Archive | October, 2013

Lena’s first bite of sushi + some life updates


Driving back from Chincoteague a few weeks ago, we had a couple of miserable children and some rumbling tummies, and so we decided to make a pit stop in Annapolis.  We ended up eating sushi at the same place where Elliott and I ate years ago as newlyweds.  Lena had her first sushi dinner that night!  She went nuts over the edamame (a weekly side dish in our house), but the crab sushi… she wasn’t so sure.  (I thought crab might help after it was a huge hit on the Eastern Shore, but… no siree.)  Oh well, Elliott and I didn’t waste any time fussing over her lukewarm appreciation.  We gobbled the rest of that sushi down like we hadn’t had any in a year.  Which, come to think of it, we hadn’t.

This past weekend we were thrilled to have our beloved friends Lewis and Bekah visiting us from San Antonio.  I felt like someone needed to pinch me the whole time they were here.  Friends!  Married friends!  From far away!  In our house!  We stayed up past midnight talking every night, played Settlers of Catan late into the night, and got to visit some of our favorite places in Sicily (Taormina) as well as explore something new (the Catania antique market) with them while they were here.

And one night they sent us out on a date… any guesses where we went?  To eat sushi!  We tried a new place called SushiLive right in the heart of Catania, and I am a fan.  I am currently figuring out how I can get back there as soon as possible.  (Hey, when you’ve been pregnant and/or sushi-less for a great portion of the last three years, you take it when you can get it!)

Anyway, besides eating sushi and enjoying visitors, life has been peaceful around here since the kids and I got home last week.  We are in a sweet season of our lives with two relatively easy little ones (9 months and 2.5 are fun ages!) and only about 9 months left in Sicily before our assignment is over in July.  Elliott and I are both feeling the pressure of the countdown as we try to decide what to do next (more of Elliott’s thoughts in this great blog post) and also make lists of things to do, places to visit, and significant Italian purchases to make before we move.

Awhile ago, Elliott and I chose three places we’d like to visit in Europe before we leave, with the idea that we might only see one or we might see all three.  Ours are Greece, Ireland, and Norway.  (Personally, I’m also dreaming of a getaway to Paris for a weekend with just Elliott!)  Have you been to any of those places?  If you could go anywhere in Europe, where would you go?

8 :: in Lena, life lately

a visit to Durham!


A few weeks ago, while we were still in the States visiting family and friends, I decided to roadtrip four hours south to see some of our best friends in the world.  After I kissed Elliott goodbye and sent him back to Sicily, I packed my kids in the car and headed to Durham, North Carolina.  It felt crazy to do this all by myself at the time, especially as I’d spent the entire day in the car driving to the air terminal and then the entire afternoon and evening at the airport waiting to see if Elliott could get out on a military flight.  My kids were amazing, though… by which I mean they slept almost the entire way.  Like I mentioned here, my new life strategy is to roadtrip at night!


The Arthurs, our wonderful friends from Sicily, moved to Durham in August, and we were eager to see their new life, catch up after their big move, and let our kids play together.  And let me tell you… those kids were ecstatic to see each other again!

As an extra bonus, my friend Becca is uniquely able to move into a place and discover all the best spots there.  Durham was no exception.  I got a grand tour with Foster’s Market, the Duke Gardens, the Duke University campus (where Josh is in school), and the Q Shack BBQ.  Readers, thank you for all your suggestions in this post, btw… thanks to you all, I have more reasons to go back and visit!


We ate lunch at Foster’s Market our first day there.  I loved the food and the environment.  The kids ate grilled cheese, mac ‘n’ cheese, and potato chips… lunch from a dream for a child.



This was half my lunch… and the other half was a delicious Greek grilled cheese sandwich with tons of fresh veggies.


I love our little Gil Garber.


The mamas let the kiddos play outside while we shared a ginormous slice of coconut cake layered with lemon curd.


Four-year-old Caleb took our picture!  Sometimes I look at photos like this and am amazed that this is me… a mom with two little kids, hanging out with another mom and her kids.  I still feel like I’m a kid play-acting at being an adult most days!  When will I feel like a legit grown-up?  Ever?


Caleb, Lucas, and Lena… so happy to be reunited!


Another afternoon we took a picnic to Duke Gardens, which are absolutely magnificent and too large for me to enjoy on one visit.  They reminded me a lot of the Botanical Gardens in Singapore, where my siblings and I spent hours upon hours as children.  Becca also visited those Botanical Gardens when she was young… while I lived there, but we didn’t know each other then.


Kids in a giant magnolia.  Lena ate one of the bright red magnolia seeds, leading me to call Poison Control for the first time in my life.   No worries, though; they are non-toxic.  Whew. becca-garber-durham-duke-gardens

Bright purple prickly pears and a very cute little Eden.


My beautiful friend.  In the springtime, the gazebo behind Becca is covered in purple wisteria blossoms.


Goodbye, sweet Arthurs!  Thank you so much for hosting us and loving us.  We can’t wait to see you again soon!

6 :: in friends, travel

Book Review: “The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love”


“I got a stack of books at the library,” I told Elliott on a video chat last week.  “I’m so excited to read them.”  My eyes ran over the stack lovingly: The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton, The Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg.

“Don’t tell me,” Elliott predicted, “it’s a bunch of non-fiction by random people.”

I glanced at the stack of books again in astonishment.  Ummm… yep.  They all were.  Well well well.  Guess he knows me!

I started one of the books, but it was downstairs one night while I was nursing Gil, so I picked up The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love.  Right from the first lines of the Prologue, I was hooked:

“Saturday night, midwinter.  The farmhouse has been dark for hours and the crew has all gone home.  We light a fire and open two bottles of our friend Brian’s homemade beer, and as I wash up the milking things Mark begins to cook for me, a farmer’s expression of intimacy.  He is perfectly sure of himself in the kitchen, wasting no movement, and watching him fills me with a combination of admiration and lust, like a rock star’s groupie.  He has chosen a fine-looking chuck steak from the side of beef we butchered this week and has brought an assembly of vegetables from the root cellar.  Humming, he rummages through the fridge and comes out with a pint of rich, gelatinous chicken stock and a pomegranate, the latter a gift from my friend Amelia, who brought it up from New York City….”

Thus begins the beautiful memoir of Kristin Kimball, a NYC writer who went looking for a young farmer to interview about the burgeoning back-to-the-land movement.  When she left Mark’s farm in Pennsylvania, she walked away with more than a story.  Within two years, the two of them were leasing their own farm in the North Country of New York state with the ambitious plan of creating a farm that would provide virtually all the food their subscribers needed to live: vegetables, fruits, eggs, milk, cheese, butter, all kinds and cuts of meat, and even maple syrup.

Their story of their first year of farming together — complete with their beautiful wedding in the barn loft — kept me captured for all of two days.  I could hardly put the book down.  It wasn’t just the fact that this was a classic story of desperate humans working with nature, creating something beautiful out of something equally beautiful and yet just as broken as themselves.  It was also Kristin Kimball’s writing, her exquisite skill with words.  I read a few pages aloud at dinner to my family, and they sighed and smiled through the whole reading before applauding at the end.

Like many of us, Elliott and I harbor our own dreams of having a small “farm” one day: a vegetable garden for fresh produce, chickens for eggs and meat, goats for milk and cheese, and maybe a Jersey cow to try our hands at butter and fresh milk.  This beautiful memoir fanned the flame of those dreams.  Now we just need the kids to grow up a bit so they can gather the eggs each morning…

17 :: in book reviews

a post-wedding getaway to Chincoteague


Elliott’s family has been visiting Chincoteague for about 20 years, long before I was ever in the picture.  Somehow we have missed these family vacations since we got married, and so this was my first time to see this beautiful corner of the world.  What a peaceful place!  The quiet water rising and falling with the tide, the herons and egrets dipping and diving for fish, the sunrises and sunsets that turn the marsh grasses golden and haloed with light.  After the joy and excitement of Eden and Charlie’s wedding, this was a sweet way for all of us to settle gently back to earth before going on with our regular lives.


Morning on the dock.


Kayaking with David… which we chose to do at low tide.  Whoopsies!


The brave kayakers, tired but victorious after shoving ourselves through mud and battling the wind.


Gil and his Grampa


Peekaboo!  Auntie Jess found the perfect place to hang her hammock.


Giggles with “Unca Davy”

  becca-garber-chincoteague-22 Thank you, Seth and Tracy, for the awesome outfit Gil is wearing.  Lena also enjoyed it back in the day!


Ready to go for a bike ride!


Erika and Jonathan (happy anniversary, you two!!!) pose by the map together…


… and then Jess poses with her future husband.


For Harry Potter fans, this has something to do with Harry Potter.


The whole gang.  Photo taken while biking one-handed behind them and making them all look over their shoulders… thankfully none of us crashed!




Daddy and his girl.


A Chincoteague pony!  Looks kinda like Misty.


Cutie patooties.


All the siblings played two games of Settlers in less than 24 hours. Elliott somehow won both of them.


Last but not least, we watched a rocket go off from the NASA station!  Can you see the glow in the sky that is reflected in the water?  It was headed for the space station.  I didn’t even know we had a space station.  Did you?

7 :: in family, Virginia

Lena’s first haircut!


As it’s now been over a year and a half (!) since Lena last had an at-home trim, I thought it might be a good idea to get her hair cut while we were still here in Virginia.  (This is what she looked like after her last hair trim.)  I wanted to get it cut to her shoulders, but Elliott vetoed that!  Anyone else have a husband and/or dad who loves long hair on his girl(s)?

Anyway, I took Lena to a little shop that just opened near my parents’ house.  I didn’t tell Lena too much about it beforehand, and I was worried that she’d freak out when someone else cut off her hair or would act out to the brushing/combing.  She hates it when I brush her hair!  (Mom tip: brush and fix your daughter’s hair while she’s eating breakfast.  She’ll be sitting still for at least three minutes.)



Thankfully, she did really well, and mostly sat in awed silence.  I was so glad for that.  I don’t know how I would have handled a meltdown in the middle of the beauty parlor.  Everything must have been so new and amazing, and the haircut probably felt relatively relaxing.  She particularly enjoyed the finale…


… and now is totally into hair dryers!


The hairdresser took me very seriously and only cut off about an inch.  I thought “an inch” would be “oops, two inches!”  But it wasn’t, which I guess says good things about Great Clips, but means Lena’s hair is still long.  Oh well, I guess winter is coming.


She looked so purty.  Off to get a frozen yogurt treat with her Grampa Garber!

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11 :: in Lena, Virginia

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