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Category Archives: Books

Gathering My Thoughts: The Beginnings of Summer & Answer Me This

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Outside my window: The heat of the summer and thoughts of making it outside to take a swim with the girls and Steve sometime this evening.

Listening To: The loud hum of the air conditioner. {Thank God for air conditioners!} Need to have it looked at before summer is in full swing. Although it may be too late…. Also, my daughters chatting and playing together. They adore each other and it makes my heart sing.

Clothing Myself In: Pjs still. There is a trend on Mondays that I just can’t break. We had a long weekend so my husband proclaimed it ‘pajama day’ so I’m only following orders, anyway. 😉

target-shoppers

Talking With My Children About These Books: Evey is on a birthday literature kick. {Well, it’s not limited too literature. She wants to bake someone a ‘birthday cake’ every day and celebrate someone’s birthday. Little party animal, that one. ;)} We picked up Bears and a Birthday and Happy Birthday, Bunny! at the library on one of our recent trips and we read them daily and discuss making Lucie’s birthday cake next week. Apparently, it is going to be the flavor of ‘pink’ — no exceptions. We’re also still making our way through books about trains. She really loves one called Locomotive. It is a beautiful non-fiction, Caldecott award book that is appropriate through late elementary school ages. Telling the story of a trip on the early railroad from the Midwest to California, she loves pointing out on the map at the front the spot that is Sacramento, where Daddy takes the choo-choo to work. We’re already working on our map skills at two-and-a-half!

In My Own Reading: These past two weeks have found me with my nose stuck in quite a few books. I finished Still Life, The Homegrown Preschooler, and A God in Ruins. I’m about to start The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I’ve been waiting on it from the library for over four months. It’s a popular one and I’m looking forward to seeing if it’s all it’s hyped up to be. {And hoping that it has a profound impact on my house making too. ;)}

Thinking and Thinking: Trying to determine where God wants us to be as a family. Now that Steve has finished his Masters program, he’s trying to figure out where to go on with his career. But that also means the possibility of us moving to another location. It’s difficult discernment. Say a prayer for us, will you?

steve-and-laurel

Pondering: “A little nonsense now and then, is relished by the wisest men.” – Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator 

Keeping light-heartedness alive in my life….

Carefully Cultivating Rhythm: Last week was hard with the girls and I sick with colds. We’re still recovering this week but I’m hoping to get back a bit to our daily schedule. Although, there are a lot of activities outside the house happening this week so we’ll see how successful we are in this.

Creating By Hand: Mostly dreaming, but really determined to get out my machine, at least by the weekend, and get some baby blankets and knit jersey dresses stitched.

yummy-pizza

Learning Lessons In: Patience. I’m running a little thin with it lately. Learning to take time for self-care makes this a much easier task.

Encouraging Learning In: Summer enjoyment. 🙂 I want the girls to remember summers as times of {mostly} family fun and relaxation. Of course, we have chores and such that never go away, but it is important to slow down and savor this season a bit.

Crafting in the Kitchen: I want to bake…but I don’t want to turn the blasted, hot oven on. Oh, the conundrum. I have a trio of well-ripened bananas on my counter begging to be made into banana bread. Perhaps an early morning baking session is in the near future.

getting-on-up

To Be Fit and Happy: I signed up for the Barre3 classes online and even started one of the programs to help keep me on track. But: sickness. It seems like every time I start to make progress in getting active again, sickness rears its ugly head and sets me back again. I have been getting out the garden and putting in a good workout with the removal of that ugly Bermuda grass, so at least there’s that.

Loving the Moments: Very proud of my brother-in-law who graduated from the Dugoni School of Dentistry at UOP. Steve and I were able to have a little “vacation” while my parents watched the girls and we attended all the festivity over the weekend. I’ll have to share a post of the revelry sometime this week. Without babes in arms, I was able to take quite a few photos. {You’ve been warned! ;)}

dental-school-graduation

Living the Liturgy: We thought about and had the intention of doing the Enthronement to the Sacred Heart together as a family on the feast day. But it came and went. {I did write up a nice, little post about devotion to the Sacred Heart, if you care to take a look.} We’re not going to give up, though. Hopefully, sometime this week it will happen.

Planning for the Week Ahead: Much on the calendar this week. I’m going to attempt to keep quiet moments for us as a family even as we forge ahead through the week’s activities. It’s essential to our well-being, collectively and individually.

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Also, joining up with Kendra for her summertime series — Answer Me This — where you get to know us bloggers a little better through a series of fun, random questions that she posts each week for us to answer. This week’s:

1. Any big plan’s for the summer? We’ve taken our two big trips of the year {New York and Los Angeles} so we’ll be hanging close to home for the summer. We’re hoping for a weekend camping trip to the coast, a day trip to San Francisco, and some time at the family cabin in Serene Lakes.

2. What is the strangest thing you believed as a child? I really can’t think of anything for this. Perhaps I am too much of a realist?

3. What is your favorite amusement park ride? (can be a specific one at a specific park or just a type of ride) I’m not a big fan of amusement park rides but I did enjoy the Medusa at Six Flags quite a bit in high school. Not sure how I would fare on it as an adult. {I seem to get motion sickness on swings now. No bueno.} I do enjoy the Ferris Wheel and Carousel, so we’ll go with those. 😉

4. What’s on your summer reading list? I’ve always got a stack of books a mile high so I’ll try to narrow it down to priorities. 😉 The one I mentioned above — The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up — is next on the list. Then, Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before, Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, On Looking: A Walker’s Guide to the Art of Observation by Alexandra Horowitz and, hopefully, some writing and copywriting books to help me step up my game.

5. Have you ever fallen asleep in public? On a park bench in Swansea, Wales. That was glorious. Also on public transit a few times, but I don’t know if that counts. I think most people do at some point if they ride it.

6. What is your favorite smell? Lavender and red, ripe strawberries.

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Gathering My Thoughts

Inspired by the lovely Elizabeth Foss for a gathering of my thoughts….  

Outside my window: A yard that is quite brown and dry. This drought will mean very few plants in the ground this year. We will forgo most of our vegetable garden.

Listening To: My youngest attempting to chit chat. She was taught ‘uh oh’ the other night and she’s trying to figure out all the best times to use it. {Which, for her, is most of the time.}

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Clothing Myself In: Still my pajamas {it’s afternoon as I write this}. If we aren’t leaving the house, I find little excuse to get myself out of my lounging clothes if I’m simply sitting with my daughters and doing chores.

Talking With My Children About These Books: Evelyn is very fond of Hey Mr. Choo Choo, Where are You Going? and Hands Say Love. Her love for trains never dies, and she has one of the most caring hearts I’ve ever encountered — no wonder she’s attracted these. Also, her Children’s Bible. She is rarely seen without it. She gets us reading a story or two every moment she catches us sitting down.

In My Own Reading: I’ve picked up a mystery novel, Still Life, for the category of “Book in a Genre You Don’t Typically Read” in the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge. I’ve never cared much for mysteries {although they are my mother’s favorite} but I’ll give them a try from time to time. The only ones I’ve really enjoyed are the couple of Agatha Christi’s I’ve read. I thought I’d jump in again as this book is highly-acclaimed and enjoyed by many whose opinions on books I trust. Also, slowly working through Parenting with Grace still.

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Thinking and Thinking: Of organizing and cleaning. The summer. I have lots of grand plans for the summertime. Hoping to get them on paper soon. It always helps me to set goals {and accomplish a few} if I get them written out. Family time and REST are high on top of the list. Also, thinking of how to be more intentional with “educational” things with Evelyn. I’m not talking workbooks just yet, but perhaps themed gatherings of books at the library and working on shapes, letters, numbers in our sidewalk chalk, etc.

Pondering: “[U]topias pull us forward. It would be sad if a young man or woman didn’t have a utopian dream. There are three things we all need to have in life: memory, capacity to see the present, and a utopian vision for the future. We can’t lose our memory. When nations lose their memory, there’s the great drama of neglecting the elderly. Capacity to analyze the present, to interpret it and know the path to follow with that memory, with those roots we carry, how I have to handle the present. That’s the life of young people and adults. And the future, that’s for the young people above all and for the children [to determine], with memory, with capability of managing the present, of discerning, and a utopian vision for the future, which is where young people are involved. That is why the future of a nation is shown in caring for the elderly, who are the memory, and for the children and young people, who are the ones who will carry it forward. We adults have to receive that memory, work on it in the future and give it to the children. I once read something very beautiful: ‘The present, the world we have received, is not only an inheritance of the grownups, but rather a loan given us by our children so we can give it back better than it was.’ If I cut my roots and I lose my memory, that which happens to every plant will happen to me: I am going to die; if I live only in the present without looking at forward to the future, I will suffer the same thing as every bad administrator who doesn’t know how to make projections. Environmental pollution is a phenomenon of that kind. The three have to go together; when any of them is missing, a nation beings to decline.” -Pope Francis

Carefully Cultivating Rhythm: Trying to find a good rhythm to our day. It is hard as nap times shift, but more and more often I’m able to get the girls down together. It makes the whole day better when this occurs. Otherwise, I spend most of it at home while one naps, then the other, than the first back down again….next thing I know, it’s time to make dinner.

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Creating By Hand: I haven’t done much lately and I’m looking forward to some sewing projects this summer. More embroidery and trying my hand at making the girls some knit dresses.

Learning Lessons In: Finding peace in this phase of life. I like schedules, I like predictability — neither of which happens too often these days. It’s a good lesson in letting go and letting God.

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Encouraging Learning In: Evelyn is beginning to learn her ABCs and she enjoys singing songs and memorizing prayers. We’re going to be doing a lot more of these this summer. Also, thinking of breaking out some chapter books to read before nap time. Lucie is learning to take steps. She started walking a few weeks ago. We’re learning boundaries and safety — s.l.o.w.l.y. She’s an adventurous one. 😉

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Crafting in the Kitchen: We’ve missed going to the Farmers’ Market on Saturdays, so we’ll be back there and cooking more seasonally. I like incorporating lots of fresh fruits and veggies in our meals so I’m going to make more of an effort in that regard these next few months.

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To Be Fit and Happy: I haven’t done well in this area for a while now. I’m signing up for a Barre 3 challenge during the month of June. Keep me accountable, please! 🙂

Loving the Moments: I love watching my girls interacting and playing with each other more and more. I never had a sister so it delights my heart that they have each other. It’s worth the ear-splitting squeals of delight.

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Living the Liturgy: One of my favorite feast days is coming up: the Feast of the Sacred Heart. Perhaps we’ll do an enthronement at home together.

Planning for the Week Ahead: Attempting to get house projects moving forward. I bought the paint yesterday for our bathroom. It has a rather small wall surface area so shouldn’t take me too long. Hopefully, I can get it done during a nap time or two. Planting a few things before the heat hits hard. Searching out and finding a good weekly rhythm with the girls for the summer months ahead.

 

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When the Well Runs Dry ~ ‘Capture the Moment’ {A Book Review}

The creative well can run dry. Any creative soul knows this. But true artists know that pushing through the dry spell is not only necessary, but can often result in a renewal of the fountain.

The intricacies of photography are not unknown to me {although I am constantly learning new skills and improving}, but where I really run into a wall sometimes is finding inspiration in my creativity. Finding new angles, new subjects, new sources of light.

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Sarah Wilkerson, the CEO of Clickin Moms, has a new book out which is helping me overcome that creative dry spell in leaps and bounds. Not only does she provide ample, novel technique suggestions in Capture the Moment {accompanied by exquisite example photographs from the Clickin Moms community}, but she also gives challenges at the end of each chapter to complete.

Maybe it’s my competitive nature, but it certainly helps get me motivated to get out there and get clickin’.

Photographing my every day is important to me. I love capturing what may seem like the mundane, but, in truth, is really the beauty and substance of life. Sure, it is wonderful to capture the once-in-a-lifetime moments — birth, weddings, etc. — but the day-to-day is equally special.

The interest of the viewer {and the photographer, really} is better captivated through a bit of creative license, rather than just an average snapshot. Wilkerson’s book helps one do just that.

With a wealth of ideas for photographing a variety of subjects, it would be hard to find one’s creative well run dry with her book in hand.

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

My Favorite Childhood Books {7QT}

I’ve been working through Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2015 Reading Challenge. She recently gave some great ideas for the category — “a book from your childhood”, so I thought I would share a few of my own.

I’m not sure when I get to it whether I will choose one I have already read and enjoyed or pick one that I meant to read as a child but never got around to it.

Here are the top 7 books from my childhood:

little women

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – Perhaps it was a lack of sisters that drew me to this book, but I always loved the stories of these lovely ladies relating to and leaning on one another. Beth was always my favorite. I even got to play the part of her in a short excerpt from the play I did in an acting workshop. Definitely a highlight of my childhood.

sideways stories from wayside school

Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar – These silly stories were so entertaining for someone who didn’t spend much time inside the walls of a school (I was homeschooled). Perhaps it was the imagining of the somewhat unknown in this way that made it all the more fun.

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The BFG by Roald Dahl – The character for whom this book is named seemed the giant who would defeat all the scary monsters of my imagination. And it is good to have one of these.

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Hailstones and Halibut Bones by Mary O’Neill – I’ve never been one who was too hot on poetry but this one stuck by my side throughout childhood. I think it was the lyrical poems paired with the beautiful color drawings that captured my attention. I even attempted some of my own poem/drawing pairings inspired by this book.

Beezus_and_Ramona

Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary – I’m not really sure why, but I always identified with Ramona from this book. Although I was the older sister and probably would have been a better fit with Beezus, I liked her antics and sassiness.

linnea in monet's garden

Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Bjork and Lena Anderson – This book sparked my love for Monet and his paintings from a young age. I still love to look through this book and admire his waterlily paintings. It was a huge lifelong dream when I got to see many of his works at the Orangerie in Paris while I was studying there. Someday, I hope to go to his home and see his garden.

From-the-Mixed-Up-Files

From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Koningsburg – Was this a favorite because it took place in the MET? I don’t know. 😉 There seems to be a common theme of art here in many of my favorites. I love the adventure she went on with her brother there and I secretly hoped to do something as adventurous in life.

 

I also had a serious thing for the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series. I usually ended up going back to the beginning several times, trying out all the different options. But I don’t think I will be revisiting those at this time. 😉

 

What are some of your childhood favorites?

 

Linking up with Kelly from This Ain’t the Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes Friday.

 

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The Ancient Path {A Book Review}

The Ancient Path

I’ve dabbled a bit in reading the works of the Church Fathers {or Patristics, as it is commonly called}, but my familiarity with it certainly falls short. This became quite apparent after reading John Michael Talbot’s latest work, The Ancient Path: Old Lessons from the Church Fathers for a New Life Today.

To be honest, I picked up this book because I love his music and several dear people in my life have a love for the Christian Eastern spirituality {where knowledge of the Fathers is much more prevalent} and I wanted to know better why. I didn’t know quite what to expect. And I got much more than I bargained for in reading it through.

Talbot introduces us to his great love for the Fathers’ works by recounting his journey with them through his conversion, his establishment of a monastic lay community, and beyond. I never heard his full story {and I won’t spoil it here} but it is an inspiring one of honest struggle with the truth of God and how He calls us to live out our lives.

The Church Fathers guided Talbot on the path to Catholicism. Throughout the first half of the book, He shows where they affirm and confirm how Scripture finds its source and measure in the Church, uphold the doctrine of the Eucharist, defend the Church against heresies concerning Christ’s humanity and divinity {still alive and well today in slight variations}, show how Apostolic authority is handed down, and demonstrate the development of doctrine.

The second half of the book, he turns to Catholics reminding them of the importance of the Church “breathing with two lungs” as Pope John Paul II called it. He invites Westerners to delve more deeply into the Fathers so can come to appreciate and welcome more easily what the East has maintained and shares with us in their Liturgy and customs today.

I had heard of the Jesus Prayer {Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner} before but this simple prayer became all the more rich and beautiful after his explanation of it. {Note: Found out he’s written an entire book on it.}

That simple formula includes elements of adoration, contrition, and supplication. It confesses Jesus’s divinity and our own sinfulness. It’s as hard as a diamond, but it rises lightly as a breath. It has sustained the inner life of ascetics and ordinary folk in the Eastern churches for well over a millennium. . . .

The Fathers teach us to unite the Jesus Prayer with our breathing, and breathing takes place in two motions. We inhale, and we exhale. . . . With the intake, we say, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God”; and then with the outflow, we say, “Have mercy on me, a sinner.”

As we inhale, we fill our lungs up, and so symbolically we fill our spirit–with Jesus, the Lord and Christ!

Then, as we exhale, we’re letting go. We’re separating ourselves from sin by our confession that we are sinners and our plea for mercy.

We would do well to adopt this prayer.

Be warned: this book just might add more reading to your shelf. My first purchase after finishing this book was Jimmy Akin’s The Fathers Know Best.

Time to fall more deeply in love with all that the Church has handed on to us.

 

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

The Quotable St. John Paul the Great

pope john paul ii

I’m thinking of St. John Paul the Great today on the tenth anniversary of his death, which happens to coincide with Holy Thursday this year. He died on the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday. It seems rather apt that the recollection of his death always falls within Lent or the Easter season, as he was an amazing witness to living the life of Christ crucified, especially towards the end of his life.

This heroic man was a man of great faith, great hope, great love in this oftentimes rough world we live in. He had a profound impact on my youth as he did in the lives of many others. That’s a story for another day, but I wanted to share a few of my favorite quotes of his with you today, as well as my favorite books.

His writings and words are nearly inexhaustible and everything is so rich. Most things I have read at least twice, which is saying something as it is not something I do often with books.

 

peeking jpII

  • “Faith and Reason are like two wings of the human spirit by which is soars to the truth.”
  • “Artistic talent is a gift from God and whoever discovers it in himself has a certain obligation: to know that he cannot waste this talent, but must develop it.”

jpii arms outstretched

  • “Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
  • “A person’s rightful due is to be treated as an object of love, not as an object for use.”

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  • “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.”
  • “Ask yourselves, young people, about the love of Christ. Acknowledge His voice resounding in the temple of your heart. Return His bright and penetrating glance which opens the paths of your life to the horizons of the Church’s mission. It is a taxing mission, today more than ever, to teach men the truth about themselves, about their end, their destiny, and to show faithful souls the unspeakable riches of the love of Christ. Do not be afraid of the radicalness of His demands, because Jesus, who loved us first, is prepared to give Himself to you, as well as asking of you. If He asks much of you, it is because He knows you can give much.”

john paul ii actor

  • “The Gospel lives in conversation with culture, and if the Church holds back from the culture, the Gospel itself falls silent. Therefore, we must be fearless in crossing the threshold of the communication and information revolution now taking place.”
  • “Limitation of one’s freedom might seem to be something negative and unpleasant, but love makes it a positive, joyful and creative thing. Freedom exists for the sake of love.”

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  • “Life is entrusted to man as a treasure which must not be squandered, as a talent which must be used well.”
  • “Without wonder, men and women would lapse into deadening routine and little by little would become incapable of a life which is genuinely personal.”

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  • “Christ is the sacrament‎ of the invisible God – a sacrament that indicates presence. God is with us.”
  • “Man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, can fully find himself only through a sincere gift of himself.”

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  • “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures, we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son Jesus.”
  • “Faced with today’s problems and disappointments, many people will try to escape from their responsibility. Escape in selfishness, escape in sexual pleasure, escape in drugs, escape in violence, escape in indifference and cynical attitudes. I propose to you the option of love, which is the opposite of escape.”

jpii writing

Books

Love and Responsibility
Theology of the Body
Person and Community
The Jeweler’s Shop
Crossing the Threshold of Hope
Memory and Identity: Conversations at the Dawn of a New Millennium
Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way

Encyclicals and Letters

Faith and Reason {Fides et Ratio}
The Gospel of Life {Evangelium Vitae}
The Splendor of Truth {Veritatis Splendor}
On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering {Salvifici Doloris}
On the Most Holy Rosary {Rosarium Virginis Mariae}
On Commitment to Ecumenism {Ut Unum Sint}
On the Family {Familiaris Consortio}
On the Dignity and Vocation of Women {Mulieris Dignitatis}
On Catholic Universities {Ex Corde Ecclesiae}
Stay With Us Lord {Mane Nobiscum Dominae}

Three Great Biographies

Witness to Hope by George Weigel
John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father by Peggy Noonan
Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves by Jason Evert

Books I Read in 2014 and Books to Read in 2015

readtilyoudropRead ’til you drop. That’s my motto and, apparently, I’ve  instilled it well in my daughter too. When I went in search of the books I had read this year to write this post, I was rather surprised at the number I got through. Then, I realized that most were read while I was sitting hugely pregnant with my second and I haven’t read much since then. So we’ll see how many I can actually get through this year. I have high hopes.

Read in 2014:

Novels

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty – I picked this up because What Alice Forgot wasn’t available yet at the library. A quick read and definitely justifies why it vitally important that one is open and honest with one’s spouse.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty – An interesting, quick-read novel about a woman who wakes up having forgotten the past 10 years of her life. Makes you think: Would you go back and do it differently?

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – The topic of assisted suicide has been greatly discussed this year with Brittany Maynard’s social media presence about her decision to end her life. This novel addresses that topic on the side of pro.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd – I loved her book, The Secret Life of Bees, so picked this up to read. I didn’t realize until later that this is work of historical fiction based on the life of Sarah Grimke. Interweaving the lives of a slave girl and her owner, it addresses the struggle for the ending of slavery and the abolition movement. Still not sure if I liked this one or her previous one better.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – This may be a young adult book but it was one of the best I read all year. Dealing with those facing serious illness as young people, it emphasizes the hope and joy that can still be found in this life even when you know your time {or the time of one you love} is short.

The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls – I, honestly, had to peek at the plot again as I couldn’t quite remember what this one was about. {Although, I think I read it in January so it’s been a while.} It’s a story of overcoming adversity and understanding how to cope and thrive despite the shortcomings of others in your life that negatively affect you. It was good, but not a favorite.

Historical

Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves by Jason Evert – This is a beautiful reflection on the life of our late and great pope. It is incredible all he did and the influence he had the years God gave him on this earth. Definitely recommend.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown – A fantastic telling of this amazing crew from Washington. Historical tales can be dry but this one certainly wasn’t. Particularly good for those who have done crew themselves.

Paris by Edward Rutherfurd – This book was fun for this Francophile. It tells the story of fictional characters in the settings of historical events that happened in Paris over the years. Well-woven tale by the author.

Parenting/Education

Don’t Move the Muffin Tins: A Hands-Off Guide to Art for the Young Child by Bev Bos – Great ideas for hands-on projects with young children using things you probably already have in your home.

1,2,3…The Toddler Years: A Practical Guide for Parents and Caregivers by Irene Van Der Zande – Picked this up after having it recommended for dealing with toddler independence but didn’t find it particularly helpful.

Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin – Read this before giving birth to my second and I am convinced it drastically helped me get through labor with its pain management recommendations. Highly recommended especially if you are aiming to achieve a medicine-free birth.

Montessori from the Start: The Child at Home, from Birth to Age Three by Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jessen – This was helpful for gathering ideas in how to educate without being didactic. I love Montesorri’s method and am hoping to incorporate it into our home education.

The Little Oratory: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying in the Home by Leila Lawler and David Clayton – Although I haven’t done much to implement what I’ve learned {that comes in 2015!}, this book has been revolutionary for me in considering how to bring Christ more into my home and life. Check out Leila’s blog with her daughters for more practical tips on running a Christ-centered home.

Self/Home/Family Improvement

The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith – This isn’t exactly a didactic how to make your nest, but more a philosophy behind how to make your house a home even if you don’t have much money to make it happen. The author has mostly lived in rentals and has moved often so it was great to hear how and why it’s important even if it isn’t your place and you won’t be residing there for long.

Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon Self-Control, and My Other Experiments in Everyday Life by Gretchen Rubin – Another fun one by the author of The Happiness Project. She gives a lot of insight in ways to better improve your quality of life just by slight changes in attitude and habits.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg – Discovered this one through Anne of Modern Mrs. Darcy and loved it. The book describes so well how habits are formed and how forming habits as a leader in those we lead can have great {or disastrous} consequences.

Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World by Tsh Oxenreider – I love Tsh’s blog so this was a must-read. Her experiences attempting to live simply in an ever-increasing complex world are both refreshing and inspiring.

Just Married: The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First Five Years of Marriage by Greg and Lisa Popcak – I read this first on my own and then Steve and I were working through it together. Really helpful in cementing your relationship on a firm foundation in the first few years. {And a good refresher later on.}

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell – I love Gladwell’s books and this one was no different. This book addresses how the sufferings and obstacles in this life can ultimately be great blessings when faced properly.

Memoirs

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen – Middle-aged memoir of the author. Probably more appropriate for someone in that age group, but good to read of things she would have done differently as a young woman.

Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Nequist – Food memoirs are my favorite. So many special moments happen gathered around the table. The author shares some of her family’s memories connected to food and a collection of great recipes. For every woman who loves to love her family with food.

Cookbooks

One Pot: 120+ Easy Meals from Your Skillet, Slow Cooker, Stockpot and More by Editors of Martha Stewart Living – We’re all about efficiency around here most days getting meals on the table so this book which tells how to get it all into one pot was a must. I’ve only done one recipe {and loved it} but I have quite a few others dog-eared for later.

Whole Grain Mornings: New Breakfast Recipes to Span the Seasons by Megan Gordon – With several {maybe all} suffering from hypoglycemia in this household, having breakfast meals that have long staying power are essential. This has been a great resource for adding new recipes to the morning {and evening because who doesn’t like breakfast for dinner?}. The author has a great blog too.

 

Hoping To Read in 2015:

Novels

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Historical

The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough

Parenting/Education

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen

The Temperament God Gave Your Kids by Art Bennett

A Homemade Year by Jerusalem Jackson Greer

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

The Homegrown Preschooler: Teaching Your Kids in the Places They Live by Kathy H. Lee

Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising Almost Perfect Kids by Gregory K. Popcak and Lisa Popcak

Self/Home/Family Improvement

Small Victories: Spotting Improbably Moments of Grace by Anne Lamott

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

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman

Memoirs

Something Other Than God by Jennifer Fulweiler

Cookbooks

Homemade Decadence by Joy Wilson {Joy the Baker}

Delancey by Molly Wizenburg

Make It Ahead by Ina Garten

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

Creativity

Hand-Lettering Ledger: A Practical Guide to Creating Serif, Script, Illustrated, Ornate and Other Totally Original Hand-Drawn Styles by Mary Kate McDevitt

Weekend Sewing: More Than 40 Projects and Ideas for Inspired Stitching by Heather Ross

Gifted: Lovely Little Things to Knit and Crochet by Mags Kandis

What to Knit When You are Expecting by Nikki Van De Car

 

What’s on your list for the coming year? I would love your recommendations!

 

 

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Focusing In

photo 1(6)

Loving these prompts from In the Heart of My Home, Elizabeth Foss’ blog. I need a little help organizing my thoughts here this morning. It’s been a doozy of a week.



 

Outside My Window ~ Sunshine. In the 90s again today. Where is autumn? Cleaner air than yesterday but still smoke-ridden. It hurts my baby’s eyes. 🙁 Another fire was started very near here a few days ago. One of Steve’s commuting companions lost his house in the fire. Very sad.

Listening To ~ Good ol’ bluegrass. Enjoying a compilation of hits. Turned it on to distract Evelyn from something she shouldn’t be doing, but we all don’t mind the distraction.

Clothing Myself In ~ Pajamas still. Getting dressed doesn’t usually happen here until the afternoon unless we are going somewhere, mostly because I like to spend the morning hours doing chores.

Reading My Children These Books ~ We’re still big on trains here. We’ve been enjoying The Last Train and The Little Train the past few weeks. Also, enjoying books of the season on apples and pumpkins, especially Pumpkin Jack, Pumpkin, Pumpkin, Pumpkin Day, Pumpkin Night, The Apple Pie Tree, and Apples. And this fantastic interactive book — Press Here. We like to take full advantage of all our library has to offer.

Reading On My Own ~ I just started Boys in the Boat and I’m really enjoying it. Daniel James Brown is a great storyteller who hooks you on these interweaving lives of the crewsmen and their coaches during the World War II era. Definitely a good read for history buffs. And it’s making me recount my days in the sculls.

boysintheboat

Pondering ~ What we have going on these next few months. I think fall and winter are always the busiest for us. Starting in November, we have Evey’s birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, three birthdays in January, four birthdays in February, and our anniversary in early February. Lots to plan for!

Quotable ~ When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on. ~Thomas Jefferson It’s been feeling like that often around here lately.

Cultivating Rhythm ~ Trying to regain some semblance of a daily rhythm after having it upended while we were trying to escape the smoke from the fire. Also, we’re living with one car right now which means an early wake up most mornings so we can take Steve to the train station if we want to have a vehicle during the day. So regular naps and early bedtimes are important here right now to ensure enough sleep.

E baking

Creating By Hand ~ I’ve started my Christmas gifts early this year in the hopes I’ll actually have something to show for it come December. I can’t say much about it right now, except that I’m really enjoying getting into learning different knitting techniques and my stitches are getting better by the day. My tension is definitely improving.

Learning Lessons In ~ What I can handle and what I can’t. I’ve always had a tendency to overextend myself, but I’m learning what I’m capable of each day and to say ‘no’ to the things I really don’t want to be involved in.

Encouraging Lessons In ~ Responsible independence. Evey has been wondering off when we’re at the park without saying a word, giving this mama a heart attack. Trying to figure out how to teach her communication about what she wants and where she is going.

playing houseAbout 5 seconds before I turned around to check on Lucie in the stroller, and about 20 seconds before she was halfway across the plaza without a word.

Begging Prayers For ~ Those suffering from the nearby fire. For students in the midst of mid-terms.

Keeping House ~ Attempting to do a major cleaning after a much-neglected house the past month or so. Got the floors vacuumed yesterday and already it feels much better.

Crafting In the Kitchen ~ Enjoying some autumnal meals despite the fact it still feels like summer. {We’ll just crank the AC and pretend.} Made this chicken pot pie dish in the crock pot last night and enjoyed some baked pumpkin spice donuts last weekend for our Saturday brunch.

pumpkindonuts

Keeping Fit ~ Not keeping fit…yet. Picked up some 3 lbs. dumbbells at Target earlier in the week. I’m joining some friends starting Monday for a daily exercise routine for which we are going to keep all accountable. Hopefully. 😉

Giving Thanks ~ For my amazing husband, who has been working so hard, at both school and work, yet always making us his priority. He is such a great and loving father. I love watching him with our girls. <3

Steve and the girls

Loving the Moments ~ We wait for daddy to arrive on the train most evenings at the station. It elates Evelyn’s heart to no end to see the train pull up, her daddy step off, to brush her fingers against the train, to say ‘good night’ to the choo-choo.

Living the Liturgy ~ I’m following the devotions from Blessed is She daily. I’m really loving being to able to read the daily Mass readings along with a short meditation on them. Check it out if you haven’t yet! It’s especially great for those longing to go to Mass more often. Helps you keep up a little with the Church’s seasons.

Planning for the Week Ahead ~ Next week will be one of more major cleaning, thinking/planning Evelyn’s birthday party next month, and planning for next weekend’s adventures with family — looking forward to visiting with Uncle Steve and Aunt Cheryl driving out from Texas. 🙂  Also, getting our yard cleaned up for the winter. I think it might be too late for our fall garden.

Marriage Preparation

My friend, Laura, over at B is For Bissonnette inspired me to write this post. (Thanks, Laura!) It started out as a comment on her recent post, but I decided it was getting rather long to leave as a comment, and would be beneficial for me to share with my readers as well. 🙂

Marriage preparation is vitally important, not only to assist in determining whether you are truly with the right person God has chosen for you as a lifelong partner, but also to aid in the forging of a foundation for a lasting and healthy relationship to be improved upon throughout your life together.

There are many great books to help in this endeavor. Laura listed a number of great ones; I’d like to add my own to that list.

things i wish i'd known

This first one we used during our marriage prep, Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married by Gary Chapman (Chapman is famously known for his book, The Five Love Languages — another essential-read for couples!) In this book, he gives some really great, down-to-earth advice about topics couples should discuss before marriage (and continuing after!). At the end of each short chapter, he provides a few questions which (hopefully) help lead into a discussion between a couple about the topic covered. We found these very helpful in discovering and opening up about topics we had overlooked or didn’t consider that important at the time. He covers a range of topics, from dealing with past baggage to jiving well with in-laws to dealing with pet peeves committed by your spouse.

dear newlyweds

The second is Dear Newlyweds by Pope Pius XII. I guess the audience for this book is more those who just got married, but it doesn’t hurt to get it on your bookshelf. If you’re anything like me, you’ve got a stack going that you’ll probably reach the end of by next year, so you might as well get it in the queue. 😉 Speaking of which, I actually haven’t read this yet but it was given to us by a friend for our wedding, and it is top on my spiritual reading ‘to-do list’. It’s been recommended by many couples who are friends of ours.

sex and the marriage covenant

Sex and the Marriage Covenant was also given to us by our marriage prep counselor to read. It explains the meaning of sex and marriage, especially the Biblical basis, and discusses NFP, reasons for and against using it within marriage. It is more theoretical and intellectual, so a bit more dense to get through, and better read in small chunks.  The author also co-wrote a book with his wife discussing NFP in a more practical light, as well as ecological breastfeeding (another good one) called Natural Family Planning : The Complete Approach. This book has sample charts as well as ones you can fill out yourself to help you in the NFP process. It is written in a question-and-answer format which I found more helpful than if it was written like a regular book.

tob

Theology of the Body by Blessed Pope John Paul II is absolutely essential for married, religious and single alike. Although, unless you’re trained in theology, I would recommend reading one of the more explanatory texts, either Theology of the Body for Beginners or Good News About Sex and Marriage by Christopher West, first. It is rather difficult to get through on one’s own. I was fortunate to take a class on it in college, and even then found it a bit overwhelming at times. It has become a regular book I return to time and again as I always find new insight when I read it. JP II reveals wonderfully how beautiful human love can be when it is rightly ordered! (It reveals the divine!!)

 

It is rather wonderful that we have so many resources to learn about marriage and love! If only more people would take advantage of them (and follow their teachings!).

Do you know of other good ones to add to the list?

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