10 things I LOVE about Rome

I have the wonderful privilege to work for a global company that allows me to manage events all over the world. One of my most recent accolades is my company’s contribution to an international congress that took place in Rome and Florence. I was lucky to visit Italy twice before the event for site visits and meetings with suppliers and we even managed to piggy back off one of these visits, to have a very quick family city break! Both hubby and I fell in love with Rome. It is a wonderful, colourful, vibrant and extremely friendly place to be! I have collated 10 of the top things that we loved so much about this amazing city.

1) The weather
It is the small things that count! We were there in November as a family and normally, in London, you would be wrapped up snug with hats and jackets but we were actually walking around in shorts and sandals! As a South African who dreads the gloomy London winters, it was so lovely to be outside, basking in the sun like a rock lizard! See those blue skies for yourself at the Spanish Steps!

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2) Gelato… of course!
Not sure if I even need to say anything about this really because not only is the gelato WONDERFUL, it is Italy at the end of the day… what else would you eat in Italy???

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3) The food
So… of course, there is more to Italian food than pasta and pizza but really this is what I was most excited to experience and it didn’t disappoint. Naturally, there are other fantastic foods to enjoy like parma ham, various Italian cheese and the wine… oh my… the wine, it is too delicious to even explain! Needless to say, we drank our fair share of the wine too.

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4) Caffè Taza D’oro
I was introduced to Caffè Taza D’oro when I was in Rome on a site visit to pick the hotel we would use for the event. It is nestled in a side street just off the Pantheon. I was taken here by our event agency for a quick coffee break and instantly fell in love! With no seating area, it is typically Italian. You get your coffee, stand at the bar and drink it. We decided to have the iced coffee. It is strong, cold and creamy. It was so delicious, I took hubby back on our visit and it was as good as I remember. Would definitely recommend this little gem.

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5) The St Regis hotel
In the end, this was the hotel that was chosen and might I say, It was a good choice indeed! Honestly, one of the nicest hotels I have ever stayed in. It is a truly beautiful hotel and in a wonderfully central location with one of the main shopping streets in Rome just around the corner. The service was impeccable, the food amazing and the rooms outstanding!! They were so wonderful with Emily that they left a few gifts in our room for her.

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6) Colosseum and surround
I don’t think it is any secret that the Colosseum is of course one of the most famous Roman landmarks. It is truly something to behold. The surrounding area is equally beautiful. You cannot believe how the area has been preserved! Angie from SilverSpoon did a post just this week on the Aroma restaurant. It looks like a wonderful place to treat yourself to a beautiful dinner with the Colosseum as your backdrop.

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7) The Vatican
The cathedral is amazing. I felt completely overwhelmed being in the Sistine Chapel. That ceiling was so amazing, I had to just stop and be quiet and enjoy what I was seeing. Emily of course could not fathom the immensity of what she was experiencing so spending an entire day (Which you could easily do) was out of the question so we saw the major points and then headed off for some lunch. Definitely worth your time.

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8) Shopping
This is Rome. Of course the shopping is amazing! Not just the abundance of leather goods on offer but the shopping in general is great. There is something for everyone and of course, who wouldn’t indulge in a Italian designer handbag while you are there?!

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9) Palazzo Doria Pamphilj
We hosted our drinks reception and dinner at this amazing venue. It is steeped in history which you can find on their website. With it’s Baroque style in interior design and the array of galleries, you can so easily be swept away with it all. It houses the most amazing tapestries, paintings and statues. Truly a fairytale evening with many delegates talking about it for days afterwards!

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10) The Fountains
You will find fountains on almost every corner. It is an absolute delight and makes you want to discover more and more of the city. Of course the most famous is the Trevi fountain which is truly amazing but I was more taken with some of the smaller ones on secluded Piazza’s away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It was a welcome retreat and for some reason, being around water always calms me, centres me and makes me feel rejuvenated. The drinking fountains have clean clear drinking water so take an empty bottle with you and drink spring water to your hearts content!

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This is an amazing city and one of my favourites so far. I would love to hear your favourite bits of Rome if you have been. But for now, I am going to look forward to my Italian dinner tonight (In London) and dream of my long, warm days in Rome.

Ciao for now.

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Body Shaming – It’s a shame really…

I was looking through my Facebook home page, catching up on the activities of friends and family when I stumbled across an advert for a gossip magazine that said “Hot celebrities that have ugly spouses!!” and there was a picture of Pierce Brosnan and his beautiful wife Keely Shaye… I couldn’t quite figure out who they were saying was ugly?? I soon realised that they were referring to Keely because she has gained weight… I mean, who could love a gorgeous curvy girl like her?? Well the answer to that is very clear on Pierce Brosnan’s Instagram account… He can!! (Yes, I follow him because to me, he is the best James Bond!! But, that is another debate for another day)

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*Above picture taken from Pierce Brosnan’s Instagram*

I felt like I could relate to her a little. Weight issues and being health conscious is something I am constantly struggling with. It is like a thorn in my side and my freedom all wrapped up in one annoying package. When I do well and feel great… Woohoo!! the world is my oyster and anything is possible. When I feel a bit meh and look in the mirror, judging every blemish and roll, I feel terrible. And believe me, no one can say things that I have not already said to myself and far worse! I have come to realise that there is no “destination” as such when it comes to living a healthy life style. You don’t “arrive”. It is something that you work on every single day. Making smart choices and doing your best for you (first of all) and for your family. And although there seems to be a rising-up of people against all this shaming nonsense, I am so acutely aware of the messages I am sending out about myself and woman in general because I want to be a role model for Emily and I want her to grow up feeling confident about who she is and the way she feels about herself.

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There was an advert campaign in the UK for a diet supplement that had such strong reactions against the billboard, the advert was actually banned. Initially, I was shocked by everyone’s reaction but in retrospect, I think many people are tired of feeling like if they are anything less than perfect, they are simply not good enough. Stylist Magazine wrote an article on it which also brought out different views but I think the gist of the backlash was that no one wants to feel inferior any more. And I am not saying that you shouldn’t be realistic! The “This Girl Can” campaign is great!! and it encourages you to get up and get moving. I can see things in myself that do need to change and I am working on it and that is the point… I am working on it. As long as I continue to take those small steps I will see the rewards at some point. It is a journey and I feel grateful to be working my way through it, as frustrating as it can be sometimes. At some point, we all need to be kind to each other and learn to love ourselves for who we are.

Well, at least I know that is what MY hope is for my beautiful, amazing, impressionable daughter.

The Challenge Is On! – A cook off amongst friends

Of course, as South African’s we have a love for all things meat and wine!! So when you get invited to a steak cook off with friends… who can refuse?? It is the perfect combination! Since then we have done 3 further cook off’s and the bug has well and truly bitten.

Our previous cook-off’s have been:
Steak, Burgers, Sosaties (Kebabs) and Meat-on-the-bone

The rules are as follows:
-The couple that wins will host the next cook-off and gets to choose the theme
-You need to bring your own goodies to plate and present your dish
-One couple at a time presents their dish
-We decide the order by picking numbers out a hat
-It is up to the host to decide how the scoring will work
-Enjoy!!

The previous 2 cook off’s have been great because the theme has been so broad that almost anything goes! Matthew and I won the burger cook off so we hosted the sosatie one. It was just before we flew to SA for holiday and it was a great excuse to see everyone before we left.

Team May
Matthew and I went first with a Middle Eastern inspired, chicken thigh sosatie. It had loads of spices, hummus and tabbouleh. I was inspired by a Jamie Oliver recipe and I was so happy with how it turned out!

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Team Stassen
The Stassen’s did a delicious spicy chicken breast sosatie with freshly squeezed lemon juice to add a bit of punch. Such lovely, bold flavours!

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Team Jooste
A traditional South African lamb sosatie was displayed by the Jooste’s with curry and sweet chutney flavours. Absolutely amazing! This recipe would be even better with karoo lamb which is just unbeatable in flavour but not readily available in the UK.

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Team Breetzke
The Breetzke’s presented a incredibly tender, Thai inspired, chicken breast sosatie. Everything you would expect with the delicious Thai spices and the heat from the lemongrass and chilli.

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The winners that took home the trophy at the end of the evening were the Jooste’s who’s South African sosatie was a clear winner with the wonderful taste of home. They are certainly a formidable team, having won the steak round already and now the sosaties too… We going to have to watch these guys!!

We had our most recent cook off this past weekend and the Jooste’s decided on Meat-on-the-bone as the theme. Now this is an interesting one because you can literally do pretty much anything with this! Fish, ribs, roast chicken, leg of lamb, beef stew… I mean the world is your oyster! Matthew and I really struggled to think of something because there were so many options! I then figured that while the weather is getting warmer, it still feels like curry would go down really well and if you do it well, it is a sure winner!

Team Stassen
The Stassen’s went first with the most delicious, Indian inspired lamb chop spiced with a rub that left a crust around the chop and a tingly taste in your mouth. They cooked it on the BBQ/braai and served it with grilled aubergine and a mint dip. Truly inspired. They were so delicious that Emily ate 3 chops in one go. You just could not hold the kid back!! I knew then that we were in trouble!!

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Team Breetzke
Now, the Breetzke’s decided on a simple lamb chop seasoned well. They decided on a thick cut chop and I cannot express enough what a big difference this makes. They were perfectly seasoned and so juicy, we all had to eat them outside. The thickness of the chop keeps in all the flavour and tenderness. One of the nicest chops I have had in a while!

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Team May
We were next and Matthew and I presented our lamb neck curry that we cooked in the slow cooker over night. We served it with yellow rice and coriander. It was spicy but not hot and incredibly fragrant. I was very impressed with the recipe and I will certainly use it again.

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Team Jooste
The only team that did not do lamb! The Jooste’s presented an American style feast!! Spicy ribs that had been slow cooking for 6 hours, sweet potatoes and American style Macaroni cheese! Such a wonderful way to end. Those ribs people!!! They were so tender you would be forgiven if you forgot to chew! I am telling you… This team is dangerous!!

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Well, this one was a toughy because every single dish was amazing!! In the end, the Stassen’s kicked it out the ball park and took home our tiny roaming trophy. Well done you guys!! So well deserved.

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What a wonderful way to spend time with friends, eat some amazing food and enjoy the lovely weather (for now). Thanks for the lovely day Jooste’s and we look forward to finding out what our next challenge will be once the Stassen’s decide on the next theme!

*Please get in touch if you want any of the above recipes*

Bank Holiday Weekend – Staycation

The bank holiday weekend is here!! Normally, we would try and do something exciting like go away for a city break somewhere but having just come back from a South African holiday; we will be staycationing this weekend. I thought I would include a few things that we plan to get up.

Go for a stroll in the park
This is always a favourite of ours. We have a beautiful park a short walk from our house with a duck pond that Emily loves! It is always wonderful to get outdoors as a family and get some fresh air.

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Go Cycling
This is one of our all-time favourite summer activities… We absolutely love cycling and Emily adores being on the back of the bike. If the weather permits, it is always a great few hours to hop on the bike and set off through some of London’s beautiful forests and cycling routes.

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Braai/BBQ
YES…. For us weather is never a problem when it comes to having a braai and rain or shine, it is a MUST on a bank holiday weekend! This is a great time to catch up with friends and family. Sometimes, Matthew and I will braai just the 2 of us, open a bottle of wine and sit in the garden while the sun sets.

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Do some Gardening
Now is the perfect time to wonder down to your local nursery and purchase a few seasonal flowers to jazz up your garden! Emily really enjoys being daddy’s little helper in the garden and she is such a smart little thing, she has already been asking about buying flowers for the garden.

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Visit your favourite coffee shop
Bank holiday weekends are a great excuse to hide away in your favourite café with a cup of coffee and a book. One of my favourite cafes is Le Pain Quotidien. They have the most delicious food and fantastic coffee!

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Bake something delicious
I really enjoy being in my kitchen and while I am a much better cook than I am a baker, it is a great excuse to spend some time trying out a new recipe. Emily loves to help around the kitchen and the messier, the better.

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So, if you are staying at home for this bank holiday weekend, there are loads of great things to do that will rejuvenate your body and mind. For me, there is nothing more wonderful than spending quality time with my family and friends during my time off work. They truly are my oasis and my life line and I cannot think of a better way to spend my extra time! What are you getting up to this weekend??