One perfect day (for us!) in Rome

We miss Rome.  No bones about it.

What a strange phrase that really is.  I mean, I know what it means, but why on earth, right?  I just looked it up:

To make no bones about something means to say something in a way that leaves no doubt, or to have no objection to it.

The expression comes from fifteenth century England…if someone wanted to show that they were dissatisfied with something, they would find bones in it – a reference to finding bones in soup, which was not a pleasant discovery!

Therefore, finding bones was bad, and no bones was good. If you found no bones, you were able to enjoy the meal with no objections!

And now we know.

Anywho.  We miss Rome.  And it’s not just our friends there who we do miss very much.  That little slice of Italy got under our skin, and we’ll never be quite the same.

The other day at dinner we brainstormed on what we would do with just one more day in Rome.

You might be surprised.  It’s not glamorous.  But it is real, and it’s what we really loved. Continue reading

Thoughts on this Whole30

So another whole30 finished.  Kind of.  (Psst.  Goals for this oneWhat I ate in a week.)

This one actually ended up being a whole21.  We curtailed because I wanted to focus on reintroduction, and we only had so much time before Thanksgiving.

On Day 22, I had popcorn after dinner.  On Days 26-27, I had cheese.  Day 29 was gluten.  Day 32 (Thanksgiving), wine.  After that we head to Naples so I guess it will be pizza reintroduction, followed by probably a week (or more) of recovery.

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Goals for this Whole30

So I’m on Whole30 Day number three.  I’ve decided to consciously uncouple from caffeine (again), and I’ve FINALLY stopped with the splitting afternoon headaches.  Huzzah!

Other than that, things don’t feel so different than usual other than possibly spending even more time on food prep because James is whole30-ing as well, and I’m trying to send him out the door with lunch and breakfast.

This is my first whole30 where I really am more focused on nonscale victories (NSVs).

I am hoping to:

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Some thoughts on Prolonged Paleo

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Starting to think about turning all my shirts into half shirts.

I may have to donate my body to science because it is going to be AMAZING.

These are just a sample of the actual things I’ve told James lately.  Ridiculous?  Absolutely.  But I’d say paleo is definitely working for me.

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3 Things I Learned on a Recent Weekend Adventure (Free Museum First Sundays For-EVAH)

We had a delightful Sunday adventure recently.  Like shockingly enjoyable.  With almost little to no planning.  I know.  I’m as incredulous as you.

It all started after waking up Sunday morning following a busy Saturday.  We hadn’t been out of town (or even out ON the town) in a bit.  I knew I wanted to do something.

Then I remembered that it was the first Sunday of the month.  This means free public museums in Rome.

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You should probably just start walking already

Dear Mac,

You are 11 months old.  WHOA.  That’s all I have to say about that.  Moving on.

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Moving is actually the name of the game for you these days.  You want to be on your feet!  You want to be walking!  You have places to go and people to see and things to put in your mouth!  You still can’t do any of this unassisted, but it doesn’t stop you.  You just reach out your hands and expect your entourage to enable you.  (They frequently do.)

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You have zero interest in crawling.  You will flop all the way forward, rotate 360 degrees, or “walk” a few steps and plop before you will even think about making a crawling motion.  Instead, you have cultivated some pretty aggressive pointing.  That.  That, woman.  Bring me THAT.  I try not to cave, but . . .

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You have also become a lot more demanding.  What happened to my easygoing baby??  Now, you generally cry if I try to leave the room.  Whether this is because you miss me or because I can’t hold your hands to help you walk when I’m gone, I am unsure.  But we are talking piercing shrieks that turn your face red.  Screams the likes of which you have NEVER before uttered.  This turnabout is a little shocking.

I get it.  You’re frustrated.  I’m frustrated too.  I know you can’t move how you want to, and it is driving you bonkers.  I feel bad that I’m frustrated.  You were low key for months; who am I to complain now?  You’ve just thrown a curve ball.  I’m still trying to catch up.  I never thought I’d encourage having a mobile baby, but you should probably just start walking.  Or crawling.  Or SOMETHING already.  I think we’ll all be happier.

I'll keep you in the carrier until I fall over though

I’ll keep you in the carrier until I fall over though

I doubt walking would help on bathtime though.  Here, you have just flipped a switch and decided you hate it.  You scream throughout your entire bath.  Whether sitting up or sitting in your chair, sitting with your brother or alone, being offered toys or not.  Everything is awful.  I’m hoping we can come to some kind of understanding on this.  Bathing is not optional.  I promise, we’re not even doing it every day!  (The usual routine is Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday.)

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Big doings though on the sleep front.  Something has clicked this month, and you are generally sleeping through the night.  w00t!  (Furiously knocks on wood.)  Sometimes you have a nighttime, uh, movement that awakens you, but I don’t think there is anything we can do about that.  Sometimes you wake up early and sing to yourself.  It is pretty adorable.

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This is not new, but I’m not sure I’ve covered your usual sleep positioning here.  We call your sleep “move,” kissing the bicep.  You curl one arm up to your head and turn your head towards it.  But not until you’ve done the pacifier shuffle.  You sleep with four pacifiers, and I have no idea why, but the first thing you do after being laid down is to spit your current pacifier, grope for new ones and replace.  Weirdo.

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I’ll be curious to see your new stats at your upcoming doctor’s appointment.  You’ve slowed down a little on your food adventuresomeness, but you are still huge.  I tend not to fully credit your hugeness because I see you next to a two year old every day, but you’re a chunk.  Your favorite food is probably banana.  It makes your eyes light up in a way that is endearing and also a little disturbing.  (It’s just a banana, kid.)  You’ve also gotten on the noodle bandwagon, and you can slurp with the best of them.  You have this “charming” habit of working your food over in your mouth and then just letting it fall.  I’ve seen you “eat” an entire piece of pizza this way.  But, overall, not too shabby for someone with four teeth.

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You may have noticed a distinct Alfalfa look on your recent pictures.  Don’t worry, you don’t have a cowlick, and we aren’t gunking your hair with product.  This phenomenon happens because of your hooded bath towel, and I must confess that I do my best to encourage it.  It just looks so right.  Like you have a crest.  I love it.

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You and Henry are still the Odd Couple.  You guys will be face-meltingly sweet to each other and then one of you is trying to pummel the other with tiny fists.  You are able to play more and more together, which I love.  If I’d like to “steer” you on your walkabouts, I only need to ask your brother to go ahead.  Sometimes your route veers just to copy something your brother did.

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And now you are almost the big 0-1.  What a year, baby.  What a year.

Love, Mom

P.S.  More Mac at 4 months, 5 months, 6 months, 8 months, 9 months, and 10 months.

ICYMI: Finishing Out Food Week


Does it get more Italian than this?

On the blog:

To kick off food week, I shared about my love/hate/love relationship with food.  Also, some deets on the Mercato Esquilino in there.

Breakfast is, without a doubt, our most consistently paleo meal of the day.  Here is our version of a “sexy” paleo breakfast.

And I talked about one of my favorite restaurants in Rome, a decidedly non-paleo place.  #pastaporn

On the internets:

“But the thing is — it’s not good for children to have infinitely patient, saintly mothers, because the world is not infinitely patient and saintly. . . . It’s good for kids to recognize the incipient stages of someone losing their shit.”  Interesting thoughts.

I need to try this immediately.  Mayo, who knew?

Ever planned a girls’ get together of any kind?  This podcast will make you snort your coffee.  Hey Ladies . . . (Yeah, for now, continuing with podcasting.  Listening anyways.  No immediate plans to launch a Roman Reboot podcast.)

Check out this doodle diary of a new mom.  Yup.

Coming up:

My sis, BIL, and my absolutely adorbs niece are here!  We’ll be trying to see as much as we can with three kids under three.  At least the weather seems to be cooperating.  Hope you have a good one!

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.

The jury is still out on Orvieto

If you find yourself contemplating a few days in Rome, I hazard that any guidebook will mention Orvieto as a possible day trip.  It isn’t far.  Unlike much of Tuscany, it is easy to access by train (so I’ve been told.)  It’s a beautiful city that can provide a nice contrast to Rome, particularly if you are short on time.

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After scrapping our plans for a bigger trip because of the weather, we headed to Orvieto on the Monday of MLK weekend.  The weather had finally cleared and, even though it was still chilly, we could see glorious sunshine.

It took us a minute to make sure we were in the right parking area.  It took us several more minutes to locate where to purchase tickets for the funicular.  (I think you can usually get them at the ticket office, but everything was closed, and we purchased them in the cafe through the train station.)  That’s right–for this hill town, you get to funicular on up into town.  This was probably the highlight of Henry’s visit.  I was a little disappointed, but that’s on me because I, for no good reason, associate funiculars with gondolas and would have been thrilled by nothing less than sailing through the air.

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We funicular-ed up along with, what seemed to be, a middle school tour group.  Granted, they were probably in college, but wow, kids look so young now.  Do you ever do that?  Look at people that can drive or order booze with disbelief and then start wondering where your walker is?  No?  Anyways, these kids were unleashed on the town with only an hour to wander.  That’s something I really like about living here.  Maybe my kids make it harder to travel and I’m not seeing everything, but I have time.  If I don’t get to see everything I want on one trip, I can come back.

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Strike 1.  There is a shuttle from the top of the funicular into the center of town.  We should have taken it.  We didn’t.  I’m used to Tuscan hill towns that are teeny tiny.  Orvieto is not as small.  It would have been a fine walk for any able-bodied person, but we blew a lot of toddler good will on the trek.  For some reason, we opted not to stroller on this outing.  Mistake.

Orvieto has caves that sound pretty sweet, but we opted not to brave those this time.  It was cold enough above ground.  That was Strike 2.  I was crazy excited about the sunny weather, but the buildings were just tall enough that everything was in the shade.  This would be great in the summer.  Less ideal in January.

We did hit the Orvieto Cathedral, a shockingly large undertaking given the size of the town.  The facade closely resembles the Duomo in Siena.

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It was very beautiful and impressive, but I think we are starting to suffer from a bit of church ennui.  Trust me, I know it sounds very bratty to say it, but if you see lots of amazing, ridiculous churches, you start to become a little immune to them.  It takes something really, truly impressive to blow your socks off.  I know other travelers would tell you the same.

The town itself was nice.  Winding alleys, beautiful homes.  It is definitely different than Rome.  It just wasn’t a town that grabbed me.  It didn’t feel as charming some other places we’ve visited.  I don’t know.  I don’t want to knock the town.  It really is something.  But if I had one day trip opportunity from Rome, I don’t think this would be it.

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Strike 3.  I had big lunch plans.  A friend mentioned that she had out of this world pasta with pecorino and honey.  Umm, yes, please.  We stalled until 12:30 and then headed to Trattoria del Moro Aronne.  After a few twists and turns, we found it.  We also found a handwritten sign stating that they were closed until February 20.  (Remember – we went in January.)  WHAT?  No pasta oozing cheese and honey?

I pulled it together.  After learning my lesson before, I had a backup.  We headed to Trattoria la Grotta.  SAME SIGN.  Nooooooooooooooooo.  At this point, everyone was melting down.  The troops needed food.  I was melting down and getting snippier than I’d like to admit.  Knowing that the kids–particularly the baby–are hungry is a big pressure point for me.

Thankfully, there was a backup to the backup.  Caffe Montanucci to the rescue.  They have premade pastas and sandwiches in a spacious cafe.  We got food fast and James snagged a carafe of an excellent Orvieto Classico.  They even had a high chair.

Overall, it was a fun adventure.  Not the adventure we had planned for that weekend, but I was glad to see something new and check something off the list.

But I couldn’t get that pasta out of my head.

So I did what any rational person would do, and I took to the internets.  I found a few people waxing nostalgically about the pasta.  The Internationalista took it a step further and got the recipe from the very restaurant that had denied me my cheesy, honey goodness.

I finally got around to making it this weekend.  I want to tell you that this story has a happy ending.  Girl doesn’t have perfect day in Orvieto but gains exotic new pasta recipe for life.  I want to make that true for you.

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It was a bechamel fail.  I don’t know if I added the flour too fast or the pan was too hot, but instead of sauce, I had a gloppy mess.  Even after I added the milk and cream, it more sticky than sauce-y.  I kept adding milk and cream but it was all for naught.

Then I forgot to save some of the “sauce” to pour on top.  I probably could have used more cheese.  (Because when is more cheese never not the answer?)  In the end, the pasta was sort of tasty, but definitely not a creamy, cheesy pasta to write home about.

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But I don’t think I can call Orvieto a three strikes and you’re out situation.  If you look at my strikes, two are because nobody expects sightseers in January and the other is because of our own stupidity.  I feel like we didn’t give the town a fair shake.  So we’ll be back.  I’ll have to go for the pasta at least.  Because goodness knows I’m not having any luck recreating that one on my own.

Been to Orvieto?  Have you had any travel destinations that redeemed themselves on a second visit?

Itinerary for me Ma

Lucky for me as a sightseeing planner, my mom has been to Rome a few times.  This means she will be excited to see things, but we don’t feel like we have to pack in every single sight.

So I have put together a sort of wish list for my mom’s stay.  As you will see, there is plenty of flexibility.


Pizza – maybe from Gaudi?

White wine

Red wine

Gelateria Salaria, our favorite close by gelato.

Come il Latte.  Simply the best.  Better than all the rest.

Catacombs of Priscilla

Villa Borghese

Villa Ada

Walk around downtown

A market


More gardens, maybe Villa d’Este in Tivoli

Hopefully I will be able to report back on successful list completion.  The weather is not on our side this week, but we’ll do what we can and hope things will look up.  Now I must away.  Somebody couldn’t be bothered to stay asleep for all of nap time and is trying to eat my arms as I type.