunday.  While the snow does not typically keep us housebound during the winter, this spring snowstorm was unlike any winter snowstorm.  It just would not stop snowing.  And given we are a month into spring, you can conclude that all Minnesota drivers have already completely forgotten how to drive in the snow, not to remember how to successfully maneuver over black ice until a solid week into the following December.  So we needed a fresh in-house activity for the boys.

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Moroccan Chicken with Chickpeas

Ok, so yesterday I came to a realization.  I’m chubby.  I might even be fat.  Ugh, fat.  It hurts writing that.  As if putting it down in words somehow materializes something that otherwise would not exist.  Unfortunately, that isn’t how it works.  My body is squishy regardless if I acknowledge it on this blog.

Now for someone who has seen me since I’ve pushed out my babies, this shouldn’t be news.  If anything, confusing on how I have gone for over a year since the birth of my youngest son and I am only now just realizing that I am a chubby girl.  But honestly, for the last year I am lived completely oblivious to this reality.  My lack of awareness of my own body size is the result of many factors.  But really, it can be boiled down to one single truth.

I suffer from a high self-esteem.  Much like my mother, I live my life with complete confidence in myself.  For the majority of my life, I have been blindly self-assured of who I am as an individual, appearance and all.  And frankly, it has served me well.  As a whole, I am almost always happy with my life because I am largely confident in my life choices.  I’ve gotten job offers, made friends, found stylish clothes that fit.  When I was single, I never had an issue getting a date.  Overall, if I really wanted it, I would will it to happen.

So after having my baby boys, sure, many of my clothes still didn’t fit.  But that didn’t mean I was chubby.  My hips have shifted.  Or I am not that far off from where I was (oh I am).  Because in my head, I wasn’t overweight (oh I am).  I was in complete denial.

This isn’t the first time my body imagine has not matched reality.  When I went to college, as a quintessential overachiever, I gained 30 pounds.

Yet, I remained as confident as ever.  I went through three full years of undergrad before I actually realized that I was chubby and needed to rethink my habits. I won’t forget the day it hit me.  I was sitting in a class, talking to a girl who lived in my dorm who was friends with my roommate.  She was telling me a story about someone.  Or trying to see if I knew someone.  That part of the story has faded.  But the rest of our conversation, I can close my eyes and find myself sitting in that classroom.  There were no desks, and the plastic chairs made a giant circle outlining the room.  It was right before class as we made what I had amounted to nothing more than small talk.  She began describing this girl she was talking about to me.

“She is a little bit of a bigger girl. You know, like you.”

Those words stung.  In that moment, I wanted to cry and run out of the classroom.   I replayed her words over and over in my head on my walk back to my room after class.  I had to get them out of my head.  So I joined Weight Watchers. lost the weight, and got myself down to 128 pounds.  I was fit, healthy, and happy.

This time, she hasn’t been around to bring me back to reality.  So I am not sure what happened to snap me out of it.  But yesterday, I realized that maybe I was a bit farther away from my pre-baby weight than I’d like, and I need to kick it into gear if I want to feel confident in my skin by summer (and more importantly, my Italian vacation with my husband).

So I am embarking on the 8 week total body challenge on the Strive with Megan app.  It includes a daily 22-28 minute workout and a meal plan.  It’ll be tough.  Mostly because Matt loves snacking and I love to be part of the party 😉 But I’ve done it before.  So it’ll happen again.

We tried one of the meals from the 8 week meal plan, and it was delicious! I tweaked it a bit to make it our own, including adding rice because otherwise Matt would have claimed there was just not enough food.  It was simple to make, and the ingredients are mostly items that you would find in your kitchen on any day.  Matt put this on his: make again list.

[ps: I don’t plan to share other variations of the meals from the Strive app but I encourage you to get the app yourself!]

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Homemade Cake Donuts

You guys, I did it again.  I kept making new recipes, but I didn’t take pictures and so my blog was once again forgotten.  Sigh.  It doesn’t help that I have a 11-month-old who I love dearly but is only truly happy when he is in my arms.  Seriously, guys what do I do?? I come home from work, make dinner, and then spend the next 8 hours trying to get Max to sleep by himself.  It is never successful.  But sometimes I have free hands.  On the weekend. When I ask Matt to hold him.

Since Max is a mama’s boy, it makes it hard for me to get in some one-on-one time with my oldest. JR is only two so he is still very much a baby boy v. a little man.  Mama kisses can cure any scrap and bump.  He still looks up at me, lifts his arms, and says “Mama, hold.”  And like so many mothers before me, I want to delegate as little of my motherly duties as possible because (selfishly) I want to soak in all of their childhood moments to myself.

always the coolest guy in the room.

I came across Baby Boy Bakery month kit, and it was the perfect outlet to allow JR and I to squeeze in a little more quality time together. Each month we receive a toddler-friendly recipe, complete with toddler-sized tools.  And for a couple hours, JR and I will get to share my love of cooking.  At least that’s the plan.

The first kit we tried out was homemade doughnuts. Of course. Daddy and Maxwell supervised while JR and I mixed, beat, and rolled out dough, cut out little rings, and then deep-fried those puppies.  And it was perfect.  Nothing monumental happened. It was nothing more than what it was.  A mom and her son baking together.  But it was one of the best afternoons.

 

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Eye of Round Roast Beef

It feels unbelievable but we are already nearing the end of my maternity leave. Next Thursday, I will put on a pencil skirt and blazer and head into the office for the first time in the year 2017.  While I cherish my time off, it will be nice to get into a routine and begin navigating life as a working mom of two.

Knowing that my time with my little babies will be severely reduced, I do not want spend what time I have at home cooking complicated recipes.  Sure, I do enjoy cooking, and there will be nights where I will look forward to tedious chopping and whisking.  But most nights, I want to be able to cuddle my babies until I put them down for bed.

This means that I will need to rely more on the help of others in order to get dinner on the table.  And no, I am not talking about ordering take-out, Matt 🙂 So when I stumbled upon this roast beef recipe, I knew it would be making the rounds once I return to work.

What I love most about this roast is how little prep work there is.  I can rub the meat before I head off to work, drop it in the dutch oven, and simply ask Matt or our nanny to toss it in the oven 2 hours before dinner.  And they basically just have to turn on the oven, turn down the heat of the oven (or turn it off) and that’s it.

And that rub, wow! Matt and I both gushed over how flavorful it was.  I liked it so much I have incorporated it into other recipes.  The tartness of the mustard with the saltiness of the spices is a perfect combination that compliments beef so well.  And while I love that this recipe calls for a cheaper cut of beef,  the rub can be used on a nicer cut as well.

We paired our beef with some green beans and sweet potatoes and had a full, well-rounded meal without too much hassle. Both Matt and JR had seconds, which officially places this dish in the “make again” category. Something that will be manageable even during the work week.

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