Archive | pretty places

portraits of my children {15/52}



The 52 Project: A portrait of my children once a week & every week in 2014.

Lena: Well, if these photos are not evidence enough, we went to the beach! Elliott’s parents visited for a few days, and we met up with them in Palermo on the western coast of Sicily. From Palermo, we drove a couple of hours down the coast to the beach town of San Vito Lo Capo, where Elliott had found this picturesque apartment rental for us. It was about 15 minutes from the beautiful nature reserve of Zingaro, where both of these photos were taken. Can you believe those colors?!

Gil: This little man might be turning a new leaf with his beach-phobia. He loved the smooth pebbles and amused himself for hours by throwing them against other rocks, piling them up on our laps, or trying to feed them to his Grampa. He also started saying “Lena” this week (“Neee-nah!”), is almost running, and continues to delight everyone he meets with his irresistible blond curls.

I’ve got more pretty photos to share of our hike, apartment, and time with grandparents. I’ll see if I can get my act together to share them tomorrow!

What were you up to this past weekend? Any vacation plans around spring break?

6 :: in 52 project, pretty places, San Vito Lo Capo, Sicily, travel

a weekend in the Madonie Mountains of Sicily


We took this trip over a month ago, but somehow in the rush of Christmas and the new year, I haven’t had a chance to post the photos yet! Our weekend trip to the mountains was so beautiful, though, and we had a wonderful time with my mom, who was visiting for 10 days. I literally found my new favorite place in Sicily and really hope we get a chance to go back!


The Madonie Mountains are in north-central Sicily, and they are particularly famous for the beautiful hilltop mountain towns (like the one in the first photo). I was reading The Stone Boudoir, a memoir about Sicily’s mountain towns including several in the Madonie Mountains. The hills literally were alive for me that weekend as I absorbed vistas, streets, and foods in real life and through the pages of my book.

We stayed in an agriturismo (farm stay) because we wanted to enjoy the fruits of the region. The Slow Food movement originated nearby, and our host proudly told us that all but a few of the things we ate were from “kilometer zero,” or were harvested/gathered 0 kilometers away. We loved that agriturismo, and so if you visit, be sure to check out Casale Magherita.


A little fall foliage in December!


We also visited one of the five most famous mountain towns in the region. This one was called Castelbuono and is the largest of the five. We explored the castle, wandered through the streets, and ate an amazing lunch at Ristorante Palazzaccio.


View of Castelbuono from its castle.



Lena and my mom admiring a huge presepe (Nativity scene).


I really liked all the clean laundry, I guess…

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We sampled traditional Christmas sweet bread (panetonne) with a spread made from manna, the dried sap of the ash tree for which the region is also famous.


Salute! Cheers!

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Even more wonderful (and challenging) than visiting a mountain town with two small children was an incredible and verrrrry long hike we took during our visit with an Italian outdoors group. Photos from the hike coming soon!

7 :: in agriturismo, family, Italy, pretty places, Sicily, travel

October in Taormina with friends


Are you my friend?  Do you want to visit Italy?  Then please do.  We have only nine months left here and your time is running out!  Now’s your chance!  Free place to stay!  Free food!  Personal tour guides!  Cute children!  Buy a plane ticket!!!

Our friends Lewis and Bekah just visited, and it was SO fun.  Here they are:


Like I mentioned before, we had a blast during their visit, and I am so grateful that there are people like Lewis and Bekah in our lives.  They are forever friends.  It doesn’t matter if we live across the country or across the world or in the next neighborhood: we’ll all work hard to make sure this friendship endures and deepens with time.  And I mean… look how fun they are!  What’s not to love?

becca-garber-taormina-mcneels-october-17 One day during their visit we took them to beautiful Taormina, a city just an hour north of us.  I introduced everyone to Da Cristina, which makes the best arancini (traditional Sicilian rice balls) that I’ve had in Sicily.  Lena is chomping into my eggplant and cheese arancino on the right.


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His curls just keep on growing… and curling!  And getting blonder!


Vehicles like these are usually used by farmers or street sweepers in Sicily.  I loved the upcycled version!


These magnificent creations — called pasta reale — are made out of marzipan and shaped like fruit.


This would have been a cute family photo if Lena hadn’t deliberately closed her eyes and looked away…

becca-garber-taormina-mcneels-october-15 On the right, an amiable (and pregnant!) Bekah gave me a break to go running with Lena.  “Let’s run, Mama!” is her new thing.


becca-garber-taormina-mcneels-october-18 My family in the beautiful Villa Comunale park, one of our favorite stops in Taormina.


These two tried their first granite (Italian ice) at Bam Bar!


I could make a whole blog post with at least 30 pictures of Lena eating granite at Bam Bar.  It’s the best that we’ve ever tasted, and we’ve tasted a lot.


If you visit us, we’ll take you to Taormina!  Pretty promise, pretty please.

9 :: in pretty places, Sicily, Taormina, visitors

Fiumefreddo Beach, Sicily


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.


So windy it destroyed the beach umbrella… typical Sicily.


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


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


Buried alive!


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


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

Marzamemi, a Sicilian seaside village


On our way home from the beach a couple of weeks ago, we decided to visit a sweet little seaside town called Marzamemi (mar-tzah-may-mee).  Once the most important tuna processing plant on the island, it now relies more on tourism than on tuna.  We visited just as the sun was setting and the colors of the town came alive.

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Local specialties: tuna and sundried tomatoes in olive oil.  I could not get enough of the tomatoes… yum! becca-garber-marzamemi-sicily-4



Artisans set up tables of handmade pottery, jewelry, and friendship bracelets (are they the rage everywhere now??) along the harbor.



There were so many boys selling toys on these rolling metal frames.  Lena was bedazzled by them, particularly the balloons.  There’s something in her eyes when she sees a balloon that just makes me want to buy one for her every time!   (But we don’t.)


Catching crabs.




Simple dinner: arancini and pizza.  Arancini (Sicilian rice balls) are usually stuffed with things like prosciutto and cheese, but these were stuffed with salmon, mixed seafood, and squid.  The black one had squid ink in it!


Gil was so determined to get a mouthful of the squid arancino!  In the main piazza of the town, Elliott and Lena danced to music as people set up for a concert later that night.


Elliott listened to the music playing in the piazza and said, “This sounds familiar, like the theme song to The Last of the Mohicans or something like that.”  I Shazam’d it on my phone… and he was right.  Wowzers.


Love the single turquoise chair.


Couldn’t leave without a cupful of this!


Goodnight, Marzamemi!

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4 :: in pretty places, Sicily, travel

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