Thursday, September 22, 2016

What I've Been Reading Lately

Hello book lovers! Checking in today with some quick lit of what I've been reading lately - let me know if you've read any and what you think.

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

The second mystery of J.K. Rowling's alter ego, Robert Galbraith (I really, really want a writing alter-ego), and I found this one just as enjoyable as the first. Yes, the plotting isn't too complex, but the characters make it more than worth it. I loved that this novel took place in the publishing industry, and Strike still is an entertaining character.

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

I feel like I haven't read too much non-fiction this year, and definitely needed something in the narrative fiction realm. Dead Wake is the story of the last crossing of the British passenger ship the Lusitania and how it was sunk by a German U-Boat in 1915, which in turn ratcheted up American animosity towards Germany in the Great War. This was a satisfying read to me and I enjoyed all the extra tidbits thrown in like President Wilson's love life and life in a u-boat. I felt this was really well told, but also gave me a much richer understanding of life at this time.

You Can Share the Faith: Reaching Out One Person at a Time by Karen Edmisten

I love Karen, and I love her writing. This book is an approachable and well-written book about what sharing the faith really looks life in real life. Karen shares personal stories that perfectly illustrate how impactful simple sharing of the faith in daily life can be, as well as good advice as to how not to hit people over the head with the faith. I really enjoyed her tone and approach and it really encouraged me in sharing the faith with people I know. We also talked with Karen about her book on a recent episode of the podcast.

Love, Loss, and What We Ate by Padma Lakshmi

I almost feel embarrassed sharing that I read a minor celebrity's memoir. The fact is though that I'm a Top Chef addict and Padma is a siren. I was surprised that I found her life so interesting. I really liked how she described her childhood growing up in America but also spending a lot of time in India with her extended family. Her falling into modelling, food show hosting, and dating billionaires wasn't hard to read either! I felt the book was just the right pace so no one part of her life was given extra time, although I could have gone for more behind the scenes of Top Chef, but again, I'm an addict.

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

This book was recommended by Modern Mrs Darcy and her summer reading guide and I was skeptical, but tried it out anyway. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the story of Jane Eyre turned serial murderess. It's dark, it's only losely based on Jane Eyre, but for some reason it worked for me. It's on the darker side, but not to a goring or shocking degree I felt, and if you like interesting homages to your favourite literary characters without taking themselves too seriously this would be a good read for you. Definitely on the fun side!

Joining Modern Mrs Darcy's Quick Lit gang - only a week or so late - yikes, it's been a busy September! 

*Contains affiliate links - I've made 66 cents this quarter, thanks guys! ;)

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Thursday, September 1, 2016

Mother Teresa and Me

I realize now that the title to this post makes you think I have a dramatic Mother Teresa story like those one you sometimes hear. But no, I didn't cross her path when I was 12 years old and decide to become a nun then and there. Nor did I eat, pray, love my way through India and happen upon her houses and made a radical conversion to the Faith. Although, both those stories would be awesome and I hope someone is writing those memoirs for me to someday read!

But I have been thinking about Mother Teresa lately because of her upcoming canonization, and I've come to the conclusion that her words have really had a profound effect on my life. Not that her words have so much as dramatically changed my life's path, but they really have helped form my view of vocation, kindness, and what attitude to have in life. Which are pretty big things when you start thinking about them.

I think I picked up her phrase "Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness; kindness in your face, kindest in your eyes, kindness in your smile" early on. For some reason it really stuck with me. Maybe because I've never felt naturally empathetic or compassionate, something about this quote struck me that the little things I do can matter -- and even I can smile.

I'm the first to tell you that my every encounter with every person in my life is not blessed with Mother Teresa's compassion, but I can smile! The first step on the long road to becoming a saint with Mother Teresa's compassion may be smiling at the stranger, smiling at the person who gets on your nerves the most, smiling when you child asks you for the 600th time for raisins.

"Where God has put you, that is your vocation. It is not what we do but how much love we put into it." This kept me going through much second guessing, soul searching, wondering what would become of me in my early years, and even my early married years when I was trying to figure out just what this vocation would mean for me. These words hold a beautiful simplicity that's easy to go back to when things feel complicated and confusing. Mother Teresa's wisdom was poignant and simple, a sure testament to her holiness I think.

"Where does love begin? It begins at home. Let us learn to love in our family. In our own family we may have very poor people, and we do not notice them, We have no time to smile, no time to talk to each other,. Let us bring that love, that tenderness into our own home and you will see the difference." I think these words have shaped what I want my home to be, and have given me direction when I feel useless at mothering. My work is important. Even if I cannot be rescuing the dying off the streets of Calcutta, and I can still participate in the same calling to love as Mother Teresa. Isn't that an crazy and amazing aspect of our Faith? That even though we're not spiritual giants or devoted our entire lives to heroic feats of compassion, that we can still live the same way the saints do? That's really what faith does, what living a life of love does. I need to keep reminding myself of this often when the little things around my house feel like drudgery or even meaningless; the love of a home and of a family are so important.

I've been both inspired and refreshed by this wonderful book Works of Love Are Works of Peace. The photographs of Mother Teresa, her sisters, and their work are staggeringly beautiful. It is so revealing to see them caring for those who otherwise would never have experienced love, but also to see the human faces of those whom she helped. I think we are all blown away by the way Mother Teresa served others and lived her life and that's why her words carry so much importance and meaning. The chosen quotes and prayers of Mother Teresa go along perfectly with the beauty of the photographs, together it brings about a wonderful testament and experience of St. Teresa of Calcutta. This book would really make a wonderful gift for the Mother Teresa fan in your life(we all have em!) or just a personal tool in your own prayer life. I'm so looking forward to our Church celebrating St. Teresa of Calcutta as part of the Communion of Saints!

Ignatius Press gave me a review copy of this lovely book for review, but my opinions are entirely my own!

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Friday, August 26, 2016

Seven Quick Takes vol. 148

Hi Kelly! Hi Takers...


Oh, August. Ours hasn't been too hot with showers almost everyday. And although it's still full summer for us, it's felt leisurely which is worth noting I think! I aspire to leisure. I also believe school in August is just plain wrong. So we haven't hit the books yet, which probably helps the leisure part. And with all this leisure I feel as if I don't have very much to report. No great checklists for back to school, no what to wear for back to school, no crazy trips. But if you're reading this you already know I'm boring.


We have knocked a few things off our to-do lists though which is always satisfying. I stained one of our decks, with one still to go(barf), but it's needed to be stained for about 3 years so it's simultaneously not a great goal to accomplish and something monumental that actually got done. Also, staining is the worst chore there is. I would paint indoor rooms for days before having to stain a deck. 

We also put up some new bookshelves in Gemma's newly painted room. It really helped lower the growing book stacks on the floor in my bedroom and all these great children's series look so dreamy on a high shelf. We're really outgrowing this house when it comes to book storage!


A few great articles I've come across this week:

The Moral Heart of Hamilton: Yes, yes I am obsessed. So I completely agreed with this entire article. 

A Former Janitor Collects and Photographs the Items Seized and Thrown Away at U.S. Customs and Border Patrol : This is really beautiful and touching and heartbreaking. I love human ephemera because it shows the importance people give to things, but it's heartbreaking thinking about all the stories and lives touched by these simple items. Also; the collection of rosaries just gets me in the gut.

10 Things to See and Do in Prince Edward Island for L.M. Montgomery Fans: Yes, this is me and Haley's dream trip. And yes, my sisters and mom are there right now and it makes me want to cry.


Last Friday we celebrated our 10 year anniversary! 10 years feels big. It feels old. But at the same time the time has flown by and it feels like we were just married. So that's gotta be a good thing right? We were able to go to the city the night before for dinner just the two of us which hasn't happened for about half a year - we usually average two date nights a year  - so it was awesome!


I'm currently reading my second memoir of Indian childhoods this summer and I'm completely fascinated. I feel like I'm definitely being sucked into a bit of a book jag. Do you ever go through book moods? I'm in the mood for Indian.


So my garden grew actual vegetables! I'm in shock and awe. We've been eating tons of potatoes, beans, peas, onions, and our tomatoes just started to ripen on the vine, and we ate our way through two rows of great lettuce in July. The carrots still stink and I'm going to have a ton of beets! You can barely see the vegetables for the weeds, but the important thing is they're there! Our pumpkins didn't make it at all and no zucchini which I don't think has ever happened before in the history of the world. The sunflowers aren't very good either, but I think that's because it's been so cool and cloudy for most of the summer. Do I chalk this all up to garden success or failure?


I've been editing podcasts all week so that means that we're coming back with new episodes soon! September 6 we will be back with a new crop of great episodes. It's been fun to edit episodes we recorded a while ago as they seem new again. It also means we're somewhat organized which is amazing! 

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

What I've Been Reading Lately

I missed sharing about books last month! I'm sure everyone noticed. So I'm digging up books that it's been a while since I've read because I've got to talk about them for the record...which is this blog...

The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap: A Memoir of Friendship, Community, and the Uncommon Pleasure of a Good Book by Wendy Welch

Oh my goodness, if you've ever wanted to own a bookshop you probably shouldn't read this one because it'll make you want to open one next week. At least that's how I felt about this book. I honestly want to open a used book store after reading this book, even though it doesn't at all sugarcoat the really tough bits that go into operating such an enterprise. I loved how the author tells the hilarious origins of what made her and her husband buy an old house and turn it into a local bookshop, I loved the tales of the "love shack" - or the romance book shed in the back, I loved all the tidbits of building shelves in every room and combing garage sales for stock. The book petters out near the end, but the charming story of how the Little Bookstore came to be is worth the read.

Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather

I'm trying to catch up on my Willa Cather this year, and this was a title that kept being recommended to me by Amazon so I succumbed. It's the story of a young girl living seventeenth century Quebec City and the burgeoning community there. It's a different type of pioneer story in many ways that really evokes a beautiful sense of place. Cather is so good at subtle explorations into her character's souls that I always appreciate. This novel is a beautiful short tale that makes these early European settlers so real to modern readers.

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

I love Ruth Reichl. Always and forever. I would read her description of Campbell's Tomato Soup and be enthralled. This is a really thoughtful memoir slash cookbook that I enjoyed from beginning to end. The recipes I have tried have been great and just reading them feels like a sensory experience. Probably the best cookbook I've ever read.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I'm going to use this book to check off that box of "classics I refused to read when I was younger but should read". I really enjoyed the story and writing more than I expected. There are a lot more layers throughout the story that I thought there would be and I found myself thinking about it again and again. Much better than any movie adaptation you've seen, trust me.

Morningside Heights by Cheryl Mendelson

I enjoyed this almost Trollope-esque novel of a circle of friends living in New York City. It involves adult friends who are raising families, navigating expensive city life, figuring out careers, and finding love in unexpected places, all while money plays an intriguing background role. A modern take on many of the domestic novels of the Victorian period, it feels like it pulls you in to that time and place so well while inviting you into the daily lives of the characters.

Let me know what you've been reading lately! And head over to Modern Mrs Darcy's for this month's Quick Lit link up!

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Seven Quick Takes vol 147

Joining Kelly on this fine summer day!


I'm back! Have I said that 50 times this summer in all 4 of my blog posts? Most likely. I wish I was posting more, I wish I was writing more, I wish I felt like I had more to say. Sometimes I feel like I just don't have anything to say that someone else hasn't said a million times better, sometimes I feel like I shouldn't even bother because it'll be unpopular. But I still just like blogging. I just like the random posting and the writing and I probably won't ever give it up. 

Weird blogger confession finished.

*Insert uncomfortable silence*


Our summer has been so lovely! Really, really. It's been a great combination of taking things easy, getting out and doing fun things, and all the great things summer brings. We've spent time with family, we've gone away for a few days, we've gone to the lake for the day, we sleep in, we read comic books, we have campfires. Honestly, sometimes when I come up for air from living life in mommy-guilt land I realize my kids have a really wonderful childhood. Really, really. 


And then I realize that it's already August! And everyone is saying it's the end of summer! (Which isn't true until the first snow falls...Canadians have to fight for every day of summer we can get.) And then waves of melancholy hit me. I've got kids who are going into grades 4, 3, and 2. How does that happen?! Can I handle another school year with everything on my shoulders? Will we fit everything into the day without the toddlers driving me crazy? Will we do enough extra curricular but not too much? Will the kids like what we put them in? Will winter come soon and fiercely leaving me feeling isolated and trapped for too long? Just weird anxious thoughts to have in August. Because it was May yesterday guys, and now...yeah, tomorrow it'll be Christmas. 


So yeah. School. I don't think I've ever started the school year brimming with excitement. Obviously I don't hate teaching my own kids, but it's a lot of work and it's honestly pretty hard to work up genuine excitement about. I like the rhythm of our school days, but it does take a good month to get there and that month really equals some hard work on my part to make sure the day goes smoothly. It's a lot of discipline on my part in order to get the whole house in a solid routine. So there's that. I do have most of our books ready to go and that's a good thing. But it is a drag seeing everyones gleeful Facebook statuses in being kid free for 8 glorious hours a day again. I feel it just really has the opposite effect of getting someone excited to homeschool their kids, weird eh? Haha, anyway! I'm being all dour it'll really be fine and I'll become magically chipper somehow.


Guys, I was going to talk about how much I've been enjoying Malcolm Gladwell's new podcast Revisionist History and then this week's episode happened. So if you ignore this week's episode, the previous ones have been really great and I especially thought the three episodes on higher education in America were amazing. I do hold a bit of cynicism in the back of my mind when it comes from this "journalistic" style of reporting just because you just are never sure if they're telling the whole story, or just the stuff that supports their opinion. But that's all news so I'm permanently cynical. Just like everyone else I'm sure.

I've also been listening to Young House Love's new podcast, which is exactly how you think they'd sound in real life. For better or for worse. If you read their blog you know what I know! But it is kinda fun to have a short podcast where they talk about the fun frivolousness that goes into home stuff. You gotta listen in small doses, but it can be fun.


We started watching the tv show Fargo this week and I can't believe it took me this long to watch it. I kinda love it. It's completely dark humour, has violence, sex and swearing, but the storytelling and writing is so good and so entertaining. Which makes me sound like a horrible person. But there ya go. I feel like I only recommend R rated television these days so every holy person has long since stopped reading me. 


In bigger summer news:

I made pickles! What the hell, right?! Can you even believe me? But not real pickles. Refrigerator pickles, because ain't nobody got time to really can. Or maybe I just don't have the right medication to do it. But we made them, they're sitting in our fridge pickling and we will get to try them next week! 

Also; last weekend I went on a girl's weekend I planned and some friends and I just got a hotel room, went to eat in fancy restaurants, and spent the day at the spa. It was as awesome as it sounds. And you know how it happened? I picked a weekend three months ago and told my friends to come. I believe my exact thought process went like this: "Omigosh, everyone on instagram looks like they have the greatest time on their girls weekends. Why don't I ever get to go on a girl's weekend? I'll never have a girl's weekend. Wait. What if I just picked a weekend and booked a hotel room? I wonder if that would work?" And it did. It really did. Of course our husbands were awesome, it was only two nights away, and we had so much fun. I'm just so glad we made it happen and actually enjoyed ourselves. It's a big deal! 

K, that's it for me today, but I wish you all the best summer weekend - I don't care if school started already! 

It's summer.

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Friday, July 29, 2016

Seven Quick Takes vol. 146 - Holiday edition

Check out Kelly and the cool kids for better takes!


I'm alive! We're all alive! It's still summer! We went on holiday! 
And that could basically be my quick takes, but let's go into some detail shall we? 
I feel like I've lost almost two weeks with the packing for the holiday, the actual 5 days away, and then the subsequent laundry. I miraculously found 5x5 pairs of underwear plus at least 10 extras, then there were multiple shoe choices, because mountains, and then different layers of jackets for rain, for cold, because mountains, and then five days worth of food because we had a cabin with a kitchen. But we made it with only a few things forgotten and miraculously survived without two different kinds of child carriers. We're basically survivalists. 


The mountains were beautiful and it was a really lovely time! This is the third year we've gone back to the same cabin (and only partly because finding hotel/cabin accommodations for 5 kids is so easy!), and the kids are really sweet because they each have something they remember from previous years that they want to see and do. Or we'll have memories of what funny thing what funny kid did here or there. It's turning into a sweet tradition.


Timeout while I now wash my kitchen from top to bottom.


Andddddd, we're back. 
To my husband's eternal delight we all went on a rafting trip down the Athabasca river. I think it shaved off a good 5 years of my life worrying one of my precious babies would fall into the river, but other than that it was a lot of fun! I can definitely picture having a lot of fun myself rafting if all my offspring weren't in the inflatable raft with me at the same time. 
Dom sat at the front and laughed out loud whenever someone else got splashed by water while barely ever holding on to the rope himself, Gemma chatted up the shirtless rafting guide giving my husband a pleasant glimpse into the not-so-distant future, and Luke, Max, and Nora took turns loving it and then being a bit freaked out if things got rough and we got wet. 


We also went on several short hikes with all the kids and they did great! We visited different glacial lakes, kayaked on the lake our cabin is on, ate ice cream everyday, got very little sleep, saw elk and one bear, and basically had an all around great time. We're so lucky to be able to go and I'm sure when I look back on the pictures in a few years I'll know that these were some of the sweetest times.


My Facebook page also reached over 1000 likes and I can hardly even believe it! Thank you so much if you follow me on Facebook, I'm a pretty sporadic poster so I promise when I do post something and it by chance ends up in your feed it's good stuff!

Also; if you've been living under an online rock (which is a very legit choice these days) or aren't Catholic then let me tell you it's been NFP Awareness Week! Party time, excellent...
All my NFP posts have been published elsewhere, which probably says a lot about me, but I've written about the Billings method of NFP, and what to do when NFP doesn't go your way over at Haley's. And if you're in an even tougher spot with NFP I wrote a piece last year for Jenny on all the sex we're not having. Enjoy ;)


And it's another long weekend for us up here so we're planning on hitting our small town parade and rodeo and hopefully hanging out with some friends. My sister will be home and I think it's high time for a croquet tournament. And it's finally gotten hot this week so I'm putting on my non-lazy-mom pants and taking everyone to our nearby lake this afternoon. Try not to let my overachieving intimidate you! 
I hope your weekend is beautiful and relaxing! I said it - relaxing. That's the goal.

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

My Life and Cigars

I smoked my first cigar at a Catholic missionary/bible school, that should come as no surprise to you, when I was 18. Introduced to smoking them by my dearest roommate and our partner in crime, giggling, and chocolate binging. I can't remember if we were the only girls who enjoyed cigar smoking at school, but we felt like we were pretty cool.

That year we smoked around campfires, on fire escapes after curfew, and out in the snow. There was perilously little to do in that small town and no where to hide alcohol. We smoked Captain Blacks with relish.

At Catholic university there was a few of us who snuck cigars onto the decks of our dorms, smoked them while walking by the lake, and sometimes down the dark street beside the cemetery. I think this was the first time I smoked a legitimate cigar, with smooth deep flavours and scents of leather and oak.

I did end up taking a prolonged hiatus from cigar smoking, during those back-to-back-to-back(etc.) years of pregnancy and breastfeeding, but I did miss the relaxing hits that only nicotine offers, the camaraderie of sharing a cigar around a campfire, watching a late summer sunset with only a cigar for company.

Of course, last year at a conference full of Catholic moms you know cigar smoking was on the menu. Even if it was out on a street corner in downtown Charleston. It was basically the greatest.

Since last summer I've gotten back in the semi-habit of smoking the occasional cigar while out for an evening walk by myself on the weekends, or around the campfire with my husband with a glass of scotch, and recently on my birthday with some great friends. There's really just a relaxing, fun quality of cigar smoking. Something that feels special even if there isn't a special occasion, and delightfully freeing somehow, maybe it's just because it makes a mom like me feel a bit rebellious.

Last year the highlight of my blogging career happened when a sainted man from emailed me and offered me cigars to try and review. Free cigars! To try and review! My blogging ship had come in folks!

And I got them within a week, and then didn't smoke them until this spring.

Which is ridiculously criminal when it comes to smoking cigars, but for some reason I just don't smoke cigars in the winter when it's dark by 4:30 and -25 degrees.

But then I finally smoked them this spring and they still were awesome! He sent me some Joya de Nicaraguan cigars which turned out to be a really evenly smoking, full bodied cigar that both my friends and I enjoyed a lot. And also some CAO Gold cigars which were smooth yet complexly flavoured and really tasty. I'm so glad I got to smoke these with friends because we really had a fun time trying out new cigars together.

In conclusion, I'm a cigar fan for life and possibly the worst blog reviewer ever. But if you're looking for cigars online that will be shipped to you conveniently preventing you from risking taking all your young children to a cigar shop in the middle of the day then check out CigarsCity. If anything you've gotta appreciate a cigar store taking a risk on a Catholic mommy blogger while trying to reach the coveted cigar market of Catholic moms.

Now go on and smoke a cigar this weekend, it'll be the best fun you've had all summer!

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