Thursday, January 28, 2016

Tea Time with Tiffany #33 - Winter fun & fitness!

Well hello there, dear reader, happy to have you with me for another installment of:

Today I actually did everything right, yay!!! So you should have much improved audio quality. As a result, you can hear my mini office refrigerator humming in the background. :0 At any rate, I talk about my New Year's resolution to be more creative in my fitness life, and discuss my foray into Zumba!

**To subscribe to the audio version of Tea Time with Tiffany, just search for it in iTunes or use this link to subscribe on Feedburner to your podcatcher of choice.

Items discussed in this episode:
How are your New Year's resolutions going, dear reader? Any new fitness adventures to report in? Have you ever taken Zumba? And are you planning to pray the Our Lady of Lourdes novena as we move into February? Do write in and tell me all about it! I will talk to you again to respond to your comments and then again next Tuesday! God bless, and thank you for being here!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

I'm mystery-crafting-along. And along, and along and along...

Welcome everyone to a crafty day here at Life of a Catholic Librarian! I've been a very busy bee this winter with both knitting and crocheting, and every January for the past few years I've participated in a Downton Abbey-themed mystery knit-along sponsored by Jimmy Beans Wool. This year, there is both a knit-along *and* a crochet-along (hereinafter referred to as MKAL and MCAL, respectively). Guess which Fear of Missing Out Eager Beaver decided to do both?

*raises hand*

The way that these work is that the design of the item (we only know that both are shawls) is revealed week by week. Every Sunday the designer releases a new "clue" that is an additional segment of the pattern. We're now into week 4 of the process, and I posted back after week 1 as to how things were starting out, if you want to go take a peek at the beginning of each shawl. I know that a few of you are also participating.

OK, so week 4. *sigh* Accountability time. To the surprise of absolutely no one except me, I am behind. I did really well for the first two weeks.


**And if you don't want to see spoiler pictures of the mystery as it progresses, cease reading the post now!

So, the first two clues for both the knit and crochet versions involved what I'm thinking is a center motif. Here is the MCAL after two clues:

Autumn-hued loveliness
I really love it. It's slightly asymmetrical by design, and I like how the colors are pooling. Makes me think of the fall. *heart*

The knit version, meanwhile, was having a bit of a tighter squeeze of things. It's scrunched onto a 24 inch cable as we worked in the round, but it also is a center motif. It was harder to photograph as a result, but here is the MKAL after two clues:

"Somebody help me, please, this cable is strangling me!!"
I took that picture on our anniversary weekend, and by the end of the day Sunday, I had both clues finished and was ready for clue 3. Then came the troubles.

Well, maybe "troubles" is too strong of a word, but let's just say that I'm STILL not finished with clue 3, and the rest of the crafters are well into clue 4. Both shawls moved out of the round motif and onto a flat side in clue 3, into a bit of a...wing situation. I did manage to finish the MCAL clue, and here is what it looks like:

Sort of like the logo for the Detroit Red Wings
I still love the colors, and I have faith that as the design progresses, it will look less and less like something about to take flight, but right now it looks a bit odd. I have not been able to start clue 4 yet.

As for the knit version:


It's fine, it's just that it feels like the rounds of knitting in clue 3 may never end, and I will knit, and knit, and knit this lace pattern well into the next decade of my life. I was a bit intimidated by the start of clue 3 because the design calls for you to put a bunch of stitches onto waste yarn, and I was all scared to do that for fear that several stitches would take advantage of the situation to jump ship and nefariously drop their way down, ruining my lace work. I managed it all fine though, and began to knit, but there are something like 96 rows of knitting in this clue alone. I mean, I know that we're now knitting significantly less stitches than we were before, but I still feel like crying every time I pick this thing back up, look at the pattern, and find that I'm STILL on row 15. Wasn't I on row *19* the last time I worked on this? Am I actually moving *backwards*?! It's just seeming absolutely endless to me, and clue 4 is not even in sight:

"Ahoy out there, Clue 4! We're coming to get you! It'll just be another...week or two!"

In a development that seemed to be originating from the very pits of Satan's Knitting Realm, I found a mistake in my lace last night, and had to unknit stitches to fix it and align my stitch count again. Why yes, I am IN FACT GOING BACKWARDS, just as I suspected.


I was able to fix it with just a bit of improvisation ("What the *&$! How is there *still* one extra stitch?! Forget it, I'm knitting 2 together and moving on with my life"), the lace looks fine, and my stitch count is now correct. So I'm on row 19 again.

Why God, Why?!

I'm getting a bit sick of this winged shawl at this point, but I'm slogging on. I've just come to the conclusion that I will be behind in the MKAL and I'm going to have to live with it. I don't have to like it, but I do have to live with it. Ugh.

How are your shawls going, dear knitters? I need a knitting pick-me-up, so please write in and regale me with your amusing tales. ;-)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A weekend that made me reflect on weekends, & a brief note about the blogging schedule...

St. Kateri brightens every day, yes?
Hi all! Before I get started, a quick note of housekeeping. The spring semester has officially started for me at work.

*insert groan here*

Yes, that's right, not only can I no longer swing my knitting bag without hitting a half dozen students walking aimlessly through the halls while checking their phones, but I arrived at the parking lot at 8:27 am and got THE LAST SPOT. That $#@! is messed up. :0 It'll die down, but in the meantime, I'm feeling mighty sorry for myself over here. I so enjoyed the holiday and winter break, and going back into the fray of the semester is not appealing to me right now. At all. Plus I have to start teaching again. I do like teaching, don't get me wrong, but once I get out of the routine, I get all rusty and anxious about it. :) So here I sit, rusty and anxious, and I have to teach in an hour.


Oh! But I got off track, didn't I? The whole reason I mentioned any of this is that my blogging schedule will shift just the itsiest of bits, and I wanted to let you know. Still plan on 3 posts per week, one of which will be Tea Time with Tiffany. But I usually post on Mondays, and this semester I'm just not going to be able to do that. Mondays are...*shudder* We'll just say that there is no blogging time and leave it at that. :) So I'll definitely post on Tuesday and Thursday, and then also on either Wednesday or Friday, depending on which of those works out better in a given week.

I just like to keep you posted on such things. :) And I have fun stuff to talk about this week (we need a bright spot this week, for sure). Downton Abbey mystery crafting-along! Adventures with new fitness classes! Plans for Lent! It's all coming up.

As for today, I'm just thinking about my weekend. And it was *glorious*. That's part of why I'm so sad to be back to the grind at work. *sniffle*

We didn't do anything out of the ordinary. Let's see...I had dance class and rehearsal on Friday. And can I say HOW MUCH I MISSED IT?! *4 weeks had gone by since I last attended class, just given the way the holidays fell and then the funeral and our anniversary trip. AND we're learning a new group sword choreography, so many good blog-worthy stories to come, just you wait dear reader!! You should have SEEN how pleased Sword was when I pulled him out and took him to class with me. He was just about bursting with pride to accompany me while Veil stayed home stuffed into a bag with my performance shoes. :0 And Sword certainly gave my arms a good workout, I'll tell you that, ouch! But I digress, as I am wont to do. Saturday we took the kids out for breakfast and later I made a slammin' new dinner recipe of quinoa and sausage stuffed peppers. Sunday we went to Mass, ran a few errands and had friends over to watch the NFL conference championship games. All fun stuff, to be sure.

So this morning I was feeling extra melancholy. Not only am I going back to battling it out for parking spaces and ability to breathe in the hallways, but I was sad to leave Mike and the kids and part from our lovely time together.

This is all contemplation fodder for me because I remember a much different time back when Henry was 2 years old. To set the scene, we did not yet have Anne in our lives, and Mike and I had only been married for 3 years and were still fairly new to the whole parenting thing. Henry was going through the Terrible Two's, and Mike had a demanding job that he really wasn't loving (and I couldn't blame him AT ALL), and can I be honest about something? I always aim to keep it real here on Life of a Catholic Librarian. ;-) During that dark stretch of time, I would *dread* the weekends. Henry would throw epic temper tantrums that left me exhausted, we had to do ALL of the housework on the weekends because neither of us had time during the week due to work, the piles of laundry overwhelmed me just to LOOK at them, and I just felt like crying all weekend long. It was like that for quite a while. I had experienced some postpartum depression after I had Henry and I swear I didn't really go back to normal for years afterward. It was not an easy time.

Now, our kids are older and we don't have the temper tantrum issue anymore. Much. ;-) (Anne still has her moments sometimes...) I enjoy the company of my children now. I don't have that black shroud of depression hanging over my head anymore. Mike's job situation has improved immensely, and not only does he love what he does now (he's an adjunct professor of philosophy), but the flexibility of being an adjunct means that he's home during the day a lot to take care of housework, do the grocery shopping and pick up the kids, etc. Our daily "grind" isn't much of a grind anymore. And our weekends are a pleasure.

I really appreciate that now all the more given our past experience. I really, really do. It's not to say that challenges don't still come up, because of course they do, that's just part of life. But I treasure the good things that I have more now.

How about you, dear reader? Have any of you ever struggled with depression or getting through a particularly difficult time in your life? I'd love to hear about how your experience.

Tomorrow we'll be talking crafts, so if you're doing the Downton Abbey MKAL or MCAL, be ready with an update! :-)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Tea Time with Tiffany #32 - Yes, it's actually a podcast! And a New Year's resolution check in...

Hi all! I was apprehensive about remembering how I did all of the new technological mumbo jumbo I did last week, and indeed we had a few snafus on this week's episode of:


First of all, I'm pretty sick, so I sound like Death Warmed Over. Lovely, yes I know. And THEN, the inevitable happened. I started the video, and had adjusted my audio recorder sound and all that good stuff, and I started chatting away, and nearly 15 minutes later when I stopped the video, do you want to know what I discovered, dear blog follower? Yep, I had forgotten to hit the start button on the audio recorder.


By that juncture, my voice was *worse* if that's even POSSIBLE from talking so much, and the spirit of re-recording was just not in me. So I had to grab the audio from the video, and in the process, the audio isn't fantastic, I'll tell you that. You'll have to turn your volume up a bit this week. Plus, you can hear a few notification sounds that came up on my machine while I was finagling this, so, SO sorry. A learning experience, I'll only get better from here, I promise!!

OK, so this week I discuss this new podcasting enterprise (instructions for subscribing are below) and also the state of my New Year's resolutions. How are yours going, dear reader?

These new podcast episodes of Tea Time will be about 10-15 minutes each week. I'm allowing myself to be a bit chattier since you have an audio only option now. :-) To subscribe to the audio version of Tea Time with Tiffany, just search for it in iTunes or use this link to subscribe on Feedburner to your podcatcher of choice.

Items discussed in this week's episode:
  • Again, Feedburner, if you'd like to subscribe to the show as a podcast. After a bit of an initial struggle, Feedburner and I are now friends. ;-)
  • Sacred Reading for the daily Gospel readings and additional short reflections. 
  • Living Faith devotional
How are your New Year's resolutions going? Oh! I mentioned maybe signing up for a new fitness class for one lunchtime a week at work. Do you have one that you go to and like? Zumba? Pilates? Yoga? Give me all the deets, I'd love to hear them!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Catholic Book Club: Raising the Barre

Happy book club Wednesday everyone! I hope that this new book club format is working out as well for you as it is for me. I feel MUCH relieved knowing that I don't have a deadline to meet. Rather ridiculous, I am, considering this was ALL self imposed, but there you have it. So if you're into the book club, this is how it will continue to work: I have the list of books on the right sidebar that I'm planning to read in the coming months. I'll add new books on there from time to time as things catch my eye. I'll arrange them from top to bottom loosely in the order in which I'm planning to read them. When I'm within 1-2 weeks of being ready to post a review, I'll add a date next to the title in question, so that you can try and finish up too if you're angling to finish with me and discuss your thoughts on that book in the comments. The title selection will now also include both Catholic and secular books, likely non-fiction in the secular category. Sound good?

And so today's title in one of those in our new foray into secular books, involving dance, which is why I chose it. ;-) It is Raising the Barre, by Lauren Kessler. This book immediately caught my eye when I read about it via another blog, and our description is thus:
When I was six, my father nicknamed me Laurisa Kesslova because, he said, all great dancers were Russians, and since I was going to be a great dancer, I needed a Russian name. I aim to reclaim that name.

When Lauren Kessler was twelve, her ballet instructor crushed not just her dreams of being a ballerina but also her youthful self-assurance. Now, many decades and three children later, Kessler embarks on a journey to join a professional company to perform in The Nutcracker. Raising the Barre is more than just one woman's story; it is a story about shaking things up, taking risks and ignoring good sense, and forgetting how old you are and how you're "supposed" to act. It's about testing limits and raising the bar(re) on your own life.
The concept behind this book immediately drew my interest. You all know that I'm a dancer and have a childhood background in ballet, and that I've also written about my tradition of seeing The Nutcracker annually with my mom and now also my kids. So this book was a natural fit for me. Plus, I love memoirs, and the author is likely not much older than I am now, so instant relatability!

My impressions: I liked the book. It took me a few weeks to get through it, but that's because my reading time these days is practically nil. I always looked forward picking up my Kindle and getting back to this book, which is a good sign. I would say that my favorite parts of the book were the beginning, where the author attends a half dozen different Nutcracker performances around the country one holiday season, and near the end, wherein she's rehearsing to perform The Nutcracker with the Eugene Ballet Company. Those parts of the book moved very quickly for me. The middle, wherein she spent some time talking about her workout regime to get into good enough shape to dance with a professional company, took longer for me to get through. That's not to say that I didn't like that part of the book, indeed I found it very interesting, but the tempo slowed for me there.

What I found noteworthy about that middle segment of the book is that in the author's discussion of fitness classes and an overall increased workout regimen (and she mentions Barre3! which I love) she brings out quite a lot of personal history with regard to body image. We all have a personal history with body image, no? I can't imagine there's a person alive who doesn't. And in fact, she discusses how when she speaks with several ballerinas in the book who are tall and lean and gorgeous, the first things they mention about their bodies are negative. *Everyone* has a hang up (or two, or three) about the way they see their body, and the way that they perceive that others see it. It's not an easy thing, to be sure. It was incredibly thought-provoking.

I spent time dwelling on this issue as I read the book. For my part, I had terribly insecure body image when I was a teenager and into my 20's, but now? I actually don't. I think it's because I turned 40. I care less about what people think now. :0 But I certainly understand, because I had this problem for years. Dance also helps with my ability to be happy with my body. I can't do everything I'd like to do (splits, back bends) but dance makes me feel good about myself. And I see dance do that for other women too, of all ages and body types. It's absolutely wonderful.

I'm not certain that that fully happened for the author, which struck me as incredibly interesting. Throughout the book she spoke a lot about how self-conscious she felt in the dance rehearsals with the company. In my opinion, a large part of the reason for this is that she was working with a ballet company. Ballet definitely favors the young and very, very thin. The dancers are *under*weight, really. I'd feel uncomfortable in that situation too! She also seemed pretty self-conscious in the workout classes she was taking at first, but I noticed her confidence build towards the latter part of the book, especially in her Barre3 classes, which I thought was absolutely fantastic.

The end of the book, when she's performing with the company, feels a bit condensed. It was very interesting to read, but I expected this section to be longer. I think it's because the author wasn't able to make all of the tour locations with the company due to her other commitments, so her performing schedule was more limited.

In the end, I was surprised that she didn't spend more time in ballet classes prior to the start of rehearsals with the company, and rather focused on the workout/getting fit angle. Getting fit is great, and certainly important for endurance, but in dance, technique is everything. So, my approach would have been different, but variety of opinions is what makes the world go round, right?

When I finished reading the book, I thought to myself how beautiful ballet is, what a wonderful foundation it is for all other forms of dance, and how grateful I am that I was able to study it as a child. However. :) Ballet isn't EVERYTHING. You are never too old to dance, nor is anyone too (fill in the blank) to dance. EVERYONE with a willing spirit can dance. There are LOTS of dance forms out there to try, and you will find out that resonates with you.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and it provided a ton of fodder for me to think about. What did YOU think dear reader? Even if you didn't read the book, what are your thoughts on body image as we age? I'd love for you to chime in. :)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A weekend of reflecting on love and marriage...

Well hello to you all, and I'm happy to be with you again after a long weekend! I was blissfully away on my little anniversary getaway with Mike for a few nights, and we were terribly sad to come back, though happy to be reunited with the kids. I unfortunately developed some sort of nasty cold right before we got back, so I'm typing my happy recollection post over here with an unfortunate fever rash. :( (Gross! Sorry, I know). The perils of having very fair skin, I'm afraid.

At any rate, I have LOTS to tell you all, but we'll get to all of that over the course of this week. Today I wanted to focus on my trip and some quick thoughts on wedding anniversaries. Got your beverage? I've just about sucked down my entire giant travel mug of coffee, but that's just the way things roll on the first day back to work after a long and glorious weekend.

Let's circle back to Friday. Mike and I dropped the kids with their grandparents and headed north to beautiful and quaint Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. We went last year as well, to commemorate our milestone 10th wedding anniversary. This year is not a milestone, but we figured "why not? life is short" and booked our reservations back in the fall.

In a fortuitous difference as compared to last year, the weather was beautifully seasonal and not Sear The Skin Off Your Face cold. I mean, as I described in last year's post, we're all about the winter weather, but the cold front that came through 12 months ago really knocked our socks off. The wind chill was dangerously frigid, and people were RUNNING from shop to shop to avoid having even the smallest bits of uncovered skin exposed to the elements. It was wild. This year we were like:

"Oh look, the lake! Let's go take a walk down by it."

Last year was:

"There's a lake here?!"

And when the lake in question is LAKE ONTARIO, one would think you would spot it pretty easily. But it was just all hazy with blowing and drifting snow last year, and you couldn't get *near* the water. This year, while cold and snowy, was very manageable and winter wonderland-like.

So we checked into the idyllic inn that we usually stay at, and headed to afternoon tea. If you've never been to Traditional Afternoon Tea at the historic Prince of Wales hotel, this is something you *must* check out should you ever be in the area. We settled into a cozy table and happily ordered our tea. It was sublime:

Adorable, right?? The tea was good too. ;-)
We lingered and chit chatted to our hearts' content before heading out to some of our favorite shops. Unsurprisingly, given my sweet tooth, my very favorite is the quaint fudge shop, where I procured multiple bricks of fudge for the kids and I. And herein we encountered something distinctly foreign (but good) to our American sensibilities: the mechanism for paying by credit card outside of the U.S. I've never traveled anywhere internationally aside from Canada, but I believe this applies pretty much everywhere. :) We're very behind the times when it comes to protecting against credit card fraud, to be sure. So in Canada, when you pay by credit card, they bring over this handheld credit card device, even right to your table in restaurants (where you can put the calculated tip in and everything, very convenient). And if you have a card with a chip in it (and not all Americans do; Mike and I have brand new cards that have a chip as of only a few months ago) there is apparently a separate slot for you to put it in, rather than swiping it. I did not know this. ;-) So when I went to pay for the fudge, the nice fudge lady brought that machine out, and I tried to look like I knew what I was doing, because the machine was different from the mounted ones I'm used to in stores. I carefully swiped, then accidentally switched the language to French when prompted, because, you know, I'm CLUELESS. And so I was staring at it innocently, hoping for an instruction to pop up that I could discern and discreetly maneuver my way back to my native tongue, when the fudge lady looked down at what I was doing and raised a knowing eyebrow:

"Are you from the U.S.?"

I wonder what tipped her off? :0

"Yes." *sheepish*

"Your card has a chip, so you have to put it in here, with the chip facing up. But I don't think you all have PIN's yet in the same way that we do, so it won't ask you for that. Then you just follow the directions, and it will tell you when to remove the card."

Whew. After that I could pretend a lot easier than I was adept at using those machines, I just had one further accidental switch to French in the liquor store. ;-)

With our fudge secured, we enjoyed a lovely walk up and down the main street, and some quiet time before dinner:

I'm not usually so pushy, but I asked our waiter to take a photo of us. It was a special occasion. :)

OK, SO! Highly amusing anecdote surrounding dinner. Mike and I are all blissful, contentedly eating our meals and sipping cocktails, when I notice something. Back story: last year on our anniversary trip, we were sitting in this very same restaurant, and during the course of our dinner, we spotted our neighbors from a few doors down sitting at the bar. That didn't seem particularly odd, as Niagara-on-the-Lake is not a long drive from where we live, and January is Ice Wine Festival season there. A bit of a coincidence, certainly, but nothing crazy. A number of people drive in to attend ice wine events and tastings, which are very well regarded in the Niagara wine region. They were chatting with another couple, so we didn't interrupt them to go say hello. Plus, it's not like we really *know* them anyway. We always greet each other politely if we encounter each other out on Halloween or at the annual Block Party, but that's about the extent of it. So, flash forward again to this past Friday night. Now, bear in mind, while still January, we're at Niagara-on-the-Lake on a totally different weekend than we were last year, due to having to switch our trip for Mike's grandma's funeral. I'm lifting a wedge of cheddar cheese to my mouth and nearly drop it back onto my plate:


Mike is taking a sip of his drink and lifts an eyebrow at me in acknowledgement.

"I think that's one of our neighbors at the bar, the wife."

Mike turns and quietly chokes on his Manhattan.

"Well, that's definitely the husband next to her, so it has to be them."

"It's a different weekend, so I didn't think...what are the chances?!"

Different weekend, but yet we're in the exact same spot as them at the exact same time on a now annual basis? That's really uncanny.

"Do you think they're here for the ice wine festival?"

"I don't know, but now I'm dying to find out. Do you think we should go say hello?"

"That seems awkward, since they're with friends. But if we wait to mention this coincidence until the next time we happen to bump into them back at home... that seems even *weirder,* don't you think?! We'll look like stalkers."

Can you imagine the potential future encounter?

"Oh hey, how are you? Nice day we're having, yes. Say, we had occasion to notice that you like to travel to Niagara-on-the-Lake every January, two years running, and dine at the Prince of Wales lounge. Are you ice wine fans?"

It's like a scene out of a Hitchcock film.

It was a quandary, to be sure. In the end, like the introverts that we truly are, we left without saying anything to them. And then the next time we run into them in our neighborhood we'll totally freak them out by mentioning all of this, just you wait. That'll definitely be a bloggable moment. :0

Back in our room, we settled into our bliss:

See my crocheting resting on the arm of the chair by the fire? Complete heaven, right there.
I LOVED our room. (aside from the loud trio of groomsmen attending a local wedding situated across the hall from us). It had two wing back chairs by the gas fireplace, in addition to lots of other cute and homey built-ins and furnishings. As I mentioned above, Mike and I are both introverts, and we were VERY content to have what I call Parallel Solitude: me in one chair crocheting, he reading in the other. No TV, no music, just silence and an occasional noise from the fire. It was comforting knowing the other person was there, and we'd exchange thoughts every now and then as we sipped our wine. But the quiet time was wonderful. When you have small kids, you come to really appreciate quiet moments. And Mike and I, in particular, are people who love quiet. And to be alone. I treasure having a partner who knows and understands that. Don't get me wrong, we enjoy our together time as well. We certainly had lots of occasion for that on this trip. ;-) But we can both comfortably rest in our own thoughts and recharge without the other feeling left out or lonely. Bliss, I tell you, the best of both worlds:

"I need a picture for my blog!" He's such a good sport, is it any wonder why I adore him so much?
We had just a fantastic time. Oh! And we went to the vigil Mass on Saturday night, absolutely divine. On Sunday morning before we left, we took another walk down by the lake and spotted some adorable water fowl:

Lots of Canada geese and Mallards, to be sure. But I also spotted what looked to be some sort of Tern, and Bufflehead. We enjoyed watching and listening to them for a spell.

To be honest, it was so idyllic I felt a bit melancholy coming back. It was a really wonderful weekend. And I'll get sappy for a moment. I've always loved and appreciated my husband. But this weekend made me reflect on that even further. We've been married for 11 years, together for 13 years counting dating and engagement. And after that time, I can honestly say that I am still VERY much in love with my husband. Very much. No marriage is perfect, nor any human person, and we're no exception to that. But 11 years ago, when I chose him, I chose well. I chose a sweet and loving partner who suits me well. Who makes me laugh every single day. Who I find irresistibly attractive. And I am very grateful to God for helping us to find each other.

How was your weekend, dear reader? Tomorrow is going to be a Catholic Book Club review day for Raising the Barre, looking forward to discussing it with you!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Tea Time with Tiffany #31 - Could it be? Actual podcast stuff?!

Hi everybody! This week I am particularly enthused about our time together for:

Something new this week, and I discuss it in the video, but you may notice that there is a link to download the audio file this time. Ooohhh, Tiffany, you're trying something new, ooo la la! Yes, yes, very exciting, right?!

*To download the audio file, select the column icon (it will say "See more Formats at Internet Archive" when you hover over it) to head over to the hosting page. From a desktop: right click on the MP3 option on the right side of the screen, and select "Save Link As..." Then save the file to your computer or connected device. From your mobile device: click on the mp3 file, then press and hold on the play arrow. An option to save the file will come up.

Indeed, I may move to libsyn or Sound Cloud to host the files soon, as that would be a lot better for both you and me. But that costs money, so I'm working up to that. ;-) I'll keep you posted!

Items discussed (or meant to discuss. d'oh!) in this episode:
So, do you like having the new audio option? Do you have other audio ideas for me? I'd love to hear them. :)

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Downton Abbey craft-along progress...This is supposed to be *relaxing*, right?!

Well HELLO to all you gals and guys out there in Blog Reading Land! I'm so glad that you're here! I thought the time was right for a crafty post, and so here we are, crafting along together. :)

This has been rather a busy week, and in terms of knitting and crocheting, I am WAY behind. But let's ignore that little tidbit for the time being. Last Sunday hearkened the start of the annual Downton Abbey mystery knit- and crochet-along and like the Type A Eager Beaver that I am, I downloaded the first clue right away and started knitting.

*spoiler alert! If you're doing the MKAL or MCAL and don't want to see progress photos, skip this post :)*

So, the way that this works is that each Sunday morning, a clue comes out with a portion of the pattern. We do know that the finished items will be shawls, but not how the designs will look. This continues throughout the season of Downton Abbey, with the final clue being released for the finale.

I decided to start with the knit shawl and leave the crochet clue for later in the week. I excitedly get my wound yarn and needles and look at the pattern: it calls for a heretofore unknown to me cast on method devised by some woman named Emily Ocker. It's a method of casting on in the round using a small amount of stitches, whereby you create a ring that can be pulled together later, creating a nice, small, non-gappy circle. That all sounds super efficient and lovely, right?

Well. :) Casting onto double pointed needles with just a few stitches on each needle creates...let's just say A NEAR OCCASION OF SIN. The needles are flopping every which way, stitches are sliding off of needles such that I have to start over, all the way back to the ring, I can't discern which needle even comes next in the circle and if it's facing the right direction...I have to re-start the thing multiple times, and by the third or fourth try, I'm pretty punchy. I'm thinking very uncharitable thoughts about this nefarious Emily Ocker, who has so obviously created a device of torture for knitters. Over on the Ravelry discussion board for the knit-along, people are dramatically declaring that they have given up and are electronically flouncing off. I'm far too stubborn to give up, but I'm certainly not happy about it.

I finally manage to get through the first few rounds by holding the needles taut in place using an octopus-like hand configuration and then things get a tad steadier. I knit and increase for about 10 rounds, cautiously optimistic about my future shawl. Then I pull on the yarn tail, which allegedly will close up my ring, and give me a beautiful center to the lace motif. Nothing happens.


Let's just say that that wasn't a good moment and leave it at that. Mike had to gently intervene, coaxing me to put the knitting down and not rip it from the needles. Then I pretended to be totally calm and over it, before sneaking off with my phone to frantically text my friend Stacy, who is also participating in the knit-along. She texted me off the ledge, convincing me to leave it on the needles for her to look at in the morning.

Over lunch the next day, Stacy and I figured out a way to pull up a different loop from the original ring and pull it *mostly* taut. It wasn't the way it was supposed to work, I had clearly done something wrong all the way back at the evil, Satan-spawned cast on, but it worked, and so I didn't have to start over and risk losing what is left of my mind. After that, I finished the rest of clue 1 without incident, thankfully:

At least it's done
It's a scrunchy photo, to be sure, but as you can see it has a nice lacy look, and I'm wondering if the final design will be a pi shawl. We will soon find out.

Around mid-week, I started in on the crochet clue. This one generally went better, although I will say that this is not a beginner-level pattern. It's definitely intermediate, and the directions were difficult to follow. The message boards had lots of back-and-forth with the designer to decipher the pattern language, and there was even an update provided to the pattern to clarify things better. I was rather glad that the dust had settled somewhat before I picked this one up. I also switched my yarn choice from a solid teal color to a variegated autumn colorway, and I really love the result:

One can never have too many autumn hues in their wardrobe...
Right now it looks like a budding granny square, yes indeed, but I'm very fond of it. It looks like in clue 2 we may go asymmetrical, so excitement is in store! If you're a crochet nerd, that is. ;-)

I've started in on clue 2 for the knit version, and it's going well, albeit slowly because I have little time to work on it this week. I will post updates as the shawls progress!

How about you, dear reader? Are you working on either of these shawls? Write in and let me know how it's going. :)

Monday, January 11, 2016

A funeral, a weekend of travels with the kids, & a return to Ordinary Time

All! I really miss you when we don't chat for a few days, you know? And I have lots of plans brewing in this little head of mine. More on that coming later in the week. But for now, let's debrief our weekends, yes? Got your coffee?

It's Monday morning, and I'm starting it off with a headache.


I know, I know. It was a bit of a long weekend, and now I'm going into Monday morning being besieged by law students who are stumped by the sources they need to find for the law review. Law students are no slouches when it comes to research, so if they're telling me that "this is the worst list of sources to find that I've ever had!" well...I'm thinking it's going to be a somewhat challenging morning. And they're law students. So they're all intense and such. ;-)

All right, that's my current situation, which isn't altogether pleasant, but it could always be worse, right? So, the weekend. We had a funeral to travel to for a very lovely lady, Mike's grandmother, Eleanor. I just love her name, don't you? Mike and I had talked about that being our girl name when we had Anne. At any rate, Mike's grandmother was 95, she had led a long, full life, but when someone passes away, there's always that sense of loss. Sad.

So, on Friday, we packed up for a 3 hour jaunt to the funeral. The kids were *bouncing off the walls* excited about staying in a hotel. Mike and I, unsurprisingly, did not share that sentiment. ;-)

Only a three hour car ride, WITH entertainment provided, and yet:

"Are we there yet?!"

Some things, my friends, are so incredibly predictable.

We arrive, and the kids exhaust themselves exploring the room and the rest of the hotel. We had a family dinner to attend, and then there was the first of two wake sessions at the funeral home. For Friday night, we decided to have Mike attend and leave me and the kids behind at the hotel, since it would go past Anne's bedtime, plus both kids would attend the second wake and funeral in the morning. Mike brings us back to the hotel and then departs. I was exhausted and hoping for a quiet evening of Downton Abbey mystery crochet-along crocheting, as I had brought Clue 1 along with me.

"Who wants to watch a movie?!"

My friends, when that suggestions gets met by a resounding declination, you know that you are in for a long, long evening.

That about sums it up, right there. Our room was small, and yet they wanted to do nothing but run around and "find new things!" I know that this type of stuff is good for kids, but solidarity over the parental exhaustion quota, yes?

And that overnight? I'm steeling myself now, even just to recount it. :0 Mike and I are in one bed, and he is still coughing, dear, sweet, adorable soul that he is. Henry and Anne are in the other. Anne collapsed from sheer exhaustion around 9:30 pm. At around 10, the rest of us attempt to sleep. Henry climbs into bed with a pout face:

"She's taking up so much room!"

"Yes, I know Henry, I have slept with Anne before, so I'm aware of the problem. Just gently move her over, and it'll be fine."

I could have gone on and on about how I had Anne *in my body* for 9 months and thus are keenly aware of how uncomfortable she can make things, but I resisted.


I attempt to drift off. I can hear Mike trying to suppress his cough, poor darling. And then..

*rustle...rustle. Rustle. Rustlerustlerustlerustlerustlerustlerustle!!!!*

"HENRY. What are you doing?"

"I can't get comfortable! Anne keeps moving her legs!"

"Well, don't move around so much Honey, you're keeping us all up. Move her over! She won't wake up."

She sleeps like a rock, that Anne. I drift off...

*rustle...rustle. Rustle. Rustlerustlerustlerustlerustlerustlerustle!!!!*

"Henry. Why don't you try the sleeping bag on the floor?"

We had packed it just in case this very thing happened.

*lots more noise as Henry bumps around the room in the dark, fetching and rolling out the sleeping bag*

"Good. Now go to sleep."

I drift off...

*rustle...rustle. Rustle. Rustlerustlerustlerustlerustlerustlerustle!!!!*

This went on for some time, Henry eventually transitioning back into the bed with Anne, lots of nostril flaring coming from myself. More coughing from precious Mike. MORE RUSTLING.

Eventually, I had drifted off and then been woken so many times I was convinced it must be close to morning and maybe I'd just get up and go down to the lobby for a cup of coffee and some crocheting. The time?

I look at the clock, hope alive in my heart. 10:55. PM.

I think at least a dozen souls were released from purgatory right at that moment, kind and gentle readers.

It was a L.O.N.G night. And no rest for the weary, since we had the wake and funeral ahead of us in the morning. Along with that, tons of visiting with family that we don't get to see often, which while wonderful, is incredibly draining for introverted types like Mike and I.

The time at the funeral home was simple and very beautiful. There were lovely photographs set up of Mike's grandma throughout her life, and we spent a lot of time looking at each of them, Mike filling me in on what was going on in many of the photos.

After the funeral service, we attended a luncheon in her honor, with more family visiting. It was fantastic to catch up with everyone, but needless to say that by the end of the say, we were pretty tired again. I was bracing myself for the overnight, but things actually ended up working out much better. My in-laws were staying in the room next to us, and they let Henry sleep in the second bed in their room so that each kid had a bed to themselves.

Can I get an Amen?

Yesterday was consumed with lots of laundry and getting settled and ready for the Monday routine. Also, look at that, we're back to Ordinary Time on the liturgical calendar! Not for long though, as Lent begins February 10th this year.

But speaking of this very topic, today is my day over at Catholic Mom, and this month my piece discusses the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, and the end of the Christmas season. I would for you to check it out and leave me a comment over there!

All right, my friends, back to work for me. But good stuff to come this week, including a crafty post on the Downton Abbey mystery knit- and crochet-alongs! I know a few of you were going to be participating, so I'm counting on you to let me know how it's going for you! I'll have photos too of my progress, and would love to see yours!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Tea Time with Tiffany #30 - Sometimes days turn sad...

Hi all! A bit of sadness to our new year in this week's installment of:

In today's episode, I discuss receiving both expected and unexpected sad news. Also, prayers for the repose of a few souls, detailed in the video. Death is never an easy thing to deal with, yes?

No links in today's post, just a heart-to-heart. :) Also, a shout out to Lara, who contacted me about being Fitbit buddies! How is your week going, dear ones? I look forward to connecting with you all again next week.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

New Year's Resolutions anyone? *insert best of intentions here*

Hi all! I'm doing my best to stay perky as I navigate my first week back to work. How's it going? you reasonably ask, you thoughtful reader, you. :-) It's going pretty well. I've had a bit more difficulty than usual getting back to my regular routine. I miss being home with Mike and the kids. A lot. But I've set my mind to positive things, and that's helping quite a bit.

Part of the way I've been doing this is to focus on goals for the new year. I suppose one could call them New Year's Resolutions. But I know better than to set anything earth shattering for myself, because taking on too much new all at once sets me up for failure.What I prefer to do is examine the things I'd like to improve, and then realistically think of ways to tweak what I'm already doing to make them just that bit better.

So here are the things I'd like to work on, and then we can chat about yours if you like! For me:

(1) A prayer routine. So that would should actually exist. :0 Right now, the situation is that I attend Mass weekly and on holy days of obligation. I sometimes pray the rosary when I'm in the car. I pray novenas as they pique my interest. And that would be it. I don't feel "dry" in my faith life per se, but it does feel like I'm not putting all that much effort into it, and thus I am not thriving.

When I was contemplating my return to work late last week (stay with me, this ties in), being all sad about it, I thought to myself that I really need to change the way I approach my early wake up time, as that is always one of the most difficult parts of my day. I hate getting out of bed, I could lounge there for hours if allowed. Have I mentioned that over my break, I was able to sleep in until *8 am*? Peeps, the last time I slept in that long I was in my 20's. That would be a two digit difference in the first number in that equation. IT'S BEEN A LONG TIME. I reveled in it. But I'm getting off track, as I am wont to do. ;-) At any rate, ideally, this early morning time could incorporate into improving my prayer life.

When we're back to work and school, I *need* to be out of bed by 6:45 am. I really *should* get out of bed around 6:30 am, so that I don't have to be all rushy rushy.  What I decided to do is this: at 6:30 am, I turn on my bedside lamp. I give myself one minute to let my eyes adjust, then I reach for my new devotional duo and spend a few minutes reading the days' entries. What I decided on are these:

I bought a copy of this back in the late fall, related to a project I worked on for I didn't use it during Advent because I had the Magnificat Companion, so once the new year came, I picked it up, and loved it. It has the daily Gospel reading plus short inspirations for contemplative prayer. Each day is about a page or slightly less in length, all told. Then, I pull out my cute copy of the current Living Faith. I've subscribed to this little pocket devotional in the past, and the church we went to for the feast of Mary, Mother of God on New Years Eve had them available for free, so I picked one up. Each day there is a short reflection on the daily Gospel, so it works quite well with Sacred Reading. It comes out quarterly. Both this and Sacred Reading are available in either print or for Kindle. Convenient, yes?

I've been implementing this plan since Monday, and so far I love it. It helps to make my wake up time much more soothing and pleasant, and I feel better the whole day. My goal is to keep this going through Lent (which is early this year! starts February 10th) and beyond. I'm planning to re-subscribe to Living Faith toward this end.

(2) Fitness and dance. You all know how I love my dancing avocation, and I'm also a reasonably active person, going for walks most days and popping on an online Barre3 workout when I can (only 20-40 minutes total per week, though, right now). Overall however, I've become a bit complacent. I'm extremely consistent about attending my weekly dance class, but otherwise my approach to fitness and staying in shape is fairly haphazard. I'd like to be more organized in my fitness routine and to more practice time for dance. My Fitbit is really helping in this regard, making me more conscious of how active I've been on each day. I love it. I don't necessarily want to lose weight (except for that pesky 5 pounds that everybody always wants to lose :-)) I just want to gain more tone and strength. So I'm setting daily goals. Some days I'm shooting for that 10,000 step goal with my Fitbit, other days I want to get in a workout in that focuses more on core strength. I'm also going to try and incorporate in new and fun things where my schedule allows, like the new HipFit belly dance workout class I was able to attend on Monday evening. LOVED IT. SO MUCH. I can't usually go to those classes, because Mike teaches on Monday nights and I'm needed at home with the kids, but when he's off, I can try to go. Or I can try and find a class at the gym here on campus during lunch. Lots of fun possibilities to explore.

As I've gotten older, I've really tried to learn to appreciate my body for what it is. It is not perfect nor like that of a swimsuit model, which is totally fine with me. But it's what God gave me, so I should treat it well and be comfortable in it. This comes up quite a bit in that book I'm reading, Raising the Barre, which I'm excited to discuss with you soon.

(3) Keep the creative juices flowing! Last year brought a lot of changes to my approach to blogging, and personally, I've been thriving in them. I'm hoping to keep that momentum going. Stay tuned next week for some new and upcoming ideas. ;-)

What are YOUR New Year's Resolutions, dear reader? And don't forget, if you have or get a Fitbit, let me know so that we can become friends in Fitbit app-land and challenge each other to achieve our goals!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Feeling very blessed indeed, in this new year...

Another new year? I feel old. :0 But I also feel SO HAPPY. Welcome back everyone!


I often find this post (the after-Christmas-staycation, what the heck day is it?! Oh yeah, the day I have to go back to being an adult and stop lounging around the house knitting in my pajamas, post) the most difficult to write of the year. And I think it's because I'm such a spontaneous writer - I like to write stream of consciousness, about whatever is going on with me right at that moment. And now, after not blogging for nearly 2 weeks, too much has happened that I want to tell you all about, and I feel overwhelmed and do not know where to begin. I am easily overwhelmed, have you noticed that about me yet? ;-)

So here I am, looking a little sour faced in my office, because I'd rather be home brewing tea and contemplating which craft project I should pick up next, or maybe I should take a walk with Anne in her wagon? And do I *really* need to get dressed to do either of those activities?! But sadly, here I am in my work clothes trying to look alive. Because my break was AWESOME. Really, really great, I can't remember feeling so content in quite some time.

*blissful sigh*

I was dreading the time coming to an end. And last night, trying to go to sleep before The Wake Up That We All Fear? It wasn't good. The whole family has been sick (except for me, who paid her dues back in November with The Cough That Would Never End, and The Fever Rash That Sent People Fleeing In Terror) and last night poor Mike's cough worsened.

He was being so sweet, doing little things to cheer me up because he knew I was dreading going back to work, but he was COUGHING. I felt bad for him, but every time he erupted in a fit of super loud coughing I couldn't help inwardly cringing. Mike and I are real marital nerds in that we don't like to sleep apart.  The only exceptions are if one of us is traveling without the other, or if one of us is sick and coughing to the degree of potentially disturbing the others' sleep. I was thinking last night was going to qualify for exception #2, but Mike didn't seem to think so, settling into bed beside me sweetly and happily to read. And cough. He didn't seem to pick up on my discreet side eyes every time the noise barrier was breached, and I didn't want to hurt his feelings.

He fell asleep before I did. I was reading on my Kindle and trying grumpily to get sleepy when he started to snore. And Mike doesn't usually snore. But the congestion had obviously gotten the better of him, because he was snoring LOUD. Obviously, this is not his fault. But thus began a cycle of: (1) Snore. (2) Wake self up by snoring. (3) Get annoyed with self and angrily rustle around in the bed, elbowing pillows every which way. Repeat.

Didn't exactly make for easy sleeping for either of us. ;-) Oh, and did I mention that Anne woke sometime in the middle of the night, inexplicably demanding that a book be read to her? That happened too.

Sooooo, we were all tired this morning. And it's finally cold here, in the teens temperature-wise this morning when we left. Sadness, so much sadness. Have you seen Inside Out? I did, several times over the break. ;-) If you have too, you know what I'm talking about.

All right, so let's do as thorough a review of the holidays as I can remember, which doesn't bode well right from the outset, but we'll do what we can.

We hosted lots of fetes and family over both Christmas and New Years. It was LOVELY. True, I did a bit of tornadoing, but on the whole I kept it to a minimum. It helps that I have a wonderful husband who works so well with me to get things ready and make everyone feel welcome when they're over. It was also nice to not have to go anywhere besides Mass over the course of Christmas Eve and Christmas day. Since everything was at our house, we stayed put for the most part.

And Christmas day was BEAUTIFUL. We opened gifts in the morning prior to heading to 11 am Mass. I received many fabulous gifts (I am spoiled, truly) but one of my very favorites is my new orange Fitbit:

Isn't he fabulous?!
What should I name him?! It's very easy to anthropomorphize this thing since it says good morning to me, and congratulates me on achieving my daily step goal by lighting up and vibrating happily. I love it so much that I have become quite obsessed with it. Mike has teasingly threatened to hide it. :0 I'm doing all of these fun daily and weekly challenges with my friends who are on Fitbit and I have become consumed with getting to or near 10,000 steps per day. The kids don't even question it anymore when they see me walking randomly in circles around the kitchen table, trying to get in extra steps. I have to say, I LOVE IT, I really do. Are you on Fitbit and want to connect with me for walking challenges? Leave me a comment and we'll find each other. :)

As for the kids, we focused on crafty things this year, or generally creative things that they can work on for some time. I really tried to get away from the big plastic toy phenomenon (which inevitably, after taking 20 full minutes to extract from the package, drawing blood in the process, break before the end of January) with the exception of Anne's new play kitchen, which she loves:

Notice, also, her new apron. It matches mine. *beams*
My nephews also had a grand time in there playing over the holidays. Henry even had lunch in there with her one day:

Aren't they darling?
And so everybody loved their gifts. We went to Christmas morning Mass which was so spectacular I can't even describe it. The pianist and cantor sang a rendition of "What Child is This" that brought tears to my eyes. I feel especially blessed this Christmas.

The rest of the week we just enjoyed being together and eating leftovers. SO MANY LEFTOVERS. My family is part Italian, we can't help it. We overfeed. It's how we show love. :) I went on lots of walks (Fitbit!), we brewed lots of tea (even the children, I've indoctrinated them well) and the time was generally quite restful and invigorating.

New Years Eve found me knitting and crocheting like a mad woman to finish up the kids' handcrafted gifts prior to the Epiphany, and indeed, I finished that night as we all watched E.T. together. Here are Henry's gingerbread socks:

He's already worn them, he's such a good child.

And Anne's amigurumi cat:

A cat. Right?!

Well...she's cute, but she doesn't *exactly* look like a cat. Both children asked, separately of each other:

"Is that a mouse?!"

She's mouse-like, I suppose. But the important thing is that she is DONE, and Anne loves her, and has named her Mary. Quite fitting that she was born on the vigil of the Feast of Mary, Mother of God. ;-)

Towards the end of my time off, on Epiphany weekend, we took a short pilgrimage to a shrine to Our Lady of Fatima that is about a half hour from our house:

They have a festival of lights each year, which of course, is kept up through the Epiphany. :-) It was beautiful, and I asked for the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima as we move into this new year. Life can be challenging, but above all, it is GOOD.

We have lots of fun stuff coming up, my friends! I have a bunch of ruminating thoughts that I'm hankering to write about (prayer routines for the new year! dance and fitness news!), including the fact that I started reading Raising the Barre over the break, and I can't wait to review it on here! I'll set a date for the discussion likely within the week. My Kindle tells me that I'm about 35% of the way through. I'll also start recording short Tea Time videos again beginning this week. Oh, and amusing crafty news with the Downton Abbey knit- and crochet-alongs starting this week. Let's just say that last night involved a cast-on experience that has left me scarred for life. Details to come!

How is YOUR new year starting out, dear reader? And don't forget to write to me if you have a Fitbit! I demand this. ;-)