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Category Archives: Reading

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? 

 

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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.}

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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 : Part Two

I had a bit of a deja vu experience. As we wandered through the Dale Chihuly Museum, I could have predicted what would be in the following room. This was not the cause of some strange dream–I HAD actually seen the exhibit before, although I had never been to Seattle.

It made an appearance in San Francisco at the De Young in 2008. I’m guessing they were renovating {or maybe preparing?} for the exhibit in Seattle…because it was exactly as I remembered it.
blue chihuly

Chihuly sea turtles

Our little photographer was mucho impressed too. Snapping shots from her stroller.

my young photographer chihuly

Chihuly boat, Seattle

Chihuly boat, Seattle

Chihuly chandelier, Seattle

family under Chihuly chandelier, Seattle

The open hallway was a big hit with the girls as it gave them an opportunity to roam and ramble without knocking into anything that was fragile. The entire exhibit was suspended from the ceiling. Good call, Chihuly.

photographing from the stroller

children and Chihuly

toddler Chihuly appreciation

Chihuly and Space Needle

Then, on to the Space Needle next door.

Space Needle exploration

Space Needle exploration

Space Needle exploration

Not….quite….tall….enough.

DSC00611

flying skirts at the Space Needle

Windy skirts for a flying high good time.

top of the Space Needle

This was Lucie saying “Mom, stop taking pictures and hold me. NOW!”

Seattle skyline

Seattle skyline

Seattle skyline

It was a glorious, beautiful day to be up there, albeit, windy. Although, I have a feeling that is a perpetual problem.

Oddfellows treats

tea time at Oddfellows

I won’t tell you how many book shops we visited while traveling because it might be a bit embarrassing, but the Elliott Bay Book Company was a definite hit. In addition to their great selection of books and a fantastic kids’ section that included a playhouse, this little cafe nestled next door called Oddfellows couldn’t have enchanted us more. Stephen and I both sipped on our own pot of tea and ordered a lemon pound cake loaf drenched in grapefruit glaze that disappeared before I sat down to have a bite. I don’t think Stephen got a bite of it either, so we ordered a second and put up a force field around it to keep it from the girls’ grasps.

DSC00629

The next day we found ourselves at the brick-and-mortar Amazon bookstore near University of Washington’s campus while aimlessly driving through the streets in the northern part of Seattle.

brick-and-mortar Amazon store, Seattle

Their display was really pleasing to a bookworm. I know they say you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, but there sure is something to being able to see the cover, full title, and author that draws you to pick it up and glance inside more readily. The entire store was set up in this manner. I left with a large stack, as did Stephen in his own meanderings.

Newcastle Beach Park, Bellevue

I went in search of a park to take the girls to one morning, and discovered one with a playground immediately adjacent to the water. It could’t have been more perfect–an amazing view and a playground that entertained for hours.

Newcastle Beach Park, Bellevue

Newcastle Beach Park, Bellevue

Newcastle Beach Park, Bellevue

Newcastle Beach Park, Bellevue

Newcastle Beach Park, Bellevue

Newcastle Beach Park, Bellevue

Newcastle Beach Park, Bellevue

We wandered down to the dock for a bit to take a peek at the water. Cerulean.

Newcastle Beach Park, Bellevue

Newcastle Beach Park, Bellevue

Newcastle Beach Park, Bellevue

Newcastle Beach Park, Bellevue

Newcastle Beach Park, Bellevue, WA

Another morning, a quick jaunt to the Tacoma Art Museum. I was a tad unimpressed by the large fee for a such a small museum, but they had a few pieces which made it worth while.

Tacoma Art Museum

She insisted on having her picture taken by this map. Unsure why….

Tacoma Art Museum

A few of my favorites.

Tacoma Art Museum

Tacoma Art Museum

Up next: a Ballard restaurant, long time coming….and Victoria!

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?

#write31days ~ Day 17: Pretty in Pink

yarn-along-delancey

ballet-leg-warmers-in-progress

This post is doing double duty: photography for #write31days and linking up with Ginny’s Yarn Along for what I’m knitting and reading this week.

I’ve been thinking my little ballerina could use some leg warmers for the cooler temperatures coming up so I started on a set I’ll be giving her for her birthday in a few weeks. This was supposed to be an easy project but I’ve had to frog the whole thing once and significantly back track a second time. I followed the instructions for making an accurate size but when I was about two-thirds through the first one, I realized it was big enough to fit me. Definitely not going to stay up on Evey’s leg. Back to square one I went. I reduced it by 20 stitches and it seems to be the right size now.

I’m knitting in the round on double pointed because I don’t have a circular small enough for something this size {although I keep hearing about a ‘magic loop’ — maybe I should look into this?}. Knitting on double pointed this way is a bit cumbersome so is going a bit slower than I thought. It also caused a second mistake when I knitted the wrong direction, resulting in a large hole that I had to undo at one point.

Hoping the third time is the charm….

 

I started Delancey by Molly Wizenberg a few days ago. She’s a food blogger {Orangette} I’ve been reading for a good, long while {since 2007, I believe}. Located in Seattle, the book is about a restaurant she started there with her husband. She shared a little on her blog back when they were in the midst of it, but I haven’t heard the full story so I’ve been itching to read it. {Bonus: it’s sure to have a great collection of recipes too.} It’s “a book I’ve been meaning to read” so it will be my October choice for the Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenge. I couldn’t have picked it up at a better time as my husband and I are going with the girls to the Pacific Northwest in February. And you better believe we’ll be stopping by their wood-fired pizza kitchen, and craft cocktail bar next door!

 

Gathering My Thoughts ~ Brought to You By the Letter ‘T’

starbucks-fall-cup

Outside my window: The air conditioning is on today and, as usual, California is notorious for joining the autumn game late. It is nearly 90 degrees today. Not feeling like autumn one bit.

dancing-in-the-rain

Listening To: Evey is working on her letter for the week at the white board – ‘T’. It is quiet as Lucie is still resting, so I’m just listening to her organize the markers as she works.

Clothing Myself In: A simple skirt and shirt combo that I threw on before we went shopping this morning.

L-snacktime

Talking With My Children About These Books: We are on the letter ‘T’ this week in our curriculum. There will be lots of discussion about our favorite mode of transportation this week — TRAINS! Our list includes: Steam Train, Dream Train by Sherry Dusky Rinker, Train by Elisha Cooper, How to Train a Train by Jason Carter Eaton, Hey Mr Choo Choo, Where Are You Going?  by Susan Wickberg {one of our all-time favorites}, Tea Rex by Molly Schaar Idle, The Bee Tree by Patricia Polacco, and One Tiny Turtle by Nicola Davies. 

We mixed it up with a few non-train books for some variety, although I doubt the girls would mind if it was ALL ABOUT trains. 😉 One of these days, I need to write a post about our favorite train picture books. I’m pretty sure we have come close to reading them all.

L-in-contemplation

In My Own Reading: I finished Emily Freeman’s Simply Tuesday last week and I’m planning to join the (in)courage group in reading through it again starting at the beginning of October. Such a great read, one that needs to be pondered several times over. Is anyone else interested in reading along? I would love to discuss with a smaller group too. Perhaps we could make a Facebook page to facilitate.

I also just finished Witness to Love which I wrote a lengthy review of last week. This ministry is wonderful and sorely needed.

I’ll be starting Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection later this week as it finally came in from the library.

three-of-three-cardigans

Thinking and Thinking: About Christmas gifting. I have a dozen or more projects that I would like to accomplish for gifting so I’m getting my ducks in a row to get things started. So much to do, so little time. 😉 It really is coming up on us quickly!

watching-pope-francis

Pondering: Still drinking in all the words of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, from his visit last week. I’m hoping to write a post of a few of my favorite quotes, but in the meantime, here is one:

“And if at times our efforts and works seem to fail and produce no fruit, we need to remember that we are followers of Jesus, and His life, humanly speaking, ended in failure, in the failure of the cross.”

~ from Vespers at St. Patrick’s Cathedral

asleep-on-the-stair

Carefully Cultivating Rhythm: We are trying to get the girls on a better sleeping schedule. Bedtime has been a little too flexible as of late and it is making them extra tired and cranky. Better nighttime rest, also means better naps–something all of us appreciate.

baby-cardigan

Creating By Hand: Still finishing up my series of three sweaters using the In Threes Baby Cardigan pattern. I’m about halfway through my last one–a red one for Evelyn. I can finally share the newborn one I made for my sister-in-law that I gifted her this weekend at her shower. There is something so sweet and precious about tiny knits, particularly ones in pink for baby girls.

Also, made a little blanket with starburst stitching on the edge. I have a few more blankets for little babes in the queue this week.

baby-blanket

Learning Lessons In: Patience. Mine has been a little thin the past few weeks, so I’m learning what I need to say ‘no’ to in order to reduce the anxiety which decreases it.

Encouraging Learning In: Also, patience? 😉 These little gals want it…and they want it NOW!

E-picking-apples

Crafting in the Kitchen: Moving into a rhythm of Fall foods–apples, squash, pumpkins, etc. Later this week, we’ll having one of my favorites–stuffed acorn squash–which I will share the recipe for soon.

To Be Fit and Happy: My brother, Raphael, is on the same crew team that I was in high school. This past weekend, his team hosted a pancake row, where they invite family members for a little breakfast and a chance to jump in one of the boats and try their hand at rowing for a mile or so. He invited me to come along and I jumped at the chance! I hadn’t been on the water since high school, and I do love it so. I wish there was a Masters team nearby that I could join. Perhaps some day. 🙂

rowingLoving the Moments: We’ve witnessed some great moments of childlike faith from Evey the past few weeks and it is so inspiring, both from a parenting aspect and in my own walk of faith. Just yesterday, we were going to see the Supermoon eclipse but there was some cloud cover which was going to make it very difficult to see the moon. We told Evey that she should ask Jesus to move the clouds so we could see it better. She let out a sweet prayer and, sure enough, the clouds moved just at the moment of total eclipse. On the way home, she kept peeking out the window of the car, hoping to catch another glimpse of the moon but all the city lights were making it rather difficult. She says from the back seat, “Jesus, could you please move the lights so we could see the moon?” 😀

supermoon eclipse

Living the Liturgy: Two great saints celebrated this week — St. Therese of Lisieux on October 1st and St. Francis on October 4th. I picked up a few roses at the store for the Little Flower’s feast. I’m sure we’ll have a little treat the evening of after our dinner. St. Francis loved animals and nature, so perhaps we’ll go for a little hike on Sunday.

fall-flowers

Planning for the Week Ahead: Two of my friends had babies this month and we are on dinner duty this week for their families. One we have yet to meet so are looking forward to seeing her. Our week of the letter ‘T’ involves a trip to the train museum tomorrow after riding the train down to Sacramento. So much fun with choo-choos this week! Also, about to start a ‘t’ea party with my sweet girls….

Gathering My Thoughts : Reading, Recipes, and Relaxation

swinging-with-daddy

Outside my window: Heat, heat, and more heat. This week is a scorcher. We’ve had some fairly mild weather this summer, minus a series of a few days here and there. I’m grateful. And I’m ready for the Fall. The only good thing about this heat is that it might make my tomatoes turn red. Here’s to hoping.

Listening To: My husband and daughter make pizza for dinner. She asks so many questions about everything. I’m glad he’s fielding them for now as my brain hurts a little from the continual bombardment throughout the day. 🙂

Clothing Myself In: My favorite blue skirt {similar to this one} and tank top {this one but it’s sold out!}. Light and breezy to stay cool in this heat.

books-for-b-week

Talking With My Children About These Books: We are starting on the 26 Letters to Heaven curriculum {loosely} this week. Evey has been showing a strong interest in learning letters so I decided to seek out a easygoing curriculum that would allow me to introduce them better to her. I’m planning to do another post in the next week or so about books I’m using for education with her and my reasons for doing so.

We’re not doing the letters in order. “B” is the letter of the week. Our books for the week are: Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey, Angelina Ballerina by Katherine Holabird, Berlioz the Bear by Jan Brett, The Tale of Benjamin Bunny by Beatrix Potter, Seven Hungry Babies by Candace Fleming, Beach by Elisha Cooper, Baby Bear Sees Blue by Ashley Wolff.

Have any others we should add??

In My Own Reading: Over the past week or so I’ve binge-read two novels: The Orphan Train and The Girl On the Train. The fact that they both have to do with trains didn’t occur to me until I picked up the second to read it. As with a lot of my pleasure reading these days, both of these came recommended by Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy. The first was also recommended strongly by my mother, hence, it ended up as my choice in the category of “a book recommended by your mother” in the Reading Challenge. It was fantastic. It follows the story of a young, orphaned Irish girl when she is shipped to the Midwest to be adopted and tells of the life she found when she got there. It is interwoven with the story of a contemporary orphan. Highly recommended now by me too! 5 out of 5 stars.

The Girl on the Train is a high-speed thriller {you see what I did there?} which I sped through in a matter of 24 hours. I was a bit hesitant to read this when I saw it listed as a thriller as I am not too fond of blood and guts and crazy psychological yuckiness, but it was pretty easy to stomach and the plot pulled me right along to the end. 4 out of 5 stars.

Thinking and Thinking: About the Autumn and all the wonderful flavors of the season that will soon be coming. {Despite the fact we still haven’t harvested any of our tomatoes yet this year. They’re on the slow boat.}

I’m also very excited about all the crafts and such I’ve been planning to do with Evelyn. Her imagination is really taking off and she loves creating and crafting {I’ve got a kindred spirit. ;)} so we’re going to go at as many as we can stand! 🙂

candlelight-family-dinner

Pondering: 

“It is God himself who teaches us the importance of dedicating time to contemplating and enjoying the fruits of our labours, not only in our employment or profession, but through every action by which we as men and women cooperate in God’s creative work, even in times of difficulty. In the workplace too, we celebrate – a birthday, a marriage, a new baby, a farewell or a welcome. True moments of celebration make us pause from our work, because they remind us that we are made in the image and likeness of God, who is not a slave to work, but the Lord of work! And so we must never be slaves to work but rather its master!

Moments of rest, especially on Sunday, are sacred because in them we find God. The Sunday Eucharist brings to our celebrations every grace of Jesus Christ: his presence, his love and his sacrifice; his forming us into a community, and his way of being with us. Everything is transfigured by his grace: work, family, the joys and trials of each day, even our sufferings and death. May we always recognize the family as the privileged place to understand, guide and sustain the gifts which arise from our celebrations, especially the Sunday Eucharist.”

~Pope Francis, General Audience, August 12, 2015

Carefully Cultivating Rhythm: Since we’re in the space between summer and Fall, we’re sticking to our summer routine here for a little while longer still since the sun is up a bit earlier. It also stays hot here often into the early days of October. Early mornings are spent outside in the {semi}fresh air, afternoons indoors in air conditioning crafting, watching a show or two, prepping for dinner, etc. I’ve enjoyed the rhythms of our days this summer, hoping to find a similar one that works this Fall.

knitting-pink-sweater

Creating By Hand: Knitting tends to be a seasonal craft for me. So, since the cooler weather will be upon us soon, I’ve busted out my stash. There are a few babies making an appearance within the next couple months so a few items for them are first up on my list.

I found a fabulous little cap-sleeve sweater I’m creating. I’m about halfway done now. If it continues as well as it has so far, I will probably make both of the girls ones for the cooler months. {Joining up with Ginny’s Yarn Along this week. Join us if you like to knit or crochet too!}

Learning Lessons In: Balance. Time is precious. I want to use it wisely. Figuring out priorities and making sure I’m giving of myself in the places where God most wants me to be.

Encouraging Learning In: Sweeping. Evelyn insisted on a dustpan and broom to take home with her when we were shopping at Ikea last week, so she’ll be in charge of that chore…once she learns it is more than just brushing things around the room. 😉

sunday-dinner-with-wine

Crafting in the Kitchen: I’ve begun posting weekly recipes focused around what is in season on Thursdays here on the blog.

A few recipes to use up the last of that summer produce include: Breakfast Peach Crisp, Salmon Bread Salad, Blueberry Banana Bread Muffins, and Tortellini Salad with Avocado and Broccoli.

To Be Fit and Happy: I was having a really hard time fitting exercise into my days, really just getting motivated to get it done. But I revived an exercise accountability group on Facebook that I had with a few friends, and it’s helped me get my backside in gear a little more frequently. I’ve been doing the Barre3 workouts 3 times a week. I’m hoping to up that to 4 or 5 within the next week or so. I think part of the problem was I was trying to do too much to begin {I’m really out of shape} and starting out slow, not doing back-to-back days, has helped me immensely in wanting to do it, rather than forcing myself.

drawing-a-cow

Loving the Moments: To go along with our “schooling” I purchased Evelyn a new easel. She loves the whiteboard. Literally spends an hour or more every day doodling there. She draws a lot on paper too, but an interesting thing happened when she began drawing vertically: she’s drawing realistic figures! She made me a cow the other day and began adding accessories and such to it, naming each thing. It was quite discernible. This is the first I’ve seen her do this. I love to witness these milestones! 🙂

Living the Liturgy: This coming Sunday is the Feast of St. Rose who is a patron of both Evelyn and myself {her middle name, my Confirmation saint}. We’ll celebrate by going to Mass and enjoying Root Beer floats for dinner that evening. If you couldn’t guess, our letter next week will be “R”. I need to think of a good “R” food to serve for dinner….

painting-her-legs

Planning for the Week Ahead: We’re about halfway through {I started writing this on Tuesday but the time gets away from me}. We have dance tomorrow, I’ll enjoy our monthly dinner together with my mom in the evening, then winding down to the weekend, Steve and I are looking forward to a much-anticipated date a local winery where we’ll be savoring a tasting-and-pairing menu alongside a tour.

 

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