Archive | hospitality

A Pink Baby Shower for a Dear Friend

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Aww Karinne — isn’t she so cute?! Making 36 weeks pregnant look amazing!

Karinne moved to Coronado in July, and they visited our church soon after arriving. I recognized a potential friendship and jumped on it. “Hey, I saw you at church and then again on a local Coronado Facebook page! Let’s hang out!”

Pretty soon we were doing just that, and then our families were in the same Tuesday night church Bible study, and then we started our own community group in January at my house. We’ve been so grateful for these wonderful friends and the bond of faith and friendship that brought us together so quickly. They are moving to Sicily this summer (where we moved from two years ago!), and we’ll miss them so much.

IMG_0723 My friends Beth and Callie suggested we throw Karinne a baby shower to celebrate her second baby — a little girl named Adelaide — who is due at the end of this month. Hosting with these two amazing women was so much fun and so easy! I provided the space, we all shared food responsibilities, and Beth custom-ordered the most precious cupcakes.

IMG_0659 IMG_0654 becca-garber-2016-coronado-baby-shower-friend-6 IMG_0653   IMG_0661 IMG_0667 More beautiful friends! Lorina, Hilary, and Beth are all a part of our church community group. If you are in Coronado and looking for a weekly family Bible study, let me know. Our group is open!

IMG_0662 IMG_0675   becca-garber-2016-coronado-baby-shower-friend- IMG_0656 becca-garber-2016-coronado-baby-shower-friend-3 IMG_0692 A little close-up on those adorable cupcakes. Can you believe them?

IMG_0691 IMG_0679 After we ate, we played a couple of games. One was a Name Game, where our friend Lex beat everyone by writing down 26 girl names that began with every letter of the alphabet in just 46 seconds!

The second game is a version of The Price Is Right. I purchased a few baby items (small package of diapers, wipes, pacifiers, etc.) and then each person had to guess how much each item cost. It’s hilarious to see how high or low some people guess — even moms who buy these things all the time! Karinne took all the items home, which helped with some of her practical baby needs, too.

After that we had a time of prayer, which was my favorite part of the day. I had written five verses and prayer prompts on five index cards, and five women around the room prayed for Karinne, her new baby Adelaide, and this time of transition for her family. It was a peaceful, beautiful time, I think even for the guests who don’t necessarily share our faith.

becca-garber-2016-coronado-baby-shower-friend-4 And then Karinne opened presents! I love her joyful facial expressions in all of these.

becca-garber-2016-coronado-baby-shower-friend-5 IMG_0712 And last but not least, a “bump” shot of us two pregnant mamas, due just two weeks apart! If our moms don’t get here in time, will I be calling you to take care of my kids when I go to the hospital, Karinne, or will you be calling me…?

Guess we’ll find out soon! ;)

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12 :: in Coronado, friends, hospitality, new baby series

Why You Should Have Your Friends Over for Dinner

Our studio in D.C.

Our first home in D.C.

When my husband and I first got married, we lived in a 388 sq ft studio in Washington, D.C. That tiny apartment was like a bird’s nest; we were level with blooming magnolias in spring and could see the Capitol Dome out our window.

Despite having just enough room to turn around in, we made a regular habit of hosting friends for dinner. We were young and so happy, and so we opened our doors and borrowed chairs and sat on the bed and drank wine. Acquaintances turned into lifelong friends.

Looking back, those were our greatest hosting days so far in our marriage. I think part of it was innocence; we were too young to care about our Craigslist furniture and too-spicy curries. But I think the other part was time and energy – those were the days before we (and all our friends) had kids and early bedtimes. We had no one to entertain but other young couples and friends, and we had nothing but time.

When we moved to Coronado, we dreamed of having those days again. We have a deck and patio furniture and a grill, and the weather here is perfect 364 days of the year. The scene is set for entertaining. We have so much to offer now, compared to the tiny one-room studio in D.C.

And yet months have gone by, and my husband and I realized recently that we’ve hardly had any friends over to dinner. Traveling for work, bedtime with the kids, visiting extended family, and so on and so forth – all of these things have slowed our good intentions down.

Then we made some new friends in Coronado. We only hung out with them once before we received an invitation to have dinner in their home. It was a delicious meal in their simple two-bedroom apartment on Orange Ave. Our two kids and their two kids ran wild through the three rooms of the house. Our Moscow mules chilled in copper mugs on an IKEA table. Their simple, genuine hospitality warmed us through and through. Our friends continued this spontaneous, generous welcoming, giving freely of their time and food and home, never minding the kids or the space. They offered cheerfully, and we felt at home.

Since then, my husband and I have decided to try to have friends over to dinner three times a month. It’s a lot of work for many reasons, especially because, like us, most our friends have a couple kids under five. During our meal, we all spend just as much time seated as running after our children. Also I am still the kind of disorganized person who does a whole week’s cleaning in the hour before her guests arrive. So far I only have two good go-to recipes that accommodate for allergies and children and work well on the grill. We are not yet practiced hosts.

But I almost don’t want to be. Yes, I want to serve good food and strong wine and have forks and plates at everyone’s place. I want to clean the toilet before they arrive, do some tidying, and have the meal mostly ready. I want my guests to feel special, loved, welcomed.

But I don’t want them to ever feel like they are anywhere but in a home.

When I walk into a friend’s house and see her dust bunnies and dishes in the sink and pile of laundry waiting to be folded, I see a home. I feel connection, comfort, and even relief. She didn’t hide the mess before I came! She didn’t clean for me! Her kids don’t have any clean underwear either! Being welcomed into such a home is a sign of friendship these days. It’s a way of saying, “I am who I am, and I know you will see my real life and love me for it. I trust you.” I want to spend time in homes like that, to have friends like that, to fill my life with honesty like that.

I want our guests to feel that way, too. In some ways, I never want to get so good at hosting that I lose touch with that newlywed bride stirring a pot of made-up stew with her husband, taste testing from the wooden spoon, and then welcoming guests into a one-room home with no embarrassment and so much love.

So I’ll keep sending out dinner invitations. I can’t promise my guests an immaculate house, or quiet children. I can’t even promise them a wine glass, because I break them all and I drink my wine out of juice glasses now. I’m still working on finding good recipes to feed them.

But I do promise them a clean plate and a chair to sit in. I promise them a family and a home. I promise them a heart that wants them there.

Take this bread, this wine, this friendship, and stay awhile.

36 :: in Coronado, family, friends, goals, home sweet home, hospitality, marriage, San Diego, thoughts, visitors

For Everyone Stuck in the Snow :: Stay-in-Bed Stew and Biscuits Recipes

becca-garber-stay-in-bed-stew-biscuits I love all the snowy pictures in my Instagram feed this week, especially after a giant snowstorm hit the East Coast yesterday! So many bundled up children, so many snowmen, frosted trees, covered driveways, well-loved shovels, and ready-to-go sleds. I am almost jealous. ;)

I’ve been meaning to share these two recipes because they’re just too good to keep to myself. Elliott’s mom made this stew throughout his childhood, and we’d barely been married a month before I was learning the recipe myself. It’s the ultimate comfort food in our house on a cold day!

Also, as a mom and a minimalist cook, I love that the soup is a one-pot, throw-it-all-in-and-forget-about-it dish, and the biscuits are easy and fun to make with my kiddos. I have a picture to prove the biscuit-making part:

becca-garber-making-biscuits They both come running and line up like this as soon as I say the word “biscuits.” May you have as many happy memories with stay-in-bed stew and biscuits as we’ve had already!

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Stay-in-Bed Stew

 Ingredients

  • 2 lbs stew beef
  • 2 cups peas (frozen or canned is fine)
  • 2 cups sliced carrots
  • 2 chopped onions
  • 2-3 large potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 tsp salt (I often use beef bouillon instead)
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 large can (not the traditional size) tomato soup
  • 1/2 soup can filled with red wine (you can also use white wine or clear fruit juice works well too)
  • 1-2 bay leaves

Directions

  • Mix all ingredients in dutch oven.  Add water or beef broth to desired consistency. Cover.  Bake at 275-300 degrees in oven for around 5 hours or until meat is tender.
  • OR mix all the ingredients in a large pot. Cover. Simmer on the stove for 3-4 hours.

Serves 6-8, and there are usually leftovers!

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Homemade Whole Wheat Biscuits

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups whole wheat flour
  •  1.5 cups white flour
  • 6 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1-2 tbsp sugar (optional)
  • 3/4 cup shortening (I use butter)
  • 1 cup milk (I substitute Silk soymilk for the lactose intolerant, and it works perfectly)

Directions

  • Blend dry ingredients.
  • Cut in shortening/butter, preferably lightly and with a pastry cutter.
  • Add milk and mix till doughy and just blended.
  • Roll out with a little flour and cut out biscuits. You can use a water glass, but I love these biscuit cutters.
  • Bake on a greased baking sheet at 350F/180C for 10-15 min or until lightly browned and firm on top.

    Makes 12-13 biscuits

12 :: in eat this, hospitality

A Hike at Torrey Pines + Contentment & Wealth

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This week we’ve had the huge privilege of my mom and brother visiting! We had so much fun with them, and the kids especially were over the moon.

They left at 5:30 this morning, though, and I couldn’t get back to sleep, so here I am sharing some of the best photos of their visit over a hot cup of coffee.

(P.S. It’s R A I N I N G which never happens in San Diego which therefore equals extra cozy!)

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Yesterday we went to Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve, a beautiful park on the wild California coast. Even though it was blustery and about to start raining, the scenery took our breaths away. I remarked that it reminded me of our honeymoon down Highway 101, and then Gil said — for the first time ever — “Honey… moo!”

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On another note… I had a conversation with someone recently about contentment vs. striving for more. My friend said — aptly, I thought — that if you’ve got a Honda and you’re content and happy with your Honda, what does that mean about hoping to own a Lexus one day? Does that mean you never want anything more than your Honda? You have a Honda and that’s all you’ll ever want? Or are you falsely thankful… like you’re just pretending to be thankful for your Honda when you’d really like a Lexus?

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It’s a tricky question. We do want to be thankful for all God has given, but we also know He wants us to work hard and that wealth is a gift from God. There is nothing wrong with any kind of car, it’s just how we view and use these things that matters. How do we remain thankful today while working hard for tomorrow?

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One thing that has helped me and Elliott, I think, is to set life goals and discuss what our priorities are. Elliott has read various books (like this one by Dave Ramsey) and then sat me down to discuss where we want to be in five, 10, and 20 years. What are our goals as a family? What will we regret never doing in this life?

For us, our goals involve traveling and living overseas, being close to family, writing books, having a home that is welcoming to visitors, and one day having some kind of farm of our own. Our ultimate, overarching goal is to glorify and enjoy God, even if that messes up all our other plans. I’ve shared a longer and more specific list of our life and family priorities here.
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As I talked to my friend, I realized that these life goals help Elliott and me to have tunnel vision in some ways. In GOOD ways! Because we know what we want in life, it makes a lot of other decisions about what we DON’T want very easy.

For instance, our car. We needed to buy a car when we moved to California. We wanted and knew we would be getting a lot of guests, and we wanted to drive them around without always needing a rental car. So we decided to get a gently used minivan, and we chose the safest one on the market.

However, once we chose that particular minivan, we had a host of other decisions to make. Did we want a DVD player? Leather seats? A back-up camera? A built-in GPS? And on and on!

We went back and reviewed our goals. We wanted a minivan for the extra space, not for the other luxuries. We don’t want our kids to watch TV in the car. We don’t want a fancy car at this stage in our lives. It didn’t match up with our life goals and priorities. So we chose the basic minivan. And we really, really like it!

Another example is our house, which you can read more about here.

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Tunnel vision is a good thing sometimes. It helps you block out the extra noise, the flashing lights, the bling, the fun distractions that keep you from your ultimate goals and dreams. These dreams help you to budget and to plan ahead.

But they also help you to enjoy what is happening RIGHT NOW. I can sit with my visiting family in our house and praise God because of His goodness in giving us these things for which we’ve hoped and dreamed. I can thank God for the children He’s given us. I can thank God for the travel we’ve already been able to enjoy. Of course I hope for more of ALL of these things ;), but setting manageable goals for our hopes and dreams gives enormous, my-cup-overflows contentment right this very moment!

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Of course we are not perfect and get distracted all the time by all kinds of things: pretty things on blogs, authors who make millions, friends who are traveling overseas while we’re “stuck here,” and so on.

But when we come home, sit around our dinner table together, and bow our heads to pray, there is a prevailing sense of contentment. Contentment because we are living the life we want to live right now, not tomorrow or when we have a million dollars or when we retire. We have chosen these things in life AND we have been richly blessed.

And then we snuggle up together against the cold of the world and thank God for His goodness!

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9 :: in family, home sweet home, hospitality, thoughts

Friendsgiving with California Flair!

becca-garber-balboa-park-botanical-gardens-thanksgiving-2 Happy Cyber Monday!

Just kidding, that’s awful.

Did you host Thanksgiving this year, or did you spend most of the weekend enjoying family, full of turkey, and curled up on a couch in your parents’ wonderful home?

Some dear friends joined us here in San Diego for Thanksgiving, and so we hosted and celebrated with them for four wonderful days. Long-time readers of the blog will remember Lewis and Bekah from our brief life in San Antonio as well as their visit to Sicily last fall. This time they brought their beautiful baby with them, little Moira Sage, and Lena and Gil are in love with her.

Lena had this countdown going on before their arrival:

“Only four more naps till Thanksgiving! One after lunch nap, one after dinner nap, and then one after lunch nap tomorrow and one dinner nap tomorrow, and then Thanksgiving!!! And our friends will be here! Yaaaay!”

I heard her repeat a variation of this at least 10 times a day for the week leading up to Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, I dutifully lugged home stacks of Thanksgiving-related books from the library and read them all to her, explaining over and over about the Pilgrims, the Mayflower, religious freedom, and Squanto planting corn with fish.

But Thanksgiving for Lena is still all about the naps and the friends… and maybe that’s all for the best when you’re three years old. Or any age, actually.

For our Thanksgiving dinner with our friends, Elliott and I brined our 18lb turkey for the first time ever, and it was SO deliciously juicy and flavorful. I also tried a bunch of new recipes, including these Epicurious recipes for stuffing and sweet potatoes and these Style Me Pretty recipes for green bean casserole and gravy and cranberry sauce, but I shot from the hip for mashed potatoes because I’m wild and crazy like that!

The day after Thanksgiving, we headed to the beautiful gardens and art museums of Balboa Park. Being outdoors with good friends is the best way to spend Black Friday, am I right?!

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Elliott and Lewis have been friends since their undergrad days at UVA, and now they have amazing careers and wives (both named Becca/Bekah… so weird) and adorable children of their very own. AKA they have lots to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, if I do say so myself.

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This monarch butterfly had just crawled out of its chrysalis (on the right of the photo) and was exercising his new wings when we found him.

becca-garber-balboa-park-botanical-gardens-thanksgiving-13 becca-garber-balboa-park-botanical-gardens-thanksgiving-6 becca-garber-balboa-park-botanical-gardens-thanksgiving-5 becca-garber-balboa-park-botanical-gardens-thanksgiving-7 becca-garber-balboa-park-botanical-gardens-thanksgiving-14
Moira gives Gil a back massage?

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Poor Gil. Will your pants ever ever stay up?

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In an art museum next to the botanical gardens, Lena admired a painting of the Piazza Duomo in Venice, and I told her about when we visited that piazza with her as a baby.

becca-garber-balboa-park-botanical-gardens-thanksgiving-15Can you guess which child is the architect’s daughter?!

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Lewis and Bekah treated us to a delicious lunch at Panama 66 in Balboa Park. Every one of us loved their food and the idyllic outdoor setting, and I’ll be dreaming about that fancy-schmanzy tuna melt for a long time.

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On the left: “We could be royals…”

And on the right: another points-for-trying family photo shoot. How they all go these days…

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I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving with your loved ones. I am thankful for YOU!

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2 :: in friends, holidays, hospitality, San Diego

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