'Muff'in Dome

Year in Review – 2016

My blogging has been sporadic and sparse this year. Much happening with my family and not a whole lot of time to sit down and type out words, even though I have many bouncing around in my head to share.

So, although, I had planned on this being a ’12 in 12 photos’ post, it has turned into more. A quick recap of the year in photos and a few words.

Here’s to 2016. You were good to us.

January

Carmel beach - Jan 2016

Carmel Mission - Jan 2016

wall of water - Jan 2016

jelly fish - Jan 2016

walk for life - Jan 2016

ferry building SF - Jan 2016

We took our annual trip to Carmel and Monterey to visit the Aquarium for Homeschool Days. End of the month had us traveling down to San Francisco for the Walk for Life and a quick weekend getaway in the city.

 

February

Valentine kisses - Feb 2016

top of the Space Needle - Feb 2016

dsc00593

tea in Victoria - Feb 2016

tiny photographer Victoria - Feb 2016

Princess Evey - Feb 2016

We attended a Valentine’s party at a friend’s house where she had a great photo prop wall set up — Lucie was hamming it up! We went to Seattle {part one and part two} and Victoria, BC as a family, where Steve was quietly taking the Washington State Bar Exam {he passed!}. We loved the Pacific Northwest and hope to travel there again soon. The girls’ cousin, Rosie, celebrated her birthday with a tea party towards the end of the month, and the girls loved dressing up for the occasion.

 

March

exploring water - March 2016

Blessed is She retreat - March 2016

Candy Land - March 2016

Easter - March 2016

petting baby chicks - May 2016

The Fountains - March 2016

Post rain walks were a huge hit this month for watching leaves and sticks float down the runoff. I went to a Blessed is She retreat in Phoenix — my first time away from the girls for a weekend — and had wonderful, much-needed quiet time with the Lord and good friends. Evey learned her first board game, Candyland, on my childhood game board. Easter was a beautiful day with family {and chickens!}. And there was twinning at the Fountains.

 

April

bouquets to art - April 2016

tea at the palm court SF - April 2016

garden helper - April 2016

morning popsicles - April 2016

first time bowling - April 2016

swearing into the Bar - May 2016

I went with a mom and friend to the Bouquets to Art exhibit at the De Young Museum in San Francisco, followed by high tea at the Palace Hotel. My little helpers got us going on our garden. It was hot enough to eat popsicles for morning snack by the end of the month. The girls had a blast during their first bowling trip. And the greatest highlight of the month was watching Steve get sworn into the Washington Bar at my parents’ house by a good friend of my mother.

 

May

 

capital crew - May 2016

pencil behind ear - May 2016

family photo - May 2016

eating strawberries from the patch - May 2016

riding with lettuce - May 2016

Evey's tomato plant - May 2016

dancing for great grandma - May 2016

May snow play - May 2016

I watched my brother, Raphael, in the Southwest Junior Rowing Championships at Lake Natoma. Morning cutie with a pencil in her ear. A gathering at my parents’ house had everyone in attendance. More gardening {lots of strawberries and lettuce!}.  Evelyn enjoyed working with her tomato plant housed in it’s own special red cage. We celebrated Great-Grandma, AM’s “39th” birthday again. It was still cold enough for some snow to be on the ground at the cabin!

 

June

water play - June 2016

holding a ladybug - June 2016

running together - June 2016

hula hooping - June 2016

Golden Gate Bridge SF - June 2016

playing xylophone - June 2016

hiding in a tree SF - June 2016

at the beach in Santa Cruz - June 2016

Santa Cruz beach - June 2016

chillin in the sand chair - June 2016

daddy's day - June 2016

carrots and chard from our garden - June 2016

corn tassels - June 2016

strawberries from the garden - June 2016

birthday girl - June 2016

Water play began this month and we spent a large part of the summer splashing in that little pool. A trip to the cabin involved a little hike where Lucie found her favorite–a ladybug–and Evey enjoyed running with Jed. I took the girls to Children’s Discovery Museum in Sausalito and we had a blast exploring all day. Father’s Day weekend found us in Santa Cruz, spending ample time at the beach and checking out the “little red lighthouse” {a great discovery due to this book}. Wonderful summer produce from our garden! And a little someone celebrated her second birthday at the end of the month.

 

July

examining flowers - July 2016

all american - July 2016

parade time - July 2016

pretend photos - July 2016

sitting on the dock - July 2016

hammock time with daddy - July 2016

swinging fun - July 2016

Serene Lakes parade - July 2016

first fish! - July 2016

blowing seeds to the wind - July 2016

flower child - July 2016

camping hike - July 2016

Evey photog - July 2016

first ferris wheel ride - July 2016

A busy, wonderful month full of much exploration! We spent a week at the cabin to celebrate the 4th of July — lots of fun with family! Then, we hopped over to the coast to spend the following weekend at Gerstle Cove State Park to camp with our dear friends, Evelyn’s godparents. And finally closed off the month with a trip to the California State Fair where Evelyn got to go on her first ferris wheel ride {worth the hour+ standing in the blazing sun!}.

 

August

blowing bubbles - Aug 2016

fishing together - Aug 2016

our sunflowers - Aug 2016

SLO beach - Aug 2016

catching seeds - Aug 2016

hanging with my girls - Aug 2016

Winding down the summer with one more trip to the cabin for bubble blowing and fishing. We grew some beautiful multi-colored sunflowers in our garden which often graced my kitchen window. I ran away to SLO with my sis-in-laws for a weekend away complete with a requisite trip to the beach. Evelyn loved pulling the seeds from the cornflower seed pods to store away for next year. Hamming it up as we say goodbye to summer!

 

September

playing in the yard - Sept 2016

BIS retreat - Sept 2016

knit hat - Sept 2016

cheers in Sac! - Sept 2016

camping dirt play - Sept 2016

large painting - Sept 2016

play dough play - Sept 2016

writing her name - Sept 2016

going up the slide - Sept 2016

Dwindling summer evenings at the Labor Day BBQ. I went on retreat with my Blessed is She writer team in Minnesota/Wisconsin for a weekend–so wonderful to meet many bright faces I had only interacted with online before. Knit up this lovely hat for myself with Ginny’s yarn and my first pattern from Making Magazine.  Happy Hour during an overnight in Sacramento. Off to our last camping trip of the summer at the Calaveras Big Trees with Gram and Pumpkin where Lucie got as dirty as she possible could. Many great activities from our Homegrown Preschooler curriculum this autumn, including BIG painting, homemade play dough, and writing our name! We took Daddy with us to explore Fairy Tale Town on a rare day off.

 

October

Seattle date - Oct 2016

Multnomah Falls - Oct 2016

rain play - Oct 2016

playing in the rain - Oct 2016

first fair isle - Oct 2016

circus - Oct 2016

pumpkin patch - Oct 2016

explode the code - Oct 2016

Apple Hill - Oct 2016

apple picking - Oct 2016

Halloween - Oct 2016

Steve and I got away for a long weekend to Portland, a place neither of us had been before. {Our first weekend away since having the girls!} Much needed rain for California didn’t stop us from going outside–a different kind of water play from the summer, but so fun! I finished my first Fair Isle hat–a sweet little cap for Evelyn–with my favorite new yarn from Quince & Co. that I picked up in Portland. Evey’s wish came true and we went to the circus after I won tickets to a show! A pumpkin patch, of course! Evelyn completed her first school workbook. Fall just wouldn’t be fall without a trip Apple Hill, enjoying the colors of the season, as well as apple picking {and eating} in our nearby orchard. And rounded out the month with Halloween and a reappearance of Anna and Elsa.

 

November

hiking with uncles - Nov 2016

Veterans day parade - Nov 2016

backyard bonfire - Nov 2016

train museum - Nov 2016

turning 4! - Nov 2016

cousins holding cousins - Nov 2016

crazy faces - Nov 2016

digging out - Nov 2016

building a snowman - Nov 2016

cracking eggs - Nov 2016

building together - Nov 2016

knitting - Nov 2016

thanksgiving tree - Nov 2016

Thanksgiving - Nov 2016

A final trip of the season with uncles to Apple Hill. Joining in the local Veterans’ Day parade. A backyard bonfire to roast hot dogs and marshmallows. A trip to the train museum in Sacramento to celebrate Evelyn turning 4. Lucie enjoyed holding her newest cousin, Zachary. Headed up to the cabin for the first big snowfall of the season. Steve did an excellent job digging us out. And we made a fantastic snowman. Our resident egg cracker. A moment of working together that doesn’t happen too often. Lots of Christmas gift knitting. Our family thanksgiving tree. And Thanksgiving dinner at my parents’ house.

 

December

Advent candles - Dec 2016

counting gingerbread buttons - Dec 2016

Advent calendar - Dec 2016

Christmas crackers - Dec 2016

mama quiet time - Dec 2016

SF store windows at Christmas - Dec 2016

decorating Christmas cookies - Dec 2016

cutting out gingerbread - Dec 2016

decorating cookies - Dec 2016

fallen Christmas tree - Dec 2016

fancy dinner - Dec 2016

Nutcracker - Dec 2016

first quilt

snuggling with Gram - Dec 2016

sledding with Pumpkin - Dec 2016

Evey skiing - Dec 2016

Christmas chaos - Dec 2016

dad's new hat - Dec 2016

Christmas morning donuts - Dec 2016

Christmas breakfast - Dec 2016

doll house play - Dec 2016

Christmas girls - Dec 2016

Christmas napping - Dec 2016

Lot’s of great things this month! We dove into Advent with gusto, but fell off a bit when I got sick. The girls enjoyed the Advent calendars and a look at celebrations from places around the world, while I got to dive in deeply with BiS’s Advent journal. We took a trip to San Francisco to take a peek at the magical displays in the storefront windows. Many cookies were made and decorated. Our tree fell over {but we repositioned the bottom to stay in the stand better and had no further accidents}. On the eve of Christmas Eve we went out for a fancy dinner at one of our favorite restaurants and to the Nutcracker at the Sacramento Ballet. I completed my first quilt, a gift for my brother, Dominic. We had a Christmas weekend at the cabin, complete with lots of snow fun! And a Christmas celebration at my parents’ that involved deep sea diving in wrapping paper by the young ones. My dad sporting his newly knit hat! Christmas morning was quiet and wonderful. And Lucie snuck in plenty of naps during the holidays!

 

Wishing one and all a Happy New Year 2017!

Thanks for taking this look back with me!

Books I Read in 2016 and Books to Read in 2017

page from Well Read Women

2016 was a good year for books. The majority I read, I thoroughly enjoyed. Perhaps it’s because I’m becoming more in tune with the stories and subjects that truly interest me, or perhaps it was just a lucky selection. Either way, I’m hoping for the same in 2017!

I’ve got a great list going for this coming year. And I’ve almost finished my first! Let me know in the comments if you have ones to add.

 

Read in 2016: 

Novels

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah — Being a huge fan of historical fiction, especially of the the WWII era, this was an automatic addition to my reading list. But it caught me by surprise, as it explored the war almost exclusively from the women-who-were-left-at-home’s point of view. Very poignant and well-written.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh — Having enjoyed working with flowers in arrangements  over the years, learned mostly from my mother, this book struck my fancy. The story revolves around the Victorian meaning of the flowers used by the protagonist in her arrangements. It’s wonderfully woven into the story. Great characters. More thoughts here.

Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry — My first experience of Berry’s works and I’m yearning for more. I found myself copying passages to return to time and again. The way you are drawn into the deeply personal thoughts and experiences of Hannah was incredible.

Gunnar’s Daughter by Sigrid Undset — It’s been a while since I’ve read the Lavansdatter series, which I love, so I decided to give one of Undset’s others a try. Written in her early years of writing, there is a bit of disjointedness to the story. But that could also be the translation.

The Lake House by Kate Morton — This mystery was wonderfully drawn out and had me yearning for a trip through the London countryside.

The One in a Million Boy by Monica Wood — I started this one not knowing what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised by the characters woven into the story. It explores how a loved one can have a profound impact on lives even after death and how, perhaps, there may be more to someone than meets the eye.

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George — Fun, little story, set in one of my favorite cities. This is a light hearted read sure to be enjoyed by bibliophiles and francophiles alike.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles — Review here.

The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartín Fenollera — Many amongst my friends were raving about this. It was an okay read for me.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave — I didn’t like this one as much as I thought I would.

Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen — One of my least favorite reads of the year, the character’s lacked a depth that I need in a good novel.

 

Short Stories

Memory Wall by Anthony Doerr — After enjoying several others of Doerr’s works, I picked up this collection short stories written earlier. Beautiful writing, but not as captivating for me as his longer books.

 

History

Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste by Luke Barr — Review here.

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson — This author is quickly becoming one of my favorites. I’ve always loved historical fiction, but his works are non-fiction that read like fiction. Highly engaging, very intriguing.

 

Parenting/Education

The Artful Parent by Jean Van’t Hul — I’m a huge fan of the Artful Parent blog and this book is a great extension of it. Even our local art museum bases their toddler-based art program–Artful Tot–off of Jean’s philosophy and projects. Especially inspiring for those who aren’t creativity-focused themselves.

Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt — My learning style is founded upon a great library {even if it is one borrowed from the local one} for the children to read along with mom and dad, and, eventually, on their own. This book is a great encouragement and resource for doing just that.

Real Learning: Education in the Heart of the Home by Elizabeth Foss — Managed to grab my mom’s old copy, as this book is out of print, and so happy I did. Elizabeth’s writing through her blog has been an encouragement to me as I embark on homeschooling my children, and her book is equally so. I’ll be returning to it often for further inspiration.

The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease — The author does an excellent job of explaining why reading aloud to your children is so vital, as well as providing excellent places to start in an expansive booklist. I borrowed this from the library, but need to grab my own, updated copy to have as a resource at home.

The Highly Sensitive Child by Elaine N. Aron — A great help in learning some methods to help children who deal with different types of sensitivities thrive when the world is overwhelming. {Helpful for adults too!}

The Importance of Being Little by Erika Christakis — I really loved this well-researched book on the importance of less didactic lessons and more exploration in early childhood.

 

Self/Home/Family Improvement

Rising Strong by Brené Brown — One of my favorite authors, this book addresses how moments that may kick us down can, ultimately, be excellent tools for growth. Highly recommend. Here is a reflection I wrote on mercy based on my reading of this book.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown — I rarely do audio books, but that is the only way this was available at our local library. I was glad I did as note taking was much easier this way. A book that will inspire you to take an honest look at what is truly important in your life so you can better give your time to the things that truly are.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert — Many creative types were praising Gilbert’s latest work, but I felt it was more praise of her own accomplishments than great encouragement. Just me.

 

Memoirs

Something Other Than God by Jennifer Fulwiler — This book recounts the author’s journey to faith, of finding God when He was the one she was least interested in. If you are a fan of Jennifer’s writing, you’ll enjoy her story.

Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World by Anthony Doerr — One of my favorite memoirs of all time. In addition to loving Doerr’s writing, I couldn’t lose with stories of bringing up baby twins as an expat in Italy and his first-hand account as a non-believer experiencing Rome during St. Pope John Paul II’s funeral.

Memoirs of a Happy Failure by Alice von Hildebrand — This was a fascinating read knowing the author from some of her other works. She comes across as a strong, faith-filled woman {which she is}, but this reveals her crisis of confidence due to the pressures from those who doubt her convictions.

Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace by Anne Lamott — This anecdotal collections was humorous, sponanteous, inspiring, irreverent, and sad all at the same time.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi — Perhaps my favorite this year, published posthumously, this neurosurgeon begins to write his memoir when he’s faced with his own terminal illness. It will make you dive deeply into your own thoughts of facing death.

 

Politics/Law

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson — A sobering look at the lack of equity in our justice system, and the work of a man who is desperately trying to change it one person at a time.

 

Communications

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age by Sherry Turkle — I appreciated this honest look at how technology can actually be a hindrance to connection and conversation. Some great thoughts here on how we can put checks on ourselves and our children’s internet consumption and better foster connection.

 

Spirituality/Religion

Chiara Corbella Portrillo: A Witness to Joy by Simone Troisi — A difficult, but greatly inspiring read. A little reflection based on my reading of this book.

Divine Mercy for Moms by Michele Faehnle — Review here.

Encountering Truth: Meeting God in the Everyday by Pope Francis — Review here.

Taste and See: Experiencing the Goodness of God with Our Five Senses by Ginny Kubitz Moyer — Written by one of my fellow Blessed is She writers, I loved this wonderful reflection on the blessings in our lives through the five senses.

Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist — This book was a great reflection for me as I struggle daily with perfectionism. I will be revisiting it throughout this coming year as I try to live out its message.

For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker — Along the same lines as above, Jen’s message didn’t resonate for me in the same way, but I know many appreciate her writing.

 

knitting and little paris bookshop

 

To Read in 2017: 

Novels

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Les Miserables: Tome I by Victor Hugo {IN FRENCH!}

The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni

The Winthrop Woman by Anya Seton

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes

Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher

Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray

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

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

 

History/Memoirs

Eve of a Hundred Midnights by Bill Lascher

The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough

First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies by Kate Andersen Brower

One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson

Hope Heals: A True Story of Overwhelming Loss and an Overcoming Love by Katherine and Jay Wolf

Gift From the Sea by Anne Lindbergh

 

Parenting/Education

Caught Up in a Story by Sarah Clarkson

Educating the Whole Hearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson

Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie

The Lifegiving Home: Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming by Sally Clarkson

Give Your Child the World by Jamie C. Martin

Whole Brained Child by Daniel J. Siegel {re-read}

Homeschooling Series by Charlotte Mason {Volume I here.}

 

Self/Home/Family Improvement

Quiet by Susan Cain {re-read}

Open Heart, Open Home by Karen Mains

 

Spirituality/Theology

The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp

Vibrant Paradoxes: The Both/And of Catholicism by Robert Barron

In the Midst of Chaos: Caring for Children as a Spiritual Practice by Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore

Who Does He Say You Are? : Women Transformed by Christ in the Gospels by Colleen C. Mitchell

Interior Freedom by Jacques Philippe

 

Philosophy

The Way of Beauty by David Clayton

 

Social Sciences

Walkable City by Jeff Speck

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

 

Poetry

Poems and Prose by Gerard Manly Hopkins

 

Writing/Creativity

Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott

The Knitter’s Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes

Simply Calligraphy by Judy Detrick

 

Cookbooks

Cooking for Jeffrey by Ina Garten

A Kitchen In France by Mimi Thorinsson

Date Night In by Ashley Rodriguez

 

{Books I Read in 2015}
{Books I Read in 2014}

 

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Made Great By Love

I had the privilege about a month ago to take some family photos for dear friends of mine, Matt and Catherine. These family photos weren’t just your average family photos, though.

They contained a message of hope, a message of love.

mcadoption7

“Great love can change small things into great ones…”
~ St. Faustina

During this Year of Mercy that is quickly coming to a close, the Lord has placed strongly on their hearts a pull to begin moving forward in the adoption process. It has been a desire on their hearts for a long time {for both, since before they knew each other!}, but the time has finally come to truly begin.

mcadoption-2

They are two of the kindest and caring people I know. I am certain that any children placed in their care will be greatly blessed and well-loved.  They are the godparents to my eldest and are to several other children of friends. This attests to their great love and faith. We love their hearts.

mcadoption6

Matt and Catherine have set up a YouCaring page where they are asking for donations to aid in the expensive process, a burden which is too much for them to take up on their own. They are relying on God’s grace and the kindness of others to make this possible.

Would you consider giving

I have a little incentive for you! I will be holding a raffle of this cozy, knit hat {retail value: $60} for every $20 in donations that is given to their fundraising page between now and December 6, 2016, 11:59pm PST. {So if you give $100, you will be entered 5 times!} Giveaway ended. Winner contacted.

knit hat

I knit this hat by hand with some of the warmest, squishiest yarn from Quince & Co. It is 100% American Wool, all natural. It is the softest, not in any way scratchy, and one of my favorites to knit with. My husband has a similar one that he loves to wear in the cold weather.

handsome husband

It would be a perfect Christmas gift, or you can keep it for yourself to stay warm this winter!

 

Also: Our friend, Jeni, is also hosting a fundraiser for this lovely couple. She’s offering shirts and sweatshirts for sale in a variety of colors with a quote from Hebrews 13:8. A simple, powerful message in sizes to fit all members of your family. The proceeds from the sales will go towards bringing baby Helgeson home.

 

Whether or not you are able to give in a financial way, Matt and Catherine ask your prayers for this endeavor. Let’s support them in this grand adventure!

mcadoption-4

 

November is National Adoption Month, so thank you for, especially, for supporting adoptive families this month! 

A Slew of Random Thoughts to End the Week

Quick post to end a long week.

1. We finally have RAIN here. Its been coming off and on all week and we’re due for more into the weekend. I know this doesn’t seem like a big deal to most but this drought here in California has us so parched. We appreciate every drop that falls.

skipping in the gutter

2. I’m planning and scheming for Christmas, full-steam ahead. Partly, this was inspired by the fact I like to craft some gifts for Christmas and it takes time to make them, but I’m also eager to get all my shopping done before Advent starts. It always seems to sneak up on me. We’ve purchased big gift for the girls, and I’m eager to see their faces Christmas morning. {That is one downside to shopping so early — I have to wait soooo long to gift them! And I’m more excited about the gift-giving than receiving.}

crockpot apple butter

3. My eldest is all-in with learning to use scissors. Although, her idea of using scissors is cutting up paper into the tiniest, little scraps so that it looks like a confetti party has happened in my kitchen. I’m trying to go with the flow, but it has me wigging out some days when I’m trying to get dinner on the table in the midst of a confetti mountain.

playing in the leaves

4. This autumn season has been full of squash recipes. This one and one from Ottolenghi’s Plenty More {it involves sriracha and pesto so it is automatically my husband’s favorite} have been on repeat. {You guys, if you want more inspiration in the vegetable cooking department, either this one or his first–Plenty–are absolute necessities on your cookbook shelf.}

stuffed honeynut squash

5. Poor Lulu has had a cold for about a week now that is persisting on staying in her head. I so wish I could pull out the Sudafed for her. We’ve been attempting treatments with the humidifier during rest time and nighttime, and Vick’s on her chest too. We had one evening of croup cough and it was excruciating to hear her suffering so. I hope it lifts soon.

sleeping Lulu

6. Halloween is on the horizon. Evelyn is planning on dressing in Elsa costume that I made her last year. We were thinking Lucie would wear what she calls her “ladybug dress” {it’s red with black polka dots}, but now she’s expressing interest in wearing her Anna costume again too. We’ll just go with flow. In the interest of keeping too much candy out of our house, I purchased Goldfish snacks to hand out to our trick-or-treaters. For two reasons: they were a HUGE hit last year with the neighborhood and if we’re stuck with extras, I’d rather be able to give whatever it is to the girls as a snack, not have to throw it in the trash.

fall dinner

7. Evelyn’s birthday is coming up in about two weeks. Her birthday party is next weekend. She chose a Paddington Bear theme, but it has been nearly impossible to find Paddington things in the United States. There is no way I’m paying $20 in shipping from the UK to have paper plates and cups for the party. I found some cute Paddington fabric so I’ll be making some bunting with it. I’ve ordered a couple Paddingtons on ebay to use. If anyone has any other ideas, besides just using blue, red, and yellow colored things to decorate, I’m all ears. We will be doing a luncheon tea.

img_0742

Have a great weekend!

Gathering My Thoughts ~ Apples to Apples

Outside my window: Saturated earth. Such a blessing here in this parched land. Over the past three days, we’ve had about 5 inches of rain come down and the earth hardly knows what do with it.

looking outside

Listening To: Finally a little bit of quiet after struggling for over an hour with getting the girls settled for their naps. They haven’t been good about going down lately, but the rainy days over the weekend made a change in that. The sun is back out today, though, and so are their indefatigable dispositions.

Clothing Myself In: I’m wrapped in one of my favorite sweaters I picked up at Anthropologie last year. {Don’t they have just the best sweaters??} It’s a sage color, knit all around and felted on the torso. It swings across and clasps at the shoulder. I made the extra effort of getting everyone dressed before lunch today. Quite the accomplishment, I tell you! 😉

Talking With My Children About These Books: So many great books to read this time of year! I’ll try to keep it short….

  • Lucie especially loves this book filled with poetic prose and beautiful pictures of this adventurous scarecrow.
  • This one hasn’t lost his fascination over the past few years and has been a great way to teach the lifecycle of the pumpkin so there are no hard feelings {at least in theory} when our jack o lanterns die at the end of the season.
  • This fairly new release we found at the library has the cutest illustrations and has been a hit for our highly imaginative, little one.
  • This sweet, sentimental story may have had me in tears at the end.
  • A great one to garner excitement for apple picking {although, that wasn’t necessary here}.

In My Own Reading: I recently finished A Gentleman in Moscow which I wrote a bit about here. I also quickly read through The Awakening of Miss Prim. It is next up to be discussed over at the Fountains of Carrots podcast — any day! — so get to reading before the spoilers come out! Just released today!

My knitting has been a distraction lately, so I haven’t picked anything up in about a week. But I’m about to commence reading Everyone Brave is Forgiven. It was recommended to me by my fellow historical fiction fan friend, Megan. She never steers me wrong. I’ve partly held off on starting it because it will mean having my nose stuck in a book for hours on end. I always get caught up deeply in those types of reads.

Thinking and Thinking: About the cooler weather and all the wonderful autumn and winter activities ahead of us. I definitely should search out one of those printable Fall activities you can find on Pinterest to keep us inspired. The girls are already begging to go up to the dusting of snow in the mountains. Pumpkin carving is happening this weekend.

img_0592

picking apples with daddy

Pondering:

St. Teresa of Avila’s feast day was this past Saturday. Funnily, I kept running across quotes of hers all day {and not in the expected places, like social media}. This prayer/poem of hers really touched me and is one I want to keep close.

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Carefully Cultivating Rhythm: It’s hit or miss but we’re trying to get a routine to our mornings of “schoolwork” and chores, followed by a more relaxing afternoon. {Although, the afternoons have been anything but relaxing lately as my children are heavily protesting nap time…but need it.} We need a better wind-down routine in the evenings for everyone. Working on it.

sticker work

Creating By Hand: My knitting has really taken off. I’m enjoying trying different weight fibers, stretching myself with increasingly more difficult patterns. I’m working on my first adult socks. The pattern I chose was a bit more challenging than I probably should have with my first pair, but I’m getting through it. I’m about to the toe bed. I love the colors of the yarn.

sock knitting

Stephen and I took a trip {just the two of us — oh, the novelty!!} to Portland a little over a week ago. There was a yarn shop about two blocks from the place we were staying. Let’s just say, that was a huge danger for our bank account. I’ve been eyeing Quince and Co.‘s yarn online ever since I was introduced to it through Making Magazine a few months ago, and was pleasantly surprised to find they carried it at the shop in Portland. I came home with a huge bag of it.

img_0580

Evelyn already has a hat knit from their Lark line in Clay and Egret, which I started and finished in an evening. It was my first foray into Fair Isle and I’m very happy with the result. I’m about to start another for Steve in Quince’s Osprey. I also went out on a limb and purchased myself enough to make my first sweater from Chickadee in Malbec. I’m anxious to get it cast on.

Learning Lessons In: Making boundaries…and keeping them in charity.

Encouraging Learning In: All things apples. We travelled to Apple Hill during the week last week before the rain hit. We feasted on caramel apples, baked goods filled with apples and toted home 40 lbs of apples to make pies, applesauce, apple butter, and who knows what else. On Saturday morning, just as the drenching began, we took the girls to an orchard just a short way from our home so they could pick apples from the tree. This was Evelyn’s one wish for the apple season. Glad to see it fulfilled. Lucie enjoyed it just as much, and they were adorable munching those juicy orbs straight from the tree in the drizzling rainfall.

high hill ranch apple hill

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Today, we were working on patterns with some apple stickers. Later in the week, we’ll be stamping with apple halves, learning about the life cycle of apples, taste testing apples to choose our favorites, and there will certainly be some baking!

Crafting in the Kitchen: I spent about an hour this morning chopping up about 10 lbs of apples to make apple butter in the crockpot. I plan on canning most of it. There is another 40 lbs waiting by my front door to be turned into some sort of appley goodness over the next few weeks. Ideas anyone?

eating apples

To Be Fit and Happy: I really need to work on this. I begin something for a few days and quickly fall off. I’m just not motivated. I can’t find my groove. I’m thinking of signing on for Barre3 again and alternating that with my rowing machine for cardio. I really want to run, but it is so difficult to coordinate with Steve’s schedule going into the fall and winter months.

Loving the Moments: I’m really enjoying the curriculum that I’m working through with the girls. Yesterday, we did some apple graphing. There was also a trip to Apple Hill and Machado’s Orchards, near our house, last week for apple sweets and apple picking. We have some other apple activities this week, including stamping, pie baking, and taste testing different varieties for our favorites.

picking apples

Living the Liturgy: Looking forward to the feast of St. Pope John Paul II this Saturday. He’s one of my favorites, so we’ll be sure to celebrate him in style. Something with apples? 😉

I would really like to do something special for the Feast of All Saints this year, but also don’t quite have that figured out. Need some time to plan.

I’m greatly looking forward to Advent this year and trying really hard not to let it sneak up on me. I’m especially excited to work along with Blessed is She’s Advent journal this year and use the Jesse Tree cards once again.

Planning for the Week Ahead: Steve is switching to a new job mid-week, back to his longer commute, so we are gearing up for that change which affects the whole family dynamic. Hoping for a smooth transition and still plenty of time to enjoy together.

taking a leap

 

Also, linking up with Ginny for Yarn Along this week!

#write31days ~ day 9: counting your blessings

cornflowers

“Rejoicing in these singular moments of grace, I desired to see more of them and was better able to recognize His loving care woven throughout my days. My hope returned. The recognition of His presence in my life lifted me from the fog of despair and back into the light of hope.”

Today I am writing over at Blessed is She, sharing how the practice of daily gratitude can be an excellent way of keeping the joy of Christ in your life, even during turbulent, trying times. Whenever my mood is spiraling into a dark place for long stretches, I find that this practice of counting your blessings can bring great relief and inspiration through this great act of faith.

I often take an empty journal and just write in a thing or two each day that I’m grateful for. It’s an excellent practice to start during Advent or Lent as a devotion to enter into the season more fully. And one of the reasons I love the Blessed is She Liturgical Planner so much is that there is a space for this at the end of every day.

Two people that inspire me with their continual practice of this are Bobbi at Revolution of Love and Ann at A Holy Experience. Bobbi, a fellow BiS writer, is currently spending her Write 31 Days challenge sharing 31 Days of Gratitude. I read along with her last year as well when she kept this practice. {Although, this is actually her third year!} Ann has an entire book written on this practice {which I haven’t yet read, but need to!}. Her blog posts are filled with gratitude for even the smallest blessings in life.

 

#write31days ~ day 8: a gentleman in moscow

a gentleman in moscow

Last year, I happened across Amor Towles’ novel, Rules of Civility. It was richly captivating for me, reminding me, as many have said, of The Great Gatsby. It was one of my favorite novels that year. I went in search of more books by the author, but, much to my disappointment, discovered that that was his only published novel so far.

Fortunately, he didn’t wait too long to get back to putting a pen to paper. And, now, he has certainly outdone himself.

Towles’ latest, A Gentleman in Moscow, tells the story of a Russian man, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, who is forced under house arrest in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow during the early 1920s. The narrative follows along with his adventures while living there, stuck inside the posh hotel. {But which he is no longer able to partake as fully of as he once was.} A man of culture and civility, it is interesting to read how he navigates the period of communist inculturation happening during his lifetime. The Count is a character who has you rooting for him throughout the story, and who stays with you long after the last page. I was certainly sad to see him go.

The other persons he encounters, both employees of the hotel and the visitors which grace the halls of the fine place, are full of depth and intrigue. The author does a superb job of weaving their lives together. There are many great moments which leave you on the edge of your seat, waiting to find out what happens.

Admittedly, I am not well-educated in Russian history, nor have I had the chance to read many Russian novels. But after this small glimpse of Russian history and culture, I am eager to learn more and pick up a Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy.

This may be my top pick of the year.

 

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#write31days ~ day 7: our favorite autumn activities {7QT}

1. baking
It probably comes as no surprise that my favorite autumn activity is baking. In my food blogging days, I think my greatest collection of recipes was during the fall months. The spices used, the warm foods with the onset of cooler weather, the delight of turning the oven on when the house isn’t already a toasty 85 degrees.

rolling out dough

Here is a collection of some of my favorite autumn baking recipes:

pumpkin pecan scones
chai spiced granola
pumpkin gingerbread cookies
soft ginger cookies
mendicino pumpkin muffins
pumpkin chocolate chip cookies 
pumpkin crunch granola
coconut chai coffee cake
pumpkin protein bars
apple cider donuts
pumpkin spice donuts

2. Apple Hill
If you are not in close proximity to Apple Hill {or a place like it}, I’m sorry. There is nothing quite like this location of all-things-apple that affords you the ability to go apple picking, munch apple donuts dunked in a cup of warm, fresh cider, pull apart a gooey apple cinnamon roll or fritter, or sip a glass of cool, crisp cider {of the alcoholic variety}.

apple hill treats

It is an annual tradition we’ve been doing since I was a tot with my grandparents and are now passing on to the next generation.

{I’ve got a great collection of apple recipes for you here if you like that kind of thing. ;)}

apple picking

3. breaking out the warm drinks : alcoholic and non-alcoholic alike

I drink tea year-round, but the delight factor is turned up a notch of that first cup in the morning when you wake up to the chill of an autumn morning. The chai comes out more often too.

cloves

oranges and cloves

My husband has a knack for making some wonderful libations in the fall/winter months as well. He’s especially good with glühwein {mulled wine}, which we like to fill our thermos with and take on a walk through the golden, rouge leaves falling. 

In preparation for the holidays, we begin testing out our eggnog making skills. We can never get enough of this smooth drink.

4. pumpkin picking at a farm {or enjoying our homegrown ones!}
Of course, the fall wouldn’t be complete without a trip to a pumpkin patch or two! We like to visit Bishop’s Pumpkin Farm in our area. There are so many great activities for the kids, including a trampoline covered in hay, a petting zoo, and a train that takes you on a tour around the farm. The hay ride out to the patch and back for your pumpkins is a huge highlight of the day.

pumpkin picking

This year, we grew some of our own pumpkins too which we are very excited to finally display {they’ve been chilling in the linen cupboard since early August due to mama’s too-early plantings}. We just took them out yesterday to add to the fall decor on our porch. It’s so much fun for the girls to see the pumpkins they grew from seed. They are very proud!

5. decorating
On a related vein, I can’t wait for the opportunity to pull out all the warm colored decor to sprinkle all over the house. Our resident porch scarecrow is a favorite, and we enjoy picking out various squash, gourds, and Indian corn for a natural display at home.

porch scarecrow with pumpkins

6. hiking
We are fortunate to live in an area with hiking trails aplenty. Fall is my favorite time of the year to go meandering through the hills, observing the changes of the season.

hiking on the trail

taking a walk

7. watching fall sports : futbol and football

Both Steve and I were soccer players growing and intend to introduce our daughters to league play when they are old enough. {If they decide to take it to the next level will be determined by their interest.} The family enjoys going out to watch other family members play. This year our nephew is playing and being coached by his dad and uncle. We watched his first game a few weeks ago.

We are fortunate to have FC that started her a few years ago, the Sacramento Republic FC. Steve went with a few of my brothers to watch one of their first games, and we’re hoping to go together soon on a date night.

College football viewing runs deep on both sides of the family, with the biggest rooting happening behind USC, Stanford, and Notre Dame. It makes for some exciting Saturdays during these fall months.

playing in the leaves

 

What are some of your favorite autumn activities? 

{Linking up with Kelly this week over at This Ain’t the Lyceum. Go there for more of 7QT!}

#write31days ~ day 6: camping with young children

calaveras big trees camping

I’m no pro at this camping game, but I can say, without a doubt, taking the girls outdoors overnight several times this summer has been an excellent decision. The family/friend camaraderie is bar none when one is able to wile away the hours in the wild.

calaveras big trees camping
{photo by Jan}

We eased in with our first trip in July, staying just one night with some close friends at a state park we had been to before. I am glad that we only committed to one night this first time because it was relaxing to know that if things didn’t work out, we’d only be missing out on one night’s sleep.

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping
{photo by Jan}

Shortly after our camping trip to the coast, we began looking at other possibilities for a second trip this summer. We chose a spot none of us had been to, and invited Steve’s parents to come along for the fun. Our spot was the Calaveras Big Trees, not too far from Yosemite. This state park was a little closer to home than the last, allowing for more play and less driving.

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping

A few days before we left, we decided to extend our stay an extra night. We were only inconvenienced by having to move sites the second night {and the first was our favorite, boo}.

camping

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping

Evelyn continued her tradition of searching for “mysterious creatures” in the woods with her little headlamp. She also brought along her camera again this time and was capturing snapshots of all the things of interest–moss, bark on trees, a camp chair, the dirt on her sister….

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping
{photo by Jan}

calaveras big trees camping

Lucie got dirtier than anyone I’ve ever seen, announcing at the end of every meal, “I’m done. I go play in the dirt!” It’s a little hard to keep her out when it is everywhere. She took advantage of mama allowing this unbridled freedom by spending every possible minute in it.

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping {photo by Jan}
calaveras big trees camping {photo by Jan}

The BIG trees were truly spectacular. They soared to the sky–there was certainly some neck craning to catch a glimpse of the top. In one spot, we were able to stand on top of the stump of one that had been cut down. It was big enough to host a party on!

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping {photo by Jan}

We went on a little hike through the woods, and had planned on coming back the next day to the series of trails for another, but never made it. There are many trails to explore at this park, for various levels of experience.

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping
{photo by Jan}

There was so much for the girls to be involved in, including food prep, dish washing, journaling, tree identification, and, of course, plain, ol’ playing in the dirt, which I demonstrated as Lucie’s greatest strength when it comes to camping. 🙂

We actually got the girls to sleep for a nap {despite the neighbors practicing a hip-hop dance to some loud beats–who does that in forest?}. They needed that rest to make it through the evening with s’mores on the horizon.

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping
{photo by Stephen}

My favorite part of the trip was witnessing the girls with their hot chocolate and mugs of oatmeal first thing in the morning. It seemed quintessential camping and they looked so cozy bundled up in their warm gear. That and s’mores roasting. They took to the camping traditions like fish to water.

If you’re on the fence about taking the leap with your family, I’d say, Go for it! At least one night. It’s an excellent adventure that’s great to have in the family memory bank.

#write31days ~ day 5: planning ahead for Advent

Advent-light

It’s on the horizon, folks.

It seems like Advent is always upon us so much sooner than I had anticipated, so I’m making an extra effort this year, at least, to have a general plan about what we will be doing so I can prepare things in advance.

Last year, I purchased Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping the Greatest GiftWe are already set to do it this year {minus a “tree” to hang our ornaments on} as I printed out her wonderful ornament accompaniments for the children to color while we read the passage for the day. It seems an excellent way to introduce children to the Jesse Tree, as well as involve them in the spirit of anticipating Christmas. There are several questions at the end of each day easily tailored for different ages.

nativity-advent-calendar

My girls love the hands-on aspect of working with an Advent calendar. We our on our third year of using one similar to this. We may have a chocolate one for each of the girls too. {I waited too long last year to pick ours up at Trader Joes so I will be running to the display this year.} I imagine we’ll also do a paper chain. These girls love their countdown helpers. We greatly anticipate the unwrapping of our Advent/Christmas books that Elizabeth introduced us to last year. It’s definitely worth the extra effort. It’s one of the reasons why I get started early — so I can find those books to add to our collection from used shops! And we love, love, love this child-friendly Nativity that gets played with throughout Advent into the Christmas season too.
blessed is she advent 2016

Coincidentally, Blessed is She just released their Advent products for this year, today. The artwork of the journal by Erica is strikingly beautiful; I know the words by Elizabeth Foss will equally be. I’m adding mine to my cart pronto because these typically sell out very quickly. I purchased the Jesse Tree cards last year and they are a great addition to our devotions for the adults in the family. Not sure I can pass up the print this year either.

 

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