Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What I've Been Reading Lately - I need to catch up!




It's been so long guys. I know it doesn't feel like it to you because you feel like I write about books every other day, but it's been a loooonngg time and I've read 20 books since I last wrote!

The catching up begins now!






Helena by Evelyn Waugh

This was my Waugh pick of the year and if the title doesn't describe it enough it's the fictionalized life of St. Helena. I love Waugh. I love saints. I didn't love this book. The story is well done of course, and the writing is impeccable, but I didn't love it like I thought I would. I wish I had read this one with a book club (I know it's a Well-Read Mom book club pick!) I feel like I missed the heart of it somehow and St. Helena just didn't grab me like I assumed I would. I remember reading Edmund Campion, also by Waugh, and was blown away! That book probably remains the best novel of a saints life I've ever read. If you've read Helena please tell me what I'm missing. It's still a wonderful book I wouldn't hesitate to recommend because it's a good story, but I just feel like I'm missing what makes it really great.





Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

This was probably the book I hated the most last year. And I don't like writing about books I hate...oh wait...I sorta do. It's the chronicle of a young, soon-to-be-disillusioned, woman moving to New York City and working as a server at a top restaurant and the ensuing drama of the staff and those who come to the restaurant. This book is pretty much everything I detest about our generation. The lack of meaning and integrity, the willingness to do whatever it takes to get ahead, the random sex, the lack of principles, the disillusionment that gives us pseudo-wisom. The writing is ok, I like the setting of a restaurant which is why I wanted to read it in the first place, but the story is just....nauseating? It was genuinely hailed as a great first novel and a defining novel for millennials which further depresses me.






Burial Rites By Hannah Kent

The story of a woman accused of murder in nineteenth century Iceland is just as dark and morose as you would expect! But somehow it's captivating and conveys a real empathy as well as a good story. The atmosphere was also one of the best parts of this book and somehow rural and rugged Iceland becomes a character. It somehow reminded me of The Light Between Oceans because of how much a part the sense of place took in the book as well as the emotionally challenging story. If you liked that novel then you might want to pick this one up too.






Climbing the Mango Trees by Madhur Jaffrey

I was on an Indian memoirs kick last summer and this was part of it. Although this memoir of the author's childhood in India as it gained it's independence was descriptive of life in India at the time, it didn't dive deeply into the authors own thoughts. I felt it was a perspective I had never heard before, and I enjoyed it for that reason. India still fascinates me so if you've got any good titles send them my way!





The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante

The second of the Neapolitan novels was more compelling than the first. I think what helped me in reading this book is that I read it in large chunks on a flight and it really helped me enter into the story better. These novels aren't for casually reading five minutes here, five minutes there. I think they are best read by immersing yourself in them as best you can, then you can really see how far you are falling into their world and how well written they are. I was alternatively shocked and proud as the characters entered adulthood and it just pulled me in again. I wish I could more articulately express how well these books delve into feminine psychology. If you've read them let's talk!


Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy for Quick Lit once again.





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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

What's getting me through the long days of February



What's saving my life right now is just...pretty dramatic for me.

But at the same time hyperbole is pretty popular these days.

Let's just say these are good things in February that I like. Which sounds so much less dramatic. And let me tell you I still really need these things because it's been -20 with a windchill of -34 all week! I'm not including Netflix on this list, but it's doing it's fair share around here too.





Tulips

February needs fresh flowers. I have a hard time saying no to tulips when they're at Costco. They're just so pretty they trick you into thinking it's almost spring. Or they trick me. Either way!





This Milk Frother

I guess it's official I'm a coffee snob. I got this milk frother for Christmas and it's magical. It perfectly froths and steams your milk in a minute or two at the push of the button. It creates velvety foam and makes normal coffee taste like a cappuccino. It feels a bit frivolous to own, but then you use it and it makes the world make sense.






Wine

Do I feel obvious for putting this on the list? Yes. But at the same time I'm gonna put it on my list because I'm a BA.
Specifically I can't stop drinking Spanish wine. I go to the fanciest liquor store I can find because shopping for alcohol is almost my favourite thing to shop for. This fancy liquor store has aisle upon glorious aisle of wines from every corner of the world. They have samples of all the wine that's on special and let me tell you who is an easy sell when it comes to selling wine?? This girl! I love the samples, I will always buy a bottle of the sample. Bam! And although I buy wine that tastes good and is on sale from any part of the world, I keep buying Spanish wines. They're delicious. Go buy some.



Wool socks

Once upon a time in my youth I thought wool socks were lame and I couldn't understand why people would want to make their feet sweaty and itchy. But then I bought real wool socks and the comfort and warmth is basically the greatest thing ever. Old lady fo life!



Sephora

I am not a big buyer of make up. Even though I wish I were. I just buy basics but I continue to try and buy quality make up because it really makes a difference, lasts way longer, and is amazing. Sephora has free shipping over $50 (and if you can spend LESS than $50 at Sephora I'll eat my hat) so I can shop online to my hearts content! I keep a running tally of stuff I will need in the future, things recommend by Kate from The Small Things, and whenever I get an email saying they've got an awesome extra sample deal I grab myself a little something. It's a treat, and it comes in the mail. Two awesome things to keep you going in February. But go for the extra sample deals, the extra samples are the best part!


Those are the things off the top of my head that help a February. But it's only February 8 so...??? I hope I make it, I hope you make it.








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Friday, February 3, 2017

Seven Quick Takes vol. 154 - I'm Back!


I'm back! Kelly probably didn't notice I was gone for two months, but I can't quit the takes!!



{one}





I love quick takes! I think it's the extremely old timer blog reader in me that loves to read the random and ordinary bits of people's day and I will forever be loyal to the 7QT format. Part of me writing and posting more has to include the little, the ordinary, the very non-click-bait worthy. I have to fight the idea that in order to write anything I've got to have a fantastic idea that's been thought out for weeks and perfectly edited. Because it never happens. Not right now anyway. And I make no money from blogging so I have to stop thinking about each and every post as appealing to the completely imaginary masses. But all that being said, I do value you as a reader. I can't believe you still read this corner of the internet but I'm so glad you do! I trust you that if things are too boring you'll skip a post and come back next time, because you're really the best.



{two}


We have a very ordinary week around here. We got through school work at an appropriate pace, even learned some times tables - which better be memorized by now or I'm going to eat my hat - and had an alright week for weather. An "alright" week of weather means I can bundle the kids up to play outside for half an hour but I'm not going out unless I have to! It was windy most days and around -10 for the most part. No skating or ice fishing since last weekend in other words.



{three}

A funny, sweet thing that happened this week is Dom wanting to watch the entirety of Hamlet with me. He's been really into Shakespeare this year (we memorize some passages from a couple plays, then read overview/kid versions of a couple plays per semester). So when he discovered a copy of Kenneth Branagh's Hamelt at my mom's he asked to watch it but I thought it would be about 15 minutes before he found the language too complicated and the whole movie a bit boring. But we're still watching it! He kept telling me what was going to happen next, and it's pretty hilarious. We're watching about half an hour a day, and I'm fast forwarding any "mature" scenes. We're cultured.



{four}


It's February! Before we all dump on February, I'm going to give myself a pat on the back for making it relatively unscathed through January! I don't know what the difference was exactly but it seemed that January went by fairly painlessly in comparison to past years. I just want to keep this magical positivity moving through February!



{five}

What have you been watching?

Of course I've been watching Victoria and it's been good. I don't love it as much as The Crown because I have a deep, abiding love for The Crown that probably isn't completely healthy. But British costumes dramas are kinda my kryptonite! 

I also watched Shetland on Netflix which I really enjoyed although I really liked the first season and was kinda left cold with the second. I just wish mystery/detective shows were happy solving small town crimes. Why does it always have to graduate to elaborate, mob-connected, serial killers? Why can't it simply remain ordinary people committing crimes in small towns?

Oh, wait. Because that's really challenging to write!



{six}

I've read a lot of stuff on immigration and refugees this past long week and have uncovered some interesting stuff. I don't think hysteria from any side helps anyone and found that this article was a really great compendium on facts from a person who knows how the system works which seems next to impossible to find in major media outlets these days. I'm just passing it on because I found it a nice source of facts, even though I feel like I'm going to make myself stop sharing anything political because I want to be part of the solution not the problem. Or some such catch phrase. 



{seven}

I'm going out to the opera tomorrow night and I'm so excited!! I'm getting dressed up and I'm going to drink cocktails and have a glorious night out.

Then on Sunday I'm going to cheer with every fibre of my being for my new favourite team the Atlanta Falcons. I just want the Patriots to never win a game again. Until I'm dead. Is that so much to ask?? 

I know, I'm crazy. Go Falcons and Happy Weekend!







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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Boy Mom-ing






Yesterday as I stepped out of the house and checked to see where the kids were playing I couldn't see the boys. I heard their voices, shrieking and laughing at each other but I had to double take as to where they were coming from. The voices were coming from about 15 feet in the air near to top of our big fir trees in the yard. I was a bit shocked at how high they had climbed, then a bit scared when I realized Max the 5 year-old had climbed the highest and seemed perfectly happy about it.

It got me thinking about being a mom to a bunch of boys. Three boys in a row, separated by all of 3 years. It can sometimes feel like parenting a small gang, until you realize that they have three starkly different personalities.

One is strongly opinionated and willful, competitive, smart, but not one for emotional outbursts or displays of affection. The next is everyone's best friend, caring, generous, able to figure anything out on his own given five minutes, and prone to emotional ups and downs and cuddles. The third is quiet, deeply observant, hard to satisfy, and determined. They're all uniquely themselves and not quantifiable simply as "boys".

They are extremely active to varying degrees. One prefers to be moving when doing reading and spelling lessons. They all enjoy weapons. They love Legos. But they also love books and music.

Sometimes I feel like they don't seem to be so different from my girls and other days I can't even begin to understand why they do the things they do.

And sometimes I feel like boys are so much easier than girls. They're straightforward and headstrong but don't hold a grudge. They forgive me most of the time for my mistakes. Sometimes I just feel like there's less to worry about with the makeup of boys than girls even though I know that's not how it works.

I think it really all comes back to the fact that we don't parent ourselves. It doesn't matter if they're boys or girls; they're foreign individuals whom we don't completely understand even though we desperately want to at times. I think this is both challenging and a gift. I'm glad that the things that bother me don't bother them, I'm glad they don't have the same struggles I do, I'm happy to see the world through their fresh eyes.

It's a weirdly human experience to grow up and know our parents don't understand us, then to become parents and realize we don't completely understand our children. It's really not a bad thing. It opens us to the reality that we can know more through being in relationship with others and not just living for and within ourselves. It's a gift that gives us new discoveries through other people, it expands our minds and hearts, it's exactly how we become more human and less only ourselves -- alone.

I love sneaking in little hugs and kisses when the boys are moving so quickly and don't want to stop for mom. I love knowing that these wild, unique, can't-hold-back boys are part of me.






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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Confessions from the margins of time






In the midst of this blogging break I've been wondering, "Where in the actual have the margins of time gone where I used to blog??"

I ask the question because I have only and ever blogged in bits and pieces here and there. The 20 minutes the kids are watching a cartoon, the spare minutes in nap time where I wasn't cleaning something or doing laundry or cooking, a couple minutes after dinner. If I ever have gotten more than an hour to devote solely to writing I can't remember it! Even if I was writing for an hour chances are that I was interrupted at least 10 times.

And I'm not sure if how I spend my time has actually changed. My kids are a little older, most are very self-sufficient, but there are still requests on a minute-ly basis, umpteen fights to break up, more questions to answer, and the pressing need to find whatever someone has lost in the last five minutes. They're doing some chores around the house but I've still got to do things to keep things at a bare minimum of cleanliness. So there's that.

All told I think we do on average between 3-4 hours of school work a day. But this is broken up throughout the day. And on top of actually doing the school work it's the mental energy that's required to make sure school gets done, what's going to be done today, and who's doing it that seems to make it feel much longer.

We're around the house most days of the week depending on the season. When we have activities it easily takes up the entire afternoon at the very least because of the driving time to get anywhere. So all things being equal I don't feel overly "busy" or over scheduled. Which is good. Focus on the good here, Christy.

I think the difference comes in the mental space I have. There is not a lot of mental space for a homeschooling mom in the day! And on top of making sure school work is done I feel almost an added burden to make sure I'm just spending "mom time" with my kids aside from school which is difficult some days when I am burnt out of patience and energy just by doing school. I think too as my kids grow older it takes a more concerted effort to make sure that connection happens each day, that I'm really listening to them, that I'm really answering their questions, that I'm really present for the little ones when they want attention, and on and on it goes.

It just all takes up so much mental energy that those 5-15 minutes where I used to be able to tappity-tap something that was worth writing and/or reading are 5-15 minutes where I have to just take some time for a complete break. I know you get this. I know you know this feeling!

I wish there was just a smidgen of more margin in my day. Like an 8 hour break where the kids were supervised and taught by other people kind of break, wink wink, I'm just joking...or am I?...no, I'm pretty sure I'm just joking. And I think it's going to be a couple more years before that becomes a reality of my day-to-day. The other answer is that I schedule or organize or figure my ish out enough to make myself a couple hours a week where I just write sans interruption. Which is something I'm trying to figure out. I believe all things are figure-out-able, but it sure can take a while to get there.

So that's my not too exciting story for today. I thought I'd blog these thoughts and get them out of the way, if I'm missing something really blatant - go ahead and tell me what to do, be my life coach! If not, then solidarity because you're probably in this same spot.








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Monday, January 30, 2017

Well, hello there







It's been two months since I posted which is by far the longest I've ever gone without blogging in over 5 years. I'm sure you've gotten along fine without me because Lord know there has been plenty of crazy to read on the internet!

There's no real reason why I stopped. I wish I had a big announcement that warranted so much virtual silence, but no pregnancy, no moving, no sending kids to real school, no new job. Heck, there's nary a new outfit around here.

I am just so hesitant to add to the noise I think. Which isn't quite rational because I still believe everyone else's thoughts and writings are worth reading and I still enjoy reading them. People's thoughts and contributions don't become less valuable just because the supply is disproportionately higher than demand. I feel often that I have nothing interesting and new to add, which is true, but I still love writing and want to get better at it, and of course the catch is you've got to practice a thing to get better. I still also really love the idea of sharing our ordinary days and lives with each other through blogging. It's still a meaningful way of communication.

We have been busy with all the regular "life living" over here! We had a really lovely Christmas season full of family and presents and chocolates and company coming over. Our January hasn't felt too snowed under and grey, we've stuck to the school routine but my big kids keep getting bigger and have so much fun skating and ice fishing and trying new things.

We're most definitely living with a three year old tyrant as all three year olds must be at some point. She's pulled some pretty epic tantrums in the last little while over things would previously not bothered her in the least. If you ask me a nap would fix this problem, but apparently that's a completely BONKERS idea according to the three year old. Shocker!

And other than that I've been over here doing those boring things like feeding 7 people 3 times a day without meal planning because meal planning is the worst. And still producing a really fun podcast! And watching a lot of British tv, reading a lot of books, occasionally cleaning my house, and crocheting for stress relief.

So same old me, but trying to jump back into the blogging game.






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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Perfect Catholic Children's Books for Shoes, Stockings, and Under the Tree


I love children's books on a good day. But I may have a full blown obsession with children's Advent and Christmas books! I love them!

I love that I store them away all year and that my collection keeps growing. I dream of the day when I'm a grey old grandma who has a whole bookcase devoted to Christmas children's books. They're amazing.

I know a lot of us are shopping for our own little ones, or nieces and nephews, and godchildren this Christmas and that good quality Catholic books are always a good option if you can find them, so I wanted to share these books with you because they're great options for a variety of kids in your life.

Thanks to Ignatius Press for sending them my way for review, I squealed with glee when I opened the package.


The Christmas Star by Maite Roche




I'm Maite Roche's biggest fangirl. I'm not sure if this is officially a new title this year, or if I've just never bought this particular board book, but I have all the other books in this series so I was happy to keep my streak going with this title. Along with Roche's stunning artwork, the story of the three wise men is told simply through this book that's perfect for toddlers. But every other kid will stop to read it because of how beautiful it is. A great gift idea for all those godchildren on your list.


My Little Catechism


I wasn't sure how approachable and how deep a child's catechism could be presented but I think this one hits the mark quite nicely. The illustrations themselves are well done and fit the topic that is being discussed, and the book goes through the aspects of the Creed just like the format of a regular Catechism which I really appreciate. Definitely not dumbed down which is fabulous, but simplified and straightforward for young readers. This is a perfect book to have lying around the house for your elementary age kids, or those preparing for their First Communions as it gives short answers to great questions of faith in an age appropriate way which is a hard thing to find in Catechetical resources it seems.



A Missal for Toddlers



A completely darling bubble board book for the toddlers in your life! It even has illustrations of kid's fighting in Mass - it doesn't get more realistic or accurate than that. The writing and prayers are sweet and the artwork bold and colourful. It grabbed my 4 and 3 year olds attentions right away and they seem to love it so far. A perfect godchild gift and also a perfect book to take to Mass for your little...fighters?



A Gospel Advent Calendar by Maite Roche



Maite Roche Advent Calendar?! Yes, yes, yes.
A beautiful, large, sturdy foldout calendar with sweet little windows to open everyday till Christmas, as well as extra boxes to open for the feast days after. It also comes with a great booklet that has a story from Scripture, and a little prayer for each day to read to your children that goes along with each window they open. I think it's a beautiful and simple way to journey through Advent with your kids.


Hope these help you check off your lists for St. Nicholas Day and Christmas!





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