What a relaxing, rainy Sunday it’s been. You know the ones – where you wake up unhindered by an alarm and only the smell of freshly ground coffee can entice you out of bed, where you can leisurely cross things off your to-do list while sneaking in an episode or two of your current binge ((Ozark)), where you can drink a glass of wine at 4pm on the porch listening to the tender rainfall and contemplate the week ahead.
I love these days, and especially when these days are 65 degrees in August.in the South. literally unheard of.
These types of days call for a delicious home-cooked meal and a good bottle of red. Like the recipe below, which I found in a magazine and made early this week.
“Oh my gosh. This is amazing.”
Yessss! And it was easy, and it’s healthy. Winner winner, pork dinner.
1 tsp. chile powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
4 pork chops (we used butterfly, but the recipe called for bone-in)
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
1 small red onion, sliced
2 c. fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 15-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
3 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
S&P to taste
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine chile powder, cumin and salt; rub all over pork.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pork and cook, turning once, until deeply browned, about 4-5 minutes per side.
3. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and roast until 140 degrees, approx 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, wipe out skillet and return to medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil. Add bell pepper and onion; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes.
5. Add corn and beans. Cook until heated through, about 2 minutes.
6. Stir in chopped cilantro, lime juice and S&P. (I also added a little more chile powder to the succotash!)
7. Serve with pork and lime wedges and top with more cilantro!
PS – I just got a cast-iron skillet and am LOVING it. Send me any of your favorite cast-iron recipes!
My Italian Bulldozer – Alexander McCall Smith: What a fantastic, easy-to-read, fun book – especially as you’re on a train traveling throughout the Italian countryside. Thanks to Mom for buying it for me to take to Italy, as it was absolutely perfect. It’s a quirky read about a food writer going through a divorce who just needed to get away and get inspired. It’ll leave you salivating for a trip to Montalcino.
Option B – Sheryl Sandberg: I’ve already written an entire blog post about this book, so I’ll keep this short. This book rips you apart, then helps put you back together again. I want everyone to read it – especially if you’re grieving or if you’re close to someone who is.
The Magnolia Story – Chip and Joanna Gaines: If you’re a fan of Fixer Upper, you’ll be a fan of this book. It gives you an inside look at the Gaines’ story – from their first date to their first call from HGTV and everything in between. It’s an interesting, refreshing love story that makes you fall in love with Chip and Jo even more. (And I didn’t even think that was even possible.)
Into The Water – Paula Hawkins: From the writer of Girl On The Train (one of my favorite books of 2015), I was a little skeptical about this one. I wasn’t sure how she could possibly follow such an incredible debut. Yet, she did. Though not quite as thrilling and page-turning as the previous, the story and characters were still terrific. I was thoroughly entertained throughout and pleasantly surprised. Her next book will definitely be on my list.
You can read all my book reviews here.
[A weekend in Portland for a family reunion]
The rest of the family is spending the week in Bend, OR, (which sounded amazing) but we could only come for a long weekend so we rendezvoused in the city for a few days!
[Gorgeous views of snow-capped mountains on our flight in]
[First stop: a brewery, of course! Breakside Brewery was amazing – awesome building, great indoor/outdoor seating and this blood orange IPA was so delicious]
[Early morning walk for coffee + Trader Joe’s in 59 degree weather – I forgot what that felt like! And it was incredible!!][The downtown food truck scene was so cool. There were so many unique options to choose from! We chose gyros and again, it was amazing][This place has my heart. I could have spent all day in here! I only spent 20 minutes and left with 4 books and a coffee mug, so I can only imagine …]
[10:30am – time for … ice cream? We had been scoping out this popular place and the lines were ridiculously long, so we decided to try it first thing Sunday morning for a little treat. I’m so glad we did because it was definitely some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had and there was no line! Pictured: sea salt with caramel ribbons + coffee][Sunday morning farmer’s market was a hit – splash pad for the kids + delicious food for the adults. Unfortunately this was the only picture I got, but it’s okay because these pupusas were out of this world!! I literally watched the lady hand make them out of this tent. I truly feel like I know what real pupusas are now]
[30th Annual Oregon Brewers Festival on the waterfront – lots of beer and lots of fun!] [Unfortunately this is the only family photo we got while in town and doesn’t even include the whole gang. (Adorable nephew is cut out purposefully, but he was the cutest part!!)]
I’m so thankful we got to spend even just a few days together exploring this city! It was a wonderful weekend getaway with a wonderful family.
You might also enjoy: our last family reunion 5 years ago in Hot Springs
As you know, I typically do book review posts with short commentary on books I’ve read and give them a grade. I love sharing what I’m reading and inspiring others to read more as well.
However, sometimes there are books that are just so eloquent and inspirational, they deserve their own post. First of which was Carry On, Warrior, which you can read here. And now, Option B by Sheryl Sandberg.
I read Sheryl’s first book, Lean In when it came out several years ago and loved it. I blogged about it in my book reviews in 2013 and gave it an A, saying it had inspired me to lean in and take more control of my career. I knew then Sheryl was a remarkable, passionate woman and someone to follow.
Fast forward to her new book, Option B. Not only do I still believe she is a remarkable, passionate woman, but I’m convinced her writing is changing peoples lives all around the world, something I’ve always aspired to. And I say that, because her writing changed my life back in 2013 and again in 2017, and I’m just a simple 20-something girl in small-town Bentonville.
Option B is about facing adversity, building resilience and finding joy. It sounds like it could be a cheesy self-help novel, right? Completely wrong.
She opens the novel by sharing the story of her husband’s sudden death while on vacation in Mexico, and having to travel home and tell the kids their father wasn’t coming home. I read this on a train in Italy and had to literally stop myself from just losing it. It was so real and so raw and so emotional, and I could feel it all.
The thing about this book is, though it rips you apart, it then helps put you back together again. As she was telling her story of grief, it opened up all the wounds of my own grief from a few years ago when my Dad died. But then it put me back together again. Not only could I relate to so many things she wrote (like, the elephant in the room or using journaling as therapy), but she also gives very practical advice on how to build resilience and find joy again. She validated all of my feelings and reminded me I wasn’t alone on this journey of grief, even 3.5 years later.
I want everyone to read this book. Especially if you’re grieving or if you’re close to someone who is. And if for any reason you can’t afford it, I will buy one for you.
“Life is never perfect. We all live some form of Option B. This book is to help us all kick the shit out of it.”
[watching this || PLL SERIES FINALE #HalebForever]
[celebrating/crying over this || our best friends moving to Kansas City this weekend. we are so sad, yet so happy for their new adventures … and of course, we will visit all the time!! #Hotarmans4Ever]
[Monterosso – adorable winding streets with beautiful street art]
[The pictures that follow are from our favorite night of the trip, on Angelo’s Sunset Boat Tour. Boat + guide Sammy pictured above. Seriously, if you are ever here, this is absolutely worth every penny!]
[Boat views of the towns = all the praise hands] [Stopped for tapas in Vernazza – these mussels + anchovies were TDF … and I don’t eat mussels or anchovies!] [And this is right before we saw the dolphins and I cried. But for real, this night was so surreal and felt like a dream.]
[Final night in Cinque Terre – Vernazza Wine Experience with sweeping views that I failed to capture, except for the views of the wine + food]
CINQUE TERRE: We love love loved these adorable coastal towns. This was a very close second behind Siena for our favorite place. We actually stayed in a little town called Levanto (not one of the main touristy towns) and it was wonderful. Less touristy, yet still beachy and charming. We also had some super fun, not pictured, patio nights with Limoncello, Despacito + strange Asian men.
[Piazza at night + another delicious dinner – look at those shrimp!!]
[Peggy Guggenheim Museum was phenomenal. We were so excited to see some Modern art at this point after all the Renaissance art. Love this picture of Husband taking a picture of the water with a Jackson Pollock right behind him!]
[SO much fun on our Venetian Pub Tour – we drank so much wine, went to hole-in-the-wall pubs and learned a lot (that we didn’t totally agree with) from our tour guide] [Day trip to the islands of Burano and Murano were totally worth it. Look how beautiful these colored buildings are! I took the second for my Mom – because I know if she were there, she’d totally be taking an art class like this!]
[Perfect final night in Venice with these beautiful people, and very fitting my last meal would be with more TRUFFLE!]
[We loved the bar across from our hotel! We made it a habit to end there every night. They played American Pop hits and served the “best” pina coladas + the best prosecco.]
VENICE: I had a love/hate relationship with Venice. I’m so glad we went, because it is so unique and incredible that there are no cars and the only transportation is by water taxi. (We even got to the airport by water taxi – how cool is that!) However, I’m not sure I’d go back – it was expensive, pigeons were everywhere, and I got eaten alive by mosquitos.
Hope you enjoyed re-living our trip through photos! I certainly did! Now, who’s ready to go back!?
R O M E
[Trevi Fountain, Pantheon and a lot of walking around cute streets]
[Stumbled upon the famous Giolitti … so of course we had to have gelato, round 2. Successful first day in Italy!]
[Lunch stop pre-Vatican: Bonci Pizzarium – highly recommend this place. Tons of unique pizzas to choose from by the slice!]
[Pictures of the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica don’t even do it justice – wow! Unfortunately couldn’t take pictures of the Sistine Chapel, but it was breathtaking – if only there weren’t so many sweaty people crammed into one place!]
[This wine + cheese pairing class was seriously the best – definitely our highlight of Rome. We learned a lot, drank some unique wines, ate some amazing cheeses and even got to see the thousand year old wine cellar, and Handi the sommelier was incredible! If you’re going to Rome you must make time for Vino Roma.]
[Final night in Rome: somehow found Husband’s dad and stepmom at the Spanish Steps, ate some delicious cacio e pepe and went to the best pub in the world (not really … but we did get this awesome picture from a stranger, ha!)]
ROME: we actually really enjoyed this city! For some reason, none of us had very high expectations, but we were all pleasantly surprised. It was very walkable, fun, safe and great food. There is so much history here that we did not get the time to really explore so I could definitely go back.
T U S C A N Y
Our home base was Siena, which we ADORED, then we traveled around a bit from there.
[The best pizza I’ve ever had – everything was so incredibly fresh, including the burrata on top. Il Pomodorino was one of our favorite spots with the best views. We actually ate there twice!]
[Our favorite meal of the entire trip! This place was so amazing and romantic. My risotto with FRESHLY GRATED truffles was literally the best thing I’ve ever eaten in my life. Truly a remarkable evening.]
Day trip to Florence
[Very cool market we stopped in for breakfast – bottom floor was fresh meats, cheeses, veggies and fruits like a farmer’s market; top floor was cafes and restaurants – this cappucino and ham + brie croissant was delicious.]
[David, David, David, you truly are a masterpiece. I cannot get over how surreal and amazing it was to see this work of art. I’m so glad we went to Florence if only for this!][And this! Birth of Venus by Botticelli was amazing.]
[Uffizi gallery with these views was fantastic – though by the end of the day, we were so ready to get back home to Siena …][and we did eventually make it home, but with a crazy story to tell (best told in person). This was us cheers-ing to Josh making it back alive.]
FLORENCE: in full transparency, we really did not like Florence very much. It was crazy packed with tourists everywhere you turned. Maybe we didn’t go to the right places and should have spent more than a day and done more than just the touristy things, but we were not impressed. (Except for David!)
Wine tour to Montalcino + surrounding wineries [Montalcino was an adorable little town! We only got 30 minutes in town before heading to the wineries, but could have spent several hours wandering around. Of course, even in those 30 minutes husband found a pair of leather shoes to buy!]
[Second stop had the best views by far and incredible lunch + wine in a gorgeous home. I could seriously move there tomorrow!]
[Final stop was definitely the most unique and produced our favorite (albeit most expensive) wine – this winery is super modern, entirely biodynamic, and started by the very wealthy brother of Illy coffee (who we happened to see leaving for holiday in his Porsche while we were there)][Finally back home at Hotel La Villa for our final night in Siena – we did not want to leave!]
SIENA: hands down our favorite city. We seriously discussed finding a property to turn into an AirBnB so we could go visit whenever we want. It was charming and beautiful and just felt magical. I could spend so much more time here, using Siena as a home base then traveling to differing wineries and small towns nearby.
Hopefully you enjoyed the first round of pictures! This was only a tiny taste of what we saw, did, ate and drank.
Watch for Part 2 (Cinque Terre + Venice) in the next week!