ICYMI: where you at edition


Who has four thumbs and LOVED their quad bike experience? Yup, these two. They had their own bell. I apologize to anyone else who was in Villa Borghese yesterday.

Sorry for the silence around these parts lately.  It has been a mixture of guests, travel, and secret projects.  I’m hoping things will be closer to normal starting next week.  But, of course, no promises.  In the meantime . . .

On the blog:

It is like a million degrees here now.  I have been rocking these outfits on the reg.  I definitely recommend if you are heading to Rome (or anywhere religious and hot) anytime soon.

Everything you ever wanted to know about Puglia.  Haha, just scratching the surface really, but it is a great travel destination.

And here’s how the pacifier usage went down on the Puglia travels.

But speaking of someone who still has more lenient pacifier rules, Mac is one!

On the internets:

Anyone else follow A Cup of Jo?  I recently added this one to my rotation.  Little bits on kids, beauty, life in the city, design, and plenty more.  Here is a tiny house tour I loved.  (You know I love me a tiny house.)

PowerPoint should be banned. This PowerPoint presentation explains why.  But what about all of those sweet PPT skillz I learned at the law firm???  Was it all for naught?

I don’t have a dehydrator, but I need these zucchini chips in my life.

Does anyone use a planner?  This one looks pretty and tempting.  I want to make sure I would use something before getting one.  But right now I have no planning so any planning would be better?

Me:  “Who is that?”  James:  “Uh, Sting.”  Right.  So Sting has a beard now.  Good to know.

Looking for a statement piece for your living room?

Cracks me up: Toddler Adjusting To Society After Serving 2-Minute Timeout

Looking for guidance?  Check out these life lessons from Anthony Bourdain.

Summer is here.  Watch out for ticks!

What has four legs and is completely not kid friendly?  This coffee table, but I kind of want it anyway, fingerprints be darned!

Happenings & Coming up:

Italy had a holiday this week.  Republic Day, to be exact.  We decided to escape the city to see the ruins at Ostia Antica.  Here’s a pro tip:  Don’t escape the city in the direction of the beach.  It all worked out, but there were some packed trains involved.  More on Ostia Antica “soon.”  (It can get in the queue behind Montepulciano and Pienza and Sermoneta and . . . )

My bazillion internet tabs are currently split between Lake Bracciano and Turin.  (And, let’s be honest, a million other things.)  We are heading to both this month, and I am pumped.

Hope you have a wonderful weekend whatever you are up to!

ICYMI: mid May edition

The elusive double vintage shot.

The elusive double vintage shot.

On the blog:

If I had to pick a root cause of the difficulties of law firm life, this would be it.

Henry, still hilarious.

Food photos!  (I just typed foot photos.  For a split second, I thought about leaving it, but that would be super weird and gross.)

On the internets:

I heart tiny houses.  Anyone want to build our own street like these guys?

Remember how I said that fava beans are definitely a thing right nowHere is a little more background.  My version did not turn out so hot because apparently you have to shell them and then peel them?  Oh, well, I tried.

Even if billables are bad, law firms do have very generous paid leave.

Happenings & Coming up:

I feel like this week went by fast.  Henry actually made it to school all three scheduled days.  I can’t even remember the last time that happened.  Henry has also been biting his brother.  Not cool, kid.

I’m not sure what the plan is for the weekend.  I was thinking about a day trip to Comune di Sermoneta, but the weather is looking a little dicey.  A friend also just alerted me to this sweet dino exhibit in Rome.  Whatever we do, it will probably involve avoiding downtown Rome.  Tourist season is ON.  (And utility vests are definitely back BTW.)

Hope you have a great one!

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.

5.6_antica taverna 3

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

ICYMI: dentist LIKE A BOSS edition

Sorry for the absenteeism!  To take full advantage of our family visitors, we’ve been trying to do ALL the things, eat ALL the food, and stay up ALL (well, half) the night.  It’s been fun, but we are run down.  I see clean eating, early bedtimes, and no vino coming up this week.

Proof of guests!

Proof of guests!

On the blog:

Check out these sweet gardens.  All excellent day trip options from Rome.  Monster posts like these are also one of the reasons I’ve been posting less.  This post took three day trips, writing 1100+ words, editing 30+ pictures, looking up links, and doing a little more research.  I’m hoping this kind of evergreen content can be useful to some down the road, but I know this isn’t super helpful to the majority of my readers in the U.S.  Sigh.

I squeezed in one more letter to Mac before his birthday.  Cake pictures to come soon!  (He went for it.  BIG TIME.)

5.8_ICYMI cake

Not that you will look beyond the adorbs baby, but you can see my ombre hair experimentation here.

And how to host like a rock star.  I attempt humor in this one.  Consider yourself warned.

On the internets:

A friend of my friend wrote a book!  C is for Critter is a huge hit with my boys.  Letters such as “E” for echidna and “N” for narwhal make this a nice change for the parents as well.  (I challenge you to google quokka and not immediately go awwwww.)


The Cult of Busy.  These articles are my clickbait.

How Some Men Fake an 80-Hour Workweek, and Why It Matters.  The faking it could help on perception, but this strategy ultimately won’t work if you have to bill your hours.  They always know.  I do completely agree on the better to ask for forgiveness than permission approach.  My biglaw strategy was to get my work done and make myself be as accessible as possible without actually being in my office all the time.

You remember when I said I was failing at all the current events?  A sweet friend (thanks AJ!) tipped me off to the Skimm.  This weekday newsletter curates world news into a humorous, easy-to-digest format.  I promise, this one is not just more inbox clutter.  Now when friends have said, “did you hear about . . . ?”  I’m all yeah, YEAH I did.

Have I mentioned that it is starting to get really hot here?  I don’t usually adulterate my sparkling wine, but I may have to work my way through this list of cocktails this summer.

Happenings & Coming up:

Speaking of hot, I’m very happy that Mac can wear his new-to-him summer wardrobe, which aligns surprisingly well with Henry sizing.  Chunky baby thighs on display make me happy.

I made a version of this.   Even without adding cheese, it turned out nicely.  Eggplant stuffing, who knew?

I also made pulled out the slow cooker to make this.  Excellent flavor, but this was more work than I like from my crockpot recipes.  You want me to cut the meat, sear the meat, cook on high for an hour, and then switch to low?  This one is not destined to be in regular rotation.

I’m very excited about summer produce.  Melon season has arrived, and these are some of the best cantaloupes I’ve had in my life.  Also, apparently fava beans are a big thing now.  I picked some up today; will have to figure out what to do with them.

Mac is pro peach

Mac is pro peach

Henry dentisted this week for the first time.  He killed it!  I was so impressed.  They did an actual cleaning, with an ultrasonic water pick thing and everything.  I sat there with my eyes welling up because how did my little boy get this big??  (Dentist here is just like back home BTW.)

5.8_ICYMI 2

For this weekend, I actually have no idea what we are up to.  We’ll try to squeeze in one more adventure with James’s parents.  We are also planning to attend a 70s-themed block party.  Pics if I’m brave!

What are you up to?  Any birthdays?  Dentist?  Questionable hair dyes?  Hope you have a good one!

Happy Mother’s Day!

How to Host Like a Rock Star*

*Hmm, I guess rock stars probably don’t host on their own that much.  More appropriately titled “How to host like a highly paid rock star’s assistant who is used to getting things done and putting up with unreasonable demands.”  NOT to imply in any way that any of my guests have ever made unreasonable demands.  This post is really more appropriately titled “How to atone for making our parents sleep on an air mattress when visiting for way too long.”

This spring we have all the guests.  I’m psyched.  But it can be hard to have people in your space for extended periods of time.  It is also hard for guests to be up in someone else’s space for extended periods of time.  Here is what I’m doing to try to maximize enjoyment of all of our delightful guests this spring.

4.29_venn diagram of guests

But first, let me refer to this helpful Venn diagram of guesting that I just whipped up.  (Thanks picmonkey!)  I think there are two types of guest categories, guest “camps” if you will.  Some guests want to see you, or more truthfully, your adorable children.  This camp is more family and close friends.  At the other end of the spectrum, you have guests who are generally using you as a crash pad to see your awesome city.  This camp is more casual friends, acquaintances, and people who actually took you up on your enthusiastic “you should TOTALLY come visit” offer.  Most people fall somewhere in the middle.  They want to see you, but would also like to experience the wonders of your city.  I can’t blame them at all.  I mean, my kids are cute, but I live in ROME.  You could live here for 500 years and never run out of things to see.

All of this to mean that my approach changes slightly depending on what sort of guest you are.  Here to see us?  I’ll clear our schedules (hey, don’t laugh) and make plans for some fun togetherness.  Here to see the city?  I’ll ramp up the “freedom” items I mention below and let you do your thang.

Without further adieu, these are the “gifts” I like to bestow on my guests.

The Gift of Comfort.  I want our guests to be comfortable.  We aren’t the Westin, and I do not have a Heavenly Bed, but I want people to feel at ease.  (Again, I’m really really sorry about our overly long usage of the air mattress.)

Before we left, we engaged in some delayed upgrades.  After not buying many towels since, uh, our wedding, we bought a new matching set.  (These actually.)  We have some fancier bath sheets from Frontgate, but those don’t come out as much, even for our personal use, because I can only fit like one in the washing machine at a time.  We have been obsessed with our Comphy sheets for years, and we finally got some for our guests to enjoy as well.  (If you need new sheets, you will NOT be sorry with these.)

I try to do little touches as well.  Things that you don’t really notice their presence, but you might note their absence.  The guest bedroom has its own trashcan.  There is a box of tissues.  Plenty of TP.  There are Q-tips in the bathroom.  I also have some spare toiletries in the bathroom.  I’m sure these seem like no-brainers, but I haven’t always been great on them.  (True story: in our early years of marriage I told James we didn’t need to buy tissues because we could just use toilet paper.  #minimalismgonewrong  Then I finally used tissues again and was all “This is like sneezing onto angel wings!!”  We buy tissues now.)

The Gift of Space.  Our apartment has three bedrooms.  When guests are here, someone shares so that guests have a dedicated room.  Thankfully, our guest room is a nice size so guests can have their own space.  We also have two bathrooms.  During normal life, we use them indiscriminately (although we only shower in one), but for guests, we dedicate one bathroom for their exclusive use.

In the guestroom, we’ve also made space for guests.  There are two dressers that are 90% empty.  There are hangers with plenty of empty space in the closet.  The room is not stuffed with furniture.  Guests have room to spread out and actually unpack.  Because who likes living out of a suitcase for a week?

The Gift of Freedom.  Even though I love to see people, I want them to be able to come and go as they please.  This means we have spare keys for guests.  We also try to make things like coffee and breakfast easy.  I have the coffeemaker and fixings in plain view.  I stock up the fruit basket and buy extra cereal and yogurt.

I don't always buy breakfast cereal, but when I do it has off-brand Nutella in it

I don’t always buy breakfast cereal, but when I do it has off-brand Nutella in it

I’d like to get even better about having maps to offer, lists of favorite restaurants, spare bus tickets, etc.  Right now I’d probably just be like, uh, check out the blog for recommendations.  You didn’t turn on data for overseas?  I got nothing.  For at-home interneting, I did put the wireless password in a cheapie picture frame.  It is much easier to hand someone the frame instead of writing it down.  AGAIN.

But, like so frequently happens with my Christmas shopping, I can’t get presents for others without getting myself a little something too.  These are the “gifts” I’ll be giving myself.

The Gift of Time.  I am finally mostly realizing that everything takes longer than I think it does.  This is absolutely true for guest prep.  I’m trying to give myself time to wash the towels and sheets, empty the trashcans, and actually do some cleaning.  Your bed still may not be made up by the time you get here, but I probably finished a few other things instead of leaving absolutely everything to the last minute.

The Gift of Setting Expectations.  I don’t think anyone shows up expecting me to cook all the meals and have daily itineraries planned.  But, particularly with guests who are spending more time with you, they may assume that there is some kind of master plan.  Particularly if I have lulled them into a sense of security of always having a master plan.  I’m working on clearly communicating what is what, sooner rather than later.  Picture me practicing saying: “hey, peeps, I don’t have a lunch plan, you’re on your own.”

The Gift of Asking.  I’m not talking about putting guests to work.  They are guests, after all.  But, people do usually want to help.  Better for me to ask rather than expecting someone to read my mind.  (Something you’d think I’d finally know after ten years of marriage.)  “Hey, sis, can you put together the sandwiches for our picnic?”  “Can you guys grab some plates for the food?”  “Can you detail my Maserati?”  Haha, clearly one of those is a joke.  I don’t have a sister.  (Haha, I have two sisters!  Wow, I’m punchy this evening.  This is why I should really stick to naptime blogging.  Can’t hack it right now though because I’m too busy having fun with all my guests.)

The Gift of Remembering to Wear My Bathrobe.  I would not call us a naked household.  But, like many good TV shows, there is incidental nudity.  Crap, my clean shirt is in the laundry room.  Argh, it is 4:00 am and I need to pee but I don’t feel like putting my pajama pants back on which I took off because it is crazy hot in here for May.  Definite PG-13 situations.

Enter the bathrobe!!  Just slip your arms in and you have a super fast problem fixer.  Now I can go forth and deal with that screaming child without fear of awkward moments with my guests.  I’m not really a robe person and my robe is a little too satiny to be very functional (I’m eying this as a pinch hitter), but it has been great to have on the back of my bedroom door.

Now if only the robe could remind me to shut the bathroom door . . .

Wow, it really is like Pinterest up in here, totally not gross at all.  Any tips to further up my guest game?  Sadly, eliminate all early morning screaming is not an option. #iwish

I need to step it up

Helpme host you.ANYTIPS

I need to step up.  Not in an angsty dancy way.  I’m talking about my hosting game.  I need to kick it up a notch.  (BAM.)

Last weekend we received an invitation for an impromptu get-together.  Sure, I like people.  Less cooking.  Wins all around.  We had a fantastic time.  I couldn’t help but be impressed by their effortless hosting.  Would you like some fresh-squeezed juice in your prosecco?  How about some freshly-baked cookies?  Care to sample one of these delicious cheeses?  (This is not blogging hyperbole.  All of that happened.)  It was pretty awesome.

Other friends here are equally generous.  One of my friends makes kick ass frappuccinos every time I come over.  And offers us homemade baked goods.  Another friend opens 15 euro bottles of wine when we come over.  “Are you sure you want to waste the good wine on us?” I always think.  We did a potluck lunch at a friend’s.  I had a sorry-looking apple, cheese, and meat tray.  Others brought scrumptious quiches with made-from-scratch crusts and fresh-from-the-oven bread.  Why can’t I get my act together?

I actually adore hosting.  The proximity of people here lends itself to more casual popping-by opportunities.  But if you stopped by now, I could offer you one of the three bottles of wine in the house (not always the case), stale cookies, or a cut-up apple.  The hands-down best food I make is popcorn, but this is not great for dates with small kids.  I do have Halloween candy in the house, but that is not usually the case.  I may have a secret bag of potato chips still.  But I have no delicious cheeses.  I didn’t even bring the juicer with us.

So what is holding me back from being the hostess with the mostest?  Part of it is the difficulty of acquiring enough food just to feed the fam.  We make a few trips a week to the grocery store or market for food.  I can only bring home as much as I can carry and cram under the stroller.  I did make a solo trip to the store on a recent evening after James got home.  It was a delightfully calm experience.  I may have to do more of this.

Another issue is my proclivity to eat any treats that are lying around.  I can usually be trusted for a day.  Maybe a few days.  But then something happens and I EAT EVERYTHING.  This is a big reason I don’t bake.  Besides my dislike for measuring ingredients (a crucial piece of baking, James keeps reminding me), I don’t need to polish off a tray of cookies in one sitting.  I will engage in twisted logic like, well, I should eat all of them now so they won’t be around tempting me later.  Better to get them out of the way.  I know.  I’m not proud to tell you that there is hidden chocolate in our house right now.  It’s not hiding from the kids.  James hid it from me.  In his defense I asked him to.  When we got the nice chocolate, I didn’t want to gobble it all up in a day.  Having him put it out of my reach seemed like a good solution.  It is working.  So far.  (WHY CAN’T I FIND IT??  Our place is NOT that big!!)

Also, I don’t like extra stuff around.  It just gets in the way, and you have to clean it and take care of it.  BUT hosting requires a certain amount of stuff.  Enough glassware for the group.  Serving dishes.  Things like that.  I did have some of this stuff back home.  Probably not enough, but I had some.  Some of it is not here by design, like the china and crystal.  Some of it I thought was coming, but it apparently did not.  My favorite trays apparently were sent to storage instead of coming here.  (I hope storage anyway.)  Either way, I’m a little understaffed now.

And.  But.  And.  I hate to admit this.  I really hate that I feel this way.  But there is that teeny tiny part of me that sometimes–just sometimes–wants to hoard the good stuff.  This is usually not an issue.  I promise.  I really do want to share.  But if I have the super special chocolate, my first thought is probably to tuck it away instead of offering it up.  This is the reason I have decorative stickers from my childhood that were never used and unopened shower gel that was thrown away after a decade or so.  Which is dumb.  No way to live really.  My takeaway from those unused special things is to carpe diem.  Seize and share the good chocolate!  Bring out the good wine!  I swear.  But old habits die hard, and just every now and then I don’t want to share.  You guys never feel like this?  Ok, never mind, I’m a terrible person, carry on.

I’m hoping to have many happy get-togethers with many people over the next three years.  Here is my three-point attack plan.

  1. Assess the serving ware situation and buy more of anything that is needed.  When we came here with less, we planned on having a settling up account if you will.  We figured we could always buy something if we decided we needed it.  I need to decide I need these things.
  2. Stock a special shelf or drawer or something with snacks for guests.  I can’t stockpile nice cheeses, but I can tuck away some good chips, crackers, or sweets.  “But you say you can’t be trusted,” you protest.  I know, I know.  I will just have to try.  I want to be a good hostess more than I want to snack.  Most of the time.
  3. Develop some signature dishes–other than popcorn–that I can put together.  They may not be baked, although I do want to do more baking with Henry.  They may not be fancy.  I don’t know what they are, but this is a goal.

Some people put together amazing Pinterest-worthy parties.  Katie Bower recently put together a gorgeous Seuss-themed vacation planning party.  I very sincerely say good for her.  If I get invited to any parties like that, I’ll just focus on enjoying it.  That’s not the level I’m going for here though.  I just want my guests to enjoy themselves.

Internets, can you offer me any guidance?  Any hosting tips?  Any idiot-proof dishes I can make with two kids underfoot?  Please, internets, help me!