Wednesday, December 24, 2014

I'm on holy season hiatus until January 5th! :) Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas Eve everyone! I wanted to pen a quick note to let you know that I'm taking a brief blogging hiatus from Christmas Day until Monday January, 5th. I figure all of you will be too busy hanging with family and eating cookies to read blog entries during this spell anyway ;-) but I will look forward to being with you again in the new year!

And we have lots to look forward to. My ten year wedding anniversary is in early January *feels old* and for the first time, Mike and I will be going away for the weekend together without the children.

*sniffle!*

 But it should be fun, and I'll post a fun wedding revisit from all those years ago. :) There will be lots of dance posts in the new year, as we're preparing some new choreographies for winter and spring performances. Those are always amusing. What else, let's see... crafts. :) I have a new shawl that is soon to be off the needles that I am super excited about, in "Frozen" inspired colors, and I'll write all about that. Plus an intarsia Christmas stocking (Frosty face on the front :0) that I got roped into agreeing to, a multitude of baby sweaters, and somehow, in a moment of weakness, I told Mike that I'd knit a huge blanket to cover the new bed we're hoping to acquire next year. I must have been drinking when we had that conversation. Oh, and a MYSTERY KNIT-ALONG!! Oh my, I'm excited about that. Details coming in January! AND, a brand new book and craft combination series that I'm starting with Cristina!

*squeals*

I also have an, ah HEM, milestone birthday coming up during Lent, so you'll hear lots of whining about THAT. But anyway, LENT! Always lots of fodder to discuss there. I have a three month list of books for the Catholic Book Club on the right margin, read along with me in the new year! I'm going to be alternating Catholic non-fiction and fiction coming up here, so it's always an adventure.

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas my friends! I'm very grateful that you all navigate here each day to read what I have to say, it means more to me than you could ever know. Just be grateful that you don't know me in real life, because if you did, you'd have to put up with my holiday "baking." And this is what happens when I bake - these are what chocolate clusters (fillings whatever you like: nuts, raisins, marshmallows, combination) are supposed to look like:

And this is what they look like when I make them, with peanuts and marshmallows that are far too large to do anything with but roast over an open fire, because that's what we had in the cupboard:



:0

My poor, long-suffering family. I'm certain that I will have amusing holiday tales when I return, and you can rest assured that I will write all about them. Until then, Merry Christmas and happy New Year! Talk to you on January 5th. :)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Catholic Book Club: A Subtle Grace

Good morning everyone, and welcome to a bonus edition of the Catholic Book Club! I have been dying to post this review for some time, but in the Advent/Christmas preparation crush my reading time took a hit. I finished this book late last week, and I thought today would be a lovely day for a review since we are so close to Christmas now and Kindle books can be a perfect gift. :) Ok, so here we go!

This review is for A Subtle Grace (O'Donovan Family, Book 2),which is part of a historical series authored by Ellen Gable. The book that I read, as you can see, is the second in the O'Donovan series (Book 1 is called In Name Only, which I have not read). I found, though, that this book easily stood alone, and I did not feel as though I was coming in on a story that I missed part of. In fact, I was so curious after finishing that I went and read the synopsis of the first book to see which characters that story focused on. :) Here is the plot synopsis, courtesy of Amazon, for A Subtle Grace:
1896, Philadelphia. In this sequel to "In Name Only" (2009, FQP), "A Subtle Grace" continues the story of the wealthy and unconventional O’Donovan Family as they approach the dawn of a new century.

At 19, Kathleen (oldest daughter) is unmarried with no prospects. Fearing the lonely fate of an old maid, her impatience leads to an infatuation with the first man who shows interest. The suave, handsome son of the local police chief seems a perfect match. But will her impulsive manner prevent her from recognizing her true beloved? A disturbing turn of events brings a dark shadow that threatens the life-long happiness she desires.

Dr. Luke Peterson (the family’s new physician) also makes quite an impression on Kathleen. His affection for her leads him to startling revelations: about Kathleen, about his practice and, most importantly, about himself.

Will (oldest son) believes God may be calling him to a religious vocation. Eventually, he discovers the hidden circumstances of his humble beginnings compelling him to embark on a pilgrimage to Rome.
I really, really enjoyed this book. I've been thinking about it since I finished, which is always quite telling. To be clear, I review a lot of Catholic Young Adult fiction on this blog, and this book is NOT part of that genre. This is adult fiction, as several plot twists involve things not suitable for a young audience. Aforementioned plot twists are quite compelling, however, and I was reading along at a rapid clip, anxious to see what would happen and how the (very dastardly!) villain would be vanquished. :) No spoilers here though! You'll have to go read to find out what I'm alluding to. ;-)

This is what I would characterize as a sweeping family drama, and we move along in time and sticky situations with multiple individuals as they discern their faith and future. The characters are very likeable, especially Kathleen and Luke, who are the focus of the book. I felt myself rooting for them to get together as I progressed through the story. But I also really liked Will's storyline as he discerns a vocation to the priesthood. There are a few other, very endearing, sub-plots involving Kathleen's parents (whom, I come to find out, were the focus of book 1! I'm going to have to check that out) and one of her other brothers who seems headed down an immoral path. The Catholic faith of each of the characters is explored within the context of the dilemmas that they face, and woven into the story perfectly.

I don't read a lot of historical fiction, but when I do, I want it to be a gripping story that highlights the setting in a thought-provoking fashion. This book definitely fulfills that criteria. There is one particular plot point I'm thinking of, in fact, that historically fits into the time period, and just brought me to tears. I had to get up out of bed to go fetch a box of tissue. :) When a book can do that, well...that's certainly the sign of gifted storytelling.

I absolutely recommend this one, my friends, and it's a mere $4.99 as a Kindle download! There is also a print copy available for $17, if you prefer that format. Definitely give this book a try! I haven't read another religious fiction novel quite like it, and you all know that I read a LOT of religious fiction. I think that you will enjoy it!

Has anybody else read either book in this series so far? Do chime in in the comments!

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, December 22, 2014

My little ones are getting so big *sniffle!* - tales from the 4th Sunday of Advent...

Morning everyone! As you can see from my photo (sort of, sorry for the bad lighting via the camera on my phone :0), all of our candles are lit, and Christmas is this week. Terribly exciting, yes? I'll be honest though (which I tend to be on this blog, that's part of why I love it so much and have kept writing all these years), my weekend was a bit stressful. I'm experiencing the Advent blues it seems, but I remember going through this during Lent this past year as well. As soon as the Easter Vigil hit though - :0. Everything was great. I'm hoping that will happen with Christmas too.

*prayers alighting for a perked Catholic Librarian*

I'm trying, I really am. I will say that a highlight was Mass yesterday for the Fourth Sunday of Advent. I got the kids all packed up with promises that all four candles would be lit, and off we went.

The instant we got to the pew, Anne announced that she had to use the restroom, complete with desperate grabbing of requisite body part.

#SomeThingsNeverChange

I took her back and she expressed interest in once again joining the other kids for Children's Liturgy of the Word. I told her that was fine, but that she had to be a very good girl and listen and follow directions via the nice lady leading the group. She agreed. The Liturgy of the Word hadn't started yet, so I explained that she'd have to process up to the altar with the other kids, which would be new for her. When the time came, she seemed a tad uncertain, but I encouraged her to follow another little girl who appeared in the aisle near our pew. She did, and then looked like she had been doing this for years, eagerly listening to Fr. Jay as he gave them instructions at the altar and then scampering back into the sacristy with the group.

:( :( :(

My baby, where has the time gone? Henry, meanwhile, was beside me, being super attentive and good. We've come a long way from The Incident, my friends. And it is *so nice* to be able to listen to the homily without shenanigans to referee. I could actually *hear* what Fr. Jay was saying, which related to Mary's absolute trust in the Father's plan for her when the Angel Gabriel came to make this dramatic request.

When it came time for the collection, I could see Henry watching the door to the sacristy, as was I, to be vigilant for Anne's safe return. She came dashing out, full of enthusiasm, and bearing an activity sheet relating to the day's Gospel. Though active for the rest of Mass, she was very well-behaved, coloring on her activity sheet and asking to hold my small bag of chaplets, which she lines up carefully on the pew each week.

I was reflecting during the closing hymn on how sad I am that I won't be at our parish for Christmas (we attend at another parish due to a more convenient Mass time) when the older couple ahead of us turned around:

"You have the most well-behaved children at Mass. You must be so proud of them."

I just about teared up. My children have been *ill behaved* at Mass many times. MANY, MANY times. But on the whole, they are good, and that was such a nice thing to hear. On a day when I really need a pick-me-up, I was ever so grateful for that comment. And I so appreciated that they took the time out to say something nice to me. Often, when it comes to children in church, you hear nothing unless someone deems it "necessary" to criticize you or your children. This was so refreshing.

And so, a lovely final Sunday in Advent. As a family, we will attend the Christmas Eve vigil Mass at 4pm. I have always wanted to go to Midnight Mass, but with the kids the ages they are right now, it's definitely not happening for some time. :) And next Sunday is the feast of the Holy Family, I always love that day! And then the feast of Mary, Mother of God. Sublime.

Off-topic, but another highlight from my weekend that I wanted to mention: on Friday, we had our craft group Christmas party and Secret Santa exchange. I've been dying to share what I made, but haven't for fear that it would be seen by the recipient. ;-) And so here we have a super cute reindeer to celebrate Christmas with:

We've named him Sven. :0 He was presented to my Secret Santa assignee, Alix, and I just loved crocheting him for her. Precious! I received a homemade loaf of banana chocolate chip bread and a gift card to buy books or supplies from my Santa. Thrilled! I am very lucky to be a member of such a talented and generous group.

All right everyone, how was your Fourth Sunday of Advent? Do detail in the comments. And tomorrow I have a book review for you, of Catholic historical fiction set in the late Nineteenth Century. Intrigued? Head on back tomorrow. :) See you then!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Church Triumphant: Spotlight on St. Stephen

Afternoon all, and I hope that you are all having a wonderful Thursday. :) Me? Well, my day started off with a bit of an adventure. I left the driveway to head to work, my Fr. Roderick podcast happily playing in the background, and all of a sudden my audio started sounding like an alien spaceship was landing in the background. I have an old car, and thus an FM transmitter to listen to my iPod, so these types of occurrences aren't all that rare. :) Then, precious Fr. Roderick stopped talking altogether, and I looked down to see that my radio was off. Huh? I was pondering this surprising development as my car started making gasping noises and stalled. Uh oh, not good. I managed to coast around the corner and off to the side of the road to try and get it restarted. Let's just say that didn't go well. A phone call to Mike had him and Anne swooping in to rescue me, with a tow truck soon behind. Both Mike and the car shop guy think it's the alternator, but we're waiting for them to call with an official diagnosis. So, I'm at home waiting on the car, and I'm hoping that it'll be fixed today. Always an adventure. :)

At any rate, welcome to December's edition of The Church Triumphant! Everything is moved up a week in December (book club, this series) to accommodate the holidays, so the dates are off a bit. We usually do all of these posts in the 4th week of the month. But anyway, today we'll be discussing two saints with upcoming feast days. St. Stephen (feast on December 26th) is here on this blog, and the Holy Family (feast on December 28th) is over on Cristina's!

These Advent and Christmas feasts are so lovely, are they not? Now, I will grant you, St. Stephen isn't exactly an easy story to read through. This poor soul is known for his death by stoning by those calling his beliefs blasphemous, and he is the very first Christian martyr. A key part of his story is the presence of the future St. Paul in the crowd during all of this. Quite a dramatic scene that was, I am certain, especially since St. Stephen was praying for his persecutors as they were stoning him. You can see from the iconography in the photo within this post that he is portrayed as a deacon carrying stones atop his Bible. He is also shown carrying a green palm, which symbolizes victory. Martyrs are often depicted carrying palms for their triumph over the enemies of their soul.

St. Stephen's feast falls during the traditional 12 Days of Christmas, so we're starting that off on a powerful note. :) I keep emphasizing to my kids that Christmas is not a single day, but is an entire season. And each day within has special meaning. St. Stephen's feast day, to me, signifies trust. Total abandonment to trust in the will of the Father. Not an easy thing, to be sure. But also faith, hope and love. These things apply to many things in our lives, usually cheerier things like a wedding, but they apply to martyrdom and death as well. Certainly, these things were all swirling about in the mind of our Blessed Mother in the early days surrounding the birth of her child. How do they apply to each of us in our specific vocations and states in life?

The Second Day of Christmas, when I was a child, always seemed like a "letdown day." You look forward to Christmas Eve (our big extended family celebration) and Christmas Day (gift opening and general frivolity) for months, and then it's like someone just let all of the air out of your balloon with a fork. It's December 26th, and it seems like the only thing ahead of you is the longest part of the winter and going back to school. Of course, at that time  I lacked a full understanding of the Christmas season, not to mention maturity. Now I see December 26th as the beginning of a season of promise, with St. Stephen as our model in faith. We always have that, no matter what, and we're only just beginning (no matter our age) to discover what God has in store for us. What's not to be joyful about in that?

Who has a special devotion to St. Stephen? Do write in a comment. :) And don't forget to head over to read Cristina's Holy Family post! She's got some great ideas over there, involving food, everyone's favorite, :) to celebrate the feast!

I have a Christmas party tomorrow and won't be able to blog, but I hope that you all have a beautiful Fourth Sunday of Advent, and I will be reporting in first thing Monday morning. Until then!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Catholic Book Club: Advent of a Mystery

Happy book club Wednesday everyone! Today I am pleased to be reviewing a title that fits in perfectly with the season, Advent of a Mystery, by Marilyn Leach. I received this book as a gift, but it is officially out of print, and available only on Amazon Marketplace. I found out, however, that is has been reissued as Candle for a Corpse (A Berdie Elliott Mystery, Book 1). The happy news is that if you didn't read this book already, and my review intrigues you, you can now buy it in print and get two day shipping with your Amazon Prime membership, or download it to your Kindle or Kindle app for 99 cents! Pretty awesome, and thank you to Ashley for letting me know about this!

Ok, so let's get right into the scoop. This is a light-hearted mystery featuring an Anglican vicar and his wife in a small English village, and as the title indicates, set during Advent. The book begins with a large Christmas party hosted by the couple for the members of their parish, and we are introduced to a motley assortment of characters. One of the parishoners (an eccentric sort who engenders mixed feelings among the group) is later murdered. Who is the culprit?

I really liked this book, and found that I breezed through it, as one would expect for a cozy mystery. My only constructive criticism is that I found the characters hard to keep track of, there were a lot of them. I had to flip back several times to remind myself of who was who. But the heroine, Berdie, is quite endearing and I liked her very well. She and her good friend Lillie get themselves into all sorts of trouble by poking around on their own to try and figure out what happened. The murder actually ties in the victim's Advent wreath, which I found a nice touch. :) And again, this is all in good fun, it is a light mystery. In contrast to last month, it is very easy to remember that this is fiction. There is a romance brewing for Lillie, which was a sweet side story, and general happenings involving Berdie and her husband acclimating to the parish and its accompanying village since this is a very new assignment for them.

This is a cute, cute book, and I really enjoyed reading it. I had my suspicions about the murderer, which likely means it was easy to tell, since I'm terrible at that. But that did not ruin my enjoyment of the book. I loved the characters and the setting. An enjoyable seasonal read, and I definitely recommend this book to cozy mystery lovers.

The author has published a new title in this series, which is Up From the Grave: A Berdie Elliott Lenten Mystery. I mean. :0


It too is 99 cents for Kindle, and man! I may have to download this one. In fact, I just did. :) It's now happily residing on my Kindle. A British cozy mystery set during Lent? Can't pass that one up, my friends! I'm very excited to read it this spring. :) I may very well make this an official book club selection to review here on the blog. We'll see!

Just a side note on Kindles: I have an older model of the small Kindle e-reader, the one with a 4-way controller. That thing is a workhorse and I adore it. The controller, rather than a touchscreen, is a pain in the backside, but I rarely use it. I download books from my phone and send them to my Kindle. Then they automatically download when WIFI is connected, easy peasy. But the reason I'm mentioning this is that the Kindle e-readers are on sale right now, in this pre-Christmas sales bonanza time, and the deal is amazing. They are normally $79 (also dirt cheap for what you're getting, really) and are marked down to $59. That's a heck of a deal. These are the new versions, with a touchscreen, although lacking lighting of any kind (but the Kindle Paperwhite is now on sale for $99, just fyi). But at any rate, I know a lot of people use the Kindle app, which is convenient and easy and all of that, but this is just a quick plug from the librarian about the beauty of a dedicated e-reader device. ;-) LOVE. The e-ink is just gorgeous and so easy on your eyes. I actually prefer reading books on my Kindle to reading print books anymore, for fiction especially. Some non-fiction I still prefer print due to illustrations and such, but the e-reader is a gem. I always have a ton of books on there, no worries about clogging up your bookshelf, and I love how easy it is on my aging eyes to read with it. There's your Librarian Public Service Announcement of the day. :)

Back to books! If you've read either Advent of a Mystery or Candle for a Corpse, do chime in in the comments! Next month we're back to non-fiction with Blessed Mother Teresa's Come Be My Light. Join us January 28th for the discussion!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Catholic Nook: Our Lady of the Snows & the Christmas Novena...

Happy Tuesday everybody! I'm so excited about our post for today. Before I talk about Our Lady of the Snows, it seemed perfect that today is day 1 of the Christmas Novena. I have a page at the top of the blog for those of you interested in praying along with me. There is a link to sign up for the daily email reminders. The Christmas Novena begins each year on December 16th and runs through Christmas Eve as a spiritual preparation for the big day. So get your intentions squared away and get started!

Ok, so Our Lady of the Snows. This has become my new obsession. :) And the image in this post? I LOVE IT. I've been searching for a similar prayer card, but no luck so far. At any rate, let's learn more about her, shall we?

This title for Mary developed from a tradition involving a Roman couple in the year 352. Both husband and wife had a dream in which Mary appeared to them and told them that she wanted a church built in a place on which snow would fall to mark the spot. Given that they lived in Rome, you can imagine that the couple was a bit curious. :) Snow doesn't fall all that often there, especially in August. :0 Well, sure enough, on August 5th snow covered Esquiline Hill in Rome. All of Rome proclaimed this a miracle, and a church was built on the hill in 358. Through the years, the church has undergone a lot of restoring and refurbishing, and is the modern day Basilica of St. Mary Major. The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, who honor Our Lady of the Snows as their patroness, run an American shrine to Mary under this title in Belleville, Illinois, which features a Way of Light at Advent and Christmas and multiple small shrines to Mary under her various titles (Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Lourdes). Her feast is celebrated on August 5th. A special prayer for her intercession is below:

Our Lady of the Snows, Immaculate Queen of the Universe, from this privileged sanctuary, Thou has bestowed so many countless graces and pledges of love upon the hearts and souls of millions. O Mother, from this cradle of Christianity, this Mother Church of all churches, deign to shower forth the graces of thine Immaculate Heart upon the remnant Faithful throughout the world, wherever they may be, and grant them the graces of a childlike love and unwavering fidelity to the holy truths of our Faith. Grant, good Mother, to the faithful Bishops of the Church the grace to defend Her Sacred Teachings, and to persevere courageously against all the enemies of the Holy Church. Amen.
 Cool, huh?

I just absolutely love the image of Mary under this title, it just gives me such a cozy feeling. Our Lady of the Snows isn't a very well known title for her, and finding gift items bearing this image are difficult to come by.  I had her in mind when I recently asked the fabulous Allison to craft matching rosaries for me (for me and Anne) with a Frozen colorway theme. Our Lady of the Snows rosary centers are nonexistent as far as I know, so I asked her to use Our Lady of Lourdes:

Isn't it stunning? The colors are just so evocative to me of Our Lady of the Snows. The bead mix is called "Glacier," and has sparkly blue shades and Aurora Borealis crystal. The Paters are silver pearls. I LOVE IT. It's a perfect winter rosary. :) And she'll custom make you one too if you ask her!

I also see that Our Lady of the Snows has a novena that you can pray each year from July 27th through August 4th, leading to her feast day, so let's do that in 2015, yes? I'll create a page with the prayers so that we can pray along together for her intercession.

Does anybody else have familiarity with Our Lady of the Snows? I'd love to hear from you!

P.S., don't forget that book club is tomorrow! We'll be talking about Advent of a Mystery. See you then!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Baby Jesus makes a pilgrimmage to our parish - Third Sunday of Advent & Bambinelli Sunday...

Happy Monday everyone! I'll be honest - my Monday didn't start out so sunny ;-) but things are better now and I'm feeling up to my usual writing fix for the day. This was a jam packed weekend of liturgical goodness, so let's get started!

Saturday was the feast of St. Lucy, and as promised, I got up to put some cinnamon buns into the oven. I have never made cinnamon buns before, even out of a tube, so I read the instructions very carefully. Apparently, my level of carefulness is directly correlated with unsatisfactory results, because the rolls came out overdone. Leave it to me to screw up processed cinnamon rolls, but there you have it. They were, however, still very edible, and the kids seemed to enjoy them quite a bit. I got out the St. Lucy book (I mention it, as well as a book on Bambinelli Sunday, which I will discuss below, back in my 7 Quick Post from Friday) and this year, Henry didn't seem too interested in reading the whole thing (it's certainly lengthier than your average picture book), but Anne actually sat for the story. I had to modify a few things in the retelling, :0 this is definitely aimed at slightly older kids, maybe in the 8 year old and up range, and I didn't want Anne to be scared. But I will say, I learned a *lot* of good stuff about St. Lucy from this book. For instance, Lucy's crown of candles comes from, not just her name, but a Swedish tradition in which St. Lucy arrived by boat, guiding the way with lights, during a severe famine. She brought wheat to the starving people, and hence that's why we make sweet rolls and breads to commemorate her feast. Good stuff.

We also read the Bambinelli Sunday book, and I was thrilled to see that Henry had brought a flyer home from school advertising that the school parish would be having an official Bambinelli Sunday Mass the next day. So, the children were invited to bring in their baby Jesus figurines to have them blessed during Mass. I was very excited and planned to go, but in the end, we decided to go to our regular parish since we had a bunch of stuff to drop off (Giving Tree gift and some clothes for the donation bin). However, I was all inspired, and insisted that both children pack up their Baby Jesus figurines for a blessing request after Mass for the Third Sunday of Advent:

Anne was super excited about this and immediately got her Jesus ready, as was I. That's my baby Jesus up in the cover photo for this post. :0 Henry on the other hand...he's 9. He's entered this age where he's worried that everything he does is being watched and deemed embarrassing by others. While I sympathize, I think the child is far too paranoid for his own good. ;-)

So Sunday morning, we loaded up all our stuff, including three Jesuses. The kids put the gift under the Giving Tree while I found a pew. I was wearing bright pink in honor of it also being the Third Sunday of Advent, and thus Gaudete Sunday, when we light the rose candle.

*happy sniff*

Anne wore her pink furry boots in commemoration as well. :0 I tucked our Jesus figures into our pew for the end of Mass, so that we could ask our parish priest to bless them. Anne was pretty fidgety, and during the Gospel, asked to use the restroom. This is my lot in life right now, as mother to a 3 year old, so I took her back into the sacristy. While we were back there she spotted the children in the other room participating in Children's Liturgy of the Word. When we finished in the restroom, she asked if she could stay with them.

Well.

*sniffle!*

I thought she might not want to stay without me, so I explained that if she went, she had to sit like a big girl without me and then come back to our pew when they were done.

"Ok, Mommy. I won't be scared!"

She hustled over next to another little girl, looking mighty proud of herself, and waved goodbye to me.

All right then.

*eyes well*

It actually was a nice respite for me to be able to hear the homily, and she came dashing out at the collection, bursting with happy energy. She declared that she wants to go back next week, so we'll see how this goes. She's younger than Henry was when he started going, but the enthusiasm is certainly there. She's getting so big. :-\

At the end of Mass, we got our coats on and hurried to the back with our Jesuses. Anne ran ahead and thus got to Fr. Jay before I did. I saw him hold out his hand to her, likely expecting her to shake it, but instead:

Whap!

She slapped her Baby Jesus into his palm. He looked confused at first, but then I approached bearing two more Jesuses and explaining our request. He was happy to oblige. :)

So we left feeling contented and with three blessed Jesus figures. Anne eagerly deposited them back to their home nativity scenes upon our return. Another lovely addition to our arsenal of Advent Sundays. Just one to go before Christmas!

How was your Third Sunday of Advent, dear reader? Leave me a comment. :)

Friday, December 12, 2014

7 Quick Takes {Take 64} Advent feast days & tons of books! edition...

-1- Happy feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!


Happy Friday everybody, and a lovely feast day it is. :) When it comes to Feast Day Nerdiness, and my presidency of this particular fan club ;-) I love to use SQPN's saint database. And for Our Lady of Guadalupe, you can read their lovely write up here. Our Lady of Guadalupe holds a strong connection amongst indigenous people in the Americas, and thus I have a strong affinity for Our Lady under this title as well. I absolutely love the deep teal of her cloak, just beautiful. I had it in mind when I crafted a rosary for myself using her as the centerpiece:


Given that I made it, this is a very non-professional job :) but it does the praying trick nicely. I plan to pray with it on my way home from work later.

-2- Pillsbury cinnamon rolls for everybody!

As I mentioned yesterday, tomorrow is the feast of St. Lucy:

Yes, those would be eyes on that plate :0
I was brainstorming for ideas to celebrate the feast with the kids, and the fabulous Deltaflute suggested (as she knows that I am prone to debacles when it comes to baking; I mean, I don't even know how to buy yeast!!) those tubes of cinnamon rolls that one can acquire in the refrigerated area of any grocery store. I mean...GENIUS!! Mike had to run to the grocery store today anyway, and thus he now bears a list that includes "cinnamon roll tube with picture of that doughboy on it!" in my charming scrawl.

:0

That is our breakfast plans for tomorrow, along with coffee, and I'll read the St. Lucy book with the kids.

*liturgical gold star!*

-3- Speaking of liturgical nerdiness...

This Sunday is obviously the third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete Sunday. It means "joy!" and is when we light the rose candle on the Advent wreath. I wrote about it a bit last year over here. :)


I always wondered about that pink candle when I was child, who's with me?! It's different, why is it different? Very curious, indeed. We're at a crucial part of Advent, and the rose candle reminds us to be vigilant, Christmas is near. Here's another interesting factoid: the Third Sunday of Advent is also known as Bambinelli Sunday, and is a day on which children traditionally bring their baby Jesus figures into church to have them blessed by the priest for subsequent placement into the home nativity scene. Lovely, yes? Naturally, the librarian has a relevant book to bring to your attention:


*adjusts bun and glasses*

I reviewed this last year for a Catholic library periodical and loved it. It resides in Anne's personal library and I plan for us to read it this Sunday.

-4- Notice a theme here?

I've always written about my love of the liturgical calendar, but I was thinking that maybe over the course of this next year, I will step that up a bit. I received The Year & Our Children: Catholic Family Celebrations for Every Season for Christmas last year, and I think I'm going to start putting it to good use:


The book chronicles the entire liturgical year, starting with Advent, with ideas for commemorative activities children would enjoy. I'm going to give this a go, and of course I will write about everything here so that we can all share ideas with each other. I actually used this book to do the research on St. Lucy that I wrote about yesterday. You'll see all of this more after the new year, and I'm very excited to share all of this with you!

-5- Lots of fun Catholic-y posts next week

Next week will be my last full week of blogging (although I don't think I will blog next Friday, I'm off that day for a Christmas party) until after the new year. I always take a brief hiatus between Christmas and New Year's Day, and this year will be no exception. The week of Christmas I'll blog the first half of the week, but starting Christmas Eve I'll take a brief respite. But I digress! The point of this take was to say that *next* week I have some great faith posts planned. On Monday, I'll debrief our Third Sunday of Advent, then Tuesday I have a Catholic Nook post planned that I am SUPER excited about regarding Our Lady of the Snows. :0 Wednesday is book club day, see more information on that below in take #6, and Thursday Cristina and I will be posting December's installment of The Church Triumphant.

#soexcited

-6- Catholic Book Club!

The Catholic Book Club will have two posts coming over the next two weeks. Wednesday 12/17 is our regular, scheduled discussion, which for December is Advent of a Mystery, by Marilyn Leach:


I have also been asked to read and review a historical Catholic novel called A Subtle Grace, by Ellen Gable:


I am nearly three quarters of the way done with this one, and I expect to post a review Christmas week, around 12/23. This is an excellent story, and at the part in the action I'm at now, I'm dying to pick up my Kindle each evening and read more to see what happens!

-7- A final book recommendation before the weekend...

You all might remember a book that I reviewed back over the summer, a Catholic YA title called I Am Margaret, by Corinna Turner. I absolutely LOVED the book and have been dying for book two in the trilogy to be released. Well my friends, the day is here:


The Three Most Wanted is the second book in this series, and the instant Corinna tweeted me that the book was out, I fired up my Kindle and downloaded it. I *cannot wait* to read the next installment in this exciting series! Go back and read my review of the first book and you'll see why. I'll plan to include this in a 2015 edition of the Catholic Book Club.

All right everyone, that's it for this week, and I've certainly given you a large reading assignment. ;-) How are you all planning to spend your third weekend in Advent? Leave comments as you wish, and talk to you on Monday!

Don't forget to check out other 7 Quick Take posts over at This Ain't the Lyceum!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

St. Lucy's feast day approaches - should we have Anne wear a crown of lit candles?! #CouldBeDangerous...

Happy Thursday everyone, and I hope that you are well. :) I absolutely love the feast days during Advent, and a fairly new one to my radar screen is coming up on Saturday December, 13th: the feast of St. Lucy. I thought we could talk about St. Lucy a bit and plot about how to work her feast day into a fun family activity/ domestic monastery thing. :)

Henry is the one who really drew my attention to St. Lucy. He and I read a saint story of some sort each night before bed (we have an entire library of books to pull from). And during the course of these readings last year, St. Lucy made an appearance. What with all of the dramatic eye gougings and blazing fires, the story captured Henry's imagination.

"Wow. Did that really happen to her, Mommy? How was she able to do that?"

*very big eyes*

Since then, he's always been fond of St. Lucy. Last year, I bought the book that you see above, Lucia: Saint of Light to read to the kids on her feast day. Henry read it, but Anne wasn't too interested in longer stories just yet. Plus, it really is written for slightly older children, I would say the 7-8 year range. But the pictures are intriguing, so we'll see how it goes this year.

I'd like to make St. Lucy's feast an annual celebration in our house. Thus, I decided to do some additional research this year. Who exactly was St. Lucy, you ask? Lucy was an early virgin martyr (there's that word again! :0 I always substitute "unmarried" when reading these stories to the kids ;-)) who actually appears in the canon of the Mass in Eucharistic Prayer I. Hence, the Church obviously finds her a pretty important example of courage in faith. Part of her story involves Lucy convincing her mother to seek the intercession of St. Agatha for the cure to a bleeding problem she was experiencing. The two women traveled to St. Agatha's tomb, and while there, Lucy had a vision of Agatha and her mother was cured. Subsequently, Lucy took a vow of virginity and gave her money and belongings away to the poor. When she rebuffed a smarmy suitor wanting to marry her, she was targeted as being a Christian, tried, convicted, and martyred. Unfortunately, we have the torture sequence referenced above. :-\

Traditional activities on the feast of St. Lucy involve the youngest daughter in the family wearing a crown (symbolizing martyrdom, and Lucy's status as a bride of Christ, I'm thinking) of lit candles. Her name means "light," so that's part of it, but it may also have to do with her feast falling during Advent, when we expectantly await the light of Christ. This is all very lovely, but obviously a trifle dangerous.  Especially considering our contender for the crown:

I'm not thinking this is a good idea. :0 I may try to find some crafty materials around the house to make a ribbony crown for her, we'll see. But no candles, please. The other thing that is popular on the feast of St. Lucy is serving coffee and sweet rolls that morning. I have no idea what this has to do with young Lucy herself, but this is the custom. I found a recipe here for an appropriate sweet bread for those brave souls wanting to bake. I absolutely love the idea of placing lit candles on the bread, perfect and symbolic compromise! I was all gung ho, but then I saw "active, dry yeast" on the list of ingredients. I have no notion of how one acquires yeast at all, let alone yeast that is all active :0 so I'm not sure if we'll be doing this or not. Maybe I could stop at the grocery store on my way home for some pre-baked "St. Lucy bread." Or at least, that's what I'll call it. ;-)

But I'd like to make the day notable for the kids. There are some other great St. Lucy day ideas over at this blog, if you feel ambitious.

How about you, dear reader? Doing anything special for the feast of St. Lucy?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Seasonal arts traditions - The Nutcracker...

Ahhhh, seasonal festivities. Don't you just love those? I wouldn't call this an Advent tradition per se, but it's certainly a lovely event to get into the spirit of the coming Christmas season. Every year for quite some time now, I've gone to see The Nutcracker with my mom. Through the years we've seen a number of different ballets perform the piece, but we often seek out a local company who performs it each year in the Center for the Arts at the university for which I work. They do a really nice job with it, and keep the locations of the magical places Clara visits in Act II slightly different each time. I like the unpredictability of it all. :)

For the past two years, we've brought Henry along with us. So far, he sees The Nutcracker as "a play," hence it's OK for boys to attend, in his opinion. As if boys couldn't also enjoy watching ballet, but you know how these thought processes can work, sigh. At any rate, he really loves going, and I think part of the appeal is the lobby outside the theater, where collectible nutcrackers and all sorts of beautiful ornaments are on display and for sale. Each year he and I pick out a new nutcracker to bring home and add to our own collection, and usually an ornament for our tree as well. And we go out to dinner afterwards too, food always sweetens the pot. ;-)

This year, I decided to also bring Anne. At three and a half, it was a bold choice, but I figured: life is short. Why wait to start building those beautiful memories with her? Granted, I risk being in the ladies room for half the performance while Anne oohs and ahhs over the decor in there and/or throws herself to the ground in protest of heaven knows what, but I decided to live dangerously. We all got dressed up (Henry somewhat against his will) and headed out Sunday afternoon for the matinee performance.

It went pretty well. We got there *right* before start time (my mom drives sort of slow, but don't tell her I said that :0) and found our seats up in the front of the balcony. Anne seemed to find it pretty amazing that we were "up real high!" and I love sitting up there. So much easier to see well.

And Act I is my very favorite part of the show. I love the opening sequence set on Christmas Eve in the beautiful old house. The children dancing and the happy, festive music. The dramatic Mouse King segment. And finally the dancing snowflakes. Sublime! That part of the show is also shorter, and so it's also easier for the kids to sit through. There's a lot of action going on to keep them entertained, and the narrator explains everything. It's all very lovely. Anne was bouncing up and down in her seat, and kept asking "whispered" questions, so I had to field that and ask her to be quiet, oh, I don't know, 150 times maybe?

!

But, really, that's to be expected. And the matinee was packed full of other children, so I think the people around us understood. During intermission, my mom took Anne to see Santa and Mrs. Claus, and Henry and I shopped for a new nutcracker. We chose one adorned in red velvet, who is skiing. :)

Back for Act II, things was a hair dicier, but still manageable. Anne was now tired, and wanted to sit in my lap. She also wanted something to eat, and it took some convincing to settle her down out of that little situation, but all was well. The changing locations in Act II kept the kids interested for a spell, but I knew the Sugar Plum sequence at the end would be a problem, it is every year. :0

"Mommy. Are they ALMOST DONE?!"

She goes on a bit long, that Sugar Plum Fairy. And there isn't really a story anymore in Act II, we're just watching the dances set around the world, and the kids aren't as into that. Unsurprisingly, the Arabian dancer is always my favorite.

:0

We had lots of bored fidgetiness to contend with near the end, but we got through it. We went out for an early dinner afterward, and they both ate like they hadn't seen food in days. Typical. :)

Has anybody else seen The Nutcracker this year, or going to see it before Christmas? Do chime in in the comments. :)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Of sparkly canes & perilous props - adventures in holiday dancing, 2014 edition...

Hi all, and happy Tuesday! I promised to review our studio holiday hafla today, and though the focus of this blog isn't dancing, it's a huge part of who I am creatively, and so I force you all to read about it when inspiration strikes me. ;-) I love writing these dance posts because writing and dancing are both creative outlets for me, they are a very natural mix. And I'm certain (I hope) from reading this blog you can tell that I don't take myself or my hobbies too seriously - I do them because they are fun and inspire me creatively, and often provide amusing fodder to poke fun at myself. So settle in and journey along with me as the introverted Catholic librarian prepares to dance in public. :0

Bring your tea or coffee with you...
(Housekeeping Announcement - I don't usually have these types of breaks in posts, like the one right below this bracket, that ask you to click "Read More," but I had to for this post due to the file size of some of the photos. Sorry! And please do read more. :0)

Monday, December 8, 2014

How are we preparing for *this* Christmas? - 2nd Sunday of Advent & the feast of the Immaculate Conception 2014...

Morning everyone! Hopefully my greeting depicts "chipper!" because I am indeed in a very good mood. I had an excellent and jam-packed weekend, and over the course of the week I'll write about all of it. So! We had the feast of St. Nicholas on Saturday, an action-packed dance performance that evening, the Second Sunday of Advent, taking the kids to see The Nutcracker that afternoon, and the feast of the Immaculate Conception today. I'm going to have my usual Catholic Monday going on, with a recap of the Second Sunday of Advent, plus the feast of St. Nicholas, also touching upon my morning Mass for the Immaculate Conception, as they meld together nicely. Tomorrow will be a Dance Tuesday post recapping all the hafla fun (and it *was* super fun, I just love writing those posts, and I hope you enjoy reading them!), and on Wednesday I'll talk all about The Nutcracker and my first year of bringing both children. That is such a beautiful Advent tradition, I can't wait to write about it.

Ok! So let's get underway with our weekend recap of Catholic devotions and liturgical activity. Friday evening before my last dance rehearsal, the kids set their shoes out on the hearth, and this is what we found in the morning:

Anne chose her pink furry boots to put out there, isn't that a scream?
Books, chocolate coins and saints for everybody. :) The kids really enjoy this feast day tradition, and even though I didn't grow up with it as part of our home faith life, I definitely plan to carry it on. I also think it makes it easier when the inevitable "is there really a Santa Claus?" discussion comes up (as it did 2 years ago with Henry) when the kids already know about St. Nicholas. Santa Claus is a fun tradition based upon a *real* person, a saint, whom they are familiar with, and I think this softens the blow a bit. :)

And Anne, oh my goodness, LOVES her St. Therese saint softie:

PRECIOUS. She takes her to bed to cuddle and carries her around the house with her. I have Our Lady Star of the Sea for her Christmas stocking, and now I'm SO glad that I got her two. The shop that I bought these from is Saintly Silver on Etsy. The owner doesn't have any current listings because she's booked until after Christmas, but she'll have items back up for sale in early January. These are *fabulous* gifts for young children.

Sunday dawned with us adding the second purple candle to the Advent wreath, and I found that someone had rearranged our nativity set:

Apparently, everybody has banded together, including the angel and a sheep, to adore the infant King from outside in a mass lineup. :0 And the responsible party was *super* active at Mass in her excitement about the upcoming Nutcracker festivities, bouncing all over the pew and generally talking for all of Mass:

"ANNE. Shhhhh, Honey. We have to be quiet during Mass."

"I AM BEING QUIET MOMMY!!"

You know how that goes, all of you fellow long-suffering parents out there. I pointed out the two lit purple candles to both kids, and as ever, there are lots of questions and excitement about it being "pink candle Sunday" next weekend.

This morning I stopped off at 8 am Mass for the feast of the Immaculate Conception on my way into work. This is an interesting one since, being the patronal feast day of the United States, the holy day of obligation is retained even when it falls on a Saturday or a Monday, in contrast to other holy days throughout the year. I love attending Mass during the week, so it's always a blessing to me to have that extra encouragement to do so before work. I stopped off at a parish close to campus so that I would get to work by 9.

There was a pretty decent showing for a holy day Mass, in my opinion. The organist started things off by asking everyone to stand and greet each other, and can I be honest? I *loathe* this practice, lol! It's well-intentioned, certainly, but I find it forced and uncomfortable. The sign of peace is one thing, but this extra bonding activity is an awkward turn off for me personally. Happily, I wasn't sitting close enough to anyone to have to worry about it. I did wish them all peace at the appropriate place in the liturgy, however.

*gold star*

At any rate, the older priest who said the Mass was quite adorable, and he had some really thought-provoking statements in his homily. He mentioned how well-placed this feast is during Advent, when we can reflect on how we all need Christ to save us and help us to become holy. He talked about how Advent is a great time to avail oneself of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which I thought was an *excellent* point. The key being - how are we preparing ourselves for Christmas? And he made an explicit point about referencing our preparation for *this Christmas*. Christmas comes every year, and we all know it is a special season, but right now all we need to focus on is the present. Christ wants to dwell among us, and each year we need to prepare and reflect on that anew. I really loved that.

It felt so good to be at Mass during the week, I'm hoping to do that again at least once or twice prior to Christmas. I felt all glowy as I headed into work, and voila! Here I am, starting our week together.

How was your Second Sunday of Advent, dear reader, and your feast of the Immaculate Conception? Do detail in the comments, and come back to join me tomorrow to revel in some dance fun. :)

Friday, December 5, 2014

7 Quick Takes {Take 63} Holiday dance performances and handmade gift guide edition...

Greetings good readers! Glad that you're with me today. This week has been...ugh. :) Maybe next week will be better. It just felt so rushy rushy. I have a lot going on and a lot on my mind. But there are certainly many highlights, and that is the focus of this post for today! I have ordered some lovely handmade gifts this week, look for those fabulous ideas for your own loved ones below. There's also a few holiday performances this weekend to bask in, and a lovely seasonal feast day. So settle in with your tea, here we go for another 7 Quick Takes Friday!

-1- Everybody put your shoes out on the hearth!

Tomorrow is a feast day that I never paid much mind to until a few years ago, and now I absolutely love it. It's the feast of St. Nicholas:


Last year I had the kids put their shoes on our hearth, and then filled them with chocolate gold coins and a few small gifts. This made a big impression on Henry, and I overheard him telling Anne all about it earlier in the week, he knew the date was coming up. :) This year I have the coins again, all of the pharmacy/convenience stores around here (Rite Aid, Walgreens) stock them around this time. I also have a book for each child and a small saint doll, St. Therese for Anne and Pope St. John Paul II for Henry. Now I just have to not forget to do all this when I get back from dance rehearsal tonight. Speaking of which...

-2- Desperately trying to keep track of when I need to balance what on my head and where to stand...

Our studio rescheduled hafla is tomorrow night and I'm feeling decidedly anxious about the whole thing. We didn't have class last week due to Thanksgiving (thus we're a bit out of practice), and a few groups have dropped out of the show due to the new date. Thus, Claire wants the troupe to fill the gap, and we're dancing four different pieces. I'm also dancing a solo, so...that's a lot of dancing to keep track of. :0 The troupe is performing a Saidi cane number (balancing act #1), a Shaabi pop music piece, a more traditional piece but set to popular Arabic music, and a drum number. I chose to solo to a slower instrumental song and balance my sword (balancing act #2, I must be out of my mind) and I've been running through the music and sticking the sword on my head daily so that I feel as ready as possible. I'll be improvising, which makes things a bit easier, and I have an idea of how I want to break the song up with the sword, no pun intended. :0 I dance with the sword a bit before balancing it, and so I have the song segmented up in my head. I really like the music I chose and I feel good about it, but that doesn't necessarily guarantee an accident-proof performance. Please cross your fingers for me and I will report in early next week on how it went. :)

-3- "Maybe if I just stick the needle over here, I can move this clasp...OW!"

And so last night I practiced up a storm after the kids went to bed, and this close to a performance that involves dragging my costumes out from their storage bin to make sure everything still feels ok. Middle Eastern dance costuming is notoriously non-forgiving in nature, and thus clasps that fit just right one day are too loose or too tight the next. I have a top and belt set that is new and I put the clasps on over the summer. I haven't danced in it yet.

*cue in music of foreboding...*

I tried it on last night, and SIGH. I haven't gained or lost any weight, so it should fit the same, right?! Well, it doesn't. It isn't that it's loose or tight, it's just that the clasps seem ill positioned to keep the thing on. I think I didn't actually practice dancing in it when I did the initial clasp placement, which was a crucial error. I spent over an hour last night sewing and re-sewing the clasps to try and get it just right, and let's just say that was an exercise in frustration not to mention a near occasion of sin. I had to make a special trip to my mother-in-law at 8 am this morning to have her look at it and try to re-position things. I'll be re-trying it after work and I'm feeling decidedly cranky about the whole thing. :-\

-4- The Nutcracker with two kids in tow...

In other performance news, on Sunday afternoon I'm taking both kids to see a local production of The Nutcracker. Henry has come with me the past two years, but this will be Anne's first time. I am SO excited. She has a new dress and silver shoes to wear and I'm hoping for a magical experience. What I'm NOT hoping for is lots of trips to the restroom and the two children fighting from in their seats. We'll see, will be reporting in on Monday. :)

-5- Gifty gift ideas!

Ok, here is the handmade gift idea section. Have you all seen this, a guide to Indie shopping this holiday season? If you haven't, you should go check it out. Handmade gift ideas and lots of giveaways. There are two shops on this list that I am familiar with and I wanted to share. The first is Jenna of Call Her Happy, who makes embroidered hoop necklaces. I ordered a ladybug necklace for Anne (she calls all ladybugs "Florence!" and it's so cute you can hardly stand it):


It arrived yesterday, and OH MY GOODNESS! It's adorable, I absolutely love it, and I immediately ordered two more. :0 A peacock for my dance teacher and a snowflake for, ah hem, myself. ;-) There is a coupon code in the post I linked to for free shipping throughout the month of December. She has flowers, foxes, mistletoe, the Sacred Heart and Immaculate Heart, a nativity... anything you can think of, plus a custom embroidery option. These are fantastic gifts at about $15 each.

-6- Rosaries, because, you know, it's not possible for me to restrain myself in this arena...

I've mentioned Rosaries by Allison many times before, she's certainly a huge favorite of mine. You'll see her listed in that shopping guide above, and I wanted to mention that she has a current coupon code going for 10% off your order through Christmas Eve, ADVENT10. She has a St. Kateri rosary listed right now that is absolutely gorgeous. I have actually availed myself of Allison's talents once again to create an Our Lady of Lourdes rosary and chaplet for Anne in a "Frozen" inspired colorway, and I am SO excited about this! I will of course post a photo when I receive everything.

-7- Cute bags and aprons, oh my!

Another store that I have purchased from is Designs by Dragon Lily. I bought Anne a child-sized apron during her Christmas in July sale:


It's absolutely darling. She also makes cosmetic bags, small coin bags and tote bags. I've had my eye on the cosmetic cases for some time and ordered two this week, one for me and one for Anne. Anne of course doesn't use cosmetics, but it's a great size for her to tuck her crayons or other assorted stuff that she seems to always want to carry around with her. Naturally, I chose "Frozen" fabric for both of us. :) I chose a Star Wars coin bag for Henry to keep in his backpack for lunch money and things of that nature. Very cute stuff and extremely reasonable prices.

So there you have it, another installment of 7 Quick Takes. Head over to This Ain't the Lyceum for more 7 Quick Takes at it's new host home!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

How is your Advent going so far?

I know it's still just the first week of Advent, but it's a pivotal week, no? We're gearing up, trying to stick to our Advent plans of prayer and almsgiving. It's Thursday, so the second weekend of Advent will fast be upon us, right beside the feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th (and a retained holy day of obligation in the United States even though it falls on a Monday, so make sure not to miss Mass!) All within the coming week and a half we also have the feast of St. Nicholas on December 6th, Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th and St. Lucy on December 13th. This has become one of my favorite run of feast days in the entire Church year. We should be strong in our Advent goals at this point with all of this great fodder coming up to keep us focused on the upcoming birthday of our King. So, how am I doing?


Pretty good. :) I'm enjoying the season, for sure. How is that Divine Office app for Morning and Evening Prayer working out, you ask? Well. :) I still adore the app, but I haven't been availing myself of it on a daily basis, that's for sure. I need to start afresh on this one. And if I have learned anything in my faith life as an adult, it is that if one falls off the bandwagon with a spiritual resolution, it does no good to bemoan how much of a failure we are and feel guilty. Just try again! Even if it's a special liturgical season like Advent ot Lent, and the dates for your perfectly devised resolution are now all jacked up, it matters not one whit. Just start again. So that's what I'll do.

In other avenues, I have been studiously reading my Magnificat Advent Companion reflections each day and loving them. #goldstar! I've also been making an effort to pray more during the day, squeezing in a decade of the rosary where possible and sticking to my Immaculate Conception novena prayers. I'll be planning a Christmas novena too, stay tuned to join me. :)

I have my Advent music playing daily and my Advent calendar hung up prominently. I already forgot to open the window on December 3rd, oops! So I caught up today. The issue is that I'm having a hard time reading the small text inside each window *actual pause in typing to call to schedule my yearly visit to the ophthalmologist, don't laugh!* and I need to take it off the wall to hold it closer to my face or get my glasses, and so...sometimes I forget. :) But no matter, it's lovely, and I'm all caught up.

The children are loving Advent. Both chocolate Advent calendars are being consumed eagerly and appropriately each evening because we keep them tucked out of their reach until the designated time. As for the other calendars, we have Henry earning a gold star and a glowing halo for his superlative effort and restraint. Here is his Lego Advent calendar so far:


And his paper calendar atop his dresser:

He earns an A for Advent so far. :)

And then we have Anne's Advent calendar:

That would be the floor that it's positioned on, and that would be every window forced open by tiny little fingers. :0 But it isn't fair to give her a grade because she's only three. ;-) We'll try again next year with the Anne calendar!

How has your first week of Advent been, dear reader? Do detail in the comments. :)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A busy bee with seasonal crafting, as it appears that I adore themes...

As I sit at the reference desk on a cold and rainy morning here in WNY, with a cup of tepid coffee by my side, I'm thinking longingly of my knitting projects nestled in their basket next to my spot on the couch. By the way, I wanted the coffee to be hotter and flavored with peppermint, but *that* didn't happen for a myriad of reasons. #ugh

At any rate, fall and winter are my very favorite times of the year to knit. And in particular, to knit (and/or crochet) warm sweaters, blankets, shawls and winter accessories like scarves, hats and mittens. So cozy! And this year is no exception. For you knitters out there, ready for some pattern ideas? I've been working on a few things lately that I really love.

This fall I knit a shawl in a pattern called "Leftie," designed to help you use up your fingering weight yarn leftovers from socks. In my usual seasonal obsessive style, I chose to knit it in a fall colorway with brown, orange, green yellow and red. It turned out very Thanksgiving-esque and indeed I finished it right before the holiday. :)


It ended up being very cute. It's all garter stitch, so fabulous travel or tv knitting. Very warm and squishy and I love the colors.

And speaking of garter stitch, my new obsession is a shawl pattern called "Color Affection." You start with an increasing panel of garter stitch in one color, then switch to striping it with a second color. Subsequently, you work short rows to create a bit of a swirling situation and stripe colors one and two with a third color, finishing with a solid border of color three. The color combinations are endless and I am absolutely in love.

*swoons*

My chosen colorway reflects our current winter season, because the seasons seem to always provide inspiration for me. I watched "Frozen" with Anne the other day, and all of a sudden the colors from that movie are just speaking to me. I'm ordering "Frozen" books left and right and telling myself that they're for Anne, but they're kinda for me. :0 I just can't get the winter imagery of that movie out of my mind. And so I dug through my stash to find color colors to knit the Color Affection shawl:


Yes? I love them. SO MUCH. The silver and the cream are a fingering weight cashmere/merino wool blend that is absolutely to die for. The blue is a merino wool/nylon sock yarn left over from being edging on a gift shawl I knit last year for my Secret Santa recipient. It's a little darker than I want, but the lighter blue colorway of that yarn (called "Frozen" I WANT IT SO BAD) is out of stock until the end of February so I can't order it. *sob!* So, I'll either use this or another heathered light blue color that I ordered during the Knit Picks sale in a different yarn base. When it arrives I'll make the decision, but so far I haven't had to add the blue in yet, so I have time. Here is the what I have done so far:


I still have seven more cream stripes to go. I love patterns like this, that have you doing something different in each segment, changing colors as you move along. I never get bored with patterns such as these, and I can't wait to knit the next row to see how it's going to look. I have been very much enjoying working on this in the evenings.

*happy*

Never one to work on only one project at a time (I'm a knitting philanderer *scandalous!*) I swatched last night for a new sweater that I've been wanting to make for myself for quite some time, called the "Abbey Pullover." The cloister lace used in the yoke, and the obviously church-y connotations just could not be resisted. :) I really wanted to make it in a lovely purple shade close to what is pictured in the pattern sample, so I chose this shade of Berrocco Ultra Alpaca:


Very Advent-like, yes? :) And yep, that is my vodka/tonic there in the background. Anne gave us a hard time going down for bed, I really needed it, no judging. :0 I was indeed drinking and knitting, living dangerously, that I was. I'm very excited to get started on this.

I felt I deserved to cast on for two fresh new projects given that I have been slaving away at brown socks for Mike and dishcloths for Christmas gifts for the past month. The socks are finished:


...and have already adorned my cute hubby's feet over Thanksgiving weekend. (Pattern is from Anne's Budd's Getting Started Knitting Socks, one of the best knitting books I have ever purchased). And the dishcloths will be finished by tomorrow. I just realized that I will have an extra aunt attending our Christmas Eve get-together now, which theoretically means that I should crochet two more dishcloths, but... during the Fusion Beads Cyber Monday sale, I ordered supplies to make her a snowflake Christmas tree ornament instead. :0 Because if I have to crochet yet another dishcloth right now I.will.die. I now know that I'd better behave myself or else I risk an afterlife of crocheting dishcloths in plain white cotton for ALL ETERNITY.

All right everyone, I hope that you are feeling seasonally craftily inspired now, as I am. :) Is anyone else crafting something for the holidays? Do detail in the comments. :)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A lovely Christmas gift idea from one of our favorite Catholic authors...

Morning all! It's Tuesday, which is sort of a day I sometimes wish didn't exist, but no matter. :) I'm still feeling a bit overwhelmed and even a tad headachey following a *crazy* edition of my work day yesterday. Even the evening was crowded with Mike's final Monday night teaching spell for the semester, a brand new wrestling practice for Henry, and me cooking hurriedly for both kids and then entertaining Anne while all of this was ongoing. I ended up suggesting that we girls watch "Frozen" while sipping hot cocoa, which was divinely inspired if I do say so myself. This meant I could sit on the couch to unwind a bit and knit a new shawl that I'm terribly excited about while we watched. I'll come back to the shawl later in the week, since it's part of a theme that is beginning to dominate my December. :)

But anyway, over the weekend I was over at Laura's blog reading an update about her new book, Erin's Ring, which is set to be available any day now! You can see the beautiful cover art in this post, which is from the Amazon page, where you can also read a bit about the book! This is a young adult title, ideal for teenaged girls and young women, but also an engaging and enjoyable read for women of all ages. I read a pre-publication copy and absolutely loved it. The best part is that the story is set during the fall and winter in New England, so the setting is *perfect* for Christmas gift giving! The perspective in the story shifts from contemporary to historical, all intertwined to the same New Hampshire town, with likeable young characters navigating struggles in their families and faith. An excellent example for young women and inspiring for all. This is the synopsis that Amazon provides for us:

What story might this ring tell, if only it could talk?

When thirteen-year-old Molly McCormick, who has recently moved from the Midwest to Dover, New Hampshire, finds an old Irish Claddagh ring poking up out of the dirt in a garden outside her local parish church, she is immediately intrigued. The ring's inscription, "To Erin--Love, Michael", fills her head with romantic possibilities. She teams up with her new friend, Theresa Grant, to uncover the story behind the lost ring. With the help of the head librarian at the public library, the two girls become immersed in the rich history of the Irish immigrants who came to Dover in droves during the 19th century, to escape famine and poverty in their homeland and make better lives for their children and grandchildren.

Molly and Theresa learn about the courage, tenacity, and deep faith that were the hallmarks of the Irish immigrants--people with names like Ann and Seamus, Cara and Finn, and of course, Erin and Michael. The young girls eagerly delve into old records tucked away in the dark corners of the library and learn how instrumental Dover's Irish-Catholics were in getting the first Catholic church built in their New England town.

Molly and Theresa set out to discover the origins of the mysterious ring, but they unearth a story that is far stranger and infinitely more touching than anything they could have ever imagined.

You can order it now, and Amazon will email you an estimated delivery date when they have one, and ship a copy out to you as soon as they arrive. These will be paperback copies for under $11, and I encourage you to scoop one up! I think reading material that our children can quietly relate to, which provides them with a positive moral example, is so instrumental to them forming and solidifying their faith at a young age. This can then become a foundation for a knowledgeable adult Catholic faith. Definitely give this one a look!

All right everyone, I'm off. A busy afternoon ahead of me. But I'll be back this week to talk winter-themed crafts, upcoming feast days, and an Advent update from the Catholic Librarian children. :) Talk to you soon!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Advent calendar overload & who escaped from the nativity scene during the off season?! - First Sunday of Advent 2014...

My little snow bunny
Hello all, and welcome back! Not a totally happy thing, I know. Whenever I'm off for more than 3-4 days, even despite my utter adoration of routines, I dread going back to work. Because I've developed a routine at home, I suppose. Some habits just can't be broken. ;-) Although I tend to want to spend a lot of time on the couch knitting and drinking tea when I'm home, which, while fun, shouldn't exactly be a full time occupation.

But it was a lovely break. We had a lot of wine consumption on Thanksgiving, along with a slight stuffing shortage which resulted in a yearly panic attack by me. Why don't I ever remember this BEFORE making the stuffing?!

"HONEY. Is Dash's open this morning? We only have this one loaf of bread, right?!"

*wild eyed look*

*Mike eyes me with caution*

We persevered. ;-) After that, we had some fun online shopping on Black Friday. Because God forbid I actually GO OUT to a store on that day, let's be serious.

#toomanypeople

We picked out a Christmas tree and brought it home on Saturday. Lovely, yes? Except that somehow our tree looked much more majestic in the lot than it does currently in the corner of our dining room. At home, it looks rather...squat. It is indeed full, but just much shorter than we envisioned. *I* had wanted a cute tree with a few bare spots that just spoke to me as having character. It was a bit of a Charlie Brown tree, but that's part of it's charm. I was outvoted, and so we live with the squatiness. I'll have you know that I didn't say "I told you so." But I wanted to. :0

And then yesterday was the First Sunday of Advent. Such bliss. This is one of my very favorite times in the liturgical year. And the evidence is in the sheer volume of Advent-related products my family and I own. I think the children's Advent calendars had a breeding situation going on because there seems to be a LOT of them this year, but we'll come back to that in a moment. This year I decided to get an Advent calendar of my VERY OWN, one in which *I* was responsible for opening the windows, no tiny, sticky hands allowed. I ordered it well in advance of Advent, but UPS was having a major shipping crises related to our storm from a few weeks ago, and so it didn't come until Saturday night. I was like an anxious dog in the living room all weekend:

"Hark." *ears prick* "I heard a door slam. Is it a delivery truck?!"

But it came, and it's *magnificent*:

In all it's glory, hanging above my dresser...
I like the old fashioned paper calendars, they remind me of my Catholic youth. Each day garners you a tiny picture and a Scripture verse. The children also have paper calendars, one each. And chocolate calendars, one each. :0 And Henry has a Lego Advent calendar. That's *6* Advent calendars for a family of four. Actually, that's not as bad as I originally though, we should go buy a few more, ha!

And then there's the nativity sets. I had them all organized this year to avoid the situation we had last year:

Who on earth is *that guy*?! But a recognizable St. Joseph was nowhere to be found...
And so this year we have three nativity sets, all ready and arranged Catholic Librarian style, since I've been preparing for Advent since July. :0 Anne has a Melissa and Doug nativity set:

We set the 3 Kings up on a shelf, as they travel to meet the Holy Family:

You can see her Advent calendar in the background there. Anne wasn't too happy about the 3 Kings not yet being at the festivities, but I'm making her wait. :)

Henry has his beautiful Fontanini set up, in fact he did it even before Thanksgiving, he loves this stuff so much. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree for sure :0

The Holy Family is super cozy in there with that fire going in the hearth. :) He also has a Bethlehem village collection started, we add to it each year:

That's the Wine Maker's Shop, and the Glass Blower Shop, towards the left. Then there is the animal corral with an ox in it, he really should be over closer to the Holy Family. :) As well as the 3 Kings on the far right, who appear to be having a party of some sort in their tent with a small campfire lit outside. Hopefully, they won't delay for too long. ;-)

And last but not least, we have a new one set up in our dining room near the tree, this time without lending scandal, since St. Joseph is clearly present:


And of course, our Advent wreath:

Advent week 1!
Mass, as expected, was just beautiful. I wore a violet sweater, because I like to match the liturgical color during special seasons and I am a Catholic nerd. I tried to talk Anne into wearing purple, but she wasn't having it. Although once at Mass she was all excited, pointing the lit purple candle out to me, as well as what she calls our deacon's "scarf." Henry made note of the nativity set, since that is his area of expertise, and grabbed us a tag off the parish Giving Tree so that we can buy for another child this season.

For my part, I've been trying to keep up with my Magnificat Advent Companion (solid), as well as Morning and Evening Prayer (one slip up so far ;-)) and generally keep a spirit of reverence and expectation to my prayer life. I'm also praying the Immaculate Conception novena, which is just lovely. I don't have that one noted at the top as a separate blog page since it rather snuck up on me, but I'd like to pray a Christmas novena, and I'll post about that soon and include a page at the top for easy reference!

All right everybody, back to work for me. How was your First Sunday of Advent? Your Thanksgiving weekend? Do leave a comment. This week I plan to post about Christmas books, my knitting projects, and of course the upcoming feast of St. Nicholas! Do come back to join me.

*heart*