'Muff'in Dome

Gathering My Thoughts ~ Pausing

Outside my window: The clouds have rolled back in and we are waiting for another rain storm to hit this afternoon. The rain this season has been abundant and much-needed, but the cabin fever has been difficult to deal with. Fortunately, we escaped outside to the playground the other day when there was a break for a few days between rain showers, so the girls could get some of their wiggles out.

winter outdoor play

Listening To: Only the espresso machine at the coffee shop. A quiet morning to myself, SO much needed.

blue bottle espresso

Clothing Myself In: My favorite new blouse I picked up at Anthropologie last week during their sale on their sale {the only way I can afford their pieces}. It is a pale, blush pink with the sweetest lace work on the shoulders and front. {I found the link!}

spoon selfie

Talking With My Children About These Books: We are a little behind in our letter learning. This week we’re doubling up with ‘D’ and ‘Z’. The girls really love the song “Five Little Ducks” so we picked up a book at the library of the same title that has pictures of the song and it is on repeat. Our library frequently has a shelf with new picture books that have recently been published. One of our favorites lately is One Bear Extraordinaire. It tells the story of a traveling bear musician who picks up other musician friends along the way to form a band. The moral of the story is that we all have a way to contribute {although it may not always be easy to discover our talent}. Virginia Burton’s The Little House has sparked lots of conversation about why she is sad to live in the city {as Evey really likes to visit big cities}.

sitting together

In My Own Reading: I’ve recently started The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah after it was recommended by my friend, Megan, in her reading list from 2015. One of my favorite genres is historical fiction so I’m very much enthused to read this novel set in France during WWII. I also finished Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson which I’m hoping to share my thoughts on in a post soon. It was just too good to do justice to here (pun intended).

hotel hopping

Thinking and Thinking: I’ve been steeped in thought and emotion about the PRO-LIFE issues this past week. The anniversary of Roe v. Wade with the March for Life in D.C. {with prolonged suffering through this year’s snowstorm}, the Walk for Life in San Francisco, the charges against David for his undercover work while the true criminals are merely dismissed….lots to storm heaven about.

sf ferry building

Pondering: “A good journal entry–like a good song, or sketch, or photograph–ought to break up the habitual and lift away the film that forms over the eye, the finger, the tongue, the heart. A good journal entry ought to be a love letter to the world.
Leave home, leave the country, leave the familiar. Only then can routine experience–buying bread, eating vegetables, even saying hello–become new all over again.”
~
from Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr

Journaling has always been a must for me when I travel, but I’ve fallen out of the habit. I love to have my thoughts and experiences jotted down so I can return to them again years later. The memories soften and fade, but writing them down helps me keep them intact.

This author has an amazing ability to draw his reader right to the time and place he is experiencing. I hope someday my journaling is half as good.

Also, I want to begin keeping a journal for each of the girls with memories of their childhood. I should get something today.

hotel hanging

Carefully Cultivating Rhythm: Admittedly, rhythm hasn’t been our friend lately. We’ve been traveling a bit this month and it has thrown schedules out the window. Re-orienting in February.

shirley temple

Creating By Hand: I just finished knitting a hat for myself in a lovely shade of raspberry using the Barley pattern in the looser style. A trip to Carmel in early January allowed me to stop by one of my favorite yarn shops, Knitting By the Sea. The lady who owns the store introduced me to my first knitting pattern — a simple hat I knit for Evey when she was a few months old — and got me going on one of my favorite hobbies. I told her of her influence when we visited this time, which pleased her to hear. She helped me, this time, pick out a wonderful yarn for my own hat.

raspberry barley knit hat

Learning Lessons In: Slowing down. I’m not good at this, but my health and sanity require it.

doctor lu

Encouraging Learning In: Potty training. Still potty training. We’ve had more accidents in the past 24 hours than I care to think about, and this is after Evey has been doing great for almost a year now. She’s started waiting too long to make it the bathroom in time and is continually going on the floor. I guess we’re back to frequent reminders. I do hope this habit is broken quickly. I was thinking of getting Lucie started but this is quite discouraging.

lu at the playground

Crafting in the Kitchen: A set of delicious Morning Glory muffins found their way into our hands on Saturday morning. Evey and Lucie assisted me in their creation on Friday afternoon. We had a wonderful time working together. We hadn’t done much baking together in a while, and I realized I need to make it happen more often. Perhaps we’ll jump in again today.

hot chocolate morning

To Be Fit and Happy: I’m finally keeping my fitness commitment a bit better this month after making just the minimal–one 30 minute workout a week. And I usually get at least one more in. I’m also recovering with physical therapy from a shoulder injury I received from my dear daughter, Lu, who wrestles more than cuddles when she’s being held {and she loves being held}. I’m hoping to commit to another workout or two this coming month once this has cleared up.

fashionista

Loving the Moments: I celebrated my birthday this past Monday and felt so blessed with not just one, but TWO delicious meals prepared by my family. Sushi, then strawberry and red velvet ice cream with chocolate cookies. Lamb shepherd’s pie, then a homemade red velvet cake. Yum, yum, yum. So spoiled and loved.

taking over the bed

Living the Liturgy: Thinking of Lent which starts in two weeks{!!!!}. I’ll be following along with Blessed is She’s On the Way, including using the beautiful Station of the Cross cards. {The physical copies of the workbooks are sold out but I highly recommend grabbing a digital copy you can print yourself!}

carmel beach in january

Planning for the Week Ahead: Our 4th wedding anniversary lands this week. We’ll be postponing most of the celebration until Steve is done with his exam in late February, but I want to make a special dinner this week. Any recommendations?

For Life

posterize-pro-life

It felt like a punch to the gut.

A woman walked past with an empty stroller, save a black cloth draped across the top and a sign that read “I regret my abortion.”

The tears fell instantly.

The emptiness. That soul that should have been here, but was returned too soon to God instead.

All the souls that have left us too soon.

The weight of it was oppressive and I wept for all those mothers missing their little ones’, those who never had a chance to live on this earth.

 

I hate the lies that have spread so pervasively making a woman (or man) believe that ending another’s life will make their life better. It never will.

It makes me sad that parents head into the clinics with the thought that this action will help them live a better life with no regrets. It won’t.

It grieves me so deeply that one life after another is being destroyed — my co-worker, my teammate, my friend. I feel their absence.

children-are-a-gift

 

The Walk for Life is about more than just a demand for an end to abortion. {Oh, it is definitely that.} But it is also a chance to grieve for and remember all those beautiful souls that have been lost to us through this atrocious procedure, harming the very souls it claims to save.

12 {x2} in 2015

Joining in with the annual “12 in 2015” link-up {thanks, Bobbi, for hosting!} where we share a look back at the year with 12 photos. Although, I could never limit myself to just one picture per month as hard I try. So I’ll try to stick to two but this may take on a life of its own. 😉

January 2015

We took our second annual trip to Monterey to see the Aquarium for the homeschool days that included a trip to the Dennis the Menace Park.
Aquarium waterwall - January 2015

swinging high - January 2015

February 2015

Lots of heart painting for Valentine’s Day and a Mothers’ Group Valentine Tea.

painting hearts - February 2015

mothers' group valentine tea - Feb 2015

March 2015

Egg carton painting session and a puppy party to meet little Jed {who is not so little anymore!…and neither is Lucie!}.

egg carton painting - March 2015

Lucie with puppy Jed - March 2015April 2015

An Easter egg hunt in the living room on Easter morning and fabulous trip to New York City that included a wedding reception on the rooftop of the Copacabana Club. 
Easter baskets - Apr 2015

wedding dancing - Apr 2015

May 2015

Steve’s long-anticipated graduation from USC with his Masters in Public Administration and Mothers’ Day at the beach in San Luis Obispo.

victory

Mother's Day - May 2015

June 2015

Another graduation, this time Steve’s brother, Eric, graduated from UOP’s dental school, and was hooded by his father, also a dentist. Later in the month, we celebrated Lucie’s first birthday with a pretty pink cake.

uop-dugoni-school-graduation

birthday-cake-pink

July 2015

4th of July at the newly-renovated cabin and a trip to the California State Fair, which included a fire safety demo.

DSC_0137

Evey fire truck

August 2015

Lots of trips to the splash pad and painting outdoors with a cleaning in the kiddie pool to follow because it was just. too. hot.

post-water-snack

evey-finger-painting

September 2015

Although not much grew well this year, the sunflowers did splendidly. And there was a victory daddy-daughter dance in the rain when we received much-needed water from the sky.

sunflowers - Sept 2015

dancing-in-the-rain

October 2015

This was a busy month, and one where I worked on my photography, so lots to share! An absolute favorite every month: Artful Tot at the Crocker Art Museum. Evey got her first set of pigtails. Lucie loved the ‘punkins’! We jumped for joy when we heard of our newest niece’s arrival: Genevieve Marie. Evey can’t get enough snuggle time with her. I knitted my first set of leg warmers which my favorite ballerina loves to wear. We celebrated Halloween Frozen-style this year.

artful-tot-october

pigtails

my-little-pumpkin

jump-shot

evey-and-genevieve

fixing-her-slippers

Frozen Halloween - Oct 2015

November 2015

Evey celebrated her 3rd birthday with DONUTS! An early snowfall meant ‘snow fun’ the second week of November.

Evey's donut birthday - November 2015

DSC_0248

December 2015

Who needs gifts when you can enjoy the boxes they came in? More ‘snow fun’ at the cabin to celebrate Christmas with family. And enjoying some tent reading while home sick.

toddler sofa - Dec 2015

Lucie sledding - Dec 2015

reading in tent - Dec 2015

Books I Read in 2015 and Books to Read in 2016

book stack 2015

This year was a good one for books. I enjoyed many across the genres both alone and while reading aloud to the girls. I won’t be doing a round-up of read-alouds {although, perhaps I’ll do a list of favorites} as that would go into the hundreds, but I love glancing over what I’ve read this year and what I would like to read in the coming year. And I would love to hear your recommendations too! {Here’s last year’s post.}

I completed all but one of my books for Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Reading Challenge this year. I’ll include a note next to each book if it was read for that and the category chosen. Following along with the challenge was a great way to expand my interests a bit and be introduced to books I probably never would have come across otherwise. Highly recommend if you’re looking to challenge yourself in the reading department this coming year. {And she’s posted a new one for 2016!} A few friends also followed along and we chatted a bit on Facebook about the books we read each month. It’s even more fun with a group.

Novels

Still Life by Louise Penny {MMD Challenge category: “A book in a genre you don’t typically read”} — Not much for mystery stories, but this author does an amazing job of weaving together the crime and her characters. This is part one of a series. I got my mom hooked {who loves mystery} and she’s read through most of them. I’m adding a couple to this coming year’s reading list.

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson — Interesting look at a veteran WWII pilot and his thoughts on the war and modernity.

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles — I really loved this novel which reminded me a lot of The Great Gatsby. I was disappointed to find out that the author is a newbie and doesn’t have anything other than an ebook available. Hopefully, he’ll continue with his talents.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline {MMD Challenge category: “A book your mom loves”} — A seemingly lost piece of American history, the orphan train carried many across the Midwest in the early 1900s. This follows the juxtaposed lives of one such orphan and a modern day orphan when their lives cross. Very interesting read. {more thoughts here}

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins — A slightly creepy mystery novel that pulls you along from engine to caboose. {more thoughts here}

The Royal We by Heather Cocks — I was hesitant to read this after it was recommended to “British Royal fanatics.” Although I love British culture, I certainly don’t fall into that category. I enjoyed it, nonetheless.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion {MMD Challenge category: “A book ‘everyone’ has read but you”} — Silly, quirky characters, but a fun read overall.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr {{MMD Challenge category: “A book that is currently on the bestseller list”} — This one won a Pulitzer Prize and it is worth reading on repeat. So much beauty and depth to this work.

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman {MMD Challenge category: “A book you chose because of the cover”} — I loved the descriptions in this book and, of course, was captured by a story which takes place by the sea.

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck {MMD Challenge category: “A book you should have read in high school”} — A great portrait of life on Cannery Row in its heyday.

Parenting/Education

The Highly Intuitive Child by Catherine Crawford — Worth a read if you think you yourself or a loved one is blessed with the gift of intuition.

Your Two Year Old: Terrible or Tender by Louise Bates Ames — Recommended by a friend when I was going through a difficult time relating with my two-year old. This book really helps you “see” inside the mind and feelings of a child this age. I will likely read the one for three year olds too.

The Temperament God Gave Your Kids by Art Bennett — I can see this will be a great resource as my children get older in learning how to relate with each child better in regards their temperament.

The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron — Sensitivity is often seen as something negative, but this author puts it in a positive light and gives helpful tips on how to use it to your advantage and help your children deal with it when it seems overwhelming.

The Homegrown Preschooler: Teaching Your Kids in the Places They Live by Kathy H. Lee {MMD Challenge category: “A book recommended by someone with great taste”} — Starting to think about schooling with Evey, this book gave some great insight into incorporating it into your every day life at home. {Recommended by Elizabeth Foss.}

Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising Almost Perfect Kids by Gregory K. Popcak and Lisa Popcak {still reading…} — Another excellent resource book. The Popcaks do a great job of weaving St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body into parenting.

Self/Home/Family Improvement

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying-Up by Marie Kondo {MMD Challenge category: “A book originally written in a different language”} — Not a fan. Although, I’m definitely inspired to do some purging and organizing this year.

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown — I cannot recommend Brown’s books enough. Especially for the introverts among us, they inspire you to keep going, even when you feel like breaking, to find hope in disappointments.

The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning by Simcha Fisher — One I’ve been meaning to read for a while and finally picked up after a sale on the Kindle edition. Worth a read if you are in the trenches of NFP. Fischer writing is humorous, yet inspiring.

Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman {MMD Challenge category: “A book published this year”} — One of my favorites this year. In a world of busyness and hustle, the author reminds us to take a step back and especially pay attention to the small moments of life.

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin {MMD Challenge category: “A book by a favorite author”} — Review here.

Witness to Love by Ryan and Mary Rose Verret — Review here.

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown — Short, but sweet and powerful. More thoughts here.

Design Mom: How to Live with Kids: A Room-By-Room Guide by Gabrielle Blair — Not all that I hoped for, but inspiring nonetheless. Blair gives some great ideas for living stylishly with kids at home. {For more inspiration, check out her blog.}

A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman — An excellent book inspiring creativity in whatever place in life you find yourself.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande — This one is a must-read. It gives a fantastic look at the current state of modern medicine on the end of life and the real questions we should be asking when considering our own death or those we love.

Memoirs

Delancey by Molly Wizenberg {MMD Challenge category: “A book you’ve been meaning to read”} — Review here.

A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle — This was an accidental re-read, but I’m so glad I did. My first encounter was about four years ago when I was pregnant with Evelyn. There is so much more I connected with this time being a “seasoned” mom and more serious writer. Highly recommended.

Cookbooks

Make it Ahead by Ina Garten — I love all of Garten’s cookbooks, as they feature simple and fresh recipes. This newest one is a real gem as it has recipes you can make ahead.

Creativity

Capture the Moment by Sarah Wilkerson — Review here.

Blog, Inc.: Blogging for Profit, Passion, and to Create Community by Joy Cho — For me, this was kind of a flop. I was looking for blogging inspiration, but didn’t find much.

Religion

Laudato Si by Pope Francis — There’s lots to say about the pope’s encyclical and I’m hoping to do a re-read and post or two on it this coming year. Read it, if you haven’t.

The Ancient Path: Old Lessons from the Church Fathers for a New Life Today by John Michael Talbot — Review here.

The Man of Villa Tevere by Pilar Urbino {still reading…} — About halfway through this excellent sketch of St. Josemaria’s life when he was living in Rome. I need to finish it up, stat.

Psychology

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson — Kind of disturbing, but worth considering.

 

reading in the car

Hoping to Read in 2016: 

Novels

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott {last of my MMD challenge for 2015: “A book from childhood”}

Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers

In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny {Inspector Gamache #2}

The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny {Inspector Gamache #3}

Parenting/Education

The Highly Sensitive Child: Helping Our Children Thrive When the World Overwhelms Them by Elaine Aron

How Children Fail by John Holt

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

Self/Home/Family Improvement

My Fringe Hours: Discovering a More Creative and Fulfilled Life by Jessica N. Turner

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Rising Strong by Brene Brown

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker

Wild in the Hollow: On Chasing Desire and Finding the Broken Way Home by Amber C. Haines

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

The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr

Memoirs

Something Other Than God by Jennifer Fulweiler

Memoirs of a Happy Failure by Alice Von Hildebrand

Acedia and Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life by Kathleen Norris

Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World by Anthony Doerr

Cookbooks

Homemade Decadence by Joy Wilson {Joy the Baker}

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

My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life by Ruth Reichl

Politics/Law

Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time by Jeff Speck

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

 

Any others I should add to my list? What were YOUR favorite reads this year?

Finding Delight in the Lord — In Every Moment Given

Blessed is She hosted Advent retreat gatherings all over the world this past Saturday (and a few more take place this upcoming weekend). I offered my home as a location to host, but only a friend of mine expressed interest in coming. As it is easier for the two of us to get together during the week, we postponed until a few days later.

It was this fortuitous event that actually brought the lesson of “delighting in the Lord” home to me this Advent.

Munsill thanksgiving

My grandfather has been in hospice care for a little over a year now, but the past few weeks saw a rapid decline after an illness he caught swiftly made him worse. Over this period, I was able to visit a few times and sit vigil with him as he completed his days on this earth.

Those times spent with him, I spoke a few words with him when he was able to hold a little conversation or shared memories with other family members who were visiting. But mostly, I prayed for him. I prayed with him and over him. It felt very much like time spent in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament–that veil between heaven and earth is so thin in His presence, and I could sense the same as I sat with my grandfather keeping vigil in his final agony.

On Saturday afternoon, when the BIS retreat was to take place, I ended up going over to my parents’ house with the family. While Steve stayed with the girls at their house, I drove over to keep company with my dad and grandfather. When I arrived, my dad was playing Big Band music for my grandpa, joking that he had asked my dad to play the music for him. It was his favorite, so I’m certain he would have asked for it had he been able.

My dad and I chatted. We checked in with the medical tech to make sure my grandfather was receiving his pain medications regularly. We helped him take his breathing treatment and replaced his oxygen when he was finished. We relished the moments with him as we didn’t know when would be his last.

It is not always easy to sit with a dying person. It’s hard to know whether to converse with them. It’s difficult to watch their struggles as they suffer mostly interiorly. It’s painful when others who love the person are present, to know what to say to each other as you mourn the loss of this person who is so dear to you.

But what I certainly did as I sat there with my grandfather was “delighted in the moments” — giving thanks for each breath that still held him here, giving thanks for all the memories of good times past, giving thanks for the family legacy he was leaving to us, giving thanks for his life that had touched mine so profoundly. His presence was still very deeply felt even as he was slipping away and I wanted to be with him every minute I could that was left.

As we went about our Sunday morning the next day, I didn’t know that he had passed on to eternal life in the wee hours of the morning. We took the girls to an early Mass at the cathedral as we were planning to go to the German Christkindlmarkt later that morning. When we arrived at the cathedral, Bishop Soto was greeting a few people after the earlier service. I rarely see the bishop casually waiting in the vestibule, so we quickly made our way over to say ‘hello’. Stephen asked the bishop for his blessing on our family, and he spontaneously prayed for our “strength and health”. I see this as a great act of providence, one of the many moments God was showing His delight in me as I struggled with saying goodbye to my grandfather.

Once in the church, I was thinking of my grandfather and I leaned over toward Evelyn and said we should pray for him as he was having a hard time. She paused for a few moments to do so, then turned back to me and said, “Great-Grandpa has left us.” At the time, she actually said Great-Grandma, and I thought she was speaking of Steve’s grandmother who had died that same day, four years prior. But I realized later, when I asked her about it, she actually meant Great-Grandpa. I got the message when I turned my phone back on after church that my grandpa had, indeed, entered into his eternal rest early that morning.

There had been some difficulty having someone with him around the clock to care for him as the staff were stretched thin with many souls needing care that week. It was weighing heavily on me that he might not have someone with him when he passed. I wanted to stay with him, but my little ones needed me during the overnight hours. My parents were able to bring in the lady who had cared for him at home while he was living there a short time after my grandmother passed away. She was to stay with him through the night. A short time after she arrived, he died. I am so grateful for her presence, that he was able to have someone with him as he passed. Another instance of God’s loving care, delight in His precious servant.

christmas cards grandpa and grandma

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

As I reflected during the retreat I was finally able to do with my friend yesterday, I could see this message of the Lord’s delight written all over the past few weeks. I was able to see in those moments that I spent with my grandfather as he lay dying, in the circumstances in which he died, God’s love for me, God’s love for him. Each moment given was an act of His love poured out. I witnessed Christ’s love in that small room, carefully transfixed on him whom He was to carry home soon and on each one of us grieving his loss. Christ helped me to find joy in the midst of sorrow, in the midst of saying goodbye.

The waiting–the advent–of my grandfather’s journey to his eternal home was a great witness and true living out of this Advent season. I miss my grandpa dearly, but I rejoice that he will delight in the joy of heaven this Christmas alongside my grandma.

grandma and grandpa at christmas

I see the countless Christmas trees,
Around the world below.
With tiny lights, like heaven’s stars,
Reflecting on the snow.

The sight is so spectacular,
Please wipe away that tear.
For I’m spending Christmas,
With Jesus Christ this year.

I hear the many Christmas songs,
That people hold so dear.
But the sounds of music can’t compare,
With the Christmas choir up here.

For I have no words to tell you,
The joy their voices bring.
For it is beyond description,
To hear the angels sing.

I can’t tell you of the splendor,
Or the peace here in this place.
Can you just imagine Christmas,
With our Savior, face to face?

I’ll ask Him to light your spirit,
As I tell Him of your love.
So then pray one for another,
As I lift you eyes above.

Please let your hearts be joyful,
And let your spirit sing.
For I’m Spending Christmas in Heaven,
And I’m walking with the King.

~Wanda Benke~

It IS Personal : Why My Compassion for Paris Does Not Diminish Those Suffering Elsewhere

trocadero paris

I may not be a French national but I very much consider France my second home. I have many friends who live there, and of all the other countries I’ve been to, France is first on my list of most visited. I lived in Paris for a semester studying, encountering the people, steeping myself in the language and culture, becoming inspired to love good, fresh foods, learning the intricacies of all those winding streets that still exist despite Haussmann’s best efforts to eradicate them. It is a place that lives in my heart even when I’m not present.

To hear of the attacks there last Friday, cut me to my core. I feared for friends. I felt deeply the violation of a country. I considered how easily I could have been in similar circumstances had the events happened 7 years earlier. I’ve visited those streets, I’ve attended a soccer match in that very stadium, where the explosions occurred.

On this same day, there was a bombing in Beirut that killed and injured dozens. This, too, saddens me greatly that there are people anywhere in this world that consider suicidal attacks on innocent civilians an acceptable means of warfare {or whatever it is they consider what they are doing}.

I’ll admit, my thoughts and heart went mostly to France that day. There is a strong current of shaming that occurred on social media, though, for those of us who weren’t equally posting about both events. I do care about what is happening to those in the Middle East and I frequently remember them in my prayers, but the attacks on Paris were close.

I should not feel ashamed to place an emphasis on something I love. As Madeleine L’Engle put it, “Compassion is particular; it is never general.” Sympathy for a general idea of those suffering does not easily produce action to help actually relieve those in distress. A personal connection is more likely to inspire action. It is not to say we shouldn’t do things for those who are further removed from us, but when we turn towards those first who are closer to us, it is an appropriate response. If loved ones were in distress along with a crowd of others would you indiscriminately help anyone or would you search out and protect your loved ones first? 

Sympathy for those suffering in France does not diminish the suffering of those elsewhere. In fact, it may strengthen one’s concern for others in a similar situation. We should not be condemning others who vocalize concern about one person or one group before another. One should emulate their compassion and throw our love, prayers and thoughts towards those God has placed on one’s own heart. 

pensive...

Quietly Preparing

It gets pretty quiet around here come November. I begin to get into Advent and Christmas-prep mode, so little time is left for writing my thoughts and happenings. The cooler weather also makes me pause and become more contemplative. The introvert in me comes out full-force. I miss writing, but I’m happy to be more reserved for a time.

Advent-light

I’m gathering bits and pieces for the beginning of Advent {just only over a week away!}. This year, I’m catching on with the tradition of wrapping a book for each day and opening it as a sort of Advent calendar. The bookworm bug is strong around here, so there is always much reading done, but now Evey also gets a kick out of opening packages, so it’ll be fun to add on that extra element. I’ll be wrapping them in old, brown paper bags as I could see purchasing enough Christmas paper to cover so many becoming rather expensive.

We also will be doing our beloved Advent Nativity. This was Evey’s favorite last year. She never forgot a day, as it was her first act upon rising in the morning. More important, even, than breakfast. 😉

nativity-advent-calendar

We’ll be following along with Ann Voskamp’s, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, together as a family and making our own Jesse Tree ornaments as we go along each day. And, of course, lighting our Advent wreath on the appropriate Sundays.

A small chocolate Advent calendar may also make it’s way to our counter too. 😉

One thing I was fairly successful at last year, which I’ve made even more of an effort to do this year, is purchasing Christmas gifts before Advent starts. It allows us to really dive into the quiet preparation for Christ’s birth. And really remember the reason for the season, without fretting over whether presents have been purchased or not and rushing to beat crazy crowds.

 

What kind of Advent/Christmas preparations are happening in your household? 

Knight’s Hat {Yarn Along}

grey-knit-needles

grey-knit-hat-needles

Our family has been fighting an evil bug that caught us by surprise as soon as the cool weather hit last week. We’ve been nursing every cold symptom in the book with long naps, steam baths, and hot toddies. Extra time on the couch has found me with my knitting needles in hand for prolonged periods of time, starting the preparations for Christmas gifts.

My sister-in-law mentioned some time ago that my nephew might like a knitted knight’s hat so I searched high and low for a knit one {crochet ones are much easier to find} and stumbled across these “guidelines” for making one. I say that because it is not really a pattern but a few helps in the constructing of such a thing. It wasn’t too hard to figure out so give it a go if you’re interested.

Thankfully, my nephew doesn’t read my blog so I can share some sneak peeks of his gift. 😉

In the reading department this week, I shot through The Royal We which was great for entertainment, but not too much depth. Just what I needed with a cloudy head. Recommended for those who love British culture, especially of the royal variety.

Linking up with Ginny’s Yarn Along

Things I Learned in October

  • autumn-smoothieEven though California autumns feel more like summers, there are ways we can help to make it feel more like autumn.

Sitting here, on the day after Halloween, we’re finally pulling out the fleece blankets and donning the flannel pjs. Minus a random day here and there, October has been in the 80s and 90s during the day. Maybe this is normal, but after spending four years in Virginia during the fall season, I got spoiled with the brilliant display the leaves perform this time of year and the brisk crispness to the air. Now, I drink my PSL in the air conditioning, hoping to experience some semblance of cool, or grab that pumpkin spice drink in the form of a smoothie to cope. The rare tree that unlocks wonderful hues of yellow, orange and red, I grab a few and return to it when I need an autumnal fix. And knitting, makes me hopeful for days when we’ll be able to wear what I stitch.

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  • There is not enough live music in my life.

I surprised my husband with a date night to see the Tannahill Weavers performing at our local state theatre this past month. We are both big fans of celtic music so I knew the Scottish band would delight us both. But I didn’t realize how much it would inspire me to play music of my own again. The girls and I have been turning on our keyboard and banging out songs many afternoons. And, I dare say, it had a similar effect on Steve as he’s been pulling out his mandolin and playing with the girls too.

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  • How to make pigtails in very thin, short hair. 

My dear daughter was born with the shortest, whispiest hair–and it hasn’t changed much in the three years she’s been on this earth. It’s finally long enough to make the smallest of pigtails. One of these days, she’ll get the Elsa braid she longs for. <3

elsa-costume-in-progress

  • To trust my own creativity more and more.

I’m often fearful whether I have enough skill to make whatever I’m diving into. Or if I can come up with something that matches {somewhat} the idea I have in my head. But, I’m discovering, the more I just do and the less I worry, the better things turn out. I’m not saying I don’t prepare, but it is easy to just browse through all those lovely Pinterest ideas or long for something like one of my friends has shared, and never really act on the intentions. I’m jumping all in and making many of the gifts I will be giving for Christmas this year. I’m excited to really use these God-given talents.

  • I may have failed to complete my #write31days but the lessons learned were worth the “fail.” 

I truly thought I would make it to the end, but life did not allow for it. Being the perfectionist I tend to be, I’m fighting against it and trying to seek, rather, the lessons that have been the result. It has clarified some things for me regarding my blogging, brought up some important questions about it, but also inspired me to continue to pursue further education in my photography.

What were some things you learned in October?

Linking up with Emily for ‘What I Learned in October’

Never Gets Old {Music Review}

We interrupt your regularly scheduled program of #write31days to bring you a short PSA {that should have been included with yesterday’s post but wasn’t}. #life


 

What do Andrea Bocelli and Disney possibly have in common? Well, besides platinum music albums, neither of them produce music that ever gets old. The timeless lilting of Bocelli’s soothing voice, the ageless jives of the Disney soundtracks–we just never tire of them. And one more commonality? They both have albums releasing this month!

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Andrea Bocelli has long been a favorite of mine. They say that those who are missing the benefit of one of their senses seem to make up for it by being especially strong in another. I firmly believe that Bocelli’s lack of sight enhanced his ability to hear and, subsequently, to match pitch with the greatest precision. His singing is so lovely to listen to as he gently glides from one note to the next. He effortlessly enchants crowds as we saw with his performance for Pope Francis last month.

I recently had the opportunity to preview his latest album where he proves his talents once again. His album “Cinema”, which hit stores last week, is a great collection of some of the most beloved showcased tunes from the movies. {And if you’re into watching him perform live, you can catch him the day after Thanksgiving, November 27th, on PBS’ “Fall Arts Festival” where his performance of the songs from the album will be aired.}

Although my comprehension of the lyrics is lacking, my favorites of his remain those he sings in his native language of Italian and the closely related language of Spanish. Among my favorites from the album are E Piu’ Ti Penso, a wonderful duet with Ariana Grande, Mi Mancherai from ‘Il Postino’, and the ever-epic ballad of No Llores Por Mi Argentina {Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina} from ‘Evita’. He makes those notes soar.

The recording of this album was, apparently, a long-time dream of Bocelli’s, as the creative license in movie soundtracks is much more vast than your average songs. I think he has done an excellent job doing justice to these beautiful songs. Give it a listen! On iTunes and Amazon.

I participated in the Andrea Bocelli “Cinema” album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided an album to review but all opinions are my own. 

 

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Disney songs are on constant repeat in my head. It doesn’t matter how long since I’ve seen the movie, I can still remember every word to the catchy song. But I don’t mind too much. These songs seem to become part of the soundtrack of our life. Many childhood memories are associated with the songs of Disney films. {I can usually deduce when the film came out based on what I associate with the songs from that movie.}

And what could be better than hearing your old favorites over and over again? Hearing a new voice sing them with their own, fun spin! Disney is releasing an album of all their oldies-but-goodies, We Love Disney, sung by current pop stars, like Gwen Stefani, Jason Derulo, Fall Out Boy, and Rascal Flatts, this Thursday, October 30th {just in time for your Disney-themed Haloween party or while getting your little Buzz Lightyear dressed for trick or treatin’!}. Jazzy tunes like Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat and Zero to Hero, sweet renditions of Part of Your World and A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes, jumping swing songs like Friend Like Me and Wanna Be Like You. You just can’t resist jumping out of your seat and dancing along. {At least we couldn’t.}

And don’t worry, even the youngest in your household will be enthralled–they didn’t forget Let It Go. And I just might like this version the best. Give it a spin on iTunes or Amazon!

I participated in the We Love Disney album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided an album to review but all opinions are my own.

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