Archive | August, 2013

hello from Crete!

becca-garber-stavros-beach-crete-1 Stavros Beach, Crete

becca-garber-stavros-beach-crete-2 A water bottle that I won in a giveaway.  I never win anything!

becca-garber-stavros-beach-crete-3 Contemplating a nap.  (He took a nap!)

You will know this if you follow me on Instagram: we are in Crete!  My veterinarian husband travels here every quarter to care for the pets and military working dogs at the tiny little base in Souda Bay.  We came with him last year, too, and had a harrowing journey back when one of our plane engines died mid-flight!

One of Elliott’s soldiers also brought his family, good friends of ours from church.  Rachel and I have been enjoying our side-by-side apartments and chances to take the kids to the pool or beach at a moment’s notice.  Tonight they have offered to babysit while Elliott and I go out for Greek food!

Sometimes I stop and shake my head a little bit, marveling at the amazingness of this week.  I can hop on a military plane with my two children and spend a whole week vacationing on a Greek beach?  Perks of military life!  But none of these blessings comes without sacrifice.  In this case, the biggest sacrifice is made by my husband, who goes quietly to work each day (in Sicily or in Crete) in order to care for his family.  Thank you, Elliott; I could never do what you do, and if I had to, I could not do it with such grace.

I’m trying this week not to take this stage of life for granted.  By next summer we will undoubtedly be back in the States, and trips to Greece will be a thing of the past.  This brief season — sand in tiny swim trunks, a two-year-old learning to dog paddle, a date to eat Greek food in Crete, a 7-month-old sitting beside me taking markers out of a basket over and over — will be over before that next wave sinks into the sand.

What fleeting stage of life are you enjoying right now?

2 :: in Greece, holiday, husband, thoughts, travel

Fiumefreddo Beach, Sicily

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In Sicily there are two kinds of beaches: rocky and sandy.  Generally we stick to the sandy beaches because they sound like more fun (right?), but we learned a few weeks ago that rocky beaches have some serious advantages too.  Especially when there is an ice-cold mountain stream bubbling out of the pebbles on one of them!  We joined our friends the Arthurs at Fiumefreddo for our last beach day together in Sicily.

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So windy it destroyed the beach umbrella… typical Sicily.

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The men and kids decided to “expand” the cold mountain stream by making new channels for it in the pebbles.

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Italian lifeguards & a very cute bambina in her new sun shirt!

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Buried alive!

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My little man actually seems to be enjoying the beach again… and you know Lena loved every minute of it!

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That green promontory in the background is beautiful Taormina.  For looks, Fiumefreddo takes the cake, although Cassibile is still our favorite.  More photos from Cassibile later this summer, I hope!

6 :: in friends, pretty places, Sicily, Uncategorized

a few tips about maternity clothes

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Some of you already know this, but my dear friend Johanna recently announced that she is expecting her first baby! I cannot wait to meet that little bundle in the spring.  He or she?  Curly hair or strawberry blonde… or both?

With all the joy — “this is really happening!” — comes so many questions.  “Maternity clothes?  Choosing baby items?  Working within a budget?”  She asked me to pass along any advice that I had as it came to me, and I thought it might be fun to turn the multiple emails I knew I’d be writing to her into a bunch of blog posts for her… and for other new moms out there, too.

So, whether you’re in the thick of this stage, looking forward to it (or dreading it!), or waving at it in the rearview mirror, welcome to a new little blog series on Making Room.  Please share your own tips and advice; we’d all love to learn from each other’s wisdom!

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Johanna wrote that maternity clothes that are “attractive/affordable seem awfully hard to find!”  I remember feeling the same way in those early days too, as price tags discouraged me (“but I’ll only be wearing this for a few months…”) and the cheapest things often just weren’t my style.  Can anyone else relate?

Over two pregnancies, though, my maternity wardrobe has grown and I now love many of the pieces in it.  Some of them are totally cute and I was excited to wear them again when I was pregnant with Gil!  However, I didn’t build my wardrobe by dipping in and out of maternity stores or by online shopping.  The truth is that I spent no more than $50 on my entire maternity wardrobe (right down to undergarments, which were all new).  My strategy is…

Beg.  Borrow. Steal.

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1.  Beg, ie. ask for things

Let people — especially family members and close friends — know that you are in need of maternity clothes.

All of the maternity pieces in the two photos above (dress, jacket, sweater, jeans) were gifts from my mom and mother-in-law.  (The scarf was a non-maternity gift from my sister!)  They knew I needed maternity clothes and so that is what I got for my birthday and for Christmas.  All of these pieces have gotten a lot of mileage in both of my pregnancies, so thank you, Mama and Mom!

Also, letting close friends know you need maternity clothes can lead to some fun surprises.  A friend might be in Old Navy, see something cute, and think of you!  Or, in the case of my sister-in-law Jess, they might decide to go on an online shopping spree and surprise you with a box in the mail.  (All the things you got for me, Jess, were wardrobe staples for both me and Becca Arthur.  Thank you again and again!)

Finally, don’t be afraid to return things if they just aren’t your style.  Most people who gave me maternity clothes also handed me a receipt “just in case.”  I took advantage of that in a couple of instances and often walked out of the store with a much larger pile of clothing than I walked in with, thanks to sales and coupons.

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2. Borrow

Ask a friend, neighbor, or community member
if you can borrow their maternity stash.

The shirt in the photo above was one of many incredible maternity clothes that I borrowed from this super talented young lady.  She and I were a part of the same church in D.C. and she had listed her maternity clothes as “available to borrow” in the moms’ group.  I was kind of sorry to give them back after Lena was born.  They were cute!  Highlight of that experience: walking into a church event and having her and multiple other women say, “Hey, I know who you borrowed that pretty maternity top from!”

The Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancyhas a lot to say about sharing maternity clothes.  I enjoyed that book and recommend that section of it.

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3. Steal, ie. find things for a steal

A beautiful maternity wardrobe does not have to cost much.  It takes patience and time to build an attractive, functional maternity wardrobe on a dime (ie. a steal). 

However, patience and time are two things our culture does not value.  Here are a few tips to help you thoughtfully build your wardrobe on a budget (and with things you like!):

  • Make your current clothes last as long as possible.  With most first pregnancies, you won’t need real maternity clothes until halfway through or more.  You can make your regular clothes stretch (pun intended) by sticking to more forgiving, flexible materials and patterns.  The green floral top I’m wearing above is one of my favorites… but it’s just a size L shirt from H&M that has a tie in the back (and cost $5 on sale).  For your pants or jeans, use “the rubber band trick.” (<– that is a great blog!)
  • Hand-me-downs are amazing.  I love love love my neighborhood moms’ group on Capitol Hill in D.C.; it networked the community so well through a simple email listserve.  With about 5,000 moms on the listserve, there was always something baby- or maternity-related that someone wanted to give away (like the brown blouse above).  Through taking others hand-me-downs, sorting through, donating what I didn’t want, and saving what I did, I got most of my maternity staples for free.  (And yes, I did this while working full time.)  Is there a moms’ community in your neighborhood, church, town, or city?  If not, start one.  All it takes is a Yahoo or Google Group and a few ground rules.  Here in Italy the moms in my community use a Facebook page.
  • Shop sales and thrift stores.  Check out Craigslist for women who are desperate to sell their whole maternity wardrobes.  Take your time… there is gold out there!
  • Buy only when you need to.  Your body will change and clothes will not fit the same at 20 weeks (“these maternity pants are huge… lucky me!”) and 40 weeks (“I cannot fit in anything.  Time to be born, baby.”)  When you don’t fit into what you have, it’s time to go shopping.  You’ll be disappointed if you bought everything you thought you’d need at 20 weeks and then get tons of hand-me-downs and gifts… and end up with a lot of money wasted.
  • Finally, accessorize.  Taking time to add a scarf, belt, boots, or earrings somehow takes you from wearing “preggers clothes” to “an adorable outfit.”  I am terrible at this, but I love this mom’s ideas for “dressing the bump.”  Made me want all her clothes!!!

Now it’s your turn!  Do you have any advice for dressing well during pregnancy?

30 :: in Baby Numero Due, motherhood, new baby series

Wild Blackberry Tarts Recipe

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Faced with buckets of blackberries in my kitchen (see our recent berry picking adventures here and here), I went a-hunting for a delicious baked good to showcase our wild harvest.  According to my friends and my husband (a tough one to please when it comes to sweets; I think sometimes that he’d never notice if desserts ceased to exist), these little tarts/pies take the cake… so to speak.

I adapted my recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks: The Pastry Queen.  (Thanks for the great wedding gift, Josh and Becca!*)  The recipe in this book is for “Emergency Fruit Crostatas,” which are delicious but enormous.  I used the same dough but adapted the size to be more that of a cookie.  A little mini pie.  Nom nom nom.

Here are some pictures to guide you through the process.  (Please excuse my little helper’s lack of clothing.  Remember last summer when all she wore was diapers?  This is the two-year-old version of diapers, I guess.  It’s too hot for anything else!)

The kitchen-friendly recipe is at the end of this post.

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To begin, mix sugar, flour, and salt in a food processor.  (Note: I only have a mini food processor, which is too small to fit all the ingredients at once.  I divide the ingredients and mix everything in two batches.)

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Add butter and then ice-cold water and mix some more.  Remove the dough, wrap in plastic, and chill in the refrigerator 1 hr or until firm enough to handle.

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At this point you can make the original Fruit Crostatas from the dough with whatever berries you have on hand (including frozen).  Just divide the dough into four parts, pat each one into a circular shape, spoon berries into the middle, and form the dough around it to make a triangle.  I made these way-back-when my doula came for a home visit before Lena was born.  She and I both loved them but thought they were just too big.  Here’s a smaller, even cuter version:

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Using biscuit cutters or cups of different sizes, cut out smaller circles (mine were about 2 inches in diameter) and larger circles (about 3 inches in diameter).  I managed to get about 26 circles from the dough for a total of 13 tarts.

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Put the smaller circles onto a tray lined with parchment paper.  Pile the berries onto the dough, pressing them down and piling them up as best you can.  I tried to get at least 10 berries on each little circle of dough.

If desired, sprinkle generously with sugar.  (I usually don’t add sugar until the end, but if you have a sweet tooth or very tart berries, go ahead!)

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Gently place the larger circle of dough on top of each pile of berries.  Tuck the ends underneath the smaller circle.  Gently cut slits in the top of the pie/tart (I made a + sign) with a sharp knife.  Sprinkle with sugar.

Slip into a 450 degree F oven for about 10-12 min or until the edges of the tarts are golden.  Eat (perhaps with vanilla ice cream?) and enjoy!

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*This is a different Becca and Josh than the Arthurs.  Yes, we have two couple friends named Becca and Josh… and get this: they named their son Elliot.  How crazy is that?!

Wild Blackberry Tarts Recipe

Ingredients

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled butter, cut into small pieces
  • 4 tablespoons ice water
  • 1 cup fruit

Directions

  • Preheat oven 450 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or butter generously.
  • In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse together the sugar, flour, and salt.
  • Add the butter and pulse 3 to 5 times, until the mixture is crumbly.
  • Pour the water through the feed tube 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse until the dough begins to hold together.  (Note: I usually just need 1 tablespoon of water.)
  • Remove the dough, shape it into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hr.  (If you are in a huge hurry — which I often am — freeze the wrapped dough just log enough to prepare the fruit filling.  It will be a little harder to work with, but it’s an acceptable trade-off when time is short.)
  • Roll out the dough on a floured surface.  Cut out approximately 12 circles that are 2 inches in diameter and 12 circles that are 3 inches in diameter.
  • Place the smaller circles on the baking sheet.  Pile as many berries as you can onto the circle of dough.  (Note: I fit about 10 onto each circle, but this number will vary with the size of your circles and your berries.)
  • Carefully place the larger circles of dough over the berries.  Tuck the edges of the dough underneath the smaller circle.
  • Cut slits (I made a + sign) on the top of the tart.  Sprinkle generously with sugar.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool on the baking sheet for no more than 10 minutes or they might be difficult to remove whole.
  • Serve warm or room temperature… preferably with vanilla ice cream!
10 :: in eat this, in my kitchen

blackberry picking with friends

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After we had so much fun blackberry picking a couple of weeks ago, we invited our friends the Arthurs to go with us.  There are so many berries along the roads these days; they seem to call to us to “pick and eat!” everywhere we go.

Here are a few fun photos from our blackberry picking adventure by an old railroad station.  If you’re curious about what we do with all the blackberries once we have them (besides eating them while picking them…), I’ve got a wonderful recipe for berry tarts that I’m going to share tomorrow.  The tarts are so good that I have stashed hundreds of berries in our freezer so we can enjoy them long after the season is over.

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Lena and Lucas were diligent berry pickers for about 15 minutes before they started eating all they had and sneaking berries from everyone else’s buckets.  I’m glad I caught them dutifully in action, though!

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Lovely Elise

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Children and brambles.  We all emerged with a lot of scratches… and some damaged clothing.

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This sweet little guy sat in his car seat on the railroad tracks and watched everyone for at least an hour and a half.  I was so impressed with his patience!  I literally fall in love with him more every day.  Is that possible?  Somehow… it happens.

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Resting and showing off the result of some faithful pickin’.

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Still at it.  Go, Lucas!

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Lena could not stop…

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… eating berries!  She filled up her bucket and then ate every berry in it.

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Where are your berries, Lucas??

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The sun goes down by the old railroad station.

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Matching fishy faces?

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Dads keeping their sons out of the brambles.

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Caleb & Elise

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The old railway station.  The dads and kids explored this at the beginning while Becca and I were filling our buckets.

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My family.

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And Lena watches Lucas as the sun goes down.

Here’s one last photo from our drive home.  We had noticed a few weeks ago that this orange grove looked totally dead.  There was not a single green leaf in the whole orchard.   Had the owners given it up?  Would they just let a dead orchard sit there indefinitely?

Then, when we drove by it after blackberry picking, we saw that they were burning piles of branches.  They had chopped up the whole orchard and were burning everything to the ground.  It was an arresting — and quintessentially Sicilian — sight!

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I saw the orchard again yesterday and there is absolutely nothing left now… just black patches on the ground where all the fires burned themselves out.  Now we hope to see some miniature orange saplings in the ground soon, just like we’ve seen in several other orchards around our town.  Although I have no hand in this process of dying and planting, I love to watch it, observing the cycles of the land create their own patterns over and above the seasons of the year.

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2 :: in friends, Sicily, weekend

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