Sunday, November 27, 2011

headed back to Italy

Unbelievably, our time in the States has come to a close.  Tomorrow morning we fly back to Sicily!  I am both thrilled and miserable, realizing that all these happy days (especially those filled with family) are over.  Now we're moving back to a new community, a new home, a new culture, a new life. 

This past week has been wonderful and filled with family.  So many gatherings around dinner tables, so many games, so much conversation, so many snuggles of a beloved granddaughter/niece/daughter.  The big news around here is that the Garber family gained a sister this week... Jonathan proposed to Erika!  And tonight our little Lena was baptized at our church on Capitol Hill, a big celebration which many of our dear friends and all of our family attended.  There are so many photos to share!  But I'll leave you with one of the best photos from the weekend: an aunt and her niece, both in cozy onesies.  Quite indicative of the coziness of our Thanksgiving week.

Internet will be spotty the next few days as we travel and then set up house.  I'll share as I can.  Hopefully (... fingers crossed!) I'll be getting a new iPhone with video capabilities, so we'll see if that leads to even more fun updates from across the pond.  Sicily, we're coming home!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

a day to be thankful

a visit to Israel with our 2-month-old daughter

This morning I woke up remembering last year.  That Thanksgiving was a difficult day in this house.  Elliott was on a one-year deployment in Egypt, I was 5 months pregnant with our little Lena, my grandmother died around 2am in Cincinnati, my entire family was with her except me, and I got up at 6:30am to get my dad's phone call about my grandmother and then went in to work a 12-hour shift in the ICU.

It was a rough Thanksgiving.  Although even then Elliott and I sought every reason to be thankful, we were very ready to pass that day by and look to the future. 

Now we're living the future, and we are together.  Waking up next to Elliott instead of thousands of miles away from him... can't ever take that for granted again!  And now there's Lena, too, our snuggle muffin and little joy.  Although the difficulties of last year will always be with us (I miss my grandmother so much, I'll never have a "newlywed year" with Elliott, etc.), God has indeed replaced a lot of our struggles with rich blessings and much joy these days.  Take none of it for granted!

Is this Thanksgiving a special one of joy, or one in the middle of a year that you're ready to see end?  Life isn't always "peachy keen," I know.  I'd love to hear about your joys and your struggles this year, knowing they often come hand in hand.  

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

last day in San Antonio

On our last full day in SA, Elliott had to be out the door early for a graduation ceremony at Ft Sam Houston.  (I love saying Fort Sam Houston really fast.  Sounds so American and Texan.  Sad I can't say that every day anymore.)  We thought Lena and I weren't invited (although we were... whoops) so I stayed home and made him celebratory cinnamon rolls for brunch.

They were delish!  Paula Deen's fab recipe here.

As we began packing and cleaning, Elliott harvested his last crop of oyster mushrooms.  He ordered the Back to the Roots Mushroom Kit from Amazon and has been tending to them (and harvesting crops!) for the past month or so.  With these mushrooms Elliott combined a lot of fridge leftovers and made us elaborate omelets for lunch.  Yum!

I cleared out all our food from the kitchen to give away to Lewis and Bekah.  Lena had fun discovering that pile! Hippie child hair.

Suitcases filled our once-tidy little apartment... sigh...

I was alerted by my friends Sarah and Johanna that Starbucks was having a 2-for-1 holiday drinks sale, so we headed down the River Walk one last time for this treat.  Grande peppermint mochas... yessss.  On the way back we took a final saunter through Hemisfair Park and a tourist offered to snap this photo of us at the bottom of the Tower of the Americas (where we went for a date recently).

That night Lewis and Bekah took us out on a group date.  We got all gussied up, and I wore one of Elliott's birthday presents to me: lovely earrings designed by my nursing school classmate and dear friend Tara  Montgomery.

They chose Carmen's de la Calle, an incredible tapas bar with live music.  Flamenco dancers performed that night to live music, and they left our blood racing!  Innovative dishes, fabulous decor, sangria that went down oh-so-easily, and some of the sweetest friends... it was quite the farewell to this lovely town.

Thanks, dear Lewis and Bekah, for welcoming us and loving us so well while in your hometown.  We miss you.  Keep dreaming and planning that visit to Sicily!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

more photos from California

Our quiet family days continue here in northern Virginia.  My parents and sister came over to Elliott's family's house for dinner last night, since they live 10 minutes away from each other (!).  It always amazes me to see two such different (and yet... so weirdly similar...) families gathered around the table, discussing and remembering and punning away.

Just before my family drove home, my father-in-law pulled a quote off their fridge to share with my dad.  Soon all the parents were gathered around to listen, four graying heads who have raised nine children between them.  The quote was:

But this at least all married people should know.  They can do no better work and do nothing more valuable either for God, for Christendom, for all the world, for themselves, and for their children 
than to bring up their children well.
Martin Luther in "A Sermon on the Estate of Marriage"

Our four parents have all done their very best to bring up their children well; they have dedicated the prime of their lives to raising multiple little lives.  Now as Elliott and I start out in our own marriage and bring up our first child, we are constantly grateful for the influence and dedication of our own parents as they read aloud to us, ate dinner with us each night, made church a second home for us instead of just a family requirement, encouraged us to study and value the good and the beautiful, and most of all loved us through these first formative 25-30 years of our lives.  Thank you so much, dear parents.

And now back to California.  After feeding the horses that morning, we enjoyed a quiet afternoon to ourselves at the ranch, napping and recharging for more activities that afternoon and evening.


After a peaceful morning at the ranch, we headed into the nearby town of Solvang to do some window shopping.  This cute little town is entirely Danish and looks like it could have come out of a touristy neighborhood of Copenhagen.  And the toy shops!  We had so much fun rediscovering favorite from our childhoods and imagining Lena playing with some of them in a few years.  Elliott discovered several different Playmobile versions of veterinary clinics.  The one he's holding here is the smallest clinic available; there's also a gigantic one that Lena might get lost in at this point.

Later that evening we enjoyed another meal with the combined family at the ranch house.  Even got a family photo, sorta.

And then, of course, another hard-fought Settlers of Catan game later that night.  The lovely blonde on the right, Deborah, won for the very first time!

The next morning we helped feed the horses again.  

Well, okay, maybe we just took photos and watched our hosts feed the horses. :-P

Lena's sporting an awesome pair of wool pants that Elliott and I found at a kid's consignment shop the day before.  So fabulously funky.

And then, as usual, retired to the fireplace for some quiet moments in the afternoon.

One of our favorite things we did while at the ranch was go out for my birthday dinner to The Hitching Post.  We'd eaten there on our honeymoon and I had been dreaming of their grilled artichoke appetizer ever since.  Our second meal did not disappoint, from the aforementioned artichoke to the filet mignon to the baked potato to the key lime pie dessert with a single glowing candle.  Thank you, sweet hubby. 

Going to California was a little bit of a last-minute decision for us.  Should we use these reward miles, should we drag our baby through multiple airports and 6am flight departures, should we use our last weekend in San Antonio to travel somewhere else instead?  And we said yes, in the end, because we love the people we went to visit.  We greatly value and are deeply blessed by their friendship.  I am so thankful we did, too, in retrospect, because our friendship was strengthened to endure another few years (?) of separation before we see them again.  

Maintaining friendship in adulthood takes sacrifices, for sure, and often the sacrifices are mutual.  We aren't in college anymore; we don't live within a 15-minute radius of our best friends.  We have to deliberately choose friendships over ourselves.  But the rewards are so great.  I am blessed by a husband who has five or so close guy friends and makes an effort to call them or see them every few months.  (Do you do that?  It's not as easy as it sounds... and keeping up with or seeing five far-apart people actually takes a lot of time every couple months!)  I'm not as good about calling my friends, as they will assure you; they often do the pursuing of me.  Yet I see the example that Elliott has set for me and the choices he's made, and I also want to be a pursuer, an enduring friend.  I see the incredible value of holding a few precious people (and their precious, growing families) close to your heart.  

What do you think?  How do you maintain and pursue your friendships?

Monday, November 21, 2011

a visit to California

I'm writing this while sitting in my father-in-law's leather chair, enjoying the comforts of home in northern Virginia.  We left San Antonio on Saturday and have been almost too busy and happy here to miss our little home away from home by the river.  Hardly seems possible that those two months of Elliott's training course are over!  Now a week from today we'll be on our way back to Sicily at last; after all this waiting, the time to being "real life" will finally be here.

But I can save those thoughts for another time.  I've been wanting share photos from our trip to California last weekend.  Here's the first half; I'll share more tomorrow.

The story behind our visit is this: Elliott worked at this ranch in central coastal California during two summers of college and for nine months after college.  The couple who owns the ranch are a bit like grandparents to him and are very dear friends.  At the end of our honeymoon road trip almost two years ago, we spent several days at the ranch, and this was our first trip back since then.
We spent a lot of time by the fire, knitting and chillaxin'. 

That night more relatives from down the road came over for dinner.  Elliott's spent so much time with these kids over the years and they just love him!  

Lena and the youngest grandchild warm up to each other by the fire:

The two youngest grandchildren were too excited that we were visiting to go home that night.  They slept at their grandparents' and were up bright and early to go feed the horses with us the next morning.

Down at the horse barn, we met Nickel, one of the three barn cats...

... and Bliss, an American Curly pony.  She's such a sweetheart.

In the barn while we weighed the hay...

And later Elliott did some doctoring.  One of the horses had a sore on his back, so Elliott the Veterinarian examined the wound with his two faithful assistants.

The horse in this photo is Bucky, who I rode on our honeymoon.  I don't think he remembered me.  Sigh.

If you ever saw our honeymoon photos on Facebook, you already know I really love this dog.  Lena's warming up already!

But the chickens were not her thing.  [Believe it or not after this photo] Lena slowly became less alarmed by all the squawking and wing-beating and eventually did her best to grab a handful of feathers.

More tomorrow of our own little family adventures around the ranch and town!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

life around here

Well, I guess you can tell the California pictures didn't happen today.  Maybe that's because there are about 200 photos to sort through!  Maybe tomorrow?  Hopefully tomorrow.

In the meantime, here are some snapshots from our lives this week.

The big news is that I'm knitting for food now!  I have four orders in for knit-by-Becca Christmas presents and another three orders pending.  I'm over the moon.  There's still room for more, so send me an email to if you're interested in a hand-knit Christmas present for a loved one.  Here are some photos of Lena exploring my latest project: a pair of silk-and-merino fingerless gloves.

 I was walking by Lena today with my camera and saw her standing up for the first time!  After calling for Elliott to "quick, come look at this!" I snapped a fuzzy picture.  She had knocked Settlers of Catan off the shelf and then thought it was just the right height for her.

We've been going on a beautiful walks along the river in the evening, as usual.

My hair has a new secret.  It's called Aveda Institute, a national beauty school.  Today for $20 I received a luxurious haircut with a senior student (11 months into her program and 1 month away from working at a high end salon).  She even gave me a head and hand massage as part of the package!  I felt so pampered and got a great haircut.  Find a school near you!

I love this photo.  I took it while looking back at the embankment and path on the opposite side of the river.  This dad was amazing: two daughters on bikes, a kid in a jogging stroller, and he was wearing roller blades.

This dad is even more amazing, though, I think.

One more snack (oatmeal and yogurt, mmm) before bath time!

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