Rome at a glance

To round out our Italian adventure, we spent an extended weekend in Rome.  When we began planning our trip to Italy, so many people said we HAD to go to Rome.  A city rich with history, ruins, culture, and just 2 hours away from Positano.  Since we can never guarantee that we will make our way back to Italy, we wanted to see as much as Italy without cheating our experience of each city.  Tacking an extended weekend in Rome was exactly what we were looking for.

because who doesn’t want to see this!
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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 at a glance

 

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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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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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Jambalaya

We all have our own comfort food.  Whether its mash potatoes, pasta, or fast food, sometimes you just need a meal to make our day a little better.  Jambalaya is ours.

The past week was challenging for our family.  Max has hydronephrosis.  He was diagnosed in the womb.  At our 20 week ultrasound, the technician uttered a phrase you don’t want to hear–“abnormal scan.” Ar this time, the hydronephrosis was present in both of his kidneys,  Of course, we had never heard of hydronephrosis.  Basically, it meant that Max’s kidneys weren’t developing properly.  We were told that 50% of the time, this type of hydronephrosis resolves itself.  So a second ultrasound was scheduled for my 28 weeks of pregnancy.

At our second ultrasound, there was good and bad news.  Max’s right kidney had resolved itself. It was developing just fine.  But his left kidney hadn’t.  It was twice the size of the right. It didn’t appear to be working at all.  So we went to a specialist. We were told that once Max was a month old, Max would go back for testing to determine the severity of the issue and how to resolve it.  If the left kidney was partially working, then it would be worth saving.  Otherwise, we would assess whether it would make sense to remove the kidney altogether.  For the rest of my pregnancy, there was nothing more to do.  Just wait for Max show to up.

Then right on time, our Maxwell was born, happy and wide eyed. We made the one month appointment for Max’s kidney.

Just a couple hours old.

And then last week, the one month appointment arrived. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the news we were hoping for. Max’s left kidney hasn’t improved.  It is twice the size of what it should be and does not appear to work.  Because of this, the doctor recommends surgery to remove the kidney when Max is 5 or 6 months old.   The idea of my baby being put under anesthesia makes my heart ache.  I can’t imagine handing my baby to a doctor for surgery.  It just hurts.  So when we came home from the appointment, our family needed some comfort food.  We needed to eat this jambalaya.

This recipe for jambalaya is quick and easy.  There is low prep work.  Just dice a couple of veggies, toss them in a pan, and let it simmer.  You can alter the recipe so it can be as spicy or mild as you’d like.  So when your heart is aching, you can eat a home cooked meal without too much complication.  Plus, the assortment of vegetables makes the meal relatively healthy.

So after Max’s kidney appointment we ate this jambalaya as a family.  And while it didn’t make the fact that Max has hydrondphrosis go away, it made us all feel a little bit better, even if it was just for the night.

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How we made it through the first months with a newborn.

The post could be summed up by saying, “Everyone has their own preferences. All babies are different.  This whole child rearing thing is just a whole trial and error game. And this is what worked for us.”

Aden + Anais Blankets: It is no secret that I am am a blanket addict.  We own no less than 20 blankets (mostly the silky soft muslin variety), which sounds ridiculous given these blankets can be quite pricey.  But I was able to find them at TJ Maxx/HomeGoods/Marshalls for around half the price and we got several sets as gifts, so I didn’t end up spending a small fortune on blankets (but God knows I would).

But regardless of the price, these blankets are worth it–they are easily our most used item. We use them for everything–cuddles, burp rag, cleaning up spit up, swaddling (well, we didn’t swaddle but we “mermaid-ed” him with them).  And JR is definitely a blanket baby.  He walks around with a blanket constantly and he uses it to comfort himself whenever he is upset (new use: bunching it up and biting it as a way to relieve teething pain).  Cannot imagine having a baby without these blankets.

blankets

blanket
buying more blankets cuz I have no willpower.

Boppy Lounger: The essential ingredient for a table baby. Matt and I would place the boppy on the table and drop JR in it while we ate dinner. Gosh, dinner time was so much simpler back then (now JR tries to escape from his high chair and tosses his food on the floor to Pancake).  That boppy followed us to room to room.  It was the perfect place to stash a baby when you have to pee and you don’t want to put him on the bathroom floor. Or when you are cooking a meal.  And it is far easier to move a boppy than an entire swing.

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fashion by daddy.
fashion by daddy.

Gummy Bear Red NightLight: JR was not the best sleeper for the first 10 months of his life, and he was a total piglet when it came to breastfeeding.  I cannot remember one night over my maternity leave where we didn’t spend the majority of the night nursing. In the beginning, we relied on the hall light so I could see in the middle of the night.  But it was too bright, and it was hard to fall back asleep (and when you only have 20-30 minutes to get some sleep before the baby wants to nurse again, you wanna fall asleep as fast as possible). This light was the perfect solution.  It stays on for an hour, is red light (which apparently is the light you want in the middle of the night) and doubles as a toy for the baby. Plus, no need to buy the charger (which comes separately) because your charger from your breast pump works with it.

mamaRoo Swing: This swing is certainly in vogue.  It seems like everyone has one.  And apparently we also drank the Kool-Aid because we loved ours.  The swing has 5 different swing settings, which is great because if JR wasn’t going for one type of swing, we could switch it up and try another.  It also has four different white noise sounds which helped encourage JR to nap somewhere that wasn’t on me.

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Bassinet: Ok, I did design our bassinet myself (as in, I found a picture on Pinterest that I loved and told Matt, make this) but I cannot imagine how we would have survived the first couple of months without a bassinet. Having JR sleeping next to me was a huge comfort.  I would weave my hand through the bars, rest it on JR’s chest, know that he was breathing, and be able to get some decent sleep.

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So yeah, these items made navigating the first couple months of parenthood so much easier. Sure, our changing table, diapers, and wipes were pretty important but hey, those aren’t as glamorous and fun 😉

Hopefully, this baby registry must have is helpful.  Of course, this is just what worked for us.  We aren’t baby experts (yet) so this list certainly isn’t gospel.  And feel free to let me know what baby must haves I missed 🙂

xo.

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We made a baby boy.

And I am completely obsessed with him.

Christmas 2016
Christmas 2016

In late 2014, we got a huge surprise–I was pregnant.  We weren’t exactly trying to get pregnant, but we also weren’t trying not to, just playing our own version of Russian roulette which turned out to be successful a bit faster than we anticipated.  Of course, Matt was over the moon.  He had wanted to be a baby daddy since forever and the news that it finally was a reality was the perfect news.  I was a little scared of the unknown but excited to have a baby to kiss and cuddle with.

Lucky for me, I had a generally easy pregnancy.  I slowly got fatter and fatter around my belly, but no morning sickness, no food aversion, no cravings.  Instead, my feet swelled.  By 7 months, my shoes no longer could fit and when I wore high-heels for work, I looked like Miss Piggie.  Nothing like fat feet to make your whole body look unbelievably more large and prego.  Even though my swollen feet looked painful, typically they weren’t too uncomfortable, beyond feeling tight. Plus, Matt massaged them every night 😉

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8 months pregnant.
You can’t tell, but my shoe strings are straining from my fat fat feet!

We decided not to find out the sex of the baby until Toastie (our womb name for JR) was born.  For us, it was a no brainer.  The sex of your baby is one of the most genuine surprises in your life, and we didn’t want to ruin the surprise until Toastie was ready to fall out.  The anticipation of finding out what Toastie was wasn’t too difficult….until Toastie decided to be late.  12 days late (with labor starting at 11 days late). Those days were easily the hardest part of my pregnancy.

The due date was July 12th.  Sure, it is common knowledge that calculating due dates is not an exact science.  And I am certain I said that catch phrase over and over again once the calendar said July 1st (mostly to my boss, who was starting to come to terms with the reality that I would be out of the office for two months).  Still, when July 12th came and went, we were disappointed.  Every day after July 12th, I would wake up a bit disheartened that I was getting ready for work instead of getting ready for labor.  (for some reason, I was convinced that I would go into labor in the middle of the night–I didn’t).

8 days late stress test
8 days late stress test

We tried everything to induce labor. Sex, walking, running, spicy food, acupuncture (three times).  Nothing worked (we didn’t try the castor oil–I just couldn’t bring myself to risk it).  Every day I would run 2 miles.  But this baby was stubborn. He had his own agenda.  But then it was Thursday, July 23rd.

I woke up on Thursday, July 23, 2015 at 6:00 a.m. and it felt like I had peed myself.  I was quite certain it was my water breaking, but the entire area wasn’t saturated, so I started to doubt myself and wondered if maybe I just sweated an ungodly amount over the night (pregnancy can be gross).

Sure, this baby was already 11 days past the due date.  But after 11 days, and thinking everything was “a sign that labor was around the corner” and then feeling disappointed when I was still pregnant, I was starting to feel like I was going to die pregnant. Plus, weren’t contractions suppose to come with my water breaking? I felt just like I had every other day of pregnancy—completely fine. I needed a second opinion.

I woke Matt up and told him what happened.  He smiled, “we are going to have a baby today!” And he was right (ok, well he was born on the 24th but close enough).  After only 5 and half hours of labor,  I caught my baby as he floated up from the water towards me like a torpedo.  We are so blessed.  I had the birthing experience I wanted–a non-medicated, water birth–and a beautiful, healthy baby boy.

first family photo taken 5 hours after JR was born.

Since we gave birth at a birth center, we were discharged 5 hours after JR was born.  I know, this sounds shocking to most people (and even I was hesitant about it) but it was natural and organic.

Dressed and ready to go home
Dressed and ready to go home

Matthew Anthony Jr. (who we lovingly call JR) was born July 24, 2015 at 2:43 a.m. at 7 lbs 6 oz and 20 inches.  And our life has become better for it.

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And then two and a half years later…

Wow, its been over two years since I last posted.  To be honest, my sabbatical from blogging was unintentional.  It started with my laptop breaking.  Not sure what happened, but it no longer turned on.  Matt said it would cost too much to fix it so it sat in the tv stand for the past couple of years, collecting dust while I was essentially computer-less. And then I forgot the password to sign into my blog account.  So my attempts to sign into my blog on Matt’s desktop was unsuccessful.  But then on December, 2015 (two years from my last post!), my work gave me a glorious, gold MacBook.  It took way too many guesses, but I finally cracked my password (but to be honest, I have once again forgotten it-thank God it is saved to my new computer). Remembering how to navigate wordpress…still not up to par yet.  Ugh, technology is hard.

Gosh, my life has completely transformed.  Most notably, I became a mom.

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JR // 6 weeks old

And I would post more, but for some reason, pictures won’t upload into wordpress.  Seriously, wordpress is anything but user-friendly. After fighting with it for over an hour, I’m throwing my hands up. You win, wordpress.  I’ll be back to struggle with you tomorrow.

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