The Italian Diaries – Sorrento

Sorrento.

When I close my eyes, I can still see it. I can still hear it.

When we first walked onto the streets of Sorrento, Pete said, “This is exactly what I pictured Italy to be like.”

Picture a narrow alleyway. You see people up ahead, so you follow. All of a sudden, that alleyway opens up into a long avenue filled with shops. Overhead are flags of various countries flying proudly.

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Every store sells limoncello and every store owner is inviting you in to have a sip. It’s really no wonder, as the lemon trees grow wild – in some places, right over your head.

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We sit down at an outdoor café and order a few pizzas. Al fresco. It is the most amazing thing you will ever eat. Nothing can now ever compare to this pizza you’ve eaten.

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Everyone is friendly and wants to learn about where you are from, your background, and what brings you to their great city.

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Peek down any of the hundreds of side streets to be greeted with a beautiful site. An old church. A bountiful garden. You never know what you’ll find tucked away.

Church in Sorrento

The lemons are sold in crates on the street and are triple the size of American lemons. No wonder the limoncello is so flavorful. And potent. And everywhere.

Lemons of Sorrento to Make Limoncello

At night the streets come alive with vendors and artists. Spray painters draw the biggest crowds, making creations that only they can envision while they play house music to inspire them.

Street Artist in Sorrento

Stop by Parrucchiano for dinner. You really can’t go wrong with your order.

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Cannelloni on the left. Gnocchi on the right. In the center is what I’ll claim to be the best appetizer on earth. Only…I can’t remember what it is called. Imagine a fried dough, like a zeppole but without the sugar. And inside a sweet, pink tomato cream sauce. It’s heavenly.

Watch out, Parrucchiano. 10 year anniversary – we’re coming to you for our vow renewal.

Spending the Day in Sorrento

Don’t forget to stop for gelato before you leave! You’ll have no trouble finding gelaterias along the streets.

Gelato in Sorrento

 

Next stop…Capri!

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The Italian Diaries – Massa Lubrense

*To kick off The Italian Diaries, I asked my husband, Pete, to write a guest post about our first day in Italy.*

Back when we first met, Maria and I decided that we wanted to travel to Italy together. She had already been there twice before (in 2005 and 2007), but it would be my first time in Europe.

In August 2014, we finally made it happen. For two weeks, we had the chance to explore Rome, Naples and the Amalfi Coast (as well as a few other surprise stops along the way). Joining us on the trip were Maria’s brother Joe and their parents, who were both born in Italy and are extremely knowledgeable about the area, the people, and the culture (and they speak the language).

Since we’ve reached the 2-year anniversary of our trip (and are becoming increasingly nostalgic), we wanted to take a look back at all of the incredible experiences.

First stop…

Massa Lubrense

Well, technically this isn’t the first stop. We flew into Fiumicino Airport in Rome, rented a car and headed towards Il Mezzogiorno (Southern Italy). “Mezzogiorno” literally means “Midday” and refers to the area from Naples south (including the islands of Sicily and Sardinia), where the intense sun beats down during the mid-afternoon hours.

After a 3+ hour drive, we arrived at Hotel Delfino in Massa Lubrense, a small fishing village on the Amalfi Coast located near Sorrento. And if we weren’t excited enough about being in Italy, check out these views:

Capri From Hotel Delfino

Capri From the Balcony

Wow!

By the way, that island off in the distance is Capri (we’ll get to that later in the trip).

Maria and I soaked it all in for awhile before making our way down to the pool area for a late afternoon snack. I want to take a moment here to say that a typical late afternoon snack for us at home usually consists of a yogurt or a few pretzels. In Italy, it’s this:

Caprese With Fresh Mozzarella, Tomato, and Basil

Caprese with ingredients as fresh as they come. Not a bad way to start our trip.

Earlier on in the day, the woman at the front desk mentioned that there was a little trail right around the corner that would take us to the town, so after a quick bite, Maria and I wandered out to explore.

We didn’t go all the way down (the trail was a little longer than we prepared for), but we were able to take this shot from above the village.

Massa Lubrense on the Amalfi Coast

I’d say the locals have a pretty good view to wake up to every morning.

When we made it back to the hotel, we joined the family at the on-site restaurant and talked over the itinerary for the next two weeks. My father-in-law is a seafood lover, so of course, he went with the Catch of the Day for dinner.

Seafood Dinner at Hotel Delfino

After dinner, we were just about to call it a night and rest up for the adventure ahead, but the hotel had other plans. In a small room off the main hotel lobby, we stumbled across this:

Italian Music and Dancing at Hotel Delfino

Dancers and musicians playing all the Italian classics, everything from Funiculi Funicula to Volare. And they even let the hotel guests join in.

Italian Group Dance at Hotel Delfino

Overall, it was a pretty memorable first day for both of us. Next stop…Sorrento.

When Life Gives You Lemons

You make LIMONCELLO!

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Just a teaser pic because the limoncello won’t be ready until mid-September, but I promise to share the recipe then when I can show step-by-step pictures.

However, the process of making limoncello requires 7 lemons, in which you only need the lemon peels. I was not about to let the rest of the lemon go to waste, so I made a couple of things…Lemon Butter Cookies and Homemade Lemonade! See the recipes for both below!

Lemon Butter Cookies (source)

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  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ⅔ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
  2. In a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
  3. Beat in the egg.
  4. Add lemon zest and lemon juice.
  5. Gradually mix in the flour until incorporated.
  6. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  7. Using the tines of a fork, cross marks in the cookies to slightly flatten them.IMG_3409
  8. Bake cookies for 15 minutes or until cookies are set on top and slightly golden on bottom.
  9. Immediately dust with powdered sugar (sugar will melt into cookies from the remaining heat).
  10. Once completely cool, dust cookies again with powdered sugar.

*Some notes: I cut this recipe in half and yielded 17 cookies. I also felt that the lemon was too subtle and I would use much more lemon juice should I make these again.

Since the cookies only required a few teaspoons of lemon juice, I used the rest to make homemade lemonade. I used my lemon squeezer, which was a Christmas gift from my mama (thanks, mom!) to squeeze the juice from all of the lemons.

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It yielded 1 cup of lemon juice. I then made a simple syrup using 1/2 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar over the stove heat until the sugar dissolved. Pour that into a pitcher with the lemon juice and 8 cups of cold water. Stir well and serve over ice.

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Delicious!

Make-Ahead Egg Sandwiches

Now that Nash is 6 months old and much more active, it’s become increasingly difficult to find the time to make myself a meal.

For breakfast I always have Shakeology, which is an easy superfood shake that I can make in under five minutes. Lunch is where I’m struggling. It’s just a busy time! I literally can’t even find time to scoop some yogurt and granola in a bowl for myself. So what’s started to happen is I just grab something, anything, that’s easy and requires no prep. It could be an apple. It could be a protein bar. It could be a handful of nuts.

I said to my husband the other day, “This is going to go one of two ways. I’m either going to get really fat from just grabbing anything. Or two, I’m going to get really skinny from not having time to eat.” I’m not thrilled with either of those directions and I needed a solution.

Enter make-ahead sandwiches. We used to make these a while back for my husband to have before work, but completely forgot about them. They’re so simple and are done in no time at all.

First, assemble your ingredients…we went with:

  • Whole wheat English muffins
  • Reduced fat pepper jack cheese
  • Turkey bacon (we like Applegate Farms)
  • Eggs

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Crack eggs into full sized muffin tins. We were making 6 sandwiches, so we did 6 eggs. *When we’ve made these in the past, we’ve also added in veggies to the egg…peppers, onions, etc.

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Line your bacon on a baking sheet. Put both the muffin tin and the bacon sheet in the oven. It took about 20 minutes for our eggs to be cooked and about 25 for the bacon. *We prefer our bacon to be super crispy, so adjust the time to your preference!

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While the eggs and bacon were in the oven, I got the muffins set up. All you have to do is pop them open and lay a piece of cheese on top.

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Once your bacon is done, place on top of the cheese.

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Then, put your egg muffin on top.

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Close up!

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Wrap in tin foil and pop in the freezer.

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When you’re ready to eat, remove the foil and pop in the microwave for 2-3 minutes. Lunch is served!

Ten Baby Registry Must Haves

When my husband and I registered for our bridal shower, we went with a lot of items that we FELT we should go with. Just because we had seen other people do it or read about them on stupid registry lists. Now we’re left with knife sharpeners, bundt pans, and carafes that we’ll never use. I wanted to be a little smarter with the baby registry.

We poured over every item. Researching brands, reading reviews, considering if it would really fit with what we needed. But let me preface all of this by saying:

THE FIRST COUPLE OF WEEKS OF YOUR BABY’S LIFE WILL BE A MONEY SUCK!

Different things work for different babies. You have to try things out. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they don’t. And it sucks because you’re literally dumping money into stuff your baby might hate!

With that preface, I will say that these 10 items were LIFE SAVERS the first few months of Nash’s life. They come highly recommended from a first time mom who had no idea that more than one type of onesie existed until the day Nash was born.

So here we go, in no particular order:

1. Rock and Play: I saw this on probably every “registry must-have” list and had no idea what it was. Basically, it’s heaven sent. It’s the place where you put the baby when you have to pee. Or make yourself something to eat. Or just need to rest your arms for a hot second. For 2 months, this was the only place Nash would sleep. He HATED being flat and preferred the incline of the Rock and Play. At two months, we transitioned him from the Rock and Play to his crib but still used it for naps. God send!

rp2. Side Snap Onesies: At our hospital, this is what they dressed the baby in. A side snap onesie, diaper, and a swaddle blanket at all times. We had bought the most adorable ever take home outfit. When it came time to go home, I was terrified of putting something over the baby’s head! Go ahead, laugh it up, but we were new parents and the shirt hole just seemed way too teensy tiny to fit over Nash’s head without doing serious damage. So we literally took him home in the side snap onesie from the hospital, pants, and lot of blankies. Then immediately went out to buy copious amounts of side snap onesies in every size.

sso3. Dr. Brown’s Formula Pitcher: A new mommy friend recommended this to me after I had given birth. This is probably the most used item that is on this list. We use it every single day to make a large batch of formula. This way, we can make several bottles at once or just pour from the pitcher when needed. Saves us soooo much time. Plus, then we weren’t shaking every bottle as we made it, creating all that extra air which leads to HICCUPS. And hiccups lead to WAKING UP YOUR NAPPING BABY. No thanks.

fp4. Wubbanub: Another one that popped up on registry lists everywhere. Nash loves this thing. He actually doesn’t take a pacifier, but he enjoys chewing on this and playing with it. He often naps with it and cuddles up to it. It’s become a cannot-leave-home-without-it item in our house and we actually just recently bought a second one.

wub5. Salt Lamp: The salt lamp is a genius item. When you have a new baby, you’ll be getting up quite often in the night. SO SLEEP NOW OR FOREVER HOLD YOUR PEACE. Sorry, had to get that off my chest. But yea this is a great item because you won’t have to put on the blaring light at 3 a.m. We’d put on the salt lamp before bed each night and it lets out a rather soft glow that was just enough for diaper changes and feedings.

sl6. Onesies with Mitten Cuffs: Little babies have sharp, fast growing finger nails that you will be terrified to cut with little baby nail trimmers. As the baby starts exploring with their hands, they scratch themselves in the face, sometimes pretty deep! These onesies were great for our winter born baby because they took the place as mittens to keep him warm, but also kept him from gouging scratching himself.

mc7. Playmat: We were really big on buying items that would grow with the baby. We knew we wanted a tummy time mat and loved this option that changes into a ball pit when your baby is old enough to sit up. Nash loved looking up at the hanging sea creatures, practicing tummy time, and playing with his toys while on this mat.

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8. Diaper Genie: This was an item that we debated. We kinda thought….do we really need this thing? Can’t we just throw them in the garbage? Sure. If you want your house to reek of pee! Trust me, YOU NEED THIS! It totally keeps the odor at bay and is easy to use.

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9. Microwave Sanitizer: We use this EVERYDAY! Sterilizing bottles stressed me out when I was pregnant. I’d hear stories about boiling bottles each time after use and would wonder when I’d ever sleep again. Luckily, this sterilizer came into my life! It’s so easy to use. Rinse all the bottle parts, put in the sterilizer with 6oz of water, and put in the microwave for 2 minutes. Done!

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10. Cloth Diapers: EVERYONE told me to buy cloth diapers. I was like, um that’s weird I’m using disposable. But we don’t use them as diapers! We use them as a cloth to cover the changing pad cover. Hmm you’re probably wondering, “Why do I need a cover to cover a cover?” BECAUSE YOU DO! Because babies pee and poop all over as you’re changing them and you’d go crazy if you had to change the changing pad cover every two seconds. Because they’re expensive! These are cheap! Buy a couple of 6 packs and you’ll be good to go. I’m talking about beer of course.cdSo there ya have it! These were/are our essentials and I hope they help you as much as they’ve helped us.

What were your registry must-haves?