Archive | July, 2013

update from the beach






What images does “summertime” evoke for you?

In my mind, “summertime in Sicily” is a slowed-down, stretched out pile of images with heat-shimmered edges.  Irresistibly sleepy summer afternoons and cold Italian lemon ice, achingly bright sunshine and warm peach juice dripping down my arm.  This past weekend formed more memories of a Sicilian summer, with fluttering beach umbrellas and lulling conversations drifting across the sand, lapping waves warmer than bathwater and leisurely days with good friends.

More soon when we return to the home front!

5 :: in friends, holiday, travel

blogger & military wife meet-up in Catania

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A few weeks ago I got a wonderful email from a fellow military wife and mom named Stephanie.  She said she was coming to Sicily for just a couple weeks while her husband was working here on base.  She had found my blog and saw that I have the same strolleras she does, and so she wondered if I would recommend bringing it with her for her trip.

Pretty soon we were sending emails back and forth and then planning to meet up while she was here.  Today I drove into Catania, walked into the main piazza (pictured above), and waited with Lena and Gil and my stroller… and looked for the other mom with with two kids and the same stroller!  We spotted each other right away and started wheeling towards each other.  The first thing she said was, “Oh, I wish we’d gotten red instead of black!” in reference to our strollers.  You just never know what you might bond over, right?

We had a great time today taking our kids to a playground, fending off a sketchy guy who wanted to know where we lived (hah), discussing fun things to do in Catania, and eating local Sicilian fair at a cafe in the main piazza.  I was totally inspired by her sense of adventure and the fun things she’s discovered in Catania.  Wish you lived here, Stephanie!

I didn’t get any pictures of all of us, but I did snap this one of my kids sharing a seat.  Time to get two seats in the stroller instead of one… baby Gil is ready to move out of his car seat and into the big leagues!

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P.S.  If you’re new here, thinking of visiting Sicily, or have questions about moving here, I would love to help you and meet up with you just like I did with Stephanie.  My husband also hosted a vet student that he met through his blog while the kids and I were in the States.  These connections are so much fun and make the world a smaller place!  Last night I updated by About Me section on the blog, so you can check that out to get to know us better or send me an email anytime.  I love to hear from you!

2 :: in friends, Sicily, visitors

my new necklace


On July 7th, I woke up to find a little white box addressed to me by the kitchen sink.  This beautiful necklace was inside: three rings on a gold chain.  The gift was from my three sisters-in-law (Eden, Jess, and Erika) and it was given on the occasion of the first anniversary of my sister Julia’s death.

I haven’t said anything about this anniversary or the painful ache of missing Julia on here, even though these things were very much on my mind recently.  I wish I had some brilliant and articulate post to write about grief and missing Julia, but I don’t.  I just miss her.  Maybe wise words will come eventually… but for now, I feel empty and sad.  I often go back to my dad’s words about thankfulness in the midst of grief.

This necklace means so much coming from my three Garber sisters, and the rings symbolize a great deal to me as I think of my sister Emily, my sister Julia, and myself.  Each of us is so different, each of us is so much the same.  I also love that there are three rings because rings symbolize continuity, wholeness, and eternity.  Although Julia is separated from her body now — as Emily and I will be sooner or later — one day our bodies and souls will be united, perfect, and whole in the new heavens and the new earth.


I don’t wear much jewelry — usually just my wedding rings and a ring that Julia’s friends made with Romans 8:18 inscribed inside it.  Now I have this beautiful necklace too.  Do you wear special jewelry that was given to you by or reminds you of a loved one?

10 :: in grief, Julia, my faith

my book review of French Kids Eat Everything


I’ve wanted to read French Kids Eat Everything since it was first published.  The title seemed so promising and the subject  – encouraging my children to eat well – is a daily occupation in my home.  Finally, I got my hands on a copy and read the book from cover to cover.

It was ok.  Honestly, I think my problem was that I didn’t fall in love with the author.  She came across as too self-conscious, excited one moment about eating well and embracing a food culture and then lazy and unmotivated in the next.

Hmm… maybe she reminded me too much of me?  That could be my problem…

The book chronicles one year in the life of a Franco-Canadian family.  The author – Karen Le Billon – has always wanted to live in her husband’s hometown in coastal France and jumps at the chance to do so for a year.  During their year in France, she is alternately overwhelmed and inspired by the French food culture around her.  She has a hard time stomaching the unfamiliar dishes, as do her two young daughters.

Her older daughter is attending a local school, though, and her parents-in-law are watching the way she feeds and educates her children.  She is under enormous pressure to conform to the food culture around her.  Everyone is telling her how her children should eat and what they should eat.  Everyone is astonished when her children refuse food, throw tantrums at the table, or snack anytime and everywhere.

Meanwhile, Karen’s jaw is slowly dropping as she learns more and more about the way French children eat.  They love to eat.  Food is a delight, an experience, something to be savored.  Eating takes time.  It only occurs at a table, surrounded by others, four times a day: breakfast, lunch, a 4pm gouter (snack), and dinner.   All food should be tasted, and if children don’t like it the first time, they just try it again until they do.  Parents are deeply involved in their children’s food “education,” teaching them from their earliest days that all food is to be enjoyed, savored, and eaten on a schedule.


To Karen, it all seemed to good to be true.  Inspired (as well as pressured), Karen decided to try to overhaul her family’s approach to food and replace it with the French food culture.  Through a year of trial and error, highs and lows, and many hiccups, the author and her family completely changed their approach to vegetables, table manners, snacking, and food appreciation.

Truly, I was amazed.  Through going back to the drawing board, presenting food in new and interesting ways, and transforming her own attitude towards food, the author created a new food culture for her family.  By the end of the year, her daughters fit the description of French children I gave above.

In an interview by a Bon Appetit writer, Karen explains more about the French approach to food education.  I loved this summary: “The French believe that teaching a kid to eat is just as important as, and just as time consuming as, teaching them to read. When you teach a kid to read, you teach the alphabet, then words, sit with them, read with them. The French feel that way about eating. They have a long-term view. They also don’t get frustrated when there are bumps in the road. Some kids take longer to read than others, but they don’t give up and say, “This kid is a picky eater, she just doesn’t like broccoli.” You don’t treat fear of foods as a personality trait, you treat it as a phase.”

My two favorite takeaways from the book are Karen’s 10 French Food Rules and several simple, kid-friendly recipes in the back of the book.  Both of these resources put everything in black and white, making “eating French” seem much more doable.  Though I would rate the quality of writing at 3 stars, I thought these two resources redeemed the book for me.  Here are her 10 Rules:

FrenchKids-Food-Rules-color-no-isbn This list always gives me pause.  Even though we might be doing pretty well on Rule 4, we really need to work on Rules 7 and 8!   I’d like to use some of the recipes in the back of the book – especially her no-crust, 5-minute quiche recipe – to continue to help us enjoy real, fresh, and flavorful food.

Have you read this book?  Do you apply any of the 10 French Food Rules in your home?

12 :: in book reviews

a day in D.C. with Uncle David


Hello from Sicily again!  Lena, Gil, and I flew home on Tuesday and oh-my-goodness I am glad that is over.  I was so nervous about flying with both kids by myself for the first time.  Praise God, though, it went really well, and we all survived and even had fun.  (The fact that I never cried is kind of amazing, therefore making it a success in my book.)  I credit the dollar bin at Target, the prayers of many friends and family, and God’s good grace.   It’s so good to be home… and back with Elliott/Daddy after four weeks apart!

On our last Saturday in Virginia, the kids, my cousin KT, and I drove into the city to see my brother-in-law David.  He lives in an awesome neighborhood just sound of Capitol Hill called the Navy Yard.  Elliott and I went there for a date night before Elliott returned to Sicily, and I decided I had to bring the kids back at some point… because of all the fountains!  It’s basically a water park down there, thanks to some amazing recent additions to the neighborhood.  Things like “splash pads” and wading pools in the middle of a well-planned and beautiful city make me so excited to move back next year!

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^ We started off our adventures with lunch at a food truck festival.  When in D.C…


^ My cousin KT currently lives in Muskogee, Oklahoma, because of her husband’s job.  She’s headed to law school next year… and they hope to come to D.C. for that!  I hope she comes too. :-)


^ Tommy Wells is running for mayor of D.C.  He was eating lunch at the table next to ours and gave Lena a campaign sticker afterwards.  Go, Tommy!


^And then on to the watery attractions.  The shallow pool and rain garden were just perfect for little Gil!

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^ “Come on, Lena, the fountains are fun!”


^ … even when you do take ’em to the face…



^ After plenty of fun at Canal Park, we headed over to Yards Park where there is a deeper wading pool.

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^ Lena’s making new friends in the background…

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Thanks for such a fun day in D.C., Uncle David and cousin KT!  Maybe next summer we’ll be back to stay?

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5 :: in DC, family, travel, Virginia

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