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Elliott’s First Book — and a Giveaway to Win Your Copy!

FullSizeRender(4) I’m so excited to share some big news with you today: my husband’s first book was just published!

Elliott has been working on this novel since before Gil was born, beginning with weekend mornings and workday evenings in Sicily when he would quietly close the bedroom door for a few hours, turn off the internet on his computer, and write. Even though it was a long, long road to get to this point — a published novel!!! — he never lost that gleam of excitement in his eye. He had a story, a good story, and he couldn’t wait to get it on paper and out into the world.

So what is the story? Cole McBride, a Special Forces veterinarian, is in the Congo doing research when he discovers a family of gorillas suffering from an unknown illness. With his beautiful South African coworker, he cares for an orphaned gorilla suffering from the illness, and then learns that a nearby aid hospital just admitted a patient with a strangely similar human case. Cole realizes he’s in a race against time to discover the virus’s origins and to stop it from spreading around the world. His journey spans the globe from Iran to Washington, D.C., and leads up to a white-knuckle 4th of July finale.

The Chimera Sequence falls squarely into the thriller category, and it is much more interesting and a lot harder to put down than most of the books I recommended last week! The book has been extremely well-received since it was released a few weeks ago: he has 44 reviews on Amazon (4.7 stars!), 32 reviews on Audible (4.2 stars), and 24 reviews on Goodreads (4.47 stars).

Yes, it’s on Audible, too, and he got an amazing narrator to read the book — just in case audio books are more your speed!

Every step along the way, Elliott has made thousands of decisions about exactly how this book should look, from each word on the page to the font to the cover design to the author photograph. And for each and every decision, he’s turned to me and asked my opinion, or asked for my help. I can’t tell you how many hundreds of times we examined another draft of the cover together before he ultimately decided to change one more thing! It was truly amazing to be by his side for all of it, to edit the first rough draft, to take his author photo for the back cover, to hold the first proof in my hands.

Bit by bit, I watched my husband craft a beautiful thing. He was a perfectionist about it, thoughtful and meticulous, and I watched his stamina and dedication with awe. Even now, when I see copies in our house, I’m amazed that he did this and it’s finished. The book is beautiful, and we’re so proud of him and of it!

The_Chimera_Sequence_Elliott_Garber copy

And now it’s your turn! Would you like to win a copy, signed by the author himself? Just comment on this post for a chance to win! If you’d like to earn extra entries, you can share this blog post (or a link to Elliott’s book) on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or another social media platform, and let me know that you did so in a comment.

Winner will be chosen next Wednesday, Sept 30, at midnight and announced the next morning. Good luck and happy reading!!!

69 :: in Uncategorized

On Becca’s Bookshelf // February Edition

Recently Updated250 Don’t you love how I stuck those wonderful children’s books in there? ;) I thought that might make some of you smile! And since they took more than 10 minutes to read aloud to my daughter, I decided to count them so that I can remember some of the sweetest things I read in 2015.

Here’s the rundown of what I read in February:

  • Burial Rights by Hannah Kent — My Australian friend Clare wrote to me, wondering if I’d heard of this novel. “It is one the best books I have read in a long time.” With a recommendation like that, I put it on hold at the library right away. And Clare was right! It is based on the true story of a young Icelandic woman who is involved in the murder of three men, and she was the last woman to be beheaded in Iceland in the early 1800s. The author first heard the story of Agnes Magnusdottir when she was a high school exchange student in Iceland, and — at the age of 28 — she published this fictionalized account. It is a breathtaking debut and has received critical acclaim around the world. I loved this window into a frozen, unknown land through Kent’s beautiful writing. — 4 stars
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White — I think Lena (who will be four next month) was still too young to appreciate the beauty and complexity of this book. However, she still enjoyed the story, and the book dazzled me. I loved the raw honesty about life and death and growing up, and the last lines brought tears to my eyes. If you need a refreshing dip back into the simpler, black-and-white world of childhood, I would highly recommend reading this book again. And if you have a mature four-year-old or older, drop everything and read this aloud with him or her! — 5 stars
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart — I picked up this book and literally couldn’t put it down until I turned the last page at 1am. Gripping and shocking and desperate and sad, but also beautiful and tender. You will enjoy it if you love New England summers, young adult fiction, and reading about the real, raw pain underneath the smooth surface of a person. Gut-wrenching, so be prepared for a hard story and incredible plot twists. — 3 stars
  • Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink Dense and intense! It is the story of one hospital during Hurricane Katrina where one doctor and two nurses (and maybe others) euthanized several very sick patients. The story is, of course, much more convoluted than that, and it is fascinating to see media, morals, and medicine collide in the smarmy wake that Katrina left behind. Make sure you’re up for 450 pages of detailed, vibrant reporting about medical ethics, disaster management, and legal quandaries. 4 stars
  • Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod — I already shared part of this book here and gave away a copy of it with the author, so you know I enjoyed it! Paris Letters isn’t for everyone, though. Janice is telling her own story, and some may find her narrative style heavy-handed and her life choices questionable, much like Lunch in Paris. Still, I was inspired that she made her dreams come true (to quit her job and travel the world) and still dreamier things followed (like her very own wedding in Paris). — 4 stars
  • Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder Better than I ever remembered. What beautiful, simple, soothing writing about a sliver of time in American history. Lena and I snuggled under blankets and traveled back in time into the cold Big Woods, where Ma churned butter and Pa played his fiddle and Laura and Mary learned about sugar snow and hog killing and harvest time.  These books are such a gift to subsequent generations, and I can’t wait to read them aloud for years with my children. — 5 stars

Have you read any of these books? Any other suggestions for this little book-loving community on this blog? You have already suggested some wonderful ones… thank you!

23 :: in good reads, On Becca’s Bookshelf, Uncategorized

My Favorite Blogs!

Recently Updated258

Recently my friend Jenn asked if I’d do a roundup of my favorite blogs, mostly because she wanted to know some of the resources that have shaped my views about marriage, parenting, and hospitality. It’s always fun to know what inspires your friends, don’t you think?

Well, I thought about it, and I realized I don’t read very many blogs that specifically address any of these things. I don’t read blogs that are faith-based, and I don’t read blogs that take themselves very seriously. However, all of the blogs I do read tend to have common themes that influence my marriage, parenting, and hospitality. Those themes are:

Life is brutal and beautiful (thank you, Glennon), your husband is your best friend, your kids deserve your respect and your adoration, and the happiest place in the world is [often] a dinner table with friends and family.

The really deep stuff — the nuts and bolts and wisdom of parenting, marriage, and opening up your home — I find in great books, wise friends, and my own husband. Probably you’d say the same? (But if you do know good blogs for these things, please share!)

So anyway, without further ado, my favorite blogs:

Motherhood is Crazy (& Wonderful)

Camp Patton, aka Grace, for her ability to make me laugh till I cry. She’s a young mom of soon-to-be five (!!!) kids and wife to a medical resident, and her life revolves around feeding her children and going to Costco in order to feed said children. She has admirable fashion sense and flair for the dramatic, and her posts are always the first I read. This is one of my favorite posts by her. Her Instagram is fun too.

Love Taza because hers was the first blog I ever read regularly and because we lived on Capitol Hill together with our baby daughters at the same time (although I didn’t find that out till after the fact…). She’s sunny and kind and loves being a mother, which is refreshing as well as inspiring. Plus it’s fun to get an inside view into a family’s life in NYC.

Kate Baer for her amazing monthly music playlists, her honest writing about motherhood and womanhood, her short and poignant posts (definitely not my strong suit!), and her pretty Instagram feed. She challenges me.

Tulips & Flightsuits because Mary is a fellow UVA grad and a military wife, and because she writes so beautifully about what is good and true in this life. She doesn’t blog often because she just had her second baby, but whatever she writes strikes a chord. Her archives of her newlywed life are so fun, too!

Glennon of Momastery because of this. And this. And THIS.

Life is Lovely

Dear Friend for the beauty in Anna’s soul that infuses her blog and pictures and clothing and home decor and life! Hers is my favorite Instagram feed, maybe because she lives in Boston. She’s getting married in June!

Reading My Tea Leaves for Erin’s focus on simple, beautiful objects and clearing out flashy clutter. She lives with her husband in a tiny apartment in NYC and just had a baby, and I really respect a lot of the choices she makes about “things.”

Tales of Me and the Husband because Bridget also has great taste and honest words. More points for Boston, too!

Accomplished Women

Modern Mrs. Darcy, aka Anne, because her tagline (“redefining the accomplished woman”) is so awesome and so broad, as is her blog. However, she focuses primarily on books, and her recommendations are spot on. She’s never led me astray in what to read, and my reading list is heavily populated by her favorites now.

A Cup of Jo because it’s like reading a smart but relevant women’s lifestyle magazine in tiny doses every day.

Putting Me Together for her budget-friendly style advice and clothing round-ups.

So Creative!

The Purl Bee because everything they make is so gorgeous and — usually — so simple. Their abundant free patterns for knitting, sewing, quilting, and embroidery make them my #1 resource for patterns and inspiration.

Camellia Fiber Company because her knitting is everything that knitting should be: warm, beautiful, homespun, and filled with love.

(I do not read one single cooking/foodie blog. Bad or good?!)

Friendly Hall of Fame

Our Beautiful Mess which belongs to our favorites, the Arthur family. Her weekly portraits of her children are a labor of love and capture their personalities so well!

Joy of Jo which belongs to my dear friend Johanna, who just started a cooking blog with delicious, homegrown recipes.

Flourish by Esther which belongs to lovely Esther, a magnificent photographer and deep, thoughtful soul.

Journeys of Jax and Oliver which belongs to my college friend Jen. She has beautifully chronicled her son’s successful recovery from scoliosis!

Jumbled Up Joy which belongs to my internet friend Joy, homeschooling mother of soon-to-be FIVE and the first person I’d want to see in Hawaii.

Live in Love and Love to Live which belongs to another internet friend, Carrie, who is raising her family in Mexico, and blogging beautifully about it, too!

Happily Married… to the Cows! Alica lives on a farm in Amish Country in Pennsylvania, and some days I want her life and some days I don’t. ;) She blogs faithfully and honestly about life on a small dairy farm.

… and more that I know I’m missing! … and there are so many friends out there that I wish would blog!

But are blogs becoming a thing of the past? Maybe…? Do you read fewer blogs than you used to? I’ve been wondering this lately.

Curious to hear your thoughts and your favorite blogs!

19 :: in Uncategorized

Hello, Coronado!


The days are zipping by at a fantastic rate, and before I know it… we will have lived in California for one month! September 7, I’m looking at you. The days have been long but this month has been short.

In an attempt to chronicle these early days, I went through a bunch of photos on my phone (including some from my Instagram), and thought I’d share the highlights with you all today. Come take a walk down memory lane…


My mom and dad arrived the same day we did, and my mom took this photo of us before one of our first walks around our neighborhood. That’s the entrance to our house; I shared a lot of photos of it here. We’re living in a beautiful little town on an island called Coronado, which is located just off the coast of San Diego. Elliott is only 1.5 miles from work, which is also in Coronado.


First things first: we bought a car! We had done a little research and knew we wanted a Honda Odyssey (MINIVAN… ack!!!) so we have room for visitors, friends, and family. As you can see, we put our money where our mouth was the very first time we drove our car. Hi, Mom and Dad!


L: Some things are the same no matter where you live, like your baby in his highchair eating yogurt. I love the simplicity and familiarity of this scene.

R: The same weekend we moved in, our friends John and Mari visited with their son. Lena pulled them around the driveway in one of the many boxes we have around here…


L: We baked cookies and took them to our neighbors which is a great way to make friends! There are a bunch of kids on our block, and we’re excited to get to know them better.

R: Later that week my mom, the kids, and I took my first trip to Target since we moved back, and my mom treated me to a macchiato and the kids to cake pops! Man oh man, those things are delish.


My mom, the kids, and I spent hours walking around Coronado and admiring houses. This one on Olive Ave might be my favorite (but its neighbor comes in a close second). That garden!


Annnnnd the car already has problems. So humbling! So frustrating! Honda said it was their fault due to an issue in the engine and fixed it for us, but the fixing took five days and a rental car.


One night in August, the Coronado Library hosted a pirate party for local families. The kids decorated pirate hats, played games, grilled hot dogs, decorated cupcakes, and danced to a pirate band. I think I officially fell in love with Coronado that night.


Speaking of the library, this happened the next morning. I arrived at 9:50, but the library didn’t open till 10. I watched in awe as a huge crowd — at least 75 people — gathered outside the doors, waiting for the stroke of 10. Obviously it’s a well-loved, beautiful resource for many, many people in this town. I’m definitely one of them; I’ve been to the library almost every day since we got here!


Little Italy Farmers’ Market and breakfast burritos. All more delicious than I could imagine.


On our first trip to the beach, we found an injured cormorant. Elliott the Veternarian-slash-Hero called Wildlife Animal Rescue and then showed them how to gently capture and carry the bird away.


Another day, another beach. This time we were invited for dinner at a friends’ oceanfront house. I love these kids!


L: Lena taking selfies to send to one of her aunts and uncles.

R: Gil in front of the “tea house,” the little studio in our house’s backyard where my dad will be staying every month. He works outside San Diego and spends a part of each month here, even though he and my mom live in Virginia. More details in this post. We’re so excited about this!


Gil fell off the couch and seemed to have a lot of pain near his shoulder, and the kids’ new pediatrician confirmed that he’d broken his collarbone. This photo was taken during the three hours (!) we spent in the clinic that morning getting x-rays and waiting for results. I blew up two gloves and tied them together as a toy, which amused the kids for exactly 10 minutes of those three hours.


L: Marmee and Grampa (Elliott’s parents) came to visit as well! We loved our peaceful week with them, and Lena was especially grateful for a constant playmate. Lena worked on this bead design with Marmee for hours and hours, and they were so proud when they finally finished it!

R: Gil gets my locked phone and somehow manages to have conversations with Siri and take pictures of it.


Elliott is embarking on a new adventure as an urban gardener. He ordered six of these planters and set them up with tomatoes, strawberries, beans, and squash. So far I’m a huge fan of how neat and clean they are on our balcony, and we’re excited to begin harvesting this fall!


L: With access to such a huge library, I’ve been going crazy reading so many books I’ve waited so long to read. This particular one wasn’t great literature, but I ate it up in a day. Here are more books I’ve read and loved lately.

R: Every Sunday evening in the summer, Coronado hosts a concert in the park. We’ve gone to every one that we can, and it’s totally heart-warming to see the whole town picnicking on blankets, dancing by the pavilion, and savoring summertime together.


Everyone is loving our new house, including our Maine Coon, Siena.


L: Playground straight out of paradise.

R: Lena continues to love puzzles, putting them together completely independently and then turning to me with glowing pride.


And lastly, I’ve started running again. After three years of living in a tiny Italian town where jogging was impossible due to narrow streets and nonexistent sidewalks, it’s so refreshing to go for a run outside. I caught this sunrise last week by the bay. Who wouldn’t want to get up for that?!


And now you know a little (or too much…) about our new life here. Thanks for sticking with me through all the photos and stories! Catch you again here later this week, I hope. ;)

19 :: in Coronado, family, life lately, moving in, Uncategorized

Living with Kids in Italy: My Guest Post on Design Mom!


Super exciting news today: our home is featured on Design Mom!!! I worked on the photos and interview for this guest post for weeks, and it was thrilling to finally see it in print!

My friend Courtney suggested I be a part of Design Mom’s Living With Kids series several months ago. I was intimidated — we are not super artistic and our home is not “design-y” — but I knew I wanted to take good pictures of our home before we moved. I emailed Gabrielle to see if she would consider me, and she immediately emailed back and said, “Let’s do this!” I did a happy dance.

But then the real work started! I had to take amazing photos of our home… but I have two little children, basic photography skills (I still can barely use the manual settings on my camera…), and a never-super-clean house. But Elliott was as excited about this as I was, so one Saturday morning he gallantly entertained the kids for hours the while I photographed our kitchen from every. possible. angle.

And then we looked at the photos and I took more photos.

And then we looked again and I took still more!


Eventually I moved on to the rest of the house, cleaning rooms during nap times and photographing them, or cleaning rooms with antsy children around my knees and begging them to stay near me so they wouldn’t get in the shot for “just another minute, and then we can play.”

It’s all worth it in the end because I love these photos. (And the 800 other ones on my laptop that didn’t make it into the guest post!) They capture so much of our home, life, and memories right now. I’ll treasure these forever.

Gabrielle also asked me some really insightful questions about how we ended up living overseas, my favorite parts about life abroad, and what it’s like to live in Sicily with kids. If you want to know more about how we’re raising our kids overseas, I think the interview is a great summary. (I know you’ve gotten a lot of parenting and living overseas talk here and here recently, though!)



Anyway, if you’ve ever wanted to see a bit more of our little yellow house in Sicily, check it out here. I hope you enjoy it!

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19 :: in guest post, home sweet home, Sicily, Uncategorized

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