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Suzie’s Farm and The Blog Is Back!

becca garber suzies farm san diego 13 Suzies Farm and The Blog Is Back!

“Hi and howdy!” says Farmer Gil. “Welcome back to the blog!”

Well, more like… welcome back, blog, and thanks to any and all of you who are still reading!

I fully expected that after two weeks of living in San Diego, I’d be back to blogging now and then. I miss this space and sharing life with you all! But we’ve been slammed with some family sickness (broken collarbone for Gil, rash for Lena, fevers for both of them) and have had visitors since we arrived. I think we’re turning the corner into a more settled routine. At last!

To start us off, here are photos from this past Saturday when we visited a local farm. We haven’t been to any kind of organic, family-friendly farm event in years — or maybe ever? — but I know they are pretty common in the States. Anyway, pretty much everything surpassed our expectations.

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Suzie’s Farm, you had me at your artfully-designed flyer.

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Watermelon gherkins! (aka teeny tiny cucumbers)

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Hottest, hotter, hot, sweet, sweeter, sweetest.

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Choosing peppers for salsa and cucumbers for pickling.

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I’ve always wanted to make my own pickles, but the art of fermentation totally intimidates me. After Saturday, though, I have my own jar of pickles fermenting in the cupboard. What’s next… kombucha? (Sort of kidding since I’ve never even tasted it. #welcometoamerica)

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If you want to learn to pickle, Southern California’s farmers are about the chillest and coolest folks to teach you. “Girl, you’re doing great, just peel some garlic here and toss that in too….”

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While I was chopping cucumbers, Elliott was roasting our peppers. After they had roasted, we combined them with tomatoes, cilantro, and onions in a Vitamix…

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… and Lena and Elliott pedaled to power the blender to turn them into salsa! Totally cool. Also the salsa is amazing and we’ve basically inhaled it. Fire-roasted 100% organic pepper-and-tomato salsa? Get in my mouth.

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We ordered lunch from this fantabulous food truck on the premises, but they told us our meal would take 20 minutes to prepare, so we wandered off around the farm to pick some herbs and flowers and meet some…

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No caption required.

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And then… our lunch! That’s eggplant tacos, sweet potato fries, and beet dip (so pink!). Also it was all Elliott ordered for our whole family (“Man, I thought there would be a lot more food”). We all kind of looked at each other hungrily when we were done.

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We ended the day by filling our take-away box to the brim with tomatoes and peppers.

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Be choosy, Gil.

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The tomatoes or Gala apples? Love the variegation.

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Silly smile from another little helper.

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And finally home, where we put the kids down for naps and then I rapidly bagged herbs and refrigerated peppers and cucumbers. An amazing haul of organic produce for just $20!

It cheers my heart (and warms my blood….) to see this because just yesterday I almost teared up at the grocery store while shopping for fruit. I’m not a die-hard organic or farm-fresh person — I eat commercially-grown veggies and fruits without fuss, like most people — but when I saw a huge bin of apricots under the florescent grocery store lights, my heart sank.

“Apricots” in Sicily are golden balls of sweetness, warm from the sun in the back of the farmer’s truck, kissed rosy pink on one cheek, dripping with juice and bursting with flavor. Memories rushed back: simple chit-chat in Italian with farmers while buying kilo after kilo of apricots under the Sicilian sun. Lena and Gil eating apricots in the stroller as we walked home. Apricots on the counter, apricots with our dinner, apricots for every snack, apricots turned into jam.

These apricots in the grocery store yesterday, though, were out of season and a sickly green, over-sized, a poor imitation of the thing I’d come to love. I picked one up and felt it sadly; it was cold and hard.

So maybe we won’t buy fresh apricots from farmers’ trucks in California. We’ve said goodbye to many things. But this — this glorious summer afternoon, this cache of memories, this jar of to-be-pickles, this quart of fresh salsa, this box of herbs and peppers, this bouquet of glowing sunflowers…

… we’ve said hello to all of this. And it’s so good.

30 :: in family, San Diego

Coffee, Colorado, & My First Mountain Biking Adventure

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Hi again! When you read this, we’ll be on a plane to Virginia with our kids. I’m looking forward to some time at “home” in Virginia as well as a trip to Charlottesville to see some friends from our college days. Friends, if you’re in C’ville, let me know! We’d love to see you!

And now, for those who are interested, here are a few more updates since we moved from Sicily to the States. After Rhode Island, we flew down to the Eastern Shore of Maryland to spent a few days with Elliott’s family. His mom found a wonderful house on the water that fit all of us, and we had a great time doing basically nothing. Which suited us all perfectly.

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That gigantic intertube made the best place for floating and reading during the kids’ nap time!

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On the left: one morning Elliott’s brother Jonathan set up a “coffee cupping,” or coffee tasting. We did our best to tell the difference between the four kinds of coffee, but I was pretty hopeless. I’ve never been very good at picking out the distinct flavors and aromas of wine either, so I guess that was par for the course!

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After the Eastern Shore, we flew (again! so much flying with little kids! ack!) to Vail, Colorado, to spent about six days with my family. We all attended the annual conference for the organization my dad works for, and that was so much fun because a lot of the attendees and speakers were some of our dear family friends. In between and after the conference, we explored Vail, which is simply gorgeous in the summertime.

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The faux Swiss chalet look is the architectural theme in Vail, and it can be a little disconcerting. But then the F L O W E R S make up for everything!

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On the right, my first Starbucks since we got back to the States! Java chip frappuccino… and a brotherly photo bomber.

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Colorado’s columbines on the left, and a crazy daddy doing tricks in trees on the right.

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Yesterday we all went on a bike ride as a family, with Gil and Lena in a little trailer attached to Elliott’s bike. We had so much fun on the way, stopped to admire gorgeous houses and playgrounds, and finished with gigantic ice creams in downtown Vail. The lovely lady next to Eric is his girlfriend, Charlotte.

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A friendly stranger took this photo for us right before it started raining and hailing! We found shelter until the stormed seemed to pass, and then we all headed home as fast as we could go. We had six miles to go, though, and it started raining, thundering, and lightning as we were speeding home. We all were drenched and freezing — but totally exhilarated, of course — when we finally stumbled through the door and into hot showers!

Then, since we clearly couldn’t get enough of dangerous biking, my siblings, Charlotte, Elliott, and I rented mountain bikes today:

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It was awesome! We took the ski lift up to the top of the mountain (2,000 feet up) and then rode the bikes down narrow trails through the woods and across ski runs. I’ve never mountain biked before, but this was an amazing introduction. I felt like an athlete, which is a nice feeling, and something I should probably work on more regularly… #runningstartsinCA #hereshopinganyway

And that’s it, folks! Thanks for hanging with me this far. What have you all been up to this summer? Is the summertime winding down or just getting started?

6 :: in travel

Updates from American Soil

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It’s been almost two weeks since we saw this final glimpse of Sicily from our plane window! One last view of Mt Etna. I kept her in sight for a long time until the clouds finally hid her from view.

We’ve been wonderfully busy these last two weeks with three family reunions, and I can’t imagine a sweeter way to come back to the States. It’s also been refreshing to take a bit of a break from blogging as I think about how this space will change, grow, and improve (at least I hope so!) without its Sicilian/expat identity. I already miss that side of it, but I hope the blog will be even more accessible and fun in this new phase.

Anyway, back to some photos from here, there, and everywhere. We spent the first few days in Rhode Island with my mom’s side of the family (aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents galore), the second few days on the Eastern Shore of Maryland with Elliott’s family, and right now we’re in Vail with my parents, siblings, and my brother’s girlfriend Charlotte.

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The first morning we were in Rhode Island, the kids were up at 5:20 AM, and Elliott and I were up with them. We wandered out into the garden and explored the shore near my uncle and aunt’s gorgeous home.

While we were there, Lena became best friends with my little cousin Ashley; the two were inseparable the entire time we were there.

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View from our balcony in Rhode Island. Can you believe that?! Newport and the U.S. Naval War College were right across the water.

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We spent a lovely afternoon in Newport, one of my favorite American towns. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Gil was falling in love with Ashley. She’s pretty cute; I can’t blame him!

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On the left, my sister Emily and I in Newport. I remember eating sushi right by these shops when Elliott and I were in Boston. We came down for a day trip and wandered around hand-in-hand. So many sweet falling-in-love memories!

I read Dear Mr. Knightley while we were in RI, but unfortunately I can’t recommend it. It felt unrealistic and forced. Just read Daddy-Long-Legs, which inspired the former and is so much better crafted.

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Pretty corners in Newport. So much sweet New England charm!

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Gil rested his head on Elliott’s knee to get a good look at my cousins. And on the right… Gil reads his favorite book with his Auntie Em. Aren’t they the cutest?

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My grandmother got a professional photographer to come out and take photos of our family, but Gil was a total disaster. Such a disappointment! We did get this awesome jumping photo of all the cousins, though. We’ve been family reunion-ing together almost every summer our entire lives, and I love this gang!

IMG 0009 1024x768 Updates from American Soil Despite Gil’s antics during the photography session, everyone was completely in love with him. Especially Ashley. Guess that kiss did the trick!

I’m realizing updating with ALL THE PHOTOS from the past two weeks is a lot, so I’ll be back with more from Maryland and Colorado tomorrow.

In the meantime, what have you been reading lately? I finished this one last night, which gave me a lot of food for thought. I’d love to share more sometime soon. I started this one, which is hard going! Anything light and lovely I should read after this?

Hope you all are having wonderful summers! xoxo

9 :: in travel

Arrividerci, Sicilia

It’s 11:56pm. Almost tomorrow, almost July 15, which is the day we leave Sicily. Bright and early with the sunrise!

But Elliott says we’re going to bed and I’m not writing a post, and he’s right. It’s been a long day — especially for him, with a million work-related details to tie up — and it will be a really, reeeeaaaalllllyyy long day tomorrow.

Pray for us if you will! We’re leaving at 7am, flying to Rome, then to Detroit, and then to D.C.

Wait, Detroit???

I know. Seriously! We have to fly Delta because it’s the airline in partnership with the military, and they don’t fly from Rome to D.C. And the Detroit flight is 10.5 hours long!!! I am already pulling my hair out.

For this trip, we got Lena a pair of kid’s headphones. She is ecstatic, and I think she’s finally old enough to concentrate on movies long enough to make it worth it, so let’s hope they do their job. Oh, and that the Delta plane has nice TVs in the seat backs with lots of kid-friendly movie options. Please, Lord, that would be great!

For Gil, I have about 15 baggies filled with pretzels. He’s obsessed, and he loves nothing more in life right now than wandering around (the kitchen, the grocery store, the pool deck, the playground) observing everyone and munching on one after another from his own little bag. Not one at a time from his mama, but in his own bag. So hopefully 15 of them will get us through an entire day of cramped airplanes.

Plus naps. For them and their parents!

Oh, and I think I forgot to mention that Siena — our beautiful cat — is also flying with us. In the cabin, no less, and at our feet. I have also failed to mention that she consistently vomits after a 10-minute car ride, so it would not be an exaggeration to say that I am about as worried about this fur-baby’s well-being as I am about my two human children. So prayers for Siena too, please! 

That’s all. This isn’t really about Sicily, but you’ve heard a lot about Sicily lately. For about two years, since one of my very good friends left one June morning, I have been imagining that moment when I sit down in my seat on the first plane and look out the window and watch Sicily disappear below me. What will it be like? Will I cry? Probably not, I’m not good at crying at appropriate times. Probably I’ll just be a little sad, and a little happy, and a lot grateful.

These three years have been wonderful. Thank you, Sicily, and thank you, God.

May it not be too long before we see the smoke drifting from Mt Etna again on a winter’s morning!

9 :: in Sicily, thoughts

6 Places in Sicily that are Worth the Trek {Over 1 Hour from Sigonella}

becca garber collage 6 favorites worth trek 6 Places in Sicily that are Worth the Trek {Over 1 Hour from Sigonella}

Last week I shared our 10 Favorites in Sicily Within 1 Hour of Sigonella, which is also within one hour of Catania, the capital city on the east coast. Sicily is about the size of Massachusetts, though, and it takes about three hours to drive across it and two hours to drive the width of it.

What is your point, Becca?

My point: there is a lot to explore far, far away from Catania and Sigonella!

So, without further ado, here are a few places within two or three hours of Sigonella. They’re all very kid friendly (we took our little kids!) and showcase some of Sicily’s unforgettable beauty.

If you have questions or if my directions are wrong, please let me know in the comments, and I’ll be sure to get them updated. And if you have suggestions of your own, add them there too!

Agrigento

becca garber agrigento kiss family1 6 Places in Sicily that are Worth the Trek {Over 1 Hour from Sigonella} Agrigento, or the Valley of the Temples (Valli dei Templi), is about 2.5 hours from Sigonella/Catania. Here’s a map. We’ve visited twice and stayed overnight at this lovely B&B and at this agriturismo (farm stay). Both were very close to the archeological park, where we spent several hours exploring the ancient Greek and Roman ruins.

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The Greek temples are in beautiful condition, rivaling the magnificence of Athens. Some of the ruins are open for exploration, which is a lot of fun for kids and adults alike. The three temples are all in a line along a ridge overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean sea, so bring a picnic and enjoy the view if you can!

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While you’re there, don’t miss the dazzling Scala dei Turchi, or Turkish Steps. It’s a huge white limestone rock rising from a quiet beach, and the rock is easy to climb on with dazzling views. Here’s a map to the Turkish steps, which are about 20 minutes past Agrigento along the coast.

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Here are posts from my blog about our visits to Agrigento and the Turkish Steps:

San Vito Lo Capo & Zingaro Nature Preserve

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For almost three years, we heard friends rave about the turquoise water and soft sand beaches of western Sicily’s gem: San Vito Lo Capo. Finally we got to visit in March of this year, and it was just as dazzling as everyone said! The drive from Sigonella/Catania takes about three hours, which is arduous with small children, but the beauty and beachy low-key vibe of the area were worth it.

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We stayed in this rustic apartment with a gorgeous view. We were about 20 minutes from the town of San Vito Lo Capo, which is famous for that beautiful beach. We also were about 20 minutes from the Zingaro Nature Preserve, where we hiked through the preserve to find three gorgeous white stone beaches.

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The whole area is very popular in the summertime, and for good reason! Be sure to book your hotel or apartment well in advance. Our friends have enjoyed the option of “camping” at La Pineta very close to the beach.

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Here is my blog post about our visit to San Vito Lo Capo.

Granelli Beach

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I’m actually writing this while staying at Granelli Beach, where we have come for the second summer in a row. It’s a quiet cove on the very southeastern tip of Sicily, a 1.5-hour drive from Sigonella/Catania. Here’s a map. We loved the warm, shallow, calm water for the kids.

becca garber granelli beach sicily 12 6 Places in Sicily that are Worth the Trek {Over 1 Hour from Sigonella} Elliott first discovered it because he wanted to stay in a house ON the beach. Weirdly for an island like Sicily, rental houses on the beach are extremely rare. You almost always have to walk or drive a short distance. But he found one, and we rented it with our friends the Arthurs for a long weekend.

This year we returned to a pretty little cottage about three houses down the street from the beach, and I like this house even better. The enclosed garden is lush and beautiful, perfect for kids!

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Here are three posts from Granelli Beach:

Cefalu

becca garber cefalu sicily 3 6 Places in Sicily that are Worth the Trek {Over 1 Hour from Sigonella} Continuing with the beach theme (clearly we’re obsessed!), Cefalu (cheff-ah-LOO) is a gorgeous town with a wonderful beach just less than two hours from Sigonella/Catania. Here’s a map. We stayed in this three-bedroom apartment just across the street from the beach.

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We spent a day exploring Cefalu, which has several lovely sites including the gorgeous cathedral and La Rocca (the Rock), which you can hike up for spectacular views of the town. We could even see the Aeolian Islands (described below) in the distance across the pure blue water!

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From my blog, see this post for more of our pictures of Cefalu, and check this one out if you’d like to have lunch in a castle nearby!

Aeolian Islands

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We visited the Aeolian Islands in May for the first time and, to be honest, it was not our best vacation. We both agree that was the weather’s fault, though; it rained most of the long weekend, and we were stuck inside with our kids. Two of my friends have visited since then and have had the same weather! So my first piece of advice about the Aeolian Islands is to check the weather report before you go!

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Nevertheless, the islands are a lovely vacation spot. Here are a few things we learned to make your trip easier:

1) There are five islands, all volcanic, but only one of them (Stromboli) is still an active volcano. The largest and most populated island is Lipari, and the main town on the island is Lipari Town. There’s no beach in Lipari Town, though, so we stayed in Canneto, which has a gorgeous beach and is about a 10-minute drive from Lipari Town.

2) We drove to Milazzo (20 minutes past Messina) where hydrofoils leave every hour for Lipari and the other islands. We parked our car at this reliable, popular garage, and then we took the hour-long ferry to Lipari Town.

3) We rented an apartment in Canneto, which has the only good beach + accommodation on the island of Lipari. It was a 10-minute drive from the port, and our apartment rental lady picked us up. We rented from these apartments. They were small but had great views of the beach! And they were super cheap, so that was nice. They were also right above the main grocery store in the town and right outside the bus stop, which came in very handy. If I could do it again, though, I might rent at Mistral Residence, which we passed and where I went inside to get information. The woman was lovely and spoke English, and it’s really an apartment-hotel situation with very good prices.

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4) There wasn’t much to do in Canneto besides go to the beach, so I recommend going in the warmer months when you are guaranteed to have no rain and warmer water. September (after the high season and when the water’s warmest) would be a dream.

5) Because we had little kids (ages three and one), the only thing we did outside Canneto was take the bus to Lipari Town to wander around and eat pizza for dinner. Other activities would be to take the bus around Lipari to other beaches and hikes, or take the hydrofoils to other islands, or going to Stromboli, the permanently active volcanic island. Tour guides arrange evening hikes so you can see it erupting inside at night, and it’s apparently really cool. You get home around midnight.

6) People also rent cars on the island, or you can take your own, but it’s pretty expensive and those larger ferries run less frequently. I think it’s cheaper just to rent at car in Lipari Town. We didn’t need a car, though, because the buses are very reliable, at least on the island of Lipari.

Madonie Mountains

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To be honest, other than my own house, the Madonie Mountains are my favorite place in Sicily. We visited them in December when the air was crisp and cool, when the fall foliage was at its peak, and when the mountains were lush and green after the autumnal rains. I loved the quaint mountain towns, the focus on Slow Food, and the taste of high mountain life that is so different from the plains of Catania.

For our long weekend in the mountains, we stayed at this wonderful agriturismo and ate amazing farm-to-table dinners in their restaurant every night. Spectacular food! We also hiked in the mountains on one of their guided tours and visited Castelbuono, the largest mountain town in the area.

If you have any interest in the mountain towns of Sicily (including many on the slopes of Mt Etna), I highly recommend this beautiful memoir.

For more information and photos, see this post.

becca garber madonie mountains sicily 5 6 Places in Sicily that are Worth the Trek {Over 1 Hour from Sigonella}

———

Of course, there are approximately 973 other amazing things to see, do, taste, and experience in Sicily, and — even with three years here — we ran out of time. I hope you get to see all these places and more during your time in Sicily! It is a rustic, gorgeous land, and living here has been one of the best experiences of our lives.

If you’d like to see more of our favorite places in Sicily, check out this post.

As always, I’d love to hear from you if you have any questions about visiting Sicily. Happy exploring!

pixel 6 Places in Sicily that are Worth the Trek {Over 1 Hour from Sigonella}
2 :: in agriturismo, beach, Italy, memories, military life, San Vito Lo Capo, Sicily, travel

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