When in Rome

It has been a little while since I last posted about our Rome trip. I’m excited to share more about what we did and saw a few months ago!

After getting settled into our hotel and familiarizing ourselves a little with the area, we were itching to start exploring the city. We began each morning of our trip with a cappuccino and breakfast, which was provided by our hotel.

Day 1: The Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, Circus Maximus, Baths of Caracalla, and Altar of the Fatherland/Terrace of the Quadrigas overlook

We decided to begin our morning at the Colosseum, since the crowds tended to be worse later in the day. We did visit Rome during “off season,” but there were still larger crowds than I was expecting. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like to visit during the summer months when it is considered “peak season”!

The Colosseum was spectacular. It truly took my breath away and made me tear up a bit. I cannot say how glad I was that we decided not to pack our days too full of activities. It allowed us to take our time at each attraction and soak everything in instead of rushing through to make sure we made it to the next place in enough time. Ryan and I spent about an hour and a half walking around the Colosseum and taking in the vastness of this iconic structure. This was my favorite site of the trip, hands down!

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Your ticket to the Colosseum also gives you access to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Naturally, those were our next stops. After entering the grounds of the Roman Forum, we decided to head up Palatine Hill first so we could enjoy the lookout and stake out what sites in the Forum were most interesting to us. This is another instance where we were glad we set aside the time to soak in everything around us. There is so much to see in the Roman Forum that you could easily spend a good amount of time exploring.

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View of a portion of the Roman Forum from Palatine Hill

The jet lag was catching up to us, so we decided we needed a little espresso break to help us keep going. We found that we looked forward to grabbing an espresso in the afternoon each day since espresso cafés were everywhere!

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Our first Italian espresso

On our itinerary, we listed a few sites that were a little more out of the way just in case we had the chance to check them out. As it turns out, we found ourselves with some extra time and decided to make our way out to see them. We walked along the track of Circus Maximus, an ancient chariot-racing stadium located adjacent to Palatine Hill. Next, we headed to the Baths of Caracalla. We did end up purchasing a 48-hour Roma Pass for our trip, which gave us discounted admission to the Baths. The Baths of Caracalla were very expansive and offered us a nice reprieve from the crowds (since its location was more out of the way).

The last major site we wanted to check off of our list for the day was the Altar of the Fatherland. Ryan did the majority of the research for our trip and discovered that there was an overlook at the top of the structure that gave you excellent views of the city. Ryan and I love a good overlook and couldn’t pass that up. We arrived at the top right around sunset and the views were spectacular. Definitely one of the highlights of the trip for me.

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View from the Terrace of the Quadrigas overlook

After a very full day of exploring, we decided to venture to Trastevere to grab some dinner. With our Roma Pass, we got unlimited rides for all public transit — metro, bus, and trams — which helped us get to Trastevere so much easier. Ryan and I love to take public transit wherever we travel. It helps us to get a real feel for the city we are in and experience even more of the culture.

Day 2: The Catacombs of San Callisto and San Sebastián

One of the first things I told Ryan that I had to see when visiting Rome was the catacombs. I remembered learning a lot about them in school and had to take advantage of this opportunity to check them out. After doing a little research, we realized that some of the major catacombs were located further outside of the city. It took some creativity and careful planning, but we figured out how to work them into our trip!

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Be sure to check the hours of operation before heading out to visit the catacombs. When we were preparing for our trip, we realized that one of the catacombs was closed on the day that we had originally set aside to visit. Thankfully, we were able to play with our itinerary a little to find the best time to visit both catacomb sites. The trek out to the catacombs by bus was a little lengthy but worth it (to us).

Pictures weren’t allowed inside of the catacombs, so we don’t have much to show of our explorations. I will say that it was incredible to take a tour of two of the most famous catacomb sites. It is truly a maze once you get down into the catacombs, and I am very glad we had a guide to help lead us through the narrow passageways.

After we finished our second tour, we decided to go on a little walk down the Appian Way, one of the oldest and most important roads of the ancient Roman Empire. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the best day to walk along the road (it was overcast and rained off and on all day), but we still enjoyed a relaxing day checking out some places “off the beaten path.”

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Walking along the Appian Way

Rome was most certainly living up to all of the hype, and we still had two more full days to explore even more!

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Menu Monday

Happy Monday! If you are looking for some dinnertime inspiration, you have come to the right place 😉

MONDAY Roasted Chicken and Veggies served with sweet potatoes — To make this a quick weeknight meal, prep the veggies and chicken the night before.

TUESDAYOven Chicken Fajitas

WEDNESDAYSpaghetti Squash Pad Thai — If you are crunched for time when preparing dinner in the evening, cook the spaghetti squash in a crockpot, instant pot, or in the oven the night before! Also, I always add extra veggies (like edamame and broccoli) to this recipe.

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Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

THURSDAYSlow Cooker Asian Turkey Meatballs served with rice and sautéed veggies

FRIDAYPulled Pork served with roasted asparagus and mashed potatoes — Whether you turn this into pulled pork sandwiches or eat the meat as is, it is delicious!

Happy Cooking! 🙂

Menu Monday

Happy Monday! Looking for new dinner ideas? Check out my meal plan for the week for some inspiration.

MONDAYItalian Orzo Spinach Soup — This is my favorite soup recipe! I would highly recommend using the whole wheat orzo if you can find it. It helps make it much more filling.

TUESDAYPulled Pork served with green beans and sweet potatoes

WEDNESDAY – Spaghetti served with steamed broccoli

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Photo by Daniel Lindstrom on Pexels.com

THURSDAYEgg Roll Bowl — **NEW recipe for us this week. I am planning on subbing ground turkey for the ground pork and bell peppers for the mushrooms.

FRIDAYSlow Cooker Chicken Burrito Bowls

Happy Cooking! 🙂

Menu Monday

I don’t know about you, but I am so excited for the start of longer days! 🙂 I am more than ready for spring to make its appearance. Here’s to a good week full of home-cooked dinners!

MONDAY – Frozen Pizza served with asparagus

TUESDAYSlow Cooker Chicken Fajita Soup — I like to make my own cream of chicken soup for this recipe. It sounds like it would be really complicated, but making cream of chicken soup is actually pretty easy and requires very little ingredients!

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Photo by Lukasz Dziegel on Pexels.com

WEDNESDAY – Sloppy Joes served with steamed broccoli and roasted sweet potatoes

THURSDAYOne Pot Spinach and Tomatoes Pasta

FRIDAY – Trader Joe’s Cilantro Chicken Wantons served with rice and sautéed veggies (radishes — these are our new favorite! — edamame, and bell pepper)

Happy Cooking 🙂

Menu Monday

Happy Monday! Lacking inspiration for dinnertime ideas this week? Take some ideas from my menu to help simplify your week!

MONDAY – Spaghetti served with asparagus — My favorite way to prepare asparagus is to roast it in the oven, but frozen works well too if you can’t find fresh asparagus.

TUESDAYSlow Cooker Chicken Burrito Bowls

WEDNESDAY – Falafel Bowls — I am going to combine some cauliflower rice, frozen falafel (from Trader Joe’s), vegetables (radishes, cucumbers, tomatoes, spinach, roasted sweet potatoes, etc.), and tahini sauce to make this dish. This is something new for us this week, and I am really looking forward to seeing how this turns out!

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Photo by Ella Olsson on Pexels.com

THURSDAY – Chicken wraps served with roasted cauliflower — This is an easy meal to throw together for a busy weeknight dinner! To roast cauliflower, coat cauliflower with a little olive oil and season with sea salt, and pepper (or your favorite seasonings). Bake at 450° for 25 min.

FRIDAYSlow Cooker Asian Sesame Chicken served with rice and sautéed veggies (zucchini, carrot, bell pepper, edamame, etc.)

Happy Cooking 🙂

Menu Monday

Trying to come up with a meal plan for your week? I’ve got you; take a look at my menu for some inspiration!

MONDAYOven Chicken Fajitas served with steamed broccoli

TUESDAYSpaghetti Squash Pad Thai — I always like to add extra vegetables, like edamame or broccoli, to this recipe.

WEDNESDAYBroccoli Cheddar Chicken Pasta — Adding in extra vegetables is a great way to make this recipe go further. I love adding in zucchini and yellow squash.

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Photo by Ella Olsson on Pexels.com

THURSDAY –  Trader Joe’s Cilantro Chicken Wantons served with rice and sautéed vegetables — This is one of my favorite quick meals! There is a recipe on the back of the bag of Cilantro Chicken Wantons for a dipping sauce or substitute for your favorite teriyaki sauce.

FRIDAYSlow Cooker Chicken Gyros — This recipe is very versatile. Instead of serving on a pita you could turn this into a rice bowl or salad!

Happy Cooking 🙂

Roman Holiday

Ryan and I had the unexpected opportunity to take a quick trip to Rome over Thanksgiving in 2018. One of Ryan’s good friends was taking a trip to Europe over the holiday and told us that he found a really good deal on plane tickets. That sparked our curiosity so we decided to do our own search to see what it would cost to take a trip during that time.

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Since we knew this trip wouldn’t be nearly as long as our last international excursion, we decided that whichever city we chose to visit needed to have enough to do to keep us busy for a few days without needing to venture out too much. We had an amount in mind of what we would like the cost of the round-trip tickets to stay under and decided to check out Rome, just for fun. We ended up finding an incredible deal and quickly booked those tickets. Rome has been at the top of our travel list for a while, but we never thought we would have the opportunity to visit this soon!

We arrived in Rome on a Thursday afternoon. The first thing we had to do was purchase train tickets to get from the airport to the city center of Rome. From the research we had done before the trip, it seemed like your credit card needed a pin number in order to complete the train ticket purchase on the self-service kiosk. We were a little nervous that we would not be able to purchase the train tickets with our credit card because of this, but we ended up having no issues. This made for an excellent start to the trip!

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Once we got to the city center, the next item on our list was to check into the hotel and find an ATM. Ryan’s sense of direction and map skills never cease to amaze me. He was able to get us to our hotel very quickly and gain a general sense for the city in no time. We had a little trouble finding the ATM, since the ancient Roman roads are a little confusing, but we eventually found one and were able to get out some cash for the few days we were there. We generally like to use credit cards while we are traveling abroad, but Rome can still be heavily cash based so we wanted to make sure we were prepared.

As crazy as this may sound, the cause of most of the stress we have when traveling internationally revolves around food. Ryan and I like to do a little research on a restaurant when we are thinking of going out to get something to eat. We like to know that we will be getting good food and make sure a particular restaurant is in our price range. We tried to prepare better for this trip and wrote down some good restaurant options ahead of time. That way when we were ready to eat, all we had to do was look at our list and choose one. If you are anything like us, I would highly recommend doing this for your next trip! Having a list of restaurants to choose from helped to simplify the dinner decision, hence alleviating stress.

I wouldn’t say Ryan and I are foodies, but we do like to make sure we try dishes that are authentic to the area where we are traveling. We were so excited to try all the amazing food that Rome had to offer — we were especially excited about the pasta, gelato, tiramisu, and espresso, and it did not disappoint!

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In later blog posts, I will be sharing more about what sites we saw during our trip to Rome. If you don’t want to miss a new post, enter your email to follow my blog and get every post sent straight to your inbox!

 

Brunching our way through 2018

Ryan and I share a love of breakfast food. Any time we have the chance to go out for brunch we really enjoy it, so we decided that for 2018 we were going to make that a priority and try a new brunch place each month.

We decided to keep track of all the places that we try and rate each place based on factors that are important to us: coffee, taste of the food, service, portion size, and price. I’ve listed the places we tried in order from least favorite to our favorite place of the year!


  • Jack & Nellie’s (Forest Hills, Queens) — Unfortunately, we were not very impressed with this place. It got great reviews on Yelp, but we felt like it was too pricey for the amount and quality of food you received.
  • The Supply House (Upper East Side) — We enjoyed meeting up with some friends for brunch on this day and were pleased when we weren’t rushed out after finishing our food. We do wish the portions were a little larger, but overall we enjoyed our brunch!
  • The Omelette Shoppe (Grand Rapids, MI) — We received good food for a really good price. We would definitely visit this place again to try something else.
  • Agora Taverna (Forest Hills, Queens) — We loved that the servers gave us some muffins to snack on while we waited for our food, although we were pleasantly surprised to receive our food so quickly after ordering!
  • Highland Bakery (Atlanta, GA) — The friend who told us about this place raved about the peanut butter stuffed French toast, so we had to give it a try! It was a peanut butter lover’s dream, and we would love to come back next time we are in Atlanta to try something else.
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  • The Harold (Midtown Manhattan) — This was the best coffee we had all year! The food was delicious too, but unfortunately the service we received wasn’t very good and that really affected our experience (almost to the point of not wanting to go back).
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  • Banter Irish Bar & Kitchen (Forest Hills, Queens) — This restaurant offers a fixed price for brunch which includes coffee, tea, or a cold drink. It is a little pricier than some other options, but well worth it in our opinion.
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  • Ward 8 (Boston, MA) — Great atmosphere with delicious food and coffee make this a great brunch option! We loved the creative options offered here, like the croissant egg sandwich pictured below.
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  • The Apron Cafe (West Hampton Beach, NY) — We enjoyed a relaxing brunch outside watching planes take off and land at a small airport close by. The food was delicious and was a good price for the portion received. Even better, they offered to-go iced AND hot coffee!
  • Sanford’s (Astoria, Queens) — Best omelette we had all year, delicious hot AND iced coffee, and unique pancakes. Success!
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  • Trestle (Astoria, Queens) — This was one of our favorite places this year! We especially enjoyed the coffee and thought it was a nice touch that they still honored our request for to-go coffee even though they had to place it in kiddie cups. 🙂
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  • Thomas Ham & Eggery (Long Island, NY) — This restaurant boasts of the best breakfast in Long Island for 72 years, and we believe it! This was the best service we received, hands down! If you decide to give this place a try, be prepared to wait for a table, but don’t let that keep you away! This place is well worth the wait!

 

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Thankful that this guy loves coffee and brunch as much as I do!

What a fun year of exploring brunch places together.

Menu Monday

Struggling to come up with dinner ideas as these winter days continue to drag on? Take a look at my menu for the week to help ease your planning process a bit!

MONDAYAvocado Black Bean Quesadillas served with roasted cauliflower — I am going to add some diced chicken to our quesadillas this week.

TUESDAYSlow Cooker Hawaiian Shredded Chicken — We like to eat this as a rice bowls instead of lettuce wraps.

WEDNESDAYItalian Orzo Spinach Soup — This is one of my favorite soup recipes! It will be perfect for the cold temperatures coming our way this week!

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Photo by Navada Ra on Pexels.com

THURSDAY – Spaghetti served with roasted asparagus — This is one of my favorite meals. I could seriously eat spaghetti every week and not get sick of it.

FRIDAYSloppy Joes served with sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli — If you have been following along for a while, you know I like my manwich sauce. However, this homemade recipe for sloppy joes is a pretty close second!

Happy Cooking 🙂

Menu Monday

Need some help coming up with dinner ideas for your week? Take some inspiration from my menu for the week.

MONDAYPulled Pork served with asparagus — We like to eat the pulled pork on slider buns from Trader Joes.

TUESDAYPotato Soup — This is one of my favorite soup recipes! I like to use diced ham in place of the bacon (I just don’t like dealing with the mess of cooking bacon).

WEDNESDAYOven Chicken Fajitas served with broccoli — I like to make my own fajita seasoning using this recipe. I sprinkle 1-2 tbsp over the chicken, peppers, and onion in place of an individual store-bought seasoning packet.

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Photo by Ella Olsson on Pexels.com

THURSDAYOne Pot Spinach and Tomato Pasta

FRIDAY – Slow Cooker Meatball Subs served with green beans and sweet potatoes — This recipe is so simple: pour about 1/3 of a jar of your favorite marinara sauce into the bottom of the slow cooker, place desired amount of frozen meatballs (I personally like to use Trader Joe’s frozen turkey meatballs) on top of sauce, and pour the rest of the jar of marinara sauce on top of meatballs. Cook on low for 6-8 hours and ENJOY!

Happy Cooking 🙂