30 Day Everything Challenge: The Process (part 2)

6.8_30 day challenge

OK, picking up where we left off on the 30 day EVERYTHING challenge.

But first, I just want to say a big THANK YOU to everyone.  I’ve been crazy excited to share this with you, and your comments and messages have meant a lot.  <Virtual Chest Bump!>  Ouch, that smarts.  I guess I should add some upper body work to my next challenge.

Ahem, moving right along . . .

Here is my “report card” if you will for the second half of the challenge.  (Check out the first half here.)  As you might expect, my performance was not as stellar for the second half.

16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
Get Up Early X X X X X X X X X X
Whole30 X X X X X X X X X X X X
Plank Challenge X X X
Ab Challenge X X X X X X / / /
Steps X X X X X
8 Glasses of Water X X X X X X X X X X
5 Minutes Meditation X X X X X X X X
20 Second Hug X X X X X X X X X X
Real Kiss X X X X X X X X X
Wash Face X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Floss X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Bedtime Alarm X

Psst . . . It is also interesting to see how my 30 days compare to this whole30 what to expect timeline.

So here is how the second half of the challenge shook out.  One day at a time.  In real time.

Day 16:  Henry is screaming about something at 510.  Even though James deals with it, I sleep fitfully until my alarm goes off at 616.  If not for James needing to go to work early today, I might not have gotten up.

Ab challenge rest day!  Technically, yesterday was a “rest” day, but I’m trying to get in the shower earlier so I content myself with planks (120 seconds!).  Meditation does happen post-shower.

I am out of sorts this afternoon.  Tired and just kind of a headache.  I haven’t been snacking at all during this challenge, but I have a boiled egg and a half a clementine.  I’m glad because we go to a cook out for dinner, and I opt to wait until getting back home to eat.  (The thought of a naked burger with an iceberg “salad” just didn’t sound appealing tonight.)

I FINALLY get around to making paleo mayo today.  At first, I thought I had a mayo fail.  But it turns out that in my kids-screaming state, I was only adding ¼ cup oil instead of ¼ + 1 cup like I was supposed to.  When I added the extra oil, it worked out just fine.

Boiled eggs with mayo and truffle salt, roasted sweet potatoes, peaches

Boiled eggs with mayo and truffle salt, roasted sweet potatoes, peaches

Day 17:  I time myself on the Ab challenge this morning.  It takes me 25 minutes to finish the whole thing!  I do the situp/rollups continuously, but they take forever.  On all the other segments, I have to take breaks.

I try Nom Nom Paleo’s slow cooker kalua pig recipe.  I have high hopes for this one.  It is super easy, but mine turns out just pretty good.  It was a little drier than I expected.

Major bedtime fail.  First, we watch two episodes of Veep because I’m so excited that we got the website to work.  (It didn’t the last time we tried.)  Then something happened in my book, and I just couldn’t put it down.  I think lights out is like 2345.

Day 18:  I do not get up.  Exercise does not happen.  You’d think I could just squeeze in some planks, but I have trouble making it happen if I don’t knock it out first thing.  I don’t know if it is the kids, or the whole I’m already dressed thing, or just laziness.  But there it is.

Another bedtime fail.  James and I have a date night.  Ironically, we forget the real kiss and hug today, but at least we have some lovey dovey hand holding across a table at Mamma Mia.  That is until we have to move our hands to make room for the meat!  We have a ginormous steak for two called a Tomahawk.  It is amazing.  James also gets tempura vegetables and homemade chips.  I get a plate of grilled vegetables.

6.10_challenge 2

Yes, that IS served on a salt block

It takes awhile to get the check.  When we get home, our new neighbors just arrived and are having trouble getting in and they lost their bags.  After helping them, doing the bedtime routine, and reading, lights out at like 2330.  Not good, I know.

Day 19:  I get up a little early.  I didn’t set my alarm, but I wake up on my own around 630.

50 situps, but I don’t get a chance to finish.  Plank challenge rest day!  [Can you really count the rest day, if you just aren’t doing it lots of other days?]

We host some other new neighbors for dinner.  It is fun and eating is easy because I get to control the menu.  I am bummed on not sampling the scrumptious looking cherry chocolate chip cookies the neighbors brought.  And I feel kind of tool-y about not eating them either.  Like I’m being rude or something.

2341 bedtime.

Day 20:  I wake up at 616, but I don’t feel like getting up.

My family gets here today!  Visitors on whole30?  I know.  I expect some tough moments.  But I’m also thinking that my new habits will help me pull through with less pain.

Speaking of pain, though, bedtime is late tonight.  This is one of the nights that we have a sitter.  We walk around downtown and end up at an outdoor table by the Pantheon.  I didn’t see a single appetizer I could order so I just sit and watch my family devour some tasty dishes, being thankful that I had a boiled egg snack before we left.  It took the food a looooong time to come out this evening.  Like not eating until 2230.  But when my whole sea bass with grilled vegetables came out and they prepared it tableside, I had no whole30 regrets.  That was a tasty fish, my friends.

After we finally found a taxi that would seat five, chatted with the sitter, got ready for bed and did more reading than we should, bedtime was 0030.

Day 21:  Knowing we have a busy day ahead and that bedtime was late, I did not set an alarm.  I get up naturally at 700.  I am yawning, but alert.

I do my Ab exercises.  Instead of trying to do ALL the situps and then ALL the crunches, etc. I split them in half and put my meditation in the middle.  Kids are stirring towards the end, but I power through.

We have an epic day planned.  After a record of only eight minutes behind the official unofficial Melissa schedule, we take a bus to Trastevere and check out the Porta Portese flea market.  It was fun, but I would have enjoyed it more if it were a few degrees cooler.  We enjoy a nice lunch on the Piazza di Santa Maria, but I’m struggling on my order.  I can’t do grilled fish without getting a huge ginormous fish and nobody is interested in splitting and I just had fish last night.  In the end, I do a shrimp and arugula salad from the appetizer menu.  I destroy an entire avocado once we get home.

Things are decidedly fishy this weekend.  I prepare fish with mushrooms and more shrimp for dinner.  (The fish dish (cergia) was a hit, but I’m going to have to stop buying shrimp here.  They just don’t taste right to me.)

After a full day, I’m ready to hit the hay.  I’m in bed and reading before my 2106 alarm goes off.  But the best laid plans . . .  Henry is up and screaming around 2230.  He is quickly extricated to avoid waking up his brother.  We let him read in bed with us for a bit.  I am wrapping up my book and read way too late.  I think until 2330.  Henry wakes up again at 230.  Needless to say, it was not the most restful night.

Day 22:  I wake up around 630, but I don’t get up until almost 700.  I make it out to the computer, and I fail to do any exercising or meditating.  Huzzah.

Not sure why, but I have a killer headache this morning.  It is around earlier, but it gets really bad when I am outside.  An Alleve seems to help.

My mom tags along to the market with us this morning.  I can’t get over how good all the produce is here right now, particularly the fruit.  I buy oodles of cherries, peaches, and some fruit that may be a kumquat or an apricot.  [We decided definitely apricot.]

I also make another nongross dinner!  [Low standards, people.]  I make zucchini noodles with tomatoes and a lemon/egg/hot pepper sauce.  It is shockingly good.  This was a relief because I was really not enthused about the crappy dinner when I sat down to it.  Ugh, more whole30 nonsense, oh wait, this is actually really good.

Stay up reading until about 2300.  (OK, it was 2302, if you must know.)

Day 23:  I wake up on my own at 546.  Because this seems way too early, I read for a bit and try to sleep.  But no dice.  I still feel a little tired, but alert and rested.

I doubt this is related to my 30 day adventure, but just in case this is somehow related to ALL THE FACE WASHING or such, I want to mention that my eyes have been super dry.  Like wake up in the morning and sandpapery dry.  Like takes them at least 30 minutes to feel normal kind of dry.  No, I have not tried eye drops yet because I am really bad at them.  That’s right.  Even though I’ve had contacts longer in my life now than not and I can touch my eyeballs, I just can’t with the eye drops.  Occasionally, I can convince James to assist, but it is about as much fun as tracking down our cat to stuff in the carrier to take to the vet used to be.

Today is a holiday, Republic Day, in Italy.  Thinking it will be a good time to get out of dodge, we set off on an adventure and use three forms of public transportation to get to the ruins at Ostia Antica.  Here’s a pro tip:  when trying to avoid people, don’t use the train that heads in the same direction as the beach.  It is crowded, but we managed.

Thankfully, even though the Ostia Antica site is a few kilometers from the coast, there is still a nice breeze.  Otherwise, it would be brutal.  Temps are in the 90s.

The cafeteria there is better than expected.  While most everyone else has pasta al forno, I have chicken cacciatore with carrots and fruit.  It tastes like cafeteria food, but at least I’m not starving.

Coming home is one of the greatest temptations of the challenge.  We had been out ALL day.  We were tired.  And sweaty.  It was a good trip, but long, you know?  We decide to stop for gelato on the walk back.  Because of everything we had done and how hot it was, gelato just felt right.  Or a beer.  But THIS was the time when you really feel like gelato will hit the spot.  But I make it through.  When we get home, I pound a whole bottle of sparkling water.

I do rest for a bit, but my gelato angst is eased after I realize that I don’t feel completely wiped out.  I still have energy to move around and cook dinner.  This is huge because with kids, you can’t just go on a huge adventure and then lazily collapse somewhere.  They still expect to be entertained.  And fed.  Pesky kids.

I do decide to make it an early night though.  When the kids are in the tub, I do my whole bedtime routine.  After we put them down, I crawl into bed with my book.  I end up having to turn my bedtime alarm off because I’m out at like 2130.  Henry wakes up at 2330 for a brief scream, but what are you gonna do.

Day 24:  After that early bedtime, I thought I’d be rocketing out of bed at 500 or some nonsense.  But I must have been very tired because I wake up at 600 something and get up at 636.  Feeling pretty good.

Today I decide that attempting both the plank and ab challenges is no longer working.  I plan to jettison the plank challenge, but it is an ab rest day so I do the planks instead.  But then I chuck the planks.  Like I actually close the tab on my browser.  (Now only 78 tabs to go.)

Speaking of my abs, I’m definitely seeing results.  I’m no bikini model, but I can see definite definition, which I enjoy looking at, particularly first thing in the morning before that pesky food-in-stomach thing hides them a little.

Me:  “You better hide the scissors.”

James:  (confused look)

Me:  “To stop me from cutting all my shirts in half,” while lovingly caressing abs.

James:  (Hides head, either in shame OR because he can no longer look directly at the wonder of my sculpted physique.)

Day 25:  I get up a little bit early.  I have time to do 50 rollups, but I never get around to finishing the challenge.  Whoops.  If I don’t get it done in the morning, I just can’t seem to make it happen.

Bedtime is around 2245, but I have a terrible night.  I don’t know if it something me-related or worry about our upcoming trip or just because there is more light bleed in the room because the repair dude says we need to keep the shades open so that our mobile AC has more air.  But I wake up a few times and toss and turn.  Exactly what you need before a big trip!

Day 26:  Today I should get double checkmarks for getting up early!  I get up at 500 to get ready for our big trip to Turin.  But I should get negative checkmarks because I don’t do any exercising or meditating as we are trying to get out the door.

Water consumption suffers, but I definitely get in my steps as we try to cover the city in a day.  [More on our day trip to Turin soon!]

Unlike my previous whole30 faux pas, I decide to eat a deliberately off-plan food.  Turin is the home of gianduja, a chocolate and hazelnut mix that is one of my absolute favorites.  Coming all the way here and not trying it feels like going to the Sistine Chapel but walking around with a blindfold on.  OK, this is an exaggeration, but you know what I mean.  It just feels wrong.  I enjoy the chocolate, which was melting much too rapidly to contemplate taking any home, but I don’t chuck the whole day.  I don’t have any pasta or wine at lunch.  I don’t have the gelato at the airport.  This is how I hope to live life post-whole30.  Generally sticking to whole30-ish rules unless there is a good reason not to.  (Of course, real life happens, and I predict everything will be off the rails before I know it.  But I hope not.)

The offending chocolate

The offending chocolate

After our return flight and getting home and getting the kids settled and eating some protein, bed is at 2300.  I am beat.

Day 27:  After such an epic day, I decide not to set my alarm.  I wake up at 725.  I mean to do more exercise, but I only squeeze in a 60 second plank before I have to deal with some chilluns.

I invite some neighbors and friends over for playground happy hour, and I think it turns out nicely.  I can’t have the bread or cheese, but I enjoy the olives and cherries.  Socializing without wine isn’t so bad either.

This evening, I just can’t seem to shut it off.  Even though I got to see people, I want MORE adult time.  Bed time is at 2310.

Day 28:  I wake up at 5:something, but manage to drift back to sleep.  I actually dream that I sleep until 8:00 and feel a little guilty about “sleeping in,” but I decide to go with it because it is the weekend.  Then I look at my clock and it is actually 6:15.  Guess I still get my “X” today.

I do half the ab exercises.  When I started, I told myself there would be no partial credit, but I’m giving myself half an “X” for this.  200 situps and crunches is nothing to sneeze at, thank you very much.

I try a breakfast bowl with sweet potatoes, peaches, and poached eggs.  I like the idea of it, but it was a little off.

Today we adventure to Nemi for the strawberry festival.  And today, I again relinquish my whole30 “X.”  This time it was for strawberries with homemade whipped cream.  As before, I don’t go crazy for the rest of the day.  I don’t have the bread with my pork sandwich.  I don’t have any of the strawberry liqueur.  Ideally, I would have abstained, but I’m OK with this.

Strawberry arancio, strawberry pastry, and of course, strawberries

Strawberry arancino, strawberry pastry, and of course, strawberries.  (I only ate the strawberries.)

After the busy weekend, I’m in bed by 2200 with lights out at 2230.

Day 29:  I wake up on own at 600.  Other than my eyes being kind of dry, I’m raring to go.

I do half the ab exercises again before my meditation.  Half is good.  Still challenging, but not so much that I don’t even want to start or that it crowds out everything else, like meditation.

I repurpose last night’s leftover fish for dinner into a sort of fish salad with mayo, tomatoes, chives, and smoked paprika.  James, who was not the biggest fan: “I don’t see how you just plowed through that.”  Taste buds, man.  They have definitely shifted.

Bedtime is an epic fail.  I’m doing that thing where I’m being kind of productive on the internet and kind of surfing and I look down and it is 2230.  Oops.  Then I read until 2330.  Double drat.

Day 30:  I wake up at 530.  Uh, say what?  I don’t feel like getting up, but I’m the kind of awake where you know you won’t be going back to sleep.  At least I have plenty of time for my half ab challenge and meditation.

To beat the heat, my playgroup hits the indoor museum, Explora.  Afterwards, we get gelato.  I actually don’t miss it that much.  The boys are pretty cranky though that I expect them to share, instead of Mac sharing with me like usual.  I’m not sure what I expect from a 2.5 year old and a 1 year old, but they are not having it.

I’m kind of tired today, and I opt for a power nap during part of the kids’ naptime.  I don’t know if it is lack of sleep or just being wiped out from the sun.  It’s weird; it is pretty pleasant in the shade but the direct sun has become almost unbearable.

Tonight is date night.  We decide to go check out the summer festival stuff along the river, but it isn’t open yet.  I get my steps in on our nice long walk though.  I lose my whole30 check because I decide to have a sip of James’s beer.  I’d been smelling some of his beverages throughout the challenge, and I just wanted a taste.  I blame some of this on my less-than-satisfying dinner I made this evening.  We had fish with roasted asparagus and tomato.  I should have added sweet potato and side salad though.

AND instead of closing out the challenge on a strong note, I have a truly awful bedtime fail.  After paying the sitter, getting ready for bed, and reading, lights out is actually around 2345.  I guess I know which habit needs more work and likely a different approach.

So there you have it.  Curious what I did on Day 31?  I got up on my own at 630, did some ab exercises and meditation, and made eggs for breakfast.  Then I had a big old salad for lunch.  (I also attacked James with the tape measure in an eagerness to see how much things changed.  I’m sure you are not surprised by this.)

Definitely not a perfect record, but I think I jumpstarted some healthy habits.  I’m glad I did it.

Stick around!  Later this week, I’ll be assessing how everything worked and sharing, dum dum dum, results.

30 Day Everything Challenge: The Process (part 1)

6.8_30 day challenge

So when we left off, I announced my 12 point 30 day challenge.   You guys want to know how it turned out?  Patience, Grasshopper.  Let’s enjoy the journey on the way to our destination.

Here is my “report card” if you will for the first half of the challenge.







7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
Get Up Early X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Whole30 X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Plank Challenge X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Abs Challenge X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Steps X X X X X
8 Glasses of Water X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
5 Minutes Meditation X X X X X X X X X X X X X
20 Second Hug X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Real Kiss X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Wash Face X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Floss X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Bedtime Alarm X

To keep myself from completely blanking when I tried to tell you guys about it later (“uh, it sucked and then it got better?” is not very helpful), I kept a daily journal on my ups and downs and mishaps.  It has been informative for me even to review as I go back to edit.  (Speaking of editing, please forgive me if verb tenses are all over the place.  I tried to write in present tense, but I kept correcting myself and I’m sure I missed some.)  Brackets indicate my commentary from the fuuuut-ah, she says spookily.

Psst . . . It is also interesting to see how my 30 days compare to this whole30 what to expect timeline.

Without further adieu, here is how the challenge shook out.  One day at a time.  In real time.

Day 1:  Why didn’t I set some of this stuff up earlier so I could hit the ground running??  I wake up early and spend many precious morning minutes deciding on which challenges to tackle and making a spreadsheet.  Oh, well, at least it got done.  When I tell James about it, he’s all, “uh, this is way more than you talked about before” and I’m all “I know, right??”  But go big or go home, I always say.  Why pull the bandaid off slowly when you can AMPUTATE?  (Note to self:  I may need to work on my metaphors.)

Who can do sit ups like this???  I cannot do them without having my feet come off the floor and making a jerky motion to get my torso off the ground.  Such poor form cannot be good.  After struggling, I switch to a pilates-style roll up and over [which I maintain for the remainder of the challenge].

I find my Jawbone Up, but it needs to be charged.  Not shocking after sitting in a drawer for a year.

Day 2:  The heat is helping on not eating.  Luckily, after walking around in the hot sun, the last thing I want to do is carbify.  Unfortunately, it is making not drinking hard.  This is the time for crisp white wine and icy pilsners, darnit!  I fail on bedtime alarm because of date night.  Since I’m not really eating or drinking, we decide to go on a long walk so I’m sure I got my steps in though.  Bonus!  But at the end of our walk, it would have been perfect to sit outside and sip something.  Sigh.

I am impressed on how much I’m enjoying meditation.  Meditation always sounded a little hippy dippy new age to me.  But after a few seconds of my mind racing, I’m impressed by how much everything actually calms down.  And how quickly  it goes!  I swear, it feels like 30 seconds have gone by and my alarm goes off.

The Up is charged, but it doesn’t seem to be working.  Oh, well.  Most of my walking is pushing the stroller; my count would be off anyway.  I decide to only give myself an “X” if I’m sure I made all the steps.  [I’m pretty stingy on this.  I did do a lot of walking, but you wouldn’t know it based on my report card.]

Day 3:  I almost don’t get up early.  After date night later arrival and reading for a few minutes, I’m probably not asleep until 2300.  I tell myself this would be justified.  I could sleep in.  But I want to brag to the internet that I did a secret 30 day challenge and rocked it so I make it happen.  To aid on the water front, I remember to get a glass first thing.

Blargh, after I get us out the door, I realize that I am dragging.  It could be the slightly less sleep.  It is probably the carb flu.  I have a sort of constant low grade headache and I’m just exhausted.  I’m not heartened by knowing it will probably get worse before it gets better.  But then it WILL get better and I will be a ripped, fat-burning machine.

I fail on bedtime again.  I’m watching a friend’s kid so they can go out to dinner (we do a sitting exchange), and I don’t make it home till 2140.  I immediately walk in the door, talk to James for a few minutes (and 20 second hug) and start to get ready for bed, but when my reading alarm goes off, I’m just not ready.  I read until 2240ish.

Day 4:  Getting up again is a challenge.  I was having some kind of dream that involved Giada de Laurentiis and Oprah Winfrey in a fashion/talent show.  They were just interviewing one of Oprah’s backup dancers about her makeup when the alarm went off.  I really want to see how this plays out so I try to get it back for a few minutes before I give up and roll out of bed.  Thankfully, the ab challenge is on a rest day!  Although then I realize that I should have been up to 30 seconds for plank challenge yesterday, and I think I only did 20.  Oops.

I don’t dig meditation as much today.  My mind keeps spinning, and I just keep thinking of things I wanted to do before the baby wakes up.  (Well, “baby.”)

But on the plus side, I feel much less crappy today.  I might still be a little tired, but none of the headache of yesterday.  At the end of our trip to the market, I bought the kids some pizza bianca to munch on.  It took some serious willpower not to cram a piece right in my mouth.

Another bedtime fail.  Curse you, Outlander books!  I even went to bed at like 2045 so that I would have plenty of time to read, but I still blew through my bedtime alarm and read until 2315.  I’m not sure what the solution is.  Read less interesting books?  Tire myself out more before bed?  Exercise actual self-control?  I can’t stop watching TV because I just realize that we haven’t watched anything at all this week.

Day 5:  Because of my bedtime fail, I set my alarm for 616 instead of 606.  Again, I don’t want to get up, but I do and knock out my plank and ab challenges.  The plank challenge is up to 40 seconds.  I actually set a timer instead of doing an inaccurate count in my head.

On the plus side, I think my stomach is looking a little less poochy.  This could be wishful thinking, and I only really feel this way first thing in the morning, but I think I see a difference.  James, probably wisely on his part, declines to comment.  He also declines to take a waist measurement, not to tell me the number, but just to confirm that it is working.  James: “We are not going down this road.”  FINE.  [James took initial and halfway measurements, but I didn’t look.]

Also on the plus side, I think my taste buds are adjusting.  We make paleo pancakes this morning and they taste crazy sweet.  My lunch salad is also packed with flavor.  BTW, I am KILLING it on the salad front this week.  I have made sure to have cooked protein and greens on hand, which makes it easy to just add in other things and douse it with olive oil.  This is a nice perk of being at home.  Commuting with salads is a huge PITA.  I’m having things like oven roasted turkey with spinach, dried cranberries, cashews, and broccoli.  Or spice rubbed chicken on greens with cucumber, carrot, and tomato.  I am a little worried about this weekend if we are trying to eat on the go.  Note to self:  boil some eggs.

6.9_challenge 2

Another bedtime fail.  This time, I think it is 2245.

Day 6:  I feel like sleep is not restful, lots of tossing and turning, but I actually wake up before the 646 weekend alarm I set.  I enjoy a little me time with my plank challenge (ab challenge rest day, w00t!), meditation, and water, before we get ready for a day trip to Comune di Sermoneta.   I drink 3 glasses of water in the morning to be ready, but then regret this a bit in the car.

We stop for lunch upon arrival, in part because I need a bathroom.  Here, I have a bit of a whole30 fail.  Not a deliberate–screw it, I’m going to eat pasta–kind of fail.  Our antipasto starts out great, and I eat grilled vegetables and olives.  For the main, though, there is menu confusion and my chicken comes with a sauce that I’m pretty sure has cheese and flour in it.  Face palm.  I try to scrape as much off as I can, which is hard both physically because of chicken nooks and crannies and mentally because cheese/flour sauce is delicious.  Sigh, such is the challenge of eating in restaurants on whole30.

Sermoneta is hilly.  We do a lot of steps, but I doubt I hit a walking count for the day.  I am exhausted at the end of the day though.  After some turkey hash and putting the kids to bed and slamming some water to makeup for a lack in the middle of the day, I get ready for bed myself.  And then read until 2300 . . .

6.9_challenge 1

Day 7:  I decide to enjoy one “sleep in” day and don’t set an alarm.  Even after an uneven night (Mac woke up around midnight), I wake up on my own at 600.  Intriguing.

Man, the numbers on these ab and plank challenges are starting to get high.  My modified sit ups aren’t too hard, but I start to lose track on the way to 40.  [Hahahaha, just wait until you SEE how high the numbers get.]  I am really struggling on the leg lifts, and I have to take two breaks to get them all in.  I have been doing the plank challenge and ab challenge back-to-back, but that is starting to be too much planking.  I may need to modify the routine to plank at a different time.

Dinner is hard.  After a jaunt about town to check out a dinosaur exhibit, we pick up a pizza.  I get to sit and watch everyone with cheesy deliciousness while I eat reheated frittata.  Yes, yes, I know we could have just not picked up a pizza, but I didn’t really have anything else for dinner.  Stay the course.  I have been putting a lot of hot sauce on things though.

Read until 2237.  I’m sure you guys are wondering why I still consider this a part of the challenge because I am getting a great big “F” on bedtime alarm.

Day 8:  Despite not making it to bed “on time,”  I wake up before my alarm.  Part of this may be that the shutters are cracked, and I’m getting some natural light.  (I shut them immediately.)  I do feel fairly rested though.

I don’t feel bad today, but I am a little tired.  This could be from the fact that it was over 90 degrees here today.  Yikes!

After lunch today, the frittata is thankfully all gone.  It was good at initial consumption, but I really missed cheese on the reheats.  Also, the leftover roasted broccoli I added made things taste a little strange later.  Note to self:  broccoli off the frittata list.

I think reading was until around 2300.  I know, I know.

Day 9:  Mac wakes up at 600 and ends up in our bed.  I creep out shortly after.  I do not feel very motivated this morning.  Instead of knuckling down on the computer, I waste time screwing around on the internets.  I do ab, plank, meditation, but I’m not enthused.

Today is brutally hot.  We do a play date meetup at Borghese, and I am flagging by the time we get back.  During the outing, I push water on the kids, but I do not do a good job for myself.  I pound water in earnest when we return home.  I am also lackluster on food.  I throw together chicken, spinach, olives, and carrots for lunch, but I almost feel like I’m eating medicinally.  Keep chewing these bites so you don’t feel hungry later mentality.  Guess I need to dust off some new recipes.

After not TV-ing for awhile, we go on a bender this evening.  One episode of Elementary and two of Brooklyn 99 (a show you should definitely be watching).  After reading, bedtime is 2310.

Day 10:  My eyes pop open at 600 on the dot, but I don’t spring out of bed.  I just sort of let my mind wander until the alarm goes off at 616.

It seems strange to me that the Ab Challenge does not have plateau days.  The Plank Challenge gives you a few days of the same before bumping you up.  The Ab Challenge just keeps going up and up and up.  I guess the argument is for incremental change.  I’m just glad the leg raises have leveled off a little.  Those are still killing me.  But whether the Abs, Planks, or Whole30, I am definitely seeing stomach results.  I keep sneaking peeks in the mirror when I walk by.  It is almost making me sad that I didn’t have the guts to take before pics.  Today is the first day I start detecting a little arm definition as well.

Of course, after I type that in the morning, I feel sort of bloaty the rest of the day.  Good times.  No clue on the cause.

I do fail on bedtime alarm, but it is MUCH closer.  I think lights out at 1020.

Day 11:  I went to bed early.  No kid interruptions.  I sleep until my 616 alarm.  Why do I feel so tired???  Getting up is a struggle.  I hate when it feels like I’m doing everything right and still can’t win.

I have rug burn on my elbow from sliding into plank position.  Awesome.

Rug burn aside, I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep up with the Plank and Ab challenges.  I can still do my roll-ups without pause, but I have to pause on the crunches now as well as the leg lifts.  I get that it is supposed to get harder, but I know my form goes WAY downhill towards the end.  I’ll keep doing something.  I just don’t know if it will be the full numbers.

I feel bloaty again today.  This is a bummer because I have some really good food today.  Breakfast is leftover pork loin with cinnamon apples.  Lunch is a spinach salad with pork, avocado, caramelized onions, and fresh strawberries straight from the market.  Dinner is a Mexican-inspired salad with a tangy lime salsa dressing.  I still feel gross.

Bedtime is around 2250.  I’ve been doing more TV, and then reading on top of it.  Not that TV is the worst, but I think I’m using it as my end-of-the-day reward.  I can’t have a glass of wine?  How about a new episode of Brooklyn 99 instead.  Although we finished that last night.  After I catch up on Mindy Project and Elementary, I’ll be on the hunt for new programming.  At least until Bojack Horseman returns for season two on July 17.

I wake up at 245, and I have some trouble getting back to sleep.  I am not enthused, but this does make me realize, that other than kid-related wake ups, I’ve been sleeping more like a rock.

I also have a dream that I cheated on the whole30 with accidental consumption of corn chips.  Say what???  If I’m going to cheat, let’s make it something sexier than corn chips.  But in the dream, I was all super bummed about not getting my check mark on whole30.  Because of corn chips.

Day 12:  I’m in bed until the alarm, and I do NOT bound out of bed.  At least Ab Challenge rest day!

Unfortunately, the Plank Challenge jumped up by 30 seconds.  For the first time on the challenge, I have to break up the time.  I go back to read the instructions.  It looks like doing the full time matters more than doing it all at once, but it seems all at once is what they are really going for.  Oh, well.

After confirming that cocoa is OK on the whole30, I make this chocolate chili.  Ya’ll.  I may never make another chili again.  This stuff is stupid good.  It doesn’t taste chocolate-y or even mole-y.  It just has this depth of flavor that far surpasses my usual flavoring attempts with cumin, chili powder, and garlic.  I know this isn’t chili weather, but I promise you will not be sorry if you whip up a batch.

Bed at 2255.

Day 13:  I wake up at 552.  I do not bound out of bed, but I am fully awake and feel completely rested.  This is interesting.  I thought that I was somewhere in the south of needs-eight-hours camp, but I didn’t think it would be all the way down to seven.  I guess it is seven if-no-wine camp.

Leg lifts are actually easier today!  The number is up to 40.  I thought I would have to do four sets, but I make it through in two.

While the boys nibbled toast, I whipped up some scrambled eggs with chives and mashed sweet potato with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ghee.  (Don’t worry; I shared.)  I’m usually too lazy for scrambled eggs (a whole other bowl to clean!), but these were really good.  I may have to change my tune.  Either way, it wasn’t pancakes, but I did feel like I had a special weekend breakfast.

The rainy weather quashed our day trip plans, but we did manage a morning walkabout, and I even had a compliant meal in a restaurant.  I enjoyed an all-beef patty with lettuce, tomato, onions, and cucumbers.  Ham Holy Burger also has salad options, but it was nice to have something other than salad for once.

Bed at 2300.

Day 14:  I’m awake around 600.  Instead of getting up, I read for a bit.  Until Henry is yelling about something.  Then I get up.

Today we did all the socializing.  I was that weird girl who brought her own food to the party.  I don’t mind not drinking that much.  Sitting at a table with a plate of delectable cookies right in front of me is much harder.

Bed at 2355.

Day 15:  My alarm goes off, but I can’t make myself get up.  Probably a little something to do with that later bedtime.  Even though I’m tired, I still feel pretty good though.  Bonus on not drinking:  no alcohol-related after effects.

I do not do my morning exercises or meditation, which does not bode well for getting them done at all.

For the millionth time, I get annoyed that convenience food just doesn’t exist on whole30.  It isn’t just an Italy thing.  It’s a whole30 thing.  After grabbing Henry from school, we pick up some pizza for the boys and have a playground picnic.  I try not to directly inhale the pizza fumes and pound a salad with a full avocado once we get back upstairs.

I get sidetracked on the bed routine because we are dealing with rebooking a flight.  Even though I don’t stop reading at 2206, I make myself stop at 2235.  Willpower.  I haz it.

So no sexy cliffhanger, but that’s the first half.  (Does our heroine keep doing it and slay the sugar dragon???)  Feeling a little better.  Annoyed with restaurant food on the whole30.  Failing miserably on bedtime.

Tune in for part two tomorrow!

3 Reasons to try Antica Taverna

Being the shortest in my family, I have developed the ridiculous habit of standing on tip toes in all family pictures.

Being the shortest in my family, I have developed the ridiculous habit of standing on tip toes in all family pictures.

As you may have heard, we have all the guests right now.  Instead of trying an old standby, Antica Enoteca, we decided to branch out to a different restaurant also named Antica.  This actually isn’t too strange.  I’ve noticed that Italy is swimming with Antica Ristorantes, Enotecas, and Cafes.

Unlike some other restaurants I’ve covered, Antica Taverna is decidedly downtown.  The restaurant is only a few blocks from Piazza Navona, but far enough away to feel like you’ve one-upped the tourists.

It also has a decidedly Italian feel.  Like what you think of when you envision a very stereotypical restaurant.  Red checkered tablecloths.  Murals involving grapes.  You may want to discount my opinion because I have a high tolerance for kitsch, but I thought it was charming and cozy.

1) Prosecco while you wait

Even though we (read James) made a reservation, we had to wait a few minutes for our table.  To pass the time, we all received glasses of prosecco.  It wasn’t the best prosecco and they weren’t the biggest pours, but I adore prosecco and I appreciated the gesture.  It did feel fancy standing around and sipping while perusing the menu chalkboard.

Yes, yes, wine not prosecco, you get the idea.

Yes, yes, wine not prosecco pictured, but you get the idea.

2) Crazy good eggplant parmigiana

All of our food was good.  The eggplant parmigiana was excellent.  Best I’ve ever had.  Full stop.

GET THIS.  I had to wrestle the fork from  James to get a picture.

GET THIS. I had to wrestle the fork from James to get a picture.

It came in its own bubbly ramekin.  The dish was simultaneously greasy and light, if you can picture such a thing.  The grease was not in a why-did-I-eat-that-second-cheeseburger way, but ooo, oily from real olive oil and tasty cheese.  The eggplant, tomatoes, and basil all made the dish taste fresh in an I-can-almost-consider-this-healthy way, until you remember all the gooey cheese.

If I come again, we will skip any pasta and just order one eggplant parm per person.  Easy peasy, the end.

Fried cod, fiori di zucca, and mozzarella con prosciutto

Fried cod, fiori di zucca, and mozzarella con prosciutto

These pastas are good, but they only wish they could be the eggplant parmigiana.

These pastas are good, but they only wish they could be the eggplant parmigiana.

3) Stupid cheap

For just over 30 euro per person, we had two bottles of house wine, antipasti, primi, secondi, dessert, limoncello, and coffee.  A few dishes were shared, but STILL.  If you’d ever like the full courses experience without breaking the bank, Antica Taverna has you covered.  Of course, my bill will be even cheaper next time because I will just have eggplant parm and wine, squeezing in some dolce if I can.  The pear and chocolate tart was pretty sensational.

The tiramisu was also quite tasty for those of you into that sort of thing.  I know, I am the worst.

The tiramisu was also quite tasty for those of you into that sort of thing. I know, I am the worst.

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Antica Taverna
via Monte Giordano 12
(+39) 0668801053
Open daily from noon to midnight
Reservation form on website

My favorite restaurant, every other time: Antica Enoteca

Ah, Antica Enoteca.  I just can’t quit you.  Things are so good.  And then they are meh.  But then you come around again.  It’s really every other time.

#1  My first trip, I was skeptical.  We sat outside, right beside an American couple, where duder asked for ice I swear four different times.  I’m not anti-tourist and definitely not anti-‘Merican, but I do use this as a proxy for restaurant expectation.  But then the pasta came.  I got carciofi with guanciale (artichoke with pork cheek) and James did his usual amatriciana.

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Best pasta I’ve had yet in Rome.  Full stop.  Mic drop.

#2  Our friends came into town after Christmas.  Other friends here graciously agreed to babysit.  W00t!  Big night out.  Instead of trying somewhere new, I decided to play it safe and revisit a sure thing.  See, here, you can easily get an amazing meal, but it is also easy to get a meh meal.

Antica was packed!  Luckily, we had a reservation, but we still had to wait a bit.  This was no hardship because I discovered Antica has London Pride on tap.  As someone who is always on the hunt for hops, this was a pretty awesome pre-dinner drink.  Also, the bar is very cool looking, like too cool for me to be hanging out there, and it was big night out w00t!

Once we sat, I ordered the same pasta.  This was admittedly a risky strategy.  Either you know you are getting something great or you are getting something that can never live up to the memory.  Sadly, my experience was the latter.  It was definitely good.  Our friends liked their food.  But it was not the best pasta I’ve had in Rome.  Womp womp.


#3  Undeterred by the minor setback, we took my mom during her visit in February.  I learned my lesson and stayed away from the carciofi/guanciale masterpiece of my memories.  But my mom didn’t.  She let me try hers.  Best pasta ever again!  I was a little remorseful, but I consoled myself with my gnocchi that was also stupid good.

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#4  Feeling uncreative and thinking pasta plus a pre-dinner London Pride sounded like a good idea, James and I ended up back at Antica on a date night.  This time the experience was actually kind of bad.  They were out of London Pride, but they didn’t mention that until they brought a substitute.  He offered to swap it if we didn’t like it, but not that helpful . . .  The service was really slow.  And when we got our pasta, it was just ok.  Better than what I can make at home, but nothing to write home about.  Boo.

So there you have it.  I’m hesitant to give you a glowing recommendation because I just don’t know which Antica you will get.  Will it be the pasta dreams are made of or just an average plate of blah?

I can say that Antica has a solid wine-by-the glass selection and some very good charcuterie.  Even if you don’t opt to try the pasta, I’d definitely suggest grabbing a seat and a snack at the bar.  If you are feeling burnt out on Italian wine, you could even get a London Pride.  Most of the time.

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Antica Enoteca
Via della Croce, 76/b Roma

What makes your favorite restaurant your fave?  Would you forgive them for some uneven quality issues or are they dead to you forever?

Do you pepper your pasta? (Restaurant review: Cacio e Pepe)

Woohoo, date night!  This is something I adore about our time in Rome.  Back in DC, we didn’t go out a ton without the kids.  First, it was tough to find people.  Even once we found people, when I was working at the law firm, I just didn’t want to leave Henry.  It wasn’t that I didn’t trust people.  It wasn’t that I felt guilty.  I just really felt like I needed to grab all the time I could with him.  Even though intellectually I knew we got good quality time together and an evening out would be no problem, I just didn’t want to go.

Fast forward to Rome, now I have oodles of time with the adorable weirdos and I have no qualms about some time away.  We’ve also “discovered” the practice of having the sitter come when the kids are already in bed.  This way we get our evening family time, I can feed Mac, and a sitter isn’t trying to juggle the bedtime routine, one of the more complicated aspects of our day.  It works great in Italy when things don’t open until later anyway.  We’ll probably change it up when the kids are a little older, trying for more day outings and handing over the reins on bedtime.  But for now, it’s just easy.

We now have a weekly sitter.  In practice, it doesn’t work out every week because of our schedule or her schedule or illness or life, but most weeks we get to hit the town.  Which is awesome because I want to try everything.

I took to the internets for some date night inspiration and stumbled across Rome’s 6 Must-Eat Dishes.  A closed list that I can methodically pick off?  Yes, please.  We’ve been to Armando al Pantheon but neglected to try the saltimbocca.  Oops, I guess we’ll be back.  But for this adventure, we headed across the river to Cacio e Pepe.

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For our purposes this evening, Cacio e Pepe is both a restaurant and a dish.

This pasta dish couldn’t be simpler: pecorino Romano cheese and fresh black pepper are swirled with cooking water from the pasta to make it creamy (and then, obviously, swirled with the pasta — cooked al dente, of course — itself). But the fewer ingredients and steps to a dish, the more important it is that they’re all perfect, right? And no place does it more perfectly than Rome, where the dish originated.

Try cacio e pepe at (big surprise!) Cacio e Pepe, which has managed to remain a surprisingly hidden gem, given its easy location in Prati and its local reputation for solid Roman classics.

So pepper on pasta . . . As Henry would say, “that’s weird.”  Right?  But don’t knock it until you try it.  The three ingredients in the dish pack a creamy, spicy punch.  Here’s a little more on how the dish came to be.

And the the cacio e pepe at Cacio e Pepe is LEGIT.  I hearted this restaurant.  They have a tiny interior with full view of the tiny kitchen, complete with bubbling cauldrons of pasta on the stove, and a bathroom up stairs that look like they lead to a hay loft.  The real action is outside in the spacious patio area out front.  Thankfully, for our February trip, it is covered and equipped with heaters.

This is a place where they don’t hand you a menu; you just order one of the three house pastas, five if you count two specials that evening.  This is a place where you just order some vino della casa and enjoy your carafe out of tumblers.  This is a place where they have secondi, but coming for those would just be silly.  Checked tablecloths?  Check.  It was great.

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I opted for cacio e pepe, for obvious reasons.  Somebody had to do it.  James got the carbonara.  Picture similar but less pepper, add bacon and egg.

Just look at this pasta.  It was a heaping bowl of delicious.  I’ve had cacio e pepe at other restaurants, but this is my fave so far.  I think other places didn’t add enough pepper.  Or cheese.  Not an issue here.

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The heaters were my only knock on the place.  They kept me plenty warm, but the pasta cooled off fast.  This meant my first few bites were pure heaven, and the rest was just really good.  I don’t think James and I said anything the whole meal as we wolfed our pasta down in a race against the temps.

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I’m certainly not knocking the price!  I think this was our cheapest date night yet.  With water, a half liter of wine, bread charge, and two pasta dishes, our total was 23 euro.  Not too shabby.

I’m not sure I’d make a special trip over to this restaurant, but if you find yourself out its way, I’d definitely recommend.  And if you find yourself looking to jazz up your pasta at home, maybe think about reaching for the pepper grinder.  (Or the honey!)


Cacio e Pepe
Via Giuseppe Avezzana, 11
06 3217268

UPDATE:  Anthony Bourdain says cacio e pepe is the number one thing you should eat in Rome.  He also recommends Cacio e Pepe.

I crossed the river into the land of beer

Don’t get me wrong.  I heart Italian wine.  Right now I’m loving all the big, meaty reds.  When it warms up outside, I’ll be ready to return to the world of whites and start a hunt for my favorite prosecco.  (Not that I haven’t gotten a head start on that.)

But I do miss beer.  Specifically, hops-for-days beers that no beer connoisseur would describe as well-balanced.  Balance, pfft.  Why have balance when you can have MORE HOPS.

We did have some luck at Open Baladin last fall.  Now we embarked on a journey across the river in hunt of more beer.

When I say “crossed the river,” I do not mean the metaphorical river.  We actually walked across it.  I mean, on a bridge of course.  This one.

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This was our first foray into Trastevere, an area of the city where the “Romanest of Romans live” according to my sources.  Our first trip, but definitely not the last.

But first a quick Italian pronunciation guide so you don’t go around mispronouncing Trastevere for ages *cough cough* like I did.  Two rules should apply, but alas, an exception I do not yet understand tripped me up.

First, all pieces of words are pronounced in Italian.  This means there is no silent “e” at the end of a word.  Limone (lemon) is Lee-moh-neh.

Second, words are accented on the penultimate syllable.  Carrying through our example, you pronounce lemon, lee-MOH-neh.

Good so far?  So for Trastevere, a word that is literally beyond/across/over the Tevere (Tiber), you pronounce the “e” on the end to make it Tras-teh-ver-eh.

Looking at the penultimate syllable rule, you would think it would be Tras-teh-VER-eh.  But do not be fooled!!  It is Tras-TEH-ver-eh.  Alas, I can give you no explanation.  James even asked his Italian teacher, but she couldn’t give a reason.

Point of the story, I thought I was all “hey I know Italian grammar and I can pronounce words,” when actually I sounded like a dummy.  Learn from my mistake.  #dontsoundlikeadummy Tras-TEH-ver-eh.

Trastevere was very adorable, but we didn’t poke around much.  Our destination, Bir and Fud, was just a hop, skip, and jump from the river.  We walked in and found this sleek bar.  Ah, look at that row of glorious taps.  It wasn’t crazy crowded when we were there, but friends warned us you can’t walk through at all when it fills up.  I believe it.

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Behind the bar is a restaurant with tightly knit tables.  I was glad we had a reservation.

The beer list was not small, but not overwhelming either.  Plenty of Italian beers, but plenty that weren’t.  All beers, 5 euro.  I ordered a Spaceman from Brewfist and wondered if I might actually have a legitimate reason to call it a Spa-CHEM-inSee earlier pronunciation guide.  The beer was hoppy and delicious.

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To accompany the beer, we got garlic & pecorino chips and prosciutto & mozzarella.  All delicious, but I think my pores oozed garlic for a week.

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We split a pizza, which they conveniently pre-split for us.  I was glad we split.  That’s a big pizza.

For some reason, I was fascinated that James has a very methodical pizza cutting and eating technique.  For me, I usually just attack the thing with a fork and knife all willy-nilly.  Cut a random piece here, random piece there.  Pizza in mouth is the only goal.  I don’t think this will change if I eat 5000 more pizzas.  James, however, did a precision strike that you could tell was honed from practiced pizza eating.  It was sort of impressive to behold.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  The man does love pizza.  #pizzasurgeon

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If I had any knock against Bir & Fud, it would simply be that they seemed to be out of a lot of things.  We tried to order an appetizer from their specials list, something involving fried mozzarella and hot sauce.  Out.  For our second round of beer, we both struck out.  I don’t know if this is typical, and it wasn’t such a big deal because they had plenty of other great things to choose from, but we did seem to be hearing that they were out of things quite a bit.

After dinner, we went across the street to Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fa, which my sources tell me translates to “But what did you come here for?” or “What the hell did you come here for?”  This was a cozy, wood-paneled hole in the wall with an impressive tap selection.  Beers were 6 euro to drink inside or 4 euro to drink outside in a plastic cup.  I chose an Italian IPA that was a little too balanced for my taste, but not bad.

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All in all, I considered it a most successful first foray across the river.  It felt like–for just a few hours at least–we were back with our people.  Beer people.  I’ll just have to console myself with incredible Italian wines that are a fraction of the cost of what you can get them for stateside.  Poor me.  (Winking angel face.)


Rain rain, go away (Restaurant Review: Cul de Sac Wine Bar)

You guys, will it ever stop raining??  I know, I know.  It isn’t snow.  It is still pretty warm here.  But it is starting to feel like it rains every day.

And it is a sneaky rain.  You never know when it is coming.  I can look out the window in one direction and there is blue sky with happy clouds.  The other direction looks like a gray sheet of doom.  I have been at the playground and had a single individual cloud rain on me and then pass.

I’m always surprised by the quantities of thunder and lightening as well.  These aren’t just sheets of gray.  They crackle with electricity.

It seems to rain more often than not on date night.  One evening looked suspiciously dry.  We hopped into a cab to go stroll by the Forum before dinner.  On the way, the skies opened up.  We should have told the cab driver to change location, but we were too busy being amused by him.  He hated everything.  The traffic in Rome.  The food in Rome.  The people in Rome.  And I was hopelessly hoping that the rain might stop before we got there.

We stood on the corner sharing an umbrella (mine) and set off on a very truncated walk.  It was not a romantic stroll in the rain.  It was cold and wet.  I immediately headed to a cab stand to get to the restaurant.  I can’t find it now, but someone had a travel tip that stuck with me:  if it costs less than $10 but makes your life much better, you should do it.  For example, if you are starving, go ahead and get that overpriced airport sandwich.  I’m not traveling, but I think this is an excellent rule to live by generally.

Our destination that evening was Cul de Sac, a wine bar tucked away behind Piazza Navona.  A friend recommended as a fun place to try wines by the glass and local meats and cheeses.

When we rolled up around 2100 (I know, I’m a baller), the place was hopping.  After a few minutes, we were able to get a table in the back.  The space is very narrow with the wines up front and center on display.  Let’s just say that this is not the place you’d like to be during an earthquake.

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You could get bottles, but they did have a nice selection of wines by the glass, I think mostly in the 6-10 euro range.  We got a mixed meat and cheese plate as well.  Although it was quite tasty, I wish we had just ordered individual things.  There was a large selection of cured meats and cheeses, with the region of Italy noted.  I’d definitely recommend as a place to stop in if you didn’t want to pay Piazza prices around the corner.

After some enjoyable glasses, we did take a look at the rain-drenched Piazza Navona, one of my faves.

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I also had the tartufo from Tre Scalini in my sights.  This was eaten crowded by the covered outdoor heater where I technically shouldn’t have been because I only paid for a takeaway.

It wasn’t the date night I had planned, but at least it had a sweet ending.  Hehe.  🙂

Cul de Sac, Piazza Pasquino 73 (Piazza Navona) 00186, Tel. +39.06.68801094

Tre Scalini, Piazza Navona 28 00186, Tel. +39.06.68801996

Restaurant Review: Gotha Cocktail Bar (I was never cool in school)

You know one of my favorite things about being an adult?  No, not being of drinking age.  It’s finally knowing what you like, being ok with it, and acting accordingly.  As Amy Poehler says in her book, it is being able to say, “Good for you, not for me.”  I forgot this for a hot minute the other night and almost wrecked date night.

It started when some folks in the building proposed a happy hour to plan a holiday party crawl in the building at a local wine and cocktail bar.  I was all set to go, but then they had to switch the date and I couldn’t.  When date night was moved to a Monday and snuck up on us, I thought, “why not try this wine bar?”

It was raining when we set out.  These days it always seems to be raining.  We’d been warned about the rainy winters here.  “It’s just water,” previous me thought, “No big deal.”  Current me wants to smack previous me and make her spend days on end with the kids indoors.

It starts raining harder.  Even though we are armed with umbrellas, our lower halves are getting wet.  We’re getting uncomfortable.  We pass a backup location–somewhere we’d already been–and wonder if we should stop.  But no, I decree that we soldier on.  It’s date night!  We can’t “waste” it on something we’ve already tried!!

The rain keeps picking up.  We also keep noticing that everything in the neighborhood seems to be closed.  It is Monday after all, which means more is closed than usual.  If we walk all the way there and it’s not open . . . I can’t even bear to think it.  We press on.

Finally.  It’s open!  And trendy!  And completely deserted.  Seriously, we were the only people there.  More people were working than patroning.

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So we sit.  I belatedly notice, it is definitely a cocktail bar and not so much a wine and cocktail bar.  I’m not a cocktail hater, but I’ve finally realized (with the exceptions of margaritas and bloody marys) that I’m not a cocktail person.  Wine and beer, yes please.  Cocktails, good for you, not for me.

The staff was nice.  We had very generously portioned complimentary antipasto and chips.  But it was cold in there.  So cold.  The trendy door was open.  We were wet and cold.

I got a cocktail and tried to make the best of it, but I couldn’t fool myself.  I didn’t want this drink.  I didn’t want to be here.  But I re-remembered that being an adult means doing what you want.  It was not too late to change course.  So we headed out to the backup location, Obica, and enjoyed a meat and cheese plate with wine in toasty warmness.

So I’m not not recommending Gotha.  My drink was tasty.  (They had a variety of cocktails, almost all at 10 euro.)  The interior was swanky.  I’m sure it is very happening when full of people.  If this sounds like your cup of tea, I say go for it.  Good for you, not for me.  I’m glad I tried it, if for no other reason than the one hour detour made me appreciate, and remember, what I really like.

Demonstrating my uncoolness

Demonstrating my uncoolness

Gotha Cocktail Bar, V.le dei Parioli, 144/146, 00197 Rome, Italy   3493021505 / 068080325

Found yourself in any situations you weren’t feeling lately?  Did you stick it out?  Wisely bail before the situation even arose?

Restaurant Review: Pizzeria Gaudi (ALL THE CHEESE)

I’m always trying to find a balance.  On the one hand, I love love love trying new things.  But I also love the idea of being a regular.  Rolling up and having a familiar table with a familiar waitress.  Maybe not a place where everybody knows your name, but a place that is part of your regular routine.  My parents go to the same restaurant every Friday night and know the owner and I think most of the staff.  My in-laws have a place where the cook starts making their order as soon as they walk in the door.

Post-kids, we did end up with a regular spot in DC.  One morning, I had the inspired idea to hit breakfast at the 24-hour joint (it now closes in the wee hours) around the corner.  Breakfast food is delicious.  Breakfast also feels like a lower stakes meal with kids.  And that’s how we ended up doing breakfast at The Coupe almost every weekend.  We never had a usual waiter or table because of a larger staff and many other parents had the same idea (seriously, it was baby central up in there), but it was a nice part of the weekend.

Two times does not a trend make, but I think Pizzeria Gaudi is going to be one of our neighborhood go tos.  We haven’t taken the kids yet because of the hours, but I think they would be welcome.

I have received a request for more “food porn,” so I’ll just let the pictures do the talking here.

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Fritto Gaudi, an “assortment of fried specialties”

One pizza to share should do it next time

One pizza to share should do it next time

Linguine al Pesto Genovese Rossi and Cavatelli Gaudì

Linguine al Pesto Genovese Rossi and Cavatelli Gaudì

We went back the second time because it was pouring rain and I just wanted a heaping bowl of pasta.  Gaudi definitely delivered.  Man, Italians know pasta.  Perfect al dente pasta with just the right amount of sauce that somehow stays warm the whole meal.

Nobody recognized us the second time.  But maybe someday.

Gaudi, Via Ruggero Giovannelli, 500198 Roma;  06 8845451

Are you a regular anywhere?  Does everybody know your name?   

Restaurant Review: Open Baladin

I have been drinking wine.  I’ve had some amazing wines.  I’ve had some meh wines.  But wine has certainly been had.

Sadly, I cannot say the same for beer.  As I mentioned here, I’ve been disappointed by the beer situation so far.  Granted, we haven’t tried very much.  This is mostly because the beer at the grocery store looks like a light lager fest.  And I’m not hating on light lagers, but there is a time and place.  James finally found a German Helles and it was an almost spiritual moment.

To address this situation, on a recent date night we headed to Open Baladin.  It is the Roman outpost of the Italian brewery, Baladin.  Open Baladin opened in 2009, but Baladin has been brewing since 1996.  We knew going in that they have more than 40 draft beers and supposedly decent burgers.

The place is close to Largo di Torre Argentina (which totally did not have any cats when we walked by.  WHAT??)  It was tucked in off a side street where I may have asked James if he was taking me somewhere to murder me.  But we found it.  We walked in.  We saw this.  Angels sang.  It was glorious.

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The extra cool thing about Baladin is that they serve their beers alongside other Italian microbrews.  No tasters though.  All draft beers are served in 33 cl sizes and cost 5 euro.

The place was definitely hopping, but we didn’t have trouble getting a table.  In what seems to be a trend, we were sat at a table with a “reserved” sign even though we did not have a reservation.  (James tried by phone earlier, but it seems they don’t do reservations for two people.  Although the first thing they asked us coming in was whether we had a reservation. Go figure.)

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You know that thing when you eat out where one person is the winner and one person is the loser?  Meaning someone’s food is always better than someone’s elses?  If you have multiple courses, you may be able to redeem a disappointing starter.

Here, we had three beers each and burgers.  James definitely “won” this restaurant.  Luckily we both won on these homemade garlic and pecorino chips.



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The ketchup was basically tomato paste.

I had the “singing in the rain” burger which sounded yummy, but I thought it was too red peppery.  James had something with cheese, eggplant, and other stuff which was very delicious.  The burgers were not quite like home, but definitely the best I’ve had around here.  Which isn’t saying much; I’m not really out sampling many burgers.  (Two months in and no trips to McDonald’s yet!)

And on to the beers.  I was disappointed to learn that they were out of my first choice, Follower IPA from Vento Forte.  I was out for hops.  ALL THE HOPS.  (Luppoli = hops.  Luppolata = hopped.)  I substituted with a TSO from Casa di Cura.  It was ok.  Certainly a drinkable beer, but nowhere near the punch-you-in-the-face hops I was hoping for.  James had a Gerica, a lager from Birrone.  It was described in the menu as when the Germans met the Americans.  It was excellent.  Some German sensibilities with American hops.  This was probably my favorite beer of the night.  I would have gotten more of it, but there was no time.  So many beers to try!

Up next, I got one of Baladin’s Opens.  It seemed appropriate given the location.  It was described as a pale ale, but it just tasted a bit off.  James got an espresso-flavored stout.  It was at the suggestion of our waitress, and I was never certain on the name.  It was pretty good.  Very drinkable.  Good for the cooler weather.

To finish, I joked with James that I would get him one of the Belgian beers.  “Haha, like maybe I’ll get you a ‘Triplica Special Edition,’  (from Opperbacco) wait that actually sounds good, I’m getting it.”  It came in a fancy Belgian glass.  I don’t know if I would get it again, but it had nice hops and nice flavor.  It was good for me to end the night with.  James got Baladin’s Nina on cask.  It was smooth.  Kind of creamy.  It didn’t taste super ESB-y as described, but I recall that it was decent.  This round was probably a draw.  I think we were both happier with what we got.

Even with my “loss,” it was a great night.  Considering all of the people there, service was shockingly good.  Like beer came faster than if I had been sitting at the bar and watching the bartender pour it.  Many other restaurants are on our list, but I’m sure we’ll be back.  The siren song of the hops is a strong one.