Thanks to a friend’s recommendation, I recently completed Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before. (Funnily enough, she read it because she thought I recommended it to her. A sure sign I should pick it up.)
I’ve been thinking a lot of thoughts lately and feeling a lot of feels.
On life. On the future. On goals. On happiness. On what I want to do when I grow up.
Basically what follows here is a swirling brain dump of stream of consciousness gibberish. I wouldn’t blame you for skipping. But if your mind is also caught in the vortex lately, by all means, stick around!
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Remember back when I said I might publish more book reviews? Hahahaha. Clearly, that did not work.
But since I’m in looking back mode (yes, even at the end of February), here is what I loved in literature in 2015.
Inspired by Modern Mrs. Darcy, I’m sharing some stuff that I’m digging right now. Could be a regular feature. Who knows? 🙂
With my renewed focus on paleo, I’ve been on Team Nut. (Well, Team raw nuts or nuts not roasted in weird oils. Natch.)
When visiting my in-laws in January, I fell in love with their mix of nuts in a vase alongside a cracker on the counter. A beautiful display, something you couldn’t nosh on mindlessly, and it provided endless entertainment for the boys. I may have to do my own next holiday season.
In December, I paid a little visit to the Geox store. My friend raved about her recent purchases. Another friend mentioned she was interested because it is an Italian brand.
I was proud of myself because I tried on millions of shoes in different sizes and decided not to feel bad about just asking the salespeople to do something they are paid to do. I really wanted to try on all of them because they were speaking to me. Classic with a little edge.
In the end, I walked away with two pairs. A pair of combat boots and some slip-on sneakers.
I’m in love with both. Absolute love. I packed additional shoes for my trip, but I shouldn’t have. These two are all that I need. They even did great in the snowzilla situation.
Yes, a little pricier, but I’ll pay for quality, particularly on shoes. And one of my resolutions for this year (that I have yet to tell you guys about) is to buy more Italian stuff. And to invest in quality things to boot. (Hehe)
If you are in Italy, I’d definitely recommend a saldi visit to Geox this month! I know I’ll be back. Still no OTK purchase has happened . . .
Any visions I ever may have had of myself as a SAHM definitely involved regular visits to the local library. We have a lot of awesome stuff going on in Italy, but a library with English language books is not on the list.
On our trip stateside, we’ve been hitting libraries every chance we get. The kids love perusing the books. The toys there, of course, are way more exciting than any toys would be in our house. And I love reading something besides the same old thing over and over and over.
Driving in America
You guys! Driving in the States is so easy! After over a year of no driving, I have driven a few times in Italy. Each time feels a little like preparing for battle. Study the route beforehand, load the GPS and Google maps, strap the children in with lots of entertainment because I won’t be able to spare a second of attention for them during the trip.
But in America, it is fine! Wide lanes, ample parking, the list goes on and on. Granted, unlike in Italy, I do have to worry about being pulled over for a boneheaded traffic maneuver, but the necessity of making a boneheaded traffic maneuver is much lower.
I don’t love having to drive everywhere, but that’s another story. For now, viva the automobile!
That’s about it for me. What have you been into this month?
I love books. Even though I was late to the e-reader party, I love my kindle. (I’ll talk more on this later, but I think I actually prefer my kindle to real books now. I’m as shocked as you are.)
It is food week here on Roman Reboot! (You know, until I change my mind or get overwhelmed and stop posting.) But until then, let’s talk about one of my favorite things. FOOD.
Something that continues to surprise me about my new gig is how often I think about food. It’s all the time.
I am always purchasing food. Some of it is because I can only fit so much under the stroller. Some of it is because I just can’t seem to meal plan. But it is always something. When we have enough veggies, we are running low on meats. When we have enough meats, we are running low on eggs and yogurt. When we have enough eggs and yogurt, we are running low on canned tomatoes and olive oil. It is always something.
On the home front, I think about food constantly. What am I going to make for dinner? Will there be leftovers for lunch? If no, what am I going to make for lunch? What snack can Mac eat? If I use the ground beef for chili, what should I do with the rest of the onions?
Once I pick a location for a Saturday adventure, the next thing I start researching is food. Where can we find food? What time does the restaurant open? Do I need to bring food? How much food?
They say the army moves on its stomach. I say the family moves on its stomach. There is no faster way to ruin a fun time than to wait too long to eat and have everyone dissolving into cranky puddles of messes. And I don’t just mean the kids.
I used to spend lots of time thinking about food, but it was more fun. Less utilitarian. Ooo, which sandwich place should I walk to for lunch? Which restaurant should James and I hit next? Where should we order takeout from this evening? Now I am a grinder cook. You need dinner in 20 minutes using only bananas, bean sprouts, and chicken broth? I can do that.
I recently read Shauna Niequist’s Bread & Wine. I saw bits of myself in this book, and not just because our children coincidentally have the same names. I too ran a marathon when I didn’t ever think I’d be able to. She talks about being on a punishing book tour, eating a club sandwich from room service at the end of the day, and needing that sandwich more than she knew anyone should ever need a sandwich. This reminded me of some dark moments from biglaw where I sat clutching a blondie or some sushi and thinking this food was the only thing keeping me from crying. Niequist’s stories are beautiful and real and un-put-downable. In case not your thing, a heads up that she does talk about her faith, but it is very organic. I’d definitely recommend the book.
Mostly though, I found another lover of food. Niequist is definitely that. She says it took her years to be comfortable with her love of food, but now she is not afraid to own it. She gives people the gift of hospitality, coming together over a delicious meal and knowing they are loved.
I love eating delicious food. I also quite enjoy hosting. But somehow I haven’t been willing to put in the work to make this happen.
I’m trying to choose my words carefully here because I am worried about unintentionally offending. This is just me and my hangups here. In my 20s, I’d say I valued my career more than homemaking. It wasn’t that I didn’t value taking time at home. It just somehow felt like something I shouldn’t be spending time on, at least not as much as I should be focusing on work things. No, no, I can’t mess with making stock from scratch; I’m much too busy and important. I did have time. But with all the narrative on outsourcing, being efficient, and maximizing all of your time, spending more time in the kitchen was not something I was trying to do.
Now, I usually crank out three meals a day.* This can be a chore. Something to be endured. Or it can be an opportunity to be creative. To try something new. Food is a basic need. A a mom, I’ve been worried about their intake levels from day one. Why not show them love through tasty and healthy meals?
And that busy busy busy narrative just doesn’t hold water here. That is one of the things I wanted for our time in Rome. Opportunities to slow down. To take time to breathe. To savor the day to day.
This is a market culture. I can stroll a few blocks and pick out fresh veggies, meats, fish, cheese, and bread. Granted, some errands can be tough with both kids, but we do have the time to explore. To find out which vendor has the best tomatoes. To ask for a cheese recommendation. To slowly learn Italian while trying to communicate how ripe I’d like my avocados. I still hit the grocery store, but I’m trying to make it to the market each week as well. And when I’m there, I’m trying to hit new vendors and stands.
I’m also branching out to new markets. A few weeks ago we made it to the Esquilino Market, also known as the Asian market, near Termini. WHOA. This place is HUGE. The market has clothing and other durables, but the real show is the food. Esquilino has, by far, the biggest selection of seafood I’ve found in the city. They also have vats of fresh spices. Noodles and sauces. And other things I never thought of as exotic until we moved here, like cilantro, bean sprouts, and jalapeno peppers. We stocked up on those and some candied ginger and dried pineapple. I didn’t price out every item, but many things seemed cheaper than markets by us. For example, avocados seem to be about half of what I usually pay.
When we brought our precious cargo home, I wanted to take some time. Make something special. Nowadays, thankfully, if you can internet you can cook. I love to punch in a few of the ingredients I have and see what Dr. Google recommends.
For our “exotic” treasures, I made lemon cilantro roast chicken and a roasted sweet potato and black bean salad. They both involved busting out the food processor, but it really wasn’t hard. I also made a darn tasty pork fried rice and a faux pho that turned out better than expected.
I’ve been using Niequist for inspiration as well. Her book is packed with tasty recipes. So far I’ve tried her breakfast cookies, cheese-stuffed dates, mini mac and cheese, maple balsamic pork, and risotto. Ah, the risotto. You really can do anything with it. I’ve made sausage and mushroom, lemon and pea, and strawberry balsamic.
I’ll never be a precise cook. (This is why James is leery of any of the rare times that I bake.) I don’t follow recipes exactly. But there is a lot of inspiration to be had, both from the internets and the amazing seasonal food here. So I’m trying. There could even be cooking classes in my future. I’m committed to enjoying food again. There will be fails. But I will try.
(Unless you are one of the many house guests coming over the next few weeks. In that case, please keep all of your expectations as low as possible. Thank you in advance.)
*Please don’t think I’m cracking on James. About this anyway. 🙂 He was primary on food for years, and he does plenty else around the house. The current division of labor just has me as primary cook.
Are you in a slump or have you been food inspired these days? Any tasty recipes or techniques to pass on?
Hi friends! Sorry for the light posting this week. We were traveling for the holiday weekend and now we’re all sick. (I am totally mouth breathing as I type this post.)
My mom left this week. I miss her like a toddler loves changing his mind, but I’ve been pumped to get my own room back. Especially now that everyone’s nights are punctuated by hacking fits. Sexy! I am pleased to report that we did everything on the to do list with my mom, plus some bonuses like visits to the zoo and a chocolate factory. Even though she is gone now, my chin is up, because I think she will be back soon for additional shenanigans.
On the blog front, I owe you guys posts on Montepulciano and surrounding towns, Carnival, Orvieto, Villa D’Este in Tivoli, dining near the Pantheon, and Piazza Barberini. Also info on the Henry day care situation and an updated state of the situation. Can you believe we’ve been here six months?? That is 1/6 of my Italian adventure already finito. I better get on that travel list!
Thanks to my sister for these sweet outfits from her recent trip to India. We may have had to cut Mac out of his bodice after the shoot, but we’ll always have the pics. 🙂
I didn’t watch the Super Bowl, but I did catch some commercials and the halftime show after the fact. This Diary of the Left Shark cracks me up. Every. Time.
My mom mentioned she was considering getting purse boots for her recent trip. I think I may have done a spit take. Say what? Turns out, Purse n’ Boots are exactly what you’d think. Boots with space for your stuff. I scoffed, can it fit your cell phone? IT CAN. So they claim. I must admit that I’m intrigued. I actually really like the riding and combat boots. I just wish they had pictures of the boots on actual people. Can this be comfortable? It seems like a win for vacations to pick-pockety destinations, except for the fact that most people don’t travel in boot weather.
I like my place, but I would move here tomorrow.
After gorgeous weather all week (I know, I know, shutting up), it looks like it will rain here all weekend. I’m trying to plan some inside fun. Shauna Niequist’s Bread and Wine has gotten me more excited about cooking so we may try some new recipes. (The book is a touch on the churchy side–just mentioning in case not your jam, but I heartily recommend.) We may even try to watch a whole movie on Netflix. Lately, we’ve just been picking off TV episodes. (Here’s a list of best TV on Netflix if you are looking to start a new series.) OR just drop everything and start watching Bojack Horseman. Immediately. Will Arnett. Aaron Paul. Amy Sedaris. Alison Brie.
Meet the most beloved sitcom horse of the ’90s … 20 years later. BoJack Horseman was the star of the hit TV show “Horsin’ Around,” but today he’s washed up, living in a Hollywood bachelor pad, complaining about everything, and sometimes wearing colorful sweaters. Set in an L.A. where humans and anthropomorphic animal-people coexist, “BoJack Horseman” is about one man (well, horse-man) who peaked too early and must figure out what to do next.
If you liked anything slightly oddball like Community, 30 Rock, or Arrested Development, I say to give it a shot.
How you doin’? Big weekend plans? Would you try purse boots? Already finished Bojack? Pretty funny, right??
Ah, January. The time for being resolute. I have some goals for the new year that I will share soon, but I wanted to spend a moment looking back on 2014.
A lot happened in 2014. We had our second baby. James and I celebrated our ten year anniversary. I quit my job in biglaw. We packed up all of our belongings and moved to Italy. I’m a little overwhelmed just typing that. My only other year that even comes close is 2004, when I graduated from college, moved to DC and started a new job, got married, and bought my first house. If the trend continues, I suppose 2024 will be a crazy year?
I started this blog in 2014. I shared 80 posts. The blog had more than 2500 page views. (Thank you!) Most viewed posts of 2014:
It was a good year for books. I read at least 50 new books in 2014. This number is mostly based on looking at my kindle order history. I probably squeezed in some other books as well. I signed up for a goodreads account, but I haven’t been active on it. Maybe I’ll try to keep up this year.
I read a lot of good books, but here are some faves. Many of these are Modern Mrs. Darcy recommendations. If you like to read, her blog is a fantastic resource for what to put next on your to-read list. In fact, her blog is one of the reasons I haven’t covered more books here. I feel like I would just generally be copying her suggestions instead of offering new ideas. But maybe there will be some book reviews here in 2015.
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. This was in my book club. I bought the book, but couldn’t make the meeting and forgot to read it. When I rediscovered it on my kindle, I inhaled it. It was a mystery! And it’s in a series. I haven’t read any of the others yet, but I may have to do that.
Anything by Orson Scott Card. I’m not normally huge on sci fi, but really liked Ender’s Game when we read that awhile ago. James went ahead and got the rest of the Ender series, the Bean series, and the books on the first Formic Wars. I can’t really explain why, but I can’t put any of them down. It is just such a rich and fully developed world you inhabit in these books.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society: A Novel by Mary Ann Shaffer. Historical fiction. Loved. And I learned what the Channel Islands are!
Clutterfree with Kids: Change your thinking. Discover new habits. Free your home by Joshua Becker. This was a timely book that helped as we purged for our move.
All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior. I find books that discuss the evolution of parenting fascinating.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth E. Wein. More historical fiction. More WWII. The end of the book made me turn around and immediately read again. I have no idea why this is marketed as YA.
Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Schulte. I’m also fascinated by books on society’s obsession with busy-ness. I think a lot of people feel the time confetti Schulte mentions. Feeling like I can breathe a little is something I am definitely enjoying here.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. I think I read this in one night. I just couldn’t stop.
The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike Book 2) by Robert Galbraith aka JK Rowling. Ya’ll, did you know that J.K. Rowling writes mysteries under a pen name? I didn’t like this one quite as much as The Cuckoo’s Calling, but I still liked it a lot.
I Don’t Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star by Judy Greer. Interesting observations and thoughts on show business from someone who has put a lot into her career. I read more memoirs in 2014, but I liked this one the best.
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. Also a sort of mystery, as the main character forgets 10 years of her life after a gym accident and has to piece things together. An excellent read, and I may have enjoyed it even more as I’ve been looking back over my own past decade.
The Secret Keeper: A Novel by Kate Morton. More historical fiction. More WWII. (Hmm, maybe I have a type?) This mystery toggles between characters in London in WWII and their present day descendants who are trying to unravel a mystery. Like Code Name Verity, the ending here immediately made me turn around and reread the whole book.
It was a good year for books, but I don’t think I saw a single movie in the theater. I did finally see Frozen, and I haven’t gotten sick of it yet. I saw The Lego Movie and Divergent on the plane. Surely, I saw some others, but not very many.
On the TV front, we continue to watch Brooklyn 99 and The Mindy Project. I love both of these, but if you aren’t watching Brooklyn 99, you really should start watching Brooklyn 99. At the very end of the year, we started on Sherlock and I am hooked. We only have one episode left which makes me sad, but I’ll just have to watch them again. We also like the show’s American cousin, Elementary.
On the vacation front, around this time last year we went to Disney World which seems like eons ago now. We did a trip to SC and the beach last summer. So far in Italy, we’ve made it to Hadrian’s Villa, Volterra, San Gimignano, and Siena. We saw the Christmas markets in Munich and Nuremberg in December. We’ve had some fun in Rome, but we have plenty more on our list to see. I won’t list them all now, but I am pleased to report that I have been to many more restaurants in Rome since providing our two month update.
And, of course, there are all the metrics I can’t measure. (I mean I guess I could, but it would be super creepy.) The smiles. The hugs. The tears.
It has been a full year. I’ll miss ya 2014. (I’m always partial to the even years; not sure why.) But there is much to look forward to in 2015!
Good 2014? Do you look back and recap your year? Any books you recommend for the 2015 list?