Barcelona

Hello out there! SB and I have yet to report on our delightful vacation in Barcelona in May with two of our oldest friends in celebration of us all turning 30. So here we go. In a word, it was lovely. The city was beautiful. Our week was a nice combination of tourism and relaxation. And it was refreshing to have so much time to catch up on life and be together. It felt exciting and adventurous to meet up in a European city. Our apartment in Barri Gotic, or the Gothic neighborhood, was perfectly located, minimalist, and had plenty of room for us to spread out. We were steps from the Catedral, one of the oldest churches in the city, and the metro, which we used a few times. We walked to dinner each night, never more than five or ten minutes. Our favorite restaurant was Pla, a cozy joint just around the corner and up the alley from our building. I think  I could do a number of posts on the sites, the restaurants, and definitely the bike tour. But for now, here’s an overview.

Monday: We arrived, SB & friends from Birmingham, and me from Bahrain. In the afternoon, we explored the adjacent neighborhood, La Ribera, grabbed wine and cheese, and then walked to dinner at a local tapas place. We tried to go to bed early but were awoken by a large protest march coming down our street! Interesting to see that big of a crowd and get a taste of the political environment right off the bat.

Tuesday: We grabbed breakfast and headed straight to the Picasso Museum, only a 10 minute walk from our apartment. It was fascinating to see how Picasso’s work changed throughout his lifetime to include much more variety than the classic, famous Picasso paintings I was familiar with. We then grabbed food for a picnic and caught  the double-decker tourist bus that circles the city two different ways. We took the “blue route” that passed La Sagrada Familia and hopped off at Park Guell, a lovely green space designed by Gaudi located at a top point in the city. After some back-and-forth about where we should land our hungry selves, we found a spot on a wall with a great view. We ate our cured meats, cheese, homemade bread, and fruit for lunch and drank some wine. That night we ate at Pla. Yum.

Wednesday: Biking & wine day! We took an hour train ride out to Luverne, where our friend and biking guide Albert picked us up at the quaint train station. Five minutes later, we were in a cute garage in the hills of the Spanish country side. He adjusted our seats, we did a few practice laps up the hill, and then we set off on our bike tour. We went to 2 vineyards and loved both. This was probably my favorite day–lots of activity, tasty wine and cava, and laughter.

Thursday: We dedicated the morning to the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s famous work. We waited in line for about 30 minutes to get a ticket. Then, we had another 45 minutes to wait before entering, so we took off, intending to hit up a few more architectural gems in the area–additional Modernista sites. Thankfully we got way-laid by a little espadrille shop and spent our time in there instead. We walked out with several bags of shoes, which were inexpensive and adorable. Then, we toured the massive church, which has been under construction for over 100 years. It was packed with tourists, but it was incredible, and the architecture was completely unique. Afterward, we took the long way home, stopped off for a delightful taco lunch and wandered through some shops. After a siesta, we grabbed a snack, browsed a local market, and saw the lovely La Catedral, steps away from our apartment. We paid a few euro to go to the rooftop, which was stunning. In our efforts to take a solid selfie, we laughed till we cried. This night, we played cards on our balcony and drank the wine we had bought at one of the vineyards the day before.

Friday: Beach day! We hiked (it felt long) over to the port area, right on the water. After reserving a spot on the catamaran for a sunset cruise, we found a bike rental place and strapped our bags on the backs of our beach cruisers. We proceeded to bike a few (or more) miles down the Barcelona coast in search of a less crowded area. We were zealous in our search but ended up turning around because we found ourselves in too much a remote location for our comfort. And so that’s how we ended up slightly hangry and needing lunch. After eating at a little beach cafe, we  and plopped down on a very crowded beach to relax for a few hours afterward. Our evening catamaran adventure was relaxing and gorgeous. The Mediterranean was a perfect shade of blue, and we relaxed over a bottle of wine on the deck.

Saturday: We ate a hearty brunch, which was refreshingly American in nature. As we packed back at the apartment, we did some trouble-shooting about how to transport the nine bottles of wine home that had been purchased with cava-induced enthusiasm. And then everyone sent me off with hugs and a few tears. The other three stayed an extra night. That day, they toured the Miro museum and took it easy.

This trip felt like such a gift–there’s nothing quite like discovering a new place with people you love. In retrospect, I’m really glad we did a little planning on the front end to be sure that we saw the highlights of the city. But we all agreed to a pretty relaxed pace, which made things fun. Hasta luego, Barcelona–it was, indeed, lovely.

Turning 30 Together

Today is our collective 30th birthday! We’re happy to be together with our family, celebrating in our favorite place in the world–Cashiers. For the occasion, Mom’s been working on a letter for us and surprised us with it this morning. SB and I thought it great to share it on Idaclare because we all have grown to appreciate this space to write and honor what counts. Anyway, here it is. Thank you, Mom, for putting to words so much of your journey with the two of us. We are so lucky you’ve been our shepherd…

__________________________________________

photoMy dear Anna Kate and Sarah Beth,

June  29, 1984, the day you two were born, was long awaited with much anticipation.  It followed years of struggling with infertility, doctors visits, procedures, and medications.   At last in the late fall of 1983, we learned that I was pregnant.   I recall making a surprise visit to your dad’s office to tell him the exciting news.  He was overjoyed.  Then a few weeks later he accompanied me for the first ultrasound at the UAB office of our fertility specialist.  I was filled with anxiety and hope.   Having a dear friend who had recently learned of no heart beat during the first ultrasound, I was particularly nervous and aware of the significance of the ultrasound.  The ultrasound technician started the procedure and shortly thereafter left with no explanation, saying she would return.  My heart fell, assuming there was a problem and that she was seeking the assistance of a physician.  She returned with more than one doctor and after a short time, one of them announced there were two heart beats.  In typical fashion your dad, overjoyed, asked if they were sure there were not three!  On the other hand, I was speechless, relieved beyond words.
The pregnancy proceeded with various complications.  My excellent doctors required that I reduce my hours at the office, until gradually I was on full bed rest. My dear parents who lived two hours away were supportive through it all.  In her typical fashion of relentless love demonstrated in concrete ways, my mother made weekly treks to Birmingham to bring food, assist with grocery shopping, household chores, fluff up the nursery and instruct  me in person to stay put.  On her last visit before your birth, I vividly recall my devoted mother cleaning out a coat closet in our Forest Park home while I gave her instructions as I lounged nearby.  My nesting instincts and my desire to bring my babies home to a perfect, well organized home had set in, and my plan to make our home just right for you two was executed by my amazing mother.
Then on Friday June 29, I was swollen and barely able to hobble as your dad drove me to my weekly doctor’s visit, which was scheduled to be my last before the c section scheduled for July 2.  Dr Davis sent me straight from his office to be admitted to the hospital and said he wanted me to remain there for observation until July 2.  As far as we knew, everything was ok.  Nurses came in, monitored and all seemed well.  Your dad left the hospital around 9 that night.  Shortly thereafter one of my doctors, Mark Cohen, came in and said “how would you like to have your babies tonight rather than next week?”  (I later learned that I had developed toxemia and the cure was to deliver you).  Dr. Cohen then called your dad and told him to hightail  it back to the hospital, which he did, but stopped along the way at the neighborhood Texaco to purchase 18 mm film.   He knew this was a great day, and he was determined to document it.  So, Anna Kate, you popped out at 10:39 PM, a healthy 6 lb, 5oz.   And, Sarah Beth, you followed at 10:40 PM, a healthy 5 lb, 6 oz.  You became the joys of our lives and we experienced that all consuming love and joy that only parents know. You two, along with your wonderful brother, who arrived two and a half years later, remain to this day our absolute joys and the greatest gifts of our lives.
Having twins definitely doubles the joy!  (The needlepoint verse above hung in your nursery and now graces the Birmingham nursery for Campbell and Ellliott.)   Twinship also presented a few challenges—how best to parent without comparing, how to let you grow and excel as individuals, how to spare you the pain of inevitable comments and comparisons by others including teachers, how to react when one is ” left out,” how to cope when one excels in one area.   On and on.   Amazingly it all worked out, thanks to how you carved out your niches, held on to your identity, nurtured your special relationship with each other and your brother while still developing strong friendships with so many others.   Our philosophy, of course, to raise you not as twins but as two individuals.  We made sure you were in separate classrooms from preschool on and allowed you to participate separately or together in church and extracurricular activities.   Interestingly, as you reached the junior high years, you seemed to have an unspoken pact not to compete.  Sarah Beth carved out her  niche  as a natural dancer on the school dance teams through her junior high and high school years, while Anna Kate chose sports, participating on the school volleyball and basketball team through junior high and high school.  Both of you were there for each other for games and performances.  We stood by with pride and joy.
Then when college arrived you chose schools in Virginia, an hour away from each another, not because of a desire to be geographically close, as far as I know, but because the schools were your first choices.  But what a blessing that geographic closeness provided for you both and for us.  During those college days we watched you both grow and come into your own.  You again found time to nurture your relationship with each other and provide support to one another during hard times but blossomed with new and wonderful college friends.
In your days of courtship and marriage, I watched with some mixed feelings–joy and delight as you found the loves of your lives, and yet perhaps a tinge of sadness as you anticipated how your relationship with each other might change with married lives.  I watched you adapt quickly after marriage–that loyalty, support and closeness never wavering, along with unending efforts to be together for every life event, including of course your sweet children’s births and other times to just be together.
This year we gather, all ten of us, to celebrate your 30th birthday at “Marrywoode,” our peaceful haven in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina.  As we have anticipated this time together,  your dad and I have reflected on the joys of parenting you and the challenges, which were few by comparison. We also stand back and say to ourselves, “job well done,” as we observe your lives, your work ethic, the life partners you’ve chosen, the career paths you’ve chosen, how hard you work to remain good sisters, daughters and friends and how you take care of your families.  To watch you each mother is just a beautiful site.  The way you two live  your lives as examples to us and others brings us great satisfaction   As your dad likes to say, our children are our heroes.   Indeed our joy is boundless.

Love,

Marm

 

Meal Planning and Some Recipes

At a certain point after Elliott’s birth, we started getting into a bit of a routine and I felt like I was back on my feet. Sleeping and feeding Elliott had become manageable and more predictable. Maybe I hit my new mom stride. Anyway, at the same time, things felt a little out of control when it came to taking care of things on the home front, namely our dinner time situation.

I was sick of take out and being ravenous by the time 7 pm rolled around each day without anything helpful in the fridge. When I mentioned this to Ak, she suggested doing some meal planning. Duh. I’m not sure why this never occurred to me, but I ran with her suggestion! Ever since then, I’ve tried to plan 2-3 recipe based meals to prepare each week (baby steps, people) and grocery shop each Monday accordingly. On alternate nights, we go out or grab take out, I make a simple meal without a recipe, or we eat leftovers. On weeks when I have successfully meal planned, everything feels a little better in the house. There are fresh ingredients and constant leftovers in the fridge, and I’m not stressed about dinner at the end of each day.

I ordered this awesome meal planning notepad from Brim Papery. Check out her Etsy shop. Love her organization tools and funny cards!

meal planning 3

I’ve also been inspired by a few bloggers, newsletters and Instagram feeds:

Here are a few recipes I’ve tried recently and enjoyed…

  • Mustard Milanese + Arugula Salad from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, similar here (pictured below)
  • Best Stir Fried Chicken + “Fried” Rice with Kale and Scallions from My Father’s Daughter
  • Herb-Marinated Loin of Pork from Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics

Usually at least 2 nights a week, I go rogue and whip up something sans recipe, such as: 

  • Black Bean + Veggie Tacos
  • Simple Whole Wheat Pasta with Tomatoes, Garlic and Shaved Parmesan + Salad
  • Grilled Chicken + Cous Cous + Salad

 

Off to Barcelona!

AK and I are off to Barcelona for a week with two of our best pals. We managed to reserve a breezy looking three-bedroom apartment through AirBnb. On the itinerary for the week are museums and cathedrals galore, tapas, biking to wineries, beaches and flea markets.

Elliott will stay in Birmingham with B and Poppy. I am not at all nervous about leaving him. He will be in great hands (arguably more capable than my own!). I am a little worried about separating from E as we’ve spent almost every hour together since his birth almost 8 months ago.

In addition to exploring Barcelona, I’m really looking forward to a much needed respite… lingering over meals with both hands (and lap) free; walking around sans diaper bag and not waking up at 6 am each morning.

Back soon with a full report!

Happy Birthday, Poppy!

Happy Birthday to the most devoted dad and grandfather around. Our Poppy is so generous and loving to us, our spouses/significant others, our babies and our dogs. His commitment to our family truly knows no bounds. Here are some other tidbits some may not know about him:

  • He broke his arm while rollerblading with us when we were in elementary school.
  • He reads several newspapers each morning.
  • He has instigated a family tradition of rafting down the Chattooga River each Fourth of July.
  • He had a batting cage built in our backyard so we didn’t even have to leave the house to hit a couple buckets of balls.
  • He and Mom took dancing lessons before AK’s and my weddings. (They paid off!)
  • He already bought Elliott his first baseball glove, a vintage one, which Elliott likes to pull off the shelf.

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We love you, Dad!

PS – Dad’s essay about being a grandfather

Visiting Oman

A few weekends ago, we traveled to Muscat, the capital of Oman. Like Dubai, it’s a super-quick flight, only an hour and a half. Though still in the Gulf, it was a nice change of pace for one reason: MOUNTAINS. Oman’s mountains quite literally run right into the sea. We stayed at a hotel right on a bluff that hovers along the Indian Ocean. We enjoyed the warm ocean water, private beach, and kid’s pool. The long weekend was a great combination of sight-seeing/touristy stuff and relaxing restort-y stuff. Our favorite Muscat highlights were the souq (or market), the fish market, and the Armed Forces Museum. On the evenings, we relaxed outside– one evening by the edge of the sea and one evening at a cool rooftop bar– and then indulged in American TV and movies, which are harder to access where we live. Because we were up early, we ventured into the ocean and pool with Campbell before it got too hot. We had to lure her into the ocean–she’s not a fan of walking on sand. But the opportunity for rock-throwing got the best of her, and so we got to enjoy the warm, clear water as a family. Here are some pictures. I would love to go back to Oman–there is much more to see, especially in the way of hiking and diving.

MMD’s Summer Reading Guide

beach-readingModern Mrs. Darcy has come out with a stellar-looking summer reading guide. I encourage y’all to check it out. Several of my recent faves made the list, especially in the “Breezy Novels” category. (Including Attachments, Someday, Someday, Maybe, and Where’d You Go, Bernadette.) I’ve scoured her recommendations and added a bunch to my Amazon Wish List. Top on my list are What Alice Forgot, The Invention of WingsBel Canto (which I’ve been meaning to read for some time after falling in love with Ann Patchett’s writing), The Funeral DressThe Language of Flowers, The Little Bookstore of Stone Gapand  Wait Till Next Year. What are you planning to read this summer? We’d love to know!

 

Image via bookriot.com.