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Author Archives: Laurel

Friday Frivolity {7QT}

So much to share, so little time. Luckily, it’s Friday — time for Seven Quick Takes! Hold onto your seats!

1) Diving into the garden season with a lot of weed pulling and a lot of seed planting. I’m trying my hand at a cut flower plot this year. There will be cosmos, zinnias, celosia, bachelor’s buttons, amaranth, and black-eyed susans {hopefully!}. I’m excited but feel a bit daunted by the task. I haven’t had much luck with growing flowers from seed in the past. I purchased Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden a few months ago, and I’m trying to follow Erin’s advice to a ‘T’ {with a little prayer of hope thrown into the mix!}. We’ll have some veggies and, of course, the strawberry patch too!

2) Last weekend, we attended a local(ish) Scottish Highland Games. The Celtic blood runs deep on both sides of the family, so the girls have taken a natural liking to the heritage both of their parents love. {Evey often asks to learn Irish dancing. One of these days, we’ll find a good group in the area for her take lessons.} We saw a group of harpists that renewed my great desire to own a harp of my own. There was even one for sale! — but, alas, out of our price range currently. We marched in the parade with the Cochrane clan, a surname on Steve’s paternal line.

3) Stephen and I got out for a wonderful date night in March that included a concert and surprise! Eucharistic adoration and Confession. A fellow Christendom alum, Marie Miller, was performing the opening act for Five for Fighting, so we grabbed some of the last seats in the house, up in the nosebleeds, but had the best time anyway. Marie did an amazing job, and we were equally delighted with the the lyrical genius that is Five for Fighting. I don’t own any of his albums, but I certainly want one now.

We also stumbled upon a Lenten night of Eucharistic adoration taking place at the cathedral that was such a blessing for both of us. Not only did we get to spend some quiet moments with the Lord, but we also were able to partake of the sacrament of Confession.

4) After much deliberation, we’ve decided to start Evelyn in some more formal schooling this fall. We worked through the early set of Explode the Code this year. She’s certainly excelled in learning her letters and their sounds, and is SO ready to learn how to read. {We may just dive into this early during the summer months!} The Charlotte Mason method has been a natural fit for our family so we’ll be following along with their curriculum, particularly that of Mater Amabilis with a few additions/revisions from Ambleside. {I may do a more thorough explanation of our preschool curriculum from this year. Would anyone be interested in hearing more about it?}

5) We instituted “popcorn and poetry” afternoons which we’ve enjoyed several of this month. It’s an alternative to an afternoon tea which will be coming back around when we start school in the fall. Not sure who enjoys it more — the adults or children.

6) Steve began a new job at the beginning of April which required a bit of travel at the beginning for training. Some of it allowed for our family to stay at my in-laws’ cabin in the mountains which are still thoroughly covered with snow…and much was still coming down during the month of April! The girls loved the extra snow play and we made it cozy with hot chocolate treats and many snuggly reading times {with a side of knitting for mama}.

7) I purchased for myself today this lovely new tank for the summer that Blessed is She just released. It will be a constant companion during the summer months in the garden, by the pool…whenever the temp reaches the triple digits, to be sure! The one with the Teresas has me all “heart-eyes” too.

I’m also looking forward to my new copy of the academic Blessed is She planner {if you’re awaiting the calendar year version, it releases in October}.

I might also have to pick one of these prayer posters for our large living room wall. A good {and helpful} reminder to say our prayers!

 

{Linking up with the fabulous Kelly on this lovely Friday afternoon for 7QT.}

The Beauty of Being At Home in the World

Sitting in the square shadowed by the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, I raised my head from jotting down some notes in my journal to watch a young girl, probably around three years old, spinning in her dress, her shoes clacking along the cobblestones as she spun. With wobbly legs, she fell into the arms of her father, laughing, enjoying this moment together. Her joyous words in fragmented Italian sentences, much like the ones that would issue from my mouth, echoed across the plaza. The timelessness of the moment striking me as I watched this family interact in such a grand space that could have been any place in the world.

********

Standing in the cavernous space, lifting my head up to see the vast walls rising above my head, I felt all at once the grandiosity that the cathedral sought to evoke of such a limitless God, but also my own, specific place in the Church of millions upon billions of persons through the overarching years. It was a place for my unique person; it was a place for the grand choir of saints in chorus.

********

 

These snippets from my travels are memories that I carry, brought back to life again after reading Tsh Oxendreider’s latest work, At Home in the WorldThe wanderlust that is never sated; the homebodiness that aches as one wanders about. This seeming dichotomy which may, in fact, be simply hewn from the same stone.

“Sometimes, even when I’m standing on a remarkable slice of terra firma, I’m besotted with wanderlust, my heart thumping for the next unknown place and my mind wondering what’s next. But right now, in this rain forest, floating crystal waters after a walk on ancient, sacred soil with my flesh and blood, I want to be nowhere else. Nowhere. This, right now, is home. I can hear God through the rustling of the prehistoric fan-shaped leaves, the scurry of alien insects on the bark, the familiar laughter of my children slipping on stones in the water. Everything here is unfamiliar, but it’s familiar. We are transient, vagabonds, and yet we’re tethered.”

I know this of which she speaks. With the birth of my children, it seems even more acute. I sense these moments where time nearly stands still, while, at the same time, it rushes past.

The connectedness of it all. The same two feet can bypass the crosswalk of a busy, Parisian intersection while cars whiz past or walk across the ice-kissed grass in the Blue Ridge Mountains on a frosty morning. Both instances I walk to class, I study French. The same, yet different.

“The earth’s surface is over 70 percent covered in water, and sometimes I wonder about a drop of water resting on my shoulder, whether it’s been to Antarctica or the South China Sea, or perhaps, miraculously, even out of my childhood kitchen sink.”

Living in Rome for a semester, we consume pasta like our grades depend upon it. I would never complain about the copious amounts of ravioli and penne that we eat as it is and will always be one of my favorite foods. But there are days here and there I long for the comforts of American food. It isn’t necessarily the food itself I miss, but the comfort of home it evokes. On several occasions, my friends and I steal away to the local Hard Rock Cafe to enjoy a burger and fries. Burgers are rarely the food I search for when faced with an extensive menu, but that juicy, red meat holds a place of home for me that nothing else there provides, and I could choose no other.

We want to explore Fez, but we want to see old friends more, and so, today we do what old friends do: we drink coffee, we drink gin and tonics, we order pizza, we watch questionably downloaded American television, we bake cookies, and we talk.”

A delicious ice cream bar–a dark chocolate Magnum, to be precise–held out like an unspoken language when the words fail to connect us. My friend’s grandmother gives it as a peace offering to two kids, fumbling around in a sea of foreign words and culture. We understand chocolate and cold ice cream. We accept with gracious smiles. When there is no other way to associate, there is always chocolate ice cream bars.

‘We toast to friendship that spans miles, languages, and our different lots in life. We are mothers; we belong to each other. This coffee brings us together.’

In my tiniest of apartments, after climbing eight flights of stairs to my floor and enjoying a view of the sparkling Eiffel Tower on every landing, I flop down on my bed exhausted by the day’s exertion. I reach for the Hunchback of Notre Dame, a familiar author, a familiar pastime, to delight in at the end of a hard day. Funnily, I am taken back to many of those places I have seen throughout the day, I revisit them over a century ago, just as I did hours ago. When done, I reach for my journal and pen, in an attempt to unpack all the thoughts swirling from these intersecting pieces of my day.

‘I feel at home in the world, and I feel like Alice falling down a rabbit hole.’

My body and soul long to return to many of the places I have visited over the years. Their streets, their landmarks, somehow familiar although never quite “home”. I ache to take my husband, my children, to see with their own eyes these sites that are “my own” to make them theirs too.

“[T]he aftermath and beauty of dividing your heart and leaving it in infinite places.” 

This is the beauty of being #athomeintheworld. 

I challenge you to take a peek into Tsh Oxenreider’s At Home in the World and not find yourself transported to another place while you find yourself tucked into the warm blankets on your bed, sprawled out on the warm grass in the sunshine, or speeding along on the musty metro to your job. It will incite wanderlust, either sparking movement to research flight information to that next city on your bucket list, or take you within the realm of your imagination, compelling you to revisit some of those seemingly far off places you’ve travelled once before that, in truth, aren’t all that far off. It’s an adventure to read. And its a compelling inspiration to find adventure of your own, personally or with your favorite travel companions.

 

{All quotes taken from Tsh’s book, At Home in the World. Also! For a further sneak peek into her book, Tsh offers a chapter from the audio version of her book on her podcast. Links within this post are affiliate links. By clicking through, I get a tiny portion of the proceeds–thank you!}

 

Never a Waste

 

I found myself earlier in the week running around, completing some last minute tasks for the upcoming holiday this weekend, as I’m wont to do as one approaches.

I had pulled together a few things here and there that I wanted to send to my brother in Michigan who lives there during law school, and won’t be with us to celebrate Easter on Sunday. I filled a little bag to carry the things with me to the post office, with the intention of picking out a flat rate priority mail box upon arrival to package the items in.

We had received something earlier in the week from a family member in such a box that looked like it would be an appropriate size for my things, so I went in search of this item when we arrived. Lo and behold, no such thing existed, at least not in our little town post office. There were only three choices: the first was about as small as a regular-sized novel, so way too thin for my purposes; the second, about the size of two large shoe boxes put together, about twice as big as I needed; and never mind the third.

Since I had no other packaging options with me other than what was available to me at the post office, and my children were already entering into the noontime melt-down stage, I hurriedly looked at the boxes available for sale. The smallest was still too large, but, at least, this one could be altered.

I went to work loading the box, then cut the sides down so that it would fit nicely against the objects in the box as I had nothing to fill in the empty space with. A slice here, a bend there, I finagled the edges down to close the box. I taped it shut, placed my label on top {again, searching to the bottom of my purse for a suitable scrap of paper to write on as these provided nothing for addressing}, and shuffled the children along with me to get in line.

When it was our turn, I informed the post man I would need to pay for the box too, in addition to postage. He paused for about five seconds, looking at the box puzzled, then remarked that he didn’t recognize the box, at first, as something they sold for I had cut it down.

He then asked, “Do you stay at home with your children? Are you a housewife?”

“Yes?” It was now my turn to be puzzled.

“Well, that certainly is a waste! Look at what you’ve done here! So smart!”

I was a bit taken aback by the remark, so I gave an awkward chuckle, paid for my things, and moved on.

But his remark stuck with me as I drove home. I ruminated on it and after a few minutes realized just how mistaken his comment had been.

*******

Being a mother and housewife, gives me ample opportunity to practice these very skills he was so impressed by. Sure, they could come in handy aiding in professional work, but they are no less useful at home taking care of my family. I’m content to be resourceful. I’m happy to find suitable substitutions when exactly what I need is not available. I’m glad to be able to adjust mathematical proportions when they are not satisfactory for the task at hand.

And why should I not employ some of my best skills at the service of my family that I love dearly?

It is unfortunate that caring for others, especially those most helpless in society, is seen as a profitless endeavor. The eyes of the world mistake what in life is really most important. The raising and nurturing of souls entrusted to my care is the most important work of my life. I want to give the best of myself right here.

I would not walk away from this interaction discouraged, however. Instead, it gave me great resolve to continue bettering my skills, my intellect, to more excellently serve my family at home.

*******

Today, I finished a book about Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha {Patsy} Jefferson Randolph, called America’s First Daughter. Although a work of fiction, it gave some excellent historical insight into the influence of this grand woman on her father’s legacy. As her mother died when Patsy was young, she took on the matriarchal role of the family, including serving as Jefferson’s “First Daughter” when he was serving in public office positions, at home and abroad. Her father supported her education, in both homemaking and intellectual pursuits, which left her with quite a useful set of skills in managing a household while educating and raising her own children. She was never employed in a profession, but her concealed work within the heart of the family, the influence of which sometimes stretched out into public affairs, had a huge impact on the work and authority of Mr. Jefferson. {And did I mention she raised twelve children, many of which went on to live illustrious lives?}

This book reminded me that an education is never “wasted” even if you are not employing what you have learned outside the home. A family, a household is the basic cell of society. What is happening within it has a greater influence, ultimately, on society at large than any work that is happening in a professional environment. My mind, my skills are not “wasted” on the concerns of my family and home.

Homemaking and raising children may not be acknowledged as professional endeavors but it is some of the most important work that I, or anyone, will ever engage in. Let’s not demean it, nor shame the women and men who undertake this often hidden and thankless task with great enthusiasm, giving much of their best in domestic tasks to those who need them most.

 

March 2017 Reads

Reading was a little light this past month as we had much going on. I spent a good deal of my reading time knitting a shawl, which I can’t wait to share about later. But it was all good reads this month, so at least there was that!

What did you enjoy in March?

 

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond — This was a fascinating look at the situation regarding housing for those who live below the poverty line in America and what is exacerbating the problem from both sides: tenants and landlords. The author suggests a possible solution in the epilogue: a universal housing voucher system. There is a lot of food for thought here. This would make for an excellent discussion with a book club. {I read this book for the MMD Challenge for Reading for Growth in the category of “A book of any genre that addresses current events”.}

A Fatal Grace (Chief Inspector Gamache, #2) by Louise Penny — Murder mysteries have never been my cup of tea, but that all changed with this series that I’ve finally had time to dive back into after reading the first several years ago. Besides the excellent twists throughout the main story itself, there is an underlying “search for meaning” happening in the heart of the protagonist that runs through the plot of each book in the series. {I read this book for the MMD Challenge for Reading for Fun in the category of “A book in a genre you usually avoid”.}

At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider — Tsh’s writing has long been an inspiration to me both on her blog and through her published works, so it came as no surprise that this would resonate with my deeply too. After selling their house and paring their belongings down to only the essentials, Tsh, her husband, and their three children embark on a 9-month journey around the world. They choose to do this for enrichment — to experience new cultures, see the wonders of the world with their own eyes, taste the cuisine of exotic foods, all in the hopes of discovering their true place in this world. The answer might surprise you…or you may find a strong sense of connection with her findings. Warning: Reading this book may spark a serious case of wanderlust.
{I read an advanced copy of this as part of the #athomelaunch team. The book will be officially released, Tuesday, April 18th.}

 

Books Read with My Children

Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert — An excellent choice as we move into the Spring season. My daughters love identifying the colors and learning the names of many of the flowers that are popping up from the ground these days. We’re even dreaming of planting our own “rainbow”!

What Does Bunny See by Linda Sue Park — Along the same lines as Planting a Rainbow, children are taught colors and flower names, but this time in rhyming verse. We couldn’t wait to flip to the next page to see if our guess was right!

A Small Thing…But Big by Tony Johnston — Discovered this beautiful story on our library’s ‘New Books’ shelf. It tells of a little girl who encounters an old man and his little dog at the park. They are both nervous about the other but learn that even a small leap of faith can bring about a big result.

The Crayons’ Book of Colors by Drew Daywalt — Another great book for color identification. Written by the author of The Day the Crayons Quit, this is more suitable for the 2-5 year old crowd. The author utilizes a touch of humor making the color choices in the drawings unforgettable.

My Garden by Kevin Henkes — A young girl dreams of what she would grow {or not!} if the garden was completely under her control. Yes, just yes, to the jelly bean bush!

Mercy Watson by Kate DiCamillo — We listened to the six Mercy Watson stories on audiobook during our long car ride back and forth to Southern California a few weeks ago. Even mama, couldn’t help laughing along to the antics of this porcine wonder and her affinity for hot buttered toast.

 

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February 2017 Reads

Can’t believe February has flown by and it’s time for another reading round-up. I had a good stack of reads this month, as did the girls. I even found a book of poetry that I can’t live without!

 

The Lifegiving Home by Sally Clarkson — A wonderfully inspiring read that’s been on my TBR list for over a year now. Broken down by months, it gives theoretical ideas and practical tips for inculcating a home that brings life and love to it’s inhabitants. It’s less about material things, more about culture. I will be returning to it again and, perhaps, make my way through this companion.

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson — Another that has been on my shelf for some time. This was a gift from my brother, Ethan, for my birthday last year, but one that had been on my radar before as many friends had recommended it. I knew it dealt with a heavy topic {facing death} so I was waiting for a suitable time to read. It is written in the style of a personal journal. It is a series of letters to the narrator’s son in which he reflects as he lives out his last months on earth. The issue of forgiveness was prominent in the second half of the book. I’m still mulling over the actions of the parties involved and what I would have done in a similar situation. {MMD Challenge book for growth in the category: “A Pulitzer Prize or National Book Award winner”}

News of the World by Paulette Jiles — This reminded me a bit of True Grit by Charles Portis, probably because of the Western setting. But what it is more is a story of relationship between an old man and a young girl, neither of which understand each other {verbally or otherwise} at the end, but grow to be the best of friends by the end. It shows the importance of listening and understanding another without allowing yourself to be clouded by your own ideas first.

Caught Up in a Story by Sarah Clarkson — The author here does an excellent job of explaining the importance of story in the lives of children {and adults, for that matter!}. I notice much of what she points to in my own children at already a young age: liveliness of imagination, expansive vocabulary, a desire for exploration. It was a great encouragement in the direction we are leaning with our home schooling. {MMD Challenge fun book in the category: “A book about books or reading”}

 

Books Read with My Children

Stuart Little by E. B. White — The adventures of Stuart are small, yet big, for such a tiny creature. It’s hard to wrap your mind around a mouse living in a world of persons, but he does it with flair.

The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White — The last of our E. B. White reads. It was hard to get into during the first quarter or so, and I don’t think it held their attention as well as Charlotte’s Web {although, it is hard to surpass that masterpiece}. Ultimately, we did find ourselves enjoying the antics of Louis with his trumpet, his interactions with the boy, Sam Beaver, and laughing at Louis’ father’s monologues.

Queen of Hearts by Mary Engelbreit  — This has been Evelyn’s favorite Valentine’s Day book since she was only a year old. We read it multiple times every year. The young protagonist has such a zealous heart for all things Valentine, but her eagerness to do well in one arena, leads to neglect in another. We love the way she improvises to save the day. {Also, don’t miss Mary Engelbreit’s Mother Goose We are so drawn to Engelbreit’s vivid, bold pictures. This is our favorite of all the collections of the nursery rhymes.}

The Giant Hug by Sandra Horning — This was Lucie’s favorite during the season of love. It tells the story of a young boy who mails his grandmother a giant hug and the route it must take to reach her. For those with affectionate hearts.

The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear by Don Wood — This one was pulled out of book storage and memorized in a day by both girls after repeated readings. It was a favorite for both Steve and I growing up, so no surprise that our girls like it too. Perfect as we move into strawberry season soon.

When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano — I often find poetry hard to appreciate but this little book of seasonal poems, from Spring to Winter, is perfection. It is for children, but I want a book for our shelf to peruse from time to time.

 

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January 2017 Reads

Reading is a huge part of our family culture. As I type, the girls are sitting with stacks in the other room, flipping through books and either just looking at the pictures or attempting to recount the words read to them from the pages. {It’s really the cutest thing to listen to them!} I want to share more of our favorite pastime here on the blog to inspire you too!

In the past, I’ve shared snippets of books here and there throughout the year, and, then, done a compilation of everything read at the end of the year, but we’re going to change things up a bit. Starting with this post, I’m going to do a month recap {a little late here on January — I’ll try to be better about February}.

I’ll share what I’ve read, books I’ve read aloud with the girls, and some of our favorite picture books that month.

{I’m also participating in the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge for the 3rd year in a row. This year, she has two lists — one for fun and one for growth — I’m attempting to do both. I’ll mention the category I’m reading it for if the book is for one of them.}

So without further adieu, here’s January’s reads!

 

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi — Moving through generations, this story follows the family lines of two girls descended from an African slave woman on the Gold Coast as it was being colonized by the British. It is fascinating to see the direction of each girl’s family tree and their subsequent progenies outlook on life as they are affected by cultural influences and circumstances.  To be honest, this is not a book I would have picked up on my own, but when researching for a book to read from the growth category of “A book by an #ownvoices or #diversebooks author” for the MMD Challenge, this one stood out to me. I highly recommend.

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom — A page-turner that had me neglecting my household duties one morning, this follows the story of an young immigrant orphan who ends up on a plantation in the South during the Civil War era. She’s neither slave, nor entirely free, so her relationship with the household folks and the slaves, whom she mostly lives with, is an interesting one that forces her to question her loyalty to and love for each. A huge hit for this historical fiction fan.

Eve of a Hundred Midnights: The Star Crossed Love Story of Two WWII Correspondents and Their Epic Escape Across the Pacific by Bill Lascher — This was my pick for “A juicy memoir” in the MMD Challenge book for fun. Memoirs and WWII history are always a happy combination for me. What I found fascinating about this book, however, was its American perspective of Asia during WWII. So much is written and said about the European conflict, but relatively hushed about Asia. {Although I can’t tell you how many WWII Navy seamen I know of who fought in the South Pacific, including my own grandfathers!} The story of these journalists sheds some light on the hidden history.

Five Love Languages for Children: The Secret to Loving Children Effectively by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell — I’ve read the original Five Love Languages numerous times. This one is geared toward your children, but I didn’t glean too much more, other than a few practical examples, that I didn’t already know from reading the original.

Interior Freedom by Jacques Philippe — One of the best works of spiritual reading I’ve read in a long time. It forced me to sit with a journal to copy out passages and read only a few pages at a time to digest the wonderful meat in this gem of a book. I only wish I had picked it up sooner, per my husband’s recommendation.

 

Books Read with My Children

Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White — This classic never grows old. White’s writing is poetic, seamless, and grand. I enjoyed this even more than when I read it as a child. And, of course, my girls latched onto all the favorite characters and talk about them often when they come to mind throughout the day.

Some Writer! : The Story of E. B. White by Melissa Sweet — This was a beautifully done, work of art by the incredible illustrator Melissa Sweet {we also enjoyed her Balloons Over Broadway about a puppeteer in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade}. She lives in the town where White had his farm house and his granddaughter still lives, so she had direct access to many of the things he loved and which influenced his writing. She does an amazing job sharing the story of the man. {I even came to find out an interesting tidbit: He’s THE White of Strunk & White’s Elements of Style!} There’s an excellent interview with the author at the Read Aloud Revival podcast here if you want to learn more about her.

The Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson — Lucie is obsessed with this adorable picture book that has a beautiful rhyme which the girls love to repeat. It was an excellent read during our month of talking about hibernation and migration.

Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner — This fun story looks at which animals stay awake and which ones sleep during the long winter months. Beautifully illustrated. I was happy flipping through it myself.

The Jacket I Wear in the Snow by Shirley Neitzel — The repetition could drive the reader batty, but the children love it. 😉 For those who live where it snows, they will understand well this peeling on and off of layers in order to go in and out of the snow.

 

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{Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for Quick Lit this month.}

What’s Saving My Life Right Now

Lucie at play

In the dreary doldrums of winter, Anne of Modern Mrs. Darcy had the excellent idea of sharing a few thoughts on what is saving one’s life right now. So much negativity these days — this brings a positive spin to throw us back into the light.

  1. Tazo’s Joy tea — The name says it all. Every Christmas season for the past, at least, 5 years, I’ve taken to drinking a daily cup of this delightful mixture of black, green, and oolong tea. I’m not sure if it is still available at the store, but I stocked up on a few tins before the end of the season. I’m still enjoying my morning cup.
  2. Trader Joe’s fresh flowers — Erica of Be a Heart gave an excellent talk a few weeks ago in the Blessed is She‘s workshops on the importance of beauty in our lives. One thing that brings a lightened mood and beauty to my home, even on difficult or overcast day, is a lovely bouquet of TJ’s fresh flowers. I usually purchase one of the arrangements selling for $3.99, but sometimes I mix it up with a bouquet of just carnations or roses.
  3. Interior Freedom by Fr. Jacques Philippe — I’ve been struggling with finding peace lately, but this excellent read that my husband’s recommending for several years really helped me. This short work has all the right words for an honest dialogue with the Lord about finding that interior peace. He has some others that I will be making my way through soon.
  4. Knitting — I was just telling a friend the other day that finding moments daily to pick up my needles and stitch a few rows makes all the difference for keeping anxiety at bay. With all the crazy busy of life, it is difficult to slow down and truly rest. This activity forces me to still myself. I can literally feel my heart rate drop as I loop in and out.
  5. Meal planning with my planner — The Blessed is She Liturgical Planner‘s are first rate. {None in stock right now, but an updated version should be making it’s way to the shop soon!} The included meal planning and grocery list space {right next to each other!} ensure that it happens every week and makes it super simple to do. I’m actually enjoying the process.
  6. This is Us — We don’t watch a whole lot of television in our home, so you know when there is time reserved for it, it better be good. The show This is Us is a must-see for me every week. It is so well-crafted. The characters are all so real. The situations are ones we find our own selves in at one time or another. I’m laughing and crying through every episode. {And I was very sad there wasn’t a new one last night!}
  7. Raffi — This might seem like a rather silly thing to include on my list, but if there is one children’s musician I will listen to over and over, Raffi is it. I can’t say that of many {or any} others. My girls are completely head-over-heels with his songs, and I totally don’t mind. {He was my childhood favorite too.}

{What’s saving your life right now??}

 

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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}

 

{This post contains affiliate links. Click through to give a tiny bit of support to this wee blog! Thanks! :)}

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! 

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