Archive | April, 2015

On Becca’s Bookshelf // March 2015 Edition

Recently Updated-001 Wow, I read more in March than I thought I did! Probably because Elliott was home so I was watching a lot fewer chick flicks than in February. ;) More books, less sitting around moping about how lonely I felt every evening!

Of the eight books I read in March, I had one definite favorite, and several other good reads as well, including two chapter books I read aloud to Lena:

  • Every Bitter Thing is Sweet by Sara Hagarty — I was so astonished to see this book in our local (small!) public library that I checked it out immediately. Sara graduated a few years ahead of me in college, and Elliott knew both Sara and her husband at UVA. This book is the story of her faith over the past 20 years from the time she made a decision to follow Christ, to her college years of ministry, through the rough first years of marriage, over years of trying to conceive a child, to eventually adopting four children from Africa. Her writing style isn’t for everyone (very meditative and somewhat stream-of-consciousness), but her story is very spiritually encouraging. — 4 stars
  • The Traveling Tea Shop by Belinda Jones — I bought this book from the author herself, a fellow Coronado resident, and I’m excited to go to a book event for it (as a reporter!) later this month. I knew it was chick lit and went in with low expectations, but it left me happy and satisfied. It’s full of friendship and cake and New England and redemption and a little bit of romance — what’s not to love? — 3 stars
  • Pippi Longstocking by Astrid LindgrenWho else read Pippi as a girl? I read all the Pippi books when I was about eight or nine, and she was larger than life to me. Turns out they’re perfect for reading aloud to almost-four-year-old girls! I had to modify some parts because Pippi uses words like “stupid, stupid!” and some parents might not like all her shenanigans, but overall Lena and I have laughed out loud and share an even deeper love for Pippi than ever. — 5 stars
  • The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way by Amanda RipleyFavorite book of the month! It focuses on three American high schoolers who go to Finland, Korea, and Poland in 2011 as exchange students. Their experiences and the resulting research are totally fascinating; it reads like a novel. I now have a much better understanding of what constitutes a “good school”: not electronics or money or programs or even diversity, but good teachers who believe their students can all be excellent scholars. And, simple as it is, it gave me encouragement for homeschooling, too (if we homeschool one day!), because I realized the thing kids most need to excel academically isn’t other kids or field trips or iPads in 1st Grade. What they need is high standards and excellent instructors who communicate learning well.5 stars
  • Mastering the Art of French Eating by Ann MahAnn lived in Paris for four years, but during the first year she lived in Paris alone while her husband (a U.S. diplomat) unexpectedly spent a year in Iraq. She decided to spend that lonely season exploring several regions of France and their cuisine. Good to read slowly, to appreciate the depth of research and heart that went into this memoir. You must love food and love France to enjoy it, though; she doesn’t mince words. — 3 stars
  • The Undertaking by Audrey MageeA fictional love story set during WWII. Katharina and Peter decide to marry sight unseen so that a) Peter gets honeymoon leave from the front lines and b) Katharina has a husband and benefits during the war. The story kept me riveted, but in the end my main takeaway was that it was so so sad. Both the characters and I felt so much hope, but war and people are astonishingly cruel. Nevertheless, I appreciated the window into German life in Berlin and on the Russian front during WWII. Magee’s spartan, dialogue-heavy writing style is unique, too. — 3 stars
  • We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy FowlerIntriguing first-person (fictionalized) account of a girl who was raised with a chimpanzee as her sister in an otherwise regular home. The story begins at the end, when she is making sense of her usual childhood and the years after the chimpanzee left their family. Interesting premise, but the story was too discombobulated and messy to enjoy in a deep and satisfying way. — 3 stars
  • Pinocchio by Carlo CollodiOne day I told Lena the story of the boy whose nose grew every time he told a lie, and then we decided to read the original story. We chose the full-length version, as translated from the Italian. I disliked the black-and-white morals: if you’re a bad boy, bad things happen, but if you’re good, you get your dreams. Definitely not the Disney version that leaves you with cozy, happy feelings. Three-year-old Lena enjoyed having it read aloud to her, but it wasn’t my favorite.  3 stars

And now I need to hurry up and read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn before Book Club on Tuesday night. Have you ever read it? It’s been on my “want to read” list forever, but clearly I keep procrastinating!

What did you read in March? Any favorites?

18 :: in good reads, On Becca’s Bookshelf

Here’s to Romantic Getaways to Wine Country and Mountains!


Falkner Winery

Pretty much every time Elliott and I try to leave the house, plans change at the last minute and we forget some critical piece of attire and nothing is quite as we expected… and usually we end up having a pretty good time anyway. I’m guessing most of you can relate on some level, being human and all. ;)

This past weekend is the perfect example. Elliott had been invited to speak to veterinary students at UC-Davis, and his parents were in town, and so we were planning a getaway to Davis (cool college town) and Napa (wine!) for just the two of us.

But then UC-Davis postponed the event, and we were left with a four-day weekend and nothing to do.

In true Garber style, we made no new plans until the day of, and then decided… let’s stay closer to San Diego but go away anyway!

So Elliott booked us a room for the night, we put our kids down for naps, packed our bags, hugged Elliott’s parents, and set off for wine country.


Ponte Vineyard (left) and South Coast (right)

An hour later, we drove into one of Southern California’s wine regions, located just outside Temecula, CA. The vineyards were clustered together, some within walking distance of each other, so we got to visit seven (!) while we were there. I was writing an article about them for eCoronado, so it made sense to visit as many as we could, even if we didn’t drink wine at all of them.


The tasting room at Ponte Vineyard.

For the record, our favorite was Ponte Vineyard, pictured above. The facility includes an outdoor restaurant, beautiful tasting room, and a inn (rated by TripAdvisor as the 13th best hotel in America!), and the property is surrounded by picturesque vineyards. King Family Vineyards in Crozet, VA, will forever be my favorite vineyard of all time, but Ponte might be second.

Other favorites included Falkner Winery (for the view and wines), Callaway Winery (for the restaurant and wines), and South Coast Winery Resort & Spa (for the grounds and picnic foods).


I promise Elliott is wearing pants!

Later that afternoon we checked into our “hotel” for the night, an AirBnB rental. We were renting an RV! I haven’t stayed in an RV since I was about eight years old, so this was totally fun. The RV is parked beside the owner’s ranch house, future fruit orchard, and large petting zoo with an alpaca, dwarf goat, three miniature horses, and about 100 chickens. The owner also runs her own chocolate business, and I might have been very excited about the chocolates she left in our fridge. We were very happy.

becca-garber-getaway-san-diego-temecula-wine-idyllwild-4 The next afternoon we decided to extend our stay (thank you, grandparents!) and head up to the sleepy mountain town of Idyllwild. Don’t you just love that name? Idyllwild… stay awhile…

IMG_7653 Once again, our accommodations were simple, rustic, and suited us perfectly. Also this is one of my favorite things in the world: watching my husband build us a fire!

IMG_7577 In the morning we discovered the most amazing cafe: Idyllwild Bake Shop & Brew. The atmosphere is warm and friendly, enhanced by the young proprietor sporting flannel and a big beard, and his wife making all their baked goods from scratch in the back. We bought breakfast, lunch, and afternoon coffees there!

becca-garber-getaway-san-diego-temecula-wine-idyllwild-2 Elliott was eager to go on a hike before heading home, but we had packed for wine-tasting, not serious hiking. (Can you say “last-minute planners”?!) In the end, we opted for the easiest local trail (Deer Springs) and hiked a total of 6.5 miles in the quiet, piney forest.

Elliott took this photo at the mid-point of our hike after we ate our Idyllwild Bake Shop sandwiches. This kind of tired is the best kind of tired!

becca-garber-getaway-san-diego-temecula-wine-idyllwild-1 The two days away were so refreshing to both of us. We spent a lot of time in quiet togetherness, not necessarily talking or not talking, but just abiding. Savoring peaceful unity in our time alone together.

And a big thank you again to Elliott’s amazing parents! We could never have relaxed or stayed away so long without knowing our kids were in such capable hands. We returned to them much better parents than when we left!

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38 :: in hiking, husband, marriage, pretty places, travel

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