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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Friday, July 8, 2016

Seven Quick Take vol. 145

Saying hi to Kelly!


I'm obsessed with instagramming mushrooms and I can't stop.

I'm still in denial it's already July, and yet here we are already a week in! We've had a nice slow, lazy summer week this week which has been nice. I've been noticing I'm getting a little crazy anxious thinking we should be doing more, we're not doing enough, but the whole point of summer is to have this break from the schedules and appointments and activities. But it's really hard as a mom, especially a homeschool mom, who feels wired to be moving people at all times to just sit back and relax about it all. Because the thing is I really believe that kids need the down time, the boredom, the freedom of summer. And I know our schedule has much busier weeks and weekends this summer than this one so I need to calm the heck down!


Our weather has been cool and the forecast So we haven't been to the lake yet this year and haven't been in the kiddie pool and sprinkler this week. It equals kids needing a bit more things to do around the house, and I've been balancing some sick kids with normal kids and I've had a few days where I feel like they're definitely driving me crazy. In other words: nothing new to see here, folks!


I've been on a Pimm's Cup kick as of late. And a few people were asking me on Instagram what the heck it was. Those people were obviously not British. A Pimm's Cup is basically Pimm's, a spiced and slightly sweetened gin aperitif, and ginger ale or lemonade, then garnished with cucumber and strawberry. A really easy summer cocktail that isn't too sweet and has a nice kick of spice that I really enjoy. I'm sure there are fancier recipes out there, but for simplicity sake this is a go-to for me. Until I run our of Pimm's of course.


I hope you all have heard of the wonderful new membership site of Blessed Is She. It's a new part of the ministry where you'll be able to join in some amazing live workshops, have access to the Advent and Lent journals shipped to you directly as soon as they're published, and hopefully more opportunities to grow alongside other Catholic women. It's something you can do on a monthly basis if you're interested in particular workshops and it helps keep this ministry going!


I've also been meaning to share a bit about Kelly's new retreat book that she's recently released, it's a really straight forward but richly rewarding three day retreat based on the writings of Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ. This is the perfect resource if you're looking for a personal renewal and focus on the Eucharist, or if you've got a small group or retreat planned. I think it would be great to do with a few friends, and to really dive into a more personal devotion to the Eucharist. Highly recommended!


We're going to be taking a little podcasting break, but before we do we have a brand new episode this week where Haley and I talk all about the fun of making big life decisions together with our spouse. We hoped to touch on some of the big facets of making decisions even though it can be a really big topic. Haley has come up with a whole ebook devoted to the subject and I think she makes some really great points if you're looking for a bit of guidance when it comes to this kinda thing. Hope you get a chance to listen!


Hoping you all have a wonderful weekend, it's probably going to be hotter than ours, but we're Canadian so we'll make it. We're hoping to take the kids to Finding Dory, and most of my kids are just excited for the popcorn and pop. Because we did it ONE time and now we HAVE to! Kids these days...

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Friday, June 24, 2016

Seven Quick Takes vol 144

Checking in with Kelly on this fine Friday.


As usual the week flies away from me and I am left wondering where the time has gone?? I believe it flew by with the cries of children every 5 minutes needing food. And finding shoes. And a bit of laundry. No need for six more takes!


I can't believe it's the end of June! 
We celebrated the baptism of our new godson on Sunday and had a lovely day with friends. Wasn't it just yesterday I was having my own handful of children baptized? It was over three years? Are you sure? 


My husband finished up his third year of his second trade ticket last week and there was much rejoicing! He was commuting to school everyday, 4 hours a day so I'm sure he was exhausted. I was just a bit lonely and burnt out from him being gone another hour every day. Let's just say it's lucky he never wanted to do graduate studies because I can say with all my being, I would not allow that to happen! #supportivewife


The boys finished up their soccer season this week much to their chagrin. They loved soccer and could probably play everyday. I, on the other hand was ready. I have not gotten to the point of enjoying taking my kids to activities. I may never get to that point, let's be honest. And we never do sports that last more than six weeks, so I am not a hockey mom to be. I'm glad they had a great season and we did it though. I'm sure they'll thank me in the future....hahahaha.


Remember how I documented the fact that I planted a garden this year? Well, we're just reaching that point where the teensy seedlings are poking above the surface of the earth and the weeds...are towering above them! I love how the gardening season starts off with "Yay! I'm going to plant all the things! Gardening is fun!" then two weeks later its: "Shit. Who's going to deal with all these weeds?" That's where I am right now. Will all these hours of work that results in a so-so harvest of vegetables my family wolfs down in 20 minutes be worth it? Probably not. I'm the most depressing gardener ever. I should start a blog.


This week on the podcast we had a really interesting conversation with Karen Edmisten about sharing the faith with people in our lives. I find Karen and her book so encouraging when it comes to sharing the faith. It's really easy for me to feel discouraged and that I'm not doing enough to share the faith with others, but Karen's reassurance that real conversion comes from just living the faith and loving the people in our life made me feel so much more encouraged to keep going. I hope you get a chance to listen.


It's going to be a fun and busy weekend as my youngest sister graduates from high school this weekend! I'm officially really, really old. It feels so strange that she's graduating. Like my whole world view needs to shift somehow. 
Oh, and I'll be weeding the garden.

Hope you have a wonderful last weekend in June!

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

What I've Been Reading Lately - Summer Reads Edition!

Well, I know I'm not the most prolific blogger these days, but how does a month go by so quickly?? I just wrote a book post didn't I?? Good thing I like writing them!

I thought I'd share some "summer" reads today. Light reads, chick-lit reads, and some of what I've read from the ridiculously popular Modern Mrs. Darcy's Summer Reading Guide just in case you're interested in a second opinion!

The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza

This is pure chick-lit but well written enough that you're not feeling as if your brain is seeping through your eye sockets. Wait, was that not positive? I meant that I enjoyed this book especially as it's about the fashion magazine industry, and has a relatable protagonist who's not in her 20's. These are big deals in the chick-lit genre! I did find myself cringing and weeping for my generation as the younger antagonist is drawn as a classic millennial who has vast technological expertise but zero conscience. It's a good beach read though and a Modern Mrs Darcy pick.

 The Clasp by Sloane Crosley

This was an uber trendy novel last year as Mindy Kaling was raving about it and thus made it soar up the bestseller list. It's the story of a group of friends from college who have kept in touch, but all haven't found their bliss in the years since graduating. They come upon a necklace with a mysterious past and get pulled into somewhat of a mystery. The writing is witty at times, but I'm starting to tire of this contemporary fiction where obviously the characters are so desperate for meaning in their lives but never come close to any. Have we just lost the idea of character development?

The Winemakers by Jan Moran

I think you could categorize this as a straight-up romance. But a classy one! For some reason I saw this and decided to pick it up and it is a perfect breezy, romantic read for the summer and who doesn't like those once in a while? I enjoyed the setting of Napa Valley and wineries, while taking place in the 50s. It was full of family secrets, melodrama, and a couple earthquakes for good measure. Excellent when enjoyed with your own glass of red!

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

I'm fairly befuddled by this one. It's over-hyped for sure, and although that didn't raise my expectations, it's hard to know how I feel about it. I guess it's safe to say I didn't love it. The writing is crisp and also follows that popular style of each chapter comprising it's own short story-like focus on one character. It's a tale of family dysfunction swirling around the sudden loss of an awaited inheritance because of a wayward brother. Again, it's full of characters who are trying to make their way through a cushy life in New York City but all seem to figure out ways of following their feelings and coming out better? worse? the same? in the end. I think I'm weary of these moral milieus that are at the same time unrealistic and don't lend themselves to really great story. I can't say I'd recommend this one, but it's a Modern Mrs Darcy pick.

 Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams

This is an intriguing romance about two women; a new widow, Annabelle, who buys an incredibly expensive car from a young, unwed, and pregnant woman. It takes place in the 60's with flashbacks to the older woman's romance in 1930's Europe. I enjoyed how it was written and that it felt like a period piece as you felt like you were alternatively in 1930's France and 1960's Miami. It proves to be a dramatic ending as Annabelle flees Nazi Germany. A well-written beach read for a lazy summer day!

Linking up with some Quick Lit at Modern Mrs Darcy's!

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