Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Tea Time with Tiffany #29 - Merry Christmas! Looking forward to fun new adventures in the new year...

Hi all! This is a very special Merry Christmas episode of:


Yay! Today I talk about Christmas staycation plans, a holiday craft update with show and tell, the Downton Abbey knit-along, and excitement about the coming new year. Oh, and my Thomas Kinkade chiming clock started playing a Christmas carol right in the middle of the video, AND this was already a re-shoot because my webcam was doing that weird, annoying color flickering thing on the first take. Such is the way of things when you don't know what you are doing.


Items mentioned in this episode:
  • 2015 was a great year, and I look forward to only more goodness in 2016!
  • My troupe has new dance costumes. :0 Expect lots of excited squealing and frantic bead repair in the new year!
  • Downton Abbey Mystery knit-along and crochet-along.
  • Holiday crafting update.
What are your Christmas and New Years plans, dear reader? Tell me all about it in the comments. I'll be on blogging hiatus through the holidays, but rest assured that I will be with you again on the afternoon of January 4th. Until then, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A final holiday knitting update, & book club plans!

Well, it's officially three days before Christmas. I have been knitting and crocheting myself ragged, and yet I realized weeks ago that there was no way in tarnation I was going to finish all of the holiday crafting I had originally planned. Such is the way of things in the life of overambitious knitters. I DID finish 2 pairs of socks for Cristina's sons, plus a boatload of dishcloths for various aunts. I also finished a commissioned colorwork hat for Allison:

Free pattern is Sanpo
In these final days, I currently have various and sundry cat body parts stuffed into my knitting bag as I frantically crochet them in preparation for assembly tomorrow (hopefully). I *think* I'll have her finished for Anne on Christmas morning. I also have a sock for Henry that I'm about to start the gusset for for. Yes, you noticed correctly that I used a singular there :0, so there is no way I'll have the pair finished for him by Christmas, but I'm aiming to complete them well before the new year.

After that, I have another of socks and two infinity cowls to knit for gifts. And poor long suffering Mike's cable tweed sweater. Oh, oh! And in January comes the Downton Abbey Mystery Knit-along! And Crochet-along! I am doing both, because I am stupid and always like to take on more than I can handle, you know this about me by now. So my goal is to finish as many of these gifts as I can by early January, and then allow myself a reprieve to work on mystery shawls. Are any of you crafters out there going to be participating in any of the Downton Abbey mystery alongs? Do let me know!

In book club news, I have come up with a plan. I don't want to assign dates in advance for books anymore, because I sometimes just cannot make my own deadlines. Big surprise, right? ;-) So, what I'm going to do is keep up on the sidebar the Catholic Book Club Reading List. They will be in some semblance of order in terms of when I'll review them. When I've started reading one, and thus can schedule a date for review, I will add it up there so that you'll know specifics if you'd like to be sure and finish with a certain title prior to my review, so that you can participate in the comments. A few readers mentioned that they use my book club list as a way of forming their own To Read list, and I think this system will still aid them. And it has the added benefit of not stressing me out if I have a slow month of reading.

I'm also going to have secular titles on there sometimes. Rest assured that these will be wholesome secular titles, most likely non-Catholic inspirational fiction, or non-fiction having to do with dancing, crafting, family life or another topic that I enjoy and frequently write about on this blog. We're Catholic, but we read all sorts of books, right? I'm a huge fan of biographies, so those may pop up from time to time. Sound good? I would love to hear your thoughts on this now that I'm fleshed it out a bit more.

I'll be back with a short video message tomorrow. Until then, enjoy these final days of Advent!

Monday, December 21, 2015

A weekend of puppy love, Christmas video shenanigans & birthday plans...

Hello all! It's Christmas week, isn't it exciting?! The kids and I enjoyed a lovely (if a bit cramped) 11 am Mass yesterday for the Fourth Sunday of Advent. Our parish combined the 10 am and noon Mass, and so the new 11 o'clock Mass has more people squeezed in. It's totally understandable, but with a 4 year old in tow, when people sit on either side of us in a pew, there are inevitably multiple times during which one set of them has to move for Anne to break through to and from Children's Liturgy of the Word. And a loudly demanded bathroom break.

*long suffering sigh*

At any rate, I had a perfectly fabulous weekend. And I want to hear about yours! Let's settle in with our tea and coffee.

I took the day off on Friday to attend the annual Christmas party of my crafting group. I look forward to this every year, and it always a joyous day. I absolutely LOVE the women in my crafting group. We all work in the same place, and get together on many of our lunch hours to knit and crochet. And solicit advice or comfort, or whatever the case may be. Think of us as a knitting support group. :)

And each year we do a Secret Santa gift exchange. It's always exciting for the big reveal of who had who to craft for, and what they made! This year, my recipient was my dear friend Bridget, who is an avid cook and baker. Thus, I crocheted her this adorable apron:

Don't you just love the cherry pocket?
It turned out so cute I wanted to keep it for myself. ;-) In turn, my Secret Santa, Alix, knitted me these lace socks:

I put them on my feet the instant they came out of the package...
I have never had a pair of socks knitted by anyone other than myself. These are a TREAT for my feet! I adore them! They look red in the photo, but the color is actually a burnished orange. I mean... :0 I love them!

While we were there exchanging our gifts and having an absolutely fantastic lunch, I fell in love with a dog. ;-) We were are Bridget's, and she has two adorable dogs, both of whom I enjoyed petting and playing with throughout the afternoon. But the one little guy, Logan, just absolutely stole my heart. I texted Mike this picture with the message "Look at my adorable Secret Santa gift, Sweetie! Can I bring him home?!"

:0
I mean, did you ever?! I LOVE HIM. I may dognap him in the night. I WANT HIM.

Mike handled my Logan love well this weekend. ;-) He reminded me that Henry is allergic to dogs, so it's really not a good idea for us to get one right now. But Henry is 10, I responded, in eight years he'll be a legal adult, so I'm just thinking ahead to our future. Which so obviously includes a dog.

*sniffs innocently*

After the party, I had some family time before heading to my troupe rehearsal wherein we filmed this now infamous Christmas video. It went pretty much like this:

(1) We warmed up.
(2) We practiced in our regular clothes since none of us could remember the ever evolving and loosey goosey choreography.
(3) We got it to where we were all mostly doing the same thing, stuck a free style segment at the end, and called it done.
(4) We threw on red and green costumes.
(5) One of our troupe members' boyfriend filmed us dancing this thing no less than a half dozen times, including multiple angles of our ridiculously silly choo choo train while tray balancing segment, and a circle tray spinning segment.
(6) We all got very tired.
(7) We changed and went home. :0

It was fun, and the word on the street is that the video turned out very well. I'm very curious to see it when it debuts on our website!

Saturday began our two day Mike birthday extravaganza. He had a milestone birthday this year, and so I wanted to make it really special for him. We had dinner plans Saturday night just the two of us, then a whole Mike day planned for Sunday. Prior to our dinner, the kids were getting restless, so Mike and Henry had a father/son movie watching afternoon, and I took Anne out for a girls afternoon to a Lularoe open house nearby. Here is Anne in the new leggings she procured at the event:

Isn't she adorable? She also has very loud taste :0
We had SUCH a fun time. I got her another pair of polka dot leggings she was eyeing up for her Christmas stocking, and we generally browsed the skirts and dresses with abandon. The boys would have considered it torture to have endured such a thing, so we reveled in our leisurely girl time.

In the evening, Mike and I had our dinner, and then Sunday the kids and I woke up early to make him chocolate chip pancakes. Well, the chocolate chips were mostly for us, I think Mike would have been fine with just plain pancakes. ;-) But we had a delicious breakfast, gave him his gifts, and later we had his parents over to watch football and order pizza (his requested birthday take out). It was a really, really nice day.

And so now here I am back at work. I am so long suffering. But it's only a three day work week, so I can't exactly complain. How was your weekend and Fourth Sunday of Advent, dear reader? Do tell me all about it in the comments!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Tea Time with Tiffany #28 - Wrapping is my Kryptonite...

Well look at that, it's Thursday. Time for our weekly installment of:


This week I have an Advent update, of both the spiritual and more task oriented variety. And that would include both wins and failures. ;-) Also, preparation for Christmas! Want to know my least favorite part? View on, dear viewer. You'll notice that I've been keeping these videos shorter of late. I'm just trying to keep them accessible and easy to watch. I can be chatty, so yes indeed some of my older videos are more in the 10 minute family. Lately, I've been keeping them closer to 6 minutes. If you haven't watched my videos in the past, try out one of these shorter ones and give it a try!


Items mentioned in this episode:
  • Pray More Novenas Christmas Novena. We're only on day 2, so totally fine to catch up and join in!
  • Feedback from the last video about possible audio editions of Tea Time? *crickets* :-) So the videos are staying, I won't swap them out with audio! But stay tuned for a new audio project in the new year.
  • I mentioned the Magnificat Advent Companion, which you probably either have already or don't want to get at this point. BUT Magnificat has a Year of Mercy Companion available for download with the same type of format of daily reflections.
How are you, dear reader? How is your Advent going? What are your weekend plans? Do tell me all about it in the comments. :-)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Holiday crafting wins and epic book club fails...

Happy Advent Wednesday, everyone. The third week of Advent? How did that happen? I had a dream about my birthday last night (which is coming up in February), and in it I was trying to put a brave face on about getting another year older, so I know that that particular life situation is very much in the back of my mind. :0 But let's not let that little factoid derail our Advent and crafting fun.

I have been a super busy bee, with my knitting needles flying. All gift dishcloths are done, and 2 pairs of gift socks. I still have 2 pairs of socks to go, but the news has been broken to those recipients that while their socks will not be ready for Christmas day, they will be a priority in January. In fact, they'll be ready for Candlemas, so I'm still all liturgically correct. ;-)

One will be a pair similar to these that I made for myself earlier in the fall:

I did also finish the 2nd sock. ;-) Pattern is Petty Harbor (free!)
This pair is for a friend, and will be knit in a slightly darker autumn-inspired tonal colorway called Foliage. And the other pair will be for Henry, a plain ribbed pair of socks knit with this awesome self striping yarn in a gingerbread house colorway. Fun, right?

Right now though, I'm working on a colorwork hat that someone asked me to knit on their behalf. Colorwork is always magical to knit, and I love how it's turning out:

Pattern is Sanpo (also free!)
Those little critters at the bottom are called totoros, I think they look like owls. :) In their chosen color, they have a frosty, wintry thing going on, right? I think they're so cute. The things above them look like spiders to me, though I don't know that that is what they actually are. If Anne were here, she'd name him Webster and call it a day. I'm hoping to have the knitting finished tonight, and then block it at the end of the week, so that I can ship it and get it to it's new home by Christmas!

After that, Anne has asked for a black cat. In the absence of a real feline, she likes this one. That should be quick to crochet up. So I'm getting there!

Speaking of not having enough time...

*insert chagrined face*

There is *no way* that I am getting the book club book read this month. Eek! Sorry about that. I just haven't been able to read much this month, and when I do, all I want is to sink into some escapist Christmas romance. Non-fiction just hasn't been appealing right now. So, what to do? I could just push the two books that I have listed back to January and February, but I'm wondering if should structure the book club entirely differently. Thoughts? Maybe a non-fiction title every 3-4 months, with fiction posts sprinkled in between? What do you think? Maybe we could add in non-religious titles too? Obviously, I still want to include spiritual reading, but the fact of the matter is that my taste in reading is quite varied. I enjoy Catholic non-fiction titles, but I also read secular non-fiction and lots of different types of fiction. Sometimes too my enthusiasm for a title is quite immediate and doesn't lend itself to being scheduled 3 months ahead of time. For example, right now I am totally jonesing to read this book that I discovered recently:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B012271YJY?colid=1GYP34YO3NPNQ&coliid=IRY0OY2XROQE5&ref_=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_ttl

I mean, I REALLY want to read this book and would download it right now if I was finished with my current fiction title. Anybody want to read it over the Christmas/New Year break with me? We could have a dialogue post about it the first week of January. I am eagerly awaiting your responses. :)

Let me know what you think. I enjoy the Catholic Book Club posts, but I think it's time to re-examine how I approach those. I would absolutely TREASURE your input on this!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Of wacky holiday crafts & open mic nights on the 3rd Sunday of Advent...

Hi all, and happy third week of Advent! How are things going for you? My Advent has been lovely, I've been feeling calm and happy. And yesterday, Gaudete Sunday, is one of my favorite Sundays of the year! I wore a pink top to Mass to commemorate this occasion. :-)

Our Advent wreath all lit for week 3, oohhhhh...
The kids were very well behaved at Mass, and things generally went well over the weekend. Lots of activity to report in, so settle in with your beverage of choice...

The weekend found me doing LOTS of last minute gift crafting. I finished the socks:

Can you hear the angels singing?
...and moved onto to frantically knitting dishcloths. I knitted watermelon dishcloths earlier in the fall, and I wanted to supplement those gifts, so I embarked on a fruit-themed endeavor. Here is Anne posing with her penguin in front of an in-progress strawberry dishcloth:

I also finished an apple cloth, and a different, solid green watermelon cloth. That was a win. Then I started on a colorwork hat that I've been commissioned to knit, and I seriously LOVE IT. I will post photos later this week. Oh, and I also have to squeeze in a crocheted cat before Christmas. We're getting there!

In other crafting news, I spent some time on Friday readying my tray for my dance troupe's Christmas video shoot. I gathered garland, ornaments, and a gift box to adorn my tray:

Kinda sorta?
It's not terrible, right? I don't have a hot glue gun or any fancy supplies, but I did what I could with materials found around the home. And it balances well.

This is what totally normal people do on Friday nights, yes?
We rehearsed this past Friday, and will record this week. I'm certain that will provide much amusing fodder.

Speaking of amusing dance anecdotes, we had a performance Saturday night. There is a new organization in our area called Dance Days, and they hosted a 12 Days of Dance event at the beginning of December. There is going to be a big festival this summer surrounding it, which is super exciting, but in the meantime, Saturday night was a fundraiser toward paying for all of this dance goodness. Our troupe was asked to perform.

It was a bit different than what I was expecting in that it was an open mic night. So, any performer could show up and perform, it wouldn't all be dance. We were given an approximate time slot, just given that we are a full group and there are more logistics to getting us all there and ready on time, as opposed to solo performers. Our slot was 9 pm, which is all "late" for those of us in the over 30 crowd.

I have to admit, given the above, I wasn't as excited about it as I usually am. I was feeling tired, and was wanting to lay around in my pj's on my couch, knitting, drinking wine, and watching Downton Abbey, as opposed to dancing squashed onto a small stage with 7 other women, a piano, and two Christmas trees, while a sparse crowd sips hot cocoa. But such is the way of things.

We all crammed into two cars and drove together down to the venue and the aforementioned tiny stage. We sat around for a bit, beads uncomfortably digging into our skin, watching various stand-up comedians and singer/songwriters. The only other dancer there was a tap dancer, who was very fun.

When it was our turn, we all herded onto the stage in our bright pink troupe costumes, making it appear as if a case of Pepto Bismol had just exploded. The space was a little tough, some of us had to dance down on the floor level in order to accommodate everyone. Me, knowing myself, paid very close attention to how near I was to the drop off between levels throughout our performance. The last thing we need is a belly dancer in a pink heap on the floor with a sprained ankle.

Thankfully, all went well, although I nearly accidentally kicked a floor light during a hip drop segment. The crowd was attentive, and although the event wasn't exactly bursting at the seams, there were a decent number of attendees. Afterward, we stayed for some more singing and one chanting/spoken word performance that I can only describe as surreal (and not in a good way :0) before slipping out. I was happy to get home to my wine.

Coming up I have lots of fun dance events that I'm looking forward to. I was asked to perform solo for a restaurant gig, but it was for New Years Eve, and I'm already booked that day with Mike and the kids. :) Alas, because I'm certain that would have been amusing fodder. After the new year though, there is MUCH more dance fun to be had, so I'll keep you all posted!

How was your third Sunday of Advent? I've got some book and other crafty stuff to post about this week, so make sure to check back! Looking forward to chatting with you then!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Tea Time with Tiffany #27 - Teaching winding down, & Advent successes and fails...

Morning all! Squeezed in right before a reference shift, we have this week's installment of:


Today I talk about teaching! End of the semester grading, minor annoyances, that sort of thing. :) Also Advent and Christmas preparation! What have I kept up with, and what have I neglected? View on!

A hair flip! :0

Items mentioned in this episode:
Oh, oh, before I forget! I mentioned at the beginning of the video that I had contemplated tossing in audio tea sessions sometimes. Like maybe I'll record something while I go out for a walk, or something like that. Would you all like that some weeks instead of a video? Let me know!

Otherwise, also let me know how your Advent is going, and how your Christmas preparations are shaping up! :)

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Holiday crafting: How is that going, Tiffany?

Well, it's funny that you should ask. :0 It's been on my mind a lot lately too, great minds think alike, right? ;-) Soooo, here's the scoop, settle in with your beverage...

There are traditionally many stages to the holiday crafting life. In my experience, they go like this:

(1) July. You excitedly make a list of handmade items for Christmas gifts. You get all giddy with creative energy and feel tremendously accomplished.

(2) Still July. You place a giant yarn order, feeling zero guilt whatsoever, because, seriously, THIS IS FOR GIFTS!! You can go *hog wild* and feel nothing but sanctimonious warm and fuzzies about your purchases.

(3) August. You cast on for a pair of gift mittens, feeling that if there were a Nobel Peace Prize for Knitting, you would clearly win it this year.

(4) September. You have finished one mitten, and are hip deep in the fall frenzy that is sweater knitting. None of these are gifts, but you fret not. It's only September. There's still PLENTY of time!

(5) October. You have finished the mittens, but you have finally re-looked at that list you created back in July. Oh dear. Better start focusing on those red and green colorwork dishcloths.

(6) November. You have finished multiple gifts, but you have come to the sinking realization that you are in deep trouble. You still have MANY gifts to go, of which socks somehow number about 57. You place another yarn order for sport weight yarn to replace the thinner fingering weight you originally bought. This will make them knit up faster!

(7) Thanksgiving. You are in denial. You are frantically knitting sock #6 and have convinced yourself that there is STILL TIME! to finish everything by Christmas. Is it possible to knit socks out of super bulky weight yarn? They'd be like pillows for your feet. Who wouldn't want that?!

(8) Early December. You are morose. You have come to the conclusion that you are an absolute IDIOT for making this clearly unattainable list and have set yourself up for failure. AGAIN. Also, you are sick to death of knitting socks.

This is the point I am at, my friends. I have indeed finished some gifts, but I am no where NEAR what I had hoped to complete. I'm not even going to go back and link to my originally posted list from this summer, because the whole thing would be just too demoralizing. :0 I recently finished this pair of socks:

But SO many more socks to go. I'm nearly done with another pair, I'm on the heel flap of the second sock, so that will get done this week, and I can mail those off. After that...more yarn winding, more sock knitting.

*sobs!*

To add insult to injury, I nearly *ran out of yarn* on that blue pair you see above. I was holding my breath knitting the foot of the second sock in the pair, praying to whoever is Patron Saint of Overambitious, Insane Knitters, that I would not run out. Because if I had to order another hank of yarn just to close up a toe, I would NOT have been a happy knitting camper, no sir. I finished with a few yards to spare and felt very thankful indeed.

That's sort of where I'm at. I'm not going to finish everything, but I'm doing what I can and have gotten substitute gifts where possible. Mike isn't going to get his promised sweater, but I have other ways of distracting him until I finish. ;-) You know, around the 4th of July. Perfect alpaca tweed sweater weather, right?!

In other news, the kids have harvested the saints they received on St. Nicholas's feast day from their shoes, and tucked them away with their friends in preparation for Christmas. Here is Henry's saint collection:

All nice and orderly.
That's St. Stephen, St. Isadore the Farmer, St. Blaise and St. Nicholas, from left to right. Lined up like soldiers. Anne's saints, on the other hand?

What is happening here?

Apparently, Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of Czestochowa are taking a nap in a plastic container she rescued from the garbage, and St. Nicholas is watching over them. She also has a collection of soft felt saint dolls who are all packed together into a baby crib. The saints like to sleep a lot, it seems.

Everybody is in high Advent mode with Christmas readying, it seems. ;-) How is your holiday crafting going, dear reader? General Christmas preparations? Do write in and tell me all about it!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Of tales in excruciation from the portrait studio, annual pilgrimmages to The Nutcracker, & holiday dancing adventures...

Well, happy Monday to you all! I have been grading all morning, and you can only imagine how much fun that is. *sarcasm* But I'm coming up for for a breath of fresh air, and happy to be taking a break. The semester will soon be over, so hope springs eternal!

I had a nice weekend, and I hope you did too. It was busy, to be sure. Got your tea?

I started the weekend as I always do, at dance troupe rehearsal. We have a performance coming up on December 12th, as part of a "12 Days of Dance" enterprise, so we ran through the numbers we're going to be doing there. Then we got all giddy and started created a Christmas choreography that we want to record for our website, in which we dance to a Middle Eastern instrumental version of a traditional Christmas song and balance trays on our heads of assorted holiday decor: Gifts, ornaments, garland, we've all been tasked with getting creative this week and decorating our tray. I mean...is it any wonder why I love these women?! This group has brought more fun and joy into my life than I could have possibly imagined. We're all going to deck ourselves out in red, green or gold costumes for the recording and I can hardly wait.

:0

A super fun trip to the craft store is in my future, yes indeedy. In other news, Saturday morning dawned as the assigned day for our family Christmas photo. As background, we don't often take family photos. We haven't had one taken since before Anne was born, just to give you a sense of the photo-aversion we're working with here. But the grandmothers have been clamoring for a photo, and I thought it would be nice to surprise them for Christmas. Thus, I signed us up for a weekend slot over at our local JC Penney Portrait Studio and demanded that everyone dress nicely and smile. There were some collective dour faces from the children, but we arrived for our appointment looking cute.

Where we encountered...scores upon scores upon score of other people. All with pending appointments. It's a busy time of year for such things, and it was a Saturday morning, so it wasn't a huge surprise. We settled in to wait. And wait. And wait. At various points, children started sobbing. Not ours, thankfully, but you know, the ambiance wasn't exactly a joyful one.

Just when I was starting to contemplate counting the carpet fibers to pass the time, it was our turn. We zoom in. We only wanted one family photo, no extras or costume changes or anything like that, so I figured it would be a few quick snaps and we'd be good to go. And it likely would have been, had we not had Anne with us, the child whose facial expression lent the impression that we had kidnapped her on the way over and forced her to pose for photographs with us. It took some doing to get her to cooperate and smile.

In the end, we would up with a few shots that turned out well, with us all smiling and not blinking. We were there for two and a half hours, but the photo turned out great and it was cheap.

#winning

Later, we went to the vigil Mass for the Second Sunday of Advent, since our Nutcracker tickets interfered with our usual Sunday Mass time. And after we got home and had dinner, the kids put their shoes out by the hearth, in anticipation of St. Nicholas's feast day. And in the morning, da da DA!


St. Nicholas came over for a visit. :)
Each kid got a book, a saint and some chocolate. Henry has a small St. Nicholas tucked into his shoe, and Anne has Our Lady of Guadalupe. Henry keeps his saint dolls carefully up on a shelf, all lined up, while Anne puts her in baby cribs, sleeps with them in her bed where they are constantly rolling onto the floor, and generally hauls them around to watch TV with her or go on errands tucked into one of her many purses. Lots of adventures with the saints, to be sure.

Also on Sunday morning, we had our annual trip to see The Nutcracker, performed by a local ballet. I LOVE this tradition and look forward to it each year:

Anne and I dressed & ready for the show...
Henry even wore a tie, how precious is that? (he declined to be photographed ;-)) We headed to the theater, and as we do every year, procured a new nutcracker doll to add to our collection, as well as several sparkly ornaments for the tree. The kids did great for the performance, I just had to endure Anne sitting on my lap for the entire second half, kneading her elbows into my internal organs. It seems that she has an aptitude for this talent both inside and outside of the womb.

So that was our busy weekend. Now I'm in Grading Purgatory, but I'm offering it up for all of you. ;-) How was your 2nd Sunday of Advent, dear reader?

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Tea Time with Tiffany #26 - Advent goings on & end-of-semester busyness...

Well look at that, it's time for our weekly chat once again. I missed you all last week!


This week I talk generally about busy life happenings (the recent audio projects, end-of-the-semester teaching adventures) as well as how my family Advent observance is going. Care to catch up with me? Let's do this!


Items mentioned in this episode:
Relatedly, this is our family Advent calendar, day 3. Can you guess who put up 2 of the magnets, and who put up the latest one?

Apparently, one of the wise men can fly...

All right my friends, I want to know what is going on with YOU! How is your Advent starting out? What devotions are you trying out this year? How is your Christmas shopping going? Do tell me all about it in the comments. :-)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Advent goodness - Nativity sets abound & calendars that secretly multiply in the off season...

Morning everyone! I hope that your first week of Advent is off to a good start. Did you light your candle this week?

We did. :)

This was the first week of our parish moving from having an 8am, 10am and noon Mass, down to just an 8am and 11am. We attended the 11am, and all went very well. I wasn't quite prepared for the new parking lot situation, but that's all right. We'll all adjust! The liturgy was quietly beautiful and the kids both behaved like angels. I assure you, this is not always the case, it is not due to some special Catholic Mothering Trick that I have patented. I just got lucky this week. :)

Yesterday on December 1st, we started the Advent calendars. The kids each have a chocolate calendar this year, and we have a new wood calendar with magnetic pieces. I have coveted this calendar for years, and finally bought it over the summer. Tip: this calendar often goes on sale during the non-Advent season. :) That's when I snapped mine up. At any rate, Henry LOVES this new calendar, and has been sneakily getting the pieces out and set up before Anne and I come downstairs in the mornings. Anne had a pout face on about that this morning, so I had to secure a promise from Henry that Anne could do tomorrow's piece.

*long suffering sigh*

Speaking of poor Henry, he has whatever Cold From The Very Pits of Hell that Anne and I had recently. He was coughing a lot yesterday and this morning. I could sigh again, but I won't, and instead offer up yet another instance of lost sleep via parental sacrifice. Before I was a parent, I had NO IDEA about the dire nature of the sleep situation. I think that this all should be taken into consideration during our turn at the Last Judgment, don't you agree?

At any rate, the other Advent items proliferating in our house are nativity sets. Henry has a set, Anne has a set, and we have a family set. We also have other random, partial sets in the storage that sometimes intermingle during the off season and result in eclectic family situations come December. As in a wise man is suddenly a member of the Holy Family, or an angel is stepping in for Mary. She deserves a break sometimes, right? Far too often, baby Jesus Himself is missing in action. It is most distressing when this happens. Henry keeps good track of his set, and Anne's is confined to her room, so it's the main downstairs set that sees the confusion each year. I just try and piece together as coherent a representation of the nativity as I can and call it a day.

So, our home traditions are all going well, but I am feeling rather busy these days, which I am decidedly not enjoying. I want things to settle down and all of us just enjoy the season. Oohh, I'll talk about this more in our weekly video chat. *beams*

How is your first week of Advent going? Do write in and tell me all about it. Oh, oh! I almost forgot. If you want to watch or listen to my spell over on the Catholic Mom Hangout podcast, check it out right over here. The topic is Advent, so it's all perfect and everything! :)

Monday, November 30, 2015

Of noncooperative turkeys and very inconvenient allergies: Thanksgiving fun 2015...

Hi all, and I'm glad to be back with you on this sunny post-Thanksgiving weekend Monday. This is never an enjoyable day to be back at work, no sir. But we persevere.

The last time I was with you prior to our Thanksgiving hiatus was last Tuesday, and I was S-I-C-K. Oh my. I was a little concerned about how I'd fare on my big day on Allison's show given how poorly I was feeling, and how congested I sounded. It went really well, but I had to *struggle* not to provide a hacking cough as the musical accompaniment throughout. It was extremely fun though, we talked about how I got started blogging, belly dancing, rosary praying, parenting adventures, all sorts of things! If you'd like to listen, you can download right over here!

All right, so I hope that you all had a very nice weekend! I'm a little rushy rushy today, as I had a very un-fun class this morning (what? it's the end of the semester? let's everybody PANIC and start asking for extra credit!) and I have more grading to do than you could swing a rosary at, so I'm feeling just a hair overwhelmed. But highlights? Let's see...

On Tuesday evening, Mike and I went out for what we call our "dating anniversary." Our wedding anniversary is January 8th, this November date is essentially an excuse for us to dine out and consume specialty martinis at the restaurant wherein we had our first date. It was smashing. Wednesday was filled with preparations for Thursday. The kids and I went to my parents' house to bake pies with my mom, which of course made the process infinitely more time consuming than if the adults had just done it ourselves, but alas. 

Thursday morning dawned with Anne wearing a super cute Thanksgiving turkey outfit:

...which she wore for an hour and then took off, refusing to put it back on, claiming to be "hot." Par for the course with her these days. We hosted dinner for our parents, my grandmother, and my older sister and family who were in town, and everything went very well. We had a minor turkey crisis during which time Mike started to carve the turkey and discovered that it was not fully done. It wasn't a big deal, we just had to put it back in the oven for a spell, but this is why I avoid cooking turkeys. I distracted everybody with wine as this was ongoing and all ended well.

The next day I did some fun online shopping, went out to lunch with my mom and sister, and put out our wintertime Scentsy wax warmer:

Isn't it lovely? It's making our whole kitchen smell like cinnamon currently. Such a relaxing and fun day. On Saturday, we fetched our Christmas tree, and here is where the story gets interesting. ;-) In the past, we've gotten a scotch pine. The one we selected last year, however, ended up looking somewhat homely, and we're hosting Christmas Eve this year, so Mike suggested that we splurge a bit and get a Fraser fir. I have to say, you can certainly tell a difference. Our whole house smells like a Christmas tree, and the needles are much softer than we're used to. The trunk is thicker and fit into our stand without any of the usual wrangling and edited swear words. It's thick and full and we love it. There's only one problem.


I think I may have an allergy to it. :0 Ever since we got it, I have been coughing and coughing and coughing. Granted, as I mentioned, I've been sick. But my cough was clearing and getting better, and then we got the tree, and suddenly it's tight and worse. This is the first time that we've ever gotten this type of tree. Could I be allergic to it?! It seems more likely that my cough is still related to my other illness, but I do have fairly strong seasonal allergies, and have developed new ones in recent years. (isn't getting older grand?) Soooooooo, I'm not sure. I've been taking my OTC allergy medication and I do seem better. But maybe my cold is just getting better? I'm already tired of winter illnesses and it's not even December yet!

#martyr!

We had a great time decorating the tree, regardless of it's potentially allergenic qualities, and we also put out our Advent decor. Ohhhhhhhh! That is our topic for either tomorrow or Wednesday, depending upon when I'm able to post. So get your Advent thoughts ready!

Advent is also the topic of my foray tomorrow in the Catholic Mom Hangout podcast! I'll give you the link to my episode when it's up, but it's being recorded tomorrow afternoon. Fun, right?!

All right, dear readers. All you Americans, how was your Thanksgiving? Or otherwise, how was your weekend? Anybody in your household navigating the Winter Cold From Hell? Do write in to commiserate with me. :)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

All! I am positively AGLOW from my chat time this morning with Allison Gingras on her show, A Seeking Heart! The podcast version will be up shortly, so if you'd like to download and listen over the holiday weekend, you can download from this page and it will appear there as soon as it's ready. Yay? Yay!

As you heard from my voice if you were able to listen to the live stream, I am SO SICK. I went to bed last night at 8 pm. Talk about a wet blanket. :0 But man. I just had nothing left to give. Mike had to teach, so I was home with the kids, and I barely managed to scrape something edible together for dinner, and then stay conscious until I put Anne to bed. Mike cut his class short so that he could get home earlier and be with Henry while I tucked into bed. I couldn't fall asleep right away, but I laid in there and listened to podcasts until I realized that I was nodding off and made it official. But *shudder*. It was a rough evening.

Overnight, I actually rested more or less comfortably. Although based upon my energy level one would think I had gotten a grand total of 10 minutes of sleep the whole night. I'm persevering.

Tonight, Mike and I are scheduled for a date night, so I need to wrangle up some color before then. Working on it! I also have the infamous fever rash today. Lovely, so lovely, I look today. I'm currently in the raised and splotchy texture phase. :0

This will be my last post for the week, as you and I will both be busy with Thanksgiving plans and family visiting. I will be with you again next Monday with amusing details, I am certain. And also to reflect on the First Sunday of Advent and other Advent plans! Until then, have a wonderful holiday weekend (those of you in the U.S. :-)) and I'll talk to you on Monday! May God bless you all!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Of close calls with unfortunate skin situations & the joy of swirly skirts - fall hafla 2015...

Hi there! This is going to be a dance post for those who enjoy such frivolity, but before I get to that, I wanted to briefly plug Allison Gingras's show, since I'll be a guest on there tomorrow, November 24th. :0 Here's all the deets: Her show is A Seeking Heart, and airs live from 10-11 am EST. If you want to listen live, head to the linked site and peruse the top menu bar. You have the option to either download the Breadbox Media app to your mobile phone, or you can click "Listen Live" and just stream it on your computer or device of choice. If you're available during that hour, you can also call in to talk to Allison and I. :0 Oh, do it, do it! I know not everyone is available in the middle of the morning like that, but if you are, you are MORE THAN WELCOME to join us! Allison will give the phone number out during the show, so tune in! To listen after the fact, go to the "Podcasts" link from the menu, and then navigate to A Seeking Heart. A downloadable file of the show will be available sometime shortly after the show airs. I'll also post a link on here. Keep your eyes peeled!

OK, so that's tomorrow, super exciting, right?! I'm looking forward to it. Unfortunately, I'm sick, so I'll be all scratchy, but it can't be helped. Which segues nicely into my dance adventures from the weekend. Got your coffee or tea? Good, so do I.

Friday morning I woke up with a sore throat. This was particularly ominous because, (a) Anne has been sick with a cold and coughing for some time now, meaning I most likely got whatever evil she has, and (b) I had a dance performance Saturday evening, and you know what happens when I get sick, right? Right. No matter how minor the illness, I get a fever rash on my neck and chest. Already, not so attractive, yes, I know, but in a belly dance costume? Downright scary. People look alarmed when this happens. I was not looking forward to repeating this experience, but I had zero control over it.

So I went to our final troupe rehearsal Friday evening treading lightly on not overtaxing my body. We ran through all of the group numbers (for this hafla we chose our pop piece and drum solo, the new veil and baladi piece, and the kicky Shaabi number), and because the performance would be in the studio and hence in a "in the round" style of seating, we changed orientations for each dance, so that no one area would always be the back and therefore unable to see anything. This is lovely, indeed, but gets confusing for belly dancers with cold-induced foggy brains. When you're used to facing one way, and then we split the drum solo up into two trios of dancers facing two totally different ways... the instant I take myself off of Dance Auto Pilot and think about it, I have no idea where I am and what I am supposed to be doing. :0 This happened a few times over the course of the night, but I tried to reorient my mind and brain as best I could.

All went well, and I tucked myself in for a good night of sleep at home, praying for no rash to appear overnight. They're insidious like that. I did indeed sleep well, and my throat felt, while not *better*, decidedly less bad upon wake up. I quickly hurried to the bathroom mirror for the big moment, and the verdict was in: no rash. Whew! I was all relieved until I noticed something else. Prepare yourself now for a little TMI, because this is gross. :0 I had some sort of either insect bite or...SOMETHING, bright red and disgusting glaring out at me from my upper abdomen. Why, why, why am I cursed with this sensitive skin?! And yes, I do oftentimes wear two-piece costumes, which would definitely showcase this new not-so-little development. I'm talking this thing actually made me jump when I caught sight of it in the mirror. While not quite as horrifying as the rash, my new friend was still quite unattractive and unwelcome. I searched hurriedly for one of those small, circular band-aids that I figured would hide the yuckiness and wouldn't show much, but then realized that Anne had used them all as "stickers." Thus, I was stuck with makeup and a hope for the best.

#notpretty

But I figured if that was the worst thing that happened, it wouldn't be so bad, right? That sounds like a lead up to something unfortunate, but it isn't. :-) Everything went well, including my heavily powdered belly. We were wearing our pink costumes for the first set, and the long fringe on the top actually covered up The Gross Thing.

#winning!

My drum solo trio danced right in front of Mike and the kids, so cute. In the second set I had both my solo and the new troupe numbers, and I was debuting a new costume that would most decidedly NOT cover up The Gross Thing. It was certainly not invisible, even with all the makeup, but I did the best I could. I figured that without knowing explicitly it was there, most people wouldn't see it. I hoped. I planned to spin around a lot to blur things as best I could. ;-)

Backstage in my coverup before I danced, I heard "quick, flash me!" and it was Claire, wanting to see the new costume. :0 We harbor a lot of excitement over new costumes in the Middle Eastern dance world. As I was waiting for my music to start (and technical sound system troubles abounded Saturday night, to be sure) I thought to myself that I figured I would be so much less nervous about dancing at haflas after the scary bellygram gig. I was wrong. ;-)

I was still VERY nervous, and I suppose this is just part of performing for me. I do love it, but the jitters are not going anywhere anytime soon, and that's not necessarily a bad thing, I suppose. It just means that I always endeavor to put my best foot forward.

Finally, my music started, and out I swirled. My new costume has a flowy chiffon skirt, and I loved it. It made my climactic spin sequence super fun. ;-) But I thought it went well! My music had several dramatic pause moments, and for the first time, I really used them. I think the most difficult thing to do in dance is to pause. Everybody is staring at you, watching you, and to stand still is hard. Through the years of performing though, I've realized how important it is to let the music "tell" you what to do. And if the music says pause, I pause. I've been working on that, along with keeping better control of my arms and hands when I dance. We want graceful, ballet dancer arms and tucked thumbs, no jazz hands! But when you're also thinking about smiling and what the heck you're doing with the rest of your body, well, the arms/hands can get lost in the shuffle. ;-) That has been my pet project this fall. Lots of painful practice video critiques, but it's the only way to get results.

I progressed through my music and shone my Beatific Performance Beam on anybody I laid eyes on. American audiences tend to be very quiet and subdued (this is seen as the polite way to behave, but as a performer, it makes you feel like everyone is bored :)) and I use smiling as a way to draw people in more.

The new costume
They smiled back. Anne waved to me. Everyone seemed to enjoy when I used a musical accent to clear my hair out of my face. :0 I was pleased.

After that, we had the veil/baladi number, which also went well. We moved dressing room locations for this hafla, and the location was SO much better. I got to see and enjoy the other performances, which, besides belly dance, included ballroom dance and a new hula hoop instructor. Can I just say that I positively LONG to take the new hooping class! She was A-MAZING! She could rotate the hoop along every length of her body, from the arches of her feet up to her fingers, all to the rhythm of her chosen music. LOVED. This was definitely a crowd favorite. I'm not very flexible, so I'm not certain that I would be very good at it, :0 but in my head, this is a fantastically fun new thing I'd love to try.

I would also love to take ballroom lessons with Mike. He too wants to do this, but right now with teaching and kids' schedules, it's not in the cards. But hopefully someday! In my dream world, I would take a different dance class every night of the week, but you know. Reality seeps in. ;-) It's OK. I'll take my happy belly dance and family bubble. I've got it good.

The third set just had the Shaabi piece in it for me, which is old hat at this point. In those wonderfully comfortable Saidi dresses that feel akin to pajamas.



I love these women. Dancing with them is one of the great joys of my life.

We're talking about learning a new group sword piece over the winter, did you ever?! Sword will be SO EXCITED! And in a group context? This could be very fun. And possibly dangerous. See why I love belly dance so much?

How was your weekend, dear reader? I'll try to check in briefly tomorrow. Until then!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Tea Time with Tiffany #25 - Upcoming writing & audio projects...maybe I could hear *your* voice?!

Happy Thursday everyone! This is our last episode until after Thanksgiving, so I figured I'd squeeze a lot into this week's installment of:


Lots of fun stuff going on, and I pass on as much as I can this week. I'll be recording some audio shows the next two Tuesdays. Squeal, right?! Want to know more? Do listen on, dear listener! I also mention the new writing project that I'm involved in.


Items mentioned in this episode:
  • Allison Gingras's show, A Seeking Heart. This streams live from 10-11 am Eastern, every week day. I'll be a guest on Tuesday November 24th! And you can CALL IN while I'm on! Oh, do it, do it, pretty please!! :0 More details on Monday.
  • Catholic Mom's' CM Hangout podcast. I will be the guest contributor the week of December 1st! Links and all that good stuff as they become available.
  • A new book contribution. Details coming your way in 2016!
With Thanksgiving being next week, we'll be together in prayer and spirit rather than via our conversations here (with the exception of Monday and possibly Tuesday). But do write in to tell me all about how you'll be celebrating Thanksgiving. What is your tradition? Do you add any Black Friday shopping into the mix? I'd love to hear all about it. :-)

Talk to you all on Monday!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Catholic Book Club: The Sign of the Carved Cross

Happy book club Wednesday everyone! This month we're doing something a little different and discussing a children's book, part of Lisa Hendey's Chime Travelers series. I chose The Sign of the Carved Cross, since it features St. Kateri Tekakwitha, and you all know that she is one of my very favorites!

This series intrigued me from the outset for two reasons: (1) it is for middle readers (ages 7-10), which is exactly the age group that my son Henry is in now.  So, these are chapter books, but written for kids that are newer to such books; (2) it involves actual encounters with saints via time travel. I mean...I am so jealous of this idea, it's fantastic!! :0

The Sign of the Carved Cross is book 2 in this series, the first being The Secret of the Shamrock and featuring St. Patrick.  Here is the back cover description from the book we chose:
Katie joins her friends in being mean to the new girl, Lily. But suddenly, Katie becomes the new girl—in 1675! She has no idea how she traveled in time to a Native American village, but she’s hoping the young woman she meets will be nicer to her than Katie was to Lily. Tekakwitha is a quiet girl with scars on her face from a terrible disease. Tekakwitha’s family doesn’t accept her because of her faith, and soon she and Katie have to run away in the middle of the night. Will Katie ever find her way back home? Find out in The Sign of the Carved Cross.
So, my impressions. In an totally expected development, given how much I loved the premise from the outset, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. :-) I like the different layers in the story: we have a contemporary piece at the beginning of the book, with Katie, her brother Patrick, and their daily lives at school and home. We identify with Katie, and empathize with her burgeoning desire to fit in with her group of friends, particularly her insecurities about the way she looks. We as the reader can see right away that Katie is jealous of Lily, the new girl, and how this causes her to behave in an uncharacteristically cold fashion. The faith aspect of the story is woven nicely into the intricacies of the plot. It's there in a way that kids can relate to, without it being heavy handed.

Then we move into the historical component, when Katie travels back in time, and one cannot help but fall in love with the future St. Kateri Tekakwitha. We feel anxious for Katie, who is so turned upside down by this unexpected journey, and her worries about getting home to her family. At the same time, however, we see the sweet and welcoming nature of Kateri, and slowly Katie comes to realize how her own unfriendly behavior must have caused a newcomer in a different time period to feel: Lily, back in her contemporary life. The book teaches an important life lesson through the story in a way that is poignant and exciting. The reader can also see how this realization, along with how reverently Kateri practices her Catholic faith despite the persecution she faces, have caused Katie to have a new understanding and appreciation for her own faith.

I absolutely loved the book, and have bought additional copies of the first two books in the series for other children in the targeted age range. Fantastic First Communion gifts, I would say. At $5.99 a book, the price cannot be beat! Lisa Hendey has two new titles in the series coming out in the spring (here and here), and they're available for preorder over at Amazon. These focus on Sts. Francis and Clare of Assisi!

Has anyone else read these books with their kids? Either the St. Patrick title or this one? Do chime in with your thoughts!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Of frantic dance prep, upcoming Mass time changes, and voyages to Swiss Chalet...

Morning all! It wasn't an easy weekend in the world news, to be sure. Oftentimes, when I think about heartbreaking situations such as this one, I feel fear, as I'm sure is fairly common. But then I remember the words of our beloved John Paul II, and try not to feel afraid: for my kids, for my friends and family, for our world, for myself. I try. But it's not easy, yes? Let's all stick together and pray for each other and for peace in our world. I know that it brings me some measure of solace to think of us all together in community, and I hope it does you as well.

Around my small part of the world, it's looking very fallen leafy and windswept here in WNY these days, very reminiscent of this photo:


It was a busy weekend for us, as we gear up for the holidays and for Advent. At our parish, the Mass times are changing, which I'm a tad chagrined about, but I'll adjust. I love our 10 am Mass, and it's switching to 11 am, which will at times not be nearly as convenient for us. Right away, early in Advent, we're going to see The Nutcracker for a Sunday matinee show, and the 11 am Mass will get us out too late to make it without rushing quite a bit. I think what will most likely happen is that on weekends like that, we will be attending the vigil Mass. We'll develop a new routine and get used to it, but as we anticipate this I'm mourning our beloved 10 am slot a bit. :)

In cute Catholic kid stuff, Anne relayed a precious story to me on Saturday:

"Mommy, we say the Pledge of Allegiance in school."

"Yes! We always said that in school, too. Have you memorized it?"

"Yes, want to hear?"

Of course I did. :) And she took the duty very seriously.

"That's excellent, sweetheart."

"Mommy, did you know that when you say the Pledge of Allegiance, you only need to put your hand like this, over your heart? And not make the sign of the cross after? My teacher told me."

Oh snort. I can only imagine how this went over in Anne's public pre-K. She must have thought it was like when we say grace at meals. I liked how she automatically wove in the tie between a physical gesture and saying aloud something important, a ritual. She's a natural as a Catholic child. ;-)

In other news, my dance troupe is in heavy rehearsal mode for the hafla this upcoming weekend.We have a bunch of group pieces that we'll be performing, and at this point it's always a hodge podge of old and new numbers, combined in new and exciting ways. ;-) So, we have a new veil piece paired with a new baladi number, but also an old pop piece paired with a new drum, and then our newish Saidi piece as a standalone. 

Solos are going to be in the second set, and mine is in there, towards the end. Lots of time to sweat leading up to that. Although I'm hoping that my little birthday party adventure last month will make me appreciate the easier-to-manage hafla atmosphere this time around, and consequently be less nervous about performing in such venues. I have my music all edited and ready to go, and general idea of how I'd like to structure things in my usual improvisational way. 

Running through my music reminded me that I needed to decide what costume to wear, and so a lot of sewing ensued this weekend. I sew about as well as I bake, so you can only imagine how well these little sessions typically unfold. Mike comes out of his office from grading student papers and finds me casually passing him in the hallway garbed in jeans and a costume top with only half a strap, trailing behind me a super long length of black satin. Anne is adorning the walls with random pieces of adhesive Velcro that I gave her to prevent her from causing too much damage in the notions bag.  

"You're probably wondering what is going on out here, aren't you?"

This is a common occurrence in our house whenever I have a dance gig. ;-) Dance costumes ALWAYS require a lot of sewing. If they're new, they never fit perfectly, and so need a lot of work to make them presentable. If they're old, they're losing beads or need new hooks, or have stretched out a bit and could use some tucking. I did not get a separate costume for when I was pregnant with Anne, I just wore my skirt under my belly throughout the second trimester, if that is any indication of what we're working with here. :0 Our costumes are generally stretchy, but don't maintain the same level of stretchiness over time, for sure and for certain.

So I now have black satin straps on my new black and bronze costume, which I'd like to wear for the solo, but the skirt is extremely heavy and needs some more tucking for it to stay put on my hips. Working on that tonight. We're getting there!

To complete our weekend, Mike asked on Sunday if I'd like to go to dinner at Swiss Chalet. Um, YES. You all know about my love affair with Canadian rotisserie chicken. I *love* it there, and given that we now have to cross an international border to get there, I don't get there as often as I'd like. However, this experience has shown me that it really doesn't take all that long to get to the Niagara Falls, Ontario location, and thus we really need to be doing this much more frequently. ;-) At any rate, we packed up the kids and headed north. Yes, for chicken. 

https://www.swisschalet.com/

But it's all about the chalet sauce, remember? And we had a delightful time:

"And I think that that way, we can...wait. What happened to all of your sauce?"

"I ate it. Are you going to use all of yours?"

*I eye his cup like a vulture circling it's prey*

"No, I guess not. But...what else do you dip in there besides the chicken?"

The man is so cutely naive of the ways of the Chalet. If he's going to go all HEALTHY and choose the vegetables over the french fries dipped in sauce, well then I just can't help him. :0

And the waitress who gave me an extra cup of fresh sauce for my takeout container? Let's just say she got a very nice tip. And very nearly a round of applause.

#ChaletSauceRules

What did you do this weekend, dear reader? Write in and tell me all about it. :)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Tea Time with Tiffany #24: Holiday performances, but also a delightful spin on the Catholic belly dancer issue...

Hello ALL! How are you today? I hope that you're good and that you have your cup of morning beverage of choice for this week's installment of:


We're moving into a season of chatty videos that aren't necessarily focused on any one topic. More of a "what's going on in my week!" type of situation. Think of these as mini podcasts for now, until I can get a real one started up. :) They're not any longer, I promise. This week I talk briefly about the book club, and move into dance news. And there's an interesting faith/dance related anecdote in there. Do view on if you're curious!


Items mentioned in this episode:
Any holiday performances brewing with you, dear reader, whether you'll be performing or attending?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

It's *that* time of year: in which I ravenously purchase Christmas books...

Happy Wednesday everyone, and I hope that your week is progressing well! I'm doing great over here. I recorded a video post this morning (which you'll see tomorrow) and you'll notice that I'm all perky in it. It's another busy week, but I'm excited about a lot of things coming up, and that shines through all the coffee drinking, I think. ;-) The topic is dance related, so if that is of interest to you, make sure to come back tomorrow!

As I was reading a book on my beloved Kindle last night, it occurred to me via the sheer volume of titles that are cataloged in my Christmas folder (yes, I am a librarian and super nerdy about such things) how romance and mystery books with a Christmas setting are one of my very guiltiest pleasures. I'll be honest and admit that I do sometimes read them at other times of the year (don't judge me :0) but I especially love reading them in the late fall and early winter, leading up to Christmas day. I know it isn't actually Christmas until after that, but you know. We all have our weaknesses. ;-)

I end up downloading WAY more books than I can actually read in a single season, and I know this, but yet this does not dissuade me in any way. It makes me happy year round to see that folder labeled "Christmas," and to know that those stories are waiting for me. Strange, but true.

And so this is how I go about my quest, for anybody who wants to join me in this saga: Starting around September, I scout for Christmas books. You will begin seeing authors and publishers promoting their upcoming Christmas titles right around then. When I spy something that I like, I'll either pre-order it, or stick it on my Amazon shopping list to remind me to come back to it. My current read, which I did in fact pre-order is this one:

http://www.amazon.com/Trimmed-Murder-Seaside-Knitters-Mystery/dp/0451471628/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1447251811&sr=8-1
This is the eleventh book in the Seaside Knitters series (cozy mysteries, which I am an avid fan of), but you can read them as stand alone titles. The number of characters has gotten confusing at this point, but there is a list with a blurb of who everyone is at the front of the book. Here is the description:
In Sea Harbor, the holidays mean cozy fires, festive carols, and soft skeins of yarn waiting to become hats and sweaters and scarves. And this year, Izzy and the other Seaside Knitters are also knitting tiny ornaments to decorate a tree for the first annual tree-trimming contest.

Their holiday cheer is multiplied when Izzy’s younger brother, Charlie Chambers, unexpectedly arrives to volunteer at a local clinic. He brings with him outspoken hitchhiker Amber Hanson, who is returning to Sea Harbor to claim an inheritance. She quickly reacquaints herself with the area—and forms an unlikely friendship with Charlie. But their bond is shattered when her body is found beneath the undecorated trees on the Harbor Green.

Charlie is a suspect in the murder, so Izzy and her fellow Knitters step in to uncover the truth. Their journey takes them into Charlie’s past and tests their fierce love for him. But it’s only by peeling away long-buried secrets that they can hope to restore joy to the season and enjoy the shining lights of the newly decorated trees....
Intriguing, yes? I live for books like this. :0 The setting just puts a person right into the Christmas spirit. I'm also a big fan of the Love Inspired line of monthly romances.  They have sub-lines of contemporary, suspense and historical romances, and these can all be characterized as inspirational Christian stories. Starting usually in October, they will start to include Christmas titles in their lineup, and so I always peruse and pre-order what I'd like. Then on November 1st and December 1st, those titles will automatically download to my Kindle. So, for example, in November, this is one of the books newly on my Kindle:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00ZPPGJ82?redirect=true&ref_=kinw_myk_ro_title
Here is the description:
NO WAY OUT

The last thing Benjamin Duff needs is to be stranded at his friend Piper Lawrence's bed-and-breakfast with a dangerous intruder. But when he stops to say goodbye before moving across the world, he finds a masked man attacking Piper. Benjamin rushes to save her, crashing his truck and trapping them during a winter storm in the process. With no power or cell phones and time running out before his trip, he'll have to work fast to catch the killer. As they fight for their lives and their feelings for each other grow, Benjamin must decide if he's really willing to leave Piper behind.
As these are inspirational romances, they are what I would characterize as wholesome, no steamy love scenes. :) I particularly enjoy the suspense titles, but I do also like the contemporary romances, like this one:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00VQGHXKW?redirect=true&ref_=kinw_myk_ro_title
 A Small-Town Christmas

Gemma Butler has a grand vision to transform the fledgling Christmas celebrations in Dover, Mississippi, and bring visitors to the town. It's also the single mom's last chance to provide for her son and revive her event planning business. But Gemma's not the only one with something to prove. Line Montgomery has the weight of the family business on his shoulders. And he'll go down swinging before he'll let anyone disrupt the traditions he holds dear. Yet when a storm threatens to destroy the holiday, he'll join forces with the beautiful planner and discover she just might be the love he's been searching for.
 Awwwwww...Sweet, right?! I love these books. Obviously, these are not deep literature, just enjoyable light holiday reading.

So. I need to know. Am I alone in this, or are there other Christmas romance fans out there as well? Show yourself in the comments, pretty please. :)

Monday, November 9, 2015

Brownies that could cut glass & a zombie apocalypse: An eclectic milestone birthday weekend...

You wouldn't think those things in the title would all be related, would you? But I like to keep things interesting around here, so read on, dear blog reading aficionado! And I have yet another topic to toss into the mix before we get started, because it's Catholic Mom day for me, and this month my piece is on Confirmation patrons:

http://catholicmom.com/2015/11/09/patron-saints-that-endure-confirmation-saints-can-provide-a-lifetime-of-spiritual-fruit/

My Confirmation patron is none other than St. Cecilia, and I would love for you to click on over to read my piece and leave a comment with your very own Confirmation patron. How about your favorite saint with a feast day in November? You can write in with that information too! Let's have a fun comment party over at Catholic Mom.

But in other news, this past weekend was my Henry's birthday. OK. The child is now 10. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?! I remember the day he was born like it was a few months ago.

*sniffle*

I hate how fast time seems to pass when you're an adult. I suppose part of it is the fact that one has so many more responsibilities as you get older. Alas. I guess the moral of this pointless tale of woe is that adulting is hard. Let's move on, shall we?

At any rate, it was a milestone birthday for Henry, and so we wanted to make it nice for him. His actual birthday is the 6th, which was Friday.  And every year we face the age old question of what birthday treat to send in with him to school for their celebration. See, for most normal people this is not at all an issue. Because they are good bakers and/or simply send in a store-bought treats without needlessly fretting about how they're a failure as a mother because they cannot bake. But if you're me? You're both a terrible baker AND you fret over how this makes you a negligent mother. I feel like if I send in something store-bought then everyone will KNOW that I'm a terrible baker. Plus, I see that as symbolic of the fact that I have officially given up: there is no hope for me, I cannot bake. Ever. I am disgrace to my Italian heritage. If I told my mother that I use Pillsbury pie crusts, it'll be like when I once admitted to her that I'd used pasta sauce out of a jar:

"I didn't *raise you like that*!"

That's really what she said. :0 I *can* at least make tomato sauce, sometimes I'm just too lazy to. ;-) I can also make a pretty decent Italian wedding soup. But see, that isn't *baking*. Baking is kryptonite for me.

And so I fretted over cupcakes here, or cookies there, until Mike suggested that we make brownies:

"I am terrible at making brownies."

"Are you sure? We'll just use a boxed mix."

"Yes, even the boxed mixes. I'm awful at making brownies from them. The edges are always overdone and the middle undercooked."

*Mike looks dubious*

"I've made them and they turn out fine."

"Are you volunteering?"

*Tiffany turns on the charming, winning smile*

This works, only because he is my husband.

"Sure. If you can pick up the mix on your way home from work tomorrow, I'll make them Thursday night before play rehearsal."

"Deal."

Isn't he wonderful? And indeed, on Thursday I came home and walked into a kitchen that smelled like chocolate.

"HONEY! You made the brownies!!"

"Of course, I said I would."

Mike is looking super pleased with himself, hoping for Husbandly Extra Credit Points for taking care of something that was causing me so much stress. His effort was indeed noted and rewarded. :-)

"How many brownies did the 2 boxes of mix yield?"

This is another problem that I have with brownies. So many of them turn out like ca-ca that I end up with far too few that are actually edible. And when I try to cut them into neat little squares?

*shudder*

"I'm not sure. I had to put some of them into a round pan. But there are 2 pans worth. I think they turned out well."

"Well, they certainly smell good. Thank you darling!"

It was a real love fest. Between Mike and I (this love affair persists, despite the part of the story I'm about to get to ;-)) and between Mike, I and the brownies. We had dinner, and while we were undergoing the kitchen cleanup, I grabbed a knife and spatula and tried to remove the brownies from the pans. Notice use of the words "tried to" in that sentence, dear reader?

I didn't want to say anything, because Mike was so heroic in his efforts to spare me from further baking humiliation, but I was having the same problem with these brownies that I always do with my own homemade brownies: hard on the edges + too crumbly in the middle = a big ole' mess to get out of the pan. Mike came over while I was using the spatula like the end of a hammer attempting to pry out a nail:

"Everything OK over here?"

"Well. I'm having a bit of a hard time getting the brownies out of the pan."

That was an understatement, but no need to elaborate and make him feel bad. He offered to help, and is soon jamming a knife along the sides and underneath each brownie in an effort to extract it.

"The box instructions say to use 'short, sawing motions' to get them out."

"Why do brownies have to be so bossy?!"

I was starting to loathe the brownies; not only these ones, but all their hard-edged, chewy offspring in bad brownie generations to come. I was hankering to bring Mike over to the dark side with me.

"I think they'll be fine. Oh. Oh dear."

I told you, I hate brownies. And now, Mike does too. ;-) We barely managed to salvage 15 brownies to send in for Henry's class. Poor, scarred-for-life Henry, having to bring in malformed brownies on his 10th birthday. I will say that he seemed delighted with the brownies, because, you know, they're BROWNIES. They're made of chocolate. How could there possibly be a problem with that?! Bless that child.

So, he had his school party on Friday, and we had a family party for him with pizza and wings (we're rather known for that around here. ;-) And we know where to get *the best* ones, because we're freakish and take chicken wings far too seriously in WNY) on Saturday, and he seemed thrilled with the company and his gifts. All went well.

It was a big weekend for Henry for another reason as well: it was his community theater debut. :0 This fall, he and Mike both auditioned for a play and were cast. Our township's community theater was putting on Night of the Living Dead, and Mike is playing the newscaster. Henry was cast as a zombie. :0 There were LOTS of kids in the play, and so despite it being more scary themed, it was a very family-friendly production. Anne and I went to see it for the Sunday matinee, and she wasn't scared at all. We had told her all about what she would be seeing, and how it was all make believe, and she didn't seem fazed in the least. There were at least a dozen other kids in the audience.

And I was *very* impressed! Henry was very in-character, his facial expressions and body movements showing that he was focused on the direction he had received during the rehearsal period. We were super proud of him! He had one of the more prominent zombie roles. *beams* And Mike was adorable as the newscaster:

"Look! It's Da Da!"

Anne was very excited to spot him. :-) My husband has a *very* nice voice, he receives compliments on it all the time. He's a natural for a newscaster role. And can I say how appealing it is to see him all in actor mode up on stage? In fact...well, I'll digress. Let's just say that his Cute Husband Points are through the roof this weekend. ;-)

So, a BIG weekend for Henry! I can't believe I have a child whose age is now in the double digits. This is how it happens, isn't it, with this nefarious aging thing? Next thing you know, Henry will be 50, I'll be 80, and it'll feel like only 15 minutes have elapsed.

*glares*

But I'll probably still be belly dancing, so long as I'm not using a walker or anything, so prepare yourself for those future posts now! :0

How was YOUR weekend, dear reader? Thanksgiving prep underway? Holiday crafting? Write in with all the details. :)