Thursday, January 31, 2019

No.215: What I Learned in January

This month, I worked through the book of Revelation.  I'd heard it described as a story of hope and goodness, isn't that something we need in today's day and age?!  I read it along with commentary from Dr. Taylor Marshall and I'm so glad I did - you really need to have a great understanding of the Old Testament to "get it" and I needed that hand-holding as I flipped back and forth.  Anyway, now that I've read the last verse, I can also attest that Revelation holds so much hope for us as Christians.  I can't wait to see heaven someday and I'm more determined than ever to live my life in such a way that I can get there.

So...our dishwasher is still broken.  We've had such a runaround with repairmen and still haven't decided if we just want to replace it (which means $$$, which means we have to come up with that $$$).  So in the meantime, I've been washing dishes by hand.  And once I stopped complaining, I found that I don't really mind it.  I usually wash the morning and lunch dishes myself, shooing everyone out of the kitchen so I can listen to a podcast or Youtube channel in peace.  It's my own little self-care oasis in the middle of the day!  (P.S. The kids wash/dry/put away the dinner dishes, which has been good for them too.  Being a team makes for light work!)

I'm probably crazy, but I like shoveling.  I'm alone with my own thoughts (#introvertforever), I get some physical exercise, and it's satisfying to see a job well done.  Sort-of like vacuum lines in the carpet - I love it.

Ask me how I know...ahem.  That was a fun adventure while Mark was at work.  I was screaming orders to the kids while getting soaked by freezing cold water: "You take the baby inside!  You move these boxes out of the way!  You help hold down the broken nozzle while I try to turn the water off!"  It was crazy town.  Thank goodness for a Shop-Vac and D who heard the commotion before it got a lot worse.

I've written about my frustration with natural deodorants before.  I found this company (from an Instagram ad!) and really liked that their version didn't have any baking soda, which makes me break out in an awful rash every time.  I've only used it for about a week, but so far so good.  I'm hoping it will make my Five Favorites list next month!

Full disclosure: I'm only two weeks in BUT I have managed to watch my children eat donuts - DONUTS, my favorite! - in front of me and I didn't break.  Feeling pretty proud of myself right now.  Just seventy-something days to go.

In case you were clueless like me (or maybe live in CA or FL), a snowsquall is "a sudden moderately heavy snow fall with blowing snow and strong, gusty surface winds."  We experienced one yesterday afternoon!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

No.214: My Latest Reads // January

This post contains affiliate links.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

I will taking advantage of a day that is topsy-turvy without my consent.  If the snow keeps me home from an important meeting, I'll take a walk in it.  Shovel my neighbor's stoop.  Then build a snowman at the end of the driveway.  When was the last time I did that?  When my plane is delayed for two hours, I'll call Dad.  Listen to the entire saga of his knee replacement surgery and recovery.  Ask him how he's adjusting to living alone after forty-nine years of marriage.  I'll finally have the time to listen.  And I'll cry a lot after a friend dies.  Attend the funeral.  Bring my best bean salad to the potluck.  Wallow in grief.  When I've had all the sorrow I can bear, I'll take a hike down by the river to wring myself out.  Then I'll be ready to invite a new friend over for coffee and begin again. (p.28)

But something happens over the weeks, months, and years of regular workouts.  Pretty soon it's not about the tummy roll or the wobbly thighs or even how many crunches we can now complete in a minute.  That's all beside the point.  It's about doing the best with what we've got and appreciating our scarred-up, well-used, stretch-marked, marvelously individual bodies just as they are...even as we strive to improve what they can do, one lunge and squat at a time. (p.69-70)

I got this little book for Epiphany and zipped through it in two days.  A perfect start to the year with my one little word.

#02. THRUSH GREEN by Miss Read
My Rating: ★★★☆

A beam of sunlight fell suddenly upon Mrs. Bailey's hand, the first real warmth for months, she thought delightedly, and her spirits rose at this token of the summer to come. (p.68) 

Books centered around village life are just so cozy and comforting, don't you think?  I enjoyed the simplicity and innocence of Thrush Green - it was a sweet mix of romance and humor and a teeny bit of mystery.

#03. THE NIGHTINGALE by Kristin Hannah
My Rating: ★★★★

"It's hard to forget," she said quietly.  "And I'll never forgive."
"But love has to be stronger than hate, or there is no future for us."
Sophie sighed.  "I suppose," she said, sounding too adult for a girl of her age.
Vianne placed a hand on top of her daughter's.  "We will remind each other, oui?  On the dark days.  We will be strong for each other." (p.526)

World War II books affect me deeply and The Nightingale was no exception.  Such a powerful story of courage and love despite harrowing circumstances.  I kept asking myself the question, "What would I do in this situation?"  I know that I'll be thinking about this one for awhile.

#04. NO WAY HOME: A MEMOIR  OF LIFE ON THE RUN by Tyler Wetherall
My Rating: ★★★☆

This is home, I think.
Right now, this moment.
Through all the moving and the chaos, through everything that happened in our childhood, there was only one constant.  Home with a capital H will always be wherever Mom is. (p.281)

You know me and memoirs - everyone has such a unique story and I love to listen and learn.  No Way Home describes one woman's childhood memories of a life on the run with her fugitive drug-smuggling father.  An interesting story with an important lesson: all of our decisions have consequences and they often spread to our loved ones too.

#05. IN THE WOODS by Tana French
My Rating: ★★★☆

The girls I dream of are the gentle ones, wistful by high windows or singing sweet old songs at a piano, long hair drifting, tender as apple blossom.  But a girl who goes into battle with you and keeps your back is a different thing, a thing to make you shiver.  Think of the first time you slept with someone, or the first time you fell in love: that blinding explosion that left you crackling to the fingertips with electricity, initiated and transformed.  I tell you that was nothing, nothing at all, beside the power of putting your lives, simply and daily, into each other's hands. (p.198)

If you like Law and Order procedurals, this is the book for you!  Full disclosure: there is lots of language and the imagery is intense, but it's what you'd expect from a murder investigation.  Solid three stars - I figured out whodunit early in the story and I felt it was like 100 pages too long.

#06. THE LONG LONELINESS by Dorothy Day
My Rating: ★★★☆

They were kind to me.  I saw them wrestling with moral problems, with the principles by which they lived, and this made them noble in my eyes.  I saw them pray, and the public prayer in the church and Blanche's kneeling down by the table on which was spread out her hats and trimmings did something to me which I could not forget.  As with the sight of Mrs. Barrett kneeling beside her bed, this posture, this gesture, convinced me that worship, adoration, thanksgiving, supplication - these were the noblest acts of which men were capable in this life. (quote about her Catholic friends, p.107)

It is not only for others that I must have these retreats.  It is because I too am hungry and thirsty for the bread of the strong.  I too must nourish myself to do the work I have undertaken; I too must drink at these good springs so that I may not be an empty cistern and unable to help others. (p.263)

I finally finished up the last quarter of Dorothy Day's autobiography, The Long only took me a year!  I found this book thought-provoking and interesting in some places and painfully boring in others, which explains why I kept putting it down.  Still, there were enough insightful tidbits to make it worth the read.

#07. CITY OF THIEVES by David Benioff
My Rating: ★★★☆

I have never been much of a patriot.  My father would not have allowed such a thing while he lived, and his death insures that his wish was carried out.  Piter commanded far more affection and loyalty from me than the nation as a whole.  But that night, running across the unplowed fields of winter wheat, with the Fascist invaders behind us and the dark Russian woods before us, I felt a surge of pure love for my country. (p.233)

Where do I begin with City of Thieves?  It's haunting and horrific, but interlaced with humor too.  I don't think I've ever read a WWII book from the Russian perspective before, so I learned a lot about Leningrad (St. Petersburg) during the German offensive.  I'd hesitate to blindly recommend it due to the profanity and crude "men's locker room"-type comments throughout, but it's a powerful story if you can look past all of that.


Books Read: 7
Pages Read: 2,151
Fiction: 4  //  Non-Fiction: 3
Kindle Books: 0  //  Paper Books: 7
Original 2019 books "to-read" total on Goodreads: 424 // Current "to-read" total: 430

Monday, January 28, 2019

No.213: Five Favorites for January

This post contains affiliate links. The Five Favorites linkup has been suspended indefinitely, but please feel free to comment your faves in the comments!

I don't remember how I stumbled upon Book Outlet, but I'm so glad I did!  They have a huge selection of books at really great prices and in a wide range of genres.  I've already made two orders (they have free shipping on $35 or more, which is way too easy to do...ahem) and am making myself wait on another until I read what I purchased.  Unfortunately, that hasn't stopped me from window shopping and adding bunches to my cart, hah! #crazybooklady  If you go through my link, you'll get a $10 off coupon towards your first order of $25 or more.  And one more bonus: you can get 5% back with ebates too!

Creamy chicken tortilla soup was one of our favorite meals this month.  We've made it a few times and in different ways: I've followed the directions exactly as written and I've also made it using chicken we cooked the day before.  I bet you could even just shred a rotisserie chicken too.  Perfect for freezing winter nights.

I mentioned this little book last January and it's worth mentioning again as I start Year Two.  I love it so much!  It's been so fun to read what we were up to each day last year - so many little memories in one book.  If my house was on fire, this would definitely be something I would grab.

The kids and I bought this game for Mark's birthday next month, but decided to give it to him early during our big snow weekend!  It's a huge hit with the entire family - even my six-year-old can play easily.  I also bought this score pad which has been helpful when we only have time to play a round or two.  

Do you follow Theresa on IG?  She is a running superstar, so when she recommended this book, I snatched it right up.  She's right - it's awesome.  I've only done a few workouts so far, but they kicked my bum.  I'm anxious to finally get rid of this cold and get back to work.

A few other favorite lists from the archives:

Thursday, January 24, 2019

No.212: Mail Tag // 10 Questions to Ask Your Penpal

This post contains affiliate links.

Have you heard of Mail Tag?  It's one of the fun little extras I like to include in letters, a way to learn more about your penpal.  Today I thought I would give ten questions to get you started and I'll share my answers too!

1 // Share a poem or quote that inspires you.
"Let us carry our crosses with love; let us see that they do not become a burden to others, but let us help others carry theirs." - St. John Bosco

2 // What is your typical morning routine?
I'm usually up early (around 6) and head straight for the coffee maker.  I fill a mug with coffee and unsweetened vanilla almond milk, say good morning to everyone awake and then sit down at the dining room table.  I've been working through the Chronological Bible Plan and my daily saint book. I also jot down a few things in my gratitude journal.  Making this prayer time a habit has been life-changing for me!  Then it's breakfast and chores and off we go to start school.

3 // What is your favorite meal?
My favorite meal changes frequently.  Since I'm still fighting a sinus infection this week, I'd say pepperoni pizza that I didn't have to make!

4 // If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
Now that we're in the dead of winter, I'd go anywhere warm!  Lounging on a beach somewhere reading a book sounds heavenly.

5 // What are three of your favorite books?
This is such a hard question!  Instead, I'll share my five favorite books from last year:  Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of DoneBrain on Fire: My Month of MadnessRedwall (read aloud to the kids), Need to Know, and Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.

6 // Name one of your pet peeves.
Have you ever been driving on the highway when someone puts their blinker on to move into your lane and then proceeds to keep it on  Drives me crazy!

7 // When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
At different times, I wanted to become a doctor, a marine biologist or a teacher.

8 // What is the last movie you watched?
I watched Remember the Titans with my oldest.

9 // What brand are your favorite pair of jeans?
Right now I'm living in Kut from the Kloth's skinny jeans.  I think I want to get a pair of boyfriend cut next.

10 // Share five things that make you smile.
Finding little pieces of artwork from the kids, a gorgeous red-orange sunset, a book I can't put down, belly laughter, and an empty laundry basket.

Tag, you're it!

Monday, January 21, 2019

No.211: Intentions for the End of January

Did you hear that Mary Oliver passed away?  I have only the simplest knowledge of her work, but many of the pieces I've read have really touched me.  This is the one I've been thinking about while we had a winter wonderland outside: 
"Snow was falling, so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more
than prettiness." 


  • No Sugar (Mark and I are trying to go without it for 90 days...pray for me)
  • start preparing for taxes
  • wrap Mark's birthday gifts
  • catch up on snail mail correspondence
  • photograph and list all remaining inventory for Poshmark
  • finally finish my winter cross-stitch project (100LT #23)
  • check Home Depot for a snake plant
  • buy a bag of potting soil
  • propagate my Christmas cactus (100LT #76)
  • research shampoo bars (100LT #84)
  • deep clean the living room (vacuum the couch!)
  • start a separate Christmas fund and determine amount to save (thanks for the inspiration, Brooke!)
  • keep closer track of how much we're spending in groceries (those quick trips for milk add up)


      If you're reading on your phone or in a reader, be sure to click over to see what I checked off the list!
      • finish taking down Christmas decorations
      • add consistent strength training to my weekly workouts (I was on a roll before I caught a cold)
      • sign up for a half marathon 
      • create an updated chore chart
      • photograph and list all remaining inventory for Poshmark
      • propagate my Christmas cactus (100LT #76)
      • make paper snowflakes with the kids
      • bake cookies with J
      • make at least 5 recipe printouts from my huge pile (part of 100LT #10) (1/5: I made pancakes) 
      • start my #100dayproject (here's hoping I can keep this up!)
      • attend a Latin Mass (we decided to wait until the next High Mass in February)
      • read Revelation and listen to commentary from Dr. Taylor Marshall (I've never read Revelation at this depth before and it was fascinating)
      • write a snail mail letter

      What about you?  What do you hope to accomplish in the next two weeks?

      Friday, January 18, 2019

      No.210: The Good List // Vol.03

      a little list of things I noticed this week 

      Snow.  There is nothing so awe-inspiring to me than freshly fallen snow under a pastel sky.  

      Friday, January 11, 2019

      No.209: The Good List // Vol.02

      a little list of things I noticed this week

      I focused on the lens of homeschooling for my list this week.  Being responsible for my children's education is both a privilege and a cross.  Can I admit that out loud?  On most days, I'm thankful for the opportunity to let my children learn at the pace they need with the materials that help them the most.  This situation is truly the best for our family right now, but geez, it's hard.  I'm learning that dichotomy of good/hard is true for a lot of worthwhile things in life.
      A few things I noticed this week:
      • I somehow managed to sleep past 7am on the first day back - I never sleep past 7am.  I then managed my time so poorly that I taught school in my flannel pajamas!  Lesson: getting back into a routine takes time for everyone, including me.  Be gentle.
      • S may have some hints of dyslexia and that saddens me for her sake.  I'm choosing not to dwell on the negative because it's not my first rodeo (this will be my third) and I know I can do this.
      • I'm always amazed at how much they recall from things I've read aloud.
      • The awkward way my son still holds his pencil - it's something I tried and tried to fix, but now have decided that it's just something that makes him unique.


      kindergarten enthusiasm ("One more page, mama? Please please please?")
      brand new sharpened pencils
      when they make connections across subjects
      listening to J read aloud to his big brother
      the look of pride on their faces when they struggle but succeed
      little doodles drawn while I read aloud
      finding movies that connect with material we're learning about
      an afternoon warm enough to send everyone out for extended "recess"
      when everyone does their work without complaint

      Tuesday, January 8, 2019

      No.208: Intentions for the Beginning of January

      New for 2019: consistently paying attention to the lives of the saints.  I unearthed this book from my shelves and have started reading a few paragraphs while sipping my morning coffee.  I'm just a week in and am already enjoying the variety of these followers of Christ.  Men and women, rich and poor, educated and not, extroverts and much to learn from every single one!  We just celebrated Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton's feast day on January 4th and I've been pondering this quote from her:     
      "Put your heart at His feet.  It is the gift He loves the most." 
      So simple and yet somehow so hard too.  I'll be repeating this to myself when I (often!) make life much more difficult than it needs to be.


      • finish taking down Christmas decorations
      • add consistent strength training to my weekly workouts
      • sign up for a half marathon 
      • create an updated chore chart
      • photograph and list all remaining inventory for Poshmark
      • propagate my Christmas cactus (100LT #76)
      • make paper snowflakes with the kids
      • bake cookies with J
      • make at least 5 recipe printouts from my huge pile (part of 100LT #10)
      • start my #100dayproject
      • attend a Latin Mass
      • read Revelation and listen to commentary from Dr. Taylor Marshall
      • write a snail mail letter
      What about you?  What do you want to accomplish in the next two weeks?

      Monday, January 7, 2019

      No.207: Books & Family Goals for Epiphany 2019

      This post contains affiliate links.

      Our third annual Epiphany dinner!  As we ate our pot roast and potatoes, we chatted about our family goals from 2018 and what we'd like to work on in the new year.  Our top three are:
      • Work as a team and cooperate.  
      • Spend more time outside. 
      • Create habits to make Sundays truly a day of rest.
      After dinner, everyone ripped open their gifts wrapped in gold paper and cozied up by the fire.  I love this sweet tradition and how it ends the Christmas season on such a high note.  Our Epiphany books for 2019:

      MARK - 
      The Crucified Rabbi: Judaism and the Origins of Catholic Christianity by Taylor Marshall

      ASHLEY - Find the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary Writer by Heather Lende

      M (age 12) - 
      13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened In Benghazi by Mitchell Zuckoff

      D (age 10) - Edge of Extinction #2: Code Name Flood by Laura Martin

      J (age 8) - The Saint Chronicles, Collection 1

      S (age 6) - Science! STEM Sticker Adventure

      TJ (age 4) - Dinosaurs Seek & Find by Romain Amiot and Loic Mehee

      P (age 2) - Chugga Chugga Choo Choo by Kevin Lewis

      Friday, January 4, 2019

      No.206: The Good List // Vol.01

      a little list of things I noticed this week

      We bundled up in coats, hats and gloves and snuck out the door before little brothers could see.  The smell of fresh, piercing cold air greeted us the moment we walked out the door.  In our boots, the frozen grass crunched and she giggled at the sound.  We held hands as we hiked through the bare trees to the furthest edge of our property.  As we looked back at our home peeking through in the distance, she sighed, "Oh mama, it's just so beautiful out here!"  I want to remember cold breaths swirling, pink noses, and the look of awe on her face.  We both can't wait to go out again soon.

      on a warmer day, we played football in the front yard and went exploring...

      "Folklore says the woolly bear caterpillar can predict the severity of the winter simply by the length of the red-orange band at the center of its body.  Basically the more red-orange there is the warmer the winter and the less red-orange, the colder, more snowy the winter will be." (via)  If only it were so easy!    

      Thursday, January 3, 2019

      No.205: My Goals for 2019

      Compared to last year's list, my goals for 2019 are short and simple.  Here's what I'd like to accomplish in the next 365 days:


      Our biggest goal of the year!  I told Mark that I want debt freedom for Christmas next year.  It's a lofty goal, but we're going to try our hardest.  This naturally means that most unnecessary home projects have been put on hold as well as spending in general.  But it will all be worth the struggle at the end! 


      Complimentary to the goal above, I want to focus on (and appreciate!) the things I already have.  I hope to use things up, like that food in the back of the pantry and my stash of craft supplies I've been saving for a rainy day.  I want to break out my big camera again.  And when I do make purchases, I want it to be intentional, making secondhand or small business our first choice before the "Big A" or big box stores.


      I've found that having a big number goal stresses me out and influences the books I choose (namely: easier and shorter).  Hopefully I'll dig in to some big volumes without the pressure.  I also want to read more non-fiction this year, stretching my horizons in new areas.  I'd also like to return to physical books vs. reading on my Kindle.


      My one little word for the year.  I'm thinking this quote from Mary Oliver is a good starting point: "Instructions for Living a Life: Pay attention.  Be astonished.  Tell about it."


      Get my health under control.  Create a wardrobe at my current size that makes me feel confident and not frumpy (maybe I can do it entirely secondhand?).  Distance myself from unhealthy relationships and open myself to possible new ones. 


      Maybe even a full marathon in the fall?  And stay injury-free in the process.

      What are your goals for 2019?

      Wednesday, January 2, 2019

      No.204: New Habits, Little by Little: Cooking at Home (December 2018)

      Week 75:
      Saturday, December 1: one skillet chicken with green beans and mushrooms
      Sunday, December 2: P's birthday! homemade pizza and cake
      Monday, December 3: boys had pizza out between activities, the little kids and I had popcorn and ham&cheese rollups
      Tuesday, December 4: beef stroganoff one-pot soup with crusty bread
      Wednesday, December 5: chicken loretta with mashed potatoes and green beans
      Thursday, December 6: baked spaghetti and meatballs with crusty bread
      Friday, December 7: Refrigerator Clean-Out Night

      Week 76:
      Saturday, December 8: english muffin pizzas
      Sunday, December 9: perfect pot roast
      Monday, December 10: creamy chicken tortilla soup
      Tuesday, December 11: cheesy southwest chicken lasagna rolls
      Wednesday, December 12: Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe! taco salads
      Thursday, December 13: oktoberfest sheet pan brats and veggies
      Friday, December 14: flu-fighter chicken and rice stew (from the Run Fast Eat Slow cookbook) with homemade bread

      Week 77:
      Saturday, December 15: leftovers
      Sunday, December 16: we decorated (and then ate) gingerbread men, which definitely ruined dinner, hah!
      Monday, December 17: the big kids had Christmas parties at CCD, so we just ate leftover soup at home
      Tuesday, December 18: loaded baked potato and chicken casserole
      Wednesday, December 19: Ember Days. spinach artichoke lasagna rollups (need to tweak this recipe a bit next time)
      Thursday, December 20: hearty beef stew and crusty bread
      Friday, December 21: Ember Days. creamy tomato tortellini soup with crusty bread

      Week 78:
      Saturday, December 22: Ember Days. crispy bean and cheese burritos
      Sunday, December 23: so random: salads for the adults, Ramen and cereal for the kids
      Monday, December 24: Christmas Eve. pizza dip, meatballs, and fried chicken wings
      Tuesday, December 25: Christmas Day! ham and turkey breast, corn, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, rolls, and lots of cookies for dessert
      Wednesday, December 26: Mark's homemade chicken fingers and leftovers from Christmas Eve
      Thursday, December 27: garlic-parmesan sausage and veggies
      Friday, December 28: breakfast for dinner - pancakes, eggs and bacon

      Week 79:
      Saturday, December 29: tomato soup (with added tortellini) and grilled cheese sandwiches
      Sunday, December 30: french onion meatballs with mashed potatoes
      Monday, December 31: "Build Your Own Burger" bar with chips

      Tuesday, January 1, 2019

      No.203: My Word for 2019 // Notice

      "Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.”
      ~A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith

      I'm beginning the new year a little on the "momento mori"/morbid side.  I blame it on a few things: reading a few books about the elderly and end of life issues, spending the second Christmas without my grandmothers, and listening to George W. Bush's touching eulogy for his father.  Now in my 30's, I'm realizing that life just goes by so fast...and it makes me think, When it's my turn to go, what would I want to be remembered for?

      I still haven't finished reflecting on this, but three things stand out:
      1. I want to be someone of great faith. I want to trust completely.  I want to be a dependable steward for those who ask for my prayers.  I want others to see Christ in me through my actions and maybe sometimes even my words.    
      2. I want to be someone filled with gratitude. I want to be thankful for everything, the good and the hard.  Especially the hard.
      3. I want to be someone who really sees you.  I want to be someone who walks with you, rejoices with you, suffers with you.  I want to be someone who supports you and makes you feel loved.
      I'm not particularly good at any of those things yet, so hopefully God will allow me many more years to practice.  To wrap up all of those big goals, I chose notice for my "one little word" for 2019.  Noticing - really noticing - means to live with eyes wide open.  Observe, be curious and look at the world in awe.  I'm hoping that noticing will lead to gratitude, which will lead to contentment, which will lead to a greater desire to serve others.  Bring it on, 2019.

      2013: Intention  //  2014: Brave  //  2015: Thrive  //  2016: Learn  //  2017: Slow  //  2018: Roots

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