Friday, March 30, 2012

My sweet Rani-girl

We had a little bit of a scare here this past week with regard to our most important furry family member. When we got home from our last trip, we noticed that a tumor had grown inside Rani's mouth. It was large - large enough that she was able to bite it - and infected and downright scary looking. Rani was otherwise acting normal, so it was hard to believe something so horrible was going in her mouth.

Being in a foreign country added a layer of anxiety to the situation that I had to prepare myself for. Turns out I had nothing to be afraid of. The vet, or Tierartzpraxis, that we took Rani to for her passport last year, got Rani in right away for an appointment.

When I took Rani to the vet last week, I somehow managed to hold my emotions together during the appointment only to completely lose it once I got out of the vet office and within the safe and somewhat private confines of my car. Rani is my baby - we've been through so much together - and even though I have been telling myself that she's an old girl and I need to prepare for things like this to happen, I'm not sure I will ever be ready to say good-bye to her.

The Tierartz did not appear optimistic. The vet knew just enough English to convey the important information to me, but there was very little, if any, sugar coating. Rani was so frightened in the exam room and the nature of the tumor was in bad shape, so the prognosis was grim. Most likely cancer, and since she's been coughing for a couple months, the vet feared it had already started to spread. The vet also told me that oral tumors tend to grow quickly, so removing it could mean only a mild reprieve before we are dealing with it again. She was also concerned that the tumor was originating in Rani's jaw meaning complete removal of the tumor would be incredible invasive and she didn't recommend it.

When we got news that Rani's bloods were stable enough for surgery, we decided to go ahead and try to have it removed and biopsied. This seemed like the best decision and made the most sense. Hopefully it won't grow back too quickly, and then she will at least be more comfortable. That way we could also get a confirmation as to whether or not we are dealing with cancer.

The surgery was this morning and I was a nervous and anxious mess. This whole process has had me out of my element with constant worry and concern. It was really interesting to see how differently they do things here in Germany. Unlike in the U.S. the vet doesn't really hide anything. They do everything in the exam room right in front of you. At one point I could swear the vet would have allowed us to stay and watch the whole thing (not likely, but he was certainly letting us stick around far longer than any other vet has allowed).

The procedure was quick and apparently relatively painless. We were able to take her home within a couple hours of the procedure. The optimistic look in the vet's face told us everything. It was no where near as bad as we had feared! The tumor seemed to be attached only at the skin, so he believes he was able to remove it all. YES! Such sweet news!

The tumor has been sent to the lab with results coming to us early next week as to whether or not the mass is benign. I'm feeling more and more like we'll get excellent results and my sweet girl will be around for another 5+ years :)


She's looking a little groggy here, but in pretty darn good shape considering she just had surgery (did I mention that she's 13 years old!!!???).p.s. Just another quick note about veterinary care here in Germany, it is so much more affordable! We paid a mere 170 EUR for the surgery and anesthesia, a dental, and the biopsy. Unbelievable.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Pajama Banana Bread

This whole 12-week challenge has my head reeling. In just over two weeks, I'll be completed with my work-out madness and can resume life back to normal. Whether I get the results I was hoping for or not, it would be wrong to say that the challenge didn't change me in several ways.

Probably the most important change is that I'm much more aware of what I'm eating. It seems this challenge both directly and indirectly taught me about food. Although I gave up calorie counting a little bit ago, I did count my calories and log my food long enough to see the importance of good calories and to understand the critical make-up of food.

It's important for me to feed my family healthy and well-balanced meals. I want little r to grow up making good choices for snacks and not desiring junk food. I realize now that the key to not binging on bad choices and junk is to allow yourself to have things you crave. Turns out the internet is a ridiculously good source of how to make low-fat and healthy meals. (Pinterest is by far my favorite source.)

Yesterday I stumbled across a blog that is definitely going to become one of my favorites very quickly. It's a blogger that specializes in healthy desserts. Not only that, but she is vegan so all of her recipes are simple and contain no dairy. I had a batch of bananas that had gone bad (I'm having the worst luck with bananas here), and I was in the mood to bake something delicious when I found this recipe.

This recipe is absolutely DEVINE! Even though I baked it for an hour and a half, the bread was still gooey, but it became more solid as it cooled, which ultimately resulted in a moist and delicious treat. I used blackberries as the additional fruit, and did a mix of gluten free flour and soy flour, and of course, I used her maple syrup alternative. Turns out cooking vegan can be a healthy and yummy choice!

These muffins were exactly what I was craving and the family loves them :)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sometimes breaking up a routine can be a good thing

For months I couldn't wait to have little r start kindergarten. This house needed a set routine in the worst way, and believe you me, it has made the best difference for us all. That aside though, there have been some other habits or routines that we've developed that have not been so great. It took breaking up our daily routine for a few days to make me finally see it.

We got back from our trip to Rome about a week ago now. I could not have been more pleased with how well little r did on that trip. It was unbelievable how easy he was. Sure, he had his moments now and again to remind us that he is still just two years old, but they were far and few between. For the most part he reminded us how very lucky we are to have an amazing child that lets us experience things like Rome. More than that, he actually seemed to enjoy Rome as well.

I had allowed little r (and myself) to fall into this terrible habit of using the tv to pass the time during difficult parts of the day. The morning was probably our worst offender. We had developed this awful routine of turning on a cartoon when little r would wake (BEFORE DAWN) and he would eat his "snack bar" and drink his milk while watching his favorite cartoon of the day. Sometimes it would allow me to sneak in an extra half an hour of sleep, or I would sit and read my book or do yoga while little r was watching his movie. This routine became insufferable, and I often wondered if it wasn't helping fuel little r's motive to rise to early in the day.

Not that I think TV is a bad thing because Big R and I definitely enjoy watching it, and the little man really loves his cartoons, but I knew that there were times we'd let little r watch too much. I could reduce the TV watching throughout the day without too much of a problem, yet that morning routine was impossible to budge. The last thing I was ready for was a full tantrum at 5 AM, but then again, who is?!

It dawned on me on our dreamy sleep on the train ride home that little r had watched hardly any TV on our Rome adventure. We downloaded "Toy Story" onto my iPhone, and it made very few appearances, none of which lasted more than 15 minutes. Like I said, I don't have anything against TV per se, but I do think that some children are better without it, and I was starting to see that little r probably falls into that category.

Since we've been home, little r has watched TV a total of 20 minutes. Yes, just 20 minutes. It's unreal how easy it was to transition him out of the TV watching routine, but more than that, it has been amazing to see the changes in my little man. I found myself using the TV as a babysitter more often than I care to admit, and it was because that was the only way I could get anything done. He refused to play on his own for more than a few minutes at a time, which meant he was after me to play with him all the time unless the TV was on and entertaining him. I was noticing that he was getting restless with the TV, too. He would change his mind often about what he wanted to watch, and he would get frustrated when it wasn't entertaining him as much as he needed.

So, here is a peek into our day now that TV is basically out of the picture:

We wake up in the morning and eat our snack bar and milk at the table (our new elegant dining room table, I might add - hehe), and we talk to each other as we wake up for the day. The best part? Little r has been sleeping. Do wonders never cease?! My early rising child that woke at 5 AM rearing to go for the day now wonders out of his room after 7 AM. Yes, 7 AM! It's nothing shy of a miracle. Yesterday I had to wake him up for school, and that almost felt illegal to me in some way.

Instead of having my days filled with the sounds of CARS 2 or Dumbo or whatever other movie little r has a fancy for that day, I instead hear the sweet sounds of little r singing and playing all day long. He now plays by himself and can stay incredibly entertained for hours. It's amazing! And he seems so naturally happy to create his imaginary world and tell stories to his toys. The songs are my favorite though. I recognize none of them, so I think he's either making them up or he's singing German songs from kindergarten. Either way, I'll take it.

With the exception of the teething monster that possessed our child over the weekend, little r has been much more well-behaved. He listens more and doesn't have as many tantrums as he used to. Time-out is a past memory that visits rarely. He's still two, so there are definitely some things that are unescapable, but for the most part, his behavior seems to have improved significantly.

I'm probably going to somehow jinx myself with this blog post telling all of you that he's sleeping now and never asks to watch TV, but I'm willing to take that risk to tell all of you about the great changes going on here. I have been impressed by what a difference it has made for little r to remove TV from his life. I'm hopeful that we can keep it this way. My plan is not to outlaw it - we all love TV and it can be fun to watch especially on cold rainy days or when you are sick - but I'm creating boundaries or limits on TV watching and I'm hoping to create it as a special occasional treat instead of an all-the-time thing.

If you're having discipline issues at all with your toddler, I would highly suggest removing the TV watching to see if that makes any improvements. Sometimes a break in our routines is exactly what we need to see where we need those changes. I am so thankful to have discovered that little r's mind needed a break from those artificial and fast moving characters on the screen.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Let's eat in style...

I am happy to report that Big R and I have officially grown up. Ok, not really, but we did finally get a real, grown-up dining room set. Something I know several of you have been begging us to do for years (especially my Mom!). Well, Mom, now you will get to sit in a comfortable chair and eat with us at a table where we aren't eating off of each other's plates. I know, it's nothing short of a miracle - hahaha.

Big R and I bought a dining room table set at Ikea when we first moved to DC after graduating from law school. It was cheap, but it worked and we were broke. We never intended to keep that dining room set for so long. Our house in Richmond had a sweet little dining room that we rarely used because it was set off from the rest of the house. The fact that we never used the table made the often steep purchase of a nice dining room set less of a priority.

We have an amazing dining room in our apartment here in Germany. That scrappy little table was torture in this great room. We've slowly been adding photos to the walls, and we kept moving furniture around trying to fill the space. Unlike before, we actually use our dining room here. In fact, it's probably the second most used room in the house. So we've been on a search since we got here for a dining set that we like and wanted to spend money on. Once it dawned on us that we didn't have to buy the table and chairs at the same store, the search got a little easier.

So, here it is, our elegant new dining room.

It's funny when something so simple can make you feel giddy. Guess that's a sign that maybe we aren't quite grown up just yet...

Anyone want to come over for dinner?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Challenge Update - On to Phase 3

It has felt like an eternity, but I have finally made it to Phase 3. How am I doing, you ask? Eh, I'm hanging in there. It was nice to put Phase 2 behind me, but to be honest, Phase 3 is anything but a walk in the park. This phase is tough. Jamie Eason introduces HIIT training into this phase. The basic translation is that we no longer rest - we now "actively" rest. No fun. So, instead of catching my breath between sets, I'm now doing supersets of several exercises and jumping rope for a minute in between sets. Today I did lat pulldowns, reverse bicep pulls, and then 25 crunches; yesterday my favorite was the over arm cable pulls with the push ups on a kettle ball. Pure craziness, I tell you... My body is dog-tired.

My trip to Rome fell right at the end of Phase 2 and overlapped the first couple days of Phase 3. I decided not to stress myself out over it and just jump back in when I got back. Turns out I walked miles and climbed a bazillion steps, and most of which was done carrying a 30 pound toddler. Big R and I both laughed when I read that my workout for Monday was supposed to be Quads and Calves - we found this funny because I had climbed 480+ stairs to the top of the Duomo tower in Florence carrying little r pretty much the entire way. I decided this made me even somehow...

I'm doing an ok job following the plan despite having a couple of weeks where either I or little r (or both) were sick and going to the gym was not an option. I woke up really early some mornings and got to the gym just after 5 a.m. so that I could fit in a workout and then stay home with little r or take care of something else that needed attention. I also did several of my cardio workouts at home. My most exciting addition to the workout plan though was riding my bike to post. This sure beats running on a treadmill for 30 minutes, which is something I pretty much despise. Spring is finally here and with it came warmer weather, or a few weeks ago, at least it was dry and not so frigid that some gloves and a good hat couldn't keep me warm on my ride to the gym. It has been so awesome being able to ride my bike again. YAY for spring!!!

Unfortunately I had to somewhat jump off of the food wagon. I'm still eating healthy and using Jamie Eason's plan as a guide, but when we started having to count calories and greatly reduce carbs, I was not doing well. I was starving all the time, and the scale and the tape measure were giving me absolutely no motivation to keep going. I decided that having a slice of good German rye bread with my egg whites was a-ok, and I turned off the Livestrong application on my iPhone and instead just watched that I ate things in moderation and only when I was hungry. Funny, but randomly I started losing some weight again and I had a lot more energy.

So, what are my results, you ask? Well, here we go...

At the start of week 9 I had lost a total of 5 pounds, 2 inches from my waist, 2 inches from my thigh, 2 inches from my hips (I'm starting to sense a trend here), and 1 inch from my chest (thank goodness that didn't follow the trend). I also started tracking my body fat index at the start of Week 6, and I've gone down about 1% in those three weeks.

I got a lot of crap from people for not smiling. Something about taking your own picture at the gym screams "don't smile, you are a dork!" So, I asked a friend of mine to take the picture for me this time. I'm also sporting some new workout clothes. It seemed that since I'm spending such an insane amount of time at the gym, good workout clothes probably wasn't going to be a waste.

Just to give you a visual comparison, here are my pictures from Phase 1 and 2:

Honestly, I was a little disappointed that Phase 2 didn't show the same drastic results I saw after Phase 1. My weight was all over the place, and I think it was because of the dieting. I learned one important lesson this past month and that is you should really listen to your body. If you are light-headed, really hungry, and feeling bloated at the same time, something isn't quite right. The cravings were unreal, and I felt moody and unhappy a lot of the time. With those demons, you'd expect to be shedding the pounds!

On the positive side, I feel really good now. My posture somehow feels straighter, I'm more confident, and I am definitely stronger. I rarely do my yoga practice anymore, more because my body is too physically exhausted AND because I literally have no more time. I have been able to squeeze in a yoga session about once a week, and it is unreal how much stronger I feel. Pretty amazing.

Phase 3 is probably going to kill me, but I'm hopeful that the results will be worth it. I've spent a lot of time thinking through how I'm going to stay in shape after this challenge is over. I'm glad I did it, but I will be even more happy when it's over. As much as I really enjoy having chiseled arms and flashy muscles, I miss yoga and the peace it provides me. The gym is not my happy place like it can be for so many others. I get frustrated and anxious at the gym, and spend more time being irritated at the people that don't put their equipment away or take too long on each exercise that I have a hard time relaxing. I also always feel like I'm trying to rush through my exercises and get the heck out of the gym so I can start my day. This isn't really the mindset I've been striving for.

All that said, I have enjoyed learning about myself and discovering all the different exercises you can do to strengthen your muscles. Jamie Eason uses a ton of variety. We never do the same thing more than 2 weeks in a row, and she does a creative mixture of strength training exercises to properly tone your muscles. I'm hoping to work with my friend, K, after we're finished with this craziness to see if we can recreate some exercises that won't bring us to the gym more than a couple times a week (or in my case, I'd like to do it all from home if I can!). I plan on bringing back my daily yoga practice and striving to attain some challenging poses. And running these awesome trails around my house is almost all I can think about especially on days like today when spring is singing outside.

I'll be posting final results in just a few more weeks. Until then, eat healthy and take care of yourselves. Oh, and secretly keep your fingers crossed that this insane Phase 3 magically transforms my body to look like Jamie Eason - hahahaha.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Roman Empire and the Best City in Tuscany

I'm not even sure where to begin. There are so many wonderful things to share about our trip to Rome. One thing I will say, is that our mini-adventure trying to get to the train station did not set the tone for our trip. The trip was absolutely fantastic!

For those of you that want the short version of our trip, here are a few reflections:

  • Rome is fantastically beautiful and romantic, BUT it is also amazingly kid friendly. Who knew, right? The Romans were friendly and warm, and at no point on our entire vacation did I feel as if little r was a "problem" - for lack of a better word. So, if you want to take your kids to Rome, I'd say "more power to ya!" You wouldn't regret it, and you would probably have many more stories to bring home because of it.
  • The decision NOT to bring our stroller was probably one of the better decisions I've made in my lifetime. I agonized over this because I knew we would be doing a fair amount of walking. Who am I kidding, we were going to do nothing but walk for four days straight! Rome is lined with cobbles, narrow roads, and a lot of traffic. There are also a million stairs. Plenty of people had strollers, and I know that others have made this work, so I'm not saying don't do it, but for us, it would have been a nightmare. Instead, I brought our Moby along. I had no clue if little r would let me wrap him up in it, and it turns out, he loved it when he was tired. It became a life-saver at several points. (It's also an interesting way to lose weight while eating ridiculously good Italian food!)
  • And finally, night trains are a really cool way to travel; the ancient Roman ruins are REALLY old and incredibly awesome to experience; Rome makes the most incredible pizza on the planet; if you have to pee while you are in Rome, buy gelato so you can use the restroom inside; try not to climb the top of the Duomo tower in Florence when it's pouring down rain; DO take a horse and buggy ride around Florence for a romantic and charming way to see all the important parts of the city; and plan your trip to Rome the same weekend as the Rome Marathon because it just makes things a tad bit more exciting :)

And for those of you that want to get all the goods, read on...

I guess a good place to start would be with our experience with the night train. It was uber cool. We all truly enjoyed using the night train to travel, especially little r. I wasn't sure what to expect from our sleeping car. Big R and I had some experiences sleeping on couchettes in our previous travels, and sleeping wasn't something that stands out in those memories. The sleeper car was very cozy - small - but we had all the space we needed. Knowing that the cabins wouldn't have a ton of space, I made sure we packed light, and it all worked out well. The big question I'm sure everyone wants to know though is whether little r slept on the train at all because you may or may not remember that he refuses to sleep much on an airplane... Yes, this could have been a disaster - it was anything but! After a period of pure excitement, we were all ready for some shut-eye including the crazy little bear.

The night train got us into Rome around 9:00 a.m., which was perfect. We had gotten just enough sleep that we were ready to take on the Roman Empire. I was lucky enough that a friend of mine here in Bamberg had just gone to Rome the week before and she had a couple of great tour books, including our best friend, Rick Steves' (seriously, this guy is probably the only way we travel). So, I had spent some good time in the days leading up to our trip setting a light itinerary. Rome is a very large city, so having an agenda is the only way to make sure you can fit it all in. I knew that we would be most interested in exploring the ruins of ancient Rome, eating some incredible food, and of course, finding religion (the churches in Rome are phenomenal!). What I knew we would be less anxious to do was spend much time in museums. Museums with a toddler can be challenging, but Big R and I aren't typically drawn to them anyhow. We appreciate art and can certainly understand beauty, yet we'd rather spend our time exploring the more raw part of a city's culture - architecture, ruins, neighborhoods, music, and maybe a palace or two...

Our adventure was to begin in ancient Rome at the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. I couldn't wait to go back because on my last trip to Rome, my best friend and I had to rush through the ruins, and we felt like we missed so much. I had set us up with a little B&B that was located literally around the corner. It was a very comfortable place run by a Korean-Italian man named, Roberto (for some reason that really cracks me up), called the Downtown Accommodation. The room was very clean and had everything that we needed including an extra bed that he set up special for little r. Our host was incredibly nice and helpful. He provided us with a map and showed us how to get to all the major attractions. I knew it was a nice central location, but I had no idea that I got us a hotel that allowed us to walk everywhere - literally. It was awesome! (and it was only 125 EUR/night, which is super cheap for Rome, if you can believe that!)

Ok, so on with the trip... We had purchased our Roma Pass for 30 EUR a piece, which got us into two museums for "free" and discounts for nearly all others you would ever want to visit in Rome. It also included free public transit throughout Rome for three days. Not a bad deal at all, and something I highly recommend if you are visiting Rome for several days.

The Colosseum was just around the corner. You are literally walking down the block and BAM, you are facing this 1,900+ year old structure. Pretty fantastic.

We paid for a guided tour, mostly so we could skip to the front of the painfully long line. The tour guide was knowledgeable, but I have to be honest that I probably heard less than half of what she was saying while I wrangled the crazy bear and Big R took pictures. The Colosseum was exactly as I remembered it - still fascinating and unbelievable that we were standing in such an ancient structure. A place where Romans killed each other and animals for sport for over 400 years. Crazy to think about, isn't it? Here are a few of the pictures we got from inside the Colosseum.

From the Colosseum you can get an excellent view of the Arch of Titus, which commemorated the Roman victory over Jewish rule in A.D. 70. This rebellion was the end of any Jewish political entity again until modern Israel was created after WWII.

We left the Colosseum and with our bellies full of gelato, we headed for Palastine Hill and the Roman Forum. It was exactly as I had imagined it would be watching little r race around the ruins. Such a fun place for a kid, who knew?! Big R and I kept laughing to ourselves when we'd be admiring a beautiful detail on a ruin and little r would yell, "a truck, mommy, a truck!"

After sharing a very yummy panini, we started our trek toward the Pantheon.

The little man was finally tired, so he let me wrap him up in the Moby while we walked around the Pantheon. It was probably one of the quietest trips inside a church I've experienced since we started traveling with little r. The Pantheon is easily one of the most splendid structures in Rome. If you visit, you might bypass the Vatican Museum (we did), but you absolutely cannot miss seeing the Pantheon. It was built TWO MILLENNIA ago. Unreal...

We decided it was time to head back to the hotel so we could freshen up a bit for dinner. I had a whole "Heart of Rome" walk that I really wanted to do after dark. We ate dinner just down the street from our hotel at a place that would have been especially charming had it not been for the fact that we had little r with us. It didn't end up being the smartest choice we made, so we ate quickly, and headed out the door. Little r didn't waste any time wanting to get wrapped up in the Moby. A mere ten minutes later and the snuggler was out cold - for literally the rest of the night. He let Big R and I explore Rome at night while he snuggled up to my chest. It was a pretty awesome experience, I'll have to admit...

We took the walk over to the Trevi fountain, which was alive with locals and tourists enjoying the romantic meeting place...

And then we strolled over to the Spanish Steps to take in the view...

The best part of our evening though was the stop at a wine bar where we enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine bathing in the romantic atmosphere. It was fabulous, and also a rarity for us on our mini-vacations with little r.

Our second day in Rome we had a bike tour reserved. What a great way to see a busy and bustling city with so many sights and great neighborhoods. The tour was five hours long, and we saw all of the best Rome has to offer. The weather was perfect, our guide was completely chill and relaxed, and little r really enjoyed the bike ride.

After our tour of the city, we hopped on the bus and headed to Vatican City. We had already decided that we weren't going to try to see the Vatican Museum, mostly because we wanted to spend those 2-3 hours seeing other things in Rome, but we were not going to miss seeing St. Peter's Basilica.

Our trip to St. Peter's was followed by a spontaneous decision to see Castel Sant'Angelo, which is this castle-like structure not too far away from Vatican City that was built as a tomb for the emperor, used through the Middle Ages as a castle, prison, and place of last refuge for popes under attack - the building is full of history - but the best part of this structure are the views it provides of Rome.

And my favorite part was the small cafe near the top where we sat and enjoyed a glass of wine while enjoying the breathtaking views.

As the sun went down, we headed toward Piazza Navona where we had decided we wanted to have dinner. It was the one place everyone warned us not to eat simply because it's more pricey than other neighborhoods. It is true that Piazza Navona draws many tourists but there is a reason for this - this little Piazza is fabulous. Artists fill the center of the plaza with art of all styles. We even found ourselves drawn to this place and also found ourselves buying a little piece of Rome in the form of art on canvas - yep, folks, we officially purchased our first oil painting. I can't wait to get it framed and take a picture of it to share with you all.

Dinner was wonderful and the environment was so romantic and calming. We were really happy we decided to eat here and not heed the many warnings from others. It was worth every Euro we spent - little r agrees :)

We were running on empty, so we walked back to the hotel and crashed. Little r slept exceptionally well on this trip, so we got much more sleep than I am accustomed to, which was so nice. Our last day in Rome we decided to spend the morning in the Villa Borghese Gardens. We didn't have reservations to see the Borghese Gallery, but we had heard the gardens were Rome's "Central Park" and we thought that would be a fun way to spend a Sunday morning with little r. There was also a zoo to be seen, so we made sure to check that out as well. It wasn't anything like the gem in Nuremberg, but it did keep the little man happy for a couple hours.

Our afternoon was spent in the lovely Roman neighborhood called Trastevere. We rode through this neighborhood on our bike tour and immediately identified with the feel of the place. Unfortunately, we got mislead by the train system and got a bit off track. I think we walked a good mile or two back into the City, but considering that was our only traveling mishap of the trip, we decided to put it behind us and enjoy the rest of the afternoon. The weather was perfect, the gelato was incredible, and lunch was oh-so-welcomed. Trastevere has several immaculate churches within its boundaries. I have never seen such intricate detail in a church as we saw in these small places of worship in Trastevere. Here are a sampling of pictures that we took that afternoon as we enjoyed this small part of Rome.

We finished off our afternoon enjoying a glass of wine and Prosecco at a restaurant in Campo de Fiori, which is the only piazza in Rome without a church. In the center of the square is a statue of Giordanno Bruno who was burned alive for disagreeing with the Pope. We were told by another tourist we befriended next to our table that Davinci also disagreed with the Pope, but he was much smarter about not letting the Pope know this. The weather got a little exciting, so we stayed put while little r napped and relaxed into the ambiance that surrounded us.

Our tanks were empty, so we grabbed a small bite to eat at a sweet little place near our hotel, and then called it a night. We woke up a little earlier (I actually had to wake up little r - unbelievable!!!) the next morning to catch our train to Florence. We were in Florence for less than 12 hours, so the trip was quick, but we still had a great time exploring this important piece of Tuscany. From talking Big R into climbing the tower of the Duomo only to get near the top and be surrounded by a huge storm (with side-ways rain, no joke!), to taking a horse and carriage ride around all the important sights in Florence, to spending the afternoon sipping an espresso in the palace gardens, to watching little r entertain a restaurant owner as he danced to the Beattles - it was a lovely day. Here are some of the pictures we took of our day in Florence.

Big R will undoubtedly groan that I didn't show off the best pictures, and that is most likely the truth. We, or should I say, "he," took over 450 pictures on this trip and most, if not all, of the those pictures are amazing. I did my best at picking a good sampling, and hopefully he will share some of his favorites as well. It wouldn't be like us if I didn't add our favorite sentiment at the end of a great mini-vacation - Rome is definitely on our list of places we want to go back to... oh, just one more to add to our list...