'Muff'in Dome

What’s in a Brew : In Praise of the Belgian

beer at the lake

We are rather enthusiastic imbibers of craft brews in this family. Steve and I are constantly on the lookout for new — and bonus points if it’s daring! — beers to try. Luckily, we have a crafter of our own in the family. On long holidays, my brother-in-law likes to ‘stir the pot’ with a new brew or two, adventuring out with seasonal flavors when inspiration strikes. In fact, my first memory of him doing so was at Steve and my engagement party, where he helped entertain many of the guests by explaining the chemistry behind the process. Way out of my league — I will just drink to that! ;)

I am still quite the amateur but enjoying discovering and learning more about the craft as the days go by. If anything is indicative of how my enjoyment of such things has changed over the years, the fact that I requested the Yard House for my birthday dinner the other night should be a good indication. Steve and I both chose a porter with coconut notes from Maui Brewing Co. to go with our meal. I am rather picky about my darks (not a fan of too much carbonation) but this one was a winner.

Boddingtons - Yard House

Top on our list most days are the Belgians. {And, no, it’s not because of the alcohol content — usually hovering around 7-9 percent — although that doesn’t hurt anything. ;)} In recent years, the monasteries have been making a comeback in the brewing business, returning to their roots, including a handful in the United States. {Like this one at Mt. Angel Abbey in Oregon.} Beer-making has a long history in the monastic tradition, dating back to the 6th century. St. Benedict included it in his Rule as one of the means by which his monks earned their livelihood and offered hospitality. The monks also drank the beer they brewed, but, typically, a version with about a 2 percent alcohol content. These methods at the monasteries are making a comeback with the new Brew Evangelization.


You’ve probably heard the terms Dubbel, Tripel, etc. thrown around when referring to Belgians. It used to be that this referred to how many times they were fermented — so a Dubbel: x2, a Tripel: x3 and so on. The weakest one was the one reserved by the monks for their own consumption. They would sell the ones with the stronger flavor {and, subsequently, higher alcohol content} for a decent sum. Nowadays, the terms have more to do with marketing. The “doubles” are usually the darker ones with alcohol in the 6-8 percent range with the “triples” hovering around 8 percent and above, and are lighter in color. The stronger the beer, the higher the value. The price of the Belgians today runs in the $8-$20 range depending on its potency. {And sometimes more.} They certainly are a treat, though. The flavor is strong and has a fantastic finish.

summertime brew

Trappists are often associated with the Belgian as they have kept the style alive the longest. In fact, after a legal battle over the name recently, there are only ten who are allowed to mark their brews with the Trappist stamp, including one in the United States. Most are in Belgium. Chimay, one of those located in Belgium, is a favorite of ours. The Chimay Grande Reserve is one of those must-try, Belgian treats. It is a dark one, but oh-so-smooth and caramel-y.

Another favorite we recently stumbled upon was the Tripel Karmeliet at one of our favorite local hotspots, the Little Belgium Beer Bar and Deli, in our hometown. {They always have a great selection on tap (and numerous ones by the bottle). They also make a mean reuben.} Brewed in Belgium by Carmelites, it is made with wheat, oats and barley from the original 17th century recipe.


A really fun one to drink is the Pauwel Kwak. Served on tap, you will receive it in the original holder used by monks on horseback, which made it easier to drink while riding.

A Canadian brewery by the name of Unibroue serves up one of my all-time favorites, La Fin Du Monde. {It appears that members of Beer Advocate feel the same way.} Sorry, Miller High Life but this is the true “champagne of beers.” Like most Belgians, it comes in a large bottle so there is more than enough to go around. I have not tried any others from this brewery but I would like to get my hands on a few others.

Our favored California brewery, North Coast Brewing Co., makes a fantastic Belgian called Pranqster. It is of the golden variety. If you favor a darker brew, Brother Thelonious, is your match.

So many to try, so little time.

What are some of your favorite Belgian brews?

31 Lessons Learned in My 31st Year

mama and Lucie

With the flurry of {unexpected} activity that came with the beginning of the year, I haven’t had much time to be introspective. But my dear husband gave me a few hours to think and write the other morning, and I thought I would share the fruit of a bit of it as I wave goodbye to my 31st year this morning.


31 Lessons I Learned in My 31st Year

1. I need to lean on others and stop trying so hard to rely on myself in all things. GOD especially.

2. With two babies at home, if I can accomplish one chore in a given day, I have accomplished a great feat.

3. Hospitality is always more important than a spotless house.

4. Finding time for reading every day, even just a page, keeps me sane.

5. There is an incredible support team to be found online. Although we may live at a distance, we can cheerlead each other through the tough days. We can pray for each other across the miles. The lack of adult interaction is better fulfilled. It makes the days spent exclusively at home seem much less lonely.

6. It is important to be intentional with my time spent online so it doesn’t end up burrowing into the rabbit hole of endless clicks.

7. Facebook and Instagram {and Twitter, although that is not my jam} can be useful tools of human interaction. It’s all in how you use them.

8. Equally important is the community of women surrounding me at home. As a new mother, I found it difficult — frightening, even — to connect with other mothers, as I felt so unsure of myself. But soon came to understand that in that uncertainty, we could all be bonded together.

9. This is truth —> “Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter: whoever finds one has found a treasure. Faithful friends are beyond price; no amount can balance their worth. Faithful friends are life-saving medicine; and those who fear the Lord will find them. Those who fear the Lord direct their friendship aright, for as they are, so are their neighbors also.” Sirach 6:14-17

10. Having photos of beautiful moments with my family scattered throughout my home is a great morale booster. {It brings great delight even to my two-year old!}

11. Forgiveness not only makes the heart lighter, but lifts the bodily oppression as well.

12. A five minute massage on tired shoulders results in a range of motion to my shoulders I forgot possible.

13. The difficulties of pregnancy are worth the reward at the end.

14. Sometimes mommy needs time-outs too.

15. Taking a few minutes to meditate on Scripture each morning makes a world of difference for how the rest of the day will turn out. {This is one place I love to do it. And I’m writing there today. :)}

16. God gave me the greatest gift in my husband. He is my best ally, my closest friend, my safe confidante, my greatest treasure. I love him more every day.

17. When someone is having a bad day, taking just five minutes to sit with them one-on-one and give them one hundred percent of your attention often turns everything around. This applies equally to toddlers as to adults.

18. Your heart can heal. You can trust again. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5

19. Even when you feel like you’ve hit rock bottom in the sleep department, there is always a little reserve somewhere in there that you can muster up. {Either that or I have a superhero husband who will come to my aid. God bless him!}

20. This stage your little one is in will both feel like it will last forever and go by way too quickly.

21. Although it is important to me to cook and bake from scratch, it’s okay to cheat a little in the kitchen (i.e. go ahead and buy the pre-cut veggies).

22. Similarly: Although homemade may be the best, it is not always the best way.

23. California sunshine is the best medicine.

24. A cup of hot tea warms the soul as well as the body.

25. {Good} food is equally the way to a woman’s heart as it is to a man’s. {At least this woman.}

26. Just when you feel like you’ve got one parenting technique mastered, the next one will prove to you that it is worthless and you’ll have to start from square one.

27. There is nothing a great dance party can’t fix. {….oh, wait, I already knew that one.} But watching your little girls find that same joy. Priceless.

28. Having a mother and mother-in-law at a close distance can be an absolute saving grace. {And a gift I truly treasure.}

29. When your core is the weakest its ever been since the day you were born….whoa. It can be the cause of great ache. Time to get a routine going for building it up again.

30. The art God intended for me to paint with my life is not always what I had necessarily envisioned. But His way is always the best.

31. Docility is key to alleviating much frustration.

Monterey Bay : Homeschool-Style

school of fish

Our trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium is turning into an annual tradition. My mother, the savvy homeschooler of 25 years and counting, knows the ins-and-outs of just about every field trip offered in California and set us up for a visit again this year. The Aquarium offers a series of homeschool days where admission is free {a HUGE steal when tickets are normally in the $30-$40 range}, but you have to reserve tickets months in advance. We settled on the beginning of January back, I think, in September, hoping for the best, that nothing pressing would pop up and derail our trip. My girls barely made it after fighting a horrible cold for the two weeks prior.

We extended our trip an extra day this year, arriving two days before so we could settle in and explore more things. It just makes sense when you’re driving 3 hours+ to make the most of it.

wading Raphy

We stayed in the quaint town of Carmel {my favorite place on earth}. We were sad to find our favorite breakfast place still on holiday so we settled on Friar Tucks for a quick bite to eat. Lucie had her first experience with a Bumbo seat. I believe these things are supposed to be secure in holding children inside but she kept attempting to test the limits.

L in bumbo

We attended Mass at the Carmel Mission from the very last pew in the church. Evelyn switched between relatives’ laps every 5.6 seconds and asked to see the fountains outside which she could easily spot from any seat. Lucie didn’t try too hard to sing with the choir which was fortunate as the acoustics were quite wonderful. We toured the grounds after Mass, making sure to stop at each fountain for a viewing.

at the fountain


Carmel facade

from the fountain

cross at Carmel

details at Carmel

courtyard at Carmel


Bl Junipero Serra

{Sidenote: Did you hear this guy ^^ is going to be a saint come September?? So exciting!!}

The afternoon was spent resting and the evening with college friends of mine who live in Pacific Grove. I, sadly, didn’t capture any photos while we were there but the girls had a blast playing with their girls and the children of another family that was over. The adults were definitely outnumbered. :)

On Aquarium day, we headed to Monterey early to meet Aunt Teresa and the girls’ cousins at Dennis the Menace Park. If you are ever in town with children, this place is a must. I still have very fond memories of exploring it as a child. {Although, they closed down one of the main attractions — an old locomotive for exploring — due to safety issues. Sometimes these mandated safety regulations are just over the top. Let kids be kids.}

swinging at Dennis the Menace

flying high


green slides

sand play

more sand play

over the arch

sliding with Uncle Raphy

Teresa and Rosie sliding

kisses at the bottom

racing to the top

cousin love

Owen climbs

train at Dennis the Menace

After grabbing a quick bite for lunch, we showed up on time for our 12:30 entrance to the Aquarium. We got there just in time for feeding time with the divers. They were hand feeding squid to some of the larger fish in the tank. {Made me squirm — I don’t like slimy cephalopods.} The kelp forest was captivating.


feeding time

Aaaand I definitely got photo-bombed by a shark.

shark photo bomb

Highlights of the day included a wetlands viewing, petting mantarays, standing inside of the ocean waves, a visit to the ocean depths, and watching the sea otters receive their dinner.

sea anemones

sanddollar forest



wetlands viewing


L and mama at the bay

We finished off the day indulging in chocolate treats at Ghirardelli just down the road.

ice cream!

so big

Our day of departure dawned sunny and bright. We planned on a quick trip to the beach which turned into several hours. But how could you not with a day so gorgeous and DOLPHINS entertaining us with the jumps and flips?? Plus, Lucie had to get in some exercise. ;)

at Carmel beach

digging in the sand

push ups!

wading Raphy

Look carefully at the waves in the next three shots. You can spot dolphins “surfing” the waves! {Sorry for the half-naked man in these shots — he and the surfer were out there with their go-pros trying to catch a few great pics. ;)}





A few more souvenirs in the bag {including some expensive diapers because mama can’t count well when packing} and we were off to Mission San Juan Bautista so Uncle Raphy could get in a viewing for a school paper he is supposed to write. We captured the gorgeous sunset there.

San Juan Bautista sunset

Mission San Juan Bautista at dusk

gang at San Juan Bautista

An alternative route up I-5 was necessary so we could stop at Pea Soup Andersens for supper. {If you’re not a fan of split pea soup, this place will make you change your mind.}

pea soup

Somehow, we made it home before ten and quickly, sleepily all crawled into bed. And I wish I could say slept soundly through the night, but certain ones of us haven’t mastered that skill yet. ;)

Lucie at 6 Months

going for a walk

This past month Lucie has been both the biggest delight and the meanest ogre. Smiles for day, unless one of those horrible teeth is attempting to pop through. Then, it would be screams for days…and nights.

L and mama

She’s slightly mobile having figured out her uncle, Ethan’s, trick of rolling across the floor to get to things. She’s quite the pro and can go across the living room in about 5 seconds flat! {Watch out for those computer cords!} She’s currently rolled herself over to the bookcase and is attempting to teeth on the side of it since tugging the large coffee table books off the shelf wasn’t working out too well for her.

L roll

She gets up on her hands and knees quite well but nearly always ends up on her face or scooted backwards under some piece of furniture.

under the bed

She’s nearly mastered the side sit from a crawl before the full upright sit. Maybe they’ll come together simultaneously. She is sitting pretty well with the Boppy.

Boppy sit

Her feature move is the tippy-toe plank which rivals those of the greatest gym rats.

L planks

She knows who “mamamama” and “dadadada” are and uses those words to turn on the charm at 3 o’clock in the morning when she is ready to party.

L and dada

Her favorite time is bath time where she would like me to leave her all day, despite the fact her skin may dry out and shrivel up like a prune. We’ve started to, cautiously, place the two girls in the tub together which results in double the splashes and giggles. Lucie doesn’t mind having her face completely soaked.

bathtime with E and L

She’s sprouted 4 teeth — two lower, two upper. They made her inconsolable each day/night they came through, but the raging fire of a temper died down with their emergence.

monster baby

She goes from zero to 60 at the drop of a hat, but will just as swiftly calm down. But watch out(!!) when that temper flares.

so mad

We’ve tried a few solids — bananas {not a fan}, avocado {yum!}, applesauce {mama’s gotta warm it up!} — but she’s still having trouble swallowing without choking on it.

skeptical of solids

spoon tricks

Her favorite toy is the wooden box with spiral beads. She’ll sit for a good half hour playing with it. Everything else tends to get pushed so far away that she ends up frustrated.

L and toysBut, then, there is always “the baby in the mirror.”

baby in the mirror

The only other thing that really captures her attention is a soccer ball. She likes to sit in Boppy while I toss a small, soft one into her lap. She’s not too bad at catching and tossing herself. The interest is no surprise as she has a daddy and uncles who are thoroughly obsessed. And she was born in the midst of the World Cup. It was all we watched the first ten days of her life.

L soccer game

The girls are becoming fast friends and it is so fun to watch them interact. I’m so happy they have each other.


Our late visit to the doctor yesterday revealed a healthy 17 lbs, 12 oz girl of 27.5 inches.

Stanford baby

We’re almost at the 7 month mark so I better hit publish quick!

out for a walk

7QT ~ Family, Babies and Health

pope francissource

One)  Stephen shared the text of this beautiful speech of Pope Francis to Families that he gave on his current visit to the Philippines. Some highlights :

“Resting in the Lord. Rest is so necessary for the health of our minds and bodies, and often so difficult to achieve due to the many demands placed on us. But rest is also essential for our spiritual health, so that we can hear God’s voice and understand what he asks of us.”

“To hear and accept God’s call, to make a home for Jesus, you must be able to rest in the Lord. You must make time each day for prayer. But you may say to me: Holy Father, I want to pray, but there is so much work to do! I must care for my children; I have chores in the home; I am too tired even to sleep well. This may be true, but if we do not pray, we will not know the most important thing of all: God’s will for us. And for all our activity, our busy-ness, without prayer we will accomplish very little.”

“Every threat to the family is a threat to society itself. The future of humanity, as Saint John Paul II often said, passes through the family (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 85). So protect your families!”

So many gems I just want to cut and paste them all. Read it yourself.

E sick

Two)  There have been some yucky germs being passed around this winter season. We are finally regrouping after the girls caught a nasty cold that knocked them both down for over a week. {A big part of my absence.} I hope you and yours are staying well. Wash your hands!!

christmas night

Three)  Have you removed your Christmas tree yet? I’m still looking at its splendor here in the living room. That is, unless you get too close and notice how dry it is. {Don’t worry, we’ve been keeping the lights off.} Like an Impressionist painting, best to view it from a distance. We like to keep it up until at least after Epiphany, but since its been there since the beginning of December, it barely made it this year. First up on the task list this weekend.


Four)  Please tell me you’ve signed up with Blessed is She’s devotions, friends! They just keep getting better and better. {If you haven’t signed up yet, you’ll get a set of gorgeous prayer journaling pages straight to your inbox! If you have already — don’t fret — they’ll be in your inbox this weekend.} I was writing on Tuesday about Christ’s gift of salvation. Another great grace of this community of women : the regional groups on Facebook. And don’t forget to join us for #projectblessed on Instagram!

salmon flowers

Five)  I don’t know if it was coming back from a long trip, hormonal overload, or all of the above, but Wednesday was a rough one for me. My dear, dear husband came home with a big hug, a take-and-bake pizza and these gorgeous flowers. I don’t know what I would do without him.

danielle rose

Six)  Many of my fellow blogging friends have been sharing this touching, new music video by the talented Danielle Rose that came out yesterday.

“How can you say there are too many children? That is like saying there are too many flowers.”
  ~Mother Teresa

I was offended more than once last month when comments were made about how many children I have {really, two causes people to say these things??} and general sneers in my direction because my daughter was crying outside because she was uncomfortable. I’m sorry, babies are only able to communicate one way, dude. This video lifts my spirits and makes me hopeful for the future.

weekly eats

Seven)  I’m not as brave as my friend, Nell, doing without all. the. sugar., but I have been attempting to clean up the family’s meals since our holiday binging. She had some awesome-looking salads at last week’s Week Eats that I’m bookmarking for meals this month. I need more greens in my life right now.


Linking up for Seven Quick Takes with Kelly over at This Ain’t The Lyceum.

Crashing Waves

I’m planning a great post with highlights from our trip to Monterey….but first. This.

wave wall

wave wall

wave wallNo children were harmed in the making of these photographs.

Moments {Vol. 6} ~ Christmas edition

My girls caught the plague of 2015 pretty much from the moment the clock struck midnight. {Never let the thought pass through your mind, ‘Yay, we escaped any illness this holiday season!’ because you will pay for it.} My already full hands have never felt fuller and I’m under the impression I have more like ten kids than two right now.  We’re still in recovery mode but weaning off the need to be held 24-7 {and I mean 24-7 as I (and Steve) have spent several nights sleeping with a baby held upright so they could breathe easier}.

The kind words my sweet, sweet husband wrote the other day were a great salve to my heart. <3 I’m still in awe of how I was blessed with such a wonderful man to journey with through this life.

I’m hoping to write a review of 2014 but we’ll see how life goes. It could be February….or August….before you see it.


In the meantime, here are a few memorable moments from over the Christmas holiday.

living roomExploring the cabin renovations happening at Steve’s parents’ cabin. We can’t wait to party there in the summer!


Lindy at the window

red doorGram is ecstatic about her arched, red door!!! :)

snow playPlaying in the snow with her cousin before the Muff family Christmas party.

selfie stickOne of Gram’s best Christmas gifts: the selfie stick!! She put it to good use at the family Christmas party.

Nancy xmas storyNancy sharing the Christmas story with the family.

L + EQuality time with Aunt Lindy!

Muff family xmasSteve’s family with spouses and children included. :)

cousinsA whole lotta cousins!

chillin' on the couchHow Lucie preferred to do Christmas morning. {This kid!}

xmas treeOur tree on Christmas morning.

opening giftsOpening gifts with Evey on Christmas morning.

reading togetherReading her Christmas book with Daddy on Christmas morning.

LuluLucie perfecting her roll.

scooteringTrying out her new scooter. She’s a natural!

upside down snowmanThe reason why her stocking featured an upside-down snowman.

xmas morning breakfastEggnog cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. {Accompanied by the entire Hundred Acre Woods crew.}

xmas morningA quick pic before Mass on Christmas morning. My dolls. :)

avocadoLucie’s second food: avocado. Liked the taste of it, but even more, smashing it!

xmas readingMy brother, Ethan, sharing a beautiful essay with the family that he wrote about serving Midnight Mass at Christmas.

Munsill family xmasMunsill family Christmas photo!

Thank You, Laurel

*To regular readers, forgive me while I, Stephen Muff, commandeer this blog today. *




“They say when you meet the love of your life, time stops, and that’s true. What they don’t tell you is that when it starts again, it moves extra fast to catch up.”

-Big Fish (2003)

Time Stopped

It was the same week my grandfather passed away and the same day I had a run-in with the California Bar Exam, so I attribute this to Divine Mercy. I had already planned a Thanksgiving party with friends from a local young adult church group (called Faith and Ale). I didn’t feel very thankful, but nonetheless, I knew the show must go on.

Laurel came with her roommate, having never met me before. She was also dating somebody else, who is a good friend of mine now. Before I proceed, I’ll add this tidbit: my Thanksgiving party required people to dress up like pilgrims or Indians. We were both pilgrims.

She struck me the second I met her, and it’s true, time stopped. When it started again, it threw things into fast-forward and it has yet to slow down.

Anyway, months later, Laurel was no longer dating anyone. Many of us were at a prayer vigil and then went to the amazing Leatherby’s Family Creamery for lunch. We didn’t happen to sit next to each other (I deliberately sat next to her), but we did both order the same delicious tuna melt.

On my way home, I realized I missed a call from Laurel. I pulled off the freeway at the next exit and listened to the message.

“Hi Steve, it’s Laurel. I think we talked about going to the Crocker Art Museum – I don’t remember, but I think we did – anyway, my dad’s birthday is cancelled today because he’s sick and I’m free to go if you are.”

Pause. We never spoke of going to the Crocker. I wouldn’t lie, but I couldn’t miss this opportunity. I called her back.

“Hi Laurel, I’m still in Sacramento if you want to go. I’ll pick you up!”

I never said we spoke about the Crocker, but I wasn’t going to tell her we never did.
And that was our first non-date, despite me picking her up and paying.

Not long after, one of Laurel’s roommates heard Laurel say that she did not have a date for her brother’s wedding, so her roommate suggested me – in front of me.

About a week later, the day after my brother’s wedding, we went out on our first date to the Sacramento Music Festival.

A few months later, we both knew we were right for each other, and I asked her to be my bride.


Catching Up

As they said in Big Fish, time moved extra fast to catch up again. It’s 2015, we have a house and two kids. Laurel is my greatest support in life, helping me with chores and our two girls, but also encouraging me when I’m down, relieving me when I’m stressed, and praying for me – and God knows I need it.


Her stamina and perseverance amazes me. She’s not just watching a two-year old and a six-month old, but bringing one to ballet and the other to the doctor, both to the grocery, and so-forth. You know! If you read this blog, you can see what an amazing mother she is. I have a two-year-old that enjoys baking! That says enough.

All the things you see on here are not even half of what she does for me. She knit me a beautiful scarf, which I meant to take to work today, but was rushing out the door and forgot. Since one car is having trouble, Laurel drives me to and from the train station several times a week. She does this, managing two little ones at the same time.  When I get home, dinner is virtually always ready or in process, and I can relax the best I can after a long day.

I do what I can to help her outside of going to work, but she does so much she rarely leaves anything for me to do (so I ask the blog readers to keep her accountable and leave something for me). With that said, most days I come home absolutely worn out, but she’s there to welcome me home. I cannot express how grateful I am to her and to God for putting her in my life.


How it could be anything other than Divine Providence that someone like me would end up with such an amazing person by his side?

I could go on and on and on, but I won’t – for now. All I want to do is say thank you to Laurel for helping me through hard times, guiding me in the dark, and supporting me when I lack the energy and strength to do it myself. These days, that’s every day.

I look forward to the day when I live closer to work and have no school or exams for which I am studying so that I may spend time with this amazing woman. At least her birthday, our anniversary, Valentine’s Day, and my birthday are coming up and we can see each other more. I can’t wait!


Thank you, Laurel, for everything!


Yours Truly,


Books I Read in 2014 and Books to Read in 2015

readtilyoudropRead ’til you drop. That’s my motto and, apparently, I’ve  instilled it well in my daughter too. When I went in search of the books I had read this year to write this post, I was rather surprised at the number I got through. Then, I realized that most were read while I was sitting hugely pregnant with my second and I haven’t read much since then. So we’ll see how many I can actually get through this year. I have high hopes.

Read in 2014:


The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty – I picked this up because What Alice Forgot wasn’t available yet at the library. A quick read and definitely justifies why it vitally important that one is open and honest with one’s spouse.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty – An interesting, quick-read novel about a woman who wakes up having forgotten the past 10 years of her life. Makes you think: Would you go back and do it differently?

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – The topic of assisted suicide has been greatly discussed this year with Brittany Maynard’s social media presence about her decision to end her life. This novel addresses that topic on the side of pro.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd – I loved her book, The Secret Life of Bees, so picked this up to read. I didn’t realize until later that this is work of historical fiction based on the life of Sarah Grimke. Interweaving the lives of a slave girl and her owner, it addresses the struggle for the ending of slavery and the abolition movement. Still not sure if I liked this one or her previous one better.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – This may be a young adult book but it was one of the best I read all year. Dealing with those facing serious illness as young people, it emphasizes the hope and joy that can still be found in this life even when you know your time {or the time of one you love} is short.

The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls – I, honestly, had to peek at the plot again as I couldn’t quite remember what this one was about. {Although, I think I read it in January so it’s been a while.} It’s a story of overcoming adversity and understanding how to cope and thrive despite the shortcomings of others in your life that negatively affect you. It was good, but not a favorite.


Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves by Jason Evert – This is a beautiful reflection on the life of our late and great pope. It is incredible all he did and the influence he had the years God gave him on this earth. Definitely recommend.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown – A fantastic telling of this amazing crew from Washington. Historical tales can be dry but this one certainly wasn’t. Particularly good for those who have done crew themselves.

Paris by Edward Rutherfurd – This book was fun for this Francophile. It tells the story of fictional characters in the settings of historical events that happened in Paris over the years. Well-woven tale by the author.


Don’t Move the Muffin Tins: A Hands-Off Guide to Art for the Young Child by Bev Bos – Great ideas for hands-on projects with young children using things you probably already have in your home.

1,2,3…The Toddler Years: A Practical Guide for Parents and Caregivers by Irene Van Der Zande – Picked this up after having it recommended for dealing with toddler independence but didn’t find it particularly helpful.

Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin – Read this before giving birth to my second and I am convinced it drastically helped me get through labor with its pain management recommendations. Highly recommended especially if you are aiming to achieve a medicine-free birth.

Montessori from the Start: The Child at Home, from Birth to Age Three by Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jessen – This was helpful for gathering ideas in how to educate without being didactic. I love Montesorri’s method and am hoping to incorporate it into our home education.

The Little Oratory: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying in the Home by Leila Lawler and David Clayton – Although I haven’t done much to implement what I’ve learned {that comes in 2015!}, this book has been revolutionary for me in considering how to bring Christ more into my home and life. Check out Leila’s blog with her daughters for more practical tips on running a Christ-centered home.

Self/Home/Family Improvement

The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith – This isn’t exactly a didactic how to make your nest, but more a philosophy behind how to make your house a home even if you don’t have much money to make it happen. The author has mostly lived in rentals and has moved often so it was great to hear how and why it’s important even if it isn’t your place and you won’t be residing there for long.

Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon Self-Control, and My Other Experiments in Everyday Life by Gretchen Rubin – Another fun one by the author of The Happiness Project. She gives a lot of insight in ways to better improve your quality of life just by slight changes in attitude and habits.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg – Discovered this one through Anne of Modern Mrs. Darcy and loved it. The book describes so well how habits are formed and how forming habits as a leader in those we lead can have great {or disastrous} consequences.

Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World by Tsh Oxenreider – I love Tsh’s blog so this was a must-read. Her experiences attempting to live simply in an ever-increasing complex world are both refreshing and inspiring.

Just Married: The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First Five Years of Marriage by Greg and Lisa Popcak – I read this first on my own and then Steve and I were working through it together. Really helpful in cementing your relationship on a firm foundation in the first few years. {And a good refresher later on.}

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell – I love Gladwell’s books and this one was no different. This book addresses how the sufferings and obstacles in this life can ultimately be great blessings when faced properly.


Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen – Middle-aged memoir of the author. Probably more appropriate for someone in that age group, but good to read of things she would have done differently as a young woman.

Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Nequist – Food memoirs are my favorite. So many special moments happen gathered around the table. The author shares some of her family’s memories connected to food and a collection of great recipes. For every woman who loves to love her family with food.


One Pot: 120+ Easy Meals from Your Skillet, Slow Cooker, Stockpot and More by Editors of Martha Stewart Living – We’re all about efficiency around here most days getting meals on the table so this book which tells how to get it all into one pot was a must. I’ve only done one recipe {and loved it} but I have quite a few others dog-eared for later.

Whole Grain Mornings: New Breakfast Recipes to Span the Seasons by Megan Gordon – With several {maybe all} suffering from hypoglycemia in this household, having breakfast meals that have long staying power are essential. This has been a great resource for adding new recipes to the morning {and evening because who doesn’t like breakfast for dinner?}. The author has a great blog too.


Hoping To Read in 2015:


All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman


The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough


Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen

The Temperament God Gave Your Kids by Art Bennett

A Homemade Year by Jerusalem Jackson Greer

Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting by Laura Kelly Fanucci

The Homegrown Preschooler: Teaching Your Kids in the Places They Live by Kathy H. Lee

Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising Almost Perfect Kids by Gregory K. Popcak and Lisa Popcak

Self/Home/Family Improvement

Small Victories: Spotting Improbably Moments of Grace by Anne Lamott

Open Heart, Open Home: The Hospitable Way to Make Others Feel Welcome and Wanted by Karen Burton Mains

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman


Something Other Than God by Jennifer Fulweiler


Homemade Decadence by Joy Wilson {Joy the Baker}

Delancey by Molly Wizenburg

Make It Ahead by Ina Garten

Date Night In: More Than 120 Recipes to Nourish Your Relationship by Ashley Rodriguez

The Kitchn Cookbook: Recipes, Kitchens and Tips to Inspire Your Cooking by Sara Kate Gillingham and Faith Durand


Hand-Lettering Ledger: A Practical Guide to Creating Serif, Script, Illustrated, Ornate and Other Totally Original Hand-Drawn Styles by Mary Kate McDevitt

Weekend Sewing: More Than 40 Projects and Ideas for Inspired Stitching by Heather Ross

Gifted: Lovely Little Things to Knit and Crochet by Mags Kandis

What to Knit When You are Expecting by Nikki Van De Car


What’s on your list for the coming year? I would love your recommendations!



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I Ain’t No Monkey

Lucie had her first taste of food a few nights ago. Everyone is supposed to like bananas as their first food, right?

bananas first food

Well, Lucie thought, perhaps, we were serving her poison on a spoon. Not a fan.

bananas first food

bananas first food

Maybe if I feed it to myself?

bananas first food


bananas first food

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