Archive | pretty places

this June morning


I followed Lena outside with my cup of coffee this morning, answering her suggestion of, “Go ou’side, Mama.  See bugs.  Come, Mama.”  I’m so glad I listened to her.  What a beautiful Virginia morning!  We enjoyed all of it outside: exploring my mom’s gorgeous garden, playing around in the wagon, and having a tea party on the porch.

My “Aunt” Leslie is not pictured in these photos, but she was with us this morning and later took heaps of photos of Gil.  I’m so excited to share another “Gil photoshoot” on the blog on Monday.  I really think he gets cuter every day… but I’m his mama, after all!



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How’s the weather where you live?  I’m glad not to be in Sicily right now; Elliott said he was sweating while sitting still in our house last night.  It’s 100 degrees there and feels hotter, but here in Virginia we still have some beautiful “spring” days left… even though this is the first day of summer!  Do you plan to be outside this weekend?


P.S. Today is the LAST DAY to enter the bike seat and helmet giveaway!  Winner will be announced on Monday!

8 :: in family, life lately, pretty places

Scala dei Turchi


Here at last are some pictures from our beautiful sunset walk to the Scala dei Turchi!  It’s harder to write a blog post these days with two little kiddos needing lots of TLC.  I think they’re both asleep for a little bit now…


While my parents-in-law were visiting last week, we took a trip to the southern coast of Sicily with them for a couple of days.  We wanted to show them a beautiful rock formation and also visit the Valley of the Temples outside the city of Agrigento.  We hadn’t been to either of these places since last February (here is a post about that trip), and so we were looking forward to enjoying this beautiful part of Sicily again ourselves.

We drove to Agrigento last Wednesday, checked into our agriturismo (more photos from there soon!), had naps all around, and then drove on to the Turkish Steps (or Scala dei Turchi) around 5pm.  The walk along the beach toward the giant white rock formation was peaceful and beautiful.  Lena loved walking along the ocean; Gil loved sleeping in our beloved Moby wrap.

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Finally we reached the white rock and began to climb…



My father-in-law took this photo just as we got to the top of the Turkish Steps.  The view behind us was stunning with the ocean stretching off forever into the setting sun!  We spent a long time on the rocks, climbing and resting and taking photos.



Quite a picturesque spot for a diaper change, right??



If you’re like Lena, you also enjoy looking at whatever photo was just taken of you!



I love the photo above but am bummed that I was smiling for the camera and not looking at Elliott.  Our matching silhouetted faces smiling at each other would have been so cool!

Below, my parents-in-law pause for final iPhone shots…



And the sun has set.  Isn’t it such a magical place?  In the setting sun this could almost be Antarctica.  But instead it’s warm and sunny… and before too long the beaches will be covered with Sicilian sunbathers.  I’d like to go back then!

9 :: in family, hiking, Italy, pretty places, Sicily, travel, visitors

life in an Italian villa {Part 1 of 2}


Because our house was too small to host my family (six adults and two kids), we decided to rent a house while they were visiting last week.  Of course, in Italy “a house” is called “a villa,” and by just calling something “a villa” you have upped your rental experience by about 50%! Wouldn’t you agree?

Our villa was located about an hour from our home in Sicily, on the coast near the tiny town of Brucoli.  We spent almost the entire week in the villa except for one lunch in Brucoli and one daytrip to nearby Syracuse (or Siracusa, as the Italians call it).  I’ll share photos of these experiences soon, but in the meantime, here are a few photos from around the villa.

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The beach was within walking distance of our house, so of course we went every day!

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Elliott found the biggest worm we’d ever seen.  Lena was amazed, and then I was amazed when she held it! becca-garber-villa-worm becca-garber-villa-martha-stewart-blocks

Gil and Lena were usually both up around 6am (yikes) and so I spent a lot of my mornings playing games with Lena and soothing Gil. becca-garber-villa-puzzles-blogging becca-garber-villa-sisters-cat

That brown streak is Siena, the cat, escaping from Lena’s prison.  The pretty girl on the right is my dear sister Emily!


Enjoying a spot of good weather with Eric and Em.  Below, the crazy cat that we decided to bring with us… and thankfully she added a lot of joy and cuddles to the week away.

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Photos from early mornings with my Gil.


We squeezed the swing into our little Honda Civic (along with groceries and supplies for a week, our family of four, and the cat… on my lap).  We were so grateful for the swing that week!

Below Gil relaxes with my dear dad, Gil’s namesake.


9 :: in family, Gil, holiday, pretty places, Sicily

girls’ getaway to Taormina

Welcome back from MLK Day weekend, everyone!  Hope you kicked back, relaxed, and enjoyed the weekend wherever you are.  We laid very low here at home other than a couple of hikes into the valley and some evenings with friends.  And we twiddled our thumbs and waited for this baby to come, but… he’s staying put for now.  Oh well!


I’ve been wanting to share these photos with you from now two weekends ago.  It all started when I woke up on Saturday morning and saw an email from my friend Emily, who was on her way to Florence with her family and wanted advice about flying with a runny-nosed toddler.


I turned to Elliott and sighed, “We don’t travel anymore!   We used to go somewhere every few weeks but now we just stay at home.  Which is fine with a baby due any day, but… I miss it.”


“Well,” replied my husband, with a twinkle in his eye, “what if I told you that you were going on a trip today?  That your friends are whisking you away for a girls’ weekend in Taormina?  That you are going to spend the whole day shopping and eating in nice restaurants and getting a massage at a spa… and that you’re staying overnight in a hotel there, too?”


Umm… whaaaat?!


But he wasn’t kidding!  My friend Bethany had secretly arranged to take her two pregnant friends–me and Becca Arthur–to Taormina for a little last getaway before both our babies are born.  (Becca is due in May with her fourth child, a girl!)  Bethany had arranged the whole agenda herself and would be picking me up in about 2 hours.  Time to pack my bags!



We spent the whole day just as Elliott had promised: wandering around the beautiful Sicilian town of Taormina (which I have blogged about before here and here), eating delicious food, and browsing through stores that we would never enter with our rambunctious toddlers!  It was a beautiful gift of a day with two dear friends.


We shopped for pottery in our favorite artist’s studio.


Fruit made entirely out of marzipan!  Better to look than to eat.
Mini cannolo with pistachio cream.
Cool design idea: display your wine bottles on old roof tiles.


Sicilian ceramics.


Becca and me at lunch in a lovely little restaurant overlooking the water.



 Later we ate granite at our favorite little shop.  We chose mandarin and raspberry.  So fresh and fruity!


The photos ceased after this as we left Taormina to drive to our hotel, where we relaxed that evening and all got amazing massages.  Later we went out for dinner, but unfortunately at this point I was starting to feel ill.  I had no idea why, but then around 1am I woke up and made a beeline for the bathroom to upchuck.  Sadly for me, the stomach virus (which has been ravaging our whole community these past few weeks) appeared to have struck at the worst possible time!  I took this photo from bed in our hotel room the next morning as I tried to keep a cup of tea down and read a book while Bethany and Becca enjoyed breakfast downstairs.


Bethany got a call from her husband that morning and learned that her own two boys were also losing their breakfast from the same bug!  Oh well… it was home and into survival mode for our two houses for the next couple of days.  An adventurous end to a relaxing weekend!  Thankfully it didn’t dampen the spirits or mar the memories for me.

Thank you so much, Bethany, for arranging such a fun weekend for us!

11 :: in friends, pretty places, Taormina, travel, weekend

Cinque Terre :: Monterosso al Mare

Our last day in Cinque Terre… and did we want to visit one last town?  We decided to swing through Monterosso for lunch on our way back to Milan and a flight to Sicily.

Little did we know what a treacherous road we were about to go down!

We snaked up and down the green hills of the coast, passing through tiny little clusters of houses and shops, villages too small to be considered one of the “cinque terre” towns.  The view from the tops of the hills was amazing: a horizon that melted into the sea, cathedral spires nosing the clouds, bright orange nets spread under olive trees for the picking season.

However, as the road twisted down towards the coast numerous times, the scenery changed.  Water collected quickly and formed dangerous rivulets, then streams, then rivers.  At the bottom of the valleys we felt like we were in a war zone; there were barricades everywhere.  This is why parts of Cinque Terre have disappeared in mud slides in 2011 and 2012, and why the Via dell’Amore was closed between the towns, and why there were so many warning signs on the roads… and perhaps also why we were the only cars on it!

A few times I looked back and saw that the earth had washed away underneath the outer edge of the asphalt.  If we had been driving too close to the edge… would the road have fallen away beneath us?

I was actually trembling when we finally parked in Monterosso al Mare and realized it was because I had been so tense in the car.  What a relief to step out into such a quaint little town and have nothing more on our minds than where to find some lunch!

 Farewell for now, Cinque Terre.  Maybe we’ll meet again… in the summertime?
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9 :: in Cinque Terre, friends, Italy, pretty places, travel

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