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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.}

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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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!

#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!}

Starting Somewhere {7QT}

When you’ve been away for a while, it is difficult to know where to start, so I’ll just jump right into the middle since it’s Friday, a.k.a. 7QT’s Day!

summer popsicles

1) I’m following along and living vicariously through friends that are in Poland for the annual World Youth Day with Pope Francis this week. I was blessed to be able to attend in Rome in 2000 and Toronto in 2002. I shared a bit about how Pope St. John Paul the Great has influenced my life through his great sermons given at these two events over at my friend Patty’s space, A Modern Grace.

WYD 2000 Tor Vergata Mass

WYD 2000 Pope John Paul II

WYD 2002 rainy morning Mass

2) I read through Pope Francis’ sermons {source: here and here} from the past two days and walked away with these gems that I’ll be pondering for a while:

“[God] is in our midst and he takes care of us, without making decisions in our place and without troubling himself with issues of power. He prefers to let himself be contained in little things, unlike ourselves, who always want to possess something greater. To be attracted by power, by grandeur, by appearances, is tragically human. It is a great temptation that tries to insinuate itself everywhere. But to give oneself to others, eliminating distances, dwelling in littleness and living the reality of one’s everyday life: this is exquisitely divine.”

“[God] does not want to remain on his throne in heaven or in history books, but loves to come down to our everyday affairs, to walk with us.”

“The eternal is communicated by spending time with people and in concrete situations.”

“Let us ask for the grace to imitate [Mary’s] sensitivity and her creativity in serving those in need, and to know how beautiful it is to spend our lives in the service of others, without favorites or distinctions.”

“To say that Jesus is alive means to rekindle our enthusiasm in following him, to renew our passionate desire to be his disciples. What better opportunity to renew our friendship with Jesus than by building friendships among yourselves! What better way to build our friendship with Jesus than by sharing him with others! What better way to experience the contagious joy of the Gospel than by striving to bring the Good News to all kinds of painful and difficult situations!”

Pope Francis WYD 2016 Poland

{source}

3) On the garden front, we’ve been fighting the good fight against an army of harlequin cabbage beetles {a.k.a. firebugs} that are ravaging our garden. They’ve gone from one plant to the next, taking them out. I finally found them in my tomatoes this morning, after grasping a ripe one and having a billion little babies crawl out of the middle. {Definitely woke up the neighbors with that squeal.} I promptly ran to Home Depot and we sprayed insecticidal soap all over the plant. I’ve tried regular bug spray {when I couldn’t use the soap on the nasturtiums} and pulling them off individually to throw them in a bowl of soapy water. It seems to kill a squad but not the entire army. Once I rip out the remainder of the bed where the nasturtiums are, I’m going to throw down the black tarp of death and hopefully extinguish them while the heat is still high so I can still plant a Fall garden come September.

harlequin/firebugs on chard

red nasturtiums

corn on the stalk

corn stalks

4) Lots of knitting this past month with many beautiful, hand-dyed yarns by this lovely lady, as well as some fun, blue color-way socks for my latest nephew. {First set of socks so please don’t judge.} Also, a warming set for my brother who is headed off for law school in Michigan next month and will get the chill of his life come winter.

blue baby socks

knitting tools

5) The heat burn has been phenomenal this week. Day time temps soaring past 100 and evening not dropping much below 80. Makes me ready for autumn…tomorrow. I’m just grateful we don’t live where the humidity is high or I might melt like a popsicle. The water table, kiddie pool and squirt guns have been our best friends. And I don’t just mean for the children.

watering the pool

throwing water

6) We had a TON of fun with our good friends and Evey’s godparents a couple weeks ago camping near the coast. It was the first time for the girls sleeping in a tent. Other than the scare Lucie experienced when she rolled into the side of the tent in the middle of the night, they were both troopers and slept like logs {albeit rolling logs}. We promptly came home and marked another one on the calendar in September.

munching s'mores

our campsite

searching for mysterious creatures

photo lessons with Matt

7) We’ve been dealing with many house issues this month too, which are slowly getting resolved one by one. The broken dryer for several weeks certainly slowed life down, as I was canvassing every spot in the house that might be “hanging rack” worthy. Maybe we’ll just forget the dryer from now on and install a clothesline. They are much more trustworthy, turns out.

hiking up the hill

Click over to Kelly’s space to read more of this week’s 7QT!

 

Books to Read During The Year of Mercy

year-of-mercy-booklist

Divine Mercy in My Soul by Maria Faustina Kowalska — I suppose if you read nothing else, this would be the one to read through. This diary of St. Faustina in which she records her intimate conversation with Jesus is the jumping block for devotion to Divine Mercy. Admittedly, I’ve never made it from cover-to-cover, but have picked it up at various times in my life to find absolute jewels contained within. Her candor, her devotion to Our Lord, her simplicity, all will lead you to desire a deeper love for this devotion.

Divine Mercy for Moms by Michele Faehnle and Emily Jaminet — Excellent for moms with little time on their hands, this easy-to-read work by two close, long-time friends relates a few anecdotes of how the devotion has played a lasting role in their lives, as well as concrete ways to live out mercy in our own lives. When the Year of Mercy commenced, I had thought of writing a few posts with ideas of how to live out the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy at home–these ladies beat me to the punch. Such a great collection of ideas, in addition to prayers and devotions in the appendix. Visit their website for more!

You Did It to Me : A Practical Guide to Mercy in Action by Michael Gaitley — In a similar vein, Fr. Gaitley gives excellent, practical advice on living out the Works in Mercy in one’s home, parish, and community. Diving more deeply into these Works of Mercy is a fabulous way to enter more fully into the Year of Mercy.

33 Days of Merciful of Love : A Do-It-Yourself Retreat in Preparation for Consecration to Divine Mercy by Michael Gaitley — A great act in this Year of Mercy is to make a consecration to Divine Mercy. Pulling from the writings of St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Faustina, Fr. Gaitley takes the reader of this book through a 33 day retreat, culminating in consecration to Divine Mercy.

The Church of Mercy by Pope Francis — Sermons taken from the first year of his pontificate, it is easy to see how from the very beginning, Pope Francis has been calling each one of us to cultivate a heart of mercy.  Broken into short chapters that can be read individually, we’ve read these out loud as a family, and really gleaned much from his heartfelt words.

Just Mercy : A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson — This and the one following are secular books, not ones you would likely expect on this list, but both have touched me deeply on the subject of mercy this year. {I know God leads us to certain reads at the time He most wants us to hear that particular story.} The author is an attorney who fights for those imprisoned, especially those unjustly so either due to innocence or to extreme duration of incarceration for the crime committed, and those on death row. In one of the final chapters of the book, he gives an excellent plea for us to consider what it means to be merciful, on a very natural level.

Just a few quotes that really struck me to entice you to read this incredible book:

“We have a choice. We can embrace our humanness, which means embracing our broken natures and the compassion that remains our best hope for healing. Or we can deny our brokenness, forswear compassion, and, as a result, deny our own humanity.”

“In fact, there is a strength, a power even, in understanding brokenness, because embracing our brokenness creates a need and desire for mercy, and perhaps a corresponding need to show mercy.”

“Mercy is most empowering, liberating, and transformative when it is directed at the undeserving. The people who haven’t earned it, who haven’t even sought it, are the most meaningful recipients of our compassion.”

Rising Strong by Brené Brown — This book {which I wrote a bit more about here} has some excellent tools for finding a place in one’s heart for mercy and forgiveness. Bitterness that lodges in one’s heart caused by a hurt, inflicted by another, or even oneself, precludes mercy. Tools to work past, instead of holding onto, hurt help us to come to a place of mercy.

What others would you recommend reading during this Year of Mercy? 

 

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What I Learned in March

Linking up with Emily for this fun exercise of sharing what I’ve learned this past month.
Also, with Kelly because when you have 7 and it’s Friday–well, 7QT

brunelleschi's dome florence

Source

One) The Secret of Brunelleschi’s Dome — For those who are unaware, I have a strong fascination with church architecture. This was awakened in me strongly when I studied abroad in Europe. When I was in Italy during my Junior year of college, we visited the town of Florence for a few days. Rightly so, one of our objects of study during our time there was the dome of the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. At the time, the mystery of how the dome was standing was still unsolved {this was in 2005}. Although I am no architect and, admittedly, not even great at mathematics, especially geometry, I was intrigued with how even modern man couldn’t solve this puzzle.

Recently, I was browsing the DVD tittles at our local library and I ran across one called Great Cathedral Mystery. I picked it up, not knowing of what cathedral it spoke of initially because I love to learn about any and all, but when I noticed it was Florence’s, I was even more excited to view it. It didn’t reveal on the cover if the problem was actually solved or not, so I was very anxious to watch.

It turns out they have! Besides the herringbone structure of the interior brickwork, which they’ve known about for some time now, they used a specific pattern to build up the rounded walls as they worked. Interestingly, it is the shape of a flower. {If you did not catch the translation from the Italian, the cathedral is name St. Mary of the Flowers.} As they built up the rounding walls of the dome, they used a flower pattern to measure where each brick would go so that it would be secure and hold up the others that were built up around it.

I highly recommend watching the show. Absolutely fascinating. And what a monumental task in having discovered the secret!

Blessed is She Retreat - Ike N'dolo music

Two) The Power of a Retreat — When I was younger, starting about early high school, I used to regularly attend retreats. Some silent, some with discussion, but always very fruitful and inspiring. Since marriage and children, I haven’t been able to attend one, until just a few weeks ago. Blessed is She hosted one in Phoenix, Arizona, which I almost miraculously found funding for, tickets, and a place to stay, making it possible.

Not only was the fellowship wonderful in every way, but the time spent heart-to-heart with Our Lord was so sorely needed, in a way I couldn’t even imagine. I try to maintain that relationship with Him on a regular basis, but a retreat is like a weekend getaway with your Lover–so good for rejuvenating and reconnecting.

garden beginnings

Three) Pulling Weeds Actually Helps My Shoulder Heal — One of my shoulders has been strained for some time now. I was seeing a physical therapist in January and February to help alleviate some of the pain. It is an overuse injury so I’m stuck in a Catch-22: it needs strengthening to prevent further injury, but using it too much makes it worse. I’ve been attempting to strike a good balance, but having a hard time doing so.

With the arrival of Spring, we’ve begun working in the garden in the hopes of a lovely space this year. I started pulling the weeds after the last rainfall {which makes it SO much easier} daily, working an hour or two at a time. The first couple days, my neck and shoulders were literally screaming at me. I would put heat on them a couple of times a day, stretch, etc. I decided to push through a little bit, and by the end of the week, the soreness began to subside.

The movement required for pulling and digging was a great combination for stretching and strengthening my shoulders and neck muscles. I’m getting towards the end of the heavy labor with the weeds, so next up is my birthday gift: the rowing machine.

playing Candy Land

Four) To Say ‘Yes’ More Often to My Children — Too often I’ve made myself too busy to just drop everything and follow the request of one of my girls. Or I’m being too rational or stingy about a request they’ve made. But I’m trying to change that.

Evey has recently taken to playing Candy Land with me on the board I had as a child. {SO much better than the modern one!} She asks daily to play. Sometimes I do need to say no. But the other day she came up to me and asked “Can we play Candy Land tomorrow?” I suggested, “Why not right now?” Her eyes brightened so big and we played a few rounds. I want to incite that joy more.

Another day, I gave the girls an afternoon bath. Immediately after jumping out, Evey asked to wear her Easter dress and all the finery that accompanies it. My initial reaction was “No way!” because, although we were going out for a bit, it was simply to a little cafe for a treat. But I said “yes”. Why can’t she wear what makes her feel lovely for a short time, even if it is just to the store? She had many compliments while we were out…and was proud that she picked it out all on her own. {And she really was just so beautiful!}

every day mess

Five) Blog About the Mundane — I’ve had a serious block recently about writing on the blog because I feel as if no one really cares about the day-to-day here and I’ve nothing super significant to share. But then I realized that that is what others tend to comment on–and what I love to read at others blogs–the every day, nitty gritty. So I’m trying. I’m trying to better about sharing a bit of what we have going on here. Well, that’s what I started this for anyway!

dishcloth and Rising Strong

Six) How to Make a Knit Dishcloth — Kind of ridiculous, isn’t it? I’ve knit probably several dozen things at this point but had never done a dishcloth. They’re really quite simple and a great place to start if you want to learn. They are also wonderful for practicing a stitch you find somewhat vexing. It’ll probably be my go-to during the summer for knit projects as I can’t stand a knit warm blanket in my lap when it is a hundred plus outside.

writer

Source

Seven) I am a Writer — I feel ridiculous even writing this out, but it needs to be said. Although, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic wasn’t a favorite read of mine, there was something that struck me hard. It was this: you have to believe you are, if you want to be a _____ {fill in the blank}. So often I tell others, “Well, I’m trying to write. I’m attempting to make a thing of this.” But, by golly, I am! Not only have I been doing this blogging thing for almost ten years now, but I’ve had articles published in journals, magazines, etc. since I was in high school. I’ve been a copy editor for a publication. {You can’t–certainly shouldn’t!–be doing that job unless you can write!} I’m a regular contributor with Blessed is She. I have experience. I practice my craft {albeit, irregularly, these days}. And I love to share my thoughts and stories through words. What more do I need to proclaim it?? Nada.

There you have it. I said it. I am a writer.

Next up: I am a photographer. Because I am, and I want to be that too.

 

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Spring, Maybe? {7QT}

Linking up with 7 Quick Takes today because I feel so behind in posting that I’m rather paralyzed, and if I don’t start right where I’m at, I may never jump in again.

One) We had a lovely St. Patrick’s Day yesterday. The girls had ballet class so we had fun scouring their drawers {and mine} for a few green things. It’s not a usual color we wear so I had to do a bit of digging. We had corned beef, red potatoes, carrots and cabbage, and the requisite Guinness. I think I finally found the proper cooking balance for each of the ingredients in the crockpot. I put the corned beef in 8 hours in advance on low, added the potatoes and carrots after 4 hours, and the cabbage about 45 minutes before we were going to eat. It is so easy to overcook the veggies. Stephen and I topped off the evening together after putting the girls down with vanilla ice cream doused in Baileys.

St Pat's Day 2016

St Pat's Day 2016 2

Two) I’ve spent a good portion of this week tackling the jungle that will be our garden soon. We’ve had a blessing of so much rain this winter {much, MUCH needed}, but with it, comes lots of green….weeds. So far. I’m very happy with the soil that I’ve been working through so far. Lots of juicy worms and nice moisture at quite a depth. It was like chipping out clay last year. Such a difference. We’re still not settled on exactly what we will plant. I’m hoping to work that out with Stephen this weekend. {We’re due for another dose of rain so not much work outside then.} Evey has repeatedly requested carrots, so those will find a place–probably one of the raised beds.

weed jungle 2

I’ve quite a bit of progress in the garden already. The left side was as bad, or worse, than the right when I started. However, the right side is where we have a horrible problem with Bermuda grass so I’m so NOT looking forward to tackling that side.

weed jungle

Then there’s this mess across the way….

Three) The girls have been sleeping extra hard and longer after all the time have spent outside the past week or so. They were becoming horribly stir crazy with all the rain that just. kept. coming. down. About a month ago, I found a toddler bike with training wheels at a local children’s second hand-shop {double score that it was Hello Kitty!}. She rides it constantly back and forth across the patio. We’re still trying to learn how to make it stop and avoid knocking our sister off her feet as we pass by. {Oh, the hazards of being a younger sister.} Lucie likes to climb on the tricks, occasionally be pushed around, but mostly just sit on it in awkward positions. Particularly ones that are heart-attack inducing for her mother. I attempted bringing a smaller car outside for her to ride yesterday, but she prefers to live life on the edge.

snacking outside

at the park

Four) Warm weather has put me in a Spring cleaning frenzy in the house too. I’m eager to replace all the wool sweaters with warm weather wear. We’re trying to make a push to get our garage cleaned out so we can get the door repaired, and use it for the purpose for which it was intended {or maybe it was supposed to be a storage shed/recycling center….?}. I’ve got painting projects piling on and I’m even dreaming of a kitchen remodel. We’ll see how convincing I can be.

tea time among sisters

donut treat

Five) Lent has been very hit-or-miss. Mostly, miss, but I’m trying to roll with the punches and take the penances God sends instead of my own miss-the-mark ideas. Last weekend, I was very, very grateful to go on retreat with Blessed in She in Arizona, while my husband {and MIL for half the day on Friday} held down the fort. It was an amazing blessing in so many ways. I’m hoping to get a few more thoughts down in a separate post about my trip.

bis retreat gathering

photo by Heather

I was excited to hear this morning that our newest study guide, On the Way, for the Easter season and written by our lovely author, Colleen Mitchell, was #1{!!!} on the new release titles on Amazon in the Catholicism category. Can’t wait to dive into His Word more deeply with this beautiful work.

on the way guide

photo via Blessed is She

Six) We’ve got one more week until we celebrate the joy of Easter. The past few years we haven’t participated much in the Triduum services. It is very hard with the set evening times and going at it alone when it happens during the day with littles. Haley suggested in one of her recent posts of switching off with your husband–i.e. one goes to Holy Thursday Mass, the other to Good Friday liturgy–so each is able to partake more fully without both wrestling children the entire time and being unable to focus on anything. I like this approach, so, perhaps, we might give it a run this year.

St Joseph

Seven) I’ve got a back of photos a mile long I’ve been wanting to share, book reviews that I ‘m going to have forgotten the plot before I can even get my words on paper, and oh so many updates on life. Thank you for staying the course in this short flurry of words.

Fun with Cousins ~ 7QT

About a month ago, we spent the weekend hanging out with Steve’s sister, Nancy, brother-in-law, Elliot, and their boys, Danny and Ben. The boys are just a few months older than both the girls. It’s a lot of fun when we get together! We had a grand time exploring the East Bay area where they live. Here are seven things the cousins enjoyed doing together:

One) Riding the steam train at Tilden Park

train-at-tilden-park

train-at-tilden-park

mama-and-lucie

train-at-tilden-park

train-at-tilden-park

train-at-tilden-park

train-at-tilden-park

Two) Going round and round on the carousel at the park–several times!

carousel-at-tilden

 

carousel-at-tilden

carousel-at-tilden

carousel-at-tilden

 

carousel-at-tilden

carousel-at-tilden

Three) Eating pink popcorn

pink-popcorn

pink-popcorn

pink-popcorn

Four) Picnicking in the park on Jewish deli sandwiches complete with fresh pickles

jewish-deli-dip

Five) Ice cream sundaes at Fentons

ice-cream-at-fentons

ice-cream-at-fentons

 

Six) Petting cars that look like zebras

zebra-truck

Seven) Park play {well, that was only with daddy and mommy but it would have been twice as fun with cousins!}

swinging-with-daddy

seahorse-ride

sand-play-shadows

 

 

Linking up with Kelly for 7QT this week!

What I Learned in July

cheese-mess-on-the-kitchen-floor

It has been fairly quiet around here. And that’s a good thing. Lots of activities happening with my girls, work on our house and in the yard being accomplished, time for reading books and time to contemplate what I’ve read, ‘date nights’ with my husband. It’s been a good month.

I like reflective posts–posts where one looks back at what has influenced them over the past week/month/year. Emily Freeman has a monthly link-up of “Things Learned In {Fill-in-the-Month}” so I’m joining up this last day of July to fill you in on a few things I’ve learned this past month.

  • There is still hope that the United States {and world} will wake up to the atrocity that is abortion. That they will see it for what it truly is.

I haven’t watched a single video that has been released over the past week or so by the Center for Medical Progress because I know what is happening. I know it is grotesque to be ripping our children apart limb by limb in their mothers’ wombs. I don’t want to hear people speaking casually about it like it’s no big deal. But I’m glad it is being revealed so that those are blind to what is happening may actually see and hear, and, hopefully, have a change of heart. I hope this is the catalyst to truly change hearts on the issue of abortion.

ice-cream-times-three

  • It is perfectly legitimate to eat ice cream for dinner when the weather has been 100+ most of the day.

I’m a bit of a rule-follower. {Despite my requests for cookies for breakfast as a child.} But I have not minded bending the “ice-cream-is-dessert” rule one bit this summer. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

  • Creativity in the kitchen feeds my soul as well as nourishes my body {and those of family}. I need to practice it.

I started out blogging as a food blogger about six years ago. It was very difficult for me during pregnancies {because of food smells} and even more so with littles running around {because we want to help, we’re hungry, etc.} but I’ve had a small ease up on these difficulties so I’m attempting to make time for it again. I love creating new recipes and sharing them with others so you should see more recipes on here weekly.

roses

  • Fresh flowers, even in a semi-cluttered home, make the home so much brighter.

Sometimes I hesitate to spend the four or five dollars on a bunch of flowers at the grocery. It seems frivolous. But is it? I think appreciation of beauty, particularly natural beauty, is a sign of human flourishing. Why wouldn’t I want to foster that attitude in my home?

  • That vulnerability is a good thing. It allows us to love. The opposite–shame–breaks down relationships.

This month I read Brene Brown‘s Daring Greatly. I’ve had so many thoughts on this book and I’m hoping to share more, but for now just contemplate this truth. {And if you have a second, go watch her TED Talk.}

old-rasputin-north-coast-brewery

  • With something slightly out of the ordinary, at-home date nights are possible.

For a while, it seemed silly to me to have date night at home. I spend most of my day at home, the last thing I want is to sit at home to refresh and relax with my husband. But finding a hobby we enjoy together has made the time at home together special and unique from the usual lounging on the couch reading or watching TV. We both enjoy craft beers so we bought a beer journal and have been learning the art of beer critique all the while enjoying a brew or two and discussing it. We love it! Follow along on instagram: #muffbrews. {And I’m hoping to have Steve publish posts on our discoveries!}

  • Forgiveness is always possible {with God}. 

I’ve had my own great struggles with forgiveness but I think this would seem an impossibility for me. Praise God for all His blessings.

 

What have you learned this month?

{Also linking up with Kelly for 7QT.}

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