Archive | September, 2015

Life Lately… An Overdue Update!


First of all, the giveaway for a signed copy of Elliott’s first novel ends at midnight tonight! Enter by commenting on this post if you’d like to win. :)

Secondly, I have stopped looking at/posting regularly on Instagram for a while after getting back from Yosemite because I enjoyed the break so much, and I don’t like the [self-induced!] pressure of always trying to take an “Instagram-worthy” picture. Can anyone else relate to this? Anyway, I’m sure I’ll eventually post/browse regularly again, but in the meantime I wanted to bring some of the family memories back to the blog again. It’s been a while! Here are my favorite photos I found on my phone from the past month:

IMG_1312 As we often do in the evenings here, a few weeks ago we jogged to the beach to enjoy the sunset and a family picnic. Lena’s 4.5 years old now, and sometimes she amazes me by how grown up she seems!

IMG_1314 The setting sun shines down on Point Loma and a lone fisherman.

IMG_1322 The tide’s coming in, save the tractor!

IMG_1335 I hosted a pool play date at my house for my local moms club after feeling convicted that I haven’t been opening up my home much lately. Elliott and I don’t know how much longer we’ll live in Coronado, and I want more friends to come over, see my dirt, feel loved, and enjoy our home with us. Anyway, tangent aside, sooo many kids came (mine aren’t even in the pool here), and I had to get a second baby pool for the little ones, and there were snacks everywhere, and moms could only get five-second conversations in before they were interrupted again and again, but we all had so much fun. Must do this again!

IMG_1357 The kids and I went to the zoo with my friend Heather and her three boys, and at the end Heather pushed four kids in her stroller up a huge hill. Look at that front tire! I don’t know how she did it, but I was her cheering squad as I pushed one lone child in my own stroller beside her.

IMG_1373 This is a memory from a fun morning, so I thought I’d share it. I write for a local online paper, and one article I wrote recently was about a brand new breastfeeding support group in Coronado. For the first 30 minutes of the support session, no one showed up, and so I just chatted with the lactation educator and hoped she’d get some clients. And then three moms and babies walked in! We were both so happy, and I think her support group is off to a great start.

IMG_1392 Later that week, I took my family out to a restaurant (Calypso Cafe in the Coronado Cays for my local readers!) to write a food review for my job. It was a special outing, since we don’t eat out as a family very often, and we all enjoyed the delicious food by the water.

IMG_1403 Not the best picture, but Lena and I are finally twins! I’ve been wanting to get us matching Saltwater sandals for a long time, and finally a pair became available in her size on eBay to match my own favorite shoes. Now she picks both pairs out of the closet and brings mine to me before we go anywhere.

IMG_1425 It RAINED one day! I delayed nap/rest time for an hour so that the kids could enjoy the deluge outside. Mostly they enjoyed one of their favorite activities: crushing chalk just to see what it will do… because our house is where chalk comes to die.

IMG_1426 My friend Maggie invited us over to her house to watch a movie on a rainy afternoon, another novelty for many reasons. The kids looked so cute all lined up and snuggling!

becca-garber-life-update The first photo is from a run I took a couple of weeks ago with my friend Annelie. I haven’t run more than four miles in a long time, so this was a historic day! Next I’ll work on my pace (haha)… but Annelie and I talk too much during our weekly runs to go much faster! I love that the map shows we ran around the island of Coronado (the whole western half is a military base), something I’ve wanted to do since I moved here.

The second photo is of another fun trip to the zoo with friends! Lena is always happiest when climbing the highest thing in sight, and Gil is always happiest with a bag of snacks in hand.

IMG_1459 We spent a Saturday at the beach! I got a little reading in before some of our friends arrived, and we spent the rest of the morning playing in the sand and surf. I actually swam in the ocean that day because it was so warm, something I’ve never done before in Coronado! The beaches here bring currents of water down from Alaska, meaning the water is bone-chillingly cold most of the year.

IMG_1462 IMG_1465 Auntie Jess came to visit for a few days! We took her out to one of our favorite restaurants in Balboa Park, Panama 66. Their tuna melt and cheese board are to die for…

IMG_1472 Elliott played hooky from work for a couple of hours so we could go hiking at Torrey Pines, one of our favorite urban hiking spots near our house.

IMG_1477 On another night, I took Elliott and Jess out to dinner for San Diego Restaurant Week, as I was reviewing their menu for another article. I loved all the seafood, but that key lime pie for dessert is what I’m dreaming about now…

IMG_1476 We took a picture of the receipt showing the 100% discount for being a “media/travel writer!” Dreams really do come true.

IMG_1495 Lena walked out of rest time in her bedroom one afternoon covered head to toe with marker ink. I tried so hard not to laugh out loud and almost succeeded. The end of her rest time that day turned into a solo bubble bath!

IMG_1507 Lena and Gil are taking classes this fall at our community center, and Lena is taking a STEAM class (science, technology, engineering, art, and math). She came home and told me about the vinegar and baking soda they mixed in a bowl, and that reminded me of a science experiment I did in elementary school with my mom. We made a volcano out of play doh and then watched it erupt!

IMG_1514 This is all Gil wants to do for several hours every day: “my wanta paint.” (“My” is his word for me, I, and myself these days.) His favorite part is taking the tops off and lining up all the bottles, but he does enjoy painting every now and then too…

IMG_1525 One last delicious food item because I couldn’t resist! This is from Saturday night, when Elliott and I reviewed a local European cafe and then walked across Coronado to a little community theater to review the play Thoroughly Modern Millie. I love this writing/reviewing work so much, and Elliott is also enjoying the upgrade to our dating life. ;)

What have you been up to in September? I hope wherever you are that a pumpkin spice latte sounds perfectly seasonal and amazing. I am waiting for that day to come to San Diego, but it’s the hottest time of the year here… so I’ll keep dreaming.

And that’s all for now!  Oh, except… go here to enter the giveaway if you haven’t yet!

10 :: in Coronado, family, Gil, home sweet home, Lena, life lately, memories, San Diego

On Becca’s Bookshelf // August 2015 Edition

Recently Updated6

I thought I’d continue the theme of books on this fine Friday morning — what do you think? Our book giveaway is going strong, and here are some more book recommendations for your weekend! I have another post up my sleeve for next week, though, which is a smattering of pictures about our family these past few weeks, since I haven’t shared a personal update for a while.

In the meantime, here’s what I read in August!

  • The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin I knew nothing about the Lindberghs other than Charles L. looked very handsome in that b&w photo after he flew across the Atlantic for the first time. This book was an amazing window inside a strong and influential woman in U.S. history, and was written in such a way that I didn’t want to put it down despite its length. I had no idea of the unlikely alliance of the Lindberghs’ marriage, the kidnapping of their infant son, Anne Morrow’s slow steeling over time, and her independent author’s life in the sunset of their marriage. Historical fiction at its finest. Definitely recommend.  4 stars
  • The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder by Charles Graeber Over 16 years in 9 different hospitals, Nurse Charles Cullen intentionally killed approximately 400 patients with drug overdoses. His motive? The book explores that as well as the timeline of the murders and the investigation. It’s well-written but poorly edited, and the subject is definitely more interesting to me since I was an ICU nurse like Charles was… meaning that I think most people would find it too long and somewhat tedious.  2 stars
  • The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan — This is a hefty tome entirely written for women who are obsessed with Will and Kate and all things British royalty. (I am the wrong person to read this book because I’ve forgotten Will and Kate’s children’s names, but even still, I really enjoyed this novel!) It’s is the first-person account of Becca, an American college student who spends a term at Oxford and lives in the same hall as Nick, the prince and heir apparent to the throne of England. The two fall helplessly in love, despite the fact that they can never get married — or can they? And what will the royal family say when they find out? It was fun, irreverent, and satisfying. Warning: it would be rated R if it was a movie, so don’t read it if you wouldn’t watch it! — 3 stars
  • Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine BrooksThis is my first Geraldine Brooks novel, and I found it to be magnificent in its scope and background research, a truly masterfully written novel. It’s not for the faint of heart or stomach because she spares little detail or mercy in describing the horrible suffering the plague victims endured, both socially and emotionally as well as physically. I was surprised and vaguely disappointed by the last 1/5 of the book, but I suppose that is the author’s choice. I though it was an abrupt departure from the direction the rest of the novel had taken. Either way — now I want to read her other two novels! — 4 stars
  • I Know How She Does ItHow Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time by Laura Vanderkam — This is a non-fiction book that I picked for my book club to read, and I’ll just say that in some small ways it has changed my life. The author researched the lives of working mothers who make over $100k per year by having them fill out a weeklong time log showing how they spent their time in 30-minute increments. How do they handle dinner, babies, childcare, and house cleaning? It was fascinating. The book was heavy on the data in the first half (about work), but it was easier to appreciate her wisdom and find it applicable in the second half (about time management and self care). I only work part time, though, not full time, and so I am sure moms would find it more relevant who work 30+ hours a week. Now I’m tracking every 1/2 hour of my week, just to see how I spend my time (ie. how I do it), and it’s already interesting and making me rethink my time management. — 4 stars
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee — I read this only because Elliott was horrified to see that I’d checked Go Set a Watchman out of the library and wasn’t going to re-read TKAM again first. Apparently we’d agreed to do this and I had totally forgotten, but anyway — I went ahead and read TKAM again. Let me just say that the novel reads very differently when you are an adult who has experienced pain and suffering and life and death vs. a kid in 9th Grade who has just begun to feel. I laughed out loud, predictably teared up, and felt breathless when I closed the novel on the last page. What a magnificent book! After that, I felt like I’d experienced the greatest American novel, and I wasn’t going to ruin it or my opinion of Harper Lee by reading the discarded first draft of TKAM (Go Set a Watchman). Read it (again)! You won’t regret it! — 5 SPARKLING GOLD STARS

What’s on your bedside table right now? I am finishing this convicting memoir about putting down my phone and focusing on my children, and I just got this book at the library tonight to prepare for an upcoming trip to San Francisco! What have you read lately that you recommend?

8 :: in book reviews, good reads

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 // July 2015 Edition

Recently Updated5 I haven’t done one of these in a while! Did you guys get to read a lot this summer? Sometimes I find that I have less time in the looser, less-scheduled days of summer… and sometimes I have more! July was a good month because we spent two weeks of it back in Virginia with family — and lots of aunts and uncles and grandparents played with our kids while I got to read. ;)

  • Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp Took me 13 months to finish it, but I finally did! In the end, the book challenged and inspired me in my relationship with my children and my attitude toward training up a child in the way he should go. I deeply appreciate that the author’s main message is, “In the final analysis, you must entrust your children to God… the God who has dealt so graciously with you.” Amen to that.  4 stars
  • Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan Such a sweet, heartwarming book! I couldn’t put it down. It’s a lighthearted British novel about a young woman who moves to a little Cornish town to get a fresh start in life, and in her newfound loneliness and spare time, she starts baking bread. Her delicious loaves win her a place in the heart of the town. Polly’s baking, kindness, and determination for a fresh, simple start in life made for a wonderful read.  4 stars
  • American Wife by Taya Kyle I originally decided to read this because the Naval Special Warfare (aka SEALs) wives were reading it for book club, but in the end I’m glad I read it for other reasons, too. It is a sad story of a marriage that went through extremes ups and downs with deployment and the demands of NSW life, but then achieved a level of peace and camaraderie — right before Chris Kyle (of the movie American Sniper) was killed in a tragic shooting. Taya writes about the year afterwards and how she coped, grieved, and matured. I think it is a stunning look into the heart of grief, and it is handled with grace, honesty, and faith. — 3 stars
  • Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin Once again, Gretchen approaches finding joy in her life with a thoughtful and devoted year of goal-setting, goal-adjusting, and goal-achieving. I enjoyed it, just as I did The Happiness Project, but once again it grew tedious at times. Maybe I just feel like her ultimate purpose (to be happy) felt temporal, and so it’s hard to get totally on board. Overall a worthwhile read, and very inspiring about setting goals and accomplishing them.  3 stars
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury — This is a quick read that — although written in the 1950s — was amazingly insightful for its time. Sadly for us, the author’s predictions about our addiction to screens and disregard of history (the wisdom inside of books) become more and more accurate every year. Compelling and masterfully written. I’m so glad I finally read this one.  4 stars
  • An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott I’ve loved this book since I was a girl, and I’ve enjoyed coming back to it over the years. It’s the story of country-girl Polly (another Polly!) and her interactions with a city-bred family, showing the ways her values of honesty, mercy, and compassion win out in the end. Always a sweet reminder of remaining true to yourself and good, if old-fashioned, morals. It usually pays off!  4 stars
  • The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Timothy Keller Every Christian should read this… probably every week. Such a good reminder to find our true value in Christ’s finished work on the cross, rather than in our own self-fulfillment and self-worth. And because it’s only a very slim 45 pages, it takes just an hour to read!  5 stars
  • Why Christian Kids Need a Christian Education by Douglas Wilson Another quick book, easy to read in an hour. For me, Douglas Wilson is a tough guy to love. However, I do appreciate the case for a strong Christian culture and also that the most important work you have in this life is raising your children in an environment where they witness God’s work in history and goodness in their lives, that they might love and know him always. I am not sure that means you avoid “government schools” (his derogatory term for public schools) entirely, though.  — 2 stars


There are a few hot topics about parenting mentioned in these books! Have you read any of these? Do you agree or disagree with my conclusions?

If you’d like other reading suggestions, check out my book review archives here!

4 :: in book reviews, good reads

Into the High Sierras! Our Kid-Free Adventure in Yosemite (Part 2)

IMG_0239 This story picks up midway through our five-day hiking trip in Yosemite. Part 1 is here!

When I left off, we were at Merced Lake High Sierra Camp (HSC) for the night. We slept well, sharing a tent with some roommates we’d had before: an older couple who were traveling by mule train between camps instead of hiking between camps. We really liked them, and we deeply respected their mule wrangler, a tall and dignified woman in her 60s named Sheridan. She’s been leading mule trains in Yosemite for over 30 years!

IMG_0243 At 7am, the bell rang for hot drinks, and everyone gathered outside the meal tent to drink hot coffee and talk. Afterwards we feasted on cream of wheat, eggs, sausage, pancakes, hash browns, and fresh fruit.

IMG_0253 We had the steepest hike ahead of us that day to Vogelsang HSC: 3,000 feet of elevation gain over about 7.5 miles. That morning Sheridan came up to us and said, “My pack mule is carrying a light load. Would you like to give me some extra things in your packs and I’ll carry them for you? I can give them back to you at Vogelsang tonight.”

What a gift! We unpacked everything but the essentials and enjoyed a lighter load up into the mountains that day.

becca-garber-yosemite-high-sierra-camps-5 After a couple of miles, we came to a fork in the road. One trail was shorter but wound through a dry valley, and the other trail was a couple miles longer and steeper over Vogelsang Pass. Which to choose? Sheridan and other veterans of these trails had strongly recommended the latter trail. We finally decided to take the road less taken… or at least more beautiful.

IMG_0261 becca-garber-yosemite-high-sierra-camps-6 We purchased our lunches each day at each camp: two PB&J sandwiches and two pieces of fruit. Today for the first time we got three-layer sandwiches; they knew we had a hard hike ahead of us!

Also pictured here are my moleskin- and duct-tape-wrapped toes. I learned that duct tape works a lot better and actually stays on, so by the end of our trip four of my toes were wrapped in thick silver tape! Trust me, it’s works like a charm. (You just might have to take a long bath before you can get it off.)

IMG_0308 (1) becca-garber-yosemite-high-sierra-camps-7 Just before our final steep climb over Vogelsang Pass, we passed through the most beautiful valley. We lingered there, taking pictures and savoring the flowers and quiet creek.  becca-garber-yosemite-high-sierra-camps-8 IMG_0327 And then we climbed! Well done, Elliott, on the selfie with the big camera.

IMG_0329 That’s the beautiful little valley down below, and Merced Lake is back over those near mountains.

IMG_0335 At the top of Vogelsang Pass, where it was a lot winder and colder than it looks!

IMG_0340 (1) Poor little frogs, so cold they could hardly move!

IMG_0352 Vogelsang High Sierra Camp, where it was unfortunately so cold that we I put on about 4 extra layers and a hat before I could sit outside and read comfortably. 10,300 feet!

IMG_0354 Steak and baked potatoes with all the fixings that night, and some kind of amazing chocolate cake with whipped cream and mint for dessert. Also, for the very first time, Sheridan invited us into her pre-dinner social group with her box of wine (carried by her pack mule) and asked us to sit with her group and another mule wrangler’s group at dinner… so basically we felt like the cool crowd that night.

IMG_0359 Beautiful but very cold sunset! We lit the wood stove in our tent for the first time that night.

IMG_0371 The next morning Elliott fired up the stove again while we got ready for our last hike.

IMG_0372 Beautiful Vogelsang HSC, which by 9am was already warm enough for short sleeves in the sunshine.

IMG_0378 This was perhaps my least-favorite trail of all, unfortunately. The 8 miles wound steadily downward (no uphill relief for your knees and feet) over a powdery, chewed-up trail, and it marched down the center of a valley without much change in terrain. Made me realize how much I enjoyed that challenging, beautiful, varied hike the day before.

However, I also think we were anxious because we knew we were just a couple of hours away from talking to our kids, finding out if they were ok, and putting our minds at ease.

Some of you, I know, might wonder how a young mother can leave her kids for 5 days, be totally out of touch with them, and bear the separation — especially those of you who have young babies and can’t imagine doing such a thing! I will tell you that it wasn’t easy, and I wouldn’t have chosen it myself (although I loved being unplugged otherwise). Sure, I like taking short breaks from my kids, but generally I’m with them most of their waking hours, and they are the dearest people in the world to me. As attached parents go, Elliott and I are pretty attached.

So I chose at the start of the hike to pray every time I thought of Lena and Gil and commit them to the Lord’s care (knowing that we do not know our day or hour to die — or be hurt, or whatever else — and I could not do much about that wherever I was). And after that, I just did not allow myself to think about them any more. Praise God, it wasn’t that hard, and I never descended into panic, although I could feel intense anxiety creeping at the edges of my consciousness before I pushed it away.

I also know that part of our peace came from knowing they had such excellent babysitters. Our parents adore their grandchildren but also know how to say “no,” share our values down to the minutiae, and spend a lot of time with their grandchildren and in our home and so know the kids’ routine and personalities very well. We couldn’t have left them in better hands. Thank you again, parents!!!

IMG_0383 And there I am, done with the hike! We called Lena and Gil shortly after that, and they were headed back from church with my parents and were happily chattering and glad to hear from us. My mom told us that they had been very calm and peaceful while we were gone, didn’t ask about us that much, and knew we were coming back in a few days. Gil even called “Grammie!” instead of “Mama!” when he woke up from his nap, and was proud of that fact.

IMG_0386 And now… on to a much less rustic side of our trip! We spent a night in The Ahwahnee Hotel, a famous old lodge in Yosemite that has housed presidents and queens, and had a deep bathtub, a bottle of body lotion, and a soft robe that I couldn’t wait to enjoy.

IMG_0402 The magnificent Great Lounge on the main floor, where we sat for a long time reading and savoring tea and cookies during the afternoon tea hour. IMG_0404 The facade is famous and blends in so beautifully with the surrounding park.

IMG_0406 My scruffy hiking buddy in the famous Ahwahnee dining room! becca-garber-yosemite-high-sierra-camps-9 The next day we rented bikes and pedaled around Yosemite Valley, exploring trails, reading books, and even seeing our first bear. Poor guy was a teenager and looked pretty scrawny, almost like a dog wandering through the woods.

IMG_0423 (1) We also hiked up to Vernal Falls, which is usually about 20xs larger than this stream coming down the rocks. The California drought is really affecting Yosemite! We sat for a long time on this rock, reading and watching swimmers down below playing in the cold spray.

IMG_0425 At the top of Vernal Falls… more like Vernal Drips. We also saw Nevada Falls above it, equally anemic. Oh well, the hike was beautiful, and we loved those steep, rugged granite rock faces.

IMG_0430 Speaking of which… this was the last photo I took of them before we headed home…

becca-garber-home-from-yosemite … to these precious people. Happy day! Elliott and I feel rich indeed after such a trip and such healthy, happy, cute little people to come home to! Thanks for adventuring with me, Elliott; I hope this is just the first long hiking trip of many we take together.

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13 :: in hiking, husband, marriage, travel

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