Looking back at . . .

Despite lots of great potential content, I didn’t write much about our fabulous trip to Europe last spring.*  Over the next couple of weeks, I  will rectify that by sharing snippets from my travel journal in the “Looking back at  . . . ” series.

Flight to Rome, March 26, 2011
Being kicked out of my exit row seat on the Ryan Air flight from London to Rome was only the beginning of the fun.  Oh wait, actually, the fun began before that, with the super-strict carry-on allowance (which we fortunately knew about ahead of time) and the chaos and stress of the boarding free-for-all.  We were decompressing after managing to get seats together, seats that even had leg room, when a flight attendant informed me that I would need to relocate for take-off and landing.  Apparently all pregnant women are considered “persons of impaired mobility” and incapable of performing exit row functions.  Ahem!

After take-off, I hightailed it back to my rightful seat, where I spent the rest of the flight enduring a barrage of sales pitches.  They started with lotto tickets then moved on to electronic cigarettes, which could be smoked in-flight.  Blood boiling and contemplating the wisdom of opening the emergency exit while in flight, I watched the flight attendant walk most of the length of the plane without selling any cigarettes.

I thought we had escaped with the air quality of the plane intact until they brought out the next item for sale, announcing that they had testers available for people to try the scents.  Are you kidding me?!?!  Testing perfume on an airplane?!?!?  Fortunately, my passengers seemed equally uninterested in this offer.

Luckily, the scheduled two hour flight was closer to an hour-and-a-half, which is the only thing that saved us from the final product offer, wherein the flight attendants would have announced the presence of poisonous vipers on the plane and come through the aisle selling anti-venom at the low, low price of 85 euro per dose.

*Apparently, I did write a few posts immediately after the trip:

When in Rome . . .

. . . eat Indian food???  Absolutely!

When we were in Italy last spring, our first dinner in Rome came after we’d been traveling in other parts of the country for over a week, and, quite frankly, we were ready for something other than Italian food.  We made our way to Shanti, an Indian restaurant recommended by one of our guide books, and enjoyed one of the best meals of our entire trip, including one dish in particular.

Fellow blogger Nupur (One Hot Stove) was kind enough to help us identify the dish as malai kofta (see her comment on this post for recipe links).  We haven’t gotten around to making malai kofta ourselves, but we identified a couple of local Indian restaurants that serve the dish.

Over the weekend, we finally made the trek to House of India for our fix.  I liked the idea of their lunch buffet, but I called to investigate and they told me that the malai kofta is never on the buffet.  Further, they ONLY offer the buffet at lunch time.  What to do?

Go for the lunch buffet and order malai kofta from the takeout menu, which is available any time.  Clever, no?

We enjoyed a nice buffet lunch and left with a double order of malai kofta to enjoy later.  I brought a glass container to avoid polystyrene or other disposable plastic to-go containers, and our server agreed to use it, no problem 🙂

We heated half of the malai kofta for dinner last night, and it was every bit as delicious as we remembered.

2011 Year End Review — The First Half

Pregnancy, international travel, major surgery, and a new baby, all superimposed on the usual topics of biking, food, and gardening.  Here’s a look back at 2011.

Already increasing my carbon footprint
I mean that in a very loving and motherly way, of course :)  The big changes won’t come for another six months or so . . . .

Little did I know exactly how big those changes would be.

Seed starting: Make a functional, affordable heat box
I’ve used this one with great success and reliability for four sets of plants now.  We set our thermostat pretty low in the winter, so the heat box helps keep the seeds cozy.

Mama-to-be’s reading list
Your Best Birth, by Rikki Lake and Abby Epstein, was the first book I read post finding out that I was pregnant, and I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone.  Even if you are not pregnant, have no plans to become pregnant, and can’t see any way this subject applies to you, I encourage you to read it . . .

Turns out, no amount of reading can prepare you for life with a baby.

Good sauerkraut — make your own
Yesterday, I wrote about my hunt for good sauerkraut and how we ultimately decided to make our own.  Fortunately, making sauerkraut is quite simple.

O-oooh, we’re halfway theeere

21 weeks

Brine your beans
While I was happy enough with my bean-cooking method (quick soak or an overnight soak, drain and rinse, boil for about an hour), we recently discovered a new method that yields delicious, lightly salted cooked beans, reminiscent of the canned variety in a good way.

Biking with babies
The idea that a young infant could not be safely transported by bicycle, when we give no thought to putting them in cars, seemed quite ludicrous to me, but I couldn’t find much information on safe options.

There’s no place like home
All of the sudden, I look significantly more pregnant.  So what changed?  Turns out I’m having twins — my regular baby, plus an Italian food baby.

Traveling while pregnant

In London, I could count on relatively easy restroom access when out-and-about by ducking into a Starbucks or McDonalds.  I became accustomed to walking in, quickly scoping out the place and the most likely restroom location, and making my way there, and back out, without making it too obvious that I wasn’t a paying customer.  Italy was trickier on the restroom front.

Eating for two — A vegetarian pregnancy
Not having to scramble to make dietary changes when I found out I was pregnant was one nice aspect of having a well-established healthy diet, though I was a little worried for the few weeks where pasta and rice noodles made up the bulk of my diet.

Cycling Savvy Instructor!
Despite the heat and my “delicate condition” ;) , I made it through the Cycling Savvy Instructor training this past weekend!  In fact, I didn’t just make it, I had a great time.

Biking with baby — Part II
Comments such as, “If you and your husband want to go for a bike ride, leave your baby with a sitter,”  reveal general ignorance about using a bicycle for transportation. What if we want to go to an event in the park WITH the baby?  What if I need to pick something up at the grocery store?  Am I confined to only using my car for these short, easily bikeable trips for the first 12 months unless I leave baby behind?

Rolling toward the finish

Biking to lunch at 37 weeks

Last day in Rome

So I’ve written about the beginning of our trip, which started in London.  In between London and Rome, we visited Florence, Cinque Terre, and Siena.  Today I feel like writing about Rome, where we ended our trip.

We began our final day in Rome with a large dose of cuteness.  A quartet of perfectly fuzzy ducklings salvaged Rome’s otherwise not-so-memorable botanical garden.  (We recommend Kew in London, and Siena’s small, but nice (and free) Orto Botanico.)

After our garden time, we headed across town for lunch at Il Margutta.  This vegetarian restaurant has a buffet-style brunch.  Huge variety, and all top quality – the soup was the only flop, but by then we were so stuffed it didn’t matter.  For affordability, both here and at the Naturist Club (another vegetarian place where we enjoyed a meal the previous day), lunch was definitely the way to go.

Only catch?  Instead of the typical U.S.-style “all-you-can-eat” buffet, Il Margutta limits diners to one plate.  So, as you can see, we made the most of our one trip through the line.  We thought we were embarrassing ourselves, and being “those Americans,” but there were some real authentic Italian diners with plates that rivaled, and perhaps exceeded, ours.  We both cleaned our plates and were actually NOT uncomfortably full when we left — so no food wasted!

Fully sated, we made our way to the beautiful Borghese Gardens (wish we had more time to spend in the park) for our reserved slot at the Borghese Gallery, home of Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne sculpture, as well as a number of other beautiful Bernini pieces.  We paid for the audio guide, which was nice accompaniment.

For our final meal at Rome, we ate delicious pizza at ZaZa, followed by gelato at a shop Matthew frequented ten years earlier.  We also bought pizza to sustain us on Thursday’s plane ride.

We ended the day with a moonlight stroll through Rome, including a pass by the Trevi Fountain.  I tossed in a coin for good luck 🙂

MP3 player — to buy or not to buy?

That is the question that I’ve been pondering for months.  Months turned into years, and I do not own an MP3 player.  Since I made it through all this pondering time without one, I obviously don’t NEED one.

So why am I considering purchasing an unnecessary THING in the first place?

I have the special inability to do anything other than sit and stare straight ahead when I am in any kind of moving vehicle, be it a car, bus, train, or airplane — no reading, no crossword puzzles, no movie watching — I can carry on a conversation, but I won’t turn my head to look at you while doing so.   That’s correct, my motion sickness is so sensitive that I can’t even read on airplanes.

Fortunately, I don’t spend much time on airplanes (as flying is almost always the least green transportation choice), but a flight in my future always brings up the MP3 player subject.  Now I’m about to make a trans-Atlantic journey, the longest flight of my life, and while I hope to spend a good chunk of that time sleeping, some form of entertainment might be nice, not to mention possibly having a calming effect on my unmedicated self.  (I usually take Dramamine when I fly, which I won’t be using this time due to the pregnancy.)

So what do I have against MP3 players?

An MP3 player is just another THING, engineered, like most things these days, for planned obsolescence.  Most articles tell you not to worry about the non-replaceable battery wearing out, because the battery will last 2-3 years, and by then, you’ll “need” a new player anyway.  Strangely, this reasoning fails to comfort me 😦

Aside from lengthy trips (of which I don’t take many), I don’t know that I would use an MP3 player all that much, which makes it hard to justify the purchase, both in terms of environmental impact and the impact on my wallet.

Well, writing thoughts down can be a great way to take a new look at an issue and find new solutions.  Now I see that maybe “buy” or “don’t buy” aren’t my only options here.  Since I want to use an MP3 player for a specified, finite period, borrowing one would be ideal.

Do you have an MP3 player you want to lend me for a couple of weeks?