Back in the US of A

We’re back!

It’s a rainy Tuesday here, which I’ve taken off from work as well. Do you do that? I needed an extra day to decompress from my holiday. I had planned to spend the day unpacking, although our luggage didn’t make it from Boston to Dallas with us. I suppose if there was a leg for it to get lost, this was the best one.

Anyway, since I have the time, and it’s all fresh in my mind, I figured I’d jot down some of my favorite memories from the trip:

For our journey to Positano, we had three flights lined up: DFW to Boston, Boston to Dublin, and Dublin to Naples where we would meet up with our friends for a private transfer into Positano. We left for the airport around 8:00am that Friday morning and we arrived in Positano about 4:00pm, local time, Saturday. The downside of our itinerary is that we left for our “overnight” flight at 5pm DFW time and landed in Dublin at 11pm DFW time (4am in Dublin), which meant we were trying to force ourselves to sleep when we were (a) in a plane, which is always challenging under the best circumstances, and (b) when we were used to being awake anyway.

We landed in Dublin an hour earlier than scheduled, then proceeded to spend the next three hours waiting for our flight to Naples in what had to be the coldest indoor space I have EVER been in. The temperature in Dublin was about 47 degrees when we got there and I’m pretty sure the airport itself might have been ten degrees warmer than that. To top it off, we had to cross the actual tarmac to board the plane, in case I wasn’t cold enough at that point. Luckily, the weather in Naples was much warmer.

When the four of us arrived in Positano, we were all various degrees of jet-lagged, tired, hungry, and sick. Though our travelling partners were arriving from Switzerland, one of them was suffering from a head cold. Their flight had been delayed a bit into Naples as well. Then there was Luffy and me, who were valiantly trying to rally after 24+ hours of travel. My memory of the car ride into Positano is a bit hazy for me, as is the drop-off. However, I can very clearly remember walking down steps to get to our apartment, each step bringing us closer and closer to the ocean. When we finally arrived at our apartment, I think we were all absolutely flabbergasted to find our apartment literally ON the ocean. We couldn’t believe our luck in finding this gem of an apartment, plus our luck in getting assigned the closest apartment to the ocean (this particular property owner had probably five or six apartments in one tower/home). I’m so, so glad that we spent the majority of our vacation in this particular space. It had two balconies (since it was multiple levels), a spacious living room and adorable kitchen, as well as two bathrooms. It also happened to be literally 100 steps or so from the ferry port and the beach section of Positano. It was truly the perfect place to stay.

On our second day in Positano (the first day we visited Minori and Ravello, which I jot down primarily because Luffy and I struggle to recall what exactly we did when on our last trip to Italy five years ago), we decided to take a cooking class at a fantastic restaurant a few minutes outside of Positano. When we arrived, we discovered that the owners actually live alongside the restaurant, so the cooking class was held in their personal kitchen. It was quite the experience. We made stuffed cannelloni with handmade crepe-type shell, fresh gnocchi, eggplant parmesan, tiramisu, and a completely original dish that I’d liken to carbonara with zucchini. We started cooking about 10:30am, after devouring some tomatoes, eggs, and homemade cheese – all fresh from their farm – and got to eat all of it for lunch around noon. It was delicious and an incredible experience.

Our last full-day in Positano, we spent an amazing day on a private boat charter, cruising along the Amalfi coast and dinking a bubbly beverage or two. We actually had some bad weather, but chose to try to wait it out with a long-lunch at a restaurant accessible only by boat. There’s not much more to say about this, because it was an exceedingly lazy day, but it was glorious.

In a torrent of amazing foods and delicious meals in Positano, there is one dinner that stands high above the others: dinner at La Sponda. In the heart of Positano, there is an exceedingly, stupidly fancy hotel called Le Sirenuse. La Sponda is its Michelin-starred restaurant. We had no idea what to expect from this reservation that we had literally booked months before. We sat down and were immediately offered champagne. We weren’t given menus until after we received a first welcoming bite, leading us to wonder if we were even going to be deciding what we were going to eat or if it was more of a chef’s menu type thing. I decided on the lobster tonnarelli and I must say that I won the food war for the evening. It was amazing. Truly. Afterwards, we decided to share a chocolate tart for the table, then wound up with too much dessert (as if there’s such a thing) when our friends surprised us by telling the restaurant that we were celebrating our anniversary. They brought out a delicious mousse and cake confection. Then the restaurant brought out an adorable three-tiered, mini-dessert tray. As if that wasn’t enough, the restaurant sent the ladies home with a cute little box of a light, almondy cake. I had it for breakfast the next morning.

Rome was delightful, with most of the highlights being food. We had a wonderful dinner at a restaurant Luffy and I had previously been to where the waiter decided to select courses for the table. We also ate some of the best gelato I’ve had and ate lunch at delicious place we’d gone to last time we visited Rome. We did a ton of walking, which helped with all of the aforementioned eating.

The last stop on our tour was, of course, the wedding in Dublin. And oh what a wedding (and venue!) it was. The wedding took place at Luttrellstown Castle. I admit to being a tad skeptical when the bride told us all it was at a castle. Like, oh sure, a castle. Ok. Then we showed up and it truly a castle. It was a beautiful wedding and the pictures (even the ones I took!) are gorgeous.

It was a very late night, followed by a very early morning and a very long day of travel, but we’re home now!


Buon giorno!

Hello from Rome!

Oh! Where to start? We’ve had an amazing week and I can’t wait to tell you all about it. I’m writing on my iPad right now, which hampers my flow more than I realized, so I won’t be telling you all about our week right now. Just thought I’d say hello.

We’re enjoying a quiet morning in Rome right now. Our friends left this morning to head back to the states, so it’s just Luffy and me. It’s actually our anniversary (5 years today!), though we’ve really been celebrating the entire week. Plus, I was beside myself with excitement and gave Luffy his anniversary present literally the day we arrived in Italy. You see, I am a horrible present giver, mostly because I get so excited by finding the perfect thing that I want to give it to the person immediately. I’ve had Luffy’s present since August, but I’ve been working on it since June. And I kept it a secret until we got to Italy. That’s got to be some kind of record for me.

[Complete aside, but I’m sitting by an open window in our AirBnB and I can hear the Backstreet Boys I Want It That Way drifting over the courtyard of our building. Nostalgic.]

Anyway, back to my gift… I stumbled across this website called LoveBooks. You go in and create your own book by creating the characters and then each page is a scene. It’s drawn in the stick-figure style, so it’s nothing intricate, but it’s fun and pretty incredible at what all you can create. I decided to tell the story of how Luffy and I met, since we both love to listen to that. It turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself.

And that’s all I’ve got time for this morning folks, since it takes me a hundred hours to tip-tap-type on this stupid iPad. First world problems, ammirite????


T-minus six days and counting

Luffy and I leave for Italy in exactly a week, which means we have six days of prep left.

We’re in the annoying stage where it’s too early to begin packing, yet I have nothing running through my head except lists and lists of things to pack. I’ve compromised by starting to set things aside in my closet for packing.

I am SO excited and yet SO not ready. I mean, a week with Luffy in Italy! And yet, a week without my sweet dumpling. And yet, a blissful week of not catering to a toddler’s whims and demands! And yet, a week without toddler hugs and bedtime songs. How on earth am I going to separate from the dumpling at the airport next week?

One frivolous thing that I’m struggling with in the face of this vacation is fashion. I think part of it is that we’re travelling with friends (did I mention them last time? I can’t remember….) and the female of this couple is so stylish. She’s one of those ladies that just seems to be effortlessly put together, all of the time (which is like the exact opposite of myself). If I may channel my inner Taylor Swift, she wears dresses, trendy, yet sophisticated blouses and on-point boots. I’m more of a these-shorts-from-college-still-fit-so-I-guess-they’ll-do and sneakers kinda gal. Not that I think there’s anything wrong with my classic, sensible sense of “style” it’s just that I’d like to feel breezy and sophisticated while sitting next to her sipping a spritz.

I have no problem shopping around for adorable jumpsuits or floaty dresses; my problem is the fact that I’ll never, ever wear that jumpsuit again. At least probably not. Jumpsuits and crop tops aren’t really advantageous when chasing a toddler around. So why purchase it just for vacation?

I tried to get over this by shopping at Target ( figuring it would at least be reasonably inexpensive there). I found the most adorable jumpsuit, which was exactly the style that I was going for. Except that it was about two inches too long and made me look a little pregnant. I also found a little dress that I wanted so, so badly. Unfortunately, I’m just a bit too short for it and the true wrap nature of the dress left one of my breasts with like an 85% chance of making an appearance. While Luffy would definitely appreciate this feature, it isn’t the sort of thing that would leave me feeling easy and breezy. It was definitely a bust (see what I did there?!). They have so much more selection online, but I’m hesitant to partake given these two items were adorable on the rack and absolutely not right for me when I put them on. I know, I know – first world problems, right?

Somewhat sleepless in Seattle

Hello again! Luffy and I made it back and the dumpling did wonderfully, sans parents.

We went to Washington (Seattle area), primarily for a concert Saturday night. It was a whirlwind weekend of eating and drinking and driving (but definitely not in that order). We arrived Friday around noon and promptly dove headfirst into soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung a restaurant I feel positive I’ve mentioned before. Since it was our first vacation since having a child, we ordered a bottle of champagne to celebrate VACATION!!! It was real good. We spent the afternoon doing touristy things and traipsing up and down the downtown area enough to (hopefully) burn off all those soup dumplings.

On Saturday, we got waffles (WAFFLES!!!) and crepes, killing time until our noon check out. We then drove about two hours east of Seattle, to a tiny town in which we were staying. The concert was being held at a venue that is literally in the middle of nowhere (the Gorge Amphitheater). Our little town was only about 40 minutes from the amphitheater, so once we checked in and freshened up, we headed back out. The amphitheater itself is gorgeous, overlooking the Columbia river. The weather was cool, getting downright cold once the sun went down. I quickly realized that we only really know how to do outdoor festivals in Texas. Between three of us, we brought three 20oz bottles of water, as well as one refillable Camelbak. We were supposed to have two, but our friend forgot his. We also bought sunscreen and dressed in layers that we could “take off” as needed. …… Yeah. I was ridiculously cold by the end of the night even though I thought I’d dressed warmly. I realized that I should have brought a blanket after watching very nearly every other festival-goer huddling under a blanket at different points in the evening. We only finished two of those bottles of water and, though we filled it as soon as we got there, we didn’t even touch the Camelbak (probably because it wasn’t a thousand degrees out and thus we weren’t losing water through sweat as fast as we could replace it). And I completely forgot the sunscreen that we purchased expressly for the concert. Eh, we didn’t need it.

The concert itself was incredible. Just beyond words. And over too quickly, as wonderful things tend to do. We made it back to our hotel around 1 in the morning, which is when we discovered that my driver’s license (which I’d needed to get into the concert) was missing. Sigh

So this is where our story devolves into my usual absurdness.

Luffy realized Saturday night in the wee hours of Sunday morning that my ID wasn’t in his pocket anymore. Being one in the morning, we decided to search more thoroughly after some sleep, but found nothing the next morning. As I was about to try to get on a plane, I managed to dig out a copy of my passport from my email. TSA was actually really nice about the whole thing. I provided the copy of my passport, along with a debit card and my health insurance card, and essentially got an expedited though thorough passage through security. They went through my bags and gave me a pat-down, but they let me on the plane! Woohoo!

Monday I went to the DPS. That was rather uneventful, even fortuitous in a way. I happened to lose my license close enough to its expiration date (this November) that they just renewed it at the same time. So helpful! Plus, I’ve hated the picture on that license since I got it four years ago and got to take a new one. Double yay!

But then – on my way to lunch with Luffy I picked up two nails in my tire. I went out to the garage Tuesday morning to discover a pancake for a tire, completely derailing my plans of having Luffy pick me up from our mechanic after I dropped it off for patching. We were unsuccessful in pulling the flat tire off to replace it with the spare (the lug nuts were practically cemented on there) and had to cash in a free AAA tow. In more not-so-great news, the leak couldn’t be patched because the nails were too close together. We had to replace the tire. Now, I’ve honestly gotten nails in my tires maybe a handful of times before 2017. Right before the dumpling arrived last year, we replaced all four tires on my vehicle because they were due and we figured we might as well knock that task out before the baby arrived. Since then I’ve managed to have two, TWO, unfixable flats necessitating the replacement of a practically new tire. I’m sort of wondering if the driving gods are mad at me or something.

So that was fun. We picked it up yesterday and handed over the keys to Luffy’s car because he had three mechanical issues pop up yesterday. THREE. Like he’s trying to one-up me or something. Sheesh. Sit back down, this here’s my blog.

So yeah, that’s been us over the past few days. Lots of tedious adulting. Today is picture day at the dumpling’s daycare and I can’t wait to view the proofs. Last time he had picture day, we got several gems back including one alarmingly (or hilariously??) similar to this meme:

Good work son! You’ve got a knack for expressing your disregard for the whole school picture thing. Already getting a head start on years of this fool business.

A last aside – the dumpling is sporting a new tooth! One of his top center erupted while we were gone! He’s now enamored with grinding the top and bottom together, but I’m hoping he gets over it.

Title Placeholder

My title should actually read “Hold Please, Again, But While You Wait Here Are Some Random Things I Want To Talk About,” but I thought that was a little long.

So yes, it’s been another one of those weeks. Work went all kablooey last week, which continued into this week, and even though I got everything sorted out on Monday, I had a metric ton of crap to get to afterwards. You know, everything that had gone un-done over the last two weeks or so as I dealt with the kablooey. Plus, the whole gestating business I’ve got as a side-gig over here has really slowed me down this week. However, it’s not fair of me to just leave y’all hanging on updates to my supremely interesting life, so without further ado I present: Things We Did This Weekend. Enjoy.

I believe I mentioned that we had a friend’s birthday party to attend in Austin this past weekend. We had a great time. In a departure from our normal Austin trip routine (where we crash at a friend’s house), we decided to get a hotel this time. We did this mostly because I am very pregnant and don’t necessarily need to be spending the night on the floor or the couch or kicking our friends out of their beds so I can noisily roll around. However, in a brilliant stroke of forethought, I relished our arrangement as our friends’ houses became overrun with party-goers. You see, what started out as a birthday party for Luffy’s friend, we’ll call him Max, quickly morphed into a sort of ultimate birthday party for everyone in our extended friend group who has an August birthday. Instead of celebrating one person, all of a sudden we were celebrating five people. And, of course, their friends were invited too. Instead of just a couple of people coming down from Dallas, suddenly there were dozens of people coming down from Dallas. Everyone needed a place to stay and most of them wanted to do it cheaply or for free. And with that, our friend’s three bedroom (but two bed) house hosted eight people. Max’s single bedroom apartment hosted five. Max’s girlfriend’s apartment hosted four (not including her roommates). There were numerous others spread out around Austin. So basically, our desire for a modicum of privacy and comfort for my pregnant self spared us from being heaped onto the pile of bodies that was our friends’ houses. Yay!

Having a hotel room also allowed us a little more freedom from the group when it came to food. Luffy loves finding delicious places to eat and our food desires often diverge from the groups’. So that’s how we found ourselves racing into a Chinese bakery literally one minute before their posted closing time to find the hidden banh mi shop that had such high ratings. (That sandwich was glorious, by the way.) It’s also how we were able to eat breakfast at a reasonable hour instead of waiting for the entire group to rise and get ready (they’re notorious for planning a breakfast, which turns into a brunch, which actually occurs at 1pm).

Speaking of breakfast, I have to admit that we had breakfast at the hotel both mornings. I got a waffle the first morning and it was such a delicious waffle that I got a second. And then I had another one the next morning. And just this morning, Luffy was looking for the same hotel in our area so he could take me to get another waffle – probably so I would shut up about the waffle already. The waffle is done Belle – it’s gone, you ate it – IT’S NOT COMING BACK. STOP TALKING ABOUT IT.

Ahem. Back to the party. While we did hang out at restaurants and bars (which is always a fun experience while pregnant), the main event of the weekend was a barge cruise on Lake Travis. We had a bit of bad weather Saturday afternoon which had us all concerned, but it cleared out in time and we took off on schedule. We had a lot of fun once they tied us off to a rock island and we got to get in the water. Someone had brought along a kid’s float – one of those tiny little rings with the animal heads. It was a turtle. People joked when Luffy tossed it to me, but that little turtle held me up admirably! It was just big enough to go around me – under the boobs, above the belly – and just small enough to make sure I wasn’t stretched too far. Great fun! So we swam and others drank and everyone danced to our party planner’s custom mix. Then we reached the shore again and the other 46* party-goers loaded up on a bus for the forty-five minute drive back to party central while Luffy and I (in another great move of foresight) got into our own car to drive the twenty minutes back to our hotel.

Anyway, we had a great time down in Austin and I would highly recommend the waffles at Hilton Garden Inn.

* Yes, you read that correctly. Including Luffy and I and the party planners, there were 50 people at this party! AND I ALMOST FORGOT TO TELL YOU THE BEST PART!!! Towards the end of the night, I got cornered by a … how shall I put this delicately … exceedingly inebriated guest. I’d met her a couple of times before, but wasn’t super friendly with her or anything. Anyway, she cornered me and for a good ten minutes went on and on about how excited she was for Luffy and I. Except that, through her thick haze of alcohol, she kept losing her train of thought, so it went something like this: OMG I’m so happy for you guys – I literally started crying when I found out – your baby is going to change the world – Luffy is just such an amazing person – he shut down an internet troll for me once – …. – OMG I’m so happy for you guys – I literally started crying when I found out – your baby is going to change the world – Luffy is just such an amazing person – he shut down an internet troll for me once – …. and repeat. For ten minutes. At top volume because we were standing by a speaker. I was so relieved when she got distracted.

Ode to Champagne

Napa was wonderful, thanks for asking.

We had a few false starts on the trip that threatened to overshadow the whole thing (miscommunications abound and a lesson on why you should never leave men to plan things, or at least, these particular men), but it turned around in the end. The first night, we passed the time playing Cards Against Humanity and drinking wine and/or bourbon. I had never played the game before  and I have to say that I did quite well, although Luffy and I might now be known for some very questionable things (our choices might have provided a little too much insight).

Saturday morning we congratulated ourselves on being capable adults as we managed to both pull together a breakfast feast of eggs, pancakes, bacon, and fruit AND have all eleven of us dressed/showered/ready-to-go by the time our limo bus got there. We then cracked open two bottles of champagne for the bus and headed to our first stop: Domaine Chandon.

Now, if you know much about me at all, you’ve probably been able to pick up on the fact that I love champagne. I adore champagne. I will never, ever turn down champagne unless you offer me some $2 crap that is disgusting. (Also, because this is the internet and it helps to be clear, when I say champagne I mean sparkling wine, not the actual French champagne. I do not discriminate against sparkling wine or prosecco or cava or champagne. Does it have bubbles? Check. Pour me some.) Anyway, out of all the champagne that I’ve had over the years, I have a few favorites and one of them happens to be Chandon. I love almost every variety of theirs that I try and give mad props to them for being a great value (so good! so well-priced!). So I was super excited that of all the wineries in Napa, the birthday boy decided Chandon would be a great place to visit AND tour. Woo!!

It was fantastic. The tour was great (and enlightening! I had no idea how they made champagne) and our guide was fantastic. We did a private tasting and our group (which, to be fair, did have 10 drinking people) polished off five bottles of champagne and a bottle of wine. Glorious. And it wasn’t just me. It was unanimous that Chandon was our favorite stop of the day. We went to two wineries afterwards, but one was nothing special and the other was ridiculously expensive and pretentious ($30 for a tasting (which is basically one glass of wine), or a free tasting if you bought a bottle (of which the cheapest was $86)). Chandon was definitely the best! After our wine tour, we stopped off at a grocery store for snacks, liquor, and girl scout cookies (great combination, no?) and then headed back to our little abode for an evening of board games.

We had an AirBNB house that was really great – set up high on a mountain and far away from the town (seriously, it took half an hour just to drive up the mountain road). The sleeping arrangements were a little iffy because we had 11 adults and the house promised it could sleep 10. They brought an air mattress for the single guy and called the problem solved. Then we showed up and realized that, yes it could sleep 10, but one couple would be on a pull out couch and another couple would be on a twin trundle bed. Since we arrived the latest of everyone, Luffy and I got the pull out couch (we were saved from the trundle only because Luffy is 6’5″ tall and you try fitting all of that on a twin bed). Other than that hiccup, the house was great. The view, from the back porch, was gorgeous.

Luffy and I left early Sunday morning to head to San Francisco to meet  up with a friend for brunch and then head to the airport. We got back late last night, which means I’m dragging a bit today. But! The trip was short and fun and, most importantly, included really excellent champagne! Smashing success!


We’re back!

Luffy and I, along with some friends, headed down to Cancun for a few days over the Labor Day weekend. We stayed at a wonderful all-inclusive resort down there and had a blast hanging out in the pool, sipping frozen drinks, and trying to fit as many dining options as we could into our limited time (second breakfast anyone?! How about a pre-lunch snack?).

We were only there for two full days, so we literally did not do anything. No excursions. No shopping trips. No planned activities. Just hours of pool and ocean time. Naps for Luffy. Reading for me. We went out to a local club Friday night and danced until our feet hurt. We played in the ocean until everyone’s eyes stung with salt. It was glorious.

The only hiccups in our trip were transportation related (we missed our connecting flight to Cancun in Mexico City because we stood in the Immigration line for over an hour and a half!), but were minor overall. The resort was all-inclusive, as promised, and we enjoyed the fact that they actually meant it. (I hate it when they promise all-inclusive, but then they want to charge you extra for something like water in your room.) Everybody got adventurous with their drink orders because of the FREEDOM of just ordering a different one if you didn’t like it.

We got back Sunday evening and then had the day off yesterday to catch up on errands and get ready for the week. I’m back at work now, of course, with a full day’s work ahead of me but I’ll leave you with some pics from our balcony.