Archive | weekend

picking blood oranges in Sicily


Our friend Lorrie owns a beautiful farm about 20 minutes from us, and she’s been telling us for ages to come bring the kids, pet the horses, and pick some oranges. Last Saturday we were down to our last blood orange, and so we decided to re-stock by picking our own!

The outing started with a dazzlingly beautiful drive. We drank in the view: lush green fields of artichokes and oranges, fields of neon yellow flowers and new almond blossoms, bubble gum-pink and cerulean-blue homes set like jewels in green velvet, and snowy Mt Etna presiding over it all. I took a deep breath and relaxed.



Once on the farm, we picnicked… or rather the kids ran to the swings and so we attempted to feed them as they swung! Messy but successful. Later we picked oranges and then visited the many animals on Lorrie’s farm: horses, dogs, chickens, goats, and a gigantic pig. Such a beautiful afternoon in our rural island home!





“Soooo bloody!” says Lena.




Gil kept himself busy taking out every orange we put in and throwing each with all his strength about 6 inches away.



I love the sunkissed look of a blood orange!



Finding ladybugs for Lena to admire and Gil to… maul.




Feeding the goats! We all want our own someday so that (among other reasons) we can make our own goat cheese instead of buying it almost every week. (We all LOVE goat cheese.) However, a friend told me that goat cheese starts to smell like dirty goats when you’re around them a lot… so am I willing to give up my love of goat cheese in order to own a few goats? Well… I think so!

Would you ever like to have goats? Or chickens?

26 :: in animals, Sicily, weekend

my family & the butterflies


Ever since the kids and I visited the Casa delle Farfalle (House of the Butterflies) in the spring, Elliott been wanting to go too.  We finally got our act together and went for a picnic lunch one weekend after church.  I’m so glad we went on the weekend because the park was packed with Italian families grilling out, picnicking, and kicking soccer balls around, and we felt like we were truly experiencing an Italian Sunday afternoon.  The butterfly house wasn’t that bad either!




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In addition to butterflies, the tropical garden included several crazy insects.  That stick insect and that millipede are the biggest I’ve ever seen!

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Look at Gil’s face!

The butterfly house also includes a few rooms dedicated to the history of the Silk Road.  It was fascinating to see live silk moths and realize what a tedious process it is to extract the silk from their cocoons… even in the 21st century.

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Gil amused himself by taking apart the displays…

And my favorite moment of the day is in photographs below when a butterfly landed right on Elliott’s face… and then Gil noticed it… and then…

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Not pictured: the flight of the butterfly.  Lucky guy!

6 :: in family, Sicily, weekend

Eden & Charlie are married!




Many of you have probably seen on Facebook or Instagram, but my sister-in-law Eden got married on Sunday!  They were wed in a beautiful outdoor ceremony on Charlie’s family’s land on the Chesapeake Bay, complete with a Scottish bagpiper, the best ice cream on the Eastern Shore, delicious homemade cakes, Celtic line dancing, and wildflowers everywhere.  The weather was perfect — mid-70s and sunny — and the whole day felt peaceful, joyous, and new.

I kept choking up every time I looked at Eden during the ceremony.  She had waited for this day, dreamed of this day, and now… beautiful reality!  Charlie and Eden had so carefully chosen every piece of the wedding, and it intricately reflected their shared faith, community, artistry, and dreams.

Of course, for Elliott and me, now weddings are a whole different ball game with two littles.  I felt a little scattered the whole time because of Gil; I was constantly holding him, passing him off to someone else, keeping an eye on him wherever he was, trying to get him to nap, checking on him while he was napping, feeding him, holding him… and so on and so forth.  Lena, meanwhile, felt completely at home and ran around the entire property by herself, skipping from one group of friends to another.  She was so happy.   I think she drank her weight in “yemonade,” too!

Now the family — minus the honeymooners — have moved to Chincoteague, Virginia.  Elliott’s family has vacationed here for 20 years, but this is my first visit.  We’re savoring the quiet days and time together, mixing board games and building blocks together now, as we drink in this beautiful view.  Happy Tuesday, everyone!


6 :: in family, Virginia, wedding, weekend

blackberry picking with friends


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.


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


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


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’.


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.


Where are your berries, Lucas??


The sun goes down by the old railroad station.


Matching fishy faces?

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Dads keeping their sons out of the brambles.


Caleb & Elise


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.


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!


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.

2 :: in friends, Sicily, weekend

house on the beach, kids in the water


Ever since we arrived in Sicily two years ago, Elliott has dreamed of one very specific thing:

“I want to go on vacation to the beach… somewhere where you can stay on the beach.  Not drive to the beach, not walk to the beach.  On the beach.”

We live on an island, so you wouldn’t think this is very hard to do.  However, we’ve looked extensively, and vacation rentals on the beach are not common here in Sicily, especially in the height of the summer season (late July through early September).

We wanted to go on one final vacation with our dear friends the Arthurs, who will be leaving in just two weeks.  (Gulp.)  Knowing that a house on the beach would be perfect for this vacation with six kids, Elliott took matters into his own hands and searched high and low.  He finally found a place that was actually on the beach (!)… but they would only rent it for a week at a time, not a long weekend.  Elliott, being Elliott, negotiated and bided his time, and pretty soon we had ourselves a vacation rental on the beach… and for a full 100 euro less than their weekend asking price, too.

(Elliott, I know you know this, but I love you.)


view of the beach from the stone steps up to our house

The house was just right for two families and lots of kids.  There were three bedrooms, two bathrooms, two kitchens (!), and two extra rooms that we used as bedrooms as well.  The house also included a lovely shaded patio connected to the huge blue-and-white tiled kitchen.  We ate all our meals on the patio and otherwise spent our days on the beach with multiple trips back for nap times, water, snacks, sunscreen, and missing children.

Would you like to stay there yourself?  Here’s the listing if you’re interested!  (That company also owns several other beach-front villas in that same area.)  For Sigonella folks, it’s about a 2-hour drive south of base, located on the southeastern tip of Sicily near Pozzallo.  The beach is called Granelli Beach.  The natural curve of the land forms a large cove that keeps the water shallow for about 200 feet and the waves small… perfect for a vacation with kids.

But anyway, enough details.  Here are some more pictures of our long weekend with friends!


Eden (2 months) and Gil (6 months) chilling on the patio.


The morning/afternoon sunscreen routine.  Frequently overheard conversation between Josh and Rebecca: “I will do anything rather than put sunscreen on the kids.  Anything.  What can I do for you besides that?”



Air mattress as a raft?  This was a sort of brilliant move on Josh’s part.  So brilliant that I saw other people doing the same thing later that afternoon with their own air mattress.


Lena loves Baby Eden and wants to hold her, admire her, and play with her all the time.


For all lovers of Gilbert Blythe… does this photo remind anyone of this?
(Hint: “Anne, I’m sohwry.“)


Elise and Eden


Inspiring read for the weekend.  Highly, highly recommend this book.


A downer of the weekend: this poor guy was almost never happy for very long on the beach.  Our guess is that it was the bright sun; his blue eyes just couldn’t handle it.  We borrowed some baby sunglasses from the Arthurs but that only helped for a little while.  Oh well… he did enjoy swimming naked like the other Sicilian babies.  Can’t blame him!


These two… seriously.  Gil literally lights up when he sees Lena.  And vice versa.  I love how they love each other.


This calm, quiet water — knee deep for about 200 feet — was just perfect with kids.  Refreshing in the mornings and warm as bathwater in the afternoons, with gentle waves and no pollution whatsoever, it might be the overall best beach I’ve ever seen in Sicily.

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Lucas and Lena are the cutest little 2-year-olds together.  They get each other laughing so hard… mostly Lena laughing at whatever Lucas comes up with next.


Ciao ciao, Granelli Beach!  Hope to see you again soon!

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13 :: in friends, holiday, Italy, Sicily, travel, Uncategorized, weekend

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