Monday, October 31, 2011

cousins come to town

On Saturday morning I told Lena that her second cousins--my dear cuz Katie (or Kt) and her hubby Alton--were coming for a visit.  She was a little surprised, since she'd just woken up and no one had mentioned it before.

But then she realized she would get lots of snuggles and attention, and got very excited.

And sure enough she did, beginning as soon as they arrived and lasting till the very final squeeze.


We introduced them to many things we love in San Antonio: breakfasts at MadHatters, walks through King William, ice cream cones on the River Walk, an outing for sushi (where Lena tried tofu for the first time and loved it), splashing in the river, and two intense games of Settlers of Catan.  

Thanks for coming, Kt and Alton!  We love you guys! 

Friday, October 28, 2011

dinner with 5 veterinarians

Elliott is currently over halfway through Captain's Career Course, a requirement for all U.S. Army soldiers who would like to advance from the rank of Captain to Major one day.  In this course of about 200 Captains, there are only 6 veterinarians.  The veterinary world is small and so most of these vets already know each other, or went to school together, and have already built memories together over the years in the Army.

So it's a pretty easy thing to have them over to dinner.  They entertain themselves with stories of life pre-vet school and pre-Army, or regale each other with fantastical tales of how they saved the life of Chestie, the U.S. Marine Corps Band's mascot, a chunky little bulldog who swallowed half a softball. 

After the vets arrived, we wanted them to see our beautiful King William neighborhood (sorry I still haven't shared photos... maybe tomorrow!), so we took a walk...

... and wound up at Blue Star Brewery, which you might remember from this post.

Hipster chick Lena fit right in with the brewery scene.

Later we reconvened at home for a hearty meal of baked chicken a la Chicken Cordon Bleu, mashed potatoes, whole wheat rolls, salad, French and Italian wines, and--for dessert--pumpkin bread.  Elliott and I love cooking and entertaining, gathering friends around our table, and sharing a meal together.

After supper we might have turned on the TV.  The TV?  In your house? you say.  But yes, we did, for something huge was happening on TV, namely my beloved Cardinals* vs. the Texas Rangers for game 6 of the World Series.  What a nail-biter!  My enthusiasm in cheering the Cardinals to victory may have roused my sleeping daughter.  But ahhhh! can't wait for game 7 tonight!

*Yes, I cheer for the Cardinals... and the Boston Red Sox.  My grandfather took me to a game every summer in St. Louis, so the Cardinals won my heart early.  The Red Sox claimed their own piece of my heart after Elliott and I lived and loved in Boston.  Oh yeah, and the Nationals... yeah, they have a piece of my heart too.  I love baseball!  Just don't ask me anything about football.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

life lately

It's been a little quieter around here these days as the hubby has worked very hard on a paper every evening.  He finished all 17 pages of it last night and turned it in and boy! were we glad.  Makes us think twice about both being in grad school in the future.  Homework when we're both home and want to be together is no fun.

But anyway, we've managed to have plenty of happy times around here despite the paper writing.  Even because of the paper writing!  Like walks...

... and playtime.  With diapers poking out of slightly-gaping waistbands...

... and baking chocolate chip pumpkin bread!  More on that later.

And very cute babies and daddies.  I have the cutest hipster baby!  And the best-looking man in uniform.

P.S.  Elliott is currently reading National Geographic aloud to Lena.  They are so cute and happy, lying together in bed looking up at the birdfeeder at the birds while he reads!  Sigh.  Love my little family.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

budget baby

Isn't this outfit gorgeous?  I looked up the company that made it and discovered this little romper is "hand-sewn and exquisitely hand embroidered."  It seemed almost too lovely for a baby to wear.

I guess the person that gave it to me also thought it was too pretty to actually put on a baby.  The person who gave it to me second-hand (in a garbage bag full of clothes) had never taken this little romper off of its hanger.  It hung there, starched and perfect, with a matching dress for Lena to wear when she's a little older.

What? you say.  A garbage bag full of clothes?

Believe it or not, most of Lena's clothes have come from garbage bags of hand-me-downs.  In fact, thus far in Lena's life, Elliott and I have purchased a grand total of... one... outfit for her.  One

This is not because we necessarily want to.  I walked into Baby Gap the other day and caught my breath, amazed at the darling little clothes surrounding me, the potential to take out my credit card and purchase a miniature shearling jacket or a tiny rosette-festooned sweater or my favorite thing of all: a ruffle-bottomed little sleeper.

But we haven't purchased much at all.  We have instead been grateful for many welcome, baby! gifts of clothing from friends and family (thanks, Aunt Eden, in particular, for your hipster contributions for little L!) and gigantic bags of freebies from my Capitol Hill moms' group. Our beautiful stroller, car seat, and baby carriers were all gifts, as were the spoons we use to feed Lena, the pacifiers we put in her mouth, the washcloths and soap we use in her bath, and the sheets on her crib mattress.

Frankly, finances are tight these days.  We've had to make a concerted effort to save our pennies and say "no" to our [well, my] longing to purchase clothing that Lena will wear for a grand total of two months.  I've also learned to say no to a lot of little flourishes (like these darling bows) or have found ways to make what we have stretch to cover new needs as they arise.

And so on this blog you won't see a baby dressed in all the latest trends, unless those came in a bag of giveaways or were a gift.  Lots of mommy bloggers take delight in dressing their babies, and I am definitely one of them.  I love dressing up my cute baby girl!  But on this blog most of the clothing we wear is well-worn or secondhand, and most of the adventures we take are free or budget-conscious, and most of the meals we eat are cooked at home or are picnics in pretty places.  We take neither pride nor shame in this fact, since it's just who we are right now, and probably who we will be for most of our lives.  We value thrift and simplicity.  We value the small things as we dream big!

Monday, October 24, 2011

grandparents come to visit!

We were treated with a very brief and very sweet visit from Mom and Dad Garber this Saturday and Sunday.  They were in Austin for the launch of the fabulous new home goods store called Treehouse.  Mom showed me some photos of Treehouse and it's phenomenal!  The store offers everything that Lowes or Home Depot offer except Treehouse's products are all environmentally friendly.  The theologically-thoughtful founders undertook an incredible amount of product review and collection before the launch of this beautiful store.  Elliott and I want to go to Austin to visit it ourselves, even though we have no home to build or improve here!

Lena's grandparents arrived on Saturday afternoon and eagerly greeted their granddaughter.  She took one long hard look at her Grampa and burst into tears.  Stranger anxiety has set in full force.  However, the following photos reveal that she found them irresistible despite her initial concerns.

Mom and Dad Garber were eager to see our beloved River Walk, so we soon set out that evening.  We walked through and out of our beautiful King William neighborhood first:

And then walked down the river towards downtown:

We saw wedding portraits being taken along the river.  That gorgeous cypress and the bridge make a beautiful backdrop!

Later than evening Lena got to know her dear Grampa better as he snuggled her after her bath and read her a bedtime story.

Right after we put Lena to bed, our friends Lewis and Bekah arrived for dinner.  We ate, talked, and laughed late into the night.  Elliott and I are so grateful for their friendship during these months in San Antonio!  It's not often that the Army forces you to live temporarily in the same town as some of your best friends.

The next morning Lena got all gussied up for church and I caught her Grampa taking pictures of her again, so I took some of them!  Lena already will pose very nicely for someone with an iPhone, mostly because she is fascinated by it and would really like to get her hands on it.

We dressed her up in a darling little outfit and shoes that Elliott's friends John and Georgia sent to Lena soon after she was born.  I love those chubby thighs...

After church at Redeemer we took another walk along the River Walk, this time heading south along the quieter portions of the river and then looping back through the King William neighborhood.  We finished with authentic San Antonio cuisine at Tito's before Mom and Dad had to head home to Virginia. 

Thank you for your visit, Grampa and Marmee!  We loved having you here.

This was our first chance to host overnight guests in our apartment in San Antonio, but we'll have more guests in the upcoming weeks.  Anyone else want to come visit while we're here?   We'll treat you to Sunday morning pancakes, walks along the river, and snuggles with a darling little baby! 

Friday, October 21, 2011

how ideal is this, really?

I’m cross-legged in bed, laptop between my knees, coffee cup balancing on one of Lena’s board books.  It’s 9:55am, and Lena is napping, Elliott is in class, and I’m enjoying some of the quietest moments of my day.

A friend at Bible study asked me yesterday how are you doing? in such a sincere and measured way that I had to stop and take her seriously.  How am I doing?  I told her honestly,

“These days in San Antonio are such days of peace for us.  Really it’s like we’re on vacation from real life for two months.”

I’ve wanted to address this, because life does seem really ideal right now.  Never before in my life have I had so much time.  Time to read all the recent Pultizer Prize fiction winners.  To lie on the rug with my husband and baby and play for an hour with nowhere to go, nothing to do.  To start a new recipe at 7:30 after the baby’s asleep and not sit down to eat the gourmet supper until 10 o’clock.  To have no errands to run, no pressing and irritating phone calls to make, no manager to worry about, no deadlines approaching. 

Some would say we’ve earned this.  Elliott was deployed for a year soon after we got married, I discovered I was pregnant right after he left, and we prayed and endured and Skyped our way through that ridiculous year.   I worked full time as an ICU nurse through my pregnancy until I broke my foot in my third trimester.  After that I sat around our little apartment, waiting for a phone call from my job in case I might be able to while my day away with a few hours of sedentary desk work.  Otherwise I hobbled around home and tried to avoid driving (pressing the clutch with a broken foot is not a way to help that foot heal).  Then Elliott flew home and the baby came and then Elliott left again, and so for awhile I felt a lot like a single mom, and for the three months remaining of Elliott’s deployment I basically moved in with my wonderful parents.

But anyway, most of you know this story.  You know this past year wasn’t easy, and those who know us really well also know that even since we’ve been reunited there have been ups and downs and stresses and one particular great, great sorrow in our lives. 

I used to think that our first year of marriage was just extra hard.  We just have to get through this year, I’d think to myself, and then life will be back to normal.  But let’s face it.  Life isn’t normal, isn’t ideal, no matter how you might portray it on your blog.  Life isn’t always happy, and it isn’t always sad.  Life, for most of us, is overflowing with undeserved blessings, true and loving friends, and family waiting in the wings to catch us when we fall.  But at the same time life has its sharp edges that surprise us; it’s like getting a paper cut from fine stationery.  Sometimes every day. 

I know and choose to believe that sinful humans get their way these days; sin corrodes and surprises and cuts at our happy lives (or our hard lives, or whatever we think our lives look like today).  Yet while sin exists in this world, a covenantal God also exists, and—through all life’s beatings and blessings—He is working everything together for an ultimate good.  It takes a mature theology to realize that your own personal life won’t necessarily look “good” or “ideal” or “desirable” in this moment—or perhaps not overall, I’m learning to acknowledge—but you are still caught up with the good, the bad, and the ugly, into a tapestry that will be woven into ultimate, beautiful good.

Some people dread every day of their current lives and bank on the future as a time of happiness.  I think I did that last year.  Other people savor every day—as I’m doing now—and dread next month and next year in case they take a malicious turn.  I know somewhere in between is the balance, the maturity, that allows us to survive happily in this world through all its ups, downs, and curveballs, knowing that there is a sustainer, a master craftsman, a gentle Lord, who will make it all worthwhile and beautiful in the end.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

picnic lunch

Elliott came home for a long lunch yesterday and could hardly bear to come indoors.

"It's so beautiful outside!  Let's go for a picnic!"

We packed food for ourselves and--bravely--packed some for Lena, too.  Down the River Walk we went until we came to a patch of soft grass next to the dam.

We had mashed some peas for Lena using the handy-dandy food grinder that my dear friend (and wonderful photographer!) Ana Marie gave me.  So the whole family dug into our picnic lunch.

Lena took a bite of peas...

The smart kid knows that homemade pizza is better than smooshed peas any day!

I fed her a little rice cereal after that, which always goes down pretty gracefully.

After we all finished eating (and gagging), I knitted for awhile as Elliott read a National Geographic article aloud with Lena.  Our little picnic was such a peaceful interlude in the middle of a regular old day.  Bring on this beautiful autumn weather, Texas!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

for lack of a cookie jar...

Now if only I had a cake pan so I could put a cake in there one day!

These fabulous cookies are Soft Gingersnaps, taken once again from  Perfect for fall, small and spicy!  The crunchier ones melt in your mouth when dipped in hot coffee.

Soft Gingersnaps
makes 6 dozen 2-inch cookies


  • 1 1/2 cups butter (no substitutes), softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Additional sugar


  1. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in molasses. Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt and nutmeg; gradually add to creamed mixture. 
  2. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until dough is easy to handle.
  3. Roll into 1-in. balls; roll in sugar. Place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees F for 8-12 minutes or until puffy and lightly browned. Cool for 1 minute before removing to wire racks.

down by the river

The other day Elliott couldn't come home for lunch (he usually can, believe it or not!) and so Lena and I were left to our own imaginations about how to pass the afternoon.  We both needed a break from being cooped up inside for so long.  Eventually I packed a bag, put Lena in the baby carrier, and set off down the River Walk.

We found a stone bench along the walk and decided to relax there for awhile.  Lena went to town reaching for any fallen leaves or flowers she could reach. She's getting so good at rocking on her hands and knees or lifting herself up onto her hands and feet.  Still hasn't figured out how to use her hands and knees together to crawl, though.  I'm counting my blessings while she's stuck in one place!

We'd chosen such a peaceful time of day, but the River Walk is never quiet.  Every minute or so someone walked or jogged by with dogs or friends or music.  This kept little Lena's head moving back and forth as each amazing new person passed by.

I, meanwhile, worked on the Knitting Project I Am Not Proud Of, which perhaps I'll share with you tomorrow.  I did finally manage to finish it the same day that these pictures were taken and so that's a relief.  But it's taught me an important lesson about spending too much time creating things out of inferior materials. 

Lena's lying on a patchwork afghan I knitted for her before she was born, and I also just finished a shrug-style sweater for her the other day.  It's getting cooler in San Antonio... finally!

Don't you just want to cuddle this little muffin?

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