Looking back at 2016


2016 was a big year.  A pretty good year, I’d say overall.

We had some aggressive travel goals, and I’m pleased with how it turned out.  We did big trips to Sicily, Marrakesh, Lake Garda, and the BalkansWe tagged along with James to Malta, and we did a bonus trip to Vienna.  We did plenty of weekends and day trips as well to places like Abruzzo, Viterbo, and Naples.

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2014 was quite the year

Ah, January.  The time for being resolute.  I have some goals for the new year that I will share soon, but I wanted to spend a moment looking back on 2014.

A lot happened in 2014.  We had our second baby.  James and I celebrated our ten year anniversary.  I quit my job in biglaw.  We packed up all of our belongings and moved to Italy.  I’m a little overwhelmed just typing that.  My only other year that even comes close is 2004, when I graduated from college, moved to DC and started a new job, got married, and bought my first house.  If the trend continues, I suppose 2024 will be a crazy year?

I started this blog in 2014.  I shared 80 posts.  The blog had more than 2500 page views.  (Thank you!)  Most viewed posts of 2014:

Confessions of a mono-dresser: I only wear one shirt

Fall in Italy

My Mission Statement

I can’t believe they didn’t mention church

Apples and Oranges: San Gimignano and Volterra

It was a good year for books.  I read at least 50 new books in 2014.  This number is mostly based on looking at my kindle order history.  I probably squeezed in some other books as well.  I signed up for a goodreads account, but I haven’t been active on it.  Maybe I’ll try to keep up this year.

I read a lot of good books, but here are some faves.  Many of these are Modern Mrs. Darcy recommendations.  If you like to read, her blog is a fantastic resource for what to put next on your to-read list.  In fact, her blog is one of the reasons I haven’t covered more books here.  I feel like I would just generally be copying her suggestions instead of offering new ideas.  But maybe there will be some book reviews here in 2015.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.  This was in my book club.  I bought the book, but couldn’t make the meeting and forgot to read it.  When I rediscovered it on my kindle, I inhaled it.  It was a mystery!  And it’s in a series.  I haven’t read any of the others yet, but I may have to do that.

Anything by Orson Scott Card.  I’m not normally huge on sci fi, but really liked Ender’s Game when we read that awhile ago.  James went ahead and got the rest of the Ender series, the Bean series, and the books on the first Formic Wars.  I can’t really explain why, but I can’t put any of them down.  It is just such a rich and fully developed world you inhabit in these books.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society: A Novel by Mary Ann Shaffer.  Historical fiction.  Loved.  And I learned what the Channel Islands are!

Clutterfree with Kids: Change your thinking. Discover new habits. Free your home by Joshua Becker.  This was a timely book that helped as we purged for our move.

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior.  I find books that discuss the evolution of parenting fascinating.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth E. Wein.  More historical fiction.  More WWII.  The end of the book made me turn around and immediately read again.  I have no idea why this is marketed as YA.

Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Schulte.  I’m also fascinated by books on society’s obsession with busy-ness.  I think a lot of people feel the time confetti Schulte mentions.  Feeling like I can breathe a little is something I am definitely enjoying here.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell.  I think I read this in one night.  I just couldn’t stop.

The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike Book 2) by Robert Galbraith aka JK Rowling.  Ya’ll, did you know that J.K. Rowling writes mysteries under a pen name?  I didn’t like this one quite as much as The Cuckoo’s Calling, but I still liked it a lot.

I Don’t Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star by Judy Greer.  Interesting observations and thoughts on show business from someone who has put a lot into her career.  I read more memoirs in 2014, but I liked this one the best.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty.  Also a sort of mystery, as the main character forgets 10 years of her life after a gym accident and has to piece things together.  An excellent read, and I may have enjoyed it even more as I’ve been looking back over my own past decade.

The Secret Keeper: A Novel by Kate Morton.  More historical fiction.  More WWII.  (Hmm, maybe I have a type?)  This mystery toggles between characters in London in WWII and their present day descendants who are trying to unravel a mystery.  Like Code Name Verity, the ending here immediately made me turn around and reread the whole book.

It was a good year for books, but I don’t think I saw a single movie in the theater.  I did finally see Frozen, and I haven’t gotten sick of it yet.  I saw The Lego Movie and Divergent on the plane.  Surely, I saw some others, but not very many.

On the TV front, we continue to watch Brooklyn 99 and The Mindy Project.  I love both of these, but if you aren’t watching Brooklyn 99, you really should start watching Brooklyn 99.  At the very end of the year, we started on Sherlock and I am hooked.  We only have one episode left which makes me sad, but I’ll just have to watch them again.  We also like the show’s American cousin, Elementary.

On the vacation front, around this time last year we went to Disney World which seems like eons ago now.  We did a trip to SC and the beach last summer.  So far in Italy, we’ve made it to Hadrian’s Villa, Volterra, San Gimignano, and Siena.  We saw the Christmas markets in Munich and Nuremberg in December.  We’ve had some fun in Rome, but we have plenty more on our list to see.  I won’t list them all now, but I am pleased to report that I have been to many more restaurants in Rome since providing our two month update.

And, of course, there are all the metrics I can’t measure.  (I mean I guess I could, but it would be super creepy.)  The smiles.  The hugs.  The tears.

It has been a full year.  I’ll miss ya 2014.  (I’m always partial to the even years; not sure why.)  But there is much to look forward to in 2015!

Good 2014?  Do you look back and recap your year?  Any books you recommend for the 2015 list?

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.