Monday, September 29, 2014

Declaring I Have A Cooking Style and Letting Go of Guilt

Most days I think of my "cooking style" as throwing together some food for my kids of whatever I've got handy, whatever I need to use up, and whatever I think won't take forever. I've got precious little time to devout to sautéing, dicing, multiple preparations, and complicated recipes. Usually I've got to hose kids down, find some who may have gone missing in the yard, then corral them to the table in hopes that what I've been cooking hasn't completely burnt on the stove while I've been gone.

Other days in the mix I feel as if I'm living life on the edge of having nothing at all for when 5 pm rolls around and the natives are starving and I end up throwing something together that would normally not be classified as a "meal". It's a lot of work getting three meals on the table for seven people, and usually what's on the table isn't too exciting. Then when thinking of cooking attempts I feel guilty that I haven't meal planned, budget shopped, paleo-fied everything, or not touched my stack of beloved cookbooks in months.

Which I hate to admit because I used to love cooking, trying new recipes, using fancy ingredients, taking all the time, even sticking up my nose at people who bought pre-washed lettuce (lazy cretins!). But I've just wound up with a pile of Type-A guilt when it comes to making most of my family's meals from scratch, always serving vegetables, and really not buying much processed foods. Which I should be pretty proud about, not feeling guilt that it's not always blog-worthy or 100% organic.

Last week I read this great post at Keeper of the Home, and it sums up pretty much how I cook on an everyday basis. I thought to myself: that way of cooking sounds not so bad when it's written down.

Because it sounded much better written down, I thought about how I cook a little more and made the self-proclamation that it's a completely legit cooking style. My cooking style is now officially called: sometimes-survival/cook from the pantry/occasional great recipes from my favourite cookbooks/80-20 healthy and homemade/with as much flexibility as I can muster style. I feel so much more accomplished and much less guilty because of that silly, yet intentional decision. 

Instead of living in a dream world of what I wish I could cook, I've looked at what I actually cook the majority of the time and it looks a lot like this:

Pantry Cooking

I'm a half hour away from the nearest grocery store. A grocery store which has fresh parsley and cilantro on good days. I usually grocery shop for fresh fruits and veggies, milk and eggs once a week then do a more thorough (read, huge) monthly shop at Costco about an hour and a half away, or the other cheaper city grocery stores. I hate paying $5.00 a pound for butter in my town!

This works out to me mostly cooking from what I've got on hand. Since I rarely meal plan I usually just look at what's in my freezer that morning/day before/after lunch and see what I can use for protein and work from there. My family has to have a meat or protein each meal. My husband has the highest metabolism I've ever seen and I think he'd basically melt if not given meat each meal. This goes for his 5 offspring as well. I, on the other hand, could eat just salad for days on end but not lose a pound!

We also eat fairly close to paleo, although we like cheese. So that means usually one or two meals per week will have gluten or bread. My husband swears it makes him feel better overall, and I say to myself it helps me loose weight.

These Cookbooks

I love how that Keeper of the Home post pointed out that to make life simpler stick to a couple tried and true cookbooks that fit your style and the way you eat. As soon as I read that I realized I use these three cookbooks without fail if I'm going for a recipe meal.

 Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys by Lucinda Scala Quinn

The longtime food editor for Martha Stewart wrote a surprisingly practical, approachable, and very real life cookbook that is applicable to families! She has 3 boys so all the recipes have basic ingredients, a lot of meat, but very high flavour. This style is definitely what I like to cook the most and every recipe I've ever used has been a hit with everyone. I go back again and again to this book and highly recommend it!

The Pioneer Woman Cooks by Ree Drummond

The classics of comfort food, I find myself going back to this cookbook for great recipes for the basics. Her pot roast, pizza dough, meatballs, chicken fried steak are all massive hits around here and even when I dial back half the butter and sugar everything still tastes delicious.

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

This one I admit to not making as many main dishes from because they lean towards being fairly time consuming, but I've tried tons of breakfast, dessert, vegetable and sides recipes from this book and loved them all. I find the book handier than the blog which is bonkers, of course.


Remember how I live far from civilization? It practically eliminates the option of opting for take out on the crummy days. So I just cut my losses and go for something somewhat processed, maybe fish and chips, or a tasty frozen number from Costco. Maybe breakfast for supper -- we have omelettes almost on a weekly basis and they're great for Fridays. Or cheese and crackers and chopped up veggies, maybe a loaded nachos, or salami and bread. I always have a variety of cheeses, different sausages frozen or in the fridge, and salami. Easy meats are great for throwing together a meal from what seems like nothing. I know these meals aren't 100% balanced, but because I know the majority of our meals are, I just let it slide.

Those are my key cooking tenants. I go through phases of batch cooking and freezer cooking, but I can't help but feel they're so much work and then are gone in a blink of an eye. It may be because I haven't gotten into the swing of things. Whenever I make meals like soups or pasta sauces I end up freezing a good portion for maybe one more dinner. It's not a big contribution, but it helps.

Again, it's not worth the guilt to lose our minds about a couple meals here and there. Or worry that it's not a meal because it required little effort from ourselves. Those days all work into your "style". See, adding that word to what you do just delightfully combines what you do into an eclectic yet collected mix of cookery. Guilt begone!

And so ends a post of too much information about the exciting topic of cooking for a family of 7. God Bless you for making it through!

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Seven Quick Takes vol. 102

Just some quick ones because I have been a terrible blogger of late. Say hi to Jen, of course!


It's amazing how we notice the little things as moms. Not just the small things about our kids, the new words they say, the little glint in their eyes, or when they're feeling tired or sad even though they don't say a word, but the little things that make up a happy life. I never remember thinking of "balance" at all before I had children. That may be because I was just 21 and didn't even know it was an important word with meaning, but I never thought of balance in our day, between work and rest, recreation and chores. I think this is one of the crucial things in living a good, whole life, but I would never had thought or found or have been forced to see it until I became a mom. 


That was all a very diffuse and philosophical way of introducing the idea that I have not had a lot of balance for myself these past weeks, only because of a busier schedule for my husband. It's really hard to do the entire day of parenting by yourself. There is hardly any margin. And margin is where I pack in things like online shopping, blogging, reading, exercise, prayer, basically the important functions for myself personally. I can usually pack a couple of those things in after the kids are in bed, but the last few weeks I've been so exhausted I fall on the couch to watch a little PBS, then am in bed by 10! I just find it amazing how the smallest things effect a mom's day. And big things too like overtime, and working weekends. He should be done soon though and then I'll be eternally grateful for his regular 12 hours away from home per day.


We really did have a good week because I was working hard to keep things from becoming "a world of endless chaos because daddy isn't coming home for supper". We got out, we did fall-things, the weather was beautiful, we saw friends. I felt like an all-star. 

I feel like these few weeks of intense mom-ing has forced me to get a good handle on our daily school routine, which makes me feel a lot better since the first couple weeks were rough. There is still toddler screaming, baby crying, and all that comes with it, but at least we're getting into a better groove. I feel like we're already doing better in a lot of ways than last year. Which pretty much means I've cursed myself for a terrible week ahead!

Oh! And the last three weeks while my husband's been working so much we've been doing school 4 days a week so that I could get out for an afternoon to the city or see friends. I think that has helped a lot. Which sounds horribly lazy on one hand, but it makes me a lot less grumpy and helps us all get more done in the four days. Mostly me, I'll admit it.


I've also taken millions of real photos with my real camera...but have yet to do anything with them. I'm the laziest blogger. I feel totally overwhelmed with how behind I've gotten with my photos. I take so many, but then really like to go back and edit, delete, edit some more, but it's been over a year since I've gone through my month by month cataloging. I feel like the only photos I edit are ones for the blog, and hey look, no photos on the blog!


I am usually a big news/headline reader but I feel like even I have to back off from reading it lately. There is honestly something horrific everyday that makes me feel like the entire world is going down the drain and gives me a terrible attitude about most everything. It may be time to get a little more rational and read a little less of it.


Nora is the funniest child. I say this for each of my children, I know, because each in their own unique way is hilarious, odd, and completely themselves. But Nora. Remember I've said before she has a bit of diva-like tendencies? She still isn't walking on her own, and since she turned 18 months yesterday officially makes her the longest to walk of my kids. But she is fully capable, it's more of a principled stance against walking that she subscribes too. She also doesn't like touching the ground much. Probably because of the dirt, grass, hardness, who knows really. Anyway last night she kept me up half the night by waking every hour. I was genuinely worried the first couple of times, then finally on the third bout figured out her nose was a bit stuffed up. Not like a snot-hydrent or anything, a bit stuffed up. But this horrific condition sent her wailing and screaming MAA-MAAA! every hour without fail. I'm fairly certain she called and burst into tears for each and every sniffle. Max slept through the night even with highly contagious, awful colds. But Nora...she must be of a dainty constitution. 

More coffee please.


Since Nora's got a runny nose -- or the plague -- I decided today to finally make my own elderberry syrup. I feel ridiculously crunchy and natural and badass. It also makes my house smell amazing! We're going to try it this winter to see if it helps ward off annoying, recurring, slight colds and flus. We'll see how it goes. Another perk is every time I say "elderberry syrup" I feel completely like Marilla Cuthbert. I'm sure she made it right after her raspberry cordial.

 I could go for some raspberry cordial right now too, come to think of it!

Happy Weekend everyone! 

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

retraction, Retraction, RETRACTION!!

I'm retracting my previous post on Dorothy Sayers and her position on birth control because upon further correction and investigation -- I was completely wrong! Sayers in fact, did not stand against birth control after ending her relationship with the man she loved. They did end their relationship because they did not agree on having children, but Sayers would go on to use birth control during an affair with a married man. Making my previous idea, that it was laudable of Sayers to not use birth control even though she fell to other sins, completely wrong and off target.

Funnily enough Sayers' position on birth control isn't a popular point of discussion on her official fan pages, her wikipedia page, or a previous biography I had read on her life. I was pointed into the direction of this great article from Touchstone Magazine from May, 2000 that goes into depth about her life according to her own letters. Here's the paragraph that is pertinent to Dorothy Sayers and her practice of birth control:

But Sayers had good reason to feel emotionally febrile at this time. She was very vulnerable after parting with Cournos and soon became friendly with a car salesman and motor engineer, Bill White, who (perhaps unbeknownst to Sayers) was married. Neither wanted a permanent relationship, and they soon began an affair in which they used contraception. Sayers nonetheless became pregnant in 1923. As Reynolds reveals for the first time, White’s wife came to her aid, helping Sayers to conceal her pregnancy from her family and co-workers and even arranging for her brother to (unwittingly) oversee the delivery. Sayers gave birth to a son, John Anthony, on January 3, 1924, and entrusted him to her cousin, Ivy Shrimpton (who fostered children for a living), swearing her to secrecy and pledging financial support.

Read more:

Since this in-depth article is very scholarly and based upon her own letters I'm going to take this for fact and not the less informed persons on the podcast, her fan pages, and the biography about her life.

So alongside my official post retraction, so too goes my personal admiration for her stance on this very unpopular issue both in her day and ours. I'm still intrigued by her theological thought, she was really a great mind who was also a respected friend of C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton. I'm going to one day trudge through her letters to gain a bit more insight into her complicated life. But I will always go back to re-read and enjoy again and again her wonderful novels that I highly recommend to everyone!

To remove any previous confusion on this issue I've deleted my previous post because I'd hate for any thing I've written to add to the pile of confusion that is the internet. But I apologize for not looking into this in a deeper fashion, it really is a topic that isn't discussed in many places, which is understandable.

Mea culpa.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Seven Quick Takes vol. 101

Thanks to Jen for supporting random thought dumps once a week, every week.


I feel like I have approximately 550 million things to get done around here, but I'm going to blog anyway! Mostly because I'm probably going to spend the afternoon in the doctor's office getting little Peggy's leg looked after again. We'll get more x-rays and probably a new cast. I don't want to get my hopes up that she'll be completely healed today. It'd be nice, but I doubt it. 


So, I know I've been a huge dump of motherly guilt/failures lately, I won't change the blog name quite yet, but here's more. 

This week I've noticed Nora screams every time I sit down to read to the kids. I thought for the longest time it was just grumpiness, needing to nap, etc, but's because I'm sitting and reading to everyone. She's gotten to be pretty clingy lately and she just screams and screams and I honestly don't know what I should be doing. Throwing her in her crib I guess, but screaming. 

I never wanted to be that mom who copped out about having other children to deal with and thus let the younger ones run around like wild beasts, but there are SO many children running around here. I like and understand Kendra's tips for sure, and I want to deal with things the majority of the time like Nell talks about in her great tips this week too. but I just feel as one child is throwing a fit and needs to be physically removed, I'm holding or nursing the baby, and there has always been a baby and multiple toddlers. I think I've gotten behind the eight-ball so-to-speak because I just revert to yelling at everyone while holding the baby and being unable to physically remove and calm them down. I have the shortest of wicks due to the constant bombardment of questions, and comments, and needs. I know it starts from me, so my constant screaming at everyone isn't helping anything or anyone. I totally get it. But I'm feeling pretty stuck and buried in my own crappiness. I think I've noticed it more in the last couple weeks because my husband has been working so much overtime, weekends, late nights. It's been just me on the parenting home front and I'm just seeing it more I guess. There's been more emotional outburst from the older kids too so it's just been a smorgasbord of bad behaviour around here. It's all exhausting. 

Sorry, just thought I'd get that out there...for no reason other than my own venting.


If you follow me on Instagram I'm sorry for the rehash, but we've gotten so much great photographic evidence of the crazy wildlife around our house lately.

Last week I saw a little black bear on the side of the road while coming home from the city. Then a few days ago my husband saw A LYNX just a mile or two from our house! Lynx are rarely seen, and I don't think we even thought they lived in this area so it was a wildlife highlight. I however, did not go for my nightly walk down that road, but completely chickened out and walked in the field in sight of the house!


This week went better than last in no small part because the weather was BEAUTIFUL! Our falls are so tragically short we have to enjoy every bit of them. And this week the temperatures were warm, the leaves turned golden, and it really helped my attitude (if not the screaming). 

I've also taken a bazillion and one photos and will probably take a bazillion more this weekend!


Am I the only one addicted to the PBS documentary series, The Roosevelts that aired this week? I love me a good historical documentary. Couple that with my almost medically documented addiction to biographies of the Presidents of the United States (of which I am not even a citizen) and it's basically my tv dream come true. 

As much as I love Paul Giamatti, I can't help want to scream at the tv: "You can't be Theodore Roosevelt, you're John Adams!!"

My husband was thankful he was working everyday this week and has only been forced to watch an hour or two.


Anybody cooked some good fall feeling recipes lately? I'm fully ready for good, warm, one-pot dinners which are my favourite to cook. I made the Pioneer Woman's pot roast this week and it was heaven! 

Oh, I'm Canadian and don't even know what pecan pie tastes like, but Britt's Pecan Pie muffins looked so yummy! 

And I think banana bread needs to be made soon judging by the darkening fruit on my counter. Anyone wanna come over and bake for me?


No big plans for us this weekend as my husband only has tomorrow off, but I was going to weasel everyone into a family fall photo, which I'm sure will cause all sorts of tears. Fingers are crossed!

Happy Weekend!

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Grace and Faith

Hope you're having a beautiful fall day, I just got out of bed and it's so warm out that I left all the windows open last night and now the tangy, inimitable smell of changing leaves has taken over the house. It's wonderful. And so much better than snow in September, I'm thankful!

Today, I'm over at Blessed Is She. This ministry is really great, and I can't say how impressed I am by all the other great writers who are writing daily devotions. They are so nice to read everyday and have already encouraged me to focus a little more time on my daily prayer. Please, head over and sign up, and join the growing community on Facebook and Instagram.

Here's a little of what I wrote today:

The way grace plays out in our lives in one of the most remarkable and mysterious things about a life of faith. For the most part, we don’t see grace in the everyday minutiae of our lives. We often don’t see grace in the larger events of life like loss and tragedy. This is why faith can be so difficult; to live and to preach to others. Because grace plays out on an almost invisible plane, not one that is quantifiable or observable.

Click on over for the whole thing.

And if you're here from over there, thanks for stopping by! Here's a little about me, but I believe it may be one child out of date, I have 5 kids ages 7 through 1 and they're pretty crazy, very loud, and lots of fun. I live in Alberta, Canada far from warmth for the majority of the year, and is something I never talk about (just kidding, all the time!). I typically enjoy writing here on the blog about books, G.K. Chesterton, life as a mom with the goal of creating and loving her home, and sometimes NFP.

I'd love it if you hung out for a while, and feel free to introduce yourself! I'm also all over Facebook and Instagram so make sure to follow for some good times.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What I've Been Reading Lately

Oh, hi. I'm just over here still trying to potty train more than 1 month since we started down the dreaded training train. And trying to wrangle 5 kids solo as my husband is working all sorts of overtime, weekends, and late nights. So. I'll spare you 500 obnoxious poop stories, and boatloads of sarcasm and give you some good books.

Here's what I've been reading lately in some quick reviews -- it's a little slice of everything!

Have you read any? Am I way off track??

A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg

I had heard so many rave reviews for this foodie-memoir that I think I had high expectations. It starts out fairly shallow then wades into a little deeper territory, but I didn't fall in love like so many readers. I did enjoy her quirky family tales, the chapters on her father's cancer and death that were poignant yet not depressing. Her food writing is a talent and I enjoyed her lively descriptions. I borrowed this from the library so I didn't get a chance to try any recipes, but so many looked good I might have to check it out again just to try some out!

The Giver by Lois Lowry

I somehow never read this in high school, (probably because I was reading every Jane Austen novel for a third time!), so I approached it with no expectations of what it was even about. Lowry's writing was surprising and gripping, telling the tale of a choice-less, strew-free, utopia. The world she creates is easily recognizable, and I love how she tells the tale through Jonas's first hand experience with The Giver. I hope the movie proves to live up to the book, and you've gotta love T. Swift being in it!

Saints and Social Justice: A Guide to Changing the World by Brandon Vogt

I finally got around to reading this approachable and well done book by Catholic blogger extraordinaire Brandon Vogt. I appreciated his easy to read layout of each saint and chapter, as well as the saints he chose themselves. It was a great variety of the different saints of the Church and I thought he brought out great virtues in each. I would recommend this to almost anyone and I think it's a great way to reacquaint yourself both with these saints and the Church's social teaching which seems to be buried in today's dismal political climate but really needs to be known in greater depth by Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

The Expats by Chris Pavone

My husband kept telling me as I read this book that it must be good because it was a spy novel I didn't abandon midway because of ludicrous plot elements. There's a first time for everything I guess! I like a good thriller and this delivered for the most part especially as it twists and turns through a couple's marriage. Who's lying to who, where are the secrets, how much is hidden in a marriage? There were a couple sections which I felt dragged a little and I feel that more editing would have made those better, but that's being fairly critical, it's a good read for a thriller if you're in need for a switch-up to your regular reading.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

If there's a genre that gets me every time it's novels written about slavery. They both suck me in and leave me disturbed and saddened, but I keep reading them. This book alternates between the story of Sarah Grimke, the daughter of a prominent, slave-owning, Charleston family and a slave girl the family owns who is of similar age, Handful. They grow up both seeking freedom and justice in their own lives and in the culture which constrains them. I appreciated that the author stayed true to the history of the real Sarah Grimke, while creating a very believable, or at least descriptive story of a slave in the first half of the nineteenth century. If you enjoy a good story or this time in history you'll find this a good read.

Well, that's 5 for this week, join Housewifespice for more great books, and Heather for your faves!

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Seven Quick Takes vol. 100

I've linked up 100 times. That's bonkers. But I hope it proves my undeniable love of Jen.

But I really shoulda planned a giveaway or something. Or at least balloons.


So this week there was radio silence around here because it was just that much of a week. A week of overwhelmed, crazy, hair-pulling out times with a dash of trying to find a new rhythm and routine to our school year. It basically felt like I was at square one. Of my life. Or at the very least motherhood.

I'm not even exactly sure what went off the rails so drastically. But at every turn there was a baby who needed to never be put down ever, a two year old who was peeing all over the basement, school trying to get accomplished, library books ripped, people needing to eat again, and school again, and babies crying again. Not that this is different from exactly any days, but it felt like an endless barrage of being The Only One to meet endless needs. 

It was so bad that by just Wednesday I was questioning all the foundational principles upon which I've built my life. Maybe daycare is fine? Maybe homeschooling is bat-shit crazy? Maybe I should be wearing high-heels and seeing these little people who are peeing all over my basement or who are unable to eat a meal without fighting with every single sibling for a good, healthy hour a day? What am I doing?! I'm running around like a crazy person and losing my mind! Is anything sinking in? Am I just making my life difficult and making not one ounce of difference to my children? 

See. Existential crisis of sorts.

I should be better at this, I'm 7 years into this business and I feel like I am right back at the beginning having not an iota of a clue what I'm doing.


Even on bad days I don't usually shrink to those terrible doubts of every major life decision I've ever made, but for some reason this was the week. I don't think most any of it was rational, but some days each and every part of the day feels so full of hard. A hard to which there are no easy solutions. A hardness that makes me feel as if I'm turning into the crazed, burnt out, nutty mom of a shoe-house full-of-children-who-she-is-stupid-enough-to-homeschool stereotype. Which is basically as bad as a day can get.


Of course, there are all sorts of things wrong with having these awful, second guesses and doubts coming on the bad days. I don't think you should ever make big decisions on the bad days, and if you're not considering these big, life altering things on the good days too then they're most likely torments of spiritual combat. I feel like it's just gotta be. I'm normally a rational person who makes good decisions. Things are generally really, really good around here even though every single thing we do involves a level a chaos, organization, and degree of difficulty. So, perspective I guess. It's good to have.


We got Max to go down the slide...once!

Little Miss Casty was forced to stay out of the water, it bummer her out other than this one photo!

Dom sliding by himself.

And my little Luke.

Before the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week began we took a short family road trip last weekend to celebrate getting through two whole days of school! We visited with friends, went to the zoo, swam in the hotel pool and waterside, shared a tiny hotel room because no one makes hotel rooms to accommodate more than 3 people, and ran the marathon that is eating out with 5 kids for 3 straight days.

Seriously, has anyone tried that lately? Because I think that's the most exhausting part of going anywhere right now with everyone. There are so many reasons why it's difficult I don't even want to go into it. Let's just say the treat of not having to cook is dramatically offset by trying to wrangle 5 kids in public, without 5-point harnesses, and limiting the noise levels.


The zoo turned out to be great and even Max really enjoyed it and is still talking about it a week later. So the trip really equalled a success in every way, but sleep...and eating. Except I forgot to bring the real camera and got terrible phone pics because I didn't want to stand there and VSCO cam. (Have I ever mentioned how pretentious and annoying I find VSCO? I don't think I should have such strong opinions about a photo app, but I do.) Anyway! Here's some pics:

The first time we saw the penguin exhibit!

Nora. Swimming penguin. Cast.

All five of my offspring down to the end. And two random strangers whom I have no relation to whatsoever.

The girls watching the tigers.

Max forced to get a photo with his mom. I realized he didn't know the word for giraffe when he was pointing to the actual giraffe and then the picture on the plaque wildly. Huge toddler parenting fail right there.


We've been going about life normally even with our little grumpy kitty being in a cast. I think I failed to ever mention here that it turned out Nora's leg was broken in two places near the ankle and she's been in a cast for two weeks now. It's the saddest thing and every time I see it, it breaks my heart into shattered littler pieces for my poor baby, but she's been acting normally. She's still scooting around, since she never crawled it hasn't impeded her mobility at all, and after just a couple days she was back to furniture walking which kinda freaked us out a little. We're going back for x-rays today and to see if the cast needs to stay on. I would love if it was healed enough to come off, but I'm doubting it will be. We're also hoping this won't hold her back from walking even more, because right now it looks like she's going to break Gemma's previously held record of Kid Who Took The Longest To Walk if she doesn't start walking before she turned 18 months on the 25th.


And finally, the weather was brutally cold this week. We had snow but thankfully it didn't stick like in Calgary or most other parts of Alberta. But the hard frost froze all the garden and my flowers. It's all very depressing. The weather is supposed to bounce back next week thank goodness, but it's still a bit sad mourning growth and blooms. I'm making borscht tonight, and probably 50 zucchini cakes this weekend because the zucchini went forth and multiplied this summer. Also; my husband's working all weekend, so pray for me! But I hope you've got great plans for the weekend and enjoy September!

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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Because We All Know 17 Months is a Huge Milestone...

Phew. So we're back at it school-wise around here. And I didn't take one cutesy shot of anyone with a chalkboard because I was too busy yelling at everyone!

On those days where everybody is driving me up ye' old wall I harken back to all my old photos of when they were all complete, adorable babies. Also; pictures don't make any noise so they were all perfect! I also am shamelessly ripping off Grace from the other day, but I haven't compared my babies in ages so why not collage it up?

I had a hard time finding a picture of Luke not smiling at this age, he was a wonderful baby and toddler up until the dreaded 3rd birthday -- thank goodness he's fine now. Max -- I could hardly find a photo where he wasn't covered in mud from this age. Gemma and Nora are really similar especially since Nora's hair has gone so blonde which isn't as evident as it should be in this photo. And Dom...let's just say his head was off the charts until he was at least 4!

So I looked at my old pictures, couldn't believe how my babies have grown so fast, fought off crying, and ended up in a better mood.

It really scares me how fast they change and how much I love squeezing them tight every single day, even when things are going off the rails. I look back and those pictures and think, "I hope I loved them as much as I could that day." Which means, I really want to try as hard as I can to love them as much as I can today.

Thanks for the mommy-blog moment!

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Leaves Are Falling by Lucy Beckett

Ignatius Press has been getting better and better at publishing great novels in the past year. They kindly offered me a copy of this book for review, and as you can tell these are all my honest opinions.

I've read many books where the atrocities and destruction of the Second World War has featured prominently, what is more rare is to find a book that deals with the aftermath of surviving such horrors, the loss of one's family, and even the loss of one's country and culture. The Leaves Are Falling by Lucy Beckett is a story of a boy's survival, the grace he experienced after the war and also the story of his father who comes to grips with the essentials of humanity while imprisoned.

The book begins with Josef Halpern, a Jewish man living in modern day London who calls upon a writer to hear and tell his story of survival through the war in Eastern Poland. He has lived into his eighties but has never related to any one person the entirety of his sufferings and how he tried to recover and begin again in England after being rescued by the British. The magnitude of what he has survived is magnified by the fact that so few understand or are even willing to hear the complexities of his experience of the War.

His story is told by the writer and focuses upon his first years in Britain, adapting to a new way of life and freedom in light of living with the burden of tragedy. Beckett poignantly tells this story through subtle yet thoughtful prose, although the horrors are described honestly the writing itself is not violent but seems to be filled with a deep respect and reverence for the lives of all those who were killed. I think many readers will find this refreshing like I did, as many writers often seem to allow the violence to overpower the story and characters of novels which take place during this era.

The story then shifts as Josef asks the writer to put the story of his father to paper. The writer describes Josef's father Jacob in a Soviet prison after his entire Polish reserve regiment is captured in 1940. Jacob spends his time in prison being forced to contemplate what faith, God, and where the capacity for freedom resides means to him and humanity as his Soviet captures are bent on driving out any faith or belief in the prisoners. Jacob was a non-religious Jew before the war, but experiencing the total lack of freedom shines a light as to how inherent faith and freedom are to each other. He never loses his dignity because of this knowledge, even up to the end as a victim of the massacre in the forest of Katyn where 22,000 Polish prisoners were killed, and which the Soviets blamed on the Nazis.

The breadth of knowledge Beckett gives throughout this book is impressive. The politics, philosophies, cultural and religious realities at the time are all explored deeply and thoughtfully. The complicated history of Eastern Europe during the twentieth century and how much it suffered at the hands of Nazism and Communism cannot be underestimated but is so little discussed in our contemporary study of history, let alone popular historical fiction. The only criticism I hold with this book is that at times the narrative relies too heavily upon dialogue, long conversations that are needed to explore the complexities of that time, but weigh down the prose.

I would recommend this novel to anyone with an interest in Eastern Europe or good historical fiction. It leaves the reader with a renewed respect not only for all those who lived and died in those horrific conditions of war, but for the survivors who were left with deep, lasting scars. The Leaves Are Falling is a well crafted, well researched novel that explores not only the truths of a horrible time in human history, but the spiritual realities that effect our hearts and souls.

Joining Jessica for What We're Reading Wednesday, make sure to visit for other great reads!  


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