Thursday, May 26, 2016

Tea Time with Tiffany #50 - VISITING COMPANY FREAK OUT!

This feels like a milestone, doesn't it? And how appropriate that it comes on a week leading up to a Cristina visit! :0

Today I talk about Cristina's big visit, and my tornado-like cleaning frenzy leading up to it. Also, the Sacred Heart novena, backyard bird excitement, and please report in on the book club!

**To subscribe to the audio version of Tea Time with Tiffany, just search for it in iTunes or use this link to subscribe via Feedburner in your podcatcher of choice. Intro music is "Tea Ceremony" from

Items mentioned in this episode:
What are YOU doing this Memorial Day weekend, dear listener? Please write in and let me know!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Catholic Book Club: Church of Spies, chapters 1-5

Hello to you out there, fellow book club aficionados! I'm super excited to finally be in the first book club post of our new format. I know that  number of you have been reading along with me, which is SO INCREDIBLY EXCITING!

This spring/early summer we are reading Church of Spies: The Pope's Secret War Against Hitler, by Mark Riebling. For anybody who has not yet embarked on this book, here is the back cover summary: 
The Vatican’s silence in the face of Nazi atrocities remains one of the great controversies of our time. History has accused wartime pontiff Pius the Twelfth of complicity in the Holocaust and dubbed him “Hitler’s Pope.” But a key part of the story has remained untold.

Pius ran the world’s largest church, smallest state, and oldest spy service. Saintly but secretive, he skimmed from church charities to pay covert couriers, and surreptitiously tape-recorded his meetings with top Nazis. When he learned of the Holocaust, Pius played his cards close to his chest. He sent birthday cards to Hitler—while secretly plotting to kill him.

Church of Spies documents this cloak and dagger intrigue in shocking detail. Gun-toting Jesuits stole blueprints to Hitler’s homes. A Catholic book publisher flew a sports plane over the Alps with secrets filched from the head of Hitler’s bodyguard. The keeper of the Vatican crypt ran a spy ring that betrayed German war plans and wounded Hitler in a briefcase bombing.

The plotters made history in ways they hardly expected. They inspired European unification, forged a U.S.-Vatican alliance that spanned the Cold War, and challenged Church teachings on Jews. Yet Pius’ secret war muted his public response to Nazi crimes. Fearing that overt protest would impede his covert actions, he never spoke the “fiery words” he wanted.

Told with heart-pounding suspense, based on secret transcripts and unsealed files, Church of Spies throws open the Vatican’s doors to reveal some of the most astonishing events in the history of the papacy. The result is an unprecedented book that will change perceptions of how the world’s greatest moral institution met the greatest moral crisis in history.

Intriguing premise, to be sure. I haven't read this sort of historical non-fiction in quite some time, so I was glad to have something different from my norm to read. Let's get into the nitty gritty!

The Prologue grabbed my attention from the outset. I'm always taken with books that start out with a tantalizing glimpse into something very dramatic, and we're not quite sure at that time how that scene fits into the larger story. Loved.

Chapter 1 felt like it took me quite some time to get through, though all of the background information on Pius XII, and the state of the world at the beginning of his papacy, was quite interesting. After chapter 1, it felt like the narrative moved more quickly.

Just as quickly, I got mired in names. ;-) I have a difficult time keeping track of what name belongs to what character in any book or film that I am consuming. I am easily confused, I suppose. I had to keep flipping back in my Kindle to earlier chapters to see if my hunches about who was who were correct so that I could keep tabs on everyone.

My initial impression is that it is hard to believe that this is non-fiction! Some of the events are quite unbelievable. I keep thinking to myself: "Really? This really happened?" It's all very dark and dramatic! The book is quite well footnoted, so I have no doubt as to its veracity. But the tone that the author creates does read in a way that is more common in fiction. To me, this is a very good quality for a substantive work on non-fiction! It certainly makes it more attention-grabbing for the reader.

I'm really enjoying feeling like a fly on the wall in the Vatican for this specific period of time. A difficult period of history, to be sure, but obviously very moving. I also have a papacy fascination. I love reading about daily goings-on in the lives of the pope and others in Vatican City. It makes me feel more a part of my very global faith.

Now I am ready for your thoughts. What did YOU think of chapters 1-5 dear reader?!

A few of you have mentioned that it was difficult to stop just at 5 chapters, so what would you like to do for June? Would you like to just read the rest of the book, which would be 20ish more chapters? Or would you like to cut it in half, and read chapters 6-16 for June, and then finish 17-26 plus the Epilogue for July? We likely won't start another book until September, just FYI. I'll be doing the summer fiction book club with Cristina for Planned Not Scripted for June/July/August, and will likely put up a poll in August to vote for what we'll read over here on this humble blog for the fall. Once again, I'll include both fiction and non-fiction choices. So if that impacts your decision about how fast to read this book, you now have all of the information at your disposal. :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Anne's birthday month continues, & summer performance season gets ready to kick off...

Hello ALL! My good mood remains. I saw my honey perform again over the weekend, which always enhances my spirits.

*fans self* ;-)

I was going to the cast party with him after the final Sunday matinee, so I just went to the show beforehand as well. I am just so, so proud of him. I know that it was somewhat bittersweet for him, since he loved the play and his part so much, but the schedule is out for the upcoming season, and there are a few plays that he has his eye on, including one in the fall. The directors are clamoring for him to audition, so he's going to do just fine.

The rest of our weekend was consumed by our increasingly mature looking (*sob!*) birthday girl:

She can't get enough of that crown.
We had family over for a big birthday bash, and so Mommy got to enjoy this:

...while Anne very much enjoyed this:

She's getting to be such a big girl! *sniffle* She received some new summer clothes, an Easy Bake oven, a Melissa and Doug magnetic calendar, and little sewing machine of her very own. A good birthday was had by all.

For my part, troupe rehearsal is hitting high gear. Our first performance of the season is quickly upcoming in early June, and so on Friday we finished our last in-progress choreography (SO FUN. The music is "El Toba" by Wael El-Nagar). We still have lots of fine tuning to do, but we're now in good shape!

In terms of my solo, I still have a lot of work to do. I've picked music (Mario Kirlis's "Awal Suhur" which is absolutely gorgeous. I just love that Mario Kirlis) and I have my private lesson set up with Claire for Thursday late afternoon, which I know will provide good fodder. Right now I feel like I'm just inadvertently flinging a veil in my face for 4 minutes and I'm pretty sure I need more structure than that. ;-)

In other news, don't forget that tomorrow is book club day! I'm very excited to talk to you all about the first five chapters of Church of Spies. Even if you haven't read the book, do join us! Maybe you'll decide to join in or read it later this summer. :)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Tea Time with Tiffany #49 - Fruits of the spirit, & good God do I LOVE my husband...

Morning all! I am in a VERY chirpy mood this morning, for this late May edition of:

Today I talk about novena fruits, upcoming June novena plans, more book talk! And...I'll just say it. My husband is HOT. :0 He is! And I love him more after 13 years than ever before. What inspired this outpouring of wifely devotion? View on, dear viewer!

**To subscribe to the audio version of Tea Time with Tiffany, just search for it in iTunes or use this link to subscribe via Feedburner in your podcatcher of choice. Intro music is "Tea Ceremony" from

Items mentioned in this episode:
So, what do you think? Sacred Heart novena and book? Let me know if you're in! How are you coming on Church of Spies? Summer reading plans? Do write in!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Get your tissues ready... baby turns 5.


This seems like the biggest milestone birthday we've had with her since she turned 1. I'm not entirely certain why, but it does feel more significant in some way.

It's a Wednesday, just like May 18th was back in 2011. Do you know who else has a birthday on May 18th? St. John Paul II, baby!!!! I was pleased with my body for giving me that small victory.

At any rate, this was the scene, 5 years ago...

(go grab your tea ;-))

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011, I was at work. I always worked right up until I went into labor because I am incredibly anal really needed the distraction. :0 My due date wasn't until May 23rd, so I figured I may work the entire week. My colleagues all knew that my date was really close, though of course no one obsesses over that date as much as the pregnant woman herself. Hence, that Tuesday morning I waddled into the reference office, and am greeted by the following:

"Oh. You're STILL HERE?"

All you women out there who have been, or are, pregnant, let us rally together, yes? Saying the above to a pregnant woman is akin to an obscene gesture. Do you think she WANTS to be there? I assure you, SHE DOES NOT. By the ninth month of pregnancy, everything hurts, your belly feels like it is the size of Madagascar, you haven't slept well in nearly a year, and you would sacrifice an appendage just to have the baby OUT NOW.

"You mean you haven't had the baby yet?!"

It took every ounce of willpower not to reply: "Does it LOOK LIKE I've had the baby?!"


All of this is to say that I was just a HAIR cranky on the evening of Tuesday, May 17th. I was uncomfortable, I was irritable, and I really wanted a drink. Mike gently suggested that maybe I should call in sick to work the next morning, and I porkily contemplated that possibility as I tossed and turned for the entire night, unable to sleep well. At one point, I went downstairs to read for a bit and try to doze off, but that went over about as well as you would expect.

*glares again*

About 5 am I went back up to bed with Mike, to at least be more comfortable even if I wasn't able to sleep. If you can believe it (snort, I'm certain that you can, given what you know about me) I had decided to go into work, given that I was scheduled for the 9 am reference shift, when suddenly at 6:15...

My water broke. Much rejoicing was heard across the land.

Mike made arrangements for Henry while I paced around the house like a caged animal. I called the doctor, who told me to go to the hospital right away given that my water had broken. I made general noises, concluded the call, and stayed home for another two hours. :0 I wasn't in active labor yet, and the last place I wanted to be was the hospital. I had done this before, and thus I knew that some of the things they do in the hospital have the effect of actually slowing your labor DOWN, and that's the last thing I wanted.

Mike took Henry to his grandparents, and then we ate breakfast. Mike showered while I paced up and down the stairs. I waited until I had regular, uncomfortable contractions before we finally headed to the hospital around 10 am.

Once there, they did the hospital thing, which I hate, but I was prepared for this time. I was much more proactive in my labor with Anne than I was with Henry, standing and moving around as much as possible to keep the contractions going. I kept visualizing the contractions bringing the baby into my arms, and using my belly dancing breathing, and it worked like a charm.

By shortly after 1 pm, I was in transitional labor, and I knew I was close. I delivered her about 1:45.

I remember the moment she was born very clearly. I thought to myself:

"Thank God I'm not pregnant anymore!"

That's really what I thought. :0

In contrast to Henry, who was silent at birth, and had to be coaxed to cry, Anne was *screaming* before she was even fully out of the womb. Harbinger of things to be come, to be certain. She was also extremely goopy with vernix when she was born, and the doctor hadn't announced her sex right away. We didn't find out at our ultrasound, just to wait for this moment. Mike made a query to the doctor, who responded:

"Oh. I'm not sure yet."

That's really what she said. :0

Anne was squalling so much, and being hosed down to get the goop off, that it was hard to see anything. Then the doctor flopped her over, and announced that she was a girl.

Here she was, May 18th, 2011:

And this morning:

The birthday girl. *eyes well up*
Last night, Anne came up and hugged me. I told her that I loved her, and that when she came into our family, she really brightened our lives. And I mean it. She really, truly did. And she replied:

"I love you, Mom. And Frankie."

So, me, and a random neighborhood cat. I guess I'll take it. ;-)

I'm feeling a little emotional today, but in an incredibly good way. Life is good, it is really, really good, and I can never thank God enough for it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

New seasonal reads & summer fitness...

Another odd combination, to be sure, but you're used to that around here. ;-) Part of the issue is that I'm so heavily enmeshed in search committee tasks at work, and family stuff at home, that free time to work on anything cohesive is at a premium. I HAVE been reading though, so come prepared to talk about chapters 1-5 of Church of Spies next Wednesday!

I'm also excited about a few upcoming books in my queue. One is a new book about Mother Angelica that came out TODAY, authored by Ramond Arroyo:

I pre-ordered this, so it downloaded to my Kindle this morning. *happy sigh* I'd love to dig right in, but I have book club obligations ;-) so I'll likely wait til June. I do intend to read it this summer though!

I also plan to dive into some fiction, and on that note don't forget to vote in our Planned, Not Scripted summer fiction poll! We're only taking votes til the end of May, and we don't have many in right now. Come show us some love! We'd be thrilled to read along with you this summer, and the more people reading together, the merrier. Let your voice be heard on which title is selected!

The other thing I have been squeezing in priority-wise is fitness. I feel so much better in every possible way when I make time to stay active. What I have come to discover is that "staying active" means different things to different people. My philosophy is: do whatever you know that you will stick to doing. If you hate doing something (for me, this means running :0) there is no way in tarnation you're going to continue with it past some short, miserable, self-imposed stretch of time. We're going for healthy lifestyle changes, the long haul, right peeps?! So you should do what you enjoy. For me, this is:

(a) walking. Not running. *shudder* Just walking while listening to podcasts or loud, Middle Eastern music, and making my goal 10,000 steps per day.

(b) 1-2 fitness classes per week. I don't know what it is about being in a group, but I LOVE taking classes. I find it very motivating. I will not (1) workout to videos, I get lonely, or (2) go to the gym to attempt a bonding ritual with a treadmill or lift weights. Also lonely. And...I just hate doing those things. :0

But some people love them! So if you do, keep at it!

Since the New Year, I've been both walking and keeping to my goal of trying new fitness classes. I took Zumba and PiYo during the spring semester, but those are both now done til the fall. So, I have started taking a belly dance-inspired workout class on Monday nights at my studio called HipFit, and I LOVE IT. This is my summer workout plan, along with trying to fit in another class per week once the group fitness classes start up here on campus for the summer semester next month. Looks like there is a Pilates and a Barre class that I could potentially make on my lunch hour. So I'll take one of those when I can.

Nothing major, but I've lost about 5 pounds (that I've wanted to lose since I delivered Anne ;-)) and gained some muscle. I feel stronger and happier.

How about you? Do you have any summer fitness goals? I like talking about this with other people, it keeps us accountable and motivated, right? So do chime in, I'd love for us to encourage each other!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Tea Time with Tiffany #48 - Brain cells, I sure do miss you. And books are like vegetables. Sort of...

Morning all! Ready for our weekly cup of caffeinated beverages?

This week I talk about novena "results" (subtle ones, to be sure), I need your ideas for a June novena, how Church of Spies is like eating vegetables, Mike's big play premieres this weekend, and how my troupe might be dancing on either (a) a stage made of questionable plastic, or (b) blacktop, for an entire weekend this July. :0

**To subscribe to the audio version of Tea Time with Tiffany, just search for it in iTunes or use this link to subscribe via Feedburner in your podcatcher of choice. Intro music is "Tea Ceremony" from

Items mentioned in this episode:
All right, now it's your turn. How has the Pentecost novena been going for you? Do you have novena ideas for June? And how is Church of Spies starting off for you? Summer plans? I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Who's in the mood for a summer knit-along?!

You all know me by now. Prior traumatizing cast-on experiences, anxiety-inducing episodes brought on by glacial pace, results with faces only a mother could love... none of these things deter your Catholic Librarian when she gets her mind set to a knit-along!


I LOVE knit-alongs. I love the community spirit, the camaraderie, the feeling of having a timed mission, the support as we work together, the excitement. Love. Everything about it.

And so the Downton Abbey mystery shawl memories are behind me, and I am all Full Steam Ahead on this latest endeavor. Want to join me? :0

Our mission is the Expression Fiber Arts Summer KAL (fancy acronym for knit-along). Expression Fiber Arts is pretty much my weakness when it comes to yarn. I mean it, go look, you'll see what I mean. The inspiration photos for each yarn, showing the color palette in question?


It's magnificent. I love her work. Indeed, I'm working on a project right now with her Resilient Sock yarn in the Appletini colorway:

Pattern is Merridy by Taiga Hilliard Designs

This is a summer lace dress for Anne. All of her colors are limited edition, so things aren't around for very long. She'll have something, and then when it sells out it's gone. Unless she decides to dye another batch of it, which she may or may not do. The thrill of the chase, I tell you. ;-)

So, let's get down to the nitty gritty on the Summer KAL (to access this link, you may need to sign up for a Ravelry account, which is free). It's not a mystery, but the pattern will not be released until June 1st. For now all we know is that it will be a small summer shawl. On June 1st, however, the entire pattern will be released.

We'll all work on it together through June and July, and those who officially sign up and finish their project by August 1st will be entered to win a prize. Which is, of course, free yarn. ;-) Not a knitter? There is also a Summer CAL (crochet-along). I thought about doing both. But then I remembered the Great Downton Abbey Debacle of 2016 and restrained myself. :0 I just signed up for the KAL. Both projects will be small shawls.

You'll need 400-550 yards of sport weight yarn for the project. You can of course use any sport weight you'd like, and likely could substitute fingering weight pretty easily. The official yarn (for which you'll receive 4 extra entries into the prize drawing at the end, if you use it) is Expression Fiber Arts Luster Merino Tencel sport. Naturally, I could not resist, and ordered some. There is a coupon code that is good right now for a few more days (Destiny15) for 15% off all Luster Merino Tencel and Resilient Sock. I used that to procure 2 skeins of the sport weight in a mint green color that has now sold out, called Spearmint. But there are still other lovely options available if you want to take advantage of the code. I also bought a skein of the Boston at Night colorway to knit Mike a cabled hat.

That sound you just heard is that of a happy yarn-aholic whose appetite has been totally satisfied.

I'm really looking forward to working on this. In the meantime, I'm working on other spring projects. The dress pictured above for Anne. A blue silk lace scarf for myself. Going to cast on for some self-striping Fourth of July themed socks for Henry. The knitting life is grand.

Anybody else interested in either the KAL or the CAL? Do write in and let me know!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Mother's Day Redemption

Isn't it lovely when hope is fulfilled? :-) I know I've mentioned that in the past, Mother's Day has been a bit lackluster for me (to put it mildly). And this year, Mother's Day was GRAND. It really was. It wasn't anything fancy, but it was quietly enjoyable and wonderful. And isn't that what life is all about?

The four of us went to Mass together, which is always a treat. The kids made me handcrafted gifts at school. I had a girls brunch with my mom and my grandmother, during which time Anne and I wore matching dresses. :0 I tried to get a good photo of us wearing them, but this is what happened:

Looks as if we're being attacked by marauding Emperor penguins  
This is better, though you can't see the dresses so well. I think we need a selfie stick. ;-)
Mike took Henry to his soccer game during brunch, so that I didn't have to worry about that. Later, he made dinner and we had my in-laws over to eat with us. I sat around and drank wine, just as I had dreamed of. ;-)

It was smashing, truly. I also did a lot of knitting, I'll post about that coming up here. I ordered yarn for a summer knit-along, OOHHHHHHH! I'm super excited. In fact, I may officially make tomorrow's post a crafty Wednesday, so tune in if you enjoy such frivolity and want to join me!

In other news, my new piece for Catholic Mom went live:

If this is a topic near and dear to your heart, I would love for you to chime in over there. I'm pleased to report in that things are going better for me in that regard. I'm very much enjoying the Pentecost novena, it's feeling quite fruitful in quiet ways. Are you praying that as well? How is that going for you?

And how was YOUR Mother's Day, dear reader? I would love to hear all about it!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Tea Time with Tiffany #47 - Are *you* kindergarten ready?! And Come Holy Spirit!

Well hello all! It's a gorgeous day for our first May 2016 episode of:

Today I talk about the Pentecost novena, and a quick compilation of family updates. Who is playing soccer on Mother's Day? Who is in the star role in a play next weekend? And who among us is "kindergarten ready"? Listen on, dear listener!

**To subscribe to the audio version of Tea Time with Tiffany, just search for it in iTunes or use this link to subscribe via Feedburner in your podcatcher of choice. Intro music is "Tea Ceremony" from

Items mentioned in this episode:
What's going on with you, dear listener? Do write in and let me know! And vote in the summer fiction poll over at Planned, Not Scripted! If non-fiction isn't your thing, or if you'd like to have both a non-ficton AND a fiction read this summer, I really hope you'll join us for what I'm certain will be a spirited and amusing conversation each month! :0