Wednesday, December 23, 2020

4th Week of Advent: Baking and dancing towards Christmas...

Hello everyone, and I hope that your Advent is wrapping up beautifully, just as mine is. 😊 I have allllll of my wrapping still to do, but otherwise am in good shape. I made cookies this week, I should have taken pictures for photographic evidence, ha! Because I am not the best baker, but these turned out well. Most of them have already been consumed by children living in my house. ;-) We made Peanut Butter Blossoms and Italian Chocolate Balls (we put chocolate chips in instead of walnuts, though!).

We were also excited to light the final candle in our Advent wreath:

I wasn't feeling well on Sunday morning after a terrible night of sleep, so we watched the 8 am mass that my parish had streamed for the 4th Sunday of Advent. I have us reserved for the 10 am mass on Christmas day, so hopefully that all goes without a hitch!

Prior to the bad night of sleep though, I had my online Christmas themed dance show, and that went great! Picture me dancing in a bright red gown in the middle of our living room, which was cleared of all easily movable furniture, a camera mounted on a ladder, and my family marooned in their bedrooms. πŸ˜‚ As the organizer wrote to us later, she appreciated our hard work, especially because she knows it isn't easy prepping a piece, setting up your own "stage," and being your own grip and director. There's certainly an unnatural element to performing solely online, with the lack of dedicated performance space and audience/performer energy exchange, but we're all getting a bit more used to it in the dance community, and making the best of it for the time being. I've finally gotten to a place wherein I've accepted that this is the way it is for the time being, and I might as well find the joy and new opportunities that these online shows present until we can go back to in-person shows. I'm lining up some opportunities for the first part of the new year, and really looking forward to working on some new pieces. I will say that performing online means that I have become more choreographed and artistic in my approach to what I present in dance, since there is no crowd energy to feed off of for improvising. It's different for me, and challenging in the best way possible, so I'm seeing that as a positive!

In terms of holiday/wintertime crafting, I've been a busy bee. I promised an update on the Advent gnome, and so here is my in-progress Gnutmeg!


The stitch marker is holding the spot for a belt buckle. The final clue is out today, and I can see that we will be assembling some of the other pieces we knit (nose and beard, various icords for limbs, I'm assuming) onto the gnome, and also adding some final surprises! I'll post a photo after the holidays when I have him all finished. 

I also worked a bit more on Frog:


Creepy, I know, with the disembodied eyeballs. πŸ˜‚ Terrifyingly, the pattern calls for you to *cut out holes for the eyes* and then stitch them on in a way to create eyelids. I have the spot marked out with stitch markers, but have been too chicken so far to proceed. I'm picturing unraveled green yarn all over my couch, and me in tears guzzling wine off to the side. Someone may have to come hold me afterward. 🀣 I'll post an update after the new year!

Speaking of, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and happy New Year! I'll be posting again the week following New Years Day, and using the time to recharge and think of creative new things we can chat and pray about in 2021! 

*virtual group hug*

Friday, December 18, 2020

Third Week of Advent: Preparation and Peace

Happy Friday everyone, and happy Third Week of Advent! I'm always excited to light the pink candle:


...AND our parish is still open, so we were able to attend our favorite 11 am Sunday mass! They announced this week that Christmas masses would be by reservation (to assure that the capacity restrictions won't be a factor) so I called and made ours for Christmas day at 10 am, also our favorite mass for that occasion. I know Christmas eve is a favorite for many, but there is a serenity on Christmas morning that has really taken hold of my heart in recent years. Plus, there is way less demand for attendance at that one, so it's always quiet and peaceful. :-)

Our Advent calendars continue to thrive! Here is our magnetic one, we're progressing right now through animals, shepherds and stars:


The Holy Family, of course, is reserved for the spots of honor. ;-)

Soooo, I am very much not a huge fan of the Elf on the Shelf tradition (it's just odd to me, but to be fair, I suppose one could say that about any number of holiday traditions), but Anne LOVES IT and has talked nonstop about the elf they have in her classroom at school. Mike lives for this kind of stuff, so he bought an elf, and he and Anne have been guiding this thing around our house for the past few weeks. Apparently, elves "just appear after Thanksgiving", rather than being bought at Target, I almost screwed that one up. 🀷🀣 At any rate, Felix the elf has become a member of the family, and he even helped me photograph my Christmas doily this week to submit in a class in my online crafting community:

Weird, but true

In other crafting news, I'm making my nephew a frog:

Pattern is Frog and Toad from From and Cast

Looks like a green blob right now, but I promise, it'll be a frog. :-0 He's green, so kinda Christmassy? Won't be able to say that about the accompanying toad, we'll save him for New Years. ;-) I'll make it my goal to get caught up on my Advent gnome this weekend, and photograph him for next week's post!

Speaking of New Years, there's obviously no belly dancing this year owing to all of the restaurants being closed for indoor dining right now (amongst other factors), but I'm in an online Christmas themed show this weekend that I'm *really* looking forward to! After that is done on Saturday evening, I'm excited to relax into the holiday season with some cookie baking and wrapping the next day with the kids. 😍

How was your Third Week of Advent? Look for next week's post a bit early, given how the holiday will fall in the week, I'm thinking Wednesday!

Friday, December 11, 2020

Second Week of Advent: Re-developing a winter routine, and settling into serenity

Hello all, and I hope that your Second Week of Advent is going well! We're hanging in over here, and looking forward to some cozy hygge time coming up as we move into the coldest part of winter. This week, we lit the second candle on our Advent wreath:


...AND we were able to go to mass in-person, which was delightful! Our parish is doing some fundraising for repairs to the stained glass windows, so I purchased a CD of our magnificent music minister singing hymns that we enjoyed on the drive home. The kids have also been keeping up with our variety of Advent calendars, and everyone is quietly having a good time with those. 

That morning also heralded the feast of St. Nicholas, and as always my kids left their shoes by the hearth, and were rewarded were some chocolate gold coins and boos. 😎


We did not practice this tradition when I was growing up, but as a parent I have always been on the lookout for ways to draw Church traditions into our home life in ways that would capture my kids' imagination and help them to carry their own faith into adulthood. I have really enjoyed this one, and I know that they do, too.

Sunday was a busy day, as it was also pickup day for the poinsettia and wreath fundraiser at Anne's school. The red ones this year are particularly spectacular!


We seem to have settled into a happy Advent routine, and I'm pleased about that. In terms of other  winter things, we're trying to make things as joyful as we can. The kids are both back in school after being on remote learning for a week, and things are going great. They both are content and happy. 

I've also been crafting, and finished a Christmas doily for a gift this week!

Pattern is Eversong

I just love the color. And...

*drum roll*

I FINALLY finished Mike's cabled cardigan that I've been working on for like 10 years. πŸ˜‚

Isn't he so cute?!

It's a success! He loves it, and I'm SO GLAD to have that out of my work-in-progress basket!

I'm also working on a few dance projects, including preparing for an online show next weekend, and that all has given me a much needed sense of purpose and nervous excitement! These are all good things, and right now, we need to focus on the good, for sure.

How has your Second Week of Advent been going? I would love to hear about it in the comments!


Friday, December 4, 2020

First week of Advent: Acceptance, traditions, and Hallmark Christmas movies...

 Happy Friday everyone, and I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving last week (where applicable ;-)). We truly did; it was quiet, but lovely. And I did enjoy my Black Friday of online shopping and movie watching from my couch, that's pretty much what I do every year anyway, hee hee!

This month, I thought we would quite naturally focus on Advent each week, and we're now nearly to the end of the first week of this liturgical season. My family put up our Christmas tree last weekend, decorated the house, and of course got out our pleaothra of Advent activities. Advent week 1 candle lighting was a GO!


Everybody is ready for some fun, we did have to glue on an angel wing this year, something untoward happened in the box during the off season :0


Action!

I was glad to have a home Advent wreath more than usual this year, since once again, our parish did not offer mass this past weekend. :( Father did announce that we will have an in-person option for the remainder of Advent, so I can't wait to go this weekend! But back to Advent Week 1. The kids were a bit unenthusiastic about my Advent joy, but I gathered them round to light the candle (Anne did perk up a bit to wield the candle lighter thingy), and we read the reading and short prayer from Lisa Hendey's book, which is excellent:


We also have a multitude of Advent calendars, from chocolate to magnets to Playmobil Back to the Future. I've been exerting quite a bit of energy rallying the troops, because my kids don't seem as into it this year, which makes me sad. They are now 15 and 9, I suppose it isn't a huge surprise, but they've always loved Advent traditions. I do think this year has taken a toll in this regard, we're all having to try harder to do things that we've always loved, it's the underlying depression and anxiety of our current situation taking hold, I believe. So I just pressed on, hoping that they'll come round as the weeks go on, and I do see some Advent calendar activity here as the week draws to a close, which makes me happy.

Overall, I think that I've come to a sense of acceptance and resignation that for the time being, our lives are different than usual, and instead of wallowing in the mourning and despair, I can try to find ways to still make things fun and bright. So I really put aside any impatience I would normally feel when we were decorating the tree and the kids inevitably started arguing or carelessly broke an ornament, and just treasured the experience and joy of it, because the children *truly* love this season and are building memories from these types of family moments. I made hot cocoa for them, and had Henry select a holiday playlist for us to listen to as we decorated. From things that both have said to me, I know that they remember these experiences fondly, and I want to give them both as special a Christmas this year as possible.

I'm also slowly coming to terms with the fact that this may be our last Christmas with a true Santa experience. Anne is 9, and still wholeheartedly loves and believes in this tradition (by this age, Henry did not) and so I'm trying to just enjoy every moment instead of getting melancholy about eventually losing this unique magic. We never know what is in store for us, and so why fret about next year when next year isn't even guaranteed? It really still is magical with her, and I want to treasure every single second. 

The other thing that has been making me smile this Advent season is Hallmark Channel Christmas movies. Each weekend, I record the new ones that catch my eye (we have both Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries) and then watch them when I have free moments during the week. I use their app to keep track of which ones I want to catch, and check them off after viewing. This type of organization really appeals to my innate librarian qualities, and the whole experience makes me so happy. 😍 The Hallmark Channel offerings are lighter, sometimes funny, just true romcom. On Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, the themes are more serious and heartwarming, and I kid you not, I have cried during a few of them. I dare you to hold it in when a parent finalizes the adoption of their beloved child on Christmas eve! Good stuff, truly. 

That was my First Week of Advent, and hoping for continued peace as we move into the second. How about you? πŸ€—

Friday, November 20, 2020

A Cozy Indoor Packing List for the weeks ahead...

Welcome back, friends, to our final installment in Fun Friday (taking next Friday off from blogging to spend Black Friday shopping online with my family, hee hee), but I have to admit, it doesn't feel like a very fun day, does it? Things are worsening here, as they are worldwide, and I have a feeling that it's going to be a very long winter, sadly. On top of that, I barely have reason to leave the house much right now given the public health guidelines, and that's only going to worsen in the coming weeks, so I'm doing my best to emotionally manage it. And so I thought today's installment of Fun Friday could be a focus on ways to make our indoor time super cozy and delightful. I've been working on building up our supplies this week myself, and thought I would share. :)

1.) Books - Because of course, right? This *is* a librarian's blog, after all. Load up, my friends! Visit your local bookshop if you are able, or otherwise order some titles in print or digital. I think we can all agree that complete escapism is absolutely essential right now. :-0 For my part, I'm currently reading the lovely Amish Christmas at North Star:


Quick blurb:

One night four lives entered the world by the hands of an Amish midwife, just outside North Star, Pennsylvania.

Rebekah’s Babies, as they are called, are now grown adults and in four heartwarming novellas each young person experiences a journey of discovery, a possibility of love, and the wonder of Christmas...

I also have this on my bookshelf from last Christmas, and am planning to pull it out!


2.) Puzzle Books - While shopping with Anne earlier in the week at our local Dollar Tree, I happened upon a display of word finds. Hark. Word finds? I LOVE WORD FINDS! And I haven't worked on any in like, 25 years. :-0 And these were winter and Christmas themed. This isn't the one I bought, but akin to this one:


I bought both a winter themed one and a Christmas one. I love simple ways to occupy my mind like these. I also kind of like picture mazes, but I restrained myself on that one. 😁 Ultimate Dot to Dot books are another great idea!

3.) Jigsaw puzzles - Continuing the puzzle theme, a Facebook sponsored ad read my mind (creepy!) and got me thinking about jigsaw puzzles. Both of my kids loved puzzles when they were little, and although I'm not particularly good at them (500 pieces is a challenge for me, 1000 pretty much impossible!) I truly enjoy working on them. I purchased this one, and it is a DELIGHT. The entire family is enjoying working on it. And because none of us are particularly adept puzzle solvers, the joy just keeps giving, because it's still not completed yet, LOL! Each day, a few of us head over to it to slide in some pieces.


I put in an order for some Christmas puzzles too, excited for those to arrive!

4.) Hand Crafts - You all know that I love my knitting and crocheting, and indeed, I've enjoyed the big yearly yarn sale over at Knit Picks and We Crochet this year more than ever. But I also espied some new hand crafts that I thought would be fun to try, and thought maybe Anne and I could try them together. I ordered a punch needle kit, and I have to say that I am very intrigued. I am not familiar with this craft at all, and can't wait to learn about it! I purchased this one:

I see that it's now out of stock temporarily, but they have other kits as well! And they also have embroidery kits, which Anne is interested in. I have my eye on this fall leaf one:

Trying something new has me all atwitter with excitement. And it's much needed, for sure!

5.) Flavored hot cocoa - Doing our grocery shopping this week, I saw a collection of flavored hot chocolates packaged together, and quickly snapped it up for the kids. This one had peppermint, mocha, Irish Cream and Salted Caramel. When the weather gets cold, I have the urge to fire up the kettle. I like tea, and the kids love hot cocoa. Which reminds me! Celestial Seasonings has their holiday collection teas in stock, and they are THE BEST:


Nutcracker Sweet is my favorite tea of all time, I drink it year round. The kids are favoring Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride, and the pumpkin tea was delightful all October long. Oh it makes me so happy to even think about fun hot beverages!

All right, that is my list for bringing home the cozy. Have anything to add to the list? I'd love for you to leave your ideas in the comments!

Friday, November 13, 2020

New classes are good for our minds and spirits...

 

Hello everyone, and welcome to another edition of Fun Friday for November! I think we need this now more than ever, yes? It's getting pretty wintry in my part of the world, and things are also getting even more challenging with regards to the pandemic, so it's going to be a tough haul over here for the winter. But we can do our best to keep our spirits up! Last week we talked about holiday crafting with new and upcoming -alongs, and this week I thought we would focus on trying our new classes!

With our current situation, of course, we're pretty much talking online classes for the time being. There might be some in-person opportunities right now, but I know that's much more limited at present. We'll get back there! In the meantime, to try and look at the positives, online classes present a greater variety to choose from, sometimes offering instruction/instructors that you otherwise would not have access to. This winter, I think online classes are an important way to keep our minds engaged, our spirits lifted, and our souls feeling a connection to others. *heart*

For my part, you know how I am with dance. ;-) I love it! Since the summer, I've been taking an online ballet class, which I had not done since I was in my teens. I am finding it challenging in the best way possible! I have even worked my way from Introduction to Ballet to Advanced Beginner ballet, LOL! It's *difficult*, to be sure. I'm using different muscles and movement pathways than I'm used to. But it's absolutely awesome, and a great lift to my week on Tuesday evenings, all from the comfort of my home office. I'm taking the classes via Rosa Noreen's Grace Academy. She's based in Portland, Maine, but via Zoom anyone can access her classes from anywhere in the world! She's an absolutely delightful instructor, and has adorable cats that visit during class, too. :-)

Rosa also teaches belly dance (same link above if you'd like to try an intro class!), which you all know is my very favorite. My local belly dance classes have been back in-person since September, but I've been supplementing with other classes and workshops online as I see them pop up in my social media feeds. Right now, I'm taking a 4 week practice series for November based around slow "gooey" movements with a dancer I admire who lives on the West Coast. Aside from doing time zone math to get the class time right, it's now easy peasy to study with her! It's for 30 minutes a day, Mondays through Thursdays, and I'm loving it. It gets me moving during the week, and focused on technique. It's also inspiring new ideas for me on a slow piece I could work on over the winter.  

If you're at all interested in dance, do some searching online and I bet you'll find an instructor you could study with via Zoom for the winter. It's really kept me going to discover and try out new things this way! Fitness is the same. I take Piyo and Body Sculpt online via Zoom, and my wonderful Zumba instructor offers online classes that I'd love to get back to. I *highly* recommend Zumba dance fitness, and I'm sure you'll be able to find tons of people offering these online right now!

To tie together our themes from the past two weeks. Craftsy offers a slew of online classes for knitting, crocheting, sewing, cake decorating, and more! These are not live classes, but still, an impressive library of possibilities. Is there anything specific you'd like to explore in an online class? Pop your ideas into the comments and we'll see what we can find out online!

Friday, November 6, 2020

It's yarn sale season! And upcoming holiday mystery craft -alongs...

 Happy Friday everybody! I have deemed November to be a Fun Friday month, and each week will post some frivolity about upcoming opportunities in hobbies and enjoyable online classes. I think we could all use more frivolity in our lives of late, yes? This week our topic is CRAFTS! 

πŸ₯³

We do chat about crafts a good deal on this blog, but we don't always focus specifically on mystery -alongs that are tailored to a holiday season, do we? Yes indeed, we need mystery gnomes. And we also need mystery dolls!

If you're a knitter, I think we can agree that you need an Advent Gnome in your life: 


And his name will be Gnutmeg, what more detail could you possibly need?! This Mystery Gnome -Along starts December 1st, and the pattern is available for 50% off through tomorrow (11/7), so do rush over to purchase if you'd like to participate! I chose wintry colors for my Gnutmeg, and I can't wait to get started! He will be knit with fingering weight yarn, for planning purposes.

If you're a crocheter, then you need a Christmas doll to brighten your home this holiday season, I do think this is mandatory. ;-)


I've never made a doll before, so I'm excited to try this one! This pattern is also on sale, in this case until 11/20. It's 50% off until then, which is the day before the MCAL begins! So this one begins in just over 2 weeks, the weekend before American Thanksgiving. The doll's name is Sally, and she will have a holiday theme and outfit!

Since I don't have all of the needed colors in my yarn stash, it is fortuitous timing that Knit Picks is having their annual Big Sale this coming Monday, November 16th. Despite having enough yarn to survive the fallout of the apocalypse (the zombies will all have handknit socks and sweaters ;-)) I look forward to this *every year*. I log onto Ravelry that morning, and sip coffee while participating in the excited chatter in the Knit Picks Lovers group leading up to the sale prices dropping at 9 am EST. Then I partake in the stampede to the best deals on the yarns that I had on my wist list, and in the inevitable impulse buys of new limited edition colors and other goodies. On my list is a nice acrylic in a bunch of colors to make the Christmas doll, plus a scene of Nutcracker figurines, because OF COURSE TIFFANY IS MAKING THAT. 


Oh my gosh, y'all, I am so excited about all of this! πŸ˜ŽπŸŽ… Is anybody joining me in a holiday craft -along? Getting your fast fingers ready for the Knit Picks sale on Monday? I want to hear all about it in the comments!

Friday, October 30, 2020

A Nutcracker Book Club reading list!

 

Happy Friday everyone! I hope that your week went well, I know that it's not exactly easy to keep thinking happy thoughts right now. But we persevere! My teaching has wound down, and I had my last scheduled class of the semester on Wednesday with an evening one that ran until 9:30 pm. There are many more evening classes this semester with most things being remote, which is not my preferred timeslot, but I do what I can to help out. I'm relieved that that is all done for now, and am turning my attention back to things that I've been neglecting since this busy streak began. Some of that is dance, which I'll circle back to next week. And some of that is generally time to mentally and emotionally recharge. And being the dancer/reader/nerd that I am, I do that by watching and reading about The Nutcracker. πŸ˜‚

I've mentioned a number of times how attached I am to the seasonal tradition of going to see a Nutcracker performance with my mom, and with whomever amongst my kids are willing to go. This year, obviously, there will be no live performances, and I've been preparing myself for this reality for months. In anticipation, I gathered up my Nutcracker collection on DVD, and planned a Nutcracker day in which I watched multiple productions of The Nutcracker while knitting and consuming much coffee and breakfast food. This week, I watched the Pacific Northwest Ballet (which has a unique set design constructed by Maurice Sendak of "Little Bear" renown) and the American Ballet Theater rendition, performed by the iconic pairing of Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland. It was a DELIGHT. I was able to compare and contrast the artistic interpretations within each and generally nerd out on ballet stuff. It inspired me so much that I have the Bolshoi Ballet and New York City Ballet versions lined up to procure from the public library so that I can have another Nutcracker day next week!

This all sparked my curiosity so much that I did some research on the history of The Nutcracker, and now have a little book club reading list set up for myself that I have already embarked on. *halo* Maybe you'd like to join in!


First off, I simply knew that I was remiss in never having read the original "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" by EFA Hoffmann. I knew that the story was a bit darker than what ended up being portrayed in the ballet version, but I think I'm up to the challenge! *virtual fist bump* This book is currently on the way to me from Amazon; it contains the original illustrations, and I knew the Kindle version would not do it justice. I am SO EXCITED!


Next up is this gem, and I've had it on my Kindle forever without making it past the first chapter due to Christmas cozy fiction distractions at the critical time of year. This year, it has zoomed up in my queue, and I cannot wait to dive in! This is about the history soley of The Nutcracker, rather than focusing on ballet history more generally. How perfect is that?! This is pretty much the textbook of our little book club. 😁


This one is a re-read, but definitely a delight. It's written in a more accessible memoir style (whereas "Nutcracker Nation" is more academic) and the enthusiasm of the author for all things Nutcracker and ballet -related is infectious. It's a fun one to read just before Nutcracker season. And right now, it is only $1.99 for the Kindle version!

I hope that this list gives you some fun seasonal ideas if you've always enjoyed The Nutcracker as much as I have! It has give me a much needed lift towards the end of this difficult year.

Speaking of, since the pandemic started, I've started taking ballet classes on Zoom, and I have to say...it's HARD, much, much harder than what I remember from when I was a kid! πŸ˜‚And so, as I was re-reading "Raising the Barre" and the author mentions putting off re-starting ballet classes, favoring fitness classes to focus on getting in shape prior to doing so, I held my breath a bit for her, because in my experience the years of lessons many years before as a child does not really give you a leg up on dancing ballet 30+ years hence. But maybe that's just me. πŸ˜† I have been enjoying the challenge *tremendously* though. Some (though not all) forms of dance feel very natural to me, and this includes ballet, but it's a full mind and body experience that a body past a certain age may find a bit vexing. :-0 But very worth it for the increased flexibility I'm noticing in my feet, and the focus on posture and connection to the floor that translates perfect to my Middle Eastern dance. I'm definitely in love!

Who else is a fellow Nutcracker fan out there? Or do you have other Christmas or winter related books to add to our reading list? Perhaps dance books not relating to The Nutcracker? I'd love to hear them!

Friday, October 23, 2020

In a sea of online classes, a bit of happiness emerges...

Happy Friday everyone! This is the end of my busy stretch of teaching, and I have to say the result is a bit different than I expected. And shockingly...it's in a good way!


As I've mentioned before, working from home, and the way that the pandemic has oblitered my former happy life and routine has wrecked a bit of havoc on my mental health. I know that I'm not the only one in this boat, and so we've all just been coping as best we can. In terms of work, I miss my colleagues, I miss the students, I miss my office, I miss the contened hustle and bustle of the campus and the library.  I was not looking foward to teaching solely online.

BUT, I will say that I'm pleasantly surprised by how it all went now that I'm nearly at the end of this very busy two week stretch. The format does have some challenges, to be sure, and I maintain that it is incredibly difficult to connect with people via a screen, and impossible when they do not turn on their cameras (which is their right to do, to be sure). Overall though, despite expecting to feel overwhelmed and stiff from sitting in front of my laptop and teaching all of these assumedly demoralizing classes online, I found that I was...happy. Tired, but energized. I felt busy, but useful. This is the most like my old self I have felt since March. I'd still rather teach in person, but this exceeded my expectations (which were admittedly low, LOL!). And I got to watch Hallmark Channel during my short breaks between sessions, so win/win/

Going into the winter, at least where I live, which has a cold climate, I'm not dreading the long term work from home model like I was before. It feels a bit cozier to be inside and spending less time by myself with the weather turning. I'll take any little bit of hopefulness that I can get, so I'm pleased with this!

In novena news, I finished up the John Paul II novena (and I'm actually sneaking in St. Jude, I just can't help myself!), and tomorrow we will begin the Novena for the Holy Souls in Purgatory! If you'd like to join in, I created a page for it on the blog. :-)

How are you doing this week, dear reader? Are you looking forward to Halloween and the feasts of All Saints/All Souls? Also, feel free to leave novena intentions in the comments!

Friday, October 16, 2020

Morning routines and LOTS of teaching...

*waves*

Short post today, friends, as I am in my annual fall teaching frenzy, which lasts through next week. Doesn't afford a lot of time for other things during the day, unfortunately! BUT, I mentioned my my Catholic Mom piece for October last week, and it is in fact up and on the site! This month, I chose to write about my attempts to construct a morning routine for myself despite having lost all of my normal pathways due to the pandemic, which has been instrumental to turning my emotional malaise around. 

In other news, my teaching is...going. :-0 It's actually going pretty well, but I'm about to embark on class #18 of the week, if that's any indication of my level of punchy exhaustion. They're all on Zoom, which isn't exactly the funnest thing, but it's what it is. Next week I think I have...11 or 12? It's a bit less bad, but still fairly intense towards the end of the week. I'm planning some fun stuff for after these two weeks are fully over, which I'm excited to write about when I have brain cells back again. I do miss those dear brain cells! They involve dancing, the Nutcracker, and seasonal coffee blends. I bet you're intrigued. 😁

How are you doing, dear reader? Any new books to recommend or fun weekend plans?

Friday, October 9, 2020

New routines, prayer, and identity during the pandemic...


 As I was reflecting on what to write about this week, I realized that on this blog I have barely mentioned the word 'pandemic.' I have alluded to it, obviously, because how could one not? But it's as if speaking the word brings fresh pain into my already battered being. I haven't even created a topical label for it on the blog, because I honestly don't want to be able to go back and filter posts for this topic in the future! Sometimes, I wish that I could erase this entire year from my memory.

Every person on the planet has been affected by the pandemic in different ways, and I am no exception. I'm very grateful that no one I know has become sick, but that definitely does not mean that one has been left unscathed by this global tragedy. For me, the biggest toll has been my emotional and mental health from the isolation, and my concern for my kids, who both showed signs of depression before going back to school this fall. I'm happy to say that they're both doing a lot better, and I'm doing a bit better too, although no where near my usual happy self. But it's improving!

One thing that has been absolutely debilitating to me with my personality is losing my daily routine, in which I found so much comfort. And it's not coming back anytime soon, as I mentioned last week. It may be close to a year before I'm back on campus and in my office. But what I've been trying to do of late is to carve out a new routine for myself for the time being, and that's been a bit easier with my kids being back in school. This is actually my topic in my Catholic Mom piece for October, which will come out early next week, so keep your eyes peeled! :)

One of the ways that I've been trying to carve new rituals is with prayer. I used to always pray the rosary in the car on my commute into work (half on the way in, and finishing up on the ride home), and now I'm working in my kitchen. I could pray the rosary on my lunch break while I sit on the couch, but that just doesn't hold the same appeal to me. Now that I'm working from home, I'm driving my son into school at 8 every morning. With the weather getting cooler, I've taken to going out a few minutes early to warm the car in the driveway for a few minutes before he's going to be ready to come out. One morning, I took my rosary out of it's case and started praying one as I backed the car down out of the garage and waited for Henry. Then I continued as I drove home after dropping him off. It's not a long ride, but I still got though the opening prayers and a full decade by time I pulled back into our driveway. Getting started like this then motivates me to seek out other opportunities during the day to sneak in decades, like if I have to drive to dance later (we're back in person, horray!). I may or may not finish an entire rosary, but I still count this as a huge win, and it's doing wonders for my contentedness level. 

The other prayer routine I've developed lately is novenas using the Pray app, and as I'm sure you've noticed, I've been praying a lot more novenas than usual! But the push notifications from the app are lending a serene feel to my mornings when I see that little cross icon come up and I pray the daily prayers. It's giving some much needed structure to my prayer life, and solace to my days. Right now, I'm praying the St. Teresa of Avila novena, and St. John Paul II starts Tuesday with the page up and ready on the blog!

My intentions for the St. Teresa novena relate to peace and patience with work for the next two weeks, as I'm entering our busy teaching season, and it's all virtual this semester, which I find very challenging. So I'm just going to take it one day at a time! Teaching, in my experience, is a bit like performing, and I love performing. All of that, for the time being, is online only, and this has definitely contributed to my malaise these long seven months. There is no energy, no connection with your audience, when you're online. But it's temporary, and I'm just trying to get through it while doing the best I can with it. 

After my teachinig is done, I'm going to focus back on dance more, which I'm excited about. I feel like the changes that the pandemic has wrought has made me feel like some alternate version of Tiffany, and not my real self. I'm certain a lot of you feel that way, too. I miss my old life, my old self. The older I've gotten, I've actually enjoyed my life more, and have more confidence in myself. Since March though, that has all been missing, and I've been struggling big time. I'm trying to climb back into my old identity, but it hasn't been easy. Starting a new dance project will definitely help out with that, and I'll devote an entire post to that in a few weeks. :)

How is everyone's novenas going? Have you struggled with lack of routine since the pandemic started? I'd love to hear from you in the comments. *heart*

Friday, October 2, 2020

Next novena upcoming! And more cozy fiction...

Hello all, and TGIF! I was going to start a St. Therese novena on her feast day, but decided instead to forge ahead into upcoming October feast days. There are a couple of great ones this month, and I thought we could pray them together, and we'll only overlap on a day or two, hee hee! Our next novena will start on Tuesday, and will be praying along with St. Teresa of Avila!


She is officially the patron of headache sufferers, and of writers, and can also be an asset for intentions regarding faith and contemplative spirituality. The novena begins on Tuesday, and like before, I have the prayers listed on a page within the blog found on the main navigation menu for both desktop and mobile. :)

Beginning October 13th, I'm going to be praying the novena to St. John Paul II. I'll create a page for that one too next week, we'll still be finishing up with St. Teresa, but I don't think this will be too onerous. Two days of double novena prayers! For those with the Pray app, both of these are on there, though St. Teresa is premium. :-0 I think I'm going to actually become one of their patrons so that I have acces to all of their novenas. It's only $15 a year to support their work, which I do truly love!

By time we finish up with JPII, it'll be later October, and then we can plan for November. I feel a St. Cecilia situation coming on! And maybe Holy Souls in Purgatory! 

*virtual high five*

As it's been a bit of a stressful week, planning for these novenas has been a happy distraction. Also a happy distraction is my current cozy mystery:


This is book 1 in the Amish Matchmaker series, and book 2 comes out December 1st, so it's a perfect time to dive into this one! I've had it on my Kindle for awhile, and am so glad that I'm finally getting to it, it's delightful! You all know how much I love Amish fiction, and this one also features quilting and 2 goats, what could be better?! :-0

Between minding a pair of rambunctious goats, meetings with her quilting circle, and matchmaking, Millie Fisher has plenty to keep her busy through her golden years. But the witty widow always makes time to solve the odd murder . . .
 
Some Amish men don’t know what’s good for them. That’s what Millie Fisher told herself when young Ben Baughman set his heart on marrying Tess Lieb. With Tess’s father refusing to give his blessing and Tess’s ex-boyfriend being a wet blanket, the hapless couple was bound to butt heads more than Millie’s Boer goats. But when Ben tragically dies in a mysterious fire, Millie wonders if someone in her hometown of Harvest, Ohio, wanted Ben out of the wedding picture altogether . . . 
With the help of her quilting buddies, and her outspoken Englischer friend Lois, Millie is determined to patch together all the clues without even dropping a stitch. She only hopes it won’t be the death of her . . .

What are you reading these days? Are you planning to join in the upcoming October novenas? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Friday, September 25, 2020

A perpetual novena? And misadventures with Zoom...

Hello all, and I hope that your week is wrapping up nicely. πŸ€— I feel stressed, no big surprise, but hanging in. Things at both schools are still going well, and I guess (?) I've adjusted to working from home. It helps not having the kids here to entertain at the same time, to be sure. But the other side of the coin is that I'm lonely. I like going to my office, and seeing my colleagues. I miss them, and I miss the students. But we've been told to be prepared to not be back on campus for another year. I have to admit that I didn't take that news so well. I've felt down all week. This is all just so unnatural. I'm doing the best I can.

To top it all off, I started my teaching this week, and this year it's all on Zoom. Nothing like demoralizing bouts of screenshare fails and non-responsive audio to make a girl feel special. :-0 I did not enjoy it, to be sure. I will say that the second class went much better than the first. I got the sound issue fixed, and I experimented more with the screensharing ahead of time to troubleshoot the problems I was having and became much more adept with it. It still feels weird to only communicate with people through a screen, but it was a bit less bad. For now, I think that's as good as it's going to get.

To cheer me, I've been novena'ing up a storm. My piece over at Catholic Mom this month is about potential novenas for fall/winter 2020 (feast days that don't fall on Sundays being my criteria), and I'm pretty much planning to start a new one anytime I finish one up. I'm currently praying the St. Jerome novena, and I ended up adding in the archangels. I have the Pray novena app on my phone, and it sent me a notification about that one, so I figured, what the heck? It pushes the prayers to me every day, so it makes that one incredibly easy. If you do not already have that app, I highly recommend it! After we wrap up St. Jerome/archangels, I will be wanting to start a new one. I'll let you know which one I decide on! If you have a recommendation for early October, please let me know!

 I wanted to pray the St. Therese novena, and maybe *start* on her feast day rather than conclude on it. Thoughts? Or maybe we could select another from the list. Let me know what you think, along with how you're doing, in the comments!

Friday, September 18, 2020

St. Jerome novena starts Monday! And a few other prayerful life musings...

 


Hello friends and happy Friday! I'm so excited that we're starting our first community novena of the fall/winter season this year with St. Jerome on Monday! All of the deets and prayers are in the special page that I created for the novena, also linked at the top of the blog (desktop) or as an option on the drop down menu (mobile). St. Jerome is the patron saint of librarians and biblical scholars, and is also a great patron for students. If you have any special intentions that you would like the community to pray for, please leave them in the comments! :-)

For my part, I've been doing a lot of praying for my kids as their first full week of school wraps up. So far so good, but it's early days yet, for sure. Anne, in particular, seems SO HAPPY to be back to school, and she really loves her teacher and classroom this year. I don't even know how she's in 4th grade, as she still seems like my little baby to me. 😒 But during the spring and summer after everything shut down, I have never seen Anne so distressed and downright lethargic. And for a 9 year old, that is very worrying. Now, she gets up in the mornings very content and ready to get on with her day, whereas before she was sleeping way too much, and just languishing on the couch in her free time. With both Mike and I working from home, it was difficult to divide our time between attending to those reponsibilities, and also trying to keep the kids engaged and off of their electronic devices. It was such a nightmare, it's hard for me to even think back on it now. Needless to say, I'm so happy to see her thriving again! And Henry seems content, too, albeit in a quieter way, as teenagers are wont to do. He had an easier time adjusting to remote school back in the spring, as would be expected given the difference in their ages. But still, he's up and ready to head to school in the mornings now, in a good mood. It's heartwarming to see. 

In other big news, I am back to IN PERSON dance class again, after 6 months of online only, and I cannot fully express how good it feels. I'm grateful that I got to continue my training and learning in the midst of the nightmare that was the lockdown, plus I got to study with some internationally known instructors that I normally would not have been able to access due to geographic location. So those things were good, but still, it was *not the same* and there can be no meaningful level of correction in a group online-only setting. Not to mention how much I missed my troupemates and dancey friends. The disruption to normal socializing that this virus has wrought has been brutal for my mental and emotional health, as I'm sure it has for everyone. So I'm very, very happy to be getting back into a dance routine that involves rehearsing in the physical studio! 

Performing is still pretty unknown right now, which is an enormous bummer. As I've gotten older, I have come to treasure performing as an important part of my identity. I've been in some online shows, and while I'm SO grateful for those opportunities, those are also not the same as performing in front of a live audience. There is no energy to feed off of, no connection to make with other humans while you dance. I'm hoping small parties will be happening again soon, but the restaurant scene has just been hit so hard by all of this, I don't know when that will come back. The capacity limits plus the money they have lost make that unlikely for quite some time. We'll see, I suppose, I'm just trying to think positive. And we support our local restaurants with takeout orders every single week!

How is everyone else doing this week? It does actually feel like a new leaf is turning over this fall, yes, even in the midst of our larger global situation. What new things are you embarking on this September? :-) And don't forget to leave prayer intentions in the comments! 

Friday, September 11, 2020

Planning seasonal novenas...

Well, my kids are both at school as I write this. And I'm feeling pretty weepy. 

😭

They're both happy and secure. It's going very well. I was afraid that the adjustment this year would be much more daunting than usual because of the way things so abruptly closed back in March. But this is the best start to the school year we have ever had. Both seem happy to be back to a routine, and like their teachers. One day at a time, but I'll take it. I'm still feeling emotional, but that's just me. :-0

Given all of this, our novena chat (that I mentioned last week) couldn't possibly be better timed. 

   

What I'm going to do this year is pray 1-2 novenas every month this fall and winter. I'm going to start listing them in a separate page on the blog again, so that anyone who would like can see which one I'm planning to pray, and can join in if they like! It will be the tab listed on the far right if you're using a larger computer or laptop, or will be the last item on the drop down menu list via mobile. For September, I am planning to pray the St. Jerome novena. This will begin on Monday September 21st, and finish up on his feast day of September 30th. St. Jerome is the patron saint of librarians, biblical scholars and students! All of the information and prayers will be up on the St. Jerome page.


After we finsh that one, I think I will pray the St. Therese novena, beginning *on* her feast day of October 1st, to break things up a bit. ;-) And I'll post a new page with her information on it as soon as we finish up St. Jerome! Sound like a plan?

Are you joining in the St. Jerome novena? Or have other novena plans this fall? I'd love to hear about them!

Friday, September 4, 2020

A reading list as we head into Labor Day weekend...

Happy early September all, and somehow we are moving into the weekend that heralds the unofficial end of summer. I will grant, this was the most emotionally exhausting summer of my life, and I'm thinking you all feel the same. I will admit to feeling a bit discouraged at this time. I'm trying not to dwell on it too much because there is literally nothing I can do about it that I'm not already doing. And getting myself re-upset is not helping me or anybody else. So I'm trying. 

I've been reading more, and as a librarian and lifetime lover of books, I realized how much I had gotten away from it since the pandemic started, yet how valuable it is for my mental health. It's like my brain has a harder time shutting real life down now so that I can escape to my happy cozy fiction worlds. I've been making more of an effort to do that, and keeping up with these little reading lists here on the blog is motivating me to keep moving through my Kindle queue (which is CONSIDERABLE :-0). 

So this week I finished Botched Butterscotch (which was a novella, so super short! Very cute too, involved a theft, not a murder), and embarked on the next book in the series (the newest installment!), which is Marshmallow Malice:


Caught in a sticky situation . . . 

With Juliet Brody and Reverend Brook tying the knot in Ohio’s Amish Country’s most anticipated nuptials of the year, Bailey King is determined to do everything in her power to make the event a sweet success. Except midsummer heat waves and outdoor ceremonies don’t mix, and an exasperated Bailey soon finds herself struggling to fulfill bridesmaid duties and keep her stunning marshmallow-frosted wedding cake from becoming a gooey disaster. Then much to everyone’s shock, the entire ceremony crumbles when a guest drops dead, and the cause isn’t sunstroke . . . 

Turns out, the uninvited victim came equipped with lots of dirt on the devout reverend’s hidden past. As Reverend Brook tops the murder suspect list on what should have been the happiest day of his life, Bailey and her sheriff’s deputy boyfriend vow to clear his name. Can the duo boil down a series of baffling clues before Juliet considers her marriage a bad mistake—or the killer whips up another deadly surprise? 

Recipe Included!

This book is just delightful. I love the setting and the characters. I'm already about 25% of the way through! 

Also this week, I have a new download, which is Grilled for Murder (a Country Store Mystery)


Robbie Jordan may have had reservations about the murder victim, but she still needs to turn up the heat on a killer if she wants to keep her new restaurant open for business . . .

In the charming small town of South Lick, Indiana, Robbie has transformed a rundown country store into the runaway hit Pans ’N Pancakes. But the most popular destination for miles around can also invite trouble. Erica Shermer may be the widow of handsome local lawyer Jim Shermer’s brother, but she doesn’t appear to be in mourning. At a homecoming party held in Robbie’s store, Erica is alternately obnoxious and flirtatious—even batting her eyelashes at Jim. When Erica turns up dead in the store the next morning, apparently clobbered with cookware, the police suspect Robbie’s friend Phil, who closed up after the party. To clear Phil and calm her customers, Robbie needs to step out from behind the counter and find the real killer in short order . . .

This is just $1.99 right now for Kindle, and I found out about it via the Kindle Daily Deals newsletter, so if you're not signed up for those already, you may want to consider doing so. ;-) I love finding new books for less than $2!

Are you reading anything new this week? Have any plans for Labor Day weekend? I'm planning to plot our fall community novenas next week, so stay tuned for next Friday's post on that topic! :-)

Friday, August 28, 2020

Cozy wraps and cozy mysteries as we move towards fall...

Happy Friday everyone, it's hard to believe that it's the end of August, but here we are. I wish I could say that I felt like September will be better, but I don't think that it will, and all we can do at this point is keep up our spirits and sense of humor about it! :-0 The semester starts at the university for which I work on Monday, but all of my classes will be totally online. I'm actually rather sad about it, but it is what it is. I miss my colleagues so much, and I'll miss the students. At least I'll be home (working, but still home) if the kids need to be home from school. We'll try focusing on the positives!

I've definitely been working on lots of happy distractions lately, and I hope you have as well! My autumn quilted bird bag from Bradford Exchange arrived this week, and looking at it immediately lifts my spirits:

Just look at those cute blue jay crests!

And, as ever, I've been crafting. This week, I finished a wrap for my good friend Emily, and this pattern is just super cozy!

Pattern is Perfect Pockets Shawl

Unfortunately, it's been so humid that I was sweltering when I took this photo :-0 but soon it'll be time for cozy wraps, and now Emily will be all set! If you crochet, even if you're a beginner, you'll be able to make this wrap! YouTube is our friend, and I had to watch a video on the wrapped stitch that appears in this pattern, but after that I was good to go. :)

I'm also back to my cozy mysteries, and becoming absorbed in the universe of the Amish Candy Shop series by Amanda Flower is exactly what the doctor ordered right about now. There are a number of books in the series, and my current position is with this Mother's Day themed installment:


After this is the very newest book, "Marshmallow Malice," so let the candy shop antics reign on! 

This week I was also chatting with my friend Irena, who mentioned this book:

...which immediately went onto my Amazon wish list for Christmas, hee hee. Book recommendations always stimulate my mind and creativity! Do you have any new books that you've read recently, or that are in your queue, to add to our list? Pop them into the comments! :-)

Friday, August 21, 2020

Early fall novenas, and knitted gnomes and garments that are no longer a mystery!

Hello all, and I hope that you are having a wonderful week! It's a week of novenas on my end, and I have to say that I am enjoying it so, so much. I finished up Our Lady Undoer of Knots on Sunday, and I think I already have the answers to the questions I was praying about (not necessarily the ones I was hoping for in all cases, but answers are answers, yes?). I also started St. Monica on Tuesday. I had forgotten that her feast is in late August, and I absolutely love this one! I pray for conversions of heart back to faith, and it always gives me so much solace. Coming up in the early part of autumn, we have the archangels (Sept. 29th), St. Jerome (patron saint of librarians, Sept. 30th), St. Therese (Oct. 1st), and guardian angels (October 2nd). It's a wealth of riches! I think I'm going to start updating and publishing the novenas tab on the blog again, with what novena I'm currently praying and the link to the relevant prayers. Look for that to start again in September if you'd like to follow along. :-)

Speaking of prayer, both of my kids are slated to go back to school full time in early September. Since they go to Catholic schools, the lower numbers of enrolled kids means that they can accommodate the health mandates more easily. My kids really miss their school environments, and so I'm happy it worked out this way, although I'm worried about how it will go and if it will last. All we can do at this point is pray for the best! My teaching this semester will be mostly, if not all, online, which I'm a little sad about, but we'll get there.

To distract myself, I've been crafting, as per my pandemic usual. ;-) The mystery gnome that I was knitting is no longer a mystery, so meet the new member of the family!

Pattern is Nice to Gnome You

He is currently frolicking with our house plants, and I'm just so pleased with how he came out! This is my first gnome, and apparently there is a whole gnome crafting universe out there, WHO KNEW?! I am totally into this now. This designer specializes in knitted gnomes. Did you ever? And her next gnome MKAL (mystery knit-along) will take place during Advent.

😱

I literally cannot wait! I'm so excited for this!

I also finished the red cotton top that I was knitting for my mother-in-law:

Pattern is Kelda Tee

I kinda wanted to keep it :-0, but I managed to resist. But not before purchasing yarn to make one for myself in another colorway. ;-)

I'm also hard at work on my Advent doily:

Pattern is Wispweave Oval

This one is just SO PRETTY. The pattern is definitely a bit challenging for a beginning doily crocheter like myself, but so far the progress is good, albeit slow. I just love the different textures that this design is forming! I'm thinking I can use it for under our Advent wreath. The border is going to be silver. 😍

Do you have any novena plans coming up this fall? What is your September looking like? I know it doesn't look like it usually does for any of us! I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Friday, August 14, 2020

Knitting mystery gnomes, and other crafty delights...

Happy Friday everyone, and I hope your week was smashing! Well, I know a lot of things are decidedly NOT smashing right now, at least not in a good way. ;-) But I think things are slowly getting better, and we've gotta hang on to that positivity!

*virtual high five!*

Thank you for all of the lovely comments about Anne's 1st Communion! Even though the backdrop was not one I could have ever foreseen, it was a beautiful day, and I truly thought of all of you and your encouragement on that day! It just meant the world to me. πŸ’—

This week I have been CRAFTY, and I've been promising a crafty post! Here we go. 😎 I've been working on a cotton top for my mother-in-law, and I'm almost finished!

Pattern is Kelda Tee from the Knit Picks Equinox Cotton Collection

Just have to finish the second sleeve, pickup and knit the neckline, and weave in what feels like 533 ends despite it all being a single color. :-0 This was a quick knit, and I highly recommend this collection! All of the designs are just stunning.

And DOILYS, who isn't excited about this one?! I've been promising that I would show the comparison photo of the 2 doilys that I made in the same pattern, one with size #3 thread, and one with size #10, and here it is:

Pattern is Simple Beginners Doily

Size #10 is the more traditional of the two for crochet thread, and it lends a less chunky feel for sure, but I have to say that I absolutely LOVE the larger #3 thread. It was a bit easier for me to see and work with, too. I've added a few more colors in that size to my collection. πŸ˜‡

Going to make an Advent doily!

And in other exciting doily news:

Pattern is Ariel Snowflake

My first snowflake! This is the #10 thread, and it was HARD. πŸ˜‚ But I'm glad I persevered, I'm happy with how it turned out! Although our snowflake friend does seem to be leaning into the breeze a bit, but hey, nobody's perfect. ;-) I'm thinking of making these as coaster sets for Christmas gifts!

But the thing I'm most excited about this week is this in-progress guy:

Nice to Gnome You MKAL

Yes, I'm knitting a gnome! My very first gnome, to be exact. I'm in love with him, don't tell Mike. πŸ˜‚ And, AND it's a MYSTERY GNOME! Have you ever heard of anything quite this fun before? I'm betting you have not. ;-)

Every 2 days you receive a clue with instructional videos, and I am finding this process to be just an absolute kick. I'm currently working on clue 5, which is pretty far in advance of this photo, because I want to keep the mystery alive for anybody who may want to mystery gnome -along with me. :-0 I cannot even tell you the lift this has given me. Mystery gnomes, did you ever? Every pandemic needs a mystery gnome!

All right, how was your week? I finished up the Our Lady Undoer of Knots novena today, and it was absolutely delightful. I'm starting St. Monica on Tuesday, anybody want to join me?! Let's leave our intentions in the comments!