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Pepins Abroad: Cinque Terre

It’s morning in Cinque Terre. Too early for any tour groups to have arrived yet but late enough that the locals are up and about soaking in the ocean air. We watch from the dock as the old man skillfully baits his hook and pulls in one fish after another, showing them to Isabella before he tosses them in his bucket. Laundry is hanging from the windows of the pastel buildings and the smell of focaccia baking floats in the air. There’s something about this place that makes time feel as if it’s standing still. I believe that if I were to have stood in that very spot 5 years ago or 20 years from now, it will smell, look, and feel exactly the same.

In the weeks before the trip, anytime I had a stressful day, my mind would wander to Cinque Terre in the Italian Riviera. We’d never been here before but we’d researched it enough to know all about it’s natural beauty and it’s slow pace of life on the edge of the ocean. It has lived up to every expectation and more. Cinque Terre is the land of lush greenery, kind people, pastel homes, roaming cats, fresh seafood, warm focaccia, and the birthplace of pesto. Need I say more?! The families that live here have lived here for centuries and the traditions and loyalty to this area runs strong. It’s so beautiful!

Cinque Terre is made up of 5 tiny towns along the ocean. You stay in one (we chose Vernazza and would choose this one again) and hop on the little train for a few minutes to get to the others. You can also hike between towns. We heard so many things about the beautiful hiking and were so excited to do that. Unfortunately this region is prone to landslides and the hiking spots we wanted to do were shut down. The one that was open and useable was the most treacherous of them all and we decided to skip it. I wanted to experience a hike but was actually thankful that we got more time in the dreamy little towns instead.

Our time in Cinque Terre has been heavenly. We’ve ordered pizza to-go and sat on the harbor to eat it, we’ve splurged on a fancy Italian meal, we’ve eaten countless gelatos and granite, picnicked on bread wine and cheese, sipped cafe lattes, watched the wild waves, played in the blue water, explored back alleys, and strolled slowly through the market. THIS is la dolce vita. It really is such a sweet life! Tonight Brett told me that he completely forgot that he has a job. Ha! There really is something about this place that sweeps you away. It’s as if nowhere else on the world exists!

Fancy dinner last night in Italy.

Pepins Abroad: Rome & Tuscany

I was a little nervous to fly alone, across the world, with a one year old. I had no idea how it was all going to turn out and was so thankful when we touched down in Rome that it was over and had gone perfectly! She slept the entire flight from San Diego to London (minus the first twenty minutes where she managed to both choke/throw up on me and also rip a very large/audible fart for all to hear before passing out asleep). That’s ok, I’ll take it! She slept half of the flight from London to Rome and spent the other half playing with me (and reaching out to touch the occasional neighbor. Thankful for nice neighbors!).
We hadn’t seen Brett in 9 days and were so anxious to meet him! I went straight to baggage check to grab our car seat and get the adventure started! Unfortunately, after waiting a long time, I used my broken Italian to attempt to speak with an employee and figure out where our car seat was… Eventually I learned that there was a huge luggage mishap in London and our car seat was (and still is) lost somewhere in the world. Bummer. But sometimes trips like these have bumps and we just had to move on and believe it will all work itself out!
The luggage fiasco took awhile and we missed the last bus in to Rome so we grabbed an (expensive) shuttle and strapped Isabella to our laps as we sped down bumpy roads and curvy freeways. It was an interesting start to the trip but we were all safe and together and so excited to get our feet on the ground in Rome.
It was after midnight when we got to our room and dropped our luggage. The normal thing to do would’ve been to get some rest and go to bed but the Pepin thing to do was to go for a walk and look for an open gelateria!! So we did.
Rome at night is absolutely incredible! The artists, the food, the romance, the glowing buildings, the shiny cobblestone streets, the warm air, and the cool sparkling water pouring from gorgeous fountains… It is quite a sight. We’ve seen all of Rome’s main attractions a couple of times and didn’t have much reason to come back this trip but we had to just to get a couple of night walks in.
After Rome we headed to the beautiful Tuscany. We chose to visit some new towns. Our first stop was in Florence. I was surprised to see McDonalds and so many other big city shops. We had only experienced the small hill towns of Tuscany before this trip and the only shops in those towns were local family owned places. We walked around, saw the David, and sampled some gelato and pasta too. We were only in Florence a few hours and then we decided to move on to our Tuscany home base, Siena.
As our bus wound through the streets and up in to Siena, I watched out the window and was quickly realizing how much I was going to love it here. By the time we got to the town’s center, I wanted to push everyone aside and rush out to to start exploring and seeing. I already knew I loved it here!
We checked in to our room and got our bags out away. It was Isabella’s first birthday that day and we couldn’t wait to get out and start exploring and celebrating! Siena was the perfect place for her birthday to land. It’s small, quaint, clean, beautiful, and overflowing with good food and kind people. We headed to the main square first. We squeezed through a small alley and stepped right in to the magic. It was as if we stepped back in time. We looked up and saw countless bats soaring high above, we looked down at the fresh dirt beneath our feet ready for the town horse races that were to take place in a few days, diners chatted and sipped wine along the outer edges, and families were relaxing and laughing together on the cobblestone center in the shadow of the ancient ringing clock tower. The sun was beginning to get lower in the sky and everything had that warm Tuscan glow. Perfection. We had arrived in perfection.
We joined the relaxing and laughing families in the center and let Isabella roam the cobblestone. It was her birthday and hands and knees can be washed! She had a blast spotting all of the pigeons and dogs and had her own little audience as she squealed and giggled her away around the square.
We decided to take a little walk around the town to see what other spots we could find. Getting out of the main squares and traveling the back streets are some of my favorite travel moments. We came across families celebrating, couples hanging laundry out the window together, and kids playing. We passed ancient orange brick walls, beautiful churches, and every now and then we’d reach the end of a street to find a stunning Tuscan wine country view. I could live there.
We made our way back towards the main square and found a tiny family owned restaurant that hand makes the pasta fresh. We decided that was a perfect birthday dinner spot for Isabella and stepped inside. I packed her a special birthday bib and we let her loose on a pile of spaghetti. We had so much fun eating, reminiscing about the day, and celebrating our sweet little lady’s life!
After dinner we made our way straight to the Gelateria for some birthday gelato! Isabella got strawberry and, on the steps of a centuries old church, in the middle of Tuscany, we sang happy birthday to her. In all of our traveling and adventuring we’ve done together she is, hands down, the best thing to happen to us. I would trade in everything else just for one day of life with her. This little girl is the best gift and we are so thankful she’s ours!!
On our last day in Tuscany we picked out a little birthday present for Isabella and stopped in Pisa to see the leaning tower before heading to the Riviera. I’ve never cared much about the leaning tower but since we were going to already be passing it we figured we may as well see it. I am SO glad we did!! I did not expect to love it so much! It leans. Like, it really really leans. There’s no way to understand the oddity and fascination of it until you see it. I was in awe. Since our first big trip, we’ve referred to moments such as these as “Big Ben moments” (because Big Ben was the first time we experienced this sensation). How am I really standing here in Italy staring at the leaning tower of Pisa?!

Isabella’s First Birthday Party!

This past weekend we celebrated this little lady’s life (a few weeks early but we’ll be out of town on her actual first birthday). We had so much fun planning her first birthday party. As I poured over all the pictures and details of her first year, it sunk in even further how incredible the last year has been. Motherhood has been nothing short of wonderful. I’ve loved every little ounce of it and it just gets sweeter all of the time!!

We had her first birthday party at the lake and spent the day eating yummy food and enjoying the cute little guest of honor. She was more in to inspecting and savoring her cake slowly at first and then she dug in! Love this little lady!!

Isabella: 11 Months

One of your new faces vvv

Baby Girl,

My oh my… 11 months. That means we’re just a few short weeks away from 12 months. One year. How?! How has this happened?! Before we had you I thought that it would feel like an eternity for you to reach a year old. Then you arrived, and time started picking up, and I dug my heels in to the ground to try and slow everything down. The excitement of every “first” was met with a sting and a reminder that you are growing up way too fast. But then this other thing started happening… you became a little person. You started to recognize us, and wanted to hug us, and kiss, and play with us, and miss us. We’ve loved each other from the beginning but your ability to clearly express your love put a whole new spin on this growing up thing! I definitely think time is still going too fast and that I had no idea a year could happen this quickly but I’m also loving every stage and ‘first’ so much. Every part of having you is just the sweetest! It may be going by fast but every second of it is utterly incredible. And now it’s time to start planning your first birthday! The invitations are out and I’m so excited to celebrate your little life.

You learned some new tricks in your eleventh month. You say Dada (all of the time). You point at pictures of Daddy and say it and when you hear the front door open you say it. We were feeling pretty sure you knew exactly who were talking about when you said it but then you started pointing at everything and saying Dada (including dogs and also the very nice black man at the store;)). You may not have “Dada” down quite as well as we thought, unless you’re saying something different all together and we just haven’t put it together yet. This month you also started clapping (you love to join in on any applause) and shake your head no (we’re not sure how this started but it cracks us up). You also learned a new face. You like to scrunch your little nose and eyes all up and breath through your nose really loudly. A few strangers have been given the gift of your new face trick when they said hi to you and it just eggs them on to give you  more attention. I wonder if you’ve figured this out;) Another face you’ve grown fond of is pushing your lips out like you’re drinking from a straw and making “ohhhh” noises over and over. Last month you started kissing (you still only do this when you feel like it and rarely ever when we ask for it) but this month you added in hugging. It has become one of my favorite things when you throw your arms around my neck, bury your head in my chest, and squeeze. It is the best! Your at 7 teeth, your hair is getting longer (and blonder), your eyes are still definitely blue, and you’ve added a few freckles to your repertoire! Almost a whole year later and I still just can’t believe your hair is so blonde and eyes are so blue! I’m so glad that they are because you truly could not get any cuter (you’re, hands down, the cutest baby I’ve ever seen!:]) but I had such dark eyes and hair when I was born so that’s what I always thought you’d have. You are so beautiful! I know we have a lot more to learn about you but we already know that you have the sweetest little heart as well. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming and that you’re really here and so amazing!

You sure have mastered this moving thing! We have to keep a very close eye on you to make sure you’re not getting yourself in any trouble. We were in the living room while you were sleeping in our bed recently and we heard the tiniest little coo noise. We thought the noise sounded weird so we went to check on you. We turned the corner to find you propped up and standing/holding on to the footboard. You were just hanging out and seeing what was going on. It was a little scary to find you that way! Now we keep a very close eye on you when you’re sleeping in our bed. Thank goodness for video monitors! Speaking of standing, you don’t stand completely on your own but you are able to stand just by leaning your belly or your back on something. You have reached the no hands stage but you definitely need some help in finding something for that little belly to lean on. You are also crawling at high speed and have figured out how things work… like cupboards. One day you were opening and closing the cupboard over and over. Then you opened it and realized the stuff inside may be more fun. Before I could catch you, you pulled on the glass punch bowl and out it came sliding and crashing on the ground. I immediately stepped straight in to the glass pile with my bare feet to scoop you up before you could get sad or touch/crawl in any of the glass. It was very scary but it was a good lesson for me to learn and keeping you safe was also worth the giant piece of glass that got stuck under my skin! You’ve also taken an interest in climbing this month. You can climb up my chest and stand on my shoulders quickly and easily if I let you. You also like to climb to the top of the couch and stand in the window to look out. Your new skills are all very impressive but all of this growing and experimenting has also been leading to some bruises and ‘owies’! I hat when I find new ones on you and half the time I have no idea where they came from but I know that they’re just signs of a healthy, growing, learning you and that you’re having a good time earning them:)

This month you expanded your pallet. You love to sneak tastes of our food! You’re beginning to love food so much that we bring you a few little things to snack on and play with when we go to a restaurant because you started to enjoy playing with our food a little too much;) Other than little sneaks of things that we’re eating (like my cinnamon oatmeal that you love) you tried hummus, avocado, and tomato too! You loved loved loved the avocado. We love avocado too so we were pretty happy about that! We’ve learned you can only really have avocado while you’re naked because it’s just so messy. Another little treat you had this month was… salt! We spilled a little salt on the table and we couldn’t clean it fast enough to get it away from you. You not only tasted the salt, you smashed your face in to the table top and licked it off!!

Some people have the impression that having babies means the adventures and going places have stop. That is not our experience at all! Everything is MORE fun with you! This month we made a zoo trip (your favorite was the pandas and donkeys. You were pretty disinterested in monkeys of a ll kinds). We took you to a Padre game where you got to wear you Jersey you got for Christmas. You also got to go to the beach and watch quite a few sunsets with dad this month while I photographed nearby. One of our trips to the beach you even met some seals! You really liked the seals. This month you also went to your first car show! I was excited for you to go to a Volkswagen show with the family because I went to a lot of those when I was little too! You’re biggest trip has yet to be taken (we’ll be in the middle of it on your first birthday!) but we did go get you your passport in preparation for it this month!! I can not wait to get your adorable little passport in the mail. How cute!

There were also a few other fun things that happened this month… like Cinco De Mayo! The holiday didn’t mean much to you but you sure looked adorable celebrating! We put you in a little senorita dress and took lots of adorable pictures. We also celebrated my first Mother’s Day with you here! It was the best. Daddy woke us up with a big homemade breakfast, you even wrote and made me cards, there were beautiful flowers, and you even got me a record player! I was so excited about the record player because I’ve always dreamt of having one to play good music the old fashioned way for my babies and to make lots of fun family memories around. Daddy remembered my dreams! I pray you someday find a guy like daddy that loves you and remembers your dreams. One of the cutest things you did this month was fall asleep in your bath! You sure must’ve been tired because you didn’t wake up for dressing or diapering or anything! This month was pretty hot. There were a lot of wildfires happening in San Diego and we decided to stay home one day to try and beat some of the heat. We tried to keep the house cool but we failed and you fell asleep sweaty and sprawled out in nothing but a diaper on the living room floor. It was too cute! We also played a little tennis this month. Momma played tennis in high school and it was so fun to see you crawling all around the court while we played. Dad’s car is broken right now so you and I have been taking him to and from work every day. It’s been a great way to get us to wake up earlier (you and I like to sleep in) but it cracks me up that every morning we lift you out of bed and put you straight in the car seat and almost every time you don’t even notice!

You are so much fun and we are having the time of our lives with you!! I know that this will all just get better and better and better but right now it’s hard to imagine life with you possibly getting any sweeter than it currently is. I love being your momma more than I ever knew was possible and I’m so glad that we were chosen to be yours and you ours because, Baby Girl, we love you so much more than you can even imagine. You are beautifully and wonderfully made inside and out. I already adore the person you are and there is so much more to you that we get to learn! I’m thankful for and cherish every day with you.

You are so loved, Momma


One of my favorite faces you make is on the right:)

Your bath really tired you out!

Wrinkly toes are a sign of a good time!

“Dada! Dada!” and climbing!

Mother’s Day… the sweetest scene.

You loved that tomato!

Your favorite friend Kona!

Beating the heat with some ice water and naked floor naps.

Isabella: 10 Months

Taking these photos is getting trickier and trickier with this little babe on the move!

You’re 10 months old! Again, I looked back in your little baby journal at the entries from the beginning of the month and couldn’t believe how much you’ve changed in these last few weeks! You’re not growing in size as quickly as you did at the beginning but you are getting so smart so fast. It blows our minds! You had a big check-up at the doctor’s and, once again, you’re “perfect”! (No surprise to us, of course).

This month you started and mastered standing up on everything! You can even switch between leaning against the coffee table and changing over to standing against the couch. It’s so fun to see you learn and explore but this also means nothing is safe from your cute little hands! I went to the kitchen and came back and found you digging in the dirt of the knocked over plants on the coffee table. If you’re not buckled in to your car seat, you will even try crawling out of your seat and around the car. We also got to hang out down on the field at Petco Park. You had an entire field to crawl and crawl and crawl on with no limits and you loved it. I set you down and you were off and zooming away! With all of this newfound independence and mobility, we decided to set up your pack and play so that you have a safe spot to play in those random moments when we have to put you down quickly and can’t keep an eye on you!

Now that the weather is getting so warm, we’ve been taking more adventures. We went on two bike rides. You love to look over and watch the wheels, but you don’t love the helmet. Those darn baby helmets fit in a weird way that pushes your head and you’re not a big fan of them. You also went in the pool for the first time since you were really little. You love to splash the water over and over! You also seem to enjoy the jacuzzi. I only let your legs sit in the hot water but it puts you to sleep every time.

Over spring break we went to Palm Springs where you practically lived in the water. You’re old enough now to realize when you’re home and not home and on our first night at the hotel you knew you weren’t home. All you wanted to do was play all night! We had so much fun relaxing together and taking it easy. The weather was perfect!

All of this sunshine and warm weather brought us to the beach more often as well. The night before my birthday we went to watch the sunset. I loved watching the sunset but I couldn’t help but to watch you more. You were so quiet, focused, and mesmerized by the colors in the sky. It made me so happy. I hope you always appreciate the beauty in nature. We already know you love animals (by how much you love Kona and wave at any dog you pass). This month you met your furst cat friends as well! You had a blast petting them, following them around, and playing with their toys. They’re so much slower than Kona and you think it’s so interesting! (This month you’re confident and strong enough to crawl all over and play tug of war with Kona! It is so much fun! I think Kona likes having an extra play buddy too). Cats weren’t your only new animal friend this month, you also made friends with a horse. We went to your first rodeo and you got to pet a horse!

I think your first word is “hi”! At first we weren’t sure if it was a coincidence or not but after you said that sing-songy “hi” and waved at enough people, we became pretty sure you knew exactly what you were communicating. You are quite the little social butterfly! You wave and say hi to almost everything… animals, babies (you love babies and kids), and even flowers! We made a trip to the nursery on a windy day for some plants for the yard. The flowers you were looking at were blowing back and forth and you started waving back at them. It was adorable!

This month I turned 27. I remember last year’s birthday, I was thinking how you would be here with us on my next birthday and I couldn’t even imagine what that was going to be like. We spent a lot of time near the ocean, with friends and family, and we also went out for a fancy dinner at Benihana. You were a little antsy at dinner. I thought you were going to be mesmerized by the chef cooking but it wasn’t until a little pile of fried rice fell in front of you, that you were totally happy. You flicked that rice everywhere, ate some, fed some to dad, and rubbed it between your fingers. You had the time of your life with that rice! Later that night, we noticed a new tooth (your 7th tooth) had popped through!! That explained the restlessness:)

You also had your first Easter this month! We took some Easter photos of you dressed up as a little bunny. It was the most adorable thing! We drew a crowd while taking the photos at the park but I guess that should be expected with a cute little naked baby bunny crawling around the grass. You also met an Easter bunny. I kind of thought it would be cute to have a crying Easter bunny photo but you were all smiles and waves. We got you a little Easter basket and so did grandma. There were lots of little goodies in there for you but you seemed most interested in the Easter grass and plastic Easter eggs. On Easter I let you have a little bite of watermelon. It’s so fun to give you tastes of new things. This month you tasted strawberry (you devoured your strawberry), some veggie and berry juice (it gave you the most adorable purple mustache), and broccoli (you loved the broccoli so much that you wanted dad to share some with you and you ate it straight from the tray of your walker. You didn’t even use your hands!).

You’re always doing the silliest things and you seem to get even funnier as you get older. Lately you’ve found your feet quite tasty. Sometimes, when we’re driving, we’ll here you slurping and sucking on your little toes in the back seat. You also started to kiss. You’re still very selective about when you feel like doing it but you definitely do it! You kissed dad and made him get a little misty. He loves you so much! You also kissed your friend, Judah! It was completely unprompted and surprised us all! One of the funniest things you’ve done took me by surprise. I was working on some emails while you were playing with toys next to me. You kept making a “mah, mah, mah” noise. After it happened a few times, I looked over at you to see what you were doing. I realized that you were blowing bubbles with your mouth!! You were so focused and serious about it! I tried to join you and realized how hard it was. I was impressed at your focus and skill. You’ve done it a few times since and every time it cracks us up.

You are so much fun and bring so much joy to our life and the lives around you! I still can’t believe that this little person we prayed for is here and that you’re so incredible. You are far better than we could’ve ever wished for.

My goodness, you are SO loved!


Spring Break in Palm Springs!!

Meeting the Easter Bunny! I kind of thought a crying picture would be a little cute but she loved the bunny and waved and smiled and laughed at him.

We gave her some broccoli from our dinner and she loved it… so much so that she wanted to share it and eat it straight from the tray!

Sprinkles and sipping juice to celebrate the last day of Spring Break!

A wedding AND meeting horse!

Playing with rice at Benihana for mom’s birthday!

First rodeo!!

Brandon + Heather | Knitted

I was so excited to meet Brandon & Heather in person. We got to chat a lot through email and I felt like I had known them for years. They have two little cuties and have walked through many seasons of marriage that have tightened their bond and made their marriage strong. They were just as sweet in person as they were online and I was so happy to give them a kid-free date night and some space to just have fun together and celebrate their love!! They texted me later that night to tell me they snuck away to get some sushi as well before going back home. My kind of people!

Herrington Family | San Diego Family Photographer

Say hello to the Herrington family! Aren’t they gorgeous?! And they’re just as sweet. Although I’m a bit partial because every person in this family is a dear friend of ours or, in some way, holds a special little place in our hearts. We’ve known the Herringtons for years. Phil is the pastor of our church and Luke was even in our wedding! I adore them and was so excited to photograph and document their growing family!