‘Rivedercci, Roma!!

Well. Tonight’s our last night in the Eternal City, and we board our flight for Washington tomorrow morning. In an hour or so, our landlords are coming to inspect the apartment to make sure we’ve kept it up to Italian standards, and then they’re taking us to dinner. I apologize for the lack of posts and updates on what we’ve done. We’ve been busy surviving the extremely hot weather and getting ready to leave. Just as a teaser, here are some things we’ve done (which I’ll be sure to write up when we get home!):

– a trip to the Opus Dei house where St. Josemaria is buried

– an adventure out to the catacombs

– Mass in St. Peter’s

– Anniversary Trip to Santa Marinella Beach

-ridiculously creamy and delicious gelato (often accompanied by a mid-afternoon cappuccino freddo!)

Lots of sweating and schlepping the stroller and spraying Lucy off with our handy spray bottle. But good memories made.

For now, we leave you with a picture of Lucy in her bathing suit, specifically made to prevent super white babies from burning in the sun.


Lucy having no idea what she is in for. Nicole all ready to put our chunky gnome in the water for the first time!

Lucy having no idea what she is in for. Nicole all ready to put our chunky gnome in the water for the first time!



Seven Quick Takes Friday

I’m linking up with Jen at Conversion Diary. Here’s what’s going on around here lately!

1. Lucy, Lucy, Lucy… dear child has started to teethe. I vaguely hoped before we left that she would save that whole shenanigan until we came home but…no. For the past four days she has been waging a bloody drooly war on sleep. Her eyes are heavy, red, etc, and she’ll just fuss and squirm and try to smile at us. We try very hard not to smile back, as to not encourage her in this show of vampirism, but it’s rather difficult.  I think she’s taken a total of three real naps in the last four days, and that’s a terrible average. Usually she takes three per DAY. Sad baby. Sadder parents.

I'm addicted to chewing my fingers.

I’m addicted to chewing my fingers.

2. Caffe granita, late have I loved thee!! I’m not sure why I never tried this in all my previous trips to Rome, but it’s awesome. Awesome! I forgot to mention two weekends back, but I have gone on a total dairy strike in hopes of solving some of Lucy’s crazy stomach issues. That means, no gelato. Which means, sadness. Also no mozzarella and no cappuccino!!!! Ah. So, I’ve been getting either dairy-free sorbets (like peach, apricot, banana, etc) which are quite good, OR caffe granita. It’s basically espresso that has been frozen and chopped up, and mixed with probably way too much sugar. But it’s fantastic on a hot afternoon. Normally, it’s served con panna (with whipped cream), but no-dairy here, and it’s just fine plain. I found this recipe for it, and will definitely be trying it when we return stateside. 🙂



3. One of my very favorite classes during undergrad was taught by Prof. Maria Seifert-Wolter in Gaming, Austria. She taught all the philosophy classes while I was there, though she has since married and had a few babies. Her husband now runs the academics in Gaming, I believe. Anyway, she was absolutely fantastic for so many reasons: she was young and bubbly, gesticulated wildly and predictably throughout all her lectures, had studied with some exceedingly smart philosophers (Alice von Hildebrand is her godmother, and her father studied under Hildebrand and conferenced frequently with John Paul II), and loved to drink beer in the local pub and talk shop with her students. She really knew her stuff and brought it to life in the classroom. She also sent you out of the room if you came in 1 minute after class began or walked in wearing sweats. She wanted to bring standards back to the lifestyle of the average undergrad. 🙂  Last week, Prof. Seifert was at Franciscan University, which hosted a conference on Dietrich von Hildebrand’s writings and thoughts on love, marriage, and the human person. I listened to a few of the talks streaming live, and plan to go back and listen to the rest archived here. Really, really great, if you’re at all interested in these topics.

4. This video is super fun! 600 students and one singer, recreating “You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone” in Gaelic!

5. My husband is very sweet, and probably felt bad that I’m suffering from a lack of streaming anything here in Italy, so he bought me an iPad subscription to Verily Magazine. It’s fantastic. I loved that I could not lose the magazine, since it was safely stored away on the ole iPad, and even kept my spot for me. It’s filled with witty articles, beautiful photos and artistic layouts, and a very positive message regarding femininity throughout.  I also know several of the talented ladies who run and contribute to the magazine. Also, my dear friend Becca and her astonishing family made an appearance in the inaugural issue! Not surprising at all, as she and her family are an incredible example of joy-filled parenting and family life. Also, Tom was “mentioned” in the article as the anonymous Latin/Greek tutor. 🙂

Image Source: http://vmacandcheese.com/

6. Our first anniversary is coming up in two days!! If you’re lucky, I’ll get around to writing the story of how we came to be, and post it on here.

Blurry black-and-white photos enhance romanticism

Blurry black-and-white photos enhance romanticism

7. Tom’s last class is today! That means, sob, that we’re leaving in 5 days!! We have SO MUCH to do! To see! To experience! But Miss Teether might not be down with all that. We’ll see. We absolutely WILL do the following:

* Attend a Mass at St. Peter’s, which will entail rising at the crack o’ dawn and beating all the lines. There is a reason we haven’t been inside the building yet, and the lines is it.

Image Source: http://www.traveljournals.net/

* Take a train to Santa Marinella beach, and beach it up for an afternoon. 

Image Source: http://romerevealed.typepad.com

Beyond those two things, I’m not sure what else is in store! Stay tuned!!


Weekend Trek

Dad's navigator/side-kick

Dad’s navigator/side-kick

On the day we arrived in Rome, we stopped into a little tabbachi shop and purchased two month-long passes for the Metro/bus system. On Saturday, July 20th, we used them for the first time. Why, you ask, did we spend 35 euro on each pass, and not use them for 18 days?? We quickly found out two things about where we’re staying– it’s not close to any metro stop (it takes us approximately 25 minutes to walk to the Otaviano stop) and the buses just don’t make frequent and/or predictable stops on our street. Also, because of our location, it’s actually more efficient just to walk, as opposed to waiting for those buses that never come. 

Thus, we have walked and walked and walked all over this lovely city, and it’s been great for us, both physically as well as helping us become better acquainted with our temporary home. But this past weekend, we had plans to spend the afternoon and evening on the other side of the city, so we could visit some of our favorite basilicas and a few sights there. We waited for Principesa Lucia to take two great, solid naps, and then we set off into the sun-baked streets towards the metro. Lucy did great for the 30 minute walk to the station, even with all the bumping and bouncing in her stroller over the cobblestones. She wanted to come out in the metro, so she entertained the passengers on our way to Piazza Spagna, where the lovely Spanish Steps reside. We had to get  a shot of Lucy wetting her feet in the famous Boat Fountain by Bernini. Fortunately, the photo doesn’t show her face, as she yelped in surprise at how chilly the water was. 🙂

spanish steps


We took a leisurely pit stop in a cafe to imbibe espresso freddo and feed Lucy, and then set off to the metro and headed toward Piazza Barberini and the Bone Church. The former was blocked off due to construction, bleh, but the latter was open and extremely interesting. The crypt of this Capuchin church has been wallpapered in human bones. ‘Nuff said. Sadly, photos were forbidden, so here are standard internet photos:

In several languages, the first room reminded us “We were once what you are now, and what we are now, you will also be.” Memento Mori!

Some are full skeletons dressed up as Franciscans. Most are just bones collected over hundreds of years and arranged in macabre geometric patterns.

So, after the not-s0-subtle reminder of what we will one day become, we metro-ed to San Maria Maggiore and walked around it a bit while the Vigil Mass was being celebrated. Our next goal was to walk to St. John Lateran, but upon arriving there, we were sad to discover that it closes at 6:30 PM, not 7. 😦 If we’re out in that direction again, we’ll try to make it inside! At that point, Miss Lucy was hungry again, so we found an open church, which just happened to be a Filipino church dedicated to Saint Anthony, one of my patrons. He always seems to pull through for me in chaotic moments, and this was no exception. Lucy was saved from gnawing my arm off (not after she left quite a mark on it though!) and we sat in the lovely church while she ate. It was a beautiful church with huge, lofted ceilings and a second level, which isn’t often seen in older churches.



Beautiful icons

Beautiful icons

Love this guy

Love this guy

We successfully caught a bus that took us past the Colloseo and the Forum and then had an al fresco dinner not far from home.


A table for three

A table for three

I'll take the fist special
I’ll take the fist special


The cucina’s open!

I mentioned before that we try to eat in more than out. I know, in a land of endlessly delicious restaurants, why cook?? Well, for one thing, not every restaurant is that great. Better than Applebee’s any day, but I’m just saying that one can easily pay too much for a mediocre (by Italian standards) meal. There are a few more places we aim to try before we leave in a week and some change (sob), but still, we gots to be diligent about saving the cash euros.

Which brings us to the humble cucina here in our apartment. With our varied grocery success, you may be wondering what we eat on a daily basis. If not, you should stop reading now because you’ll find yourself snoozing by the end.

I think I mentioned our chicken-roasting disaster in the first post, but to be fair to us, the oven here (as well as the wash machine and microwave and any other appliance!) has absolutely zer0 non-pictorial/numeric button labels. Oh, the quadruple squiggly line?! That must mean…super, super, hot?? The snowflake? Let’s just freeze our food while we’re here in the oven, hmm?


We were able to set the oven temp, but that’s where our know-how stopped. Suffice it to say, our whole chicken was done in under 45 minutes. They usually take 1-3 hours to roast… anyways. We noticed at around 25 minutes that there was a pretty smoky smell coming from the oven area, and opened the door to a blast of hot smoke and quickly blistering (read: burning!) chicken skin. It was a close call, but we did save most of Mr. Chicken. We have not used the oven since.

Without an oven that is intelligible, we are left with the gas-range stovetop. Gas is supposed to be the best to cook with; very controllable heat and energy-efficient and all that. We love ours at home, but this one… this one is not that one. It has two heat settings: flambé your face, and oops-dangit-it’s-out-again. What does “range” without the n spell? Rage, that’s what. However, we have patiently, lovingly coaxed the little sucker into cooking our food, mostly fairly well.

We have been eating a whole lot of carbs since being here. Mainly because meat is not easy to come by, or if it is, we haven’t discovered how yet. A quarter to half pound of chicken breast is also very expensive, and the red meat is just way too much to wrap our minds around. So generally I buy one- two packages of about 2 chicken breasts per week, and a package or two of sausage. The sausage here is delicious!! One other nights, we have some type of pasta or rice-based dish and a fresh veggie on the side. On our first day here, I had the audacity to make my own tomato sauce with a can of tomatoes, but quickly deferred to the canned variety because a) I don’t have a blender or ricer, so there’s no quick way to smooth the sauce and b) they make great canned sauce– just tomatoes and salt. Spice it up as you will. Tom is extremely forgiving about our weird and unusual meals, and also my frantic requests for him to run downstairs and buy a jar of sauce, gnocchi, and wine so we can call it a meal.

That being said, we have made and eaten some relatively tasty things here.

meal1This here was a spur of the moment creation I came up with one night when I was desperate realized dinner was overdue and I only had thought of a side dish. I browned our sweet Italian pork sausage, and then cut it up and tossed it with pasta, a bit of the cooking water, a lot of Parmesan and a delicious spice blend I bought at Campo, and stirred it all up. Fresh mozza on the top, and it was delicious. Plus a healthy dosage of greens and tomatoes drenched in olive oil and balsamic. Tom’s also whipped up a mean aglio olio pasta, and there have been a few tasty risottos. Also, we’re considering leaving all of Lucy’s clothing here and packing her suitcase full of gnocchette… it is so.much.better here!!

Yay for gnochette! And Chianti that costs about $6!

Yay for gnochette! And Chianti that costs about $6!

And all of this senza the proper cooking utensils! We have exactly one knife for prep work, and it’s a 10 inch serrated number; not so good for chopping or peeling. There are no measuring anythings, so forget recipes. There are no tongs or spatulas, BUT there is a funnel and juicer. Useful, eh? It has been an adventure getting to know la cucina here, and coaxing our little meals out of it. I’ll probably only miss it a teensy bit when we come home.

And just for fun, here’s our little Floridian retiree!

Lucy Retiree

Getting to Know Her

I should warn the reader at the outset– this post is neither newsy nor rife with pictures. My day thus far has consisted of lots of nursing and holding Lucy, and I just finally showered as she succumbed to a nap at last (2:30 PM Rome time…), so there are no adventures to speak of. But my Lucy-induced home-bound-ness got me musing on motherhood in general, and my (brief) experience of it so far.

I think it’s probably a cliche, but one always hears parents say things like, “I fell in love with my baby the moment I set eyes on him/her!” Most birth videos show the crying parents the moment their tiny, screaming, slippery babe is presented to them. I’ll admit, I would get slightly choked up at some of the birth videos I watched, but when Lucy was born, I was more surprised and relieved and triumphant than anything else, and there were no tears, from either of her parents. Probably partly due to the fact that we’d only had about 2 hours to really wrap our minds around the fact that she was arriving that day, and one of those hours was spent pushing her into this world. I didn’t have a long, drawn-out, traumatic labor, thanks be to God, so perhaps the emotions we felt were tied to that reality.

It may sound cold and very un-parent-like, but I can’t say it was “love at first sight” when Lucy was born, at least not the emotional high that is implied in that phrase. What I felt was joy, elation at seeing her little face, utter relief that she was safely born, and a sense of awe that she was here, and that we were now charged with the care of this tiny, wrinkled human, no longer safely nestled and quiet in my womb. Everything was just so new, and wonder-filled, and Lucy was a little person we would have to become better acquainted with, this side of the womb. Of course we loved her. We’d loved her into existence, after all. But for the first few weeks of her life, those strange, sleep-deprived, sometimes frightening weeks, I would look at her and feel like I was babysitting someone’s adorable newborn. It took a little while for her to feel like she was mine. Almost the way it feels when you start dating someone whom you really like; you’re falling for him/her, but you’re still a bit tentative in the getting acquainted stage.

Over the last three months, I have found myself thinking about Lucy in this or that expression she makes or little quirk she’s developed, like the way her face changes as she slowly wakes up , her eyes blinking in the light, and her expression owl-like, as if the waking world has surprised her. Or her delicious chortle when she can’t take how happy she is to see one of us smiling at her and chokes on her own joy. I have realized that I’ll think of it and then feel such a powerful sense of connection to her and love for all that makes her who she is. And that love is because I know her. I know her facial expressions, and sounds, and erratic limb-motions, and (most of the time!) what will make her happy. It is, in every sense, a love that grows the more I know her as a person. I loved her from the start simply because, in Pieper’s words, it is good that she exists. Now, I love her because of the countless things I know of her– the good, the bad, and the smelly. It’s exciting to look forward to watching as she grows and becomes more able to communicate with us and reveal more fully the mystery of who she is. Sure, she wants to be held 75% of the day and hates her car-seat and makes me wait a few hours before I can wash the dishes (or my hair), but this phase will be short, and I’m just grateful for the time to get to know and love her all the better.


My Fellow Americans…

complete cupola of Pantheon Rome

complete cupola of Pantheon Rome (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wow, what a weekend! We have definitely adjusted to the time-zone and some of the other Italian ways of doing things, and that kept us busy in a great way this weekend.

There are quite a few ex-pats living here in Rome, and they are a wonderful source of information and advice on living here. This week, we were blessed to meet up with some on three different occasions. The first was on Wednesday, when we braved one of the typical evening thunderstorms to follow a very experienced American in Rome. Patrice is the mother-in-law of one of my co-workers at The Heights, and she is living here with her husband who has earned his licentiate. They’ve been here off and on since 2006, so they really know the city. She power-walked us through the rain over to the best gelateria we’ve come across so far, with innovative flavors like red-wine chocolate and fig cheesecake. It was a fun evening passegiata (the daily evening walk most Italians take), and we enjoyed chatting with her and learning about the diocese of Rome in general and English masses in particular. Also, to give you an idea of her energy level, she recommended we make a day trip to Orvieto. As you can imagine, we won’t be doing that with Princess Lucy anytime soon.

On Friday afternoon, I had my field trip in Latin. It conflicted with the Greek field trip, so I opted for Latin since I liked the places we went to. We went to Augustus’s tomb and the Ara Pacis that he built to honor his family, the history of Rome, and the newly ushered in Pax Augusta that would later simply be dubbed the Pax Romana. Afterwards, we walked to the site of the first permanent theater in Rome, built by that Pompeii, and the site of Julius Caesar’s murder. But, as the afternoon waxed into evening, I had to get home for some dinner plans, so I rushed back to Trastevere for a quick shower and then we trekked with Lucy up and over the Janiculum hill (Gianicolo in Italian). This is the hill, more properly mountain, behind our house.

We had contacted a few Americans whose blog we were mining for information about the city and they wanted to meet us for dinner. They’re alumni of Nicole’s school, Franciscan Univ. of Steubenville, and they have two adorable boys (and a third baby on the way!). I’m linking to Jenny’s blog just so you can see their cute kids and perhaps learn even more about Rome. This couple is pro. Pro-family, pro-life, pro-Catholic, pro at navigating Rome. Also, Nicole was tickled by the experience of meeting a blogger whom she’s followed and enjoyed for months, in person. We went to a restaurant that came recommended to them by their biffle, Cardinal Chaput, called Scarpone.

It was a trek, but a worthy one. Delicious, delicious meat, and a great shared bottle of house wine (which happened to be the cheapest thing we ordered! Yeah!). John Paul, their one year old, is adorable and polite–he consistently offered me anything he happened to be eating. Their 2 year old, Joseph, had a ball snapping pictures with our camera and entertained himself beautifully.  Here are some of the shots he graced us with:

The next day, we met up with two more American friends– two girls who are entering the Nashville Dominicans next month!! So currently they are traveling through Rome and Lourdes, as sort of a last hurrah (or Bachelorette Trip, as we were calling it). We were supposed to meet them for the 5:00 vigil Mass at the Pantheon. We arrived 15 minutes early and had to muscle our way into the building, insisting we were there for “Santa Missa” and “preghiamo!”. Once the bouncer let us in, the usually swarmed Pantheon was a cooler, emptier oasis of prayer. There were probably about 40 people attending the Mass. None of those, however, were our two friends. With no cell phones, things like this can be tricky. After Mass, we wandered around the Pantheon and Navona area, stopping in a mostly-empty church to feed Lucy (the best place for this, we’ve found), and a gelato pit-stop. As we finally made our way back to our street, we spied the girls walking around the entrance to our apartment. They claimed they had only been waiting there for a bit, but we felt bad. We enjoyed a meal with them at our favorite local restaurant (um, enjoyed all except for the fact that Lucy screamed the entire time, only slightly consoled when walked vigorously outside on the street. Talk about showing the girls that they chose the right vocation!). As usual, though, Lucy was a real hit with the passers-by on their passeggiate, with all and sundry commenting on her manine and piedini (little hands and feet)!  So we leave you, as usual, with pictures of the little one and some of her new-found friends:

2013-07-11 10.23.32

Chillin’ on the Couch…

The boy: Joseph, and his amazing photographic journalism capturing Scarpone's from every imaginable angle--and only 2 feet off the ground.

The boy: Joseph, and his amazing photographic journalism capturing Scarpone’s from every imaginable angle–and only 2 feet off the ground.

Dangers of baby-wearing: Dropping detritus on unsuspecting (and angelically napping) baby!

Dangers of baby-wearing: Dropping detritus on unsuspecting (and angelically napping) baby!

Further evidence of child abuse--tomato sauce on the head! :P

Further evidence of child abuse–tomato sauce on the head! 😛

This is very common: Us in a completely empty (but open for business) restaurant.

We normally arrive rather early with Lucy, both because we’re usually hungry at more American times, and because we want a quick getaway with the conto if Lucy’s mood turns.

Fun Fact: There are 14 obelisks in Rome, and only 4 left standing in Egypt.

We ambled over to Piazza Navona after Mass in the Pantheon and had to get a picture of the center of Domitian’s old stadium.

2013-07-13 12.50.44

We also made it to the church built on the spot where St. Agnes (Lucy’s middle-name-sake) was martyred in the Stadium of Domitian (modern-day Piazza Navona). Lucy learned a lot about her namesake and beautiful architecture.

Not just a fail-blog

Lest everyone begins to think that all of our endeavors here in Italy end in massive failure, I would like to take this opportunity to proclaim that good things are happening, too! Really.

1. The Food

Hellur. I probably don’t even need to mention this, but it can’t not be mentioned. As I said before, we really are trying to cook more than eat out, and so far our ratio is about 4:3 during the week. One of the places that we LOVED this week is just up our little street, recommended by our landlord. We, silly, silly Americans, were starving by 6:30, so we got to the restaurant at 7. It was open but of course, senza any customers. The waiter seated us though, and told us that the kitchen would open in 20. No problem. We ordered 1/4 liter of house red for 3 euro. That’s enough wine for 3 adults to each have a glass. Italy has its (drinking) priorities straight. Tom ordered a prosciutto pizza and I ordered their eggplant parmesan. It was ridiculously good, in all its deep-fried glory. And then, to continue the deep-fried trend, we got what are basically deep-fried dough balls drowning in Nutella sauce for dessert. Yeah… that was worth cheating the GF diet for. Here are some pics of the goods:


Mom and Lucy enjoying their drinks. This is Tom’s attempt to “get me in more pictures!”

Eggplant amazing!!

Eggplant amazing!!

Yes, we ate them all.

Yes, we ate them all.

Huge, salty prosciutto slices

Huge, salty prosciutto slices

2. Parrots

Yes, as we walked out through our courtyard the other night, a flock of bright green PARROTS came squawking out of the tree over our heads. It was thrilling, honestly, because they were so exotic and shocking. We basically spent the next 5-8 minutes craning our neck sky-ward to see them fly from treetop to treetop. As you can see, they camouflage well. We don’t know if they were just visitors or not, but we haven’t seem them since.

So pretty!!

So pretty!! There were 5 more in the tree!

 3. Tom’s Brilliance

My husband would never toot his own horn, so I’m going to go ahead and do it for him (that was one of our wedding vows, right??). He began his classes in spoken Greek and Latin on Monday. I’ll let you imagine how difficult that is for a sec. Ok, done? So, he does this four hours a day at the Pontifical University of Santa Croce. On the first day, he tested into the highest level of both Greek and Latin. Like I knew he would. He quickly discovered that the highest Latin level was not quite challenging enough in terms of how he measures up against the others and what they’re learning. His Greek teacher meanwhile, is duly impressed that he’s trying to do both (no one else in the program is doing that), and has already recruited him (strongly) to attend his university this school year. Which is impossible because he’s contracted to teach. And it’s in a far, far away country. But it’s a possibility for the future, and the teacher is someone Tom has admired greatly. So, Lucia and I are proud! 🙂

4. Solo City with Baby

Sorry, that sub-heading makes no sense. What I mean is, I have successfully made a longer than 5 minute outing in the streets of Rome, alone, with Lucy. We went out for a couple hours on Wednesday to the famous Campo dei Fiori, to see what the market had to offer. I guess it wasn’t a huge feat, but I’m glad to know I can do it. And I’ll add that it kind of IS a feat, considering I carried 11.5 pounds of Lucy on my front for 2 hours in the blazing heat, and about 10 pounds of groceries on my back all the way home.  On the way home I also stumbled upon a little church that was thankfully open, and we made a visit because it was dedicated to Santa Lucia. There was a beautiful and large statue of her inside and it was a nice conclusion to our outing. I sadly took not a picture of this outing, because… baby and backpack and water bottle and money juggling?? But, to appease Tom and include another photo of me,  here is what I may have looked like:

Except add backpack...

Except add backpack…

...and hopefully delete dorkiness...

…and hopefully delete dorkiness…

PS- Don’t worry, Mom, Lucia had her sunhat on. 🙂 And lots o’lotion!