Tuesday, January 17, 2017

So Many Thoughts About La La Land {no spoilers}



I wasn't going to say anything about La La Land because honestly, I was mesmerized by this movie, but I wasn't head over heels either. I saw it the day before awards Sunday. I wasn't totally blown away, but I'm super picky about movies. It takes a lot for me to put a movie on my must-see list. But I think this movie is working its way there, to the top of the list of must-see movies this year. The straw that broke the camel's back? Honestly, when it won seven Golden Globe awards, including best actor and actress, and I started to rethink it.;-) I was really super-impressed when it won, and I was glad it was receiving an overwhelming amount of attention and support. I kept thinking, "Wow! They loved it! That's awesome!" When all is said and done, I think it is a movie that everyone should try to see.

Why?

-Emma Stone's acting

Really, her acting. She is so fresh and real. She's raw and vulnerable. No one can deny the chemistry between her and Gosling. No one else could have pulled this off. I think- if you've seen it- we can all recognize that! But even bigger than that, is the feeling that she believes in herself. She has an inner confidence and an outer beauty that make her so appealing and attractive!

-Ryan Gosling's playing and dancing

When watching this movie, a man uttered the exact thoughts I was thinking near the beginning of the film: "Do you think he's really playing?" And his wife answered, "He is!!!" I was so glad that had this exchange so that I could overhear it, because I was wondering the same thing. I hope Ryan inspires more actors to take their craft more seriously. He stretched himself with this role, and the results are far from embarrassing. His playing is inspiring (it really is too good to be real) and his dancing is excellent.

-The original music

The song, "City of Stars" is haunting and it serves a purpose, which is why I think it won at the Golden Globe awards ceremony. Each and every song kept me on the edge of my seat, and after seeing a lot of mediocre movies this holiday season, that was a refreshing change.



-The themes and directing

This movie has a purpose. Each frame tells a story. All of the subtle details are there by design. The themes are creativity, success, and the heartache of believing in yourself and continuing to try when you are mocked, unwanted, or under-appreciated. Anyone will two eyes, two ears, and a heart will detect this mood and the purpose for this film. The director really sailed his ship into the harbor. He achieved exactly what he was going for. A rare feat.


-John Legend

Seriously, I was so surprised to see John Legend as a guest actor in this movie. He's not a bad actor and his presence in this movie was .... just stunning and surprising. Fun! ;)

-Conclusion
I think the overall feeling is that, above all, I was blown away by the themes. I thought the dancing and music were a fantastic, refreshing way to approach a movie, and I hope this theatre dancing and singing style will work its way back into mainstream (or something more frequent/expected for modern acting;). I honestly kept thinking of White Christmas which may sound dorky, but it does make itself into a little bit of a Christmassy movie for several reasons ... and if you've seen it, you know exactly what I'm talking about! ;-)

Linking up with Tuesday Talk

Friday, January 13, 2017

7 Books I Want to Read in 2017~ & Reading More (Without a Superiority Complex)



Every year at this time, my brain shuts down and I become a miserable wreck, worried that nothing appeals to me, and that I will resign myself to reading nothing except Shakespeare in the coming year. I start to worry that I should be spending more time doing other things.... x,y, or z. And then I remembered the old saying that you should ask a busy person if you need something done. Sometimes I can speed through two easy reads in a day, or at most, a weekend. And I know that just like last year that when I have a moment ... what will I do? I will pick up a book and read it, like I always do.

I hope this doesn't sound like advice, but sharing advice between friends in my experience is normal part of life and friendship. It is more my attempt to articulate to myself how others achieve their goals. How do full-time parents do a masters? How do full-time working parents find time for anything besides kids and earning money?

But even when we start to read *more*, (and this is an aside) isn't it so easy to feel like we are above people because we read "this, not that"? I feel that struggle palpably.  But parenting is the best cure for thinking I'm above people. If I'm talking down to them (or anyone!) I've got the wrong mindset at the outset. Reading also *should* take us down a few notches. The wider our world becomes, the more self-aware we become about how shielded, protected, and/or superior we can be in our ignorance.;)  Formal education- whenever the swooping in to help comes, even if it is college- might be the answer in this case. I'm not sure. I personally love to have the ability to pick what I want to read, and I think it makes me want to read more. However, I am saying that after being forced to read required reading throughout high school and college. I think it depends on the family (and the philosophy;). I know I'll be referencing this reading challenge quite a bit.

I read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou this past year- a book that many colleges require for graduation. I would read all classics and multicultural if I could. #fangirl Overall, though, I've had to tone down (or should I say broaden?) my genres to the ones I know I'll love and will tear through like, I don't know something like...


dis;)  lol

 I'm hoping for books that are not fluffy, but feel-good in a not-dumb kind of way. I love foodie books, modern novels, multicultural fiction/memoir, spiritual memoir, classics, and just anything that falls in to the really well-written category.

And so that being said, here are the books I'm deliberately putting on my wishlist and hoping to read in 2017.  Of course, I'm really excited about what will be coming out this year. But these are the ones I've put on backlog and I've been hoping to read ASAP. I have recently discovered kirkusreviews.com (via the recommendation of a friend/cousin on fb) and it is the best place ever to find book recommendations.... next to goodreads and whatever is on sale on kindle! ;-)
Ok, now I'm excited....

Fiction:

-Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

This classic just keeps popping on my radar! It sounds like an appealing literary foray, and for some reason it is coming back and making the rounds. I have to admit, I'm curious! I want to join in on that conversation. ;) classics

-Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

Although it wasn't my favorite book I'd read all year, I enjoyed her debut, Where'd You Go, Bernadette and I'm interested in this, from what I've heard about it so far.  Semple has a self-aware style that really appeals to me. She doesn't sugar-coat anything, and she is really honest about Seattle culture at large. When it comes to pop culture (current day culture), I like being in the know for up-and-coming authors, and this is one way I'm keeping my dipped toe in that water. modern fiction

-Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

Again, this keeps popping up and I admit, I'm interested. I've heard it is just really well written and has a lot of wisdom to offer. I think the themes of Southern lostness and life will resonate.  Wallace Stegner has been on my TBR for over a year, but I have yet to read anything he has written. I hope to remedy that with this book. modern fiction

Nonfiction:

-Roots and Sky by Christie Purifoy

I love a good spiritual memoir, and this one seems like something I would totally love! Several of my favorite authors have endorsed this book, which is what led me down this trail and to this book.  I'm trying to add more in this genre, and I hope this fits with my taste ok. spiritual memoir

-Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard

I'm super interested in this foodie memoir. I never expect that anything will surpass my very favorite book in this genre though:  Cooking for Mr. Latte-- read, read, read it! ((It is so good and NY Times food critic Amanda Hesser will have you hooked on foodie. I hope)) Lunch in Paris will scratch my itch to find another amazing memoir in this genre. Oh... and get me out of my own little world! Which is always good! ;) foodie memoir

-Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

I heard of a couple of people I know who were reading this, then I read a review of it in First Things (we get the print magazine), and from there on, I was very interested to read it.  I grew up in the South among a mix of Northerners and those of (higher class) English descent. I married into a family that does indeed have its roots in the Scots-Irish people of the Knoxville "hills."  I know first-hand a little bit about the hill culture, and/but I hope this book illuminates my Southern heritage and especially, the one I married into ;) spiritual/cultural memoir

Other: (for-fun rereads)

-The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

Ok, this is fiction, too. But I'm putting it in its own category, because it's a special one! ;) I put out a call on Facebook for help with finding books to read in the New Year. A friend mentioned this as being her favorite book of all time. I remember loving it so hard when I was reading it in high school, so I'm hoping to reread it sometime this year. ;-) classics/modern fiction

Books I'm Strongly Considering (But Still on the Fence About)
-The Hypnotists’ Love Story by Liane Moriarty 
-My Brilliant Friend by  Elena Ferrante 
-Outlander by Diana Gabaldon all modern fiction
-The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell nonfiction

Do you have any strong feelings about the above four books? I have heard mixed reviews, so I haven't gone completely sold.  I have joined the Reading Challenge over at Goodreads for the year, and I've signed up for 60 books. We'll see how it goes! I'm hoping to up the ante on my Summer reading and hopefully that will push me over the top! ;-)

What are *you* reading this year?

Psssst: No, I'm not selling anything. But, here's a question. Do you want to read more? I jotted down some quick, non-bossy tips for those of you looking for inspiration in all the right places....

-Read on road trips
~and if you don't *go* on road trips, do it! they are so much fun.
-Read when you have time at night
~after the kiddos go to bed, instead of binge-watching episodes of netflix, read!
-Read at the kids' nap time
~if you don't need a nap yourself, read!
-Read when you have babysitters or grandparent help
~we hired a babysitter to come during ballet so that I can take the girls and guess what I do during their lesson? read! Also, I must admit that we have the best parents because both sides have offered to take our kids for the weekend and what should you do? read!
-Finally, read when boredom strikes 
~ all of those little moments and snatches of time add up... read! do it! ;)
(yes, even standing in line at the grocery store!) or just when you have a need to sit down for a few minutes (yes, even sitting in the bathroom or waiting in car line for school pick-up!;)

I actually do not read everyday, otherwise I think I would be able to read a bunch more than I do. I feel the need to take breaks between books, and I am so inspired by others in the blogosphere who never seem to need to take breaks. I don't know how they do it, truly.

For inspiration check out: 9 Tips For Squeezing More Reading Time Out of Your Day @ Goodreads

I think the best advice is to pick books you know you will devour. If your goal is to read more, pay attention-- not-- to what genres others tell you that you should read, but what you really, really like yourself. Write down the genres that keep popping up in your list of TBR and pay attention, because you are more likely to read more of the same, on down the road!
For similar posts, check out my list of 7 books I want to read, from last January.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Gender Reveal + What I Learned From An Instagram Break



As some of you know, I'm 22 weeks pregnant, but we did not have an anatomy ultrasound scan until this week, because of insurance changes. I finally got it all worked out, and I went in to the doctor for the scan at long last! So I'm super excited to let you know that we are having a...

>>BOY!<<

I honestly had no idea either way, I was going to be surprised/shocked no matter what.  The main thought throughout this pregnancy has simply been "I am so surprised that I'm pregnant....wow..." and while I have wondered what we were having, I was really too distracted with my shock of just being pregnant at all to sit around figuring it all out. I guess- for better or for worse- that's how I roll. (I'm not sure if I should say Yikes! here or just C'est la vie.)  So yeah-- yay! Woo to the hoo. I just kept repeating, "Thank God... Thank you God" during the ultrasound, not because we would not have been happy, but because it is time for Anders to have a brother. I am getting tired of racing cars down the stairs with him. LOL

Annnnyway.... as some of you may know, I took a break from instagram for the entire month of December. It was really refreshing.  I realized that I didn't miss it that much, and once I was off a daily schedule, I didn't feel the need to interact as much on Facebook and Twitter, either.  I spent more time reading, updating Goodreads, and just living life.*  I was pleasantly surprised when I gained a bunch of followers on Twitter my first week off insta, and I even continued getting likes and follows on instagram even when I wasn't there! Even though I felt less inclined to turn to social media in general, when I did, the break helped me to focus more on other social media channels, as well as my blog.

I also had some things about my instagram interaction come into clearer focus from the break. For one I get super tired of wondering how many likes I'll get per picture. It can be a drag/source of stress/ source of envy for me. I don't like a million photos on there so naturally I don't get a million likes in return. It was very nice to have some perspective, that being said, and I don't regret taking a break for a single minute. ;)  I started jotting down notes about how I want to "do instagram" in the future! And yes, I will take breaks like this again in the future, because it really was so good for me.

Here are my "deep thoughts" about instagram after taking an enlightening and refreshing break!

1. don’t post until you have something good

sometimes I get caught up in a moment and I think I've taken a good picture, only to look back and think "why did I post that?" I think it is just the compulsion I feel sometimes to rush into posting a picture or taking a picture.

2. do a "superior sundays" or “mood mondays” type post one day of the week

while on break, I was inspired to do a once-a-week thing - or at least try it for a month and see how it goes. It's fun to me when I see others do this type of thing. One thing I have learned from blogging is that consistency is key. Followers come to expect something, which is fun all around.

3. use consistent hashtags

I'm terrible with hashtags, #itsofficial. On my break, I was inspired to try to be more consistent with whatever hashtags I choose. I also need to be intentional about it.

4. talk to your best friend or sister

captions and hashtags are actually a big part of instagram, but if I'm rushed I will often say something lame. If I think about a best friend or a sister when I'm composing the text for my instagram, it often comes out more interesting, or at the very least, it sounds more natural. ;) My favorite instagrammers are friendly, and they don't seem sorry to be posting. They are not apologetic for interrupting, but rather, glad to share. After all, if it were your best friend or sister, you'd be glad to share!

5. be colorful and simple

sometimes I try too hard to include several subjects, or I want to capture what the kids are doing, but the picture isn't cute. I'm inspired to capture colorful moments and simple moments most often! These simple moments are the stuff of insta, you don't have to be on a trip to the moon to use it! It could just be an everyday moment, or something beautiful that catches your eye.

6. be true to yourself and what you like/believe in

if you like silly selfies, capturing your house, books, or artsy-ness, then that will become your style and that is great. I love cooking, taking picture of kids, food, drinks, I like to remember what my kids are doing, and I love memories and little cute things my kids have said. I intend to stay true to these things in the future, rather than trying to be like others and losing my true style.

Above all, instagram is an art, a channel where we can be social with others, and a medium of personal expression. I was inspired on my break that I shouldn't give it up altogether. Meanwhile, let's keep it pure, fun, simple, pretty, and true.

And I have to say, just to tie it all up with a pretty bow (irony noted;), that it is fun to tell instagram when you're pregnant/expecting. And it's super fun to do the gender reveal as well. Once again, with all of its faults, instagram for the win!

Looking for more tips or pro-instagram articles? This one is fun>> 7 Reasons Why I Love Instagram @ Socially Sorted,  and it clarifies some reasons why you might be inspired to use instagram.

*Living life: usually means I wake up with a book hangover and have the daily realization/sad sinking feeling that I must wait until bedtime (my kids') to finish my book... at the earliest I will be able to have a hair of the reading-dog at rest time. lol ;-)

linking up with Tuesday Talk

Friday, January 6, 2017

A Christmas Recap~ The Twelve Days!

Today marks the end of Christmas! Happy Feast of the Three Kings. The twelve days of Christmas are now officially over~ Twelfth Night.  So, happy Epiphany!  If you stopped playing Christmas music before then, I'll pray for the repose of your soul. ;-)

My apologies in advance to Kelly for not being able to keep this to only seven takes. 😱😱 Looking back, we had a very nice Christmas. The kids were so pleased with their gifts and they behaved marvelously despite the second morning of Christmas being overtaken by the new Wii. We  only bought two games, one is Just Dance and the other is a more traditional Mario game. (Not my favorite but a huge hit with Molly and her Daddy).


Christmas morning

We had a pretty blessed Christmas. 
This year I did 'something they want, something they need, an educational game, and something artistic' for each child.... ;-)

And the kids didn't do any playing on Christmas. Oh no, none at all. ;-)

Stephen picked out the mermaid tales for the girls! (We thought the cats would mess them up the night before Christmas, but they ended up just sniffing and moving on- thankfully! lol-ha!)

They didn't get books because we did that at St. Nicholas day. We also skipped the Christmas PJ's this year, although we've done that past years! ;-) The kids were all so excited and grateful. These metallic markers were a huge hit as a stocking stuffer! ;)

We had brunch and the kids' grandparents came over. Everything tasted so good. I made these from-scratch upside down sticky buns and they actually turned out really good! ;) Christmas Eve was really wonderful. I love having my parents in town, very close by!

We continued with all of our traditions, and I found out my little brother is going to be a father of a son. I feel so warm with pride and joy about that news. I could think about it all day- and I did think about it all during Christmas!
Grandpa, helping put together a playmobil pet store with Frances

Frances and Madeleine doing the Monster Mash. 😂 We also added the sports game with bowling, tennis, golf etc. As far as "nintendo" goes Wii is my favorite because the kids can do it together. 

The weather on Christmas Day was 70 degrees!

I have to include these pictures, because I still cannot believe how warm it was this season! This is actually from a few days before Christmas. I was wearing short sleeves on Christmas day. :-0


I got some pretty sweet presents from my parents, in-laws, and Stephen. Ha! ;-) Gloves, socks, soap, a mug, a pretty necklace, a book, Starbucks gift card, and Meyers cleaning supplies. Yay! It was a good Christmas, indeed. ;-)


We got to facetime/skype with my sister Kira. Her kids are so stinking adorable! Ivey made the "snow" they are sitting on. Precious. I love them and miss them so much. I really wish we could have gotten to see them this Christmas. Not our turn this year though!!! #seattleisfarfaraway

We made shortbread cookies with chocolate icing and sprinkles-- for Santa! I use the recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook and it is fantastic. A keeper for sure. These are best right out of the oven.
Then, we made gingerbread man cookies on the fifth day of Christmas.

They were delicious!  I used my own recipe, though I was low on molasses. I added a bit of extra egg (took out some of the egg white), and they turned out fine. I did have to take them out and pat them with a spatula half-way through baking, just fyi (or for My information- in future years!). And I had some amazing helpers, as always. 😊


The girls did an art day with their Great Aunt Gwenn, and we did a couple of arts and crafts, here as well. My girls love art projects and anything resembling our Fall Art Camp, so I'm tucking that idea away for any time they are on break.


Over break, we saw Sing and Moana, and Molly went to see Star Wars Rogue One with Daddy. I highly recommend checking these out on Rotten Tomatoes before you go see them. ;-)
On the tenth day of Christmas, my trusty helper helped me make my first-ever batch of breadsticks, to go with our homemade pineapple pizza. We coated them with olive oil, garlic, and rosemary and dipped them in melted butter and marinara sauce. It was a marvelous side as it turns out!


We did a New Years Eve run and had delicious fry bread with my parents, to ring in the New Year. We do the Run for Karen Lawrence to benefit the Ronald McDonald House every New Years Eve... best tradition ever!

Also: I spent a lot of time on this post Reflection for the New Year: Looking Back at 2016 and so I feel like this post wouldn't be complete without me telling ya'll about it/linking to it. I talked about my word for the year, my saint for the year, my New Year's resolutions, and I looked back at the best pictures and thoughts/words from the past year. I'm excited about it just in general, but also mainly because of this quote:


Hurrah for 2017! All in all, I am thankful for this year and all of the celebrating we accomplished during the Christmas season! Also: one and all you should friend me on goodreads! ;)

Linking up with Kelly


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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Reflection for the New Year: Looking Back at 2016


I have written a Reflection for the New Year, for the past couple of years, and I really love the questions I picked out and find them pretty unique. So, naturally I wanted to do it again this year.  Once again, I have print out for you, so you can get these questions and hold them in your hand, spend some time with a paper and a journal, and really hash these things out!!  I also spent some time corralling the most inspiring content I could find, on a new Pinterest board last year, but I've added a few things to it: New Year, New You/Me. Everything from make-up to cleaning hacks to meal-planning! Check it out! 

Voila! Happy Reflecting. Enjoy.  (And now, you get a sneak peek at my answers...)




1. What was your biggest accomplishment this year?

I am proud of the fact that I stuck to my goal of reading 50 books and actually ended up reading 52. I'm also glad that I'm in decent shape, from walking a whole bunch-- almost everyday. I have been pushing myself with my routine all year, and as a result, I think I'm getting more housework done (when I'm not sick-UGH). Finally, my biggest accomplishment has to be staying consistent with our traditions as a family.

2. What was your biggest regret?

Honestly, it was not enough time outdoors. I spent so much time in the fresh air when Molly was a baby, and also when Frances and Molly were little.  Having Anders and Madeleine 15 months apart was absolutely a shock to my system. Having either been nursing or pregnant almost (pretty much) non-stop since Frances, I have become a homebody to the nth degree. I basically run errands and... that's it! I dissolved into a complete reclusive shut-in this past year when I got pregnant at the end of the Summer. So! This is a no-brainer as I grew up in a very outdoorsy family with plenty of ski trips, hiking adventures, camping overnights, swimming non stop, etc. The fact that I have cast it aside pretty much breaks my heart.

3. What was your biggest obstacle to good health?

Aside from my answers above about getting outside more, my inconsistent meal plans and too much eating out definitely have inched their way to the top of the list. Making food-related resolutions is pretty much nil for me, but I am resolved to become more specific about my intentions and goals this year. So when we're talking health, I need to reflect and make very detailed goals otherwise I will flail in pounds of sugar and next year I will be the sugar plum fairy of delight. ;) For Sunday meals, I usually rotate spaghetti with garlic bread and a vegetable, or barbecue with green beans and rolls, but lately we have had pot roast or salmon with all the fixings/sides. Weeknight dinners often consist of sloppy joe's with sides, chicken teriyaki with vegetables, creamy pasta (like tettrazini or fettuccine alfredo with parmesan) with broccoli, or homemade pizza. I love cooking at home and one of the goals for 2017 is to keep doing this and not getting stuck in any take-out, fast food, or frozen food/unhealthy ruts!;-) So that's my goal, anyway.


4. What was the healthiest thing you did?

I'm pretty sure it was sticking to my walking routine.  The times that I stuck to Universalis Daily Readings and confession and regular mass attendance definitely fed my spiritual health! I get out our juicer every October, and that's a good habit, but I wish I got it out more often. Honestly, I think housecleaning is so good for getting my heartbeat going, and when I'm not extremely drained from this pregnancy that makes me feel like death warmed over, I am really happy about the cleaning I can do. Even though I love to read, I wouldn't claim I have a sedentary lifestyle. Most of my day consists of chasing after kiddos and cleaning!



5. What was the hardest thing you did?

This year has not been without its challenges. All people everywhere struggle, I know. But there is something unique about having 5 kids under 8, almost 9.  And being pregnant. I get tired. I get really, really overwhelmed. We have a ton a great memories from this past year, but just know that there were plenty of hardships, as well.  At the end of the year, for example, all of our kids got sick, and then Stephen and I both came down with whatever it was they got.  It made it hard for me to sleep, so that exacerbated my morning sickness.  I was a wreck for almost a week, and housework went to the wayside while I recovered. The hardest thing I did was to stay above water with my health- both emotionally and physically/spiritually. ha.



6. What are your New Year's Resolutions?

-More time with others
-Increased time outside
-Balance with motherhood and other activities and rest
-To stay in the know but not overloaded by news
-To keep the kids busy with activities and not too much screen time
-To have less Facebook interaction- my intention is to just post blog and that’s it
-To keep boundaries~ to be present but also have me-time/alone-time
-Read as much- or more- than 2016
-To have a good experience with the birth of our sixth child
-Keep up with a consistent blogging routine in 2017

7. What was your favorite movie this past year?

Brooklyn was so good, it has to be my favorite flick of this year. Stephen and I watched it together on vacation and I cried for so long after it was over. Not in a sad kind of way, but more in a moving, raw and real sort of way. It brought back delightful memories of our engagement, living in NY, and ah Nick Hornby (SIGH) ...I just love his writing so. stinkin'. much. Unfortunately I saw way too many kid movies and almost no grown-up movies this year. I started to wonder "Why does every movie involve talking animals?" Real question in my mind, and then I realized "Of course. It is because I only see kid movies."😂

As for the worst... I went into Moana with high hopes, but although I would like to say it didn't disappoint me, I actually hated it, unfortunately. I liked the artwork and many of the songs were good. I did not like Maui, the main male figure. He was supposed to be a Demigod, and the pagan elements were torture to me. He talks to his tattoos and it is pathetic and not funny at all. It just felt like a kids' movie. The humor was bland. I prefer the dry humor of ... so many other movies but not this one. It didn't grab me and I found the plot extremely predictable, which killed something that for me, was already dead. Mainstream. Yawn.

Honorable Mention goes to Hello My Name is Doris. So funny. So good. I watched it twice. ;-) Also! I can't wait to see Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson! #nobrainer






8. What was the most fun or creative thing you did as a family?

We went to Birmingham for Spring Break, then we went to Beaufort, SC for Summer vacation, and finally, we went to Minnesota for a family reunion as an end-of-the-Summer hurrah. Stephen and I stayed in town for our Anniversary, but we hiked, cooked for each other, and built a fire when we spent a weekend at a house on the river.

9. What was your favorite book?

I can't stop recommending The Little Bookstore at Big Stone Gap! It's by Wendy Welch, and just trust me, you'll love it. She is as smart as a whip, and her memoir is enticing, inspiring, full of depth, wit, and sensibility. A friend on FB was looking for something "heartwarming, funny, and inspiring" and I just had to mention this to her, because it fits those categories so well.  I think it is also smart and it isn't fluffy... it's just feel-good in a not-dumb kind of way.
I also loved Lab Girl by Hope Jahren so very much. It is unexpected and quirky in a very smart way. She blends hard science with the memoir genre and the outcome is fan-worthy. If this answer seems or sounds incomplete, see this post.

10. What was the best thing you ate this past year?

We ate out in Birmingham over Spring Break and the food at The Little Donkey is delicious.

11.  What album did you listen to most this past year? 

I did a lot of listening to random songs via Spotify playlists this year, but 3 albums were worth buying and listening to in my CD player in my car. The middle one did not come out this year. I looked over some "best of 2016" lists (Rolling Stone, Paste Magazine, and Pitchfork), but I'm still standing by my choices! 

  • I've been enjoying Cleopatra by the Lumineers. So good!
  • My favorite album of 2016 was Dark Holler Pop by Mipso. ;-)
  • We did a whole lot of listening to Hamilton during car pick-up this year!
Honorable mentions for songs go to: "Pumpin Blood" by Nonono, "Hey Stranger" by Mandolin Orange, and "fireflies" by Colin and Caroline. Nothing beats Christmas music this time of year though and it is nice to have a break from the regularly scheduled programming!





12. What was the most expensive thing you bought this year?

We got a new couch. Also, all of the traveling we did and the beach house rental this past Summer.
The most worthwhile thing we paid for was our kids' education!;)

10. What are you most proud of?

I have five beautiful children who are very verbal and all love to read (or be read to!;). They are each growing into their own interests and it is so much fun to watch them come into their own.




11. What do you want to do better or differently in 2017?

I need to spend more time out in the fresh air.  My biggest resolution aside from that is getting together with friends more often. It always refreshes my spirit in a way that nothing else can! I want to keep writing and get better at writing/blogging as always.

12. How can you improve your job, marriage and finances this upcoming year?

I think my life just needs more balance and rest. I can get sucked into my Twitter feed, and literally an hour later, I have accomplished nothing, and I'm toast.  I gave up Instagram during the month of December, and guys: *I only missed it the first day.* I thought it would be so hard and I would be in withdrawal for days, but after *one day,* I realized it was sucking my life away! I didn't look back for the entire month, and it was so ridiculously good for me and my soul.

I consider motherhood and writing to be "my job." I think focus and not being distracted will be very important in the upcoming year. We are expecting a baby and it can be hard not to become sucked into the various outlets for distraction.

I have reflected privately on marriage and finance.




13. What is ONE way that you can make your life better (what's missing in your life)?

I think most days I just feel frumpy. My intention is to focus on getting dressed in clothes that are flattering, doing my hair and make-up, and taking care of my health by stretching, walking, and doing the 7minute workout (or some variation thereof). Making this getting ready a more basic part of my structured daily routine is becoming more important to me.

14. Who is your saint for the year?

Last year, my saint for the year was St. Anton Martin Slomsek. He was an author and poet of the late 19th century.  This year it is Blessed John Duns Scotus. Find your's here!

15. What are Your Three Favorite Posts of the Year:

Unbelievably, I wrote 114 posts in 2016.  A little over two per week. It was so hard to choose, but I decided to go with two trip recaps (because traveling and writing about traveling happens to make me incredibly happy), and one to further all of our holiness. ;)

Easter Recap: our Spring Break in Birmingham

Of Travels and Trunks: our trip to Minnesota

What is the Purpose of Your Lent?

16.  What worked for you in 2016?

I got this question from this post, but I liked it.  These Nalgene bottles/cups worked well for our family, so we bought four more in addition to our collection of one for each child. We have tried all the sippy cups on the market, at this point, and these are the only ones that remain sturdy, don't leak, and can be gripped easily by little hands! La Croix and bananas also worked for me, especially during my first trimester with baby beck #6.


17. What is your 'one word for 2017?
my word for 2017 is Struggle
I tried to think about what one word I would like to use, and this one just kept popping into my head and staying there! Last year, my word was marvel. It was appropriate as I think about meeting interesting people and going on trips that made me marvel and the world around me. This year I chose struggle. I think with having a sixth child, this will need to be my mindset. I want to work hard, be honest and fair, fight against temptations, fight against my lazy gut-instinct tendencies, work on patience and "speaking the truth in love" with my kids, and take what I have established in terms of a personal routine and build on it from there. I want to struggle for gratitude, struggle for patience, and struggle for the life and quality of life that I want to have even in the midst of obstacles or trials.



Thanks for reading... if you made it through to the end, you're officially awesome!

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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Monthly Recap vol. 40~ December 2016


~Lately~

As I alluded to in this post, we had a hard Fall. Stephen was unexpectedly laid off and we were sidelined by this shock. The process reminded me of our early years of marriage - and being poor just in general-I was just babysitting to make ends meet while Stephen worked remotely and went to grad school, etc. We definitely didn't have luxuries in those days so we had to live by faith! Everything was too tight with housing, etc to do otherwise. However, when you are used to a steady income, it's really difficult to trust that a trial could be better for you in the long term, but that's basically the breakdown. 
The whole story is that his entire office closed, and he was offered a position in San Francisco that he decided not to take. Fortunately, after some weeks of unemployment and just general flailing as a family, he was able to get another really good tech job here within about a month's time. We did have severance pay, but the flailing was emotional more than anything. He interviewed for eight different jobs before deciding to land with the one he did. We didn't know what would happen or what to expect, so we had to pray instead. We couldn't predict the time frame for getting a new job or if it would be better or the same or a pay-cut. We didn't know. However, his new job is a good job, fortunately. They offices in California and Switzerland, and this tech company is growing extensively right now. He has several old friends there (some of them long-term, some coming over from the same company), and because of his income, he is able to stop teaching Latin online in this coming year. All in all, the situation couldn't be better. It is more than we asked or imagined, and it is better than we hoped. 
The outcome was good, but the process... the process, ya'll. It was harrowing and dark in the month in between jobs when Stephen interviewed.  It makes me thankful for security, and it reminded me to trust God in the dark times and to hope for 'better days ahead,' as always. There are better things to come, and we don't have to worry about financing and providing for a new baby, or {insert financial worries/woes here}... because of God's *great* love.

~Reading~

I blazed through my monthly reading, thanks to absorbing choices and a couple of sleepovers with the Grands. ;-)


Where'd You Go, Bernadette?  by Maria Semple

This feel of this book reminded me of The Rosie Project a little bit. It was a fun of-the-moment read, quirky, and the characters were just appealing enough to hold my attention.  It's a cute book with plenty of interesting self-aware rants about grown-up bullying, bad weather in Seattle, and the misunderstood architect.;-) The drawback of these bestsellers is that I sometimes doubt their staying power. That being said, should you read either of these books? They are both very good choices when it comes to new books. #Personalopinion. 4/5 stars


Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I saw the movie first, but it had been a while. I liked the movie ok, but the real impetus to finally pick up and read this book were all the references to it in the GG revival! I couldn't believe how good the book was. I literally could.not.put.it.down no matter how hard I tried. I had to slink away while Stephen watched a few Christmas movies with the kids, so that I could plow through until the bitter end.;)  Watching the movie first came in handy, because there were a multitude of characters that she meets on the PCT, and I think it helped me to visualize them better! Fun! note: her philosophy of life leaves much to be desired. She doesn't claim to be a Christian, and she goes into that- and the reasons for it- in her book. To me, many of the reasons she gives sound like excuses, but she is entrenched in her own philosophy, so naturally she isn't going to (or doesn't) see a way out of it. Sad. :-( and still: 5/5 stars for epic writing, fantastic storyline and storytelling, and chilling, roundabout incidents of personal growth. #readit

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Reading this was definitely a rite of passage, and I'm so glad i did. I feel like you *must* read it at some point to understand fully the race relations and race tensions in our country. Angelou is an amazing writer, and her voice and her perspective are a million to one. That being said, I am glad I read it when I did (as an adult), and I can see why it was banned, for sure. It has some mature and deep content that would have passed me by (or at best, just disturbed me) had I been too young for it.

The First Four Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder and By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I needed some light reading after Angelou's memoir, so I got sucked into these two books from my childhood. They're re-reads, but I'm pretty sure these were the two that didn't stick with me like the others did.  I have enjoyed re-reading them and falling back into the Ingall's world on the prairie. Last December I re-read Little House on the Prairie because of the fun Christmas-y scenes. That gave me the idea and impetus to read some of LEW this December. By the Shores also includes some wonderful Christmas scenes. Good tradition. :-)

Imperfect Birds by Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott is my homegirl, my main squeeze. In this bestseller from 2010, she paints the story of the Ferguson family: deeply flawed, raw, and real. This was a good follow-up, eventually, to I Know Why. There's a reason she is my very favorite author. Everyone in the world is deeply flawed, Anne Lamott is just honest about it. #perfectbirds #VERYgoodbook

I read six books this month, pushing my yearly count up to 52! ;-)

~Listening~

No Decemberists this months, sadly, but I've been reviewing the best from the year for another post I'm writing, so stay tuned for my favorite albums of the year.

~Linking~


"Persons reach out toward the multiplicity of created goods as a way to ground their identity. Given that all created goods are perishable, including the rational creature, humans recoil in fear and anxiety from the very goods they sought and have come to possess. Thus our impulses toward the good turn into the passions, those disturbances and upheavals in the soul that further corrupt and fragment the self."


This was awesome ;-)

Feast Day Celebrations: St. Lucy @ Sweet Little Ones Blog

Just precious!

Life Without Birth Control @ Catholic Mom (by Marissa Nichols)

 "To them, NFP means only one thing anyway: no birth control."

Just sayin'. This is actually a good articulation of why a couple would choose to walk this road. I identify with and resonate with so much that this author says;)

~Funny Things They Say~

Madeleine: (On St. Nicholas day) Did St. Nicholas come down from Heaven to give us these things?

The girls were jumping over a laundry basket in the hallway. Anders decided to sit on it, so they were mad that he was getting in their way. Madeleine waltzes up to him and belts out:
Madeleine {singing}: We wish you a merry Anders... and a happy new Anders!

~Watching~

We saw Sing in the theatre. I liked it, but I thought the plot should have revolved more around the characters' lives, and less on the theme of show-business. 

I have a low tolerance for good Christmas movies.  I get sick of some, and I think some are funny some years, and some years the humor offends me. Here's my guide to Christmas movie choices:

If you're sick of White Christmas, watch Miracle on 34th St.
Always watch: It's a Wonderful Life and The Nutcracker!!! {read a full post on this topic, here}
*unless you're reading on a Kindle*
(also: if you have bookish kids, they're also prepared to use almost anything as a bookmark, as well!;)

I think he meant "Abominable Snowman/ Snow monster"? ;)

ha, ha, ha ;-)




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