My Whole 30 Kitchen-Rescuing Broken Homemade Mayo

A few weeks ago I did a post on making paleo mayo as part of my Whole30 series. I have made mayo at home several times since the beginning of the year. I like having it on-hand because one of my go-to easy meals for Whole 30 is tuna salad.

Making your own mayo in my opinion is so worth it. It tastes like a million times better than anything you could buy in a store and it has zero chemicals or preservatives. It can also be really tricky to make and sometimes is just fails. Last weekend I was whipping up a batch and it was coming together beautifully. It was the perfect emulsification and the consistency was on point. I had about two tablespoons of oil left to add and then it happened….failure. It all came apart. There was no reason that I could see for it to go from a beautiful thick mayo to a runny oily mess, but it just happened.

Avocado oil and organic eggs aren’t exactly cheap ingredients. While I think it’s worth it to use high quality products I HATE to see them go to waste. I had seen something on Facebook a few weeks beforehand about fixing failed mayo. Of course I couldn’t remember where it was posted so I decided to see what Mr. Google had to say about it and he totally came through for me!

I am happy to say that this technique saved my mayo and I didn’t have to throw away anything! And it was just as delicious!

First I recommend you read my original post about making mayo. Here it is…

https://meanttobemommy.wordpress.com/2015/04/12/my-whole30-kitchen-paleo-mayo

Rescuing Failed Mayo

  1.  Take the failed mayo mixture out of the immersion blender cup.  I put it in the glass measuring cup I was using to add the oil.  Wash out your blender cup.
  2. Add one egg yolk and 1 teaspoon of vinegar to the bottom of the cup.  Use the immersion blender or about 45 seconds until the egg starts to foam a bit.
  3. SLOWLY drizzle in a bit of the failed mayo mixture and emulsify using the immersion blender.  As the mayo starts to reform with the egg gradually add back more of the failed mixture to your cup.  Do this very slowly in a drizzle and be sure the mayo continues to thicken as you add it.  It should turn back to a while color fairly quickly.  Continue to add the rest of the mixture very slowly as you combine using the blender.
  4. You should have rescued perfect mayo!

I was so thrilled that this trick worked. I seriously did a happy dance around my kitchen.

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My Whole 30 Kitchen- The Oil Cleansing Method

I should probably rename this series in my blog to my Whole30 life because this post is actually more about skin care than food, but I am just going to go with it.  Most of the homemade skin products I have switched to include ingredients from the kitchen, including this one!

Originally I had planned to switch out my normal face cleaning/toning/moisturizing routine when I ran out of my current products. I currently use Murad and have been for probably 7 years. I initially chose this particular brand because I loved the moisturizer. It was so light and didn’t leave my face feeling oily or gross. It is going to be hard to switch away from a product that I love so much but I am going to give it a go.

The oil cleansing method (OCM) is a way of cleaning your face with oil. This may seem a little counter-intuitive and the thought of applying oil directly to your face probably makes you cringe a little, but for the next thirty days I am going to try it out. The basic principal is that oil dissolves oil. The routine goes like this:

To be done at night:

Apply Oil mixture to face in a circular pattern. You do not need to remove make up first and this will remove it for you.

Use steam by placing a hot cloth over your face until it cools

Use the cloth to wipe away excess oil

There are a bunch of different blend recipes and it will likely take a little time to find what is right for my skin. I have pretty normal skin. I get blemishes about once a month a few days before my period comes but otherwise my skin isn’t overly oily or overly dry.

The standard mixture is 1 part astringent oil and 3 parts conditioning oil. This can be adjusted based on your skin type (less conditioning oil for oily skin and more for dry skin).

Astringent oils include castor oil and hazelnut oil. Conditioning Oils are Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sweet Almond Oil, Jojoba Oil, Avocado Oil, and Coconut Oil.

For my first time I started with the 1:3 ratio (castor and EVOO) and added in some Young Living Lavender oil which is good for all skin types to soothe and calm skin. There are many other essential oils that are beneficial depending on skin type.

When I was done my skin felt very clean. There was no oil residue and when I woke up this morning my face felt a little more dry than normal. Tonight I will add more conditioning oil to my blend and see what happens. I also plan to add some tea tree oil. This oil is antibacterial and can help regulate oil production.

I have read different views on doing this twice a day (morning and night) but for my first week my routine will be to only do it at night and just rinse of with water in the shower in the morning.

Also most of the blogs I read did say to expect my complexion to get worse before it gets better.  This is an effect of my skin being detoxed of all the chemicals.  It was good to have this information in advance to know that I should expect a week or so of more blemishes than normal.  The detox time should coincide perfectly with my period when my face is broken out anyway so it probably won’t be different than normal.

I took a (really unflattering) photo of my face up close last night so I can compare in 30 days. If this works out not only will I be eliminating chemicals being absorbed into my body daily, but it will also save me quite a bit of money. Currently I use a face wash, toner, moisturizer, eye cream, and night cream. These products easily cost $400-$500 per year. I estimate a year supply of the oils required for this to be under $100. Big Win.

Let’s see what happens in 30 days!

Updates and Post Cards

It has been awhile since I have really done an update on things overall so here it goes…

On TTC….

We decided earlier in the year to postpone IVF until 2016. This was a very big decision and I occasionally waiver on if it was the right one but overall I am pretty comfortable with it. During this time we are waiting to continue on with treatment the plan was to go at it the old fashioned way. Admittedly the last few months have been a complete fail in that department as my husband was either gone, or I was gone, or in April got in a huge fight at the exact time we needed to be TTC. This month I was determined and I even started OPKs on Day 9. Today is day CD14 and I am happy to report we have been getting business done the past few days. With how much my husband travels there will likely be more months we just can’t TTC but I definitely want to try as much as possible until IVF because you just never know.

On getting and staying healthy….

At the beginning of the year I did Whole30 which was actually amazing. I did another stint of Whole30 in April and got down to my lowest weight in years. And then I went to Italy and things sort of fell apart. The last few days I have had so little energy I know it’s time to get back after it, especially during the week. We basically have something planned almost every weekend from now to Labor Day so I know doing an actual Whole30 for 30 days just isn’t happening, but I need to get back in my routine during the week from now until we go to WDW at the end of July. I also need to get back to exercising. Unfortunately the heat has set in to Sacramento which means to accomplish this I will either need to bite the bullet and actually join a gym with AC, or get up at 5 am to go running. The good news is I have kept off most of the weight I lost early in the year, but I still haven’t hit my goal. I ordered a Polar heart rate monitor from Amazon today (it was literally half the price I have seen it anywhere else) so hopefully that will motivate me to get my butt going.

I have also made quite a few changes in the products I use around the house and on my body. I have been making changes over the last year or so, but I made additional changes when my aunt found out her cancer had returned. A few of the things I have done thus far are:

Making my own laundry soap

Investing in some good (Young Living) essential oils to use in place of OTC medications

Switching to Honest Cleaning products

Switching to non-paraben/aluminum free deodorant

Using coconut oil in place of shaving cream and eye makeup remover

Using chemical free bar soap (obsessed with Kiss My Face Olive Oil Lavender)

Only organic from the dirty dozen

Mostly organic meat and produce otherwise

I am still working on switching out some other things as my existing products run out but I think this is a really important process for my own health as well as my family’s health. I also just ordered the book “It Starts with the Egg” and from what my friend Desirae has told me I think this will spur on more changes.

On Life otherwise….

Life has been pretty full which is wonderful and exhausting at the same time. We spent a good part of the weekend being touristy in San Francisco with my stepson. Surprisingly even though we live so close we haven’t really spent a lot of time there. Actually most of the times I have been there in the last few years have been for work. We took my stepson to a Giants game for his birthday last year and I believe he had been there once with his mom a few years ago. We spent most of Saturday on the waterfront. We started at the Ferry Building (at Pier 1) and walked all the way to Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf. We took a bay cruise that went under the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz and then went to the Aquarium. After dinner (of seafood of course) we headed to Ghirardelli Square and shared enormous sundaes and then hiked up some insane hills to Lombard Street. We woke up on Sunday exhausted but still made it to Chinatown and then to the Union Square area for lunch before driving home. I slept the whole way home and my legs are pretty sore from the hills but it was a really fun weekend.

We will be home next weekend and then a quick weekend in LA. My husband has to go for work so we are all going to go and hopefully spend a day at Universal Studios. A few days after we get back my dad will arrive and stay about a week, and my brother and his girlfriend will also be here for part of the trip. After they leave 2 days later my husband’s family will be staying with us for a long weekend. Thankfully we have one weekend to recover and then we are off to Disney World for a week with my mom. I won’t even go into what is happening in August yet but it’s just as full. Somewhere in there we will go to work and my stepson will be going to some summer day camps as well as starting another season of Hotshots basketball league. We will be busy but that is what summer is for, right??!

On Postcards….

I feel like snail mail is a lost art but I LOVE it. Maybe it’s my obsession with stationary and note cards? I make a real effort to randomly send cards to my family and friends. As a kid I loved getting postcards. I hung them all up and probably still have a box of them somewhere. Over the weekend I grabbed a few extras from a shop in Chinatown and I would love to send one to you! Send me your address to meanttobemommy@gmail.com if you would like to get a little love in the mail!

Have a great week everyone!

Italy Trip- Venice

Venice is magic. Really it’s a special place. The photos don’t do it justice. Actually I didn’t even take that many because I wanted to just relax and take it all in. I could spend a week in Venice just exploring and of all of the places we went this is the place I want to come back the most.

Our coach dropped us off in a marina area where we boarded a water taxi and headed to our hotel, which was very centrally located about a 2 minute walk from St. Mark’s Square.   Our hotel, The Bauer, was on the Grand Canal and surrounded by water on 2 sides. It was by far the best hotel we stayed in during our trip. After we settled in our tour director showed us the way to St. Mark’s square and then we walked a little further and immediately got on a gondola for a ride complete with live music! Watching my grandma during this ride fulfill her lifelong dream was a gift. You could just see the joy in her eyes. I am not sure if I have shared the back story on this, but when my mom was child my grandparents owned an Italian restaurant. My grandmother was an artist and painted a picture of the Grand Canal in Venice from a photograph and it hung in the restaurant for the entire time they owned it. Coming to Venice and seeing the Grand Canal was at the top of her bucket list.

After the wonderful gondola ride we found a restaurant and had a nice dinner. We were warned to stay away from St. Mark’s square for food as those restaurants were significantly more expensive so we found something down one of the alleyways. After dinner we grabbed some gelato and headed back to the hotel. Grandma chose to stay at the hotel but the rest of us went on the optional evening out which included a boat ride down the Grand Canal at Sunset (probably one of my favorite things on the entire trip), and then a glass of wine at one of the outdoor bars in St. Mark’s square to live music.

The next morning we did not do the optional excursion so we met the group later in the morning and boarded a boat to the Murano glass factory. Venice is known for glass blowing which is a very skilled art. We were given a demonstration by one of the professional glass blowers and then had some time to shop. Honestly the pieces in the factory blew me away. They were so detailed and ornate (and really expensive). I got a small piece for my aunt (who was supposed to come on the trip and sent me in her place when she could not come). I wish I had taken a photo of it before I mailed it to her because it was amazing. I also got a few pair of earrings for myself which were more in my price range. In Venice there are many places that sell glass, but most of it is not true Murano glass. There are actually only 5 places in Venice to get the real thing.

After the glass factory we went by boat to Burano Island. Unfortunately my camera died so I have no pictures of this place, but it was adorable. All of the houses were painted very brightly in different colors. We had a really nice (and huge) lunch in Burano followed by some shopping. I bought a few scarves and a definitely not real “Murano glass” bracelet. It was a really fun afternoon despite the blazing sore throat I unfortunately woke up with that morning.

After the near hour boat ride back to our hotel we had some downtime and our tour director came with me to a local pharmacy. I wanted to get something similar to Emergen-C to boost my immune system with the onset of the sore throat. After some chatting back and forth with the pharmacist (between her and the tour director in Italian) I walked out with some sort of thing to be added to water daily for 12 days. The liquid came in little glass bottles that sort of looked like essential oil bottles. I had meant to take it the next morning and completely forgot and of course had it packed in my checked luggage. So I still have it and I guess I’ll try it next time I feel a cold coming on!

We ended the evening with a group dinner to say goodbye. It was unbelievable that our trip was already over. Even now I can’t believe I’ve been home for 2 weeks!

I know it was really hard for my husband that I went on this trip without him. Of course he understood the circumstance, but with IVF looming in our future it will be a long time before we can go to Europe together. I know it’s different for him because he is already in his 40’s and while I know he wants to have a child, he mostly wants it because he knows how much I want it. I know he would be just as content to do a big international trip every year since he has already had that part (of being a father) of his life fulfilled with his son. It’s something that weighs on me pretty heavily.

I feel very blessed I was able to share this trip with my mom and my grandma.  I will treasure my memories from this trip forever and I know how blessed I am.

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Italy Trip- Lake Maggiore and Verona

The Lakes region of Italy is the North right on the Swiss border. The three main lakes are Maggiore, Como and Lugano. We visited Maggiore and stayed in a village called Baveno. Unfortunately our night in Santa Margherita was rough. There must have been something in the air to aggravate my grandma’s asthma because she kept me up all night hysterically coughing I’m guessing she didn’t get a lot of sleep either). I was really hoping to catch a nap on the ride to Lake Maggiore, but that didn’t happen since our tour director talked most of the time. We arrived in Stresa, a village just up from Baveno, at lunch time. First let me say this area is amazing. The Alps surround the like and it is absolutely breathtaking.

We disembarked the coach and we were told we would just be walking a short ways to the town square where we would have lunch. Well my grandma insisted on walking, which would have been fine except our director and half of the group went ahead and left the other half of us behind. We had to wait quite a while to cross a busy street, and by the time we got across they were gone and out of sight. Since we had no directions we ended up walking way further than we needed too to get there and we essentially had to carry my grandma because she is not capable of walking that far. In my lack of sleep I was insanely pissed. My grandma, out of her own frustration, got mad at us and was extremely upset. When we finally made it there we sat at the first restaurant we found, which ended up being pretty awful honestly. Again out of pure exhaustion, I was unable to hold back tears and basically cried through the entire meal (with sunglasses on). I was determined to just get some alone time after lunch to chill out and get my shit together and my grandma told us at lunch that she was very tired and wanted to rest. When we got to the hotel and got settled I grabbed my camera and was going to head out the door to go on a walk. First, of course, I checked on my grandma to see if she still planned to rest for a while and told her I was just going to go walk around. Apparently that struck her the wrong way because she lashed out at me and given my exhausted state it was not well received. I ended up just leaving, walking around for a few minutes and then grabbing my mom’s hotel key and taking a nap in her room for basically the rest of the afternoon. It was really sad because it was a beautiful warm and sunny day and I missed it. When I woke a storm had blown in and it had gotten quite cold and windy. While this was a very beautiful place it was the only truly bad day I had on the trip. I think since I was only getting 5-6 hours of sleep per night, a night with basically no sleep absolutely killed me.

Thankfully after the nap I did feel a lot better. We went to dinner at a really cool restaurant that was sort of part of the hotel. It had just opened it the décor was really cool. The food was also great and we ordered a bottle of wine for dinner. Since lunch was actually quite terrible it was great to have an exceptional dinner. I was quite happy to be in bed by 10pm because I still needed to catch up on more sleep and we had another early morning. This was the other destination where we only spent one night.

The next morning we set off for Venice, but on the way we made two stops. The first was at another winery which specialized in prosecco (Italian Champagne). I love all things sparkling wine usually so I was quite excited about this adventure. We took a quick tour of the winery and they talked about the double fermentation process of sparkling wine and showed us the bottling equipment and storage and then we went to taste. They poured two types of prosecco and honestly I hated both of them.  I had a glass of prosecco a few times throughout the trip and loved all of it, but this was almost spit it out bad. So disappointing.

From there we continued East and made our next stop in Verona for lunch. It was a bit of a hassle because we had to be dropped off by our coach and then take a city bus to the town square. This would not have been a huge deal but the wheelchair aspect made it quite stressful. We got there nonetheless with my grandma protesting the whole time that she just wanted to stay on the bus. When we finally arrived we sat down at a restaurant and had a nice lunch and some coffee. After eating grandma wanted to sit by the fountain so we took her and then briefly walked up to the area with the shops. Basically it felt like a mall with many of the same stores you would find in an American mall such as Sephora lining the walkways. We didn’t get far before it was time to head back to the meeting point. The other notable things about Verona were the beautiful brightly colored flowers everywhere and the coliseum in the center of the square. Also Verona is known for eating horse meat, which I did not and would not try. It was not a feature at the particular restaurant were we ate but others in our group said the horse meat portion of the menu was quite extensive.

After our adventure in Verona we were off to Venice, and truly the best was saved for last.

Views of Lake Maggiore and the Alps!

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Me and my Mom!

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Another Grandma selfie (after I pulled myself together!)

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Sunrise from our room (I told you I was up early!)

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First Course of Dinner….Prawns!

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Second Course, Braised Pork!

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Some bottles during the fermentation process at Fratelli Berlucchi

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Flowers in Verona!

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Italy Trip- Italian Riviera

With our early start we arrived in the city of La Spezia in the mid-morning and began our drive up the coast to Manarola. The Cinque Terre is an area of the Italian Riviera comprised of 5 villages that basically sit on the side of a mountain overlooking the sea. This area is on the West Coast of Italy to the North. We were told ahead of time that my grandma would not be able to come with us to the Cinque Terre because it was very steep and the wheelchair would not be able to maneuver. It was also too far for her to walk as we had to be dropped off outside of the first village (Manarola) and walk down a very steep road.

The hillsides above the villages were lined in vineyards and lemon trees so the walk down was very pretty. Since space is quite limited the houses are built narrow but tall. We talked through Manarola and down to the water and boarded boat to Monterosso. The views from the boat were quite spectacular. When we arrived in Monterosso we were given free time to shop and get lunch. The local specialties were muscles and pesto, so that is exactly what I had for lunch. I actually usually don’t care for pesto but this pesto was incredible. The muscles were also the best I have ever had. I had read ahead of time that the shopping in the Cinque Terre was supposed to be really good, but that must be in a different village because the shops in Monterosso were nothing great.

After wondering around for a while we met up with the group and walked to the train station. We took a train up to Santa Margherita Ligure where we would be staying for the night. Instead of going to the hotel we walked to the marina and got on another boat (where we met up with my grandma) to Portofino. Portofino is a very popular destination for the wealthy and famous. Apparently there are a lot of exclusive clubs in the area, and the shops in Portofino were certainly upscale with a large presence of the Italian designers. We found a café near the marina and had coffee and then ventured a little further inland to find some shops that were more in our price range. There were a few HUGE yachts in the harbor at both Portofino and Santa Margherita.

After taking the boat back to Santa Margherita we enjoyed dinner as a group in the hotel. I do remember they had pesto again, which was good but not quite as good as what I had for lunch.   I wish I could remember what else we had but I really have no idea! There was a funny story from another very sweet couple from Texas at our table. Our tour director told us beforehand that coffee and tea were included as part of the dinner, and of course she meant hot tea, but the couple misunderstood. When they ordered iced tea the waiters (who did not speak English) did not understand. First they bought them canned lemonade, and by this time they had realized there mistake and insisted that they would just have something else, but the wait staff was determined to help them. They ended up with hot tea and a bowl of ice. They were very embarrassed by their mistake and accepted gracefully and had a good sense of humor about it.

This was one of the two destinations that we only spent one night. The next morning we were off to Lake Maggiore bright and early!

The Beach- Apparently there are very few free beaches in this area.  You pay per day or month or season to have a guaranteed spot.  The only way to find a free beach is to go by boat to find a beach not accessible by land.

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My lunch!

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Grandma selfie at the hotel

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on the boat to Portofino

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approaching the Cinque Terre

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Manarola

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From the boat

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Monterosso

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Portofino

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3 generations at Portofino

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Italy Trip- Florence and Tuscany

The drive to Florence was quite long, but just like our drive from Rome to Naples, it was gorgeous. After navigating Pompeii that morning we were exhausted so the downtime on the bus was welcomed.

When we arrived unfortunately the weather was a bit rainy but we stopped quickly at a vantage point for photos and then went on to the hotel. This was definitely the most unique hotel we stayed in during the trip. I am not sure I could even full describe it but the décor they were going for was some kind of modern Italian. The walls around the bed were done in red tile with LED lights at each grout intersection and the rest of the walls had mirrors, which I would assume were to make the very small room look larger. Our dinner that night was a group included dinner in the hotel restaurant. I believe we had chicken, but the only really notable thing was someone in our group throwing a hissy fit because he apparently didn’t eat poultry of any kind. Just a side note, that on these tours they will cater to any dietary restrictions you may have whether they be just a preference or a medical need. They cannot do that, however, if you don’t tell them what they are, and there were several opportunities to make them known. This particular gentleman did not share his no poultry restriction with our director and then was irrationally angry when he was served chicken. She even had the restaurant bring him steak, but he did not like it either so he literally threw down is silverware and stormed out of the room. It’s always amazing to me when I see adults acting like this.

The following morning there was an optional excursion but we decided to just stay back and get some extra rest. We met up with the group at noon and went to old Florence. First we enjoyed lunch where I was served the largest calzone I have ever seen, and I ate basically the whole thing. It was delicious and filled with mozzarella and prosciutto.

After lunch we gathered outside of the Accademia and entered as a group to see the statue of David as well as other works by Michelangelo. The David is very impressive and it’s amazing to think that until fairly recently the precious statue was actually outside with no protection. Michelangelo also crafted it out of a block of marble that had been rejected by two other famous sculptors who had found it to be impossible to carve and had thrown it away.

After finishing our time in the Accademia we headed for our tour of the Old City. When we set out the sun was shining. Not 10 minutes into the walk it was pouring rain. Thankfully I had invested in a good rain jacket, but my shoes and pants were soaked. We walked through the city as the guide pointed out various things, but it was pouring too hard to actually take a photo or even enjoy it. We finally got to Piazza Santa Croce and went into one of the leather stores. Florence is famous for its leather markets and I was able to find two very nice Italian leather belts to bring home to my husband. After wondering around the leather market we found a small café with covered outside seating to enjoy a cappuccino to warm up and stay dry. Of course the sun came out just as we had to leave. I would love to walk through Florence again, preferably in the sunshine as the buildings and sculptures are absolutely amazing.

After returning to the hotel we had a short time to change out of our wet clothes and head back out to a winery in Tuscany for dinner. We were met at the winery with a cocktail reception with some very interesting sparkling wine style blue wine served in champagne flutes. It was very sweet which I usually do not care for, but this was actually delicious. Our tour director said it was made with peach juice which still doesn’t explain why it’s blue. We took a quick tour of the winery before entering the dining room. The best part was the huge windows overlooking the vineyards outside and there was a beautiful FULL rainbow!

Each table had a red table wine, a strawberry wine, and a white wine. I will be honest I would usually go straight for the red wine, but the other two were actually better! The white was very heavy on grapefruit and the strawberry wine was very similar to the blue wine we had earlier. Dinner was AMAZING. Some of the best food I had on the trip. When the main course of steak and potatoes was served they also served a Chianti which was very good.   As we dined there was live music which was really fun. The whole night was great.

The next morning was of course an early departure but we were on our way to the Cinque Terre and Italian Riviera!

 

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Dinner

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Work by Michalangelo

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Grandma and me after the down pour

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The winery we went too for dinner

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Views of Tuscany with a rainbow!

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Italy Trip- Pompeii

The ancient city of Pompeii is just south of Naples down the coast. We arrived fairly early in the morning which was good, because it was already sooo hot.   While I am glad that I got to see it most of my focus during the tour was on my grandmother so I missed a lot of what our tour guide told us. Unfortunately we were not fully informed on the conditions and trying to navigate with the wheelchair was nearly impossible. Grandma had to walk large portions of the tour which was even more difficult because of the terrain and the high temperature. We were so fortunate to have a lot of help from people in our tour group (or else we never would have made it!) but we really missed getting to really see anything since our focus was on just getting through it in once piece.

It is pretty unbelievable that the people of ancient Pompeii did not know the danger of living so close to a volcano. I wish I had gotten to learn more about the city but it is definitely amazing how it was buried for all of those years.

Just to clarify one thing….we did not expect Italy to have the same accommodations that the US does for wheelchairs.  The only frustration was that our tour director did not properly inform us of the conditions we would be facing because my grandma didn’t actually care if she would have missed Pompeii and had we known we would have just skipped it.

Vesuvius looming in the background

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Notice the sidewalk and road we were walking down.  The upper sidewalks were ok for pushing until they became narrow, or blocked by a fence which happened frequently.  The road area was very uneven and had those blocks you see in the picture everywhere and the curbs were over a foot high.  Not ideal for a wheelchair.

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Italy Trip- Capri

If nothing else just scroll to the photos on this post.  Even just going through picking which ones to post was so hard.  Can I go back to Capri please!?!

Driving down the freeway from Rome to Naples was a beautiful scenic ride. The Italian countryside is nothing short of breathtaking. Honestly it’s amazing an entire country can be that beautiful. I was quite worn out on the ride and probably should have tried to catch a nap, but I just had to look out the window the whole ride! Naples on the other hand, well the part we drove through anyway, was not pretty. Actually if the whole city looks like that, I certainly never need to go back, unless it is to catch the boat to Capri.

Our tour director was very stressed out because apparently we were running behind and we had a boat to catch. Thankfully we managed to get on in the nick of time. The boat ride was actually unremarkable because we could not actually see out the windows. It took about 40 minutes to get from Naples to Capri on the boat. Capri was one of my favorite parts of the trip, and it’s hard to fully explain how amazing it is. Pictures cannot begin to capture its beauty. After arriving we had to get on this cable car on a rail kind of thing called the Funicular. It was quite the adventure getting Grandma on in the wheelchair but by the time we left we had the hang of it. The Funicular took us to the town of Capri, where we would be staying. It was about a 10 minute walk straight downhill from the main square of Capri. The hotel was beautiful. We had a room with a balcony with a view of the sea. I ended up spending quite a bit of time there just relaxing. After checking in we had the night to ourselves to relax and explore. By the time we arrived all of the “day trip” tourists had left leaving the island very quiet and peaceful. We found a restaurant very close to the hotel (which did not involve pushing the wheelchair alllllll the way back up the hill again). Knowing that we would be having some downtime to relax the following day I even went down to the bar by myself to have a glass of wine when everyone else had gone to bed.

The next morning we started the day going to the garden of Cesar Augustus which was a short walk down the path from the hotel. The views from the garden were some of my favorite on the trip. It was still early and the day trip tourists had not yet arrived so it was still quite peaceful. We spent quite a time just enjoying the view before heading back up the path toward the town square. Getting Grandma back up the hill, which was now much more crowded and seemed much more narrow than I remembered, was a challenge but we made it.

From there we took the Funicular back down to the harbor and boarded a small private boat. We took a boat ride around part of the island with most of our group (it was an optional excursion). Capri has many grottos, the most famous of which is the Blue Grotto. Getting to the Blue Grotto is somewhat complicated and a very long process, so on our boat tour we visited some others which were very amazing and easily accessible. The color of the water in Capri was absolutely insane. It was like nothing I have ever seen in any tropical or island destination I have been. There was also visibility for several feet down. Finally on our boat ride we went to Faraglioni, a set of three rock formations that rise up out of the sea. The middle formation called Faraglione di Mezzo has an opening at the bottom which we went through in the boat. If you go through that opening with your significant other it is good luck to kiss as you pass through. I was really wishing my husband had been with me for that part!

After arriving back to the harbor we were free for the rest of the afternoon until dinner. We decided to enjoy lunch at a restaurant by the water. They actually brought out a tray of fresh fish to choose which we wanted! Our lunch was excellent with a great view! Afterwards we did a little shopping around the harbor. The shops in the town of Capri were incredibly expensive and mostly Italian designers such as Prada and Ferragamo, which are not in my price range. Down at the harbor things were more reasonable. I actually ended up buying a pair of sandals which they built to fit my feet specifically. They are super cute and really comfortable too! It took the girls in the shop about 15 minutes to make them.

After shopping and another adventure back up to Capri town on the Funicular Grandma wanted some time to rest so I set out on my own for a few minutes. I stopped at a fruit stand along the path that sold what was basically a slush made with fresh lemon and orange, both fruit grown on the island. It was so good and a perfect mid afternoon treat for a warm day. The island was very full of the day trip tourists, mostly from cruise ships. I found a nice spot to sit out of the way and just enjoyed the view. It was perfect.

Later that evening we headed back up the hill to the main square with many from our group and enjoyed dinner in Capri at a restaurant also called the Capri. So if you are keeping count that is now the Isle of Capri, the town of Capri and now a restaurant called The Capri. Dinner was a prefix meal consisting of salad, pasta (gnocchi), fish (salmon) and dessert. Needless to say I was stuffed. We also had a great view of the sea at sunset while we dinned.

The next morning leaving Capri was a bit hectic. We had to meet at the square quite early to take taxis down to the harbor. The Funicular was not yet running at that hour. The taxi ride was crazy   as there are very few places on Capri (island) that you can even drive a car, and the few roads they have are very narrow. Thankfully we made it down, and to our boat on time and we were off on our next adventure to Pompeii!

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Italy Trip – ROME

As I mentioned in my first Italy post, my travel to Italy was not ideal. I left my house at 2:45 am to catch a very early flight to LA, where I spent about 2 hours before heading on to Chicago. What should have been only a 45 minute layover turned into 4 hours. When we finally got on our way to Rome I was exhausted. I tried my best to settle in for some sleep after dinner was served on the plane, but it just wasn’t happening. When we finally landed in Rome I was so eager to get off the plane, but we had a 30 minute delay in deplaning because paramedics needed to take someone off first. When I finally made it past passport control with my luggage I had missed the second shuttle to the hotel (provided by the tour company) by 10 minutes. This meant a 3 hour wait for the next one. Those were the longest 3 hours EVER. When I finally did make it to the hotel it was 5pm and I had been up for about 30 hours, and I had about 10 minutes to get dressed and head out to the first dinner of the trip.

The “welcome” dinner was held at a restaurant near the hotel with a prefix menu. We had a choice between sea bream and beef and I went with the fish. Honestly it wasn’t very good, but I think that might have been partly because I was so overtired. At the welcome dinner our tour director gave us some information on what to expect for the upcoming days and I just tried to stay awake. After the dinner there was an optional “Rome by night” excursion. My grandma decided to head back to the hotel but my mom, Kim (her friend also on the trip with us) and I decided to go.

Our coach bus took us around different parts of Rome to see the city at night. I wish I remembered more about this excursion but I was having trouble just staying awake. The most memorable part was stopping at St. Peters. It was beautiful at night with the lights. It was also crazy to see huge lines of people waiting to get into museums after 10 pm! Our tour director explained that it was a special weekend when all museums were free and they would be open until midnight. I couldn’t quite imagine visiting a museum (and standing in a line that was several hundred people deep) that late at night for a museum.

All of the hotels we stayed in were 4 or 5 starts, and they were all VERY different. The hotel in Rome had the worst room by far. The highlight of the hotel was the breakfast room that was on the top level with a beautiful view. The bed in this hotel was also extremely hard. All of the beds during the trip were more firm that I am used to, but this one was the worst.

There was an optional excursion in the morning to see some of the fountains throughout the city, but we did not partake. It was nice to sleep in a little (until like 7:30 am) before getting a start to the day. The first organized destination of the day was to the Coliseum. On that particular day Rome was quite busy as there was a marathon and breast cancer walk going. Additionally four nuns were being canonized at the Vatican. Because of this many streets were closed and there were people everywhere. Our coach was forced to drop us off a 20 minute walk away from the Coliseum, which wouldn’t have been a big deal, except pushing my grandmother in the wheelchair was very challenging for that distance through such a thick crowd. I will just say, Italy does not have the provisions for wheel chairs like the US does. Thankfully my grandma is able to walk short distances with assistance or we never would have made it through the trip.

The Coliseum was very impressive. It really blows my mind to think something that was built that long ago is still standing. Thankfully this attraction did have an elevator so grandma was able to go up to the top level. It is also really weird to think that people would go there for day long events to watch people get killed in front of them and it was considered entertainment.

After the Coliseum we headed back to the hotel with the group. It was quite hot out so we decided to venture down the street to a snack shop and get gelato! IT WAS SO GOOD! And also really refreshing. After taking a little time to rest and freshen up we headed to a local restaurant recommended to us by the hotel a few blocks away. It was supposedly family owned, but I guess we came a little too early because they told us many of the menu items were not available yet. I ended up having lasagna which was VERY good and a glass of house red wine. The house wine was actually cheaper than buying a coke (which I am all for).

After dinner we decided to go for a little adventure. My grandma had always wanted to see the Trevi Fountain and I really wanted to see the Spanish Steps. According to my phone app the Fountain was only a ten minute walk away so we decided to go for it. Well, it turned out to be more like 20 minutes, mostly straight downhill. We quickly found that pushing the wheelchair in the street and dodging oncoming traffic was actually easier than trying to go on the sidewalks that were crowded with people, very narrow, and had random curbs in the middle of a block. When we did finally make it to the fountain it was surrounded by scaffold because it was being cleaned, and had no water. My grandma was very happy to see it none the less. We stopped shortly for another Gelato (because you know…When in Rome) and then headed for the Spanish Steps. This walk was easier only in that it was mostly flat, but the sidewalks were no less challenging. We made it to the steps right before the sun went down and there were hundreds of people just sitting on the steps hanging out. I had wanted to climb them but there were so many people there was just no way. We headed back toward the hotel, which was basically all straight up hill. Let’s just say I got a serious work out in and I realized that running up the hills with the wheelchair was much easier than walking. The long skirt was wearing posed another challenge to this method but eventually we made it back to the hotel. I definitely burned off my pasta that day. It was an adventure I won’t soon forget.

The next morning we had to set out by 7:15 to get to the Vatican. Because it was closed to visitors the day prior because of the special event it was very important that we be there early so not to get stuck behind other tour groups. We were fortunate that everyone in our group was on-time and we basically were able to walk right in once we go there. Because of the wheelchair we could not do the same route as the rest of the group so we did not get to see much of the museum, but we did get to walk through the library which was pretty fascinating. The highlight was the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo’s Pieta. The inside of St. Peter was also very inspiring. I wish I had more to verbalize about it but honestly it was kind of a place to just be quite and reflect (despite the masses of people everywhere). I also loved seeing my grandmother brought to tears by the Pieta. That was very moving as well.

After our time in the Vatican we had a little bit of free time to wonder around and grab a much needed drink of water. Anywhere outside of the big tourist attractions could be a little unnerving. Aside from the increased risk of pick pocketing there were also very aggressive street vendors selling various items such as sun hats, scarves, and selfie sticks. They would often come right up to you and aggressively try to get you to buy there item and even come back after you forcefully declined. I am usually very polite, but it was clear after our first experience with this that they did not respond to a polite no thank you. We were told that the actual shop owners hate these people because they do not pay taxes. I just found them extremely annoying and relentless. I certainly did not want to buy anything from them!

After our coach bus picked us up were headed off to Naples to catch a boat to the Isle of Capri, but more on that in my next post! Enjoy these photos of Rome!

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