One Week in Provence

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You may have remembered that I mentioned earlier in the spring that my sister and brother-in-law would be living in Geneva for the summer while she finished up her master’s degree. I’m happy, so pleased really, to report that her master’s is completely finished, which comes as a tremendous relief, I know. But, it’s also such a shame because it means she and her husband are no longer in Switzerland and I’m left moping about wondering what in the world we are going to do on the weekends now that they’re no longer here. Honestly, it’s not that bad, but saying goodbye to them a couple of weeks ago sure wasn’t pretty.

To cap off our summer together, and to truly celebrate both Courtney and Jared graduating from their master’s programs, we decided to go to Provence for a week with our parents.  The theme for the week was “relaxation” and we made sure to find an Airbnb with a big pool and lots of areas in which to lounge and nap. We liked that the location was quiet and removed from a big city center. But it was still easy to plan day trips to nearby hill towns and even the sea.

Overall it was a really, really lovely week. We read books, swam in the pool (my dad is the biggest water baby!), played Uno, cooked dinner, went out to eat, shared breakfast in the mornings on the patio, explored and relaxed. We talked about the babies and wondered aloud what it will be like when they arrive, everyone excited for two new family members with which to share all this fun and love. Thinking about that week makes me a bit weepy (not a challenge at all these days) because I love and miss my family so much. Spending such quality time with them was priceless.

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For every nice picture of Courtney and me there are always three that don’t make a whole lot of sense. Adam calls them “outtakes” but we call them “magic.”

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After a long drive from Geneva we decided we wanted our first full day to be spent at the house enjoying the amenities. We slept in and had a long breakfast on the terrace before parking it poolside for the rest of the day. We did venture out that evening for dinner at La Table d’Yves, a fancy restaurant on a vineyard that sits right next to Fayence’s famous aerodrome. You can sip a glass of wine on their beautiful covered patio and watch the gliders land. The food was delicious even if the staff were a bit stuffy.

The next day we drove about 45 minutes to Saint-Raphaël, a beachside town in between Cannes and Saint-Tropez. It was too hot to explore the old town so we spent most of our time at the family-friendly beach. There is a good stretch of public beach—and nearby Frejus has a lot of open sand as well—but we opted for an organized beach with loungers and umbrellas. The staff was very accommodating and we had one of the best beach lunches I can remember. The water was perfect for frequent dips and it proved to be a relaxing day at the beach, ending with a ferris wheel ride!

A quick note: cars proved essential for this trip. We rented them in Geneva and drove the whole way instead of taking a train there and picking up the car in Cannes or Nice. Public transportation among the small towns is unpredictable and infrequent and you’ll be limited to bigger tourist hubs if you opt for this option. I’d recommend renting a car instead and tailoring your countryside trip to include exactly what you want to see and allow for last-minute changes and additions. Just make sure you have navigation or google maps handy on your phone!

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Um, matching hats?? Yes, please!

The next day we went to Fayence, which was a ten-minute drive from our place, for their weekly market–a recommendation from our Airbnb host. We got there early not only to beat the heat but also the crowds and we all left with lots of local treasures and gifts. It’s a really sweet town and I’d recommend stopping there for a visit if you’re in the area.

We had our best meal at Le 8 and I urge you to stop there as much for the fun and gracious company of the hosts as the French food. The menu is limited to five or six dishes but they are all fantastic and the location is charming, to boot.

That afternoon we were all pooped from walking around so we relaxed–where else?–by the pool before grilling that night for dinner. In case you’re wondering, I read Among the Ten Thousand Things while we were there and really enjoyed it. A good, if slightly bleak, summer read.

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We spent a full day in Cannes and had fun trolling the old town and sipping very swanky cocktails (or, er, alcohol-free beer) at a ritzy hotel when the heat became too much. We wanted to go out on a boat this day but it was too breezy and they canceled all the trips. I’d recommend exploring Le Suquet for beautiful views of the sea and harbor and admiring the high-end shops, at least from the street. Before heading back we took a walk to check out the yachts and each picked out our favorite–maybe for Christmas this year!

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Our last full day was spent close to home. Courtney, Jared, and Dad explored a nearby hill town for lunch, while Adam, Mom, and I stayed back to read and swim. Of course, once everyone got back it was time for a little burst mode action by the pool. I need to find a way to get all the images into gifs because scrolling through them is one of my new favorite pastimes. I love the energy!

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That night we drove back to Fayence for dinner at Restaurant Le France, how typical! We had an excellent dinner here and celebrated our parent’s 35th wedding anniversary exactly one month early. It was fun to hear them talk about their wedding day and some of their favorite moments throughout their marriage. We also talked a lot about our childhood and it is so funny to hear what everyone remembers–it’s often so different from what is crystalized in your own memory. I would highly recommend this place for dinner, and snag a table outside if you can.

That was Bastille day, July 14th, and we purposely stayed close to home that day and night to avoid crowds and traffic. We woke up early the next morning to hit the road and were devastated by the news that 84 people had been killed in Nice the night before. It was heartbreaking and incredibly sobering after an idyllic week spent together. The world is a very scary and confusing place right now and it’s hard to imagine a time when we won’t be bracing for the next tragedy. It was a chilling reminder to hold your loved ones close and not take for granted all that we’ve been given.

Expecting

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While we technically found out in March that I was positively pregnant, it wasn’t confirmed at the doctor until April and this specific calendar page felt fortuitous in the most glorious way. Yes, I’m pregnant!

And after finding out (the day before we left for Copenhagen, actually) we had several weeks to imagine our life with a new little one, an approved tiny life, who would join us late in the fall. We were blissed out and nervous and eagerly anticipating our first ultrasound.

The day of that first ultrasound will forever be one of the wildest of my life. We arrived at the doctor’s office early in the morning and got right to business. As my doctor scanned my belly looking for a sign of life his brow furrowed and my heart went into overdrive. Adam squeezed my hand tighter as the doctor looked at the screen, looked at me, back at the screen, and back at me. He held up two fingers.

“What does that mean?!” I stammered. “Twins,” he calmly responded with a sly smile.

Twins. I burst into tears and Adam burst into laughter. TWINS!

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I joked that finding out we are having twins was the biggest shock of my life, but it’s really true. It took me a few weeks to wrap my head around the idea of two instead of one, and to be honest, some days I still can’t believe I’m even pregnant, but now Adam and I can’t imagine anything else and we are over the moon, thrilled beyond belief. Two little ones! Here with us!

I had a really rough first trimester, which is why this blog was so quiet beginning in April: intense nausea that lasted all day, fatigue that would wipe me out, and a general feeling of ickiness. Looking at my computer would actually make me motion sick so I spent a lot of time laying in bed, dozing on and off. I did have a huge deadline right in the middle of all this and couldn’t talk about being pregnant with my editors. I would write 100 words and take a nap and then do it again until all the pieces were finished. It was exhausting! I don’t think I’ve ever been so grateful to hand in assignments. It was a tough time, but I’m glad to be out of that phase and into the more pleasant second trimester. I’m just over halfway through the pregnancy and starting to enjoy that “glow” I’ve heard so much about : )

I’m so glad we’ve had so many family and friends here this summer to celebrate with us. It’s hard to be away from them during this extra special time, but we are welcoming more visitors (next week, even!) over the coming months and I’m glad for their support and love.

I’ve got a lot of pictures to share of our week in Provence with my family that I’ll put in the coming days, and I’ll really try to be better at updating the blog regularly. There is a lot to discuss, after all : ) Two babies!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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IMG_6715I’m calling it! Obviously, it’s pretty early for most people to be talking about taking off for a Christmas break, but I’m beat and I’m calling it. Today I am headed to the US for the next two weeks and all I can think about is spending some serious quality time with my family and friends and staying far away from the computer and internet. Isn’t it time for a break?

This has been quite the year. I know that nothing will really change come January first, but I can’t help but anticipate that new year, new me feeling. It’s always invigorating, at least for me. For now I’ll be reflecting on all we have to be thankful for this year, especially my father-in-law’s incredible, miraculous recovery. On my gratitude list you’ll also find my beautiful family, of course, my loving husband, loyal friends, good health, macaroni and cheese, warm coffee (with frothed milk!), an intriguing book, an adventurous spirit, red wine, a long summer and mild fall, my comfortable bed, cozy socks, and Skype.

Do you have exciting plans for the holidays? Will you be traveling? Staying cozy at home and receiving loved ones? I have plans to watch a million movies with my sister, catch up with my mom over coffee, play with the triplets, see all my siblings and their sweet families, attend a plaid-themed party, decorate cookies with friends, playing mystery beers with Courtney, Jared, and Adam, have a girls night or two, and eat my face off while lounging on the couch at Adam’s house. It is the best time of year.

I’ll be taking at least the next two weeks off, if not more; though I’d like to get a little recap post up here before the end of the year. I want to be able to devote as much time to all the good parts about being home, so this space will be quiet. But, my guess is between parties, shopping, cuddling, caroling, eating and drinking, you probably won’t have much time for the internet either. Thank goodness!

Wishing you and yours a lovely, magical Christmas and holiday season. Until then!

Happy Halloween!

img010I’m not exactly sure how old my sisters and I are in the photo above, but boy were we little! I think we were all some variation of that pumpkin Courtney’s in, and seriously, hasn’t every little girl been a cat at some point? (either a sweet one like above, or the sexy version we Millenials are so fond of…)

Adam and I are at a wedding this evening, but we’ll be at my parents’ house tomorrow and I’m hoping we get to entertain a few trick-or-treaters. I haven’t passed out candy since high school so this should be fun.

I hope you have a lovely and spooky weekend! Be careful with all that candy : )

 

A Job Well Done, Friday

IMG_6798It’s Christmas in July! Well, not quite, but I do love this picture of Courtney and I from this past year. So much Christmas spirit. So much sisterly love.

I can’t help but share a little of what she’s been up to this summer because she’s been on my mind every day and I’m so proud of her and her giving heart. She and her husband have been in Nairobi, Kenya for the past several weeks and will continue to live there through the end of the month. Courtney is working as a fellow at Carolina for Kibera’s Lishe Bora Mtaani Nutirion Center, working to educate and guide families through healthy and life-saving nutritional practices. Her working conditions have been less than ideal (she works directly with an undergraduate who is obsessed with R. Kelly, so) and vastly different from what she expected, but she’s been working like a champ to bring hope and experience to people in the community. I know it’s been a tough and challenging summer (to say the least), but she is awesome. Her work ethic and perseverance are such an inspiration. Courtney, we love you!

You can read more about what her day-to-day looks like here.

What are you up to this weekend? We are supposed to get some much-needed rain both Saturday and Sunday so I’m not exactly sure what we’ll be doing. Relaxing? If the sun comes out I know we’d love to get out for another hike. We shall see! For now, a few links to tide you over until Monday. Until then, I hope you are well and well rested.

A song for your weekend (this song was stuck in my head all last Friday so I thought it prudent to share with you)

A giant ball pit for adults. YES!

This article forecasting the next big earthquake that will obliterate the Pacific Northwest terrified me. #themoreyouknow

When an apology is anything but. Do you say “sorry” all the time? I’m getting better at it, but saying it has become such a reflex. On a related note, I really liked this article encouraging people to get over the way women talk. Amen.

The classiest fruit salad I’ve ever seen.

I had cacio e pepe for dinner last night (because nothing says summer like creamy, cheesy pasta), and this is a pretty accurate description of what it felt like.

A 20-minute workout: just enough to make you feel accomplished, but not enough to wipe you out for the rest of the day.

I’m reading this right now for book club as a precursor to this. Will you read it? (the second one, that is)

Adam was in London and Berlin for work this week so I spoiled myself with TV shows and movies on the sofa. I watched this the other night and liked it. It was different and a little strained at times, but overall an entertaining flick.

 

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

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adam-kristina-0278Happy (almost) Father’s Day, Dad! Thank you for your sense of humor and spontaneity. Thank you for your sense of adventure and the fact that you always told me to “go for the extra credit!” (even though it made me crazy at the time). Thank you for supporting me in my endeavors and trusting me to make good choices and learn from my mistakes when I slip up. Thank you for Skyping with me each week–I really look forward to those chats, even if you do invite everyone into your office to see me. Thank you for loving me unconditionally and teaching me how to love others in return. Thank you for your incredible generosity and inspiring me to be generous and helpful. As you say, we are blessed to be a blessing.

And Happy Father’s Day to Joe! Thank you for smoking amazing ribs and always having a fridge stocked with cold beers. Thank you for raising a son who treats me with love and respect. I’m so glad to have you in my life and have learned so much about valuing time with all the important people in my life. You are the toughest fighter I know.

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I wish I could hug these two dudes this weekend but I’m glad I’ve been able to spend so much time with them this year. I hope you get a chance to spend this upcoming weekend with some hardworking dads in your family.

 

Weekly Traditions

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IMG_4619Every Tuesday at 5:30 my friend Nicole and I meet up for beers at Barbiere. I have just come from tutoring two seven-year-olds and she has just finished a music class with her two-year-old daughter. We’re both in need of a little libation.

We usually stay for two beers (I buy the first round and she buys the second) but sometimes one of us has to bail early depending on her train schedule or my need to run to the grocery store before it closes in order to grab dinner. Our goodbyes may be harried at times, but I look forward to the conversation and tradition every week.

Last night I was talking to my dad about just such thing and he was telling me how much he’s anticipating a week-long fishing trip with his brother that’s coming up in a few weeks. Work is totally nuts for him at the moment and he likes having something to look forward to. We all need to have something that we look forward to, whether it be as simple as an hour get-together with a friend or a trip with a brother who lives across the country.

Similarly, every Wednesday morning Adam and I grab coffee and breakfast at a cafe downtown (we currently favor Adriano’s because of the outdoor seating). I usually read The International New York Times after he leaves to go to work and enjoy a leisurely morning. It’s one of my favorite parts of the week.

Sometimes I get really lonely living here. I can feel really low, especially when I’m feeling homesick or insecure. Having these moments to look forward to makes such a big difference in my day-to-day life. When my friend Nancy was still living here we made a point to get together a couple times a week, even if it was to accompany each other on errands. I’m now in a dinner club of sorts with a couple other women I’ve met through my club and we try to meet once a month and grab burgers or Lebanese food. Setting up little traditions can make all the difference in a place that doesn’t always feel like home.

What about you? Do you have any standing dates? What do you look forward to every week?