Thursday, October 20, 2016

What I've Been Reading Lately - October edition

Trying to pull myself out of the non-writing abyss here...trying so hard!

What have you been reading lately?

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

I've read so many amazing reviews of the Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante that I had to read them...they've just been on my TBR list for a year or two now! I was instantly drawn into this story of two female friends in 1950's Naples. Growing up in a tough neighbourhood, with tragedy and violence always at their side, the girls forge a bond because of their shared intellectual gifts. At times you can't tell which girl is the brilliant friend, the enigmatic Lila or the quiet but astute narrator, Elena. It's just written in such a provoking, yet completely engrossing way - it's unlike anything I've ever read. This first book of four is on the shorter side and I just flew through it, if you like complex characters with emotional power you will love this book.

The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell

I read this book alongside Jane Steele, so the combined effect was a touch too much Jane Eyre fan fiction, but this story was surprisingly enjoyable. A descendent of Charlotte Bronte, Samantha finds herself studying at Oxford under a dashing but sarcastic tutor and realizes she's got more than a few skeletons in her family's closet that she needs to work out for herself. This book read like a good rom-com with a literary panache, I thought it was a fun but smart read.

Mike and Psmith by P.G. Wodehouse  (currently out of print but in public domain, hence this terrible cover)

This was my P.G. Wodehouse read of the summer because I always need a P.G. Wodehouse in the summertime. A farcical story of two boys at boarding school it's quintessentially British. You instantly recognize the setting of quirky boys at boarding school because so many have copied Wodehouse's perfect representation. A quick read, but probably not for first time P.G. Wodehouse readers, make sure to read Jeeves first!

The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera

I've recommended this book to all my friends, and I think it will continue to be the book I recommend to practically everyone; it's just a delightful read that shows the beauty of truth in surprising ways. Miss Prim begins a new job in a small Spanish town, but not just any town, a town where all the inhabitants have a completely unique view of how life should be lived. Her employer also happens to be an intriguing, and dashing man of faith she completely misunderstands. What follows is a really enjoyable conversion story in the shape of a romantic comedy. We also discussed it on this week's new episode of the podcast, take a listen!

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

I thoroughly enjoyed this thriller, even if the ending wasn't perfect. I thought the pacing and writing were of such a great quality that I couldn't put it down. I wouldn't recommend reading on a flight as it surrounds a plane crash involving very rich people and the resulting investigation, but if you enjoy thrillers then you'll enjoy this book. After I read this book I began watching Fargo, which is the tv show written, produced, and directed by Noah Hawley and was completely enamoured with the quality of storytelling. Obviously Hawley has some amazing gifts for writing and after watching both seasons of Fargo he's entered the hallowed ground of Matthew Weiner and Vince Gilligan of geniuses who make astounding television.

Joining Modern Mrs Darcy for Quick Lit, because I have a compulsion to write about books and I need the monthly reminder! 

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Friday, October 7, 2016

Seven Quick Takes vol. 150

Joining Kelly and the great takers - happy Friday~


Well. I made it through this week. 
Just wanted to start this post off positively so that my laments of woes and whines is evened out somewhat. 
But in reality, my husband worked through last weekend, worked at least 14 hour days, the weather was cold, grey and awful, and then I came down with a weird cold from the kids. I made it through and it definitely wasn't my worst week of parenting, because, oh boy I've had some weeks. I'm not sure if I should blame all those factors, but I just feel like crawling into bed for a few days with Netflix, books, and a big bag of yarn and pretending the outside world doesn't need me, but 5 kids, yo.


I'm about to complain about a date night. Which is the worst, I know. 
Last Saturday we went out to see Jim Gaffigan, and he was hilarious. I really recommend his show, it's start to finish laughs and it was great. And I love him. 
But! As a date night for us it just was kinda ridiculous. Firstly, I was home with the kids by myself because my husband was working, I was leaving the kids with my parents who also had a bunch of things going on and I had to make sure everyone had church clothes and everyone got into the car so they could take them to Mass and then it was pouring rain all day so loading everyone turned into a fiasco. Then I raced to pick my husband up at his work, he was barely able to get away from work because things were so busy and hectic. We were about 45 minutes away from the show when I picked him up at work, we ate awful hamburgers that I had to wait a ridiculous amount of time for in the car while I raced through the city at breakneck speeds trying to get to the venue in time. I was stressed out and grumpy that things seemed to be taking so much work and effort and coordination just for us to go out for a few hours. We get there with about 2 minutes to spare, the show was great, then as soon as it was over at 8:45 we went to spend the night at my in-laws in the city because my husband was exhausted from getting up before 5 to work for 13 hours that day and to get up before 5 again the next. 
I mean, I know, first world problem in a way. But it still kinda stinks when we only get out of the house alone together every 6 months or so. It's just so. much. work. I bought these tickets six months ago not knowing it was going to be such an awful time at work for him, so it definitely could have been avoided, but, it was kinda a bust.


It's the beginning of October but it is cold. Windy and temps around freezing make things really unpleasant. We didn't get snow this week at the very least, but the kid's are already showing signs of weather rebellion and refusing to go outdoors for more than five minutes because "my nose is cold" and "I can't feel my knees!" Do you ever feel your knees, btw?? Nora brought me one of her summer dresses and said that was what she was going to wear that day and when I responded with how it was too cold outside to wear something so summery she demanded, "But I just want it to be sunny outside!" And I couldn't argue with that.


I'm so glad there seems to be a proliferation of decent movies on Netflix because I'm going to need them. Also - the last season of The Good Wife is out so now I can finally finish/hand over my life to the Good Wife again. We're also watching Luke Cage and I think I may secretly be in love with Luke Cage.


Since this post is almost exclusively about complaining about stuff, how about Halloween? I'm not complaining about it on a theological, moral basis at all, I'm complaining about the costumes and the need to get them. I'm officially a horrible, boring mom who would rather sit through a Presidential debate (singular though - I'm not a total heartless mother) than figure out kid's costumes. My kids are also at the stage of being horribly uncreative when it comes to costumes and so dearly want the mass marketed, ridiculously overpriced and yet cheaply made store costumes. Which you think would make my life easier except Amazon in Canada has a terrible selection, the stores in my nearest city have been sold out of the costumes my kids want to be since August,  and I don't have the time or will to go to every store looking for their perfect costume x5. I just want it all to go away. I'm a Halloween grinch.


Cherrier note, new podcast this week and it was with Anna Liesemeyer of In Honor of Design! I've wanted her to be a guest on the podcast for so long and was thrilled she came on. She's just got the greatest perspective when it comes to motherhood and business and really has a mind for both. I think she's got great things to say if you haven't listened already.


Thanksgiving weekend around here! We are helping my dad move cattle though so it'll be a working/holiday weekend. It means we'll be sticking around home for the weekend and be at my parents for dinner. We'll probably have turkey Sunday and leftovers Monday and possibly pie for every meal. And crossed fingers no snow! 

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Friday, September 30, 2016

Seven Quick Takes vol. 149

Hi Kelly!


It's the last day of September. I barely know where this month went, and yet I do because it was fairly packed! I only posted twice here on the blog, and no quick takes! I miss blogging, I'm going to try and get back on the writing wagon in October. 
September is so busy for a lot of reasons, and for all those plus a camping trip, a weekend away for me, and trying to get everyone back on track with school writing just slides to the bottom of my list somehow. But look out October, I'm going to write....some....stuff....some....time....maybe...


Shockingly, homeschooling is still exhausting. After having a couple of really rough Septembers the last few years, this year I approached September differently. I thought I'd ease into school, or "soft start" as I've been calling it, with an emphasis on getting back into a good routine even without all our subjects or going hard for 5 days each week. I think it's helped. Probably because my personality demands order and instant action, I have a tendency to make my kids insane during September. And when I demand instant back-to-school-readiness/why-aren't-you-understanding-all-the-things the first few weeks of school it does not make for the best learning environment. The hardest and most important thing about homeschooling though is to cultivate and maintain a daily rhythm and expectation of learning everyday, so I feel if I consciously focus on that for the first month instead of ticking off my boxes the rest of the school year is miles more productive, I'm happier, the kids are happier, all over better. But it does involve a lot of attention on my part for the first month, hence no writing time on the daily. But hopefully this leads to good things for the year. And that's enough school talk.


Two weeks ago I was lucky enough to get to go to the Blessed Is She team retreat in Minnesota and it was just lovely! Everything was just so much fun and really rewarding. It was amazing to finally meet a lot of wonderful women I've known online for so long, and to see other friends again - like we're real friends!! What?! Nell was wonderful as you obviously expect, and I love my Minnesota friends, I may have to move to the balmy state and live next door. I'm still incredibly humbled to be part of this ministry overall, and feel at any moment I should be kicked out for being the worst writer around. 

Also; travelling. By myself. Feels like a surreal, glamorous dream. Always and forever.


But back down to earth here this week. My husband is really busy at work for the next week or two and it's involving working weekends and 14 hour days. I'm just trying to stay in a constant state of denial/survival so we'll see how that goes. Only good things ahead I'm sure.


I haven't been watching too much because....all of the above! But I liked the first new episode of Poldark! Stuff actually happened! I did feel like last season moved quite slowly at times so I hope this season is better paced. I'm also so happy that everyone has important conversations on the cliffs overlooking the ocean, I'm glad that's just something they naturally do no matter where they live. 


The podcast is up and running with new episodes if you haven't gotten a chance to listen yet. We chatted about books we love for girls because we love books...and are girls! 

Then we talked to Tommy Tighe, the hilarious Catholic Hipster of Twitter fame. We laughed a ton and made a million jokes about Haley's toilet. Then we talked about the real life stuff like living with grief and the death of a child. I thought it was a really interesting conversation and Tommy's perspective was really good to hear. 


Almost all our leaves have fallen! It's so very sad. I like everything about fall but the fact the pretty leaves fall off the trees. And of course, the darkness. But it feels sad to go to bare trees so quickly after a lush green summer. Today it's rainy and cold, and although we've already had several nights of frost since a week or two ago, the next several nights are forecast to be below freezing so anything left alive will definitely bite the dust. 

Here's to surviving a working weekend, have everything pumpkin for me!

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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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