'Muff'in Dome

Category Archives: Books

#write31days ~ day 8: a gentleman in moscow

a gentleman in moscow

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

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

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

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

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

This may be my top pick of the year.

 

{This post contains affiliate links. By clicking through, you help to support my blog — thank you!}

Gathering My Thoughts ~ Height of the Summer

homegrown sunflowers

Outside my window: Heat. For one more day temperatures hovering around 100, and then we’re dropping down into the 80s for a little while. Looking forward to the reprieve.

relaxing with daddy in hammock

Listening To: The hum of the air conditioner and the squeaking ceiling fan above my head.

Clothing Myself In: Still in pjs at 2 in the afternoon. When we aren’t going out, I’m terrible about getting myself dressed.

relaxing at the cabin

Talking With My Children About These Books: A few favorites this week from the library:
How Big Could Your Pumpkin Grow by Wendell Minor — It may seem early for this, but the pumpkins in our garden are ripe so it’s a topic of conversation right now. I hope none of our pumpkins are as big as the ones suggested in this book, though! 😉

Bear in the Air by Susan Meyers — A super sweet story about a cute little bear that gets bumped out of his owner’s stroller and goes on quite the adventure. My children are especially taken with the illustrations.

My Garden by Kevin Henkes — Great for the imagination. If only our garden would grow

In My Own Reading: Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt and Real Learning by Elizabeth Foss. Can you tell my mind is gravitating towards school days? I’m gaining great inspiration from these about a little “curriculum” to follow with Evelyn this year. Both are wonderful resources for reading to your children, too, even if you aren’t doing home education.

Also, anxiously awaiting The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera recommended highly by Christy. The Fountains of Carrots Facebook group will be discussing soon on their page so jump on in if this is up your alley!

socks and flip flops

ladybug backpack

Thinking and Thinking: About the Fall. Gardening, schooling, birthdays, cooler weather. It is just around the bend.

Pondering: These words of Pope Francis during World Youth Day last week, applicable to any age:

God expects something from you. God wants something from you. God hopes in you. God comes to break down all our fences. He comes to open the doors of our lives, our dreams, our ways of seeing things. God comes to break open everything that keeps you closed in. He is encouraging you to dream. He wants to make you see that, with you, the world can be different. For the fact is, unless you offer the best of yourselves, the world will never be different.

Carefully Cultivating Rhythm: We’ve been rather lax with a schedule of any kind this summer, but I’m kind of looking forward to falling into a bit of one as we move into the autumn months. I need a bit more regularity to my days and I think they girls would benefit with a tad more routine. It’s been good, though, to relax some, though.

riding cars at state fair

sierra wildflowers

Creating By Hand: I finished a scarf and hat set for my brother who is headed off to Michigan in a few weeks for law school. Can’t have him freezing to death! This is my second Barley Hat and loved the formation of the Purl Ridge Scarf. Perfect for a double wrap and fittingly masculine. {But modeled here by Evelyn.} Oh, and can I tell you how in love I am with Malabrigo yarns?? <3

purl ridge scarf

barley hat and purl ridge scarf model

barley hat

barley hat and purl ridge scarf model

Learning Lessons In: Home education. Nervous, but excited, about the prospect. Reading all the books I can, praying about the direction the Lord wants us to take with this, and trying not to be the perfectionist I have a tendency towards.

Encouraging Learning In: All. The. Things. Evelyn has hit the “why?” stage and I’m trying to be patient with the onslaught. The latest: What is electricity? Why do we need those black lines to carry it? Why does it zap us? etc. I wish my brother, who is an electrical engineer, was a little closer right now. 😉

walking in tandem at the beach

Crafting in the Kitchen: With tomatoes coming out of our ears and frequent trips to the farmers’ market for all sorts of seasonal finds, ratatouille was an easy choice last night. {Although it barely touched the plethora of tomatoes covering almost all the surface of my counter.} My recipe was from the Laurel’s Kitchen Cookbook {what? you didn’t know I wrote a cookbook?? ;)} I substituted a red onion for a regular as that is what I had on hand, as well as tossing in fresh basil in lieu of the dry. I used white eggplant from my mother-in-law’s garden which I might just prefer to the traditional purple. Surprisingly, it turned browned when cooked, too!

To Be Fit and Happy: I’m not, and something’s gotta change. I did a 20 minute Pilates video with my girls this morning which was a good kickstart. I will be attempting to follow the exercises in Core Performance Essentials as soon as it makes its way to my house via the mail. I’ve got some serious work to do on my core which has never been this out of tune. It’s been difficult for me to know where to begin on this whole endeavor of reconstructing it, so I’m feeling sort of thrown for a loop, discouraged. Just need to commit and make it happen.

Lucie Little Tikes car

Evey running

Loving the Moments: My girls playing together. Watching their joy in interacting together makes all the difficulties of two toddlers just melt away…almost. 🙂

sisters in Hanna Andersson

sisters in the pool

sisters "scrubbing"

Living the Liturgy: Looking ahead to feast days this month….. We’ve got Lucie’s baptismal day on August 6th (Feast of the Transfiguration), St. Lawrence on August 10th (my patron), Assumption on August 15th (Holy Day of obligation), St. Rose of Lima on August 23rd (patron to both myself and Evelyn), and a few others in between. I’d like to get back into living a bit more liturgically and I think this month will be the one to ease back in.

Planning for the Week Ahead: Halfway through this one, so looking toward the weekend full of home projects and a pool/birthday party. Definitely can’t wait.

 

Linking up with this week’s Yarn Along over at Ginny’s. 

Gathering My Thoughts ~ Busy, But Happy

chasing bubbles

Outside my window: Sunshine, yet coolness. We had a wonderful spring rain yesterday and the air is fresh and light.

Listening To: Quiet while the girls rest.

strawberry picking

Clothing Myself In: Half pjs, half active wear — which the only activity I’ve done in it so far today has been dishes and general cleaning. And perhaps a few laps around the backyard with the girls.

Talking With My Children About These Books: We finished our last chapter of A Bear Called Paddington this morning. Breakfast included English muffins slathered in butter and marmalade in his honor. The girls have been inquiring about marmalade as it is Paddington’s food of choice, so we dropped some in our cart during our weekly shopping trip. They are both big fans. I wasn’t much when I was little, but I love it now too.

I’m thinking of Mr. Popper’s Penguins for our next read-aloud. What are some of your favorites to do with young children?

paddington marmalade

In My Own Reading: Provence, 1970 — I purchased this on a whim as I needed an extra book to fill my cart on a buy two, get one free sale through B&N. It is written by the grand-nephew of M.F.K. Fisher who seems to have inherited his grand-aunt’s talent for writing, detailing the winter of 1970 and how it shifted the American way of cooking and eating due to this group of food writers that includes M.F.K., Julia Childs, James Beard, etc. Probably more of interest to the foodie set and those interested in the evolution of the food scene in America, otherwise, you might find yourself bored with so many details of the relations between these writers.

Thinking and Thinking: About making a Summer Bucket List with the girls. We have plenty of things planned {which I will add}, but it is fun to have a few spontaneous options so when we find ourselves with downtime on a Tuesday morning, we have ideas of fun to be had! What should we add?

painting each other

Pondering: “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ~Sylvia Plath   {Thanks to Verily.}

Carefully Cultivating Rhythm: Although we don’t have a strict schedule, and I don’t believe in one with very young children, we do have a happy rhythm to most our days which I really love. One of the most essential parts of our day is nap/quiet time. They need it, I need it.

painting in the sun

Creating By Hand: I have some teeny, tiny socks I’m working on {The needles are so tiny!!}–my first pair of socks ever–for my littlest nephew born this past Monday evening. At some point this week, I also hope to stitch up his blanket. Warmer weather has me switching into stitching project-mode rather than knitting. I just don’t feel like it much when it is so warm.

Learning Lessons In: Being easy on myself. I’ve had a heavy dose of ‘guilt’ in just about every facet of life lately, most of it completely unwarranted. It makes me less than my best when I’m thinking about all my errors {or what I perceive to be such}. And it truly has not been helpful in regards my attitude/outlook on life. Trying to turn that around. My husband helps me immensely.

sock knitting

Encouraging Learning In: We have a new Chick Fil A being built in our town. I pointed this out to Evelyn the other day. She’s ecstatic…but was a tad confused why we couldn’t go there yet. Currently, it is only framed. When I began to explain that it still needed to be built, a light bulb went off in her head. “Buildings are BUILT BY PEOPLE! They’re not just there.” So now every other question is: Who built this? When was it built? It cracks me up. 🙂

Crafting in the Kitchen: Inspired by Britt‘s Instagram post last week, we pulled out the Joy of Cooking to make our own oatmeal cookies, sans raisins, this morning. They are a definite hit.

tea time

To Be Fit and Happy: I have a rowing machine sitting in my garage that is just begging me for a good workout. We finally got a bunch of things cleared out this weekend that mean I can actually access it. Now, I just need to build up my motivation….. I’ve been inactive for too long.

Loving the Moments: Lucie’s spontaneous hugs and kisses with an ‘I wuv you’ tucked into my ear. The point at which they begin to offer affection and endearments without promptings just makes you melt into a puddle…and offer whatever treats their little hearts desire!

Living the Liturgy: The feast of the Sacred Heart is coming up this next Friday. It is one of my favorites. I’m thinking of what to do to commemorate the feast with the family.

organized simplicity lists

Planning for the Week Ahead: We have a long weekend on the horizon. We’re planning on house projects that have been put off too long. I’ve been working, piece-by-piece, on decluttering our storage office room that has become out of control. Major progress was made yesterday, so painting, new bookcases, furniture rearrangement, etc. will be possible on Saturday.

Encountering Truth ~ {A Book Review}

Encountering Truth book

A book of sermons isn’t typically high on someone’s to-read list. Mostly, because the majority of preachers are rarely consistently captivating and soul-stirring.

But Pope Francis? I dare you to find one from this current collection, Encountering Truth, that doesn’t have at least one nugget of inspiration. This man knows how to carry the Word of God to His people.

The book begins with an introduction, equally fascinating, by a fellow Jesuit, Fr. Antonio Spadaro, the director of La Civiltà Cattolica, a journal with close ties to the Vatican. He speaks of what it means to be a preacher, particularly a Jesuit one, and how Pope Francis embodies this to a ‘T’.

He says:

He who preaches therefore sows and nourishes with affection, creating an adequate communicative and affective environment so that the Lord may dialogue with his people.

The preacher is effective insofar as he better fosters an opening of communication between the Lord and His people. Pope Francis is stellar at this, particularly in the intimate setting these sermons were given in.

The sermons contained in this book were given at St. Martha’s, a private chapel at the Vatican, during the daily Masses held there from about the time Pope Francis began his pontificate until about a year later. Those in attendance included the gardeners, seamstresses, cooks — those who carried out the daily duties of life in the Vatican — as well as those from outside specially invited to these private Masses. Always a small crowd, no larger than 50, who came early in the morning to pray and offer the day to God alongside Pope Francis.

Pope Francis always speaks with great candor in relating the Gospels to the every day, to the human condition — and often with great humor! His metaphors even had me laughing out loud at certain points. Some of these you will remember as quoted in the media shortly after he gave them, but they are worth reading again and reabsorbing these all-important messages that cut right to the heart.

One of my favorite Gospel readings is the passage from Mark 9 about our calling to be “the salt of the earth.” Pope Francis had a wonderful reflection on it here. I will share a few lines that struck a chord.

This salt is not meant to be preserved, because if salt is kept in a shaker it doesn’t do anything, it’s no good.

Salt makes sense when it is used to flavor things. I also think that when salt is kept in a shaker the humidity ruins its strength and it’s not good. We must ask the Lord that we not become Christians with insipid salt, with salt closed up in the shaker. But salt has another characteristic: when salt is used well, you don’t get the taste of the salt, the flavor of the salt . . . You don’t taste it! You taste the flavor of each dish.  Salt helps the flavor of that dish to be better, to be better preserved but also more flavorful. This is Christian originality!

As much as I had always been inspired by this Gospel passage–to share the message of the Good News with others–that whole aspect of the originality that salt brings out in each dish–in each person–really was a beautiful thought. God calls each of us, in our own way, to be the ‘salt of the earth.’ Important to remember.

This collection is rather lengthy and there is so much wisdom to meditate on in each 1-2 page sermon, that it is definitely one of those to keep on the nightstand and have a daily perusal through for prayer time.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review.

This post contains affiliate links. 

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? 

 

This post contains affiliate links. Clicking through adds just a few cents to aid in keeping the lights on around here. Thanks for your support!

Making Space for Grace

“Then for each day there is grace. Day by day, I have only to make space.”  ~Chiara Petrillo

Grace is always there. Always. It is always available.

Perhaps not in the way you want or the way you could imagine, but it is always there to carry you through.

God’s grace is always sufficient. And it provides for all our needs. But sometimes we get in the way of its reception. Sometimes we reach out for it when it is not yet available for that situation. Sometimes we try to pick and choose which means of grace we are willing to accept…or not accept.

We attempt to piece the puzzle together the wrong way. You shove this piece into that piece–a space not meant for you {perhaps just yet}–and it only ends up ‘bent’ and frustrated. It may be haphazardly shoved together, seemingly with the colors matching up, but there is not a true cohesion.

The edges of grace are meant for a certain space. Rather than demanding, rather than pushing our way in, we must open ourselves to that gratuitous gift of grace and allow it to guide us to the proper alignment. The grace must be allowed to flood in where it was meant to be.

Strength comes in making space, in trusting yourself, in truly believing that God is good and that He has only astonishing things in mind for you.

Chiara Corbella Petrillo book

This quote comes from a biography I read recently about a courageous and holy woman, named Chiara Corbella Petrillo. Her short life was an embodiment of this openness to grace. Many of the stories we hear of saintly women and men of God take place in a hidden monastery. It becomes difficult to really identify with their stories. But this one is different.

Chiara was a wife and a mother. She lived out her vocation in this world as a witness to the grace of God working in an ordinary life in an extraordinary way. Her spousal love, her parenthood, her friendships, her daily life–all were imbued by the grace of God in a deep, deep manner.

In her prayer, she sought His counsel. She listened for His promptings. And she responded to the grace He poured forth abundantly in her. Almost with an effortlessness that clearly comes from the openness of her heart in close relationship with God.

It is not easy to live a life like this. We often have strong desires, great wishes, grand dreams, but God truly knows what is best for our lives. Every aspect. Down to the tiniest second.

“We do not at all feel courageous because in reality the only thing that we have done is said yes, one step at a time.” ~ Chiara Petrillo

It is that heroic moment taken over and over again. For most of us, it isn’t a grand event that will seal our heavenly reward, but a ‘yes’ to the promptings of grace. Repeatedly. Daily.

It is easy to grumble at the inconveniences, the hardships, the downright hard disappointments of life. Or detach from the situation at hand in an attempt to ignore the suffering.

But if, instead, our hearts our open to His grace, those moments of suffering are transformed. They are transformed by the Cross of Christ into beautiful moments–moments of great grace, moments of great joy–that stand out as testimony of His Love in this world.

Whoever thinks from a distance about his situation lives it with suffering; whoever is close to it lives it with consolation, the fruit of a true wisdom. 

Let us choose then, as Chiara did, to open our hearts to the promptings of His grace. Let us believe in His Providence. Let us respond to grace with our whole hearts, embracing exactly what He gives to us in each moment.

 

{I cannot recommend Chiara’s story highly enough. If you read one book this year, let this one be it. Quotes are all from the book.}

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through, we receive a teensy, tiny monetary compensation for your click. Thanks! 

Butterflies and Flowers ~ {Yarn Along}

Monarch Baby Blanket

My stitching and reading seems to have a Spring theme this week. The blanket I’m still making my way across {about 3/4 done} is the Monarch Baby Blanket from One Skein Wonders for Babies. Still loving that turquoise.

The book I’m breezing through is The Language of Flowers. It was recommended by someone, somewhere along the way {I lose track of these things because I’m always in search of good book recommendations!}, and I’m absolutely loving it. Interwoven into the story is the main protagonist’s usage of the Victorian meaning of flowers in the bouquets she makes for clients and in gifts to others. She is an adult foster child, come-of-age, so the story is heavy but worthwhile. I don’t want to give away too much.

Monarch Baby Blanket

Stop by Ginny’s blog to find other great projects in the Yarn Along link-up! {Also, there’s a wonderful podcast at Fountain of Carrots this week featuring Ginny chatting about her conversion and a little glimpse at what life looks like in her household. Check it out!}

In Search of Mercy — The Best You Can

in search of mercyThoughts of mercy and forgiveness keep invading my headspace in this Jubilee Year of Mercy. I’m sure it could be attributed to the plentitude of graces being poured out in this Extraordinary Year, but I do often hear His message of Mercy resonating frequently throughout these days.

I recently finished Brené Brown’s latest book, Rising Strong, which I’ve been waiting for from the library for 6 months +. {It’s a hotcake right now!} She’s a researcher who speaks on the subject of shame and living wholeheartedly. Her thesis is roughly something like this: Although many consider shame a negative experience, it is, in fact, an avenue to growth, to living in a more wholehearted fashion.

When speaking of shame, I was always return to thoughts of John Paul II’s “naked without shame” that he speaks of in the Theology of the Body. He says that before the Fall, Adam and Eve were “naked without shame”, that they were able to see each other in the fullness of who each was without any desire to “use” the other for their own pleasure or gain. Shame came into the picture because, with the Fall, there was now a tendency to view the other person as a means to an end, a means of use, not as the gift that they are.

Shame serves the purpose of guarding the gift, of guarding the goodness in each of us that is now capable of being misappropriated. We feel a sense of shame when either we sense another might be reacting wrongly to what we share, or even when we ourselves might be not loving/appreciating the goodness within us the right way.

Shame also appears when we see one who does not regard the gift of themselves or another in the right fashion, behaving in a manner that does not reflect goodness. It raises our hackles to see someone behave in such an abominable manner.

As Brené points out, our reaction to another is often an awareness of this related fault in ourselves. We feel shame at their behavior because we recognize the tendency in ourselves, which, in turn, can make us act out in our own shameful manner. But, she suggests, a better reaction to the shame we feel should be to take this opportunity to recognize the shame for what it is and grow into a better person because of it.

The opportunity for forgiveness often comes from a place of shame. Hurt caused by another certainly causes us shame. Being used instead of being viewed or treated as the gift that we are, as the goodness we possess, brings up that place of shame. That “nakedness” has been rejected and misused in one way or another. One response is to wallow in that shame and hurt. Another, and better, response, is to seek forgiveness and growth from the bad encounter.

***

One of the things that struck me while reading her book, was an anecdote she related regarding an encounter she had with a roommate at a conference she was attending. This roommate was chosen for her; she didn’t know what to expect. Upon entering the room for the first time, she encountered her roommate engaging in some quite unsavory behavior.

Her reaction was shame. Her reaction was disgust. Her reaction was anger. She began lashing out at others because of her feelings of shame.

She recognized this feeling and sought to slow it down and heal from it. In speaking to her therapist, the therapist suggested this to her: Perhaps the roommate was doing the best she could at that moment in time.

My initial reaction to this suggestion was just like Brené’s — yeah, right! But think: what if in her current state that was all she could muster? That she really wasn’t capable of any better behavior.

This is not to let people off the hook, including oneself, when falling into sinful or disgraceful behavior. We must hold people accountable.

But thinking of this notion that one is doing the best they can at that moment–if I was doing the best I could at that moment–doesn’t that make forgiveness and mercy just a little more accessible? 

When I’m working through the process of forgiving another, one large obstacle is the thought that they didn’t live up to my standards. And maybe they didn’t. Maybe they didn’t live up to their own.

But if I was to give that person grace and consider that what they did was possibly the best they were capable of that moment? Doesn’t that act of generosity make the process of forgiveness just a little bit easier? Doesn’t it make it just a little more accessible when I have that block in my heart that doesn’t want to let go of the hurt they caused me?

As I said before, I’m not suggesting that we not hold another accountable, or that we shouldn’t establish better boundaries {if that needs to happen}, but rather that we give a little grace, a little compassion. I think it would make our hearts a tad lighter and more inclined to complete that process of forgiving another.

And perhaps, even more so, we need to apply this to ourselves when we don’t live up to our own expectations or standards.

I like to think God’s mercy and forgiveness perhaps looks a little like this. He looks past the shame, the hurt, the bad intentions, the pride, etc. and chooses to focus on the good that is always there, the good that He placed in us at creation.

***

DSC00400

As the title suggests, Brené’s book is about rising strong when we feel kicked down on our face either by another or by own selves. It is about finding a space to rise from the shame, the hurt, and return to a place of wholeheartedness instead of wallowing in our fragmented state.

“Integration is the soul of rising strong. We have to be whole to be wholehearted.”

God wants this for us. He wants us to be whole, not broken and fragmented. He wants us to be able to rise from whatever has kicked us down — be it the hurt of another or the hurt of own selves.

This Year of Mercy is about rising strong. It is about healing ourselves, healing our relationships, making ourselves whole again, rising from our brokenness. Seeking forgiveness from a place of generosity–considering the actions of another, the actions of own self as the best one is capable of at that moment–will help us on this path of mercy.

Seattle : Delancey

We are closing in on 10 years since my blogging days began. When I first began writing, it was about food. I love to share recipes I developed in my kitchen, but more importantly to share my thoughts on gathering around the table and the influence of food in our every day lives.

Before I began putting words on a screen, there were a handful of others who lit the fire in me to share. Their own words crafted with the greatest care, their images taking me back to good times spent with my loved ones at meals, their recipes inspiring me to drop whatever I was doing the time and get myself to the kitchen. One such writer is Molly Wizenberg. She writes {still, although infrequently} at Orangette. {Lo and behold, I just discovered that she has finally upgraded to a .net address on her website. You know you’ve encountered a good writer when she can hold out with a .blogspot for so long.}

pizza at Delancey

Molly is also the author of two books — A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table and Delancey: A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, A Marriage. The first regales with many stories of her childhood, some of the best related to her father whom she adored. It has a lovely collection of recipes to boot. The second tells the story of her and her husband’s first restaurant, Delancey, and how they navigated it’s birth through the first years of their marriage together.

I mentioned this book in an earlier post I wrote back in October. At the time, we were already preparing for our trip to Seattle in early Spring. I had read of Delancey at Molly’s blog, but hadn’t yet gone through the full story of how it came to be. It was great preparation for a visit to the restaurant, which we made a few days into our trip.

Delancey, Seattle

In a quiet corner of Ballard, tucked in a mostly residential area, it gave off the vibe of your local, neighborhood pizzeria at the start. This is not a place you come unless you know about it. We arrived within a half hour of opening, but all the tables had already been claimed. Immediately adjacent is a little bar the couple also started called Essex. We headed there to wait it out.

Seattle is pretty strict about keeping your babies out of bars, so, since the littles were with us, we sat in a small, cordoned off area in order to abide by the letter of the law.

at the kids' bar, Essex

baby in a bar, Essex

Steve and I enjoyed a couple of handcrafted cocktails from their seasonal, rotating menu. We hungrily munched on a bowl of green olives, which even the girls adored {although Lucie lost it all munching too fast down the back of Steve’s sweater}.

handcrafted cocktail Essex

Essex bar

Essex, Seattle

The host from next-door came to retrieve us when a table was ready about an hour later. We savored a well-composed seasonal and locally-sourced salad to quell our rumbling tummies while our pizza was tossed and cooked in the adjacent room.

Delancey menu

my little photographer at Delancey

I took Evey over to watch as the pizza man deftly maneuvered pizzas in and out through a small slit in the wall that housed the wood-fired pizza oven. She was mesmerized.

pizza bar, Delancey

pizza oven, Delancey

We took note of our nearby table mates: a dad, a mom and their preadolescent son that had come by scooter to dinner and were chatting about a variety of things, sharing their interests with one another; a couple, in their twenties, sat opposite talking philosophy and literature.  It was notable to us the intellectual, stimulating conversation we were hearing, rather than the usual banter of the latest celebrity gossip or crude jokes.

I dare to say the atmosphere played a role in the clientele it attracted. Everything about the place was simple, yet sophisticated. Molly and her husband do a superb job of striking the best balance of indulging in the best one could offer while not going overboard with the accoutrements. To us, they exemplified the Seattle vibe and food scene we’ve heard so often about.

I hope we have another chance to return to these two gems, and maybe even their newest creation–Dino’s Tomato Pie–which opened in the Capitol Hill area a few weeks after we left. These two have got a good thing going. Don’t miss them if you ever find yourself in Seattle.

Books I Read in 2015 and Books to Read in 2016

book stack 2015

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

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

Novels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parenting/Education

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

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

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

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

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

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

Self/Home/Family Improvement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Memoirs

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

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

Cookbooks

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

Creativity

Capture the Moment by Sarah Wilkerson — Review here.

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

Religion

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

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

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

Psychology

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

 

reading in the car

Hoping to Read in 2016: 

Novels

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

Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers

In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

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

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

Parenting/Education

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

How Children Fail by John Holt

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

Self/Home/Family Improvement

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

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Rising Strong by Brene Brown

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

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

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

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

The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr

Memoirs

Something Other Than God by Jennifer Fulweiler

Memoirs of a Happy Failure by Alice Von Hildebrand

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

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

Cookbooks

Homemade Decadence by Joy Wilson {Joy the Baker}

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

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

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

Politics/Law

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

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

 

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

%d bloggers like this: