Friday, September 28, 2012

Giveaway winner announced!

According to's integer generator, our winner is #29, Bethany!  I totally agree with her comment. 
Bethany said...
Becca, these gloves are gorgeous! Fall is by far my favourite season--crisp mornings, warm drinks, layers & scarves (though I do miss apple-picking and colourful foliage now that I'm living in Texas!) Seeing the holiday decor displays go up in stores makes me happy, too, even though I know it's obscenely early & a marketing ploy. :) 

Bethany, please contact me to claim the gloves at {at} gmail {dot} com. 

Happy fall weekend, everyone!

Double Chocolate Walnut Biscotti

Last chance to enter my giveaway for a pair of handknit fingerless gloves! 
Enter here by leaving a comment. I'll announce the winner later today! 


Here's a little taste of Italy on your Friday morning!  Biscotti--which means "twice baked" in Italian--originated in the Italian town of Prato near Florence.   (I know this because I looked it up on Wikipedia.)  We don't see much biscotti in the bakeries way down south in Sicily, but that's okay because you can always come to the States, wake up in my mother's house, and have some with your morning coffee there instead.

Last week my mom, Aunt Leslie, and Lena made biscotti and triple-layer carrot cakes to thank the staff at the church where Julia's memorial service was held this summer and also to thank the Vienna Fire and Rescue Squad (with whom Julia ran with as an EMT) for attending the burial and memorial service.  I thought that was such a sweet way to say thank you... literally!

Here are a few photos of the process from the kitchen and then the recipe itself:

Double Chocolate Walnut Biscotti
(Recipe source The Gourmet Cookbook, originally printed in Gourmet December 1994)
Printable Recipe: Double Chocolate Biscotti
Yield: About 30 biscotti
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped (or substitute white chocolate chips!)
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a large baking sheet.
  • In a bowl whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. 
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment or in a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat together butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. 
  • Add eggs one at a time and beat until well combined. 
  • Stir in flour mixture until a stiff dough. 
  • Stir in walnuts and chocolate chips.
  • With floured hands form dough into two slightly flattened logs on the prepared baking sheet. Each log should be about 12 inches long and 2 inches wide. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. 
  • Bake 35 minutes or until slightly firm to the touch. Cool on baking sheet 5 minutes, leaving oven on.
  • On a cutting board, cut logs diagonally into 3/4-inch slices to form biscotti. Arrange cut sides down on baking sheet and bake until crisp, about 10 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.
  • Biscotti keep in airtight containers 1 week and frozen, 1 month.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Samsung vs. Apple according to Lena

What kind of phone do you have?  Lena and her Uncle Jonathan tell you which is best:

Happy news: my first guest post ever is on The Book of Love blog!  I am thrilled to be a part of Alison's beautiful Story/Book series and to be talking about one of Lena's favorite children's books.  Our friend Leslie Roe took the beautiful photos for us for it and I just love them.  (Now I see why people hire a photographer to follow them around every now and then!  Have you ever done that?  Maybe someday....)

Lastly, don't forget to enter the giveaway for a pair of fingerless gloves.  I'll announce the winner at 3pm EST tomorrow, September 28!

every day with grief and gladness

This is what every morning looks like these days.  Lena begins to rustle around in her crib around 7:30 or so.  I slip out of bed, gather her up into my arms, and plop her into my pillows in my bed.  I grab a big stack of books from the basket underneath my bedside table and snuggle under the covers with her.  Then we read books and talk about how we slept and what we're going to do today, until eventually she says, "Mmm!"

And I say, "Are you hungry?  Do you want some breakfast?"

And she says, "Mmm!  Mmmm!"

And then we change her diaper, put on clothes, I put on clothes, and we go downstairs, where she eats approximately 10 bowls of Raisin Bran (her favorite) and I sip half-caff coffee and munch on Grape Nuts and bananas (my favorite).

These are peaceful days here in my parents' house, and I am so grateful for this chance to spend extended time with family.  I have found, though, that being here at home has meant that I have begun missing Julia all over again.  Every time I come upstairs, I see her smiling at me from her high school senior portrait, glowing with fresh young beauty.  Her picture is on the wall in the entry way, above the trunk on the landing, in the photo collages in the basement.  Even now as I sit in bed writing this I can look up and see through the door into her room.  We still have barely touched her room, and I'm fine with that for now.  It's a good place to go and miss her, and cry a bit, and think about what you have lost and what will never be.

I had lunch today with my dear friend Kim.  I told her I feel angry about Julia's death, which is an emotion I really haven't felt until this visit.  I had a hard time expressing my anger to Kim because it was so wrapped up in trust in and need for God at the same time.  Kim suggested that perhaps I wasn't angry at God, I was angry along with God.  Together, God and me, we are angry.  We are angry at the presence of death in this world, we are angry that this world isn't fair and good, we are angry at the hole Julia has left in family and friends' lives.  Something clicked for me when she expressed the idea of being angry along with God (an idea which, coincidentally, she got from our mutual friend Sarah, another grieving friend in this sad world).  Does it make sense to you?  I love, believe, and need God in the midst of this aching, bleeding, angry loss.

I catch myself thinking, "If only Booie would come home and make us all laugh again!  We're so sad and serious these days!" and then I remember she can't and never will.  But then I try also to remember that she is so very happy and that we have so much to be thankful for

And I get up and face another day.  And I am thankful that each morning in this house starts so sweetly, with baby snuggles and board books, with physical presence in the momentary absence.  Until Paradise.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Elliott, winner of the Expert Field Medical Badge

Be sure to enter Making Room blog's giveaway here


photo taken by my sister Julia about two months after Elliott and I got married

Can I just take a moment and say... I'm a proud wifey right now, folks.  My husband just earned the Expert Field Medical Badge, one of the most prestigious and difficult-to-attain Army decorations.  This badge competition has a 15% percent pass rate, or an 85% fail rate.

For these past two weeks I've been on pins and needles, waiting for exactly one phone call per day from my husband.  He usually called from a rickety bunk bed, lying on his sleeping bag, and in the background I could hear the conversations and laughter of 100 men getting ready for bed around him.  One night I heard the guy below him snoring.

"Do you hear that?"
"I hear something in the background that sounds like a loud motor, I think.  What is that?"
"It's my bunk mate snoring."

To earn the badge, Elliott competed against 312 other soldiers (medics, doctors, nurses, veterinarians, techs, all medical staff in the Army in some capacity).  Together they performed emergency and trauma medical care in the field while under simulated enemy fire, disassembled and reassembled weapons, found index cards pinned to trees in forests (ie. solo land navigation) during the day and at night, walked 12 miles in under 3 hours in full combat gear (Kevlar helmet and vest + 50 lb pack), and more you can read about here.  They also had to take a written exam, and Elliott said for that test alone only 75 competitors out of 312 passed. 

But Elliott passed it all.  Despite two embarrassing days at the start of the competition when his luggage was lost in transit by Lufthansa (he walked around in a button-down and corduroys with a gun slung over his shoulder while everyone else walked around in uniforms with their guns, leading to much speculation that he was actually in the Delta Force), and despite almost continuous flu-like symptoms throughout the competition, and despite a couple of twisted ankles, he passed it all.  On Friday he was awarded a handsome badge that will be displayed prominently on his uniform every day for the rest of his Army career.

Elliott wrote his family an email yesterday describing his final miles in the ruck march and the last hour of the 2-week-long competition.  His words were so beautiful and captured the overwhelming exhaustion and relief he felt right at the end:

"After marching about eight miles in the freezing cold on Friday morning, the first light and color of sunrise started to appear over the road ahead, and I knew at that point that I could definitely make it. I wished I had had a camera because there would have been some beautiful shots of other competitors silhouetted against the bright pink and orange sky on the road ahead of me. The hardest part of the march were the hills, but without then I wouldn't have been able to enjoy such a striking view as the road dropped off into the sky ahead of me. 

"After standing around in the cold, chatting it up with all the visiting commanders and other supporters who had come out for the final moments, we finally got lined up and organized for the closing ceremony. I wish some of you could have been there, because I feel like it would have given you more insight into my life as a soldier and the military in general. It felt like one of those moving moments from a military movie.

"The ceremony was held out in the bright German morning light, on a big parade ground with a full color guard and a bunch of tanks and other armored vehicles surrounding us (the unit hosting the whole competition was the 2nd Cavalry Regiment). It was presided over by the three star general who commands the whole Army in Europe, a tall skinny guy with white hair who looked exactly like you would imagine a general should. He gave a short speech telling about his first realization of the importance of medics and Army medical personnel after he was shot and wounded by shrapnel during the first Iraq war as a young officer. Then we listened to the U.S. and German national anthems, all saluting the flags waving in the breeze, and had our names called and silver badges pinned on by the general one by one."

Even though I never pictured myself as an Army wife (more about that story another time), I have learned to appreciate this life and--cliché as it sounds--have become ridiculously proud of my soldier.  I love you, Captain Garber, Expert Field Medic and husband of mine!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Making Room's first giveaway!

Now that fall has officially begun (yay!), I thought we could kick off the season with something warm, snug, and free!  I'm giving away a pair of fingerless gloves from my Etsy shop Making Room {Handmade}.  I've sold several pairs of these gloves over the past year and everyone loves them.  I find they're great for texting, typing, driving, and wearing indoors or out.  These will make a beautiful gift for your mom, sister, best friend, girlfriend, wife... or even yourself!

Here's a description of the gloves from my shop's webpage:

"Knit from a luxurious blend of Chinese Tussah silk and extra fine merino wool, these will be a treasure for any recipient!  Eyelet and seed stitches add modern and delicate details to these lovely gloves. Across the back of the hand a contrasting color is knit into the pattern. These gloves are light enough to be worn three seasons of the year but warm enough to be cozy even on the chilliest days.

"I knit these gloves by hand in Sicily, and thus they are truly Italian made."

Size: Women's Medium

Dimensions: Approximately 7" in circumference and 8" long.

Care: Dry clean only.

How do you win the gloves?  Easy!  Just comment on this post telling me your favorite thing about fall.

For additional entries, you can:
  1. Become a Google Follower of Making Room blog and leave a comment telling me you did so
  2. Follow Making Room through Blog Lovin' and leave a comment telling me you did so
  3. Blog about the giveaway on your own blog and leave a comment with a link
  4. Tweet about this giveaway, mentioning and leave a comment telling me you did so

Winner will be announced on 9/28! GOOD LUCK!

a baby shower for a baby boy

From the moment my friend Sarah learned I was pregnant with my second baby, she wanted to throw me a baby shower.  During the course of planning the shower, I sent her a few ideas ("This invitation is cute!" or "Can I bring something Italian-themed for the food?") and she turned them into something more wonderful than I could have ever imagined.  The invitations were adorable, the food was a vibrantly fresh and deliciously cheesy Italian spread, and the cupcakes and strawberry gelato (!) were to die for.  And we did a book theme!  Children's books, friends, and Italian food... could it be more wonderful?

Sarah also planned the sweetest craft.  She printed off pages that each had one letter of the alphabet. Each guest took a page and drew an object that started with the letter on their page. They would then write the name of the object and sign their name. When we had all 26 letters, we put them into a scrapbook and I took home an ABC book for my baby boy.  I discovered we have some amazing artists in our midst (I am not one of them... my watermelon is lopsided and has purple seeds) and completely love this darling little book!

Enjoy the eye candy of a gorgeous baby shower.  I love these photographs, the memories, and the joy captured here.  Thank you, sweet friends!

Heather gave me Peek-a Who and thoroughly enjoyed it when I read it aloud to the group!  
Can you tell someone is a fabulous 1st Grade teacher?

Just in case you book lovers are curious, these are the books my guests gave my baby boy.  See any favorites of yours?  I can't wait to share them with our little bambino... and our little bambina Lena, too!
  • The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (someone was reading my blog this week)
  • Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey (make that two people!)
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon and Harold's Trip to the Sky by Crockett Johnson
  • Blue Hat, Green Hat and Doggies by Sandra Boynton
  • The Elephant's Pillow by Diana Reynolds Roome
  • Peek-a Who by Nina Laden
  • Only One Woof by James Herriot
  • Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • Go Dog Go by P.D. Eastman
  • Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss
  • Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young by Jack Prelutsky

Check back later today for Making Room's first blog giveaway!!!

Friday, September 21, 2012

have you heard of Songza?

One bummer of living overseas is you can't use any of the major streaming services, like Hulu and Spotify and Pandora and Netflix Streaming (yes, Netflix, even though you pay for a subscription and everything!).  Trust me, I've tried.  Over and over.  It's because we have an Italian IP (internet) address and these services are not yet authorized to play in certain countries.  

I guess one plus is that it does cut down on the amount of TV Elliott and I might possibly would definitely watch.  But it's just sad that we can't stream free music in this day and age.  How else is a new mama living on an island (hah) supposed to stay relevant, hip, and cool?

So when I come back to the States I indulge myself in streaming music services (and Starbucks and B&N and thrift stores and Chipotle).  My favorite streaming music site is Songza, a totally hip site that helps narrow down my radio station to my mood.  I took some screenshots to introduce you to it.

Here is what Songza looks like now, on Thursday night, while I am writing this post:

I chose "Unwind After a Long Day," because I have a toddler and it was.  Songza then said:

Because I wanted to prove to you how hip and cool I am (despite my earlier self-pitying proclamations otherwise), I chose "Atmospheric Indie."

Because I was a little frightened when I got to this page and realized I was in over my head, I chose "Dream Pop."  I like nice dreams.

And here I am, with you, looking at this page and enjoying some mellow, chill tunes.  Ahhh...!

Other reasons to love Songza:
  • Three words: No. Audio. Ads.   Move over, Pandora.
  • A "Popular" tab where you can play popular playlists from this week, this year, or that are currently trending.  For those of us who are really concerned about staying relevant.
  • The same rating system as we're all used to from other music streaming services: skip this song, thumbs up (play more like this), thumbs down, pause.
  • Search and "browse all songs" features to find what you're really looking for.
  • Apps for your iPhone, Android, and Kindle, too.
Now go check out Songza and enjoy along with me!

P.S. Songza obviously did not pay me to write this.  I am not that cool.

Vintage vinyl image via here.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Rosebasket dresses and shaving cream

You know those families that you've just known forever, the ones that are a part of childhood summers and teenage holidays and grown-up weddings, the ones that you know will be there forever into the future, too?  The Roes are like that for our family.  Aunt Leslie and Uncle Brian are some of my parents' dearest friends, we visited them every summer growing up, we went skiing in France with their son Daniel this past March, and Aunt Leslie sewed an exquisite dress that Lena wore for her baptism.

Aunt Leslie has an online business called Rosebasket in which she makes heirloom christening gowns and baby clothing.  Yesterday Aunt Leslie came over to my parents' house to take pictures of Lena modeling some of her heirloom gowns.  Doesn't Lena look charming in the first photo?!  But don't be fooled...

Other parts of the photo shoot went like this, with tears and crazy antics:

Interspersed with moments like this (there's my pretty girl... half-asleep and ready for a nap!):

And the photo shoot finished with this:

In a last-ditch attempt to get Lena to laugh for just one more dress, my mom put shaving cream all over her face and did a crazy dance.  Despite all her efforts, Lena merely looked like a bemused princess (see the best photos here).   And once the dress was off she made a beeline for my mom's face and rubbed shaving cream alllll over her little body.

The photo shoot ended as do many fun photo shoots: in the bathtub!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

classic literature for my little one(s)

Aren't they beautiful?  Can't you just smell them?  The well-loved covers and beloved pages of some of the best children's books ever written.  Ahhh... I could just stare at this photo and admire them for a good long time.  In fact, I have.

The story behind these photos is the little shopping spree I went on before meeting Eden on Capitol Hill last Saturday.  Don't get too worried, sweet husband, because my shopping spree cost me a grand total of $9.50, and that was only because I went to the wrong place and spent too much at a yard sale ($7.50) before I headed to the library sale and wised up over a stack of books that cost me $2.

Here's what I scored at the yard sale:

All those Madeline books (we already have the original) make me giddy!  As does that lovely old volume of Shel Silverstein's poetry.  I'm still looking for a good copy of The Giving Tree, my favorite Silverstein story. 

Here's what I scored at the library sale:

The Story of Ferdinand, A Coat for Anna, Blueberries for Sal, and Lena's first James Herriot book (she will have many, her dad's a veterinarian) made me do a happy dance.  These were some of my favorite books as a child!  Do you see favorites of yours in there?  I'm not familiar with all of them, but they looked good enough to snag.

Anyway, I thought the "scoring" was done and couldn't wait to box these goodies up and ship them back to Sicily via media mail.  But then I went to my brother-in-law David's popup library to benefit the return of librarians to D.C. schools.  David had collaborated with a restaurant on H Street and filled the restaurant with donated books... all for free!  I browsed the adult titles and then my eyes landed on the kids' section.  There were so so so many board books!  I couldn't believe it! 

I made this stack, staring in disbelief at all the new Eric Carle, Sandra Boynton, DK, and Dr Seuss books.  And that random, darling Melissa and Doug wooden puzzle, which Lena will undoubtedly enjoy and our little boy will undoubtedly love.  Then I turned to David and said, "Are these really free?  Should I leave some for other people?"

David said, "No!  We want to leave here with less books than we brought.  They will all be donated anyway.  Please take them all!"

And so I did.  And Lena and I have been loving them!  We've spent hours (literally) since Saturday lying on my bed reading them all, some of them over and over and over.  Her favorite yesterday was The Very Quiet Cricket; her favorite so far today is I Spy.  Just like at home, we read when she wakes up in the morning and Mama is too tired to get out of bed, we read before her morning nap, we read before her afternoon "nap," and we read before bed.  We read when we need a break or have a bad attitude.  We read when Lena needs snuggle time.  We read when Mama needs snuggle time.  We read because we love it.

I am always looking for good recommendations of good books, and now I can add "books for my kids" to that list along with "books for moi."  Which are your favorites in this post?  Or that are not in this post?  I'm currently on a hunt for books that have been awarded the Caldecott Medal... do you have any favorite winners?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

solo parenting a toddler

I feel like this post's title is a bit of a lie because I am not a solo parent.  Elliott is very much alive and well, he's just not here.  But not here for three weeks at a time is hard.  I am very ready for this separation to be over... and we've still got two weeks to go.

Lena seems to have turned a corner recently and has become so willful and sassy.  Her new thing is to shout, "No!  Nooo!" just for the fun of it, often while looking me right in the eye and declaring she will not do whatever I deem a good idea or proper behavior for a 1.5-year-old.  I'm somewhat at a loss as to how to address this.  What is proper discipline?  And what is the heart of the issue that I can address in a way she will understand?  Just to illustrate a bit, those photos above were taken after a flippin' tantrum because this little miss of mine didn't want to wait for the dough to be finished before we tasted it.  (She sure was happy and cute by the time we took the pictures, though, with a chocolate cookie dough-covered beater in her mouth!)

Also, she appears to have given up her afternoon nap.  Guys, I love her naps.  Love them.  Every day that 90 minutes or so in the morning and again in the afternoon are bliss for me.  At home I use them to clean the house, catch up on emails, write a blog post, read a book... enjoy the peace.  There is such a sense of peace in the house when you and your child have a routine and he or she settles peacefully down for a nap!

I knew this day would come, but I hoped it would take another year (!) or so.  As I write this she is in her bed for her afternoon nap, happily chatting to herself, occasionally yelling, every now and then calling "Mama!  Maaaama!  Mamamama!"  This is Day 4 of this routine.  Yesterday I left her in her crib for 1.5 hours!  At one point she was quiet ("yay, at last" I thought) and then suddenly she began crying in distress.  I raced up the stairs and found her standing in her crib holding her fingers out to me, asking me to clean them.  They were covered in thick gel, and in the other hand was an open pot of Vaseline!  She is now big enough to reach out of her crib, open a nearby drawer, and pull out the contents.  I couldn't believe it.  I rebuked her firmly, emptied the drawer, moved her crib, and left her... only to listen to another 30 minutes of babbling upstairs.  Finally, I gave up entirely and lifted my relieved little toddler out of her crib.  I had been stubborn, but that day she was stubborner.

Anyway, I guess I'm feeling the aches and pains of motherhood these days.  I miss my husband and I'm definitely feeling the effects of pregnancy combined with jet lag (yes, still... days later).  Lena's new routine of waking up by 6:15am also isn't helping things.  I need grace to mother and respond to Lena without my hubby to take over when the going gets tough (or when 5pm rolls around each day!).

And I'm also feeling my inadequacy at this whole enormous parenting task.  For all the other parents (or adult children of wise parents) who are reading this, do you have any ideas or advice?

* * *

On an entirely different note, this blog got a facelift!  What do you think?

Monday, September 17, 2012

H St Festival with Eden

As promised, here are a few iPhone photos from an awesome festival we visited over the weekend.  (Thanks for the invite, Eden!)  I loved being back on Capitol Hill most of all, for how I love the Hill!  The only thing missing was my hubby.   He would have loved reliving our newlywed memories, like walking hand-in-hand on a Saturday while exploring our favorite neighborhood in the world.  Can't wait till we're reunited here in October!
welcome to the annual H St Festival!
& hilarious t-shirt for sale

beautiful handcrafted pieces by Jette Skadhauge
& my dear brother-in-law David at a popup library he co-sponsored to inspire petition-signing to return librarians to D.C. schools (they're now optional... sad); I scored about 20 brand new and free children's books at his library!

 food & fortunes

 loved this baretender's tutu (and silver eyeliner)
& local pickles

sign of the times: hipsters by food trucks
& our free blue raspberry snow cones from Capital City Church

serious pig roast
& Eden admiring gorgeous Amani products from Kenya

 cool mirrors, happy sisters (in-law, but who cares about that part)
& woodburning with a concave glass on the hood of a car (ie., huh??)

 lemonade bicycle
& bless D.C. Water, who provided a misted tent and free H2O on a hot day
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