Friday, May 29, 2015

7QT~ If I Had to... (It's Hard) to Write About Food


Please humor me as I go on a little (big?) soapbox about the food culture in our country. This subject makes me subject to squirm, most likely because I know my opinions are not and will never be highly popular. But yet, I process (no pun intended!) things best by writing about them, and that is the aim and purpose of this post. Not to jump down anyone's throat. Just to clear up some thoughts that have been knocking around in my head for a while. So, that disclaimer being gotten out of our pretty way, let us proceed. Thank you for putting up with me/this.

(1) If I had to write about food, I would probably tell you about my love affair with all things foodie NY times writer Amanda Hesser, my introduction to two foodies who palpably changed my philosophy (Barbara and Molly), and this book that’s currently on my nightstand:Local Flavors.   It was recommended by Kingsolver, and it is all about shopping your local farmer's market and cooking with lots of health and lots of flavor. Boom. What more do you need? ;)

(2) But, yeah, there's more. If I had to say I had a passion about food, and then had to direct that statement into some sort of category, I would probably say- read Amanda Hesser, and then come talk to me about your fad diet. Her philosophy of food- eating it, writing about it, and mostly, cooking it- comes from the centrifugal force that is: "cooking for others."  The first book that I read by her- her second cookbook, I think- Cooking for Mr. Latte was all about how she could connect her historical eating and cooking with the now-present obligation that she had: to think about her significant other, what he liked, and how she could adapt recipes to fit and suit both his palate, and her own.  Her first book was about living in Paris and cooking for a family, and what she learned by following a French gardener around in his garden and cooking for his family. So: first:  Cook for Others. Also? Her philosophy is that food should be good, but it shouldn’t be all you think about, is at the top of my "This is the way it should be" philosophy about food.

(3) Now, I can go into food without talking about some of the practical aspects of cooking and eating. I know (I'm SURE!) that someday down the road, I will realize that I had so much yet to learn, when I look back on this post and posts like it. But practically speaking, you know who I really like and who I've learned a lot from?  Rachel Ray. Yep. There, I said it. She is down-to-earth, I like her recipes, and her philosophy that a good meal can be made in 30 minutes transformed my cooking and eating. It took the stress of the perfect, gourmet meal down a few notches for me.  However, do I still like eating gourmet food? Yes, please. Take me to Paris, France, and yes I'll want to try the ratatouille, but give me a big baguette with lots of butter, or a real, authentic European roll (with lots of real butter), or a crepe made of the finest of flour, smeared with butter, syrup, nutella, or strawberries and cream. Take me there!!!!!

(4) My question is here is- while we're talking about Paris, and places like it- is, is your diet a way to find your righteousness (apart from other things)? In other words, is it an idol, that you would be willing to part with if push came to shove? While recently reading an e-book based on an all-natural blog, I started to become frustrated. When I visited this website, I started reading comments, and I got the feeling that food (diet! diet! diet! Sell another book!), natural medicines, and herbal baths and rubs are the new Morality for our time and culture. As people commented on her posts, they seemed to eschew proper eating habits as the new "standard" and "answer" for our morally atrophied culture. Our children's behavioral problems, our ability to manage our stress and anger, and our generally ability to "be good" could be boiled down to where we shop (Whole Foods or a Farmer's Market, best), what we eat (no sugar, please and thank you), and {maybe, just maybe} how much we exercise.  Guess what? It got me fiery mad! Is diet the answer for the problems of our culture? Absolutely not.

(5) Now.... before you go clicking away, assuming that I just don't care, or before you become as fiery mad as I did ... I'll tell you this. My husband has been thinking about going "Paleo" for a while, and we've had a lot of conversations about the pro's and cons. We are health conscious. And he's basically doing Paleo except for what I feed him at dinner every night. Of course I have my opinions, but if he decides he wants to do it for real, I'll support him 100%. Cooking for others. It's hard. I know. I have a niece with Type 1 Diabetes, who is also suffering some severe allergies. I understand the constraints some families are under. I do. However, I'm not going to go knocking around my Whole 30 and No-Sugar morality, because ... if you've ever done Lent or something like it, you know that giving something up forrealz, no cheating, in the sight of God, is serious business. And it's actually really, really hard. How overwhelming to think about the kind of pressure we are under- and that we put on ourselves!- for the sake of health these days.

(6)When I read about people who attempt all of the natural DIY hacks ever to be found on Pinterest, I can't believe that they would go to such extremes, even in cases of- or under the guise of- "for their health" or "for the sake of their baby" or even, in the case of this blog I mentioned up above, “for the business.” The conundrum for me is: are you really that black and white? It is no wonder that many people do not want a lot of kids these days! Kids really are worth the struggle of pregnancy, but perfectionism will cause undue strain and hardship on you, and your body.  And remembering Hesser,  once we have kids that we must cook for, they may not like what has to be on our dietary plan, and that complicates things, now doesn't it?

(7) Are you taking extra trips to the health food store, worried about proper nutrition, or are you needlessly stressing about buying all right ingredients for your diet? Are you taking unnecessary trips to Walmart, in fear that you will get hungry for a Pop Tart in the middle of the night, and then come home empty-handed, because your craving isn't in line with your {fad} diet? I may be more favorable to a "Whole 30," than "going Paleo," but not to mention, are you finding your morality and righteousness in your diet? Because that is just about as awesome as a sandwich with no bread.;)  Or a trip to France, without wheat, dairy, or wine. It seems that all we have gleaned from this new food culture in our country is the ability to act like hamsters on a treadmill. We're going for something and doing things for something (our diet) that ultimately may bring good health, or personal success, but it will suck dry the purpose and the joy of eating right out of our lives.  My best days, honestly, are the days when I don't plan. I run to the store for the things we need, and an idea pops into my head for what to cook, sometimes as late as about 4:30pm. My kids end up eating well, and we all end up enjoying what's on the table for dinner. I think that might be the technical definition of "do not worry about what you shall eat," although eating Pop-Tarts may not be the next thing on the list in that line of thinking, although it might be on mine. ;) But it's all of it better than a disorder, right?

Seriously.

What do you think? :-)

adding my link to Kelly @ This Ain't The Lyceum

Thursday, May 28, 2015

True Belief, True Repentance, and the Saints Who Help Us On This Journey



Did you read Matt Walsh’s latest (or one of his latest) posts Maybe Christianity in America is Dying Because It’s Boring Everyone to Death?
I have to say, this just made me feel even more thankful for the “vibe” of my own parish, and the passion I see in the members of its community.

Catholicism and our culture today needs true belief and true repentance. These are the things that I admire in the members of my parish.  These are the things that the world needs.  What do I mean by that?

1. True (sincere)

First of all, the Church needs sincerity.  This means a disposition of really meaning what we say and living it out.  The church right now suffers from dissipation. Perhaps it is an apathy because of the various weeds that need to be uprooted. Perhaps it is because of greed, or entertainment-saturation, or materialism arising from great wealth. Whatever it is, we need to shed the snake skin of discouragement, cynicism, and apathy, and rise up, claiming all of the blessings and all of the responsibilities that go with Truth and Sincerity about Truth.

2. Belief

Second of all, we need faith. We need to find our roots and our tent stakes in our forefathers and mothers… the men and GREAT women on whom our faith is founded.*

3. True (from the heart)

In addition to being sincere, we also need to have a disposition of conviction, and passion.  We can’t approach anything without a conviction about right and wrong, with a real fear of God and a healthy skepticism of modernity. When I was in college, I took some time off to work as an intern at a small bookstore in Charlottesville, Virginia.  My love for books and for all things Catholic was a tiny sprout, and I had no idea those roots would come to fruition and become a lively branch later grafted into the great tree of Catholicism.  Catholicism became for me a huge, steady tree, while Protestantism seemed a tangle of disconnected vines, in contrast. The Real Presence in the Eucharist tied it all together for me. We need a disposition that is from the heart: truly passionate and on fire in the true Pentecostal (in the spirit of the Pentecost) sense of the word.

4. Repentance

Repentance can mean so much more than Confession. It can mean a prayer of repentance. It can mean going to the person you have wronged, apologizing, and asking for forgiveness. It can be going to God and doing those same things. It can be an act of service, as a way of doing outward penance for inward sins. It can be simply doing the daily readings, and while letting the words wash over you, allowing your subconscious take the reins and your heart be convicted about the wrongs you have committed, whether in public or private. Repentance. We need it! True Confession is deep and powerful. Consider this!

all lyrics to this hymn can be found here



*
...

G.K. Chesterton~ I read his autobiography in 9th grade and wrote a paper on him, which ignited my love for him early on. Most people have heard of him, but if you haven’t read him, do! He was a great thinker, writer, and apologist who lived in GB from 1874-1936.   I read The Man Who Was Thursday on a plane going somewhere in high school, in addition to some of his stories, and in college I read Orthodoxy for the first time. Later in life, I skimmed copies of St. Thomas Aquinas and his collection of Christmas and Advent reflections, and then I read St. Francis of Assisi, which is just pretty much incredible. I still want to read....um, everything.  I have long admired his essays, especially “The Ethics of Elfland,” and “The Suicide of Thought,” and "The Paradoxes of Christianity," I was privileged to review Chesterton is Everywhere by David Fegerberg for Catholic Mom. I’m currently working my way through The Father Brown Mysteries.

*Fulton Sheen~ If you’ve never read Freedom Under God, do. It will change your life- or maybe at least your understanding of the American political landscape, especially as it contrasts with God's ways. He is a fan of neither Communism, nor Capitalism (necessarily), but rather Distributism and freedom for workers who are currently slaves to industries because of our current political landscape. (Or the landscape of a couple of decades ago, which some would argue- hasn't changed much). And remember his words: You can separate Church and State just about as easily as you can separate the head from the body, without killing the soul of something.

*St. Therese of Lisieux~ a woman who was obedient to the will of God and taught others her little way- in fact a doctor of the church, not messing around. St. Therese had a lot- A LOT - to do with this person's (that would be me) conversion.  She prayed for me. She prayed me into the Church!
{technically speaking, G.K. Chesterton and Fulton Sheen have causes for sainthood at this time}.
cross-posting at the ACWB today.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

How I Edit Photos (And Make Graphics)~ Using A Beautiful Mess, iPhoto, Picmonkey, and Instagram



Photography has been a passion of mine for a really, really long time.  I had a very fancy SLR camera back in high school and I was obsessed with photography. Then in college, I got really into digital photos (oh yes ma'am, I had an elph), and although I've had my share of point and click cameras, as soon as the iPhone was released— I was on board, for iPhone photography et al. I'm married to a programmer who has his eye on all things Apple at all times, so go figure.  Honestly, I get excited about iPhone photography, probably more than most people.  The fun thing about it is that I can create fun graphics in addition to editing photos. Here are some ways that I use a beautiful mess app, instagram, and iPhoto/picmonkey to edit my photos and create fun images and graphics for my blog.

1. A Beautiful Mess 

This app is awesome, and I've upgraded so that I have some of their extra designs, borders, and backgrounds. It has been completely worth the couple of dollars I've spent.

I don’t know how many smartphones can run this app, but it’s great for iPhone (I still have iPhone 5 but it works on iPhone 6 and I'm sure some other smartphones, as well).

This app is my favorite for photo editing, and creating graphics for my blog like the ones above, because it is smarter, more intuitive, and less spammy or ridiculous than the other photo-editing apps on the market right now.

A fun way to use a beautiful mess is to make filtered collages, which you can then add or share to instagram or Facebook (or email them to yourself, or someone you love).

I actually really like the filters in a beautiful mess better than I do for instagram or picmonkey. They added a bunch of new ones, and they’re all SO good, you guys! Dexter is my current “this fixes all my problems,” but I use Poppy a WHOLE lot.

Edison gives it an instagram effect that looks really nice, and Milkshake is awesome for a creamy black and white look.

A beautiful mess is also fun for it’s {awesome!} fonts and phrases.  I love the Doodles and Borders features… and you can Purchase additional ones {and yes, I have found these upgrades to be worth the money, too}.

They also added some additional Phrases, recently, and they include some *really, really* cute Pregnancy phrases, among other things!

So guys, go check it out!

2. iPhoto

if you're in iPhoto, it's super-simple easy to adjust the exposure... just click "Edit." So much easier than uploading your photos online every time!

I honestly don’t feel the need to go into the ins and outs iPhoto right now, but I use it a BUNCH. I usually just do Chrome (in the camera app) on my iPhone, and the exposure is automatically brighter. That’s my favorite Edit of the bunch! Of course I do all of my cropping, straightening, fixing red eyes, and other edits there, too.


3. If you're using an iPhone, USE CHROME

Hot tip: Use Chrome if you’re taking photos on an iPhone- you will thank me! This needed to be its own item on the list.

I really love iPhone photography, and I think it is totally LEGIT. I get my pictures printed out, put them in books (this and this are currently on my amazon wishlist!) and I am very happy with them.
Obviously this isn't the best picture in the world- not even close- but look at the difference. (It's basically a MUCH easier way to do Poppy from ABM.)
before/after using Chrome edit/filter on an iPhone


4. Picmonkey

Weeeeelllll…. to be honest, picmonkey is fun, but it’s not mobile yet. So it is my least favorite go-to  for editing, because it isn’t an app. YET! I figured out that they’re working on this, by attempting to load it on my mobile device.

If you're doing picmonkey, without going full throttle ... you can mainly use it for making graphics for a blog.  I don’t photoshop, but this is the closest I can come to doing photoshop for free right now. I have a history with Picnik, and I remember when it shut down I was like whaaaaaaaaa. am I going to do. But now, I use Picmonkey for all collage type stuff. Not much editing, but it is good for adding text and doing some edits. It's fun! ;)

5. Instagram

Instagram is best for “cool” looking photos. To be honest, it is way better than anything picmonkey has to offer in the way of automatic filters, even with royale, I'm told. Over the past couple of years, I have used or tried pretty much all of the filters, depending on my goal and mostly depending on the photo itself. I just have to play around with the filters for each individual picture to find the best one.  I realized a few months ago that you can get back some of the older filters. Just go to settings- scroll all the way across your filters, to the end- and you’ll be able to add more filters that way!

*just using the editor in instagram*

If you don’t want to use the filters, but you want to use instagram to edit photos, that’s easy. Just take a picture, then click on the settings or edit button or whatever it is (it looks like a little wheel…?). You can adjust brightness by using Lux or by manually adjusting brightness, contrast, warmth, saturation, color, fade, highlights, and shadows. For a good picture that just needs to be a little better, I will usually just adjust brightness and contrast and that’s it! But there are all of those options for mobile editing, which is awesome, you guys!

my favorite filters are
LARK and RISE
taken outside, with the "rise" filter

If you have a good photo want to make a photo look “instagrammy” or you know, that cool, 'we’re too hip for you' look, go with Lark or Rise (for a photo with good exposure/good light). I also like 1977 and Nashville for this effect… and those are better for darker photos. Although they used to have a really cool frame- whatever happened to the instagram automatic frames? They were so cool!
the old instagram... le sigh

my other favorites are…
CREMA and MAYFAIR
no filter

with crema

if you have a photo that’s just BAD (like a selfie with bad light…or this oatmeal, hahaha) and you just want to wash out the wrinkles, or all the little blemishes of the photograph, use Crema. That is what I often use.

Some people make all of their instagram photos bright, creamy, cheerful, and full of light. To be honest, I don’t know how they do it, but I’m ok with that. I'm thinking they're taking them at dusk and dawn outside every.single.time, which is harder for me with lots of kiddos. I’m trying to make my photos look just a little better than normal.  I would order a book of my photos, not because they’re perfect, necessarily, or look like a photographer took them, but because they’re MINE and because the kids are smiling or looking happy, and because *I’m* happy with them. AND because, let's be honest, I have a lot of fun in the process of taking and editing them. :-)  I know I could buy a fancy camera, but I just recently heard about how to print out instagrams more easily, and I'm not sure I need to go out an buy another camera in addition to my iPhone! What do you guys think? Maybe when I'm rich and famous?

Have fun you guys! You shouldn't feel too tied down to your Same Old, because there are so many fun, good apps out there! Not only is it fun, I guarantee mobile editing is the way of the future. So you’ll be bound to go down this road at some point eventually, even though you may try to deny it. haha.  ;)

What are your favorite filters on instagram? How do you use photo editors, in general?

Adding my link to 5 favorites

Monday, May 25, 2015

Monthly Recap vol. 21~ May 2015 Some Good Reads, The Funny Things They Say, and Just Generally Catching Up



Ah, Spring, how I love thee...

Welcome to the Monthly Recap... where I share from our last month on the last Monday of the month! I hope we're all awake today, this lovely Memorial Day, because this is going to be rather long. Sorry! ;) Will you be able to follow if I don't include numbers? ;)

I have news! I have a new page on my blog- My Articles By Subject. Go see! It was a little time-consuming, but I'm so glad I finally did it. :-) So many of my CM and RH articles feel lost since they're not at this place, and since they can't have a proper place in my cloud, but I feel like at least for now, I've remedied that problemo.



Sure, Madeleine turned three (you can read all about it here (PHFR~ Madeleine's Birthday!)
but the big thing is, she is now completely potty-trained (actually, she has been for a while- yes we've only had one in diapers for some time!!!;), and one of the things I wanted for her was to be able to go with Frances to Tuesday morning Reading Circle. It is basically just a sweet organization run by some amazing women every Tuesday,  where they do crafts, read books, play, and in some cases learn how to read. Sort of a cross between a library Storytime and Sunday School (without the churchiness).  It is really cool program, because the parents can drop off their kids for a few hours (for free!), the crafts are awesome, the bookmobile visits them every year, and I know that they are in very good hands. My Mom knows the woman in charge through their involvement in another ministry here in town.

Anyhow,  I wanted Madeleine to go. So I had just gotten them these dresses at BabyGap, and thought that with matching dresses, she would be motivated to go. Well- guess what?! It worked the first time! She went, and kept talking about it, and was so proud of the craft that she made, and she said that she loved it. The second time around, I tried to get them to go. I didn't dress them alike, and Madeleine decided she was scared and wouldn't go, unless Mommy stayed with her. Nope, not going to happen. The third week, I dressed them alike again, and guess what? She still wouldn't go.  Two days later, she actually turned three. So I thought on the fourth week- this is our week! I'm going to *make* her go to Storytime, matching dress or not. Guess what?

It didn't work. :-( 
;-) of course it didn't. IRL, people. IRL.

Other than her birthday, we spent a lot of time with family this month. We were with Stephen's side for Mother's Day, and my side for the day before Mother's Day/My Dad's Birthday/early Memorial Day.
Ahh.... Going to the river for my Dad's birthday...so much fun! ;)

Books Read this month....

Orthodoxy(by G.K. Chesterton (reread) Like St. Catherine of Siena by Sigrid Undset, this book needed to be reread, as it is one of my very favorites. Ahhhh. There are so many quotes, quips, and one-liners. He was truly a master of the paradox, and "The Paradoxes of Christianity" is my new favorite Chesterton essay. So good. I was able to reread almost half. But May still isn't over!

Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America's Farmer's Markets  This is simply a cookbook, but it focuses on shopping your local farmer's markets, a little motivational push that personally, I needed! I'm trying to eat healthier this pregnancy/season, because otherwise I know I would burn out, so this book is great inspiration on that front.



I also read The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. This is a very beautiful, well-written novel. And it is entertaining and hard to put down. However, I did almost put it down a few times. It's kinda long (over 500pages), and really, if it weren't for the unbeatable prose, she crosses the line (for me) in her portrayal of Christianity, at times. It seemed an integral part of her storytelling is the meeting of two primitive worlds: the worldview of a Baptist missionary family from the South, and the Congolese of a small village. It is set in an important time in the Congo's history: when they became independent from Belgium and America. I wondered however, at times, if her attitude isn't just a little lost, you know? The father in the book is certainly not portrayed kindly or fairly, in my humble opinion. But I did keep on going, and I'm very glad I did.  I would recommend it for anyone who appreciates literary novels, but read it with your guard up, as always, when it comes to books like this. Also? Her portrayal of Africa (based on real-life experiences from her childhood) is like opening up a National Geographic, and someone really, actually explaining to you what is going on. Which is just cool. Have you ever opened those magazines and thought: What are these people thinking/feeling/doing and why are they all malnourished and bloated?  Now you'll know. You'll get it. And you might want to go hunt an antelope or something. Also it will make you feel spoiled to be an American (missionary ...or not).

Eleanor & Park made it to MMD's "Un-put-down-able" list... which, of course, made me want to read it. I found this book witty and charming. But like Beautiful Ruins, I feel like I can't really recommend it without saying to read it with your guard up. As a thirty-something looking back at young love, I found it smart and wise. It was a humbling look at interracial relationships in our generation, and what makes people fall in love. But in terms of letting the younger set read it, it's a little graphic in parts.  I agree that this would make a really great beach read/Mom's Summer Reading book for its entertainment value + smarts, and for that reason I would read this author, Rainbow Rowell, again. For further reading and discussion, here's an online discussion of Eleanor & Park (via ABeautifulMess.com).


Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

I kept hearing good things about this book, and it was something I felt like I needed to read. While I loved the characters, and the world she created was so believable- and really, I couldn't put it down (I finished it in one weekend) I will warn you: there will be tears, and they will be ugly. That's really I can say about this one, unfortunately. If you read it, let's have a conversation and share tissues/issues.
**SPOILER** This book deals with a very controversial moral/ethical issue... one that will leave you (if you're anything like me) not a little bit angry. On the one hand, it's good to know about. On the other hand, I was shaking by the end of the book... and not in a good way.  I'm glad I read it, because I understand the issues at stake better, but oh heavenly days, was it ever heavy. I have more thoughts on the issue, but like I said, you can't really discuss it without spoilers. It would make a great book club read for that reason, though.

I read the last two books in a 48 hour time period. But I skipped church altogether, so, that is *not* recommended (also, I was pregnant, but still).

I actually didn't do too much in the way of watching this month.  I decided to declare May the G.K. Chesterton month, so I was focusing on reading... as much as I could;)
Father Brown continues to be an ongoing project... I've read 2.5 so far. I know- not that great, but May isn't over!;) And hey! Chesterton has things to say about the aforementioned ETHICAL ISSUES. He has things to say! More on this at a later date!;)

Watching and Listening (and Eating)...

Far From the Madding Crowd looks very good... but like I said, I've done very little watching lately.
"House of Cards" continues to be "our show," (that would be , me and Stephen) but it's rather dark, so we're unsure if we're going to keep going with it.
"She and Him" has a good new album.
I was doing a listen/compare/contrast of The Magnetic Fields and The Magnetic Zeroes, and my loyalty still belongs in college (can you guess which one I mean)?



Just to clarify, The Magnetic Fields have more matter, with less art. But the first volume of their 69 love songs is still good (and Stephen and I both enjoyed these discs before we were ever married- fun fact#357).

Finally...we have been eating well.

I have unofficially declared July to be "NaNoJuMo" which obviously, is National Novel July Month... and I know that makes sense... 'specially since I'm doing it alone. ;) But... here me out... I just know that with a baby due in September (she'll be 2 months old at the beginning of November), NaNoWriMo is probably definitely out for me this year.  I was not a little bit bummed out when I figured that out.  But- but! NaNoJuMo to the rescue! You know what that means.... I can make my own rules. Maybe this is a terrible idea?! Maybe not?! We'll find out when I finish the novel (crosses fingers!) ;)

Frances (overlooking Molly's playing of Minecraft) Is this supposed to be the best house in the history of history?

Molly: (reciting a rhyme that her best friend made up at school about POP)
sprite was walking through the town,
coca cola knocked him down.
dr pepper picked him up,
now we're drinking 7-up.
7-up got the flu
now we're drinking mountain dew,
mountain dew fell off the mountain,
now we're drinking from the fountain.
fountain broke, now we're back to Ch-err-y coke!

(I just had to write that down. I honestly am so impressed that her friend {really, actually, truly} made that up.)

Madeleine: Daddy... last Christmas, Yo-Yo was a girl. um...?

(Based on hearing me and Stephen telling stories about when we were little....)
Madeleine: I remember when I used to be old. I learned how to go potty!

Stephen: I think Yo-Yo fell in the toilet.
Me: No.
Stephen: Oh, wait. There's wet footprints all the way upstairs. Ok... no. It was the bath (Still full from the kids' bath the night before).
Me: (all the feels) That was a a temporary state of emergency right there.
Me: (drying him off) Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

(and just for the record, Yo-Yo has had a real bath before).

Remembering... when Frances was 2:

Frances {talking about going to the family reunion with Grammy and Gramps:}:
"I'm excited about Molly's family reunion! I.....I'm excited about my family reunion."

Madeleine: uh-oh. uh-oh. uh-oh.
Frances: "Madeleine, there's an uh-oh on your window..." (in the car)
(later at dinner) "Madeleine, there's an uh-oh on your tray."

It was raining, and Molly said from bed, "It's like a rainforest out there..." and Stephen overheard Frances saying from the bunk below, "Molly, it IS a rainforest out there."

Friday, May 22, 2015

7QT~ 7 Quick Reads



Well, yesterday, I came down with a cold. My Mom helped out with the kids, I went to the OB for my regular check-up, and then I spent the day napping, reading, and catching up on online stuff. I found some good stuff. Here are the best reads curated for you, for your reading pleasure, from the past two or three weeks. Your morning shot-of-caffeine, links-style here at Picture a Skyline.

~1~

How I almost didn't attend that Catholic Women's Blogging Conference... and why I'm so glad I did @ Surviving Our Blessings

I felt like I was going with her! This felt like a good recap to me! Fun, fun, fun. I read so many of these bloggers, and it makes me happy to think about them getting together.

~2~
7 (Affordable) Maternity Style Tips @ The Cream To My Coffee

Although I don't read many fashion blogs, I really do like this one. Ashley's style is very similar to mine. Frugal, polished, simple, pretty.  I feel like her tips here are totally noteworthy and doable. And she is super beautiful to boot.

~3~
Sheer Muttonheadedness, by Kendra Tierney @ Blessed Is She

This post! Such a good reminder for Pentecost Sunday. She makes a really good point: the disciples were different people before and after the Resurrection. One little thing made all the difference: The Holy Spirit! I love it.

~4~
Francis Agonistes, or as someone summarized for me, "Fear of a Radical Pope" @ The New Republic. From the article...


“And I began to love him,” Augustine wrote of his mentor, Saint Ambrose, in the fifth book of his Confessions, “of course, not at the first as a teacher of the truth, for I had entirely despaired of finding that in [God’s] Church—but as a friendly man...” 

"Pope Francis knows that his language is evocative of contemporary ecological movements, but this is a testament to his genius, not his incompetence. "
~5~
Don't read Catholicism Undervalues Women without reading the responses Catholic Women: A Progress Report, and The New York Times Mansplains Why Catholicism Undervalues Women @ The Catholic New Agency

~6~
If You read Matt Walsh's blog post, Maybe Christianity in America is Dying Because It’s Boring Everyone to Death? you should also read...Survey Fail: Christianity Isn't Dying @ USA Today


~7~

An Intentional Summer Plan and Routine For Kids @ Live Renewed

There are so many good ideas here, and I personally needed the reminder about getting kids on the Chores bandwagon early- like at the beginning of Summer and not later than that! I also really like her approach to screen time. It is realistic, which I can relate to.


Adding my link to Kelly @ This Ain't The Lyceum today.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

What's Your Cultural Heritage?



I know this doesn't really seem like a real blog post, but I thought it was interesting, so I'm going with it. ;)

Recently, I was talking to a friend who is reading a very interesting-sounding book, one I think I would like to read at some point. I can’t remember the name (I’ll have to ask her the next time I see her, not sure when that will be at this point, though!), Albion's Thread or Seed*, maybe... but she was telling me about the history of immigrants to the US, and how the culture here can largely be traced to the various English settlers in various regions of the U.S.

I responded by saying, “That would be very interesting to me- my Mom is of Swedish/Norwegian descent, but my Dad is of English/Welsh heritage.  Hence, our last name- which for me was my maiden name, obviously- Williams.”

It made me start to wonder about cultural heritage and how that makes us who we are. I can see it in my husband especially. He is primarily of German, Eastern European, and Scottish descent. I can totally see how his logical, no-nonsense approach to life comes from his German side, and I can see from his looks, that he favors some of his relatives from Eastern European side.


I think this question is so interesting… perhaps even more intriguing in some ways than personality types. I know- scandalous!

What is your cultural heritage? You tell me! I really want to know!

Looked it up.... I think this is the book?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Pregnancy Advice: 5 Tips For Preventing Burn-out



It seems like things have gotten really "serwious" around these blog parts lately... as my four-year-old would say. So I'm going to lighten things up a bit around here at last.  I want to talk about Tips for Avoiding Pregnancy Burn-out. Because why forgo a baby because you don't want to be pregnant?  Approximately half of my pregnancies have involved Summer, and by now, I've learned that I will.not.even.make.it without a good plan in place.  Without these five things, I know I would burn out.  Even if you are not pregnant, I think this is still a good question: what can you do in your life to make you less stressed and more at peace {when you're pregnant/nursing/stayingupallnite/tired}? The answer? Less!

Slow it down and cut yourself a break. Ask your husband to pick up (paleo, gluten-free, or whatever you might need) take-out. You are carrying a new person, and wearing yourself out with perfectionism is not the answer! Don't become lazy- that's not what I'm advocating.  Laziness isn't the answer when we're talking about staying healthy. But slowing down and taking it easy, at least every once in a while? That's a good thing. That is what I'm talking about.  During this current pregnancy, I had a serious health condition, called a subchorionic hemorrhage, with several side effects causing strain and exhaustion on me... and yes, there were side effects that impacted my husband. One thing I have learned after having had four babies successfully and one on the way, particularly with health complications, is that you can't do it all, nor should you try to! What are some practice ways that you can slow down during your pregnancy and find some additional peace and restfulness? (Other than the all-natural, no-sugar diet that you are sure to fail- or at least cheat at- that is so heavily advocated and is so heavily trending?!)



1. Don't wear yourself out...



... take a (power) nap in the sunshine.
Vitamin D is very good for you and baby. Get vitamins the natural way. Eat healthy, get outside, get lots of rest, and you won't be as worried about bunch of extra supplements, and fancy homemade herbal baths, or anything else, beyond your healthy diet and some Pre-Natal vitamins!

2. Get away from TV, magazines, or the internet, where images can create comparison problems and inhibit your inner joy...



... choose IRL friendships, playdates, and Girls Night Out with friends.
The answer is not more subscriptions to more magazines! Nor is it more episodes of self-help TV or a better selfie!  You might start thinking you need to replace every item in your living room with something that costs five times as much, while you're replacing everything in your pantry with something that costs three times as much because you just made in your Chemistry Lab. You might think your perfectly tidy house is disgusting and ugly because of envy. Get some space from these things, because they are sure to end up in strife, which actually isn't healthy! Instead, spend real time with real Moms, and you'll see that the "perfect parent trap" and the "perfect house trap" just aren't true. They're a myth. Good conversation is a salve to the soul.

3. Don't eat junk food...


... love your body and take care of it.
Focus on inner peace, inner joy, and inner calm.  These things do not have to come from a successful DIY of homemade body butter to decrease stretch marks or a homemade larabar! Instead do me a favor-- take five minutes to look in the mirror and think- Wow! I was created by God for a specific purpose! I am fearfully and wonderfully made! Remember, that self-concept has to come from within! Believe good things about yourself, eat healthy, and get some rest! These are sure to improve your body image.

4. Don't feel like you have to go to the gym everyday....


... either take a hike, or a walk, or do some simple workouts at home.
Get a lot of good exercise in on the weekend, and cut yourself some slack by doing something simpler each weeknight. I have found the 7 minute workout, and lots of walks, to be lifesavers this pregnancy! It is doable. Getting your heart rate up by scrubbing the sink, toilet, and bathtub is a workout. When you're pregnant, that's a definite workout. Let's be honest... walking up the stairs is a workout when you're pregnant (gasps for air).

5. Don't "do it all," and especially not by yourself...



... carve out good boundaries.
It takes effort to line up help, or to make a game plan with your husband to maximize teamwork in the legwork of making a home. However, the work that you do in order to delegate all that is on your shoulders is absolutely without compare!  Not having good boundaries in the area of "doing it all," or trying to be perfect, or trying to be the perfectly pregnant person who "has it all together" is not only dangerous, it is not going to in the end produce a healthy kiddo. If you're trying a million DIY's on Pinterest, trying to be the healthiest pregnant mama you can be, stop.;) I know how hard it is to give up sugar from my experiences all of my life with Lent! Don't lie or boast about your diet, because you are probably shooting yourself in the foot, with burn-out, comparison, and envy... rather than helping that baby grow.  That will inhibit your ability to parent well. Take it from this Mama of four-- healthy boundaries, moderation, and delegation will be lifesavers in the long run- in addition to being well-fed and on a {really} healthy diet.

Adding my link to Rachel today!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Why I Don't Like the Word Brat {Part Two}.... Outsourcing: Your Thoughts on the Matter



This post is written as a sequel of sorts to the first post, Why I Don't Like the Word Brat pt 1...  

The reason I am writing this, is that I received several really well-meaning and insightful comments on a private Facebook page that I am a part of in my local parish community.  I wanted to give you a recap of what we discussed, while preserving the anonymity of the respondents. I’m doing this in order to highlight what was discussed, as I think it added meaningful thoughts to the discussion.

~First, we discussed the issue of inappropriate behavior that is condoned by parents. One Mom of grown children- who I respect wholeheartedly, and who used to be the manager of of Toy Store, no less!-  brought up the point that, as she said:  
"I surely saw lots of behavior that could be labeled bratty. Tantrums, disrespectful language, and insubordination to authority, whether mommy or nanny or sales person. But even before becoming a mom, I knew that it was parents enabling this behavior. There are ways of dealing with this that either justify the anger/discomfort of those who have to witness it or reveal that loving parents are coping with the signs of original sin in their children--not denying or ignoring."

I think what this wise Mom, with her parenting stripes in place, is saying is that parents either enable/condone this sort of behavior, or they don't.  There is not a middle way.  Having boundaries in raising our children is deeply important, and without these boundaries set in place, we are lost at sea, literally.

~Secondly, we discussed the very important distinction between “bratty behavior,” and the idea that it is ok to call other people’s children “brats,” whether or not it is to their face.

One very insightful Mom said: "I think it's important for children to know what is considered "bratty behaviour." We can make up our own terms and descriptions all we want, but choosing a word that's in circulation is more likely to hit home. If it happens, you can mention the term and they will know what you're talking about and hopefully fix their attitude.  Bratty is a different kind of rude, in my opinion, and can be more descriptive in a shorter amount of time (when disciplining one's own children)."
I completely agree with this philosophy.

And I respect this commenter thoroughly, by the way! She is a cantor at my parish with two little ones. 

~Third, someone called attention to the very true fact that disciplining, or reprimanding, or even making a judgment about other people’s children is downright rude.  Often, this snap judgment or type of comment, comments like “How could you condone that for your child?!” is spoken from a place of jealousy. It is never ok to sit in judgment like that, especially when you don’t know the whole story. Know that the parents are doing their best, and maybe God still has work to do on them. Parenting is hard! Parents- you know this!

I also brought up some of my family issues in that conversation, and suffice it to say, my younger, adopted brother was often misjudged (as were my parents) for behavior that - if you knew him- would have been completely excusable understandable, under the circumstances. I don't want to disclose all of the details here on my blog, but I did talk about it in the closed Facebook page with these friends, since it is so crucial to this discussion, for me.

I was thankful for this conversation, and I wanted to bring it to this space, {picture a skyline,} because I thought it shed a lot of light on the issues addressed in my first post. It also may clear up some confusion you - my readers- may (or may not!) have had in reading the initial post.

As always, thank you for your comments and thoughts!!! This was a humbling conversation, to be sure. I’m thankful for my parish community, and the insights that they have and did contribute. There is a wonderful hymn, “And Can It Be,” that says “he emptied himself of all but love,” and I think many parents, including my own parents- though not perfect- do that everyday!!!  They are bending over backwards for their kids, and they're working hard to be nice in the process. Finding the humble, loving words to say isn’t always easy, but it is right. And good. And important.



{to hear the song, click here}

Friday, May 15, 2015

How to Nurture Marriage When You're Tired




beautiful art from this etsy shop




You might be hoping that you'll find an easy way out here, judging from the title of this post. But the truth is, I'm not going to offer excuses for you. Even when you're tired, you still have to push through. :)  You still must find it in your power to serve, to bear burdens, to give, encourage, take care of yourself and your spouse, praise your spouse, and pray and dream with your spouse. Let's unpack it.

--1--
Serve.

The best way to nurture marriage when you're tired is to simply serve your spouse, despite the tiredness.   Give them a hot mug of peppermint tea on a Saturday night to help them wind down and prepare for bed.  Offer to take or pick up the kids from Sunday School while they rest.  If some of the kids are busy, offer to take the others to the playground so that your spouse can have some time to read. If they are serving you, notice and bring them a tall glass of lemonade. Serve!

--2--
Bear Burdens.

Everyone experiences stress, because of life, work, and balancing the two.  Even when you're tired, offering to help out with dishes, the kids, yard work, or cooking when they're home is the only way to bear the burdens your spouse is experiencing. Other ways you could do that?  Read an article and recap it to your spouse, to save them the trouble of reading it.  Ask your spouse for their prayer requests and then follow through with real prayer.  Take the kids through a drive-thru and surprise your spouse with their favorite luxurious meal for the two of you, while the kids watch a movie. Surely a few of these things will relieve stress and bring some peace to your home.

--3--
Give.

One of my favorite traditions with my husband is our book date. We go to a bookstore, and we each have to pick out and buy a book for the other person. It's a fun, creative way to spend a night, but also? There is a deep, abiding feeling of joy when you give something to someone else. Perhaps it is the spiritual truth that, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." I know that some people love gifts because it is their love language, but as we all know- there isn't a one on this earth who doesn't like a gift. Christmas and birthdays attest to this truth! But we don't need a special occasion to give a gift.

While flowers and chocolate are a little too feminine for gifting to guys, there are a lot of gift-giving options for men out there. Does your husband have an Amazon wishlist? Ask him to make one, if he doesn't! Books make great gifts for guys- especially my guy, in particular. What does your guy like? Find out! Don't wait! And bless him in this way, whether it's his love language, or whether he would really rather renew the physical act, or go out to eat, or sit on the back porch and share a beer and good conversation. It isn't high maintenance- you can do it even when you're tired.

--4--
Encourage one another.

Recently, my husband turned to me and said, “I’m really glad you run the dishwasher every night. It is so nice to wake up to clean dishes everyday.” For a while, I ran it inconsistently, such as after breakfast when we had enough dishes to fill it up. Now, even if there is some extra space (there usually isn’t!), I just run it after dinner. Stephen noticed- and said something about it.  It’s the little things, that- when noticed- become a soft spot for me. When I notice that he is working really hard on his studies, or in the yard, or does overtime for work, I tell him I’m proud of him. I can tell I’m not alone when I say that to feel appreciated? It improves the love and chemistry between us. Especially when I'm tired.

--5--
Take Care of Your Self-Image.

The best thing you can do for yourself, as a woman, is to stay away from comparisons. If reading certain blogs (such as those with bad language or a sub-Christian philosophy), or types of blogposts (I’m not a fashionista, so I tend not to subscribe to very many fashion blogs… but book blogs- those are sexy;), or certain real-life magazines make you feel less-than-stellar, just don’t read them. Especially if you're tired! Don’t subscribe to them! Let the subscription wear out.  You’ll thank me! Do something that doesn’t fill you with envy, feelings of being less-than, or temptations to greed or lust after material possessions instead. Get out for a breath of fresh air. Read a good book. Have some iced tea and check the weather. And stop feeling less than other people. Taking care of your own personal sense of self-worth is good for marriage! Believe it!

--6--
Offer Words of Praise.

Offering words of praise, and actions of praise, is a way of comforting your spouse. To quote 2 Cor. 1:3-4 says, "Blessed be God who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them, which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." In other words, we are people of faith, which means, in our marriage, God comforts us, and we can, in turn, offer that peace to each other.   Here is a practical step: take a minute to write on an index card five ways you could praise your spouse.  Put them into action today! A little lift can do worlds of good.

--7--
Pray Together and Dream Together.

We have a tradition of doing "family meetings" in our marriage.  We discuss our budget, offer each other strengths and weaknesses which is hard, but always fruitful, and take each other's prayer requests and then pray.  For God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes (Rev. 21:4).  This means that even when hard days come, looking to our Father through prayers and worship together can improve hope and peace. It can literally wipe tears from our eyes, when we stop and pray together. I'm sure you've heard the old adage: "The couple who prays together stays together." I can attest to this truth. It's not your charm, your beauty, or your sense of humor, or how many times you've traveled together that will save marriage. It isn't all of these other things- although the little gifts and the little words of encouragement help a whole lot. It is mutual faith and mutual trust in a power higher than ourselves, and a humble reliance on that help, that will save, preserve, and nurture marriage.

Another way to nurture marriage when you're tired is to take some time to dream together. It helps lift you out of your own world, and gives you something to look forward to. Imagine the home you will buy in 10 years. Imagine a wonderful vacation you or your family could share together. Imagine your family getting a new pet. This is such a fun way that my husband and I bond with each other. Getting excited and having good conversation is at the heart of a good marriage.

Adding my link to Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum today.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

~Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real~ Madeleine's 3rd Birthday

~Pretty~

Peony, azalea, and iris from my Mom!

These roses always bloom on Mother's Day/Madeleine's birthday in our garden. Of course, they bloom, that is, if we weed, water, and prune well. :-) The first year we lived here we were sorta unsure of what was going to bloom and didn't do a good job. I think they might be cabbage roses. 

~Happy~

Pineapple popsicles.... a sign that it is almost Summer in these parts. And yes, we've already had some very hot throw-out-your-pile-of-jeans days. Or just take them off.

Madeleine turned 3!  We celebrated as a family, and I made Key Lime cake with Key Lime frosting! It wasn't from scratch, but it was delicious, especially with hazelnut decaf coffee!

Blowing out her candle. :-) And on another note, could my girls look more different? Both beautiful. Frances said recently, "Mommy, when I grow up, I think I'm going to look like you!" Cute.




~Funny~

I was looking for just a cradle for Madeleine's birthday present, and I found one for around $40 online. I then found this set- cradle and highchair for the same price (!!)- so I couldn't pass it up! I laughed when I saw this though-- 4 girls! A sign of things to come around here. :-) I have seriously never seen my girls play dolls so much in one week. Worth it. ;)

~Real~

Kinetic Sand... everywhere. I was hoping to save some for future playing. Between four children- and one being a baby- the CraZysand (no, I didn't go for the name brand) was GONE in 2 days flat.

~Recap~


Mom (Grandma) sharing in the fun!

Playing with her new "toy!"


Flashback! So hard to believe she is 3 already.

Happy Birthday....

Madeleine!

Adding my link to Like Mother, Like Daughter as per usual.:)