Friday, March 13, 2015

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 45)

You know how sometimes you don't blog for a really long time, and then it feels like you can't write a post until you have something to say that's really important or profound, but all you have are those usual little bits of everyday life that just aren't as interesting or timely anymore?  You try to say something like, "two months ago, we played in the snow!", but now everyone's already in Spring mode and so ready to be done thinking about winter.  It just doesn't work.

That's kind of what's kept me from writing until these Quick Takes today.

 Tom and I are now godparents to another sweet godson, Daniel!  He's the smallest baby I've ever seen in real life :-)

I've been reading a fascinating book this Lent.  It's The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ by (Blessed) Anne Catherine Emmerich.  Anne was a nun in the early 1800s, and a mystic.  She had many supernatural gifts, including the stigmata, and she received innumerable visions.  On many occasions, especially during Lent, she had stunningly detailed visions of the Passion.  This book recounts those visions (as told to a third party).

It's just amazing how many little details she was shown, and the connections and meanings of events that she is able to explain - things a poor uneducated nun like her would never have known.  To be sure, some people are skeptical of the authenticity of these accounts.  Regardless, the book provides an excellent meditation on this most important event in the life of Christ.  Definitely keep it in mind for your spiritual reading.

I re-painted our dining room a month or two ago.  When we moved in, the walls were a medium green, and the ceilings were light green.  We went to light green walls and white ceiling.  It's so much brighter and happier in there now!

I didn't take as many before and after shots as I usually do.

Here was the room a few days after we bought the house.  Note that these photos was taken during the daytime (during March).  With all the lights on.
Changing that very dark chandelier was one of our first orders of business

It felt like a cave in there

And I wanted to include this photo (from Christmas) - it shows how our decorative tree sort of blended in with the green of the walls.  You can also see where I'd just started painting some white on the ceiling above the window.

In progress.  The ceiling is now white.  The old wall color's on the right, the new on the left. 

This is the room in the new lighter color - it really helps the tree "pop"

Notice the walls behind Stella

Like the "dark cave" picture, this one was taken during the daytime in March, with all the lights on.  But it looks like a different room entirely.  I'll post the "before" again for easy comparison...

versus how it looked last year

It really makes a difference!

In quilting news, I'm still working on the queen-sized block-of-the-month quilt for our bed, but it's going to be a long time until I finish.  Me and the other women in the class were all imagining that once we finished our twelve pieced blocks, we'd just need a few connecting strips, and we'd be done.  But our instructor recently showed us her completed quilt top, and....oh my....there's SO much more to do!

In the meanwhile, I started cutting out fabric pieces to make a a twin-size quilt for Sly's bed.  He's been begging me for a quilt since I joined this group.  Since I've already made *two* quilts for Stella (hey, she's my only girl, and I like to make feminine quilts!), I figured he had a good point.  I let him flip through some quilting books and pick a design he liked.

This little man has been on a nap strike, and let me tell you - it's nerve-racking trying to use a rotary cutter when there's a baby crawling around!

I just need to cut a few more white fabrics and I can start sewing!
Sly insists that I put a ship in the middle of his quilt (I might have influenced this desire, since his room is decorated with ships).  I found a ship quilting pattern I liked, and threw together a test block (using different colors than what will be on Sly's).  I like the look of it, but this 12" block will be too small for Sly's quilt.  I'll have to make some calculations and enlarge all the pieces.

I was hoping to frame this sample ship block and hang it up in my living room, but unfortunately, the color density is way off and I think it might look weird.  The colors are quite bold at the bottom, but the yellow sails almost disappear into the pale sky....

Since I've been married, my dad has been dropping off box-at-a-time all my old stuff that was still sitting around his house.  I don't blame him at all for wanting to clean out his house, but it's been frustrating to keep being reminded of how much crap I accumulated over my lifetime and then having to deal with it!

I finally thought we'd received everything, but I had let myself totally forget about something stored in the closet in his entire collection of Breyer model horses.  My dad made us take the whole collection at once - much to Tom's distress.  Ha - he had no idea the would be as large or numerous as they were.  It was fun looking through my Breyers again, and fondly remembering how much I used to love them all.  For several years of my life, every spare cent was saved up to buy horses, and they were the only type of gift I asked for.

I sorted through them, and set some aside (probably too many!) to give my kids when they're a bit older, and able to treat them gently.

Oh shoot.  I just remembered....I think there's also a huge Beanie Baby collection tucked away in another closet, that my dad still hasn't discovered.  haha...Well, I have virtually no sentiment attached to those anymore, so perhaps I can just grab that box before the kids see inside, and send it straight to Goodwill!


Some friends were over recently, and asked us a question we've been asked many times: "So, how many kids do you guys want to have?".  Tom and I sorta hemmed and hawed for a bit, because it's a strange question with no real answer for us.

I finally just said, "Look.  We both want a big family.  We want a lot of kids - whatever that means.  We don't have a specific number.  We're just letting the babies come."  Our friend nodded and suggested, "However many God wants, huh?"  I thought about it for a few seconds, and answered, "Well, I'll be honest with you.  I should be able to say 'how ever many God wants,' but it wouldn't really be true.  I want a lot of kids.  I hope and pray that I have a lot of kids.  If God made it clear that I would never be able to have another would probably take me a really long time to come to terms with that."

I guess judgements on family size can go both ways.  Conceivably, people might look at us and assume we're extra holy for wanting a lot of kids, but it's not necessarily the case.  (but we sure as heck will need a lot of grace to handle it, if the babies keep coming!)

My friend Kellie painted us some beautiful custom-made Saint peg dolls. I told her what I wanted each to look like, and she executed those ideas beyond what I could have hoped for.

These are my children's name Saints - St. Sylvester, Mary "star of the sea" (Stella Maris), and St. Linus.  Our kids all have rather obscure patrons, so it's hard to find nice devotional art for them.  These dolls will be in their Easter baskets this year.

Seven Quick Takes is hosted at This Ain't the Lyceum

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Mardi Gras Feasting, Lenten Fasting

And once again, Lent seems to have sneaked up on me!  It's not here *quite* yet, though.  So make sure to spend today enjoying some good eating and the company of friends or family.

If you don't have a plan for dinner tonight yet (and I'm amazed I actually do, since "meal planning" hasn't existed in my house since before Linus was born), may I suggest making the ever-delicious Pasta Carbonara?  This is a dish I first tried when I visited Rome in college, and I looked up the recipe as soon as I got home.  It's a perfect dish for Mardi Gras, as it uses so many of the ingredients that were traditionally forbidden during Lent: eggs, cream, cheese, and bacon (!). 

This is the recipe I use, though I typically reduce the amount of bacon, because - and this is not something I ever say - there's simply too much bacon.
Fettuccini Carbonara
recipe image
Rated: rating
Submitted By: Sarah W. Lennox
Photo By: mobiousz
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 25 Minutes
Ready In: 35 Minutes
Servings: 6
"Bacon, shallots, onion and garlic, cooked in a thick creamy sauce, and tossed with fettuccini."
5 teaspoons olive oil
4 shallots, diced
1 large onion, cut into thin strips
1 pound bacon, cut into strips
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 (16 ounce) package fettuccini pasta
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat olive oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Saute shallots until softened. Stir in onion and bacon, and cook until bacon is evenly browned. Stir in garlic when bacon is about half done. Remove from heat.
2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente. Drain pasta, then return it to the pot.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks, cream, and shredded Parmesan. Pour the bacon mixture over the pasta, then stir in the cream mixture. Season with salt and pepper.


Some Lenten practices we're going to try as a family this year:

Keeping the house sweet-free: no candy, cookies, juice, etc. during Lent (except Sundays!).  But if we are out of the house, and someone offers the kids a piece of candy or something, I'm just going to let it go.  I'll be reminding the kids why we're doing this, but I have a feeling that the first week or so will be filled with some whining and complaining.

Printing out Lenten calendars that the kids can color in each day as we get closer to Easter.  Catholic Icing has a good one, or check out the one at  Pondered in My Heart if you follow the traditional calendar (it includes Ember Days, Passion Sunday, etc.).

A crown of thorns to use as a sacrifice-counter.  This is a very similar idea the manger that our kids add "pieces of hay for baby Jesus" to during Advent.  Except in this case, each time they make some sacrifice during Lent, they will get to remove a "thorn" from the "crown of thorns."  I bought a grapevine wreath for $5 at Michael's, and we'll stick some toothpicks in it to represent the thorns.  I'm not certain whether the kids are quite old enough to really get this one yet - baby Jesus did not, as it turns out, have a very cushy bed by Christmas morning!  Either way, it will make for a good Lenten centerpiece on the table.

Stations of the Cross.  We say a family Rosary every night before the kids go to bed.  On Fridays of Lent, we'll switch to saying the Stations of the Cross, using the The Way of the Cross by St. Alphonsus Liguori (the booklets only cost a couple bucks, and are definitely worth having).  We also have a couple new Stations of the Cross chaplets, which I'm looking forward to using with the kids (similar to this).

Baking pretzels!  Pretzels are traditionally a Lenten food (and the recipe contains only Lent-friendly non-animal ingredients), and can help teach kids about the meaning of the season.  This one is still my favorite recipe.

That's it, so far.  Every Lent, I think about how the focus is meant to be on "prayer, fasting, and almsgiving."  And I always struggle to know what to do with the almsgiving part, especially with the kids.  If you have ideas, please share them with me!

What are your families doing to observe Lent this year?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Quick and Cheap "IKEA hack" for Cloth Diaper Supplies

So I found a good use for an IKEA item.  But why do people call these things "hacks"?? Basically, I picked something up at IKEA, and I'm using it as really convenient storage for my cloth diapering because that's not necessarily the use that the manufacturer intended, does one get to call it a "hack"?

Anyways, I was looking for a convenient place to stash our cloth wipes, spray bottle, and other accessories (Snappi fasteners and diaper creams) near the changing table.  At our old house, we'd put a shelf on the wall above the changing table, but everything fell off all the time.

Then last time I went to IKEA I got one of their wall-storage systems - a rail and two buckets - and had Tom mount it above the changing table.  It fits everything I need in easy reach, and nothing can roll off the shelf!  It's been working out so perfectly. 

The aesthetic is a bit modern and sterile for my taste, but the utility is inarguable. 

In case you're interested....

My cloth wipes are the cheapy-cheap-cheap "baby washcloths" you find in multipacks at places like Burlington Coat Factory or Walmart (usually 4-6 for $1).  They hold up really well, and are just as effective as the fancy - and four times as expensive - flannel ones made by the cloth diaper companies. 

My wipe solution recipe
a squirt of baby wash
a squirt of baby oil
warm water to the top

Tom likes to spray the solution on the wipe first.  I spray it directly on the baby's bum, and then wipe :-)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Recent Quilting Projects

I'm so grateful for the local quilting group I've discovered.  I enjoy having a craft to work on, and I think I'm just burned out from knitting (not that I was ever very good at it).  It's just a great little break for me to be able to to get away one (and sometimes two!) evenings a night to just sit and quilt with other ladies.  I'm the youngest one in the group by far, and I stand out from the other members in various other ways....but in some ways, it's really good to get a glimpse of the world outside of my little bubble.

I finished my baby quilt, which was the first project we all did in the group.  Right now, it's hanging on a quilt rack in Stella's room, adding a pretty pop of color to the corner.  At some point - when I figure out what the heck I want to do with Stella's bedroom - I hope to hang it on her wall.

I mentioned before how our instructor was having us slowly make a queen-size quilt via "mystery blocks of the month."  The idea is that she tells you ahead of time how much to buy of various fabrics (of your choosing), and each month, hands you the pattern to assemble one square.  By the end of a year, you can join the blocks all together to create a quilt.

Well, instead of moving on to a second project like most of the other quilters, I've just been working on my blocks-of-the-month (which my instructor was nice enough to give me all the patterns for at once).  Fabric isn't cheap, so I want to use what I have, and wait awhile before I spend a bunch of money to start a new quilt.

I have 7 out of 12 blocks finished so far... (colors chosen to match our now-purple bedroom)

Sunday, January 18, 2015


We were at a thrift store the other day, and while digging through the children's book section, I came across a book called The Complete Book of Dragons.  It looked like it had potential, and I was considering adding it to my pile.... 

...And then I found the awesome drawings added by some former reader to the end pages (the book used to belong to an elementary school library), and I knew I had to get it.

 Check these bad boys out:

And my personal favorite:

notice the little stick figure being burnt to a crisp

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Kiddos

Just some updates on the people who have been consuming all my blogging time!

Sly is still ever ever ever so slowly learning to read.  He's doing a little better these days at imaginative play, which I feel has never come very naturally to him.  Rosie suggested that a good way to get kids playing on their own is to first sit down with them, and sort of "teach them how to play."  Once they get the hang of a new concept, you can sneak away and they'll have a fun time on their own.  I've been trying this recently, and having much success.  For example, I got out the toy cash register Sly received for Christmas, and said we were going to play "supermarket."  The kids helped me arrange all our play food by type on the shelves of an empty bookcase I brought into the playroom.  Then I gave them a little basket so they could "shop."  They brought their purchases to me at the cash register, I rang them up, and then told them how much play money to hand me.  They loved it, and have been playing store very regularly since.

Recently, he was frustrated because we've stopped buying juice.
Me: "Well, juice has a lot of sugar, Sly, and it kind of makes kids crazy."
Sly: "Juice doesn't make *me* crazy. Stella makes me crazy!"

Meanwhile, I've finally accepted that Sly's  "love language" is quality time, and the only way to keep him from acting out, hurting his siblings, and other wise acting crazy is to give him lots and lots and lots of it.  Sometimes I feel like there's not enough time in my days to give each kid all the attention they want plus keep up with the cleaning, laundry, meals, dishes, etc.  But I'm learning little ways to make it work.  This past week, I worked really hard to include Sly in everything I did.  He helped me in a lot of my chores, and I even popped up into his bedroom during his "naptime" (during which he hasn't actually napped for two years) to chat or play for a few minutes.  It's made him a much more pleasant little man!

Sly probably whacked Stella with that sword a second after this picture was taken

Stella is speaking in full (adorable) sentences now, and wanting to do a lot more things herself ("do myself!").  She still can not get enough snuggle time.  Her "love language" is absolutely physical touch.  She constantly runs up to Tom and I, saying, "I want YOU, Mommy/Daddy!!" which means she wants to be held and hugged and kissed.  She really is just a big sweetheart.

She's still resistant to potty training, but I'm not that eager to push it during the winter, anyways.  Too many layers to pull off, and the potty seat is too cold for her to just sit on, waiting.  But she's so good about naps and bedtime.  Many days, she is just ready for sleep and says, "go nap now, Mommy."  I love how she is so eager to please :-)

She's been playing with her dolls all the time, and it's so cute to see how she treats them like her real little babies.  She asks to put (real)band-aids on them, give them (real)medicine, put them in the (real)bathtub, and change their diapers.  Several times, I have found Linus' clean diapers in Stella's bed, which she must have stolen from under the changing table to put on her babies!

first snow of the year

Linus is still a very sweet and happy baby.  And he's learned to crawl, which I love.  Not only are crawling babies completely adorable, but it means they are able to entertain themselves much more easily.  He's happy to just get around the house and play with things he finds.  The only drawback is having to put baby gates up at the tops of the stairs....which we're still working on, because Tom's determined to find a creative way to do it without drilling into the nice woodwork.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Happy Feast of the Epiphany!

I promised some updates on Christmas, and here I am just slipping under the gate right at the end!

Ah, well.  It's because Christmas was such a busy, yet pleasant season for us this year.  Everything went smoothly, and we miraculously managed to avoid any major (lack-of-sleep+too-much-sugar-inflicted) meltdowns from the kids this year.  We even went to the Christmas midnight Mass for the first time ever.  With the kids! 

A question I have yet to find a satisfying answer to: Is this the twelfth day of Christmas, or was that yesterday?  I've been reading very conflicting things about this.  Do you start counting on Christmas day, or the day after?  Even Wikipedia admits that there is a controversy over which night is "Twelfth Night".  Most of my trusty sources seem to think Epiphany Eve is the proper Twelfth night, though, so that is likely what I'll go with.

We're having a very small Epiphany party tonight.  A priest friend invited himself over to do the Epiphany blessing on our house (!), and we said, "actually, we're still waiting for someone to come give our house the regular house blessing.  Can you do BOTH blessings for us?"  And he said yes, of course.  So we decided to invite over a few friends, serve up some dessert, break out a Catholic trivia game, and make a night of it!

Epiphany celebrates - among other things - the visit of the magi to Christ.   We finally moved our three wise men from their lookout on top of the china cabinet to join the other figures in our nativity set...on top of the television cabinet.  It's always disappointing to me that they only get to be there for one day before I pack the whole thing away.  So last year, I kept just the nativity set out until Candlemas, which I might do again.

I wanted a little more in the way of Epiphany decorations, so I recycled one of the Dollar Ttore cardstock stars from the kids' birthday party to serve as "the star."  I hung it from the chandelier over our Christ child statue on the dining room table.  (I almost said I "hung it over our centerpiece", but I realized it would be rather irreverent to refer to it that way!)


 Here are a few snapshots of our Christmas...

baby elf

a very well-dressed Santa we ran into downtown
Yes, that's right!  It only took me TWO YEARS to finish these babies.  And with that, I think I'm ready to retire from knitting.  With the exception of one baby blanket for each of my future children, but only because I set the precedent with the first ones.

This was our first Christmas in the new house, and I must say - I think the house really took well to Christmas decorations.  All the beautiful woodwork and molding provided many little ledges and nooks on which to place pretty things.

Unfortunately, most of my photos were not able to do it justice.  I still haven't found a way to take decent indoor shots with my mediocre camera(s) and the low amount of light in our house (a problem we are currently working to address!).  Almost all of them turn out blurry.  So here's the few that didn't.

Tomorrow I will begin taking down the decorations.  Part of me is looking forward to it, because it will remove a lot of visual busyness in one fell swoop.  The house is going to automatically feel cleaner and more spacious. 

But at the same will no longer be so festive and cozy.  Just having the decorations up inspired us to light a fire in the fireplace almost every night.  But our wood supply is now dwindling, and I know we'll want to get more conservative with our fires for the rest of the year.  I am not looking forward to these cold, wet, and dreary days to come.  January through April is the most depressing and slow-moving time of year. 

So I'm determined to keep myself busy through the late-winter doldrums, by taking on a lot of painting projects around the house.  That will provide me with activity as well as some spirit-brightening changes around here - as well as, I hope, adding some literal brightness.  We're going with lighter, brighter colors in a lot of the rooms to counteract the dark wood everywhere.  We recently painted the dining room ceiling from light green to white, and the difference was astounding.  It immediately cheered me up every time I walked in there for days.

Well, Happy Twelfth Day of Christmas OR day-after-the-twelfth-day-of-Christmas, as the case may be!  Happy and joyous Epiphany to all!