Gouda Life: The Revival (and the Baby)

Look, I know I’ve been distant… let me explain.

When we started Gouda Life back in 2016, the goal was cheese. It was – and still is- something I love, something that was always around, something I knew a bit about. Derek and I took turns writing posts and taking pictures of anything cheesy that came our way. The writing– I miss. Not being a student anymore makes me miss writing. I miss using words, stringing them together in punny ways. I miss releasing my brain’s work somewhere. But being- let’s call it what it was- an aspiring Instagram Influencer was exhausting. Every time we went out to eat I felt like we had to take a picture of this appetizer, make note of what’s in that entre. Order a fancy cocktail? Remember it’s name! It was too much. I wasn’t living my life the way I wanted to. I was a slave to what I thought was something fun. So we took a break.

We took a break that turned into a longer break. During the summer of 2018, after almost two and a half years of trying to have a baby, we decided to go through in-vitro fertilization- or IVF. I couldn’t focus on a blog about cheese when I essentially hated my non-cooperating body and had way bigger things on my mind. Infertility is a taboo subject– too sensitive for people to talk about, making others unaware of the struggles and the commonality of it all.

According to the CDC, 7.4 million woman receive some form of fertility assistance in their lifetime. To put that in perspective, one in every eight couples struggle getting or staying pregnant. ONE OUT OF EIGHT. But we don’t talk about it. We isolate ourselves and we isolate other women going through it because it’s too personal, it’s too real. Well I want to talk about it, damnit. Those two and a half years of trying sure took a toll on us- but I’m not going to sit here and voice my struggles and pain to everyone. That’s not why we’re here. I didn’t join Facebook groups, I didn’t participate in forums, I didn’t join support groups. I didn’t want to talk to and hear from people who already knew the struggle. It is everyone else that needed to hear about it.

infertility, pregnancy

One round of IVF drugs.

Things People Trying to Have Babies Don’t Want to Hear/ Things to Never Say to a Woman Ever:

  • Why aren’t you pregnant yet?
  • When are you going to pop out kids?
  • Are you going to start trying soon?
  • Married for five years?! It’s time!
  • It was easier getting pregnant than we thought!
  • What’s the hold up?

For those that did know we struggled a bit…

  • You just need to relax!
  • You’re worrying too much about it!
  • Go on a vacation and don’t think about it!
  • It will all work itself out!

Now, these people, for the most part, had no idea that we had been trying for so long and the mental mindfuck (sorry, Mom) we were going through. It isn’t their fault– they didn’t know our situation. Having fertility issues has made me way more aware of how to talk to friends, specifically my female friends, about the topic.

Things People Trying to Have Babies May Like to Hear Instead:

  • Any kids in your future?
  • Thinking of you.
  • Let me know if you want someone to listen.
  • I have a friend who went through that, would you like her info?
  • How are you?

Or

DON’T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT THE TOPIC AT ALL.

Some people, believe it or not, don’t want kids and other peoples’ reproductive plan is nunya business.

Now, if we’re being honest, nothing about the topic is fun to hear when you are in the middle of it all. Every Instagram post, every Facebook announcement, it feels like daggers in your heart. I’m not really being dramatic when I say that. It somehow physically hurts. One of the strangest, most surreal feelings, is when your best friend tells you she is pregnant when you’ve been trying. You are so unbelievably happy for her and her family, but then so bitterly jealous you can barely handle it.  It is a cycle that literally goes on forever. The jealousy is so much different than any other ‘jealous’ I have felt. My friend on a trip to Bora Bora ain’t got nothing on my friend about to push a baby out of her hoo-ha. Isn’t life weird like that?

Our journey in a nutshell: Two rounds of intrauterine insemination (IUI), one round of IVF. IVF produced seven embryos, transferred one last July. On August 8 we found out we were pregnant. I was up at school with some students when I got the phone call. I went home and told Derek and we cried, for the first time happy tears. On April 8, exactly eight months later, our little man was born.

infertility, pregnancy, baby

He’s seriously too cute for words to describe.

Harrison is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. Being a mom is something that was slowly becoming just a dream, never a reality. Those first few weeks we both wondered what the hell we were doing. I am already realizing that no one knows what they are doing when it comes to parenting. He’s happy and healthy and, damnit, I think we’re off to a great start.

IN CONCLUSION:

At the time, there was no way I was going to share my fertility endeavors with the world, let alone keep up with the blog and Instagram. But I have changed, my perspective has changed. I’m here to listen. I’m here to help. Infertile women of the world, I see you and I hear you.

Also, I’m to pulling a Jon Snow and bringing Gouda Life back to life. *Hair flip*

The Cheese Bar – Des Moines, IA

Each summer, we head north to Whalan, MN for a family reunion. This little pocket of paradise is something I’ve grown to love since (officially) joining the family in 2013. The lone downside, though, is the due-north drive on i35, so naturally we attempt to populate the commute with a couple stops to break things up.

Up until this year, the only stop beyond refueling was the SPAM museum in Austin, MN. It’s a delightful place, as is the town in which it resides, and I recommend it if you ever find yourself in the area. It’s also worth noting that Cate is the current (unofficial) SPAM-packing champion of the world. If you do check the SPAM Museum out, see if you can beat 1:27.

But now, back to the point of this post. We needed a lunch option beyond typical fast food joints to accompany the journey. Preferably, something cheesy, and, fortunately, we found one.

I hadn’t spent much time in Des Moines since I showed dogs as a youth, but now I’ll be revisiting it on an annual basis, and it’s all thanks to The Cheese Bar.

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The Cheese Bar is as unique as it is cheesy, and pairs perfectly as the lunch spot on a long drive. It shares a building with a few other companies, including a yoga studio, which makes me imagine how perfect some baked feta would taste after an intense yoga sesh.

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A neon sign lures you in from the street, communicating precisely that what your heart desires most is directly inside. Minimal and wood-based decor adorn the small restaurant, and a few long, community style tables occupy the floor. The bar features a long line of unlabeled beer taps against a massive subway-tiled backsplash. I still have no idea how they kept them all straight, but after ordering our drinks the bartender poured my Trellis Buster (Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project) and Cate’s Liliko’i (Avery Brewing Co) with ease.

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There didn’t seem to be a bad option on the menu, but since I had never had the chance to experience raclette, I opted for that. Cate, of course, had to take their classic grilled cheese with bacon for a spin. Both were delicious, and the things the folks around us selected all looked incredible, as well.

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Although our stay was brief, The Cheese Bar left us full but wanting more, and we can’t wait to visit on our way north next year.

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Teaching is…

As I sit and write this post, I am a fresh 1 hour and 45 minutes into my summer break. “Yeah teaching is so great, you get summers off.” *Eye roll* Yes, it is great and yes, I do get summers “off.” (Let’s not forget about summer professional development, lesson planning, constant worrying about your babies because you don’t get to see them every day, but ya know, what do I know?) And for your information, summers “off” aren’t all that fun when most of your friends are still in work. I’m working as a part time super nanny, part time volunteer, part time kickballer, part time book reader, and full time dog mom.

ANYWAY…

I’m not going to make you read about how much work I do, how much of my own money I spend, or how much money I SHOULD get versus what I DO get. I do want to give the average reader a list of analogies and scenarios to describe the nine months in my classroom and probably most classrooms. So here we go…

Teaching is…

…herding cats.

…like working out. I hate it sometimes, but in the end, I’m glad I did it. It was worth the few rough sessions for feeling accomplished and productive.

…giving a big presentation to potential clients, every day all day long.

…winning the championship game.

…losing the championship game.

…cursing a lot in your head.

Teaching is…

…getting lost in a big city.

….getting lost in a big city with no one that speaks your language.

…getting lost in a big city with 100 teenagers.

…exploring a new city.

…putting out a dozen fires at once.

…finishing a 1000 piece  jigsaw puzzle. It takes a lot of time, very tedious, sometimes frustrating and annoying, but DAMN does it feel good when it’s done. You did something, you used your brain. You made art.

…training squirrels.

…training dolphins.

Teaching is…

…winning a game of Catan. Skill and a little bit of luck.

…watching your house plants grow. Slow and steady. Don’t notice it right away, but over time– HUGE changes.

…attempting to make a Buckingham Palace guard laugh.

…juggling.

…juggling fire.

…juggling fire, an iPad, and a ½ full water bottle as you catch it mid-flip, and a fidget spinner.

…cooking a full course meal with no recipes, no sous chefs, just hungry, annoyed, unamused guests.

Teaching is…

…spending the extra two minutes after class to talk to your ‘rowdy’ one about his living situation. He just needs someone to talk to.

…talking your student down after a boy said something mean to her in the hallway after lunch.

…dabbing for the first (and last) time at the end of the school year and watching them all FREAK OUT because “she finally did it!”

…listening.

…learning.

…taking a summer to reflect, reboot, replan, and get ready for the next year.

This year started off rough, reaaaallll rough. I didn’t know if I could do it at times. With a change of attitude and a new perspective, I can actually say that I love being a middle school teacher. Will I do it forever? Maybe. But until I figure out the rest of my life, I’m going to start packing for my first camping trip of the summer. Smell ya later!

blog, teaching, teachers, education, reboot, summer, teachingpost

“Relax, Recharge and Reflect. Sometimes it’s OK to do nothing.” ― Izey Victoria Odiase

-C

Snap Outta It: Steps to End My Grumpy Attitude

At the end of last year, I was in a funk. A funk from a multitude of reasons which I won’t bore you with. But it was a 100%, Grade A, organic FUNK. I realized that even good things that happened were often overshadowed by this dark aura that I surrounded myself with. No one else was in charge of that Lost-like black smoke monster but me.

I started to realize that if I ever wanted out of this gloom I had found myself living in, I needed to make some changes. So here we go:

  1. Realize that life isn’t perfect all the time.

AKA, suck it up. Some situations I found myself in were entirely my choice and my choice alone. What can I do about it? Suck it up. Deal with the consequences. Think of a plan and work towards reaching a goal. Drowning in my own self-pity wasn’t going to get me anywhere.

  1. Stop giving a sh*t.

I was mentally and emotionally taking work home with me. With both students, co-workers, even rude people at Target– everyone and everything I involved myself with. I can’t make every 13 year old kid like me. I sure as hell can’t make them like social studies, and there is no bloody way I can make them all pass my class. IT IS OKAY. The world is not going to end because little Billy told you your class was stupid and that he didn’t care. Little Billy obviously has bigger fish to fry at home and I needed to remember that. People are fighting bigger battles than what is presented on the surface level. Which brings me to my next change.

  1. Give a sh*t about things that matter.

With all the terrible things that are going on in this world, try to find the good and to help make it better. “Oh no my internet isn’t working, UGH. How am I supposed to buy things I don’t need on Amazon?!” There are literally bombs being tossed into cities of innocent people. There are people being bought and sold in sex trafficking. I think I can flipping deal with the internet outage.

I have recently picked back up volunteering with a few local organizations. While it isn’t something I do every day, it feels like I am actually doing something to right the wrongs of this world, even just a little bit. I have discovered issues and organizations that I am passionate about and I’m actually spending time and money to show my support. It isn’t much, but it is better than Facebook arguing about microwaves and conspiracy theories.

  1. Be active.

Hate to say it, but I have been “more active than usual” since the new year and I wish I could say it sucks and doesn’t make a difference on my attitude. But then I’d be lying to you. Between running with my beautiful muscular badass dog, experimenting with machines at the gym, and dancing any time I hear a tune, I truly believe it has helped turn my attitude around. I mean, Elle Woods says it best, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.”

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YAS QUEEN E. ❤

 

Gouda Music II – Happy March

February flew by, and on its way out demonstrated a variety of seasons over the course of only a few days. I was able to break into and out of my spring wardrobe in a hat tip to  Kansas’ haphazard weather patterns and global warming.

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This blog’s been relatively stagnant lately, which I do apologize for. Especially because stagnancy is something I so strive to avoid when I can. That said, there’s plenty in the works. We have camping trips scheduled, weddings to attend in new places, and I’m currently curing an oak barrel to season some large-batch cocktails. There’s always cheese plates to review in this town, as well. Naturally, we plan on dragging you along as we take these things on, and we appreciate your continued support of the Gouda Life.

So, in the spirit of improved consistency, here’s another edition of something we’d like to continue sharing – Gouda Music. I didn’t have anything particular planned as far as a theme is concerned, so I just added a few and rode the feeling. A few are some favorites, others come with a heavy dose of nostalgia for me, particularly the Paper Kite’s A Maker of My Time, to name one. My brother introduced me to this song back in 2012 when I had moved back from Dallas, TX. We covered a plethora of topics as we got acclimated to physically frequenting each other’s lives again, and this song, for one reason or another, evokes a near-tangible feeling from that time. Not to mention, it’s a reminder that our time here is exceedingly short, so make of it what you will.

And I do hope you make this March one to remember.

-Derek

6 Steps to an Impressive Cheese Platter

Now this is a story all about cheese
A platter of course, it was such a breeze.
I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there
We have some cheese tips, that we’d like to share.

With all the cheese plates I’ve created, both big and small, I realized to some people, a cheese plate may be intimidating. The great thing about fromage is that you CAN’T mess it up, seriously. Well, only if you forget the cheese, then yes, you can royally mess it up. Since it was the two of us, I’ll stick with tips for a smaller cheese platter. For a larger plate, just multiply the goodness!

Step 1: Pick Your Cheeses

My go-to cheese pickin’ strategy: Something hard, something soft, and something funky.

We chose Prairie Breeze cheddar, Italian fontina, and Le Roule.

Prairie Breeze: Straight out of Milton Creamery in Iowa, this cheddar is dry yet creamy to taste. It is aged for at least 9 months, but tastes like its been aged MUCH longer than that. It gets you in the ‘cheddar spot’ as I like to call it (back of your lower jaw, it’s my scientific way of rating cheddars).

cheese, cheese platter, cheese blog, diy, blog, party, appetizer, cheddar

Prairie [cool] Breeeeeezeeee


Italian Fontina: Can’t go wrong with a fontina. It is, to this day, the best cheese for grilled cheese in the entire galaxy. Soft, creamy, and delectable.

cheese, cheese platter, cheese blog, diy, blog, party, appetizer, fontina

Italian Fontinuhhhhh

Le Roule: First off, you sound fancy as HAIL when you tell your guests what they are about to experience. Let me help you, “LAY- ROO-LAY.” Yes, it is French. It is a soft, spreadable cheese (once you get it to room temperature) full of garlic and herbs. Believe you me, this is one pretty cheese on ANY cheese plate. This cheese is a real crowd cheeser… pleaser.

cheese, cheese platter, cheese blog, diy, blog, party, appetizer

Le Roule ay ay ay

Step 2: Pick the Platter

Lay out your cheese on the platter or plate BEFORE you open them up. This will eliminate more dirty dishes and less handling of the käse. Just lay your cheese out on a platter, leaving enough room for your other adornments to fill in the gaps.

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Be prepared.

Step 3: Prep the Plate

Be sure to let your cheese sit out about 30-45 minutes before guests come so they are at room temperature. This will allow all of the flavors to come out of the cheese so you can enjoy them at their fullest capacity.

Take off any wrappers that may be on the cheese. Rinds are different, rinds are the outer layer of the cheese. Most rinds are edible, except for wax, cloth, or bark. Rinds add more flavor to the cheese.

cheese, cheese platter, cheese blog, diy, blog, party, appetizer

Pro Tip: Don’t eat paper.

Step 4: Select Your Accessories

This is completely up to you and your taste. I am a pretty basic bitch when it comes to my cheese accompaniments. I’ll go for grapes, berries, apples, some meats, and of course, crackers. If you wanna get wild, spring for soaked dates, or some finely cut prosciutto.

If you have more extreme, strong cheeses, try to get a bland cracker as to not take away from the cheese flavor. I’m a sucker for anything that says “crisps” on it, I love a little crunch with my käse.

Step 5: Get Your Tools

Depending on your type of cheeses, be sure to get the correct cheese knives and/or spreader. If you don’t have cheese tools, don’t fret. A knife will do JUST fine.

Step 6: ENJOY

Pour yourself a glass of wine, turn on some Marian Hill, and enjoy yourself!

cheese, cheese platter, cheese blog, diy, blog, party, appetizer

You earned this.

 

-C

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Things I Learned on My Gouda Break

 

  1. People who have 2+ jobs, bless you.

So, long story short, after a few Facebook interactions, I was hired at a cheese shop called The Better Cheddar.  I chose to take on a new job because I was in need for something new. I needed a new experience, some more stimulation in my day. I, obviously, love cheese and this was a seasonal job — it had an end point. I only work 12-15 hours more a week, but outside of work, I have become about as useful as a built in bra (not very useful at all, zero support, FYI). I don’t even have any kids yet, but I commend ANYONE, parent or not, who works a full time job AND another job.

  1. I don’t know sh*t about cheese.

After working at the cheese shop for just under two months, I have discovered that I don’t know as much about cheese as I once thought I did. My boss is a legit cheese connoisseur. He knows the ins and outs of all cheeses, what makes this cheddar different than that, these sheep ate this stuff at the top of this mountain giving it that nutty flavor with a hint of fruit– SAY WHAT. It has been humbling, but very eye opening. I can now say that I can walk anyone through creating their own personalized cheese platter PLUS shrink wrap. *hair flip*

  1. So far, my husband’s new Xbox has not hindered on his social life/our relationship.

We have a deal, and he is doing a great job. Shout out to you, DStein. Thanks for being you and using self-control. Xoxo

  1. EmergenC is ‘lit.’

Working in a middle school of 500+ students and staff, I somehow survived the first semester without getting sick. Elementary was easier to contain. I just had 25 running noses I had to worry about. Now the noses are bigger, louder, and I have 4x as much exposure throughout my day. I’d like to thank my flu shot and EmergenC. I couldn’t have done it without you two.

  1. Friends make you feel better.

I’ve been a little stressed and overwhelmed with work, work again, and other life elements pulling me different ways. No matter what, my crew has been there to listen, bitch with, and laugh until we cry. Even if it’s over the phone, or a group chat, good people make the hard times bearable. Looking forward to a more peaceful, happy 2017 with all you bros and hoes by my side.

-C

Rome in Quattro Days

Alright, so I’ll be honest. I’ve been avoiding this post because it is intimidating. Rome. What can I say? Rome was charming yet intense, classy yet demanding, busty yet dainty. With its 290 fountains and 900+ churches, there are endless sights and ruins to see. Trains are cheap and VERY easy to figure out. I think we did a pretty damn good job gettin’ er’ done in four whole days. Thiiiisss is hooowww weeee (did) itttt.

Day 1

Our train arrived in the city around 3:00 pm. We decided to opt out of a taxi ride to our AirBnB, that way we could see sites on foot along the way. Our AirBnB was east of the Colosseo (Colosseum). Come to find, we were living in the heart of the gay district in Rome! Rainbows, delicious drinks, and the BEST PIZZA IN ITALY (more on that later…). PRO TIP: Stay within walking distance of a train station. It makes life VERY accessible in Roma.

Roman Forum
After we settled ourselves, we wandered to the Coloseo and Roman Forum. We bought the 2-day pass which allows you to see both sites ONE TIME OVER a 2-day period. Many tourists were confused, but we figured it out eventually. We decided this day was for the Roman Forum. The ruins were amazingly old, beautiful, and religious. To my excitement, there were columns laying in the walking paths for guests to sit, stand, or touch. I have a thing for ancient columns.

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SO KEWL.

Our stomachs were growling, so we decided to hit Coming Out Roma for dinner. We sat outside at a table on the street. D to my front, and to my right, the sun setting through the empty arches of the Colosseum. We ordered Long Islands, they were perfect. We totes ordered more than one. I ordered their Quattro Formaggio pizza, my date ordered the Diavola. The pizza came out complete smothered in mozzarella, thick slices of smoked gouda, and sprinkled with parmesean -reggiano. Oh. My. Gaw. Literally no words except for this. And that I will dream about that pizza just as much as I will those mozzarella di bufala balls from Pompei.

We grabbed some snacks and a bottle(s) of wine from the supermarket. Called it a night to catch up on some Z’s.

Day 2

Colosseum
Bright and early, we headed to the Colosseo. To be brutally honest, it wasn’t as life-changing as other things I had seen on this trip. Don’t get me wrong, it was absolutely surreal being in such an important, ancient, brilliant masterpiece of a structure. Those Romans knew their shit. We snapped some pics, read some plaques, and got the heck out.

Vatican City
MAKE A RESERVATION BEFORE YOU GO. Thank the good Lord Jesus (literally) that the building is shaped to block the sun for most of the three hours -okay it was more like one- you will wait in line if you don’t make a reservation. We didn’t. We toughed it out, and once inside it moved very quickly.

Once in the walls of the city, we felt like herded cattle. I was scared I would drop something and be trampled by the thousands of tourists surrounding me. We were in a maze of the dopest paintings, rugs, and statues my eyes have ever seen. No time to take more than one picture and DEFINITELY not enough time to ask someone to take a pic of the two of us. The maze was heading in the direction of the Sistine Chapel. Once inside, prepare for your mind to be blown into millions of pieces all over the Vatican guards. The Sistine Chapel is just as majestic as you would imagine. NO PICTURES though and be sure you “KEEP MOVING OR MOVE TO THE SIDE.”

We hit up St. Peter’s Square to see where Frances does his THANG. It was pretty incredible being in such a holy important place. We opted out of the rumored 2.5 hour line to get into the basilica. I’d had enough cattle drives for one day.

PRO TIP: Eat at restaurants AWAY from touristy spots. You’ll wind up ordering a pizza and then read the fine print that says, “Items with * are frozen meals.” *eye roll*

Trevi Fountain
Hit this babe at night, it will be worth it. The walk from the train station to the fountain at night isn’t uncomfortable, a lot of cute cafes to stop in for gelato or wine.

No matter the time of day, it will be packed. Touch the water to ensure you’ll visit again and throw in a euro or two for good luck. The oldest water source in Rome collects about €3,000 a day and gives that money to Caritas, which helps those in need.

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So wealthy with coins, yet still Baroque.

Day 3

We found ourselves back at Coming Out Roma for brunch. It was amazing– those boys just don’t stop. Today was just a wander day. We wandered to the EU building part of town and eventually stumbled upon the Spanish Steps, which like many structures, were being renovated. We stopped at a recommended pizza place called Pizza Ciro (thanks, Jen) and enjoyed a delightful pizza. I recommend you sit by a window towards the front, it got stuffy in the back.

We walked up and down the designer streets, trying on hats we’ll never buy and gorging ourselves with gelato and espresso. Having no plan seemed like a good plan that day. The Pantheon is a must. A dome building with no lights, except for a circular skylight at the top, accompanied with an opera singer inside.

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PantheON FLEEK.

For dinner, go find deep fried spaghetti. We found ours at a market next to our apartment called D Auria Palmina. It looks questionable, but it is worth every calorie. Trust me, boo.

Day 4

The beginning of the end of our journey. PRO TIP: Make sure that you notice if you flight is AM or PM, because we found out early that we had about 9 more hours to kill than we had planned. In ways, it was great, more time in Rome. In other ways, it was the longest, day, ever.

Due to this slip of the eye, we were able to see more than we planned. We planned out our day’s with destinations near train stations (less walking, more seeing). We stored our bags in a locked closet provided from our AirBnB host, and we hit the town for one last time.

Train Stop: Flaminio
Worth it? YES
Things to see:

  • Piazza del Popolo- beautiful gardens, walking/bike path, benches, etc. Bring a deck of cards and a cup of espresso and enjoy the quiet for a bit.

Train Stop: San Giovanni
Worth it: Kind of?
Things to see:

  • Market- sort of took me back to China… everyone wants you to buy their overpriced knock offs. Honey, I know that scarf ain’t made of real Pashmina! SHOOT!
  • Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano- beautiful church. We didn’t go inside because I was not appropriately dressed (sorry I wore a tank top with a heat index of 110….)

Train Stop: Castro Pretorio
Worth it?  NO
We came thinking we’d go to the National Library, but we didn’t. We got a snack and walked around the block.

Train Stop: Circo Massimo
Worth It? Hell to the yes.
Things to see:

  • Circo Massimo itself. This is the old ancient track that was said to be used to train for the ancient Olympics. You can walk/run on it today.
  • Trastevere neighborhood. This place is where all of the Italian hipsters were hiding the entire time! Just across the Tiber River, this place was so beautiful, rich with culture and arts, and hidden from most public transit. We wanted to spend more time, but our dogs were killin’ us and we had a plane to catch.
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Tiber River

While we may have arrived to our airport literally 7 hours early, I was happy to have a seat and looking forward to home and creating my Shutterfly book. More DOs and DON’T of planning a European trip to come in the future, thanks for reading!

Keep cheesin’!

-C

Three steps to experiencing your vacation the right way.

There’s an entire world out there for us to explore. It’s much more vast than the 100-mile radius the majority of us confine ourselves to. You want to see it all, whether that’s in Europe, Asia, or here in US. While how you prepare, what you bring, and how you get there varies from trip to trip, there are some universal tips that all but ensure you have an incredible vacation. Here’s a few we abide by whether we’re camping for one night or leaving home for a few weeks.

1 – Research, plan, prepare, and repeat

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Plan, plan, plan

After finally pinning down the destination, know that the more time you put into the trip before you even hop in the car, plane, or train is time well spent. Locating a home base is best done by figuring out what you want to do first. If you’re aware of a few attractions you know you’ll want to hit, find a spot that’s easily accessible by them all. We always recommend an AirBnb, but there are also great options in hotels, campgrounds, rentable cabins, and more. Your destination can sometimes offer unique living quarters, too, so look for something weird!

2 – Give yourself plenty of time

“Vacation” is defined as “an extended period of recreation.” Although hiccups happen, combining tip #1 with giving yourself plenty of time can pay dividends in enjoyment. If you identify an opportunity to leave earlier, do it. This also helps with visiting those hot spots on your vacation. Most “tourist traps” have high traffic. Look into when those periods take place. By rule of thumb, you should hit your more high-traffic enduring attractions early in the morning and early in the afternoon. Less congested attractions means better pics, better experiences, and more thorough enjoyment.

3 – Bring a journal

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Field Notes, man. This is my favorite edition. Got that clean look and the white cover turns blue in the [enter your destination] sun.

Pick yourself up a small, easy-to-carry journal – I like Field Notes (pictured above) – and at the very least, get some of your experiences down on paper at the end of the day. Sure, you’ll always remember the highlights, but it’s easier than you think to forget about the way your destination sounds, feels, looks, and even smells. We pulled ours out on train rides, bars and restaurants, and park benches. You worked hard to get here – don’t let yourself forget how incredible it was!

-D

Champagne and Cheese: Ça Va’s Got It

It has been many moons since our last cheese platter, and we apologize for that. We’re still on the hunt for KC’s best cheese plate. Our latest stop was at Westport’s Ça Va. Ça Va is a French Champagne cocktail hot spot, best known for the exclusive list of bubbles and the like. To be honest, I still don’t know how to pronounce it, but boy did we feel fancy being inside.

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Oui oui!

Our date turned into a double date. When we called for a reservation, we specifically requested a table in a corner or a secluded area. We arrived and were placed in the first table in front, stuck between the front door and the patio door. Humph. We asked to be moved: wish was granted.

The atmosphere of Ça Va is classic and chic. Very busy on a Wednesday at 7:00 PM, not many seats left empty. There is a huge French flag hanging in the window with corks everywhere for decor. Large candle castles were a nice touch, feeling like this place has been here for 100 years worth of candles. So we sit down and order our drinks from our lovely waitress, Solace. For me- prosecco and for Derek, a Dapper Sipper (don’t tell me that’s not fun to say). We put in our order for their cheese plate and waited in extreme anticipation.

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So cute.

Then…she arrived. Smaller than anticipated, we were hoping the three tiny cheeses presented in front of us would have enough bang to make us look past their minuscule size. It was pretty to look at, I’ll give them that. Our plate consisted of three cheeses, carrot paste (which I’m convinced was pickled), blackberries, and pickled shallots. Served with a side of pretzel crisps, we were locked and loaded. Hold on to ya butts…

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Isn’t she loooovellyy?

Camembert from St. Louis
This cheese looks like a love child between brie and feta. It is a soft white cheese, defined by a dusted, thick, white rind. It is fairly “stenchless” (yes, odorless is the word, but we prefer stenchless). When this camembert first hits your lips, it isn’t much, however the flavor sharpens as it makes its way towards the back of your tongue. I would recommend this cheese on a pretzel crisps and only on a pretzel crisp. This cheese is not going to impress your friends, but it won’t be a total L-7 weenie at a party. It is sort of like the second Jurassic Park movie: decent, but not life changing.

Everton
Never heard of it. SO, with my knowledge of the name and that it comes from Indiana, I hit the ol’ interwebs and I am ASSUMING this is a cheese from the Jacobs & Brichford Farms out of southeast Indiana. This cheese has a yellowish tint, semi soft, thick rind, giving the appearance of a white cheddar. To be honest, it was sort of a buzzkill. As the theme continues, it was better with a pretzel crisp. Our friend tried a bit and responded with a definite, “HUH.” Which was followed by, “If this was on a dating app, I would not swipe right.” Boom. Roasted.

Cabrales
We saved this one for last because, well, it looked the most exciting. This Spanish blue cheese is made from cow’s, goat’s, AND sheep’s milk. SAY WHAT. How riveting! All four of us agreed that this cheese is THE inspiration for the Stinky Cheese Man. With the other two cheeses proving to be the co-mayors of Bum-City, I was ready. Give me flavor or give me death. After so much anticipation, the truth was revealed. For me? I enjoyed it. It was soft and smooth, with that kick of blue veins to give it that extra HEYO– not bad, especially on a pretzel crisp. Everyone else? Nope. The other three describe this cheese as, “Your friend that shows up uninvited to your house,” “ Far more overpowering than I anticipated,” and last but not least, “I wouldn’t want that in my mouth.”

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Dominated.

So that was that. The service at Ça Va was fairly good, the ambiance was elegant, the cheese platter, however, was slightly disappointing. I would not go back to Ça Va for the cheese plate, but definitely for a celebratory drink of bubbly…and the pretzel crisps.

Check out where it falls on our KC Cheese Plate rankings.

Thanks for stopping by, and keep cheesin’.

-C