Archive | good reads

Giveaway of the Book “Paris Letters” AND a Letter from Paris! {closed}

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I loved reading all your enthusiastic comments on yesterday’s post about the memoir “Paris Letters.” So many of you mentioned you’d like to read the book, and so… your wish is my commnd!

As I was writing yesterday’s post, I decided to send the author Janice an email to see if she’d be interested in collaborating on a giveaway. I mentioned I like reviewing books on my blog and linked to this post, just so she could get a little taste of Making Room.

Less than 24 hours later, she emailed me back, and what a lovely email! It put such a smile on my face that I thought I’d share the whole thing with you. She’s a kindred spirit with many of us, I think:

Hello Becca,

First off, I read the link you sent and was so delighted that you had reviewed those books. “That part was true”… picked it up at the library because the cover looked so dreamy. Couldn’t get past the second chapter. Ugh. And I was wondering about “I’m having so much fun here without you” so thanks for clearing that up.

Second, thanks for reading and taking a shining to Paris Letters. I am happy to provide a book. I’ll include the latest letter as well when I send the book. Just give me the winner’s address and I’ll make it happen. Autographed and everything. 

Third, you have a nice looking blog. Clean and pretty acre of cyberspace. 


Isn’t she nice?! I just want to sit down in Paris and share a café crème with her. And did you see that she’s going to send one of you a book and one of her beautiful hand painted letters from Paris? Autographed and addressed to you? What a wonderful gift!

Here are all the ways you can enter this giveaway:
  1.  Comment on this post. Tell me why you’d like to read this book, if you’d like!
  2. Follow me on Instagram.
  3. Sign up for my mailing list (see the SUBSCRIBE // CONNECT tab in the left sidebar).
  4. Share this giveaway on social media or with friends.

Giveaway closes next Friday, February 13. Take it away, everyone. Good luck and happy reading!


UPDATE: And the winner, according to, is #26, Suzanne K. The winner has been emailed. Thanks for all your entries, everyone, and for such a generous giveaway, Janice!

61 :: in book reviews, giveaway, good reads, Paris

currently enjoying


Happy Monday! It’s a blustery, almost-wintery one here, which totally foiled my friends’ and my plans for a pool date with our little kiddos. Way to be confusing, June.

Instead, I took my kids to the gym on base, where I locked them up in the ingenious kids’ play area and attempted to get a 15-minute speedy jog in on the treadmill. I kind of have a gym-phobia (all those intense people), but I also keep saying I want to “get back into running” when we move to CA. And… I haven’t run regularly since college… six years ago. So wish me luck. Do you run/exercise regularly??

In other news, here are some fun links to start off your Monday:

I tear up every time I watch this. So much joy and beauty in this dancing!

The photo above is from dinner last night, which is one of the quickest, cheapest, tastiest meals I know. Win win win!

Can’t stop thinking about this outfit. (And Madeline and Natalie are pretty great too.)

Think of your local thrift store as your storage unit.

Love Taza and Oh Joy! teamed up to make this fabulous new app. I think I’ll try it!

I inhaled two books over the weekend: one about flowers, one about cancer.

Lena’s uncle promised to teach her how to do this! (J/k…. but wow!!!)

What if humans were dogs? Hilarious.

Toxic sunscreen + some safe options. (We love this one.) Thanks for the link, Laura!

3 things to save time every day.

I love Anne’s amazing blog, and her summer reading list is the best around.

What were they celebrating?

I have the 5 euro-bought-on-the-street version of these and love ’em. Maybe if I ever want to spend $100 on sunglasses…

I picked this back up as per my goals for 2014… let’s see if I stick with it to the end this time!


What are you reading? What are you enjoying? What are you wearing? I’d love to know!


0 :: in eat this, good reads, links I love

Five Books to Read This Summer


I think if I could travel the world, have a dog, and read books for the rest of my life,
I would be completely happy.

— my sister, last week —

This past week I dove into the most wonderful group of novels, one after another, barely coming up for air between them, tearing through them hours on end, waking up early and going to sleep late to read and read and read. Afterwards I laughingly said I’d gone on a “book binge,” my first in a long time. I’d forgotten what that felt like.

So if you’re looking for some yummy reads, look no further! Here are five books I haven’t been able to put down:

I’ve talked about this one before because — oh! — I loved it so much. I laughed, cried, and left feeling like I’d made a new friend. It’s a warm, tender, open-armed memoir of the author’s life and kitchen table. It’s a manifesto for pouring wine, breaking bread, and making room for friends around your table and in your heart. Woven between the author’s favorite recipes are beautiful, honest stories from her own life. I made her lentil soup for dinner tonight!


This was a Book Club choice, and I was ambivalent… until I realized that it is based on a true story. And then I was blown away. It’s a sweeping Southern drama, telling the story of Sarah Grimke, born into Charleston belle privilege, and Handful, the slave she was gifted on her twelfth birthday. Sarah goes on to become one of the first female abolitionists, and her story is painful, riveting, and inspiring. Read it to be taught as well as to enjoy.

becca-garber-recommended-summer-reading-1 copy

It’s a short, easy read, but the fact that it is also based on extensive historical research makes it powerful and memorable. The book follows the story of Vivian, an orphan in NYC who is put on the infamous “orphan train” heading West to families in need of shop labor or farm hands. Some of the orphans’ stories are devastatingly sad, and Vivian’s takes sickening turns. But the ending is sweet and redemptive, and I loved the modern-day orphan story woven back and forth through the historical narrative. Read it!


This was one of the books from my book binge. I inhaled the 450-page novel in about 48 hours, scrambling to think of things for Lena and Gil to do by themselves so that I could just keep reading! The story begins in the 1960s when teenage Laurel, up in the tree house on her family’s property, witnesses her mother open the door to a strange man and then kill him in cold blood. Unable to forget the murder years later, Laurel goes on a quest to uncover her mother’s past, taking her deep into WWII London during the Blitz.

(Note: I also read The Forgotten Garden by the same author that week, and it was good too.)


What a treat. Reads like chick lit, but the author is smarter and keener, and she knows how to deal with deep heart issues while keeping the tone light and fun. The main character, Alice, hits her head and wakes up thinking that she is newlywed, pregnant, and completely happy… none of which are true because it’s actually 10 years later and she has three children, an estranged husband, and a lot of water under the bridge with her sister and friends. Will losing her memory let her to redeem her family, friends, and life? Or is it too late?

(Note: I also read the author’s newer book, The Husband’s Secret, and loved it almost as much. Highly recommend this one too!)

And here are a few more honorable mentions that I’ve loved over the past few years:

  1. A Severe Mercy — a true love story & the book Elliott and I read when we were falling in love
  2. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? — light, fun, mother-daughter story
  3. Unbroken — riveting WWII memoir (I think I was the last of my friends to read this)
  4. The Glass Castle — family, heartbreak, memoir
  5. The Light Between Oceans — infertility, love, & Australia
  6. The Handmaid’s Tale — distopia with a “Biblical” twist
  7. The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love — FAVORITE!!!
  8. Bringing Up Bébé — American vs. French parenting, ie. my kind of brain candy
  9. NutureShock: New Thinking About Children — game-changer for parents
  10. 84, Charing Cross Road — handwritten letters, books, love
  11. Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster — EDGE OF MY SEAT
  12. My Life in France — Julia Child, FOOD, France

Do you have any recommendations for me? Happy reading!

14 :: in book reviews, goals, good reads

bread + wine + kids + travel


I took this photo in our Paris apartment on a quiet afternoon that Elliott and I spent reading and sipping hot, milked-down espresso as the kids slept. (In other words… that afternoon was heaven on earth!)

The other day Lena and I were sitting on the couch together, as we often do during Gil’s morning nap. We finished reading picture books together, and she started coloring. I turned back to Bread and Wine, a book I find myself reading slowly, savoring, and then caught up in irresistibly, reading faster than I intend, but unable to put down for the sheer joy and beauty of each honest story, each delicious food, each life lesson, that the author shares.

I had come to the chapter innocuously titled “Delicious Everywhere,” and I was totally roped in because she was writing about traveling and eating around the world, two things near and dear to my heart.

And then boom. I hit these last two paragraphs of the chapter, and my heart started to sing in my chest. Every line felt like it was written just for me, a perfect description of everything I feel and act upon in my life, said in a way I’ve always been struggling to find.

And right there, on the couch, in the middle of the morning, I began to cry.

“Sometimes people ask me why I travel so much, and specifically why we travel with [our little kids] so often. I think they think it’s easier to keep the kids at home, in their routines, surrounded by their stuff. It is. But we travel because it’s there. Because Capri exists and Kenya exists and Tel Aviv exists, and I want to taste every bite of it. We travel because I want my kids to learn, as I learned, that there are a million ways to live, a million ways to eat, a million ways to dress and speak and view the world. I want them to know that “our way” isn’t the right way, but just one way, that children all over the world, no matter how different they seem, are just like the children in our neighborhood — they love to play, to discover, to learn.

“I want my kids to learn firsthand and up close that different isn’t bad, but instead that different is exciting and wonderful and worth taking the time to understand. I want them to see themselves as bit players in a huge, sweeping, beautiful play, not as the main characters in the drama of our living room. I want my kids to taste and smell and experience the biggest possible world, because every bite of it, every taste and texture and flavor, is delicious.” (emphasis mine)

I don’t yet understand why I love living and traveling overseas so much. Yes, I did grow up mostly overseas, but I didn’t always love it, and when we moved back to the States and I went to college, I was so ready. I was so done with living overseas. I loved living in Virginia and Boston and D.C. for a few years.

But then — as soon as the opportunity presented itself — I couldn’t wait to live overseas again. As Elliott will tell you, we’re living in Italy now because he let me choose where we could live next, and I chose Italy.

And, to be honest, I have really mixed emotions about moving back to the States for our new life in CA. Earlier this spring, Elliott interviewed for a job that would have sent us to Tbilisi, in the Republic of Georgia, and a big part of me longed for him to get that job, for us to plunge headfirst into yet another culture, another language, another city map, another international church, another home away from home.

I am sure there are many sinful emotions tied up in my love of living and traveling and being overseas. There’s pride and a desire for adventure and a longing to be different.

But there’s also a love for it. Learning the road rules, the food cultures, the hand gestures, the clothing staples, the housing quirks, and the right way to check out in a grocery store… I love all that. No matter where I am in the world, I get a thrill from learning these everyday communication techniques, learning how to fit in like a local, learning how to blend my family’s culture and the country’s culture.

And so, because of all these tied-to-my-heartstrings reasons, I’ve loved this chance to birth one of my children and raise two of them — at least for a little while — in another country. Together, Elliott and I encouraged and taught and watched them experience and savor this overseas life too. We watched them play with children for hours who didn’t speak their language, watched their eyes light up with delight over foods we can’t find in the States, watched them hike mountains and swim in oceans and walk on streets where no one else shares their nationality.

Our children’s acceptance and fascination with all we teach them — “this is good” or “this is different” or “this is home” — is a privilege given to parents. For this season of life, I’m so glad that we could teach them that home includes buying olives and eggplants at the market each week, and a handyman who speaks only Italian, and the unbending rule that you must say “grazie” after someone does something kind.

I hope we can continue to welcome the world into our home, in California and beyond, through food, visitors, books, and discussions around the dinner table. I worry that I will become complacent, or that I’ll forget. I fear — because I know my weaknesses — that I’ll become comfortable with familiar and forget the beauty and challenge of living so close to the ground in another culture. I hope I won’t forget.

And I hope it won’t be too long before we pack our bags and move overseas again for awhile. Oh please, God, don’t let it be too long.

Have you ever left a life overseas, and do you long to go back? Any encouragement for someone about to make the transition to the States?

21 :: in good reads, military life, thoughts, travel

the 10 Best Books I Read in 2013


I wonder if any of these authors used Grammarly’s free grammar checker?
Something tells me they probably didn’t need it!

Believe it or not, one of the first arguments Elliott and I had involved reading. He said that I claimed I liked to read books but that he hadn’t seen me read a book since we started dating. His statement led to an argument because it was true, of course. I just didn’t want to hear it! Between college and my first job and dating Elliott, I’d lost the leisure time of middle and high school where I really did read a lot.

Well, reading came back. It came back when the new-life hubbub died down, when the evenings of my 20s became quiet again, when we began a peaceful tradition of reading before bed. We also started setting book reading goals on Goodreads (thank you, Johanna, for inspiring this!), which is a rewarding challenge for me.

Anyway, that’s a roundabout way of saying that last year I read 45 books, and these are my 10 favorites! Some of them were slower going than others, but all were deeply rewarding and worth reading again. It’s a varied list — fiction, memoir, nonfiction, literary travel, education, inspirational — so I hope you’ll find something right up your alley!

1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. What a strange alternate world Margaret Atwood presents here! She imagines a country (clearly the U.S.) in which some aspects of evangelical extremism have been taken to absurd levels. One rule states that all children are to be procreated specifically by “handmaids.” The protagonist — a handmaid herself — discovers there is a quiet revolution underfoot, however, and walks a terrifying line between death and freedom.

2. Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle-Melton. Would you believe that Elliott grew up next to Glennon in northern Virginia?? I already loved her writing from Momastery, and, just like her blog, this book is a completely wonderful collection of encouragement, tears, inspiration, real life, and laughter. Elliott should be glad he was traveling for work when I read it, because otherwise I would have been saying, “Oh this is so good, just listen to this!” about every 10 minutes.

3. Nurtureshock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman. This is an easy-to-read and completely fascinating book about research on children and education. Basically, prepare to be shocked about how much nurture (vs. nature) influences your kids. I wrote a book review about the 5 Ways to Improve My Parenting based on what I learned in this book. Stay tuned because I have a giveaway of another book by these authors coming up soon!

4. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. What a gut-wrencher! After WWI, a young couple tend a lighthouse off the coast of western Australia. They are unable to have children, so when a crying baby and a dead man wash up on the shores of their little island, they do the obvious thing: begin to care for the child. Before either of them can sort out what is happening, the child has been virtually adopted into their hearts and lives. But does little Lucy have family elsewhere? And if she does… then what?

5. The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball. This is my favorite book that I read all year! It’s a magnificently-penned memoir of a NYC reporter who goes to Pennsylvania for the day to interview a young farmer. That day on a farm — and the long brown arms of that curly-haired farmer — change her world completely. This is the story of the most unlikely modern farmer you could imagine, the beautiful corner of the earth that she brings to life in upstate NY, and the incredible birth of a raw marriage and a new life where you least expect it.

6. The Stone Boudoir by Theresa Maggio. I hesitated to put this book on the list because I doubt it will have a huge appeal unless you live in, will live in, or plan to visit Sicily. But I deeply value reading about the place where you live, and I loved this book, so on the list it goes. Theresa is an American journalist with Sicilian roots, and this is the story of her love affair with the little mountain towns of Sicily, some of which I visited this winter, and others of which are just an hour away from us on the slopes of Mt. Etna.

I especially loved her account of the festival of St. Agata in Catania, which is happening this week. I read that Sicilians say “semu tutti, devoti tutti” (bascially “all together, all devoted”) to the saint during the festival, and randomly a few weeks ago in Catania, a TV crew asked me to say this phrase for an advertisement. Now I am one of dozens of “Sicilians” saying this in a St. Agata ad, and so many of my Italian acquaintances have told me they’ve seen me on TV! Anyway, thank goodness for this book teaching me what I was saying and why, right?!

7. Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Pre-School Years by Elisabeth Hainstock. An incredibly short book (just over 100 pages), this little volume is invaluable for a newbie mom or anyone interested in Montessori education. I love this method’s emphasis on natural materials, real world life skills, and childhood responsibility. This book provided a great introduction to Montessori, and the last third of the book is an illustrated guide to Montessori activities to do with your growing child. It was a great resource as I began to incorporate this method into our life and home.

8. The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian. Forgive the wild ’80s cover! The book deserves much better. I was blown away by the treasure-trove of wisdom inside this swirly pink book, and I wish I had read it as soon as I got married (and then every year since!). The writer is a very wise and very tough woman who married a rather unwise and somewhat difficult man, but she has chosen to pray about their difficulties rather than trying to browbeat her husband or have a miserable marriage. The book is divided into 30 short chapters — one for each day of the month — that address topics like “his work,” “his sexuality,” “his pride,” and “his fear.”

9. Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic. Once again, this is a slender book (104 pages) that packs a punch. I laughed out loud, underlined everywhere, and wrote a dozen notes in the margins. This young mother of six is braver than I’ll probably ever be, and she writes with hilarious insight about the patience and creativity required to nurture so many little ones. She cheered my tired soul. Give it to another mom in the trenches of the little years!

10. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. I just love this series. This fiction has a goodness to it that reminds me a bit of the Chronicles of Narnia, or Little Britches, or Little House on the Prairie. There is laughter, there is anguish, and there is insight into a world (in this case, Botswana, written about with knowledge and love by a white Zimbabwean) that is far off and impossible for most of us to ever experience.


And now let’s just hope this year is as successful in the reading department… and with as many good ones to share with you! If you want to see what I’m reading this year, you can find me on Goodreads here.

Any recommendations for 2014?


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