We have fallen in love with Caoba… and might never find another place quite like it! Kurt and I are food obsessed and our life has been surrounded by wonderful ingredients living in LA, London and NYC. Here in Guatemala we were literally starving for quality organic food living in Atitlan (although Shad’s Atitlan Organics is pretty special… they are just starting out and the variety isn’t there yet). Moving to Antigua and finding the farm was incredible.
At least 2 times a week we come to the farm to enjoy the atmosphere and relish in the expansiveness of the views. Iza loves seeing the animals and playing with the cracked shells which line all the walkways. And once a month is the most wonderful farmer’s market which allows for all of the suppliers in the tienda to showcase their wares. It is really a special experience with live music and delicious food.
This is the only place we grocery shop. Aside for the very rare occasion of Organica, we nearly buy everything from the shop at the main farm. They have wonderful artisanal products from local suppliers and abroad and all fresh produce grown on their farm. The coffee is exceptional as are their wine selections, honey and peanut butter.
This is literally the best place on earth.
Saturday mornings offer a great routine for Iza and Rache who head out to the farm right at open time at 8am. They walk the grounds, get a little fruit ice popsicle and then they do our weekend food shop. It is a great way to kick off the weekend.
Recently we decided to do our family photoshoot and we decided that the best place to do it was here. So, we put on our tie dye and headed to the farm. Luis Pedro Gramajo did the photography.
Thanks to the most wonderful friend and photographer Luis we got totally authentically us shots. We are so happy with the results and it was a ton of fun. Iza kind of hates getting her picture taken, so it was even more fun to see that the photoshoot was of a happy Iza.
Thank you to Bubby for the incredible DKNY tye dye dress that matched mine. It worked out so great. And to Luis for the patience and outrageous results. Perfect! And to Kurtis who I adore and who definitely only did this because it was important to me.
The reason for the shoot is more than just documentation: This shoot is part of my Bells Palsy recovery process to accept my permanent state and capture everything on camera to remember the moment. With Iza in the belly we have maybe 10 photos total from 6 months on because I was too overwhelmed every time I saw my face staring back at me. Now at 90%, it feels like the acceptance has come from a place of personal power. It was so much fun to take these shots and I see true joy in all our faces in the results. I really am so grateful to all my friends and family who have given me positive affirmation over the last 2+ years during recovery. Thank you!
From our Photographer Luis Pedro Gramajo: Un día lleno de sonrisas, amor y creatividad con esta hermosa familia, ya están listos para recibir al nuevo miebro de la familia… Los Brand son una familia muy divertida y sobre todo creativa, son fuera de lo común y estoy seguro que esta nueva vida que está siendo puesta en sus manos va a aprender disfrutar la vida cada moneto, espero que les guste…
Translated to English: A day full of smiles, good energy and love with this beautiful family, they´re ready to receive the new member of the family… The Brand’s are a really creative and fun family, I´m sure that this new life that is given to them is going to enjoy every day with them, hope you like it… ENJOY!!!
Thank goodness yesterday was a Monday… I don’t think I have ever been so happy for the start of the week to come! I was absolutely wiped out from 3 full days with a crazy, emotional toddler. My goodness emotions run high these days! I swear no two minutes are the same and the bouncing from happy to sad to happy to sleeping leaves my head spinning. But on the inside far beneath the facade of exhaustion, I am remembering and relishing in the tiny moments of each of our activities and I wanted to share our very occupied schedule.
This past Friday was a teacher’s development day, leaving a school full of kids and their parents without a place to go. Myself with a few other moms took it upon themselves to develop some level of entertainment to get through the 1st day which would have been our Friday, but then I was on my own!
Make a mess while cooking a blueberry pancake breakfast
Spend an hour cleaning up the mess after breakfast
Swimming, playground and lunch with friends (for 5 hours)
Walk around the neighborhood
Early grocery shop, sitting front and center in the cart
Jump around in the car as if it was a playground
Skype with Abuela
Farm tour and find as many things that look like circles as possible
Talk about how Iza’s doll is scared of the mouse
Play with the iPad for far too long
Play with neighbors and then go for a walk and run into more neighbors
Take a bath until fingers are wrinkly
Put together a very complicated shelving unit and hide all the screw backs from mommy
Spend 2 hours looking for the screw backs
Long walk around the neighborhood and fill the stroller up with dirt
Hug a tree
Float around the house like a butterfly (with one broken wing)
Paint a picture
Talk about how yesterday the swing backfired and hit her in the head
Reorganize toy baskets
Take a ridiculously long nap
I spent quite a bit of time researching ahead of time, so I now have a pretty long list of options for our next school closing. This was definitely a trying weekend for me with being pregnant and my poor toes on my right foot feel broken from all the running around after Iza (with the added weight of Zai), but there were wonderfully fun moments embedded into it. I relish in the simple things with this little lady. She is at a very fun age, full of discovery… I get to be apart of that discovery!
Highlights from the 3 Days:
Porta Hotel Antigua for swimming and playground with friends: This is a wonderful pool with a center section that has just about 4″ of water. Perfect for a toddler who wants to get wet, but is not a super fan of wet hair. Oh! And it’s heated. The playground is really an exceptional treat. Iza was just like a big kid playing with Maya Lily.
Farm Tour at Caoba Farms: The beautiful and serene backdrop is not a joke. We regularly walk the grounds to just enjoy the scenery and to see what is popping up next. Here are our salad greens! Iza likes to find the macadamia shells that have cracked open and pair them together.
Walking with Neighbors: We love to walk with the Mercer’s in the afternoons, but this Saturday we were fortunate to run into some of Iza’s other classmates. Adoi is in her class and believe it or not he is 6 months younger than her. The kid is absolutely adorable, and very tall. When Iza saw him she went running right up to him!
Dancing like a butterfly: Wings are essential for any little girl – so she can fly! What a fun moment to capture on camera. Iza demanded her “corte” (Spanish word for skirt) and her wings from me, but found the hat in her dress up box all on her own. Coupled with her WHO shirt, I think this kid has some serious style. Our friend Nikki makes these wings if you are interested in them!
Hug a Tree: This is an image from one of the first times we witnessed Iza hugging trees. She just ran right up to them and wrapped her cute little body all over the tree. There has to be something psychologically rewarding about hugging a natural element. Maya Lily and Noah (wonderful neighbors and friends) quickly caught onto the movement and helped to paint the perfect picture of happy children in nature.
Painting a picture: More like painting with water and a little color! This gal absolutely loves to see water mess something up. Water color paints are by far the best choice and this is a great set provided by my artist mother Jan Ruby-Crystal.
Taking a nap with Mama: While there was a kick, fight and scream leading up to this perfectly tranquil moment, it was pure heaven for me to be laying with Iza for a 2+ hour nap on Sunday. She is just so squishy and her trust implicit. I love that she is still able to just fall apart in my arms. I know soon that moment will be gone, so I am taking all I can get right now.
Finding a place to call home has never been an easy task for either of us since the world is our oyster, but we feel we are narrowing in with our search through the process of elimination. Antigua, Guatemala seems to be where we are really putting down roots. It is about 2.5 hours away from Lake Atitlan and about 45 minutes from Guatemala City. It is flanked by 3 volcanos, 1 of them still very active…. and there is a large Gringo population. We found a Montessori School for Iza and an organic farm close by. All the things that we were desperately missing at the Lake.
We have just come off a whirlwind tour of the United States in April & May, then we had an immediate 10 day stay in Mexico all to seek out what we thought might be ‘home.’
Coming back from the States we were in the hurried frame of mind that comes with the culture of America. Everyone has a very busy, task-oriented schedule with little time to play, exist or just be. Kids have the craziest schedules too with little time for invention and free play schedules. We were so exhausted by the end of it, but recognized the importance of some of the features; Whole Foods, the convenience of having a car, all of our stuff in arms reach, etc.
With our trip to Mexico, we had intended to find an immediate solution, but instead, we gained a lot of perspective on our gorgeous life in Guatemala and realized we wanted to stay. We have support here in Guatemala and that is worth the world to us in both energy and time while we are building our careers.
So here we are, new life to be in Antigua, Guatemala. Another change, another house, another chapter for The Brand Fam. It is a great place for us to be for now and we hope that now can turn into a real future. Wish us luck!
Our friends from Embark.org came last year and did a fantastic hike up Volcán Pacaya where they were able to see the shooting lava from Volcán Agua. Very cool and worth looking at!
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