On Becca’s Bookshelf // May Edition

Recently Updated3 Well hi! It’s been a while. How’s your summer so far?

You know how when you slack off on something — writing in journal, vacuuming your floor, updating your photo album — it becomes absolutely intimidating to think of getting back to it? And catching up so it’s fresh and clean and up to date again?

But I’m back again… as I always am eventually! I love this little record of our lives in this little corner of the internet, and I love connecting with you all here. I know a lot of you see our everyday updates on Instagram and Facebook, but some of you don’t (I’m thinking of you, Nicole!). So here we go with a little update…

… and let’s start with books!

May was not a great month for reading, I guess. Elliott was gone for three weeks of May for Airborne School in Fort Benning, Georgia, and my parents were here for two weeks of that time, so the month felt more busy than usual. Here’s what I thought of these four books:

  • Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos I chose this because it was on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Minimalist Summer Reading Guide, but I was underwhelmed. It’s the story of Cornelia, lover of silver screen movies and classic literature, whose ho-hum life as a coffee shop manager turns on its head the day she meets a Cary Grant-lookalike and his young daughter. Sweet, literary, and romantic, but fell short of being enchanting. All the characters felt superlative, rather than truly human. — 3 stars
  • Sparkly Green Earrings by Melanie ShankleSo many fun quotes about motherhood in this book, such as: “There is really no better indicator you’re a mother than acquiring the ability to catch throw-up in a plastic bag, disinfect your hands, and immediately ask your friend to pass the beef jerky as you put on another Taylor Swift song and act as if nothing has happened.” But overall my takeaway was… meh. It was ok. I like the Big Mama blog (her Fashion Friday posts are a guilty pleasure), but I guess I was hoping for more substance here. I haven’t chosen to do a lot of the things she did in parenting, which maybe made it harder to relate to.  3 stars
  • The Accident by Chris Pavone Another one recommended by Modern Mrs. Darcy, this time in her 2015 Summer Reading Guide. I was excited because I loved Pavone’s first novel, The Expats, which I read in about 24 hours last September. This second novel includes some of the same characters as his first dark-side-of-the-CIA thriller; it’s page-turner about publishing a book of incriminating secrets. A little wordy, and not the tightest plot, but still hard to put down and seriously entertaining.  3 stars
  • The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande Being Mortal blew my mind in April, so I had to read the fourth Atul Gawande book, the only one I hadn’t read. This book touched on a subject near and dear to Gawande’s research and life goals: getting surgeons to use a simple procedural checklist before each surgery… all over the world. He used many engaging stories to make his point. In the end, I thought it was good, but probably the least gripping of his four books. The stories and the theme are just not as engaging. That said, however, it is a crucial topic, and I want to use more checklists in my life after reading this.  3 stars

Four books and all of them got a so-so rating of three stars! Yikes. Thankfully my June reads were much better. I’ll be posting soon with a summary of those… maybe this week if I’m lucky. ;)

8 :: in book reviews, On Becca’s Bookshelf

A Little Bit of Life Lately

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Hello again! How are you all?! It’s been quiet on my blog the past couple of weeks, thanks to a slew of sickness and Elliott being out of town and family visiting and other writing. I’m savoring nap/rest time right now where my kids have to be quiet for an hour… and where I can catch up with you, read a bit, and eat a huge bowl of strawberries and cream!

I thought I’d share a few photos from my phone to get caught up:

becca-garber-update-may-2015-1.jpg The weekend of Mother’s Day, my parents were in town after Elliott left for three weeks of Airborne School. I was so glad to have them here for a couple of weeks! We went to see my cousin Tyler in a rock climbing competition (he placed third!) and on Mother’s Day my mom and I went on an amazing historical home tour in our town.

IMG_8569 My cousin KT and her husband and daughter also came for a short visit, and the kiddos had so much fun together. We visited the San Diego Zoo…

IMG_8586 … and the beach, where Alton made a huge sand castle fortress and the kids waited like hungry vultures until they could knock it down as soon as he was done.

becca-garber-update-may-2015-2 We also spent a lot of quiet days at home and enjoying time with my mom, who is such a wonderful guest and friend and support to me, especially in this stage of young motherhood. Thank you for all your help, Mom!

We also finally harvested our first artichokes from our very thirsty, very demanding, very temperamental artichoke plant. (He seriously has a personality all of his own!) And one afternoon Lena and I cut out paper dolls from a book, which was about as much fun and as frustrating as I remembered from when I was about her age…

IMG_8650 Right after my parents left, the kids and I roadtripped up to central California for Elliott’s cousin’s wedding. Since it was a five-hour drive, we were all really bummed Elliott couldn’t be there! But the drive when surprisingly well. These two are good little travelers. We trained ’em young!

becca-garber-update-may-2015-3 Elliott’s parents flew out for the wedding, and his dad had fun showing us around the small town where he grew up. He treated us all to donuts! The kids we beside themselves with glee.

becca-garber-update-may-2015-4 The rehearsal dinner and wedding were beautiful, all in the bride’s family’s backyard. What a setting! Lena and Gil were antsy during the ceremony, but that meant we got the best seats in the house.

IMG_8694 Unfortunately, while I was standing in the hors d’oeurves line, Gil and Lena were dancing with some other kids, and then Gil suddenly stopped and threw up… all over the dance floor! I had brought another shirt, so my mother-in-law changed him while I did the Mom’s Walk of Shame and marched out onto the dance floor to wipe up the mess with a stack of baby wipes. Unfortunately, Gil had barely donned a clean shirt when he threw up again, and so I decided to cut my losses and go home.

It was a looooong night of vomit almost every hour for Gil, and I wasn’t sure what we would do the next morning. I didn’t think I could drive home by myself with him in this state! Miraculously, my mother-in-law was able to change her flight free of charge, and she offered to drive us home to San Diego and then fly out of that airport the next morning. Thank you, Mom and Dad!

It was such a gift, and definitely needed because Gil was still sick for the next four days. Thankfully he’s better now… and has moved onto a new virus. This has been the spring of sickness for us, and I am so ready for it to end!

IMG_8735 Lena was so glad to come home to her precious kittens, all of whom are growing up so quickly and continue to bring us so much joy.

IMG_8795 Elliott was still out of town and the kids were still sick and I was so tired, but Lena had been begging me to “make cheese!” with her for days. So finally we finished gathering the supplies and made homemade mozzarella. It was super easy; here’s the recipe we used. I think we kneaded it too much at the end because it is unfortunately very rubbery. We’ll do better next time! Now we just need all our tomato plants to ripen so we can make a totally homemade caprese salad.

becca-garber-update-may-2015-5 And then Elliott came home! I can’t even begin to describe how relieved and happy I was after worrying and praying over his safety for the past three weeks. He was training to become a paratrooper, and that involved two weeks of training and then one week of jumping out of a moving airplane with a parachute five separate times. But he has nothing worse to show for his trials than a few fading bruises. Here’s a video if you want to see what he did!

Lena took our picture… about 100 times, including some great outtakes, like Elliott “fixing” my hair the way he does before most photos.

IMG_8818 We have some very proud kiddos, too! Do you like the shirts Elliott got them? :)

becca-garber-update-may-2015-6 Over the weekend we did some fun things together as a family and with friends, including going to this rodeo — Gil’s first!

IMG_8902 We visited the tide pools at Sunset Cliffs (I also blogged about them here), where the kids found sea anemones and hermit crabs, and then found kelp pods to pop. I said this could be their cover of their first album, “Smashing Kelp.”

becca-garber-update-may-2015-7 On Sunday we visited North Park, where my favorite store — Pigment — has been reconfigured to accommodate an entire section where you can design your own terrarium. You can even buy a little brass watering can to go with it! Gil was all over that.

IMG_8967 On Memorial Day we visited Kensington (a cool neighborhood where we almost bought a house) for their small town parade. Fun with friends even in the rain!

IMG_8970 Yesterday the kiddos and I visited the museums in Balboa Park for “free resident Tuesday,” a perk that we take advantage of pretty frequently. We visited the underwhelming Automotive Museum, where the best thing we found was this picture for my dad, who worked for Mobil for most of his career!

IMG_8966 And I’ll leave you with these sweet kittens, who are now eight weeks old and so much fun! What have you all been up to? Happy Wednesday!

6 :: in deployment, family, husband, kittens, life lately, motherhood, visitors, wedding

My New Trick for Being On Time, Organized, and Remembering Everything (Sorta)

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Despite this beautiful Rifle Paper Co photograph, my #1 tip is not about writing things down so that you’re on time, organized, and remember everything. I’ve tried that, and it just isn’t enough for me.

I’ve given paper lists and planners a fair shot. I use this notepad regularly for groceries and to-do lists, but frequently they are forgotten. I hemmed and hawed here about getting a paper planner, but finally I just admitted to myself that it would be a passing fad and I would let it collect dust by May.

So I’ve taken to using my Google calendar more heavily than ever on my phone and computer.

AND

I have started setting alarms on my phone for myself.

All. The. Time.

Need to be at the UPS store when it opens? Set an alarm for the time you absolutely must leave.

Need to put something in the mailbox for a neighbor to pick up? Set an alarm to put it in after you know the mail will be delivered.

Need to bid on something on eBay? Set an alarm for three minutes before the bidding closes so you can slip in your surprise final bid in the last 20 seconds.

Need to call someone during the kids’ nap time? Set an alarm.

Need to go to bed by 10pm? Set an alarm.

Need to get to church on time? Set an alarm.

And so on and so forth. It works!

I’ve also been using my Google calendar alerts, and every time I put something in my calendar I will frequently add a pop-up alert for a day and hour before the event just to be sure I remember it and I’m on time.

Now, all this didn’t stop me from forgetting a doctor’s appointment last week and racing in with flushed cheeks and sweaty palms exactly 10 minutes too late (whomp whomp), but that was because I failed to check my phone and my email and look at any paper reminders beforehand. AND forgot to set an alarm.

I’m a work in progress, what can I say?! And I need all the help I can get!

Do you have any other great, new tricks for getting places on time, staying organized, and remembering absolutely everything? You know I need them.

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Thank you again to all who entered the beautiful doll and book giveaway from BB&J last week! The giveaway closed at midnight on Friday, and the winner (Heidi P.) has been emailed. Congrats, Heidi!

Anna of BB&J Handmade is offering a generous discount for Making Room readers until May 15. The code for free shipping is MAKINGROOM15. Hustle on over to her shop and pick out your favorites!

6 :: in motherhood, thoughts

Have a Wonderful Weekend!

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Went on a food tour for work yesterday! Writing for a small-town newspaper is turning out to be the best job ever.

Happy Friday, everyone! What are you up to this weekend? We’re looking forward to a visit from my cousin and her family, and my wonderful parents are also in town. So we’ll be playing tourist in our own city, as well as opening up our home, which are two of my favorite things to do!

If you’re in a reading/browsing mood, here are a few things I’ve been reading and shopping for and thinking about.

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Elliott sent me this wonderful article with the subject line, “Let’s open a bookstore!”

I just saw this movie and it was dreamy. The plot is far-fetched, but take a friend and go ooh and ahh at Blake Lively’s wardrobe.

Speaking of clothes, I’ve been on the hunt for a new swimsuit, and so far I’m coming up empty. I scored a beautiful new Anthropologie suit on eBay for a mere $30, but I was waaaaaay too tall for it. Any suggestions for a girl with a long torso? I’m looking for a one-piece or a tankini, but so far I haven’t found a tankini I like…

This amazing giveaway ends tonight! You could win! Enter now!!!

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His favorite place is IN their bed. They seem to love it.

I need another baby girl just to have some of these blankets. Love those florals!

Our book club just chose this novel for June. Love, war, and… going to war side-by-side with your husband. Can’t wait. Have you read it?

She is my favorite blogger for so many reasons.

And on the subject of blogging — when I’m not writing here, I’m working on two or more articles a week for a local newspaper. In addition to covering local news for them, I also write a weekly column called “Coronado Living” about hospitality, simplicity, and life in my town, where you’ll get more of the Becca you know from this blog. Here’s a recent one about a trip we took to the ER in the middle of the night (poor Lena!).

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Doing much better and building Magnatile cities.

For my work and for our fun, my mom and I are going on this historical homes tour on Mothers Day in Coronado. We love beautiful old homes and a hodge-podge of decorating styles, so it sounded like a fun mother-daughter activity!

What a gorgeous wedding. I’m totally in love with this local florist’s work.

I checked this cookbook out from the library and finally decided to buy a copy myself. Every recipe was so good. (Just don’t remind me that it’s springtime and not “slow cooker season”… I’m always behind the trends.)

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And that’s it for now. Happy Mothers Day to all you life-shaping, world-changing, truly amazing mommies out there!

12 :: in life lately, links I love

How Do You Get Rid of Things?

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Earlier this week, I reviewed the books I read in April. One of them was The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, a book I really enjoyed. I would like to put more of Marie Kondo’s ideas into practice, but there is one thing stopping me.

What do you do with all the stuff you want to get rid of?

Marie suggests you put it all in trash bags, but she is vague after that. What you do with perfectly good clothing mixed up with used lotions and extra shampoo and knicknacks? I kept reading her book to find out what she suggested.

But she suggested nothing. She was not concerned about the stuff she purged. After reading the entire book, my best guess is that she puts all of it in a dumpster and forgets about it.

But when I look at my pile of “no longer wanted” stuff in our garage, I can’t imagine just heaving it all into a dumpster. There’s a pair of barely used Chacos (women’s size 9, do you want them?) and three pretty vases and two boxes of books and stacks and stacks of kids’ clothing.

There are two reasons I can’t just dump all this stuff.

The first is thrift. If I go through my closet and really, truly only keep items that “bring me joy,” there are going to be a lot of perfectly good jeans and dresses and shoes that go into trash bags. And the idea of throwing them into the dumpster isn’t just wasteful, it’s also sad. I bought all of these things in the past five years or so, and some of them brand new and for full price. Am I really going to throw them all away? Or take them to Goodwill and never recoup any of my financial investment?

So I don’t. I put them in the garage, and when I have a few minutes I photograph them and try to sell them on a local online yard sale site, or on eBay, or on Craigslist. I try and I am successful about 25% of the time. I make a few dollars. Is it worth the trouble?

A penny saved is a penny earned… right?

The other reason I can’t throw things out is that I value reusing and recycling things. Almost all of my children’s clothes were already used when I acquired them. Some of them have a lot of life left, and I’d rather encourage reusing and recycling in our culture and help people who also don’t want to buy new.

But then I stop and look at a lot of the secondhand things I am attempting to resell, and I wonder if it is worth selling some of these clothes. By the time my children have worn their secondhand clothing, even the nice brands are very worn. Is it fair to sell these things and not donate them? Is it worth the time and effort?

What do you think? What do you do? How do you recoup your initial investment, and how do you just let go of things?

I would love to live in a home where we use what we own and where we love everything in our house. I enjoy living simply and thoughtfully and thriftily. But besides the really obvious point of only buying what I absolutely love and absolutely need from here on out, how do I get there?

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P.S. Don’t forget to enter our beautiful giveaway before it closes on Friday at midnight!

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