Sunday, November 24, 2013

What I Wore Sunday, and why it matters

What I Wore Sunday linkup

There's a popular link-up in the Catholic blog world called "What I Wore Sunday."  I participated once before, when I showed the Easter dresses that I made for Anna and myself this year.  

I've been going back and forth about whether or not I wanted to participate today, mostly because (despite having recently shown my two favorite day-to-day outfits), this is definitely not a fashion blog (nor am I necessarily even fashionable!)  Of course, this raises the question - what kind of blog IS this?  It of course started as a home-improvement blog, growing generally to a home-blog (and home-maker blog), and now embracing its title in the fullest sense - finding former glory.  And in that way, yes, what I wore Sunday does fit.  Allow me to explain.

I'm of the opinion that there's a lot of things that used to be better.  Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of things - advancements in medicine and technology come to mind - that have seen remarkable improvements (and continue to do so).  But there are lots of other things where something good has been tossed aside in the pursuit of progress - sometimes intentionally ignored, sometimes slowly forgotten.  Just like the care of our house was neglected for many years and we had to work (long and hard) to restore its former beauty, our society and the average family lifestyle has lost some of its "former glory" and Justin and I trying to be very intentional about finding those good traditions, practices, and norms from former generations and making them a part of our family life.  We try to live out some of the Norman Rockwell nostalgia: family time, dinners together, simple joys.  

One of the best examples I can think of in terms of this "cultural" former glory is Sundays.  Our modern society barely blinks an eye as the week goes by - this is simply another of the 7 days in which we collectively run around with our collective heads cut off.  But think of the restorative peace and joy that came from a day set apart.  Think of a Sunday dinner that doesn't get cut short by running off to a meeting or practice.  Think of a lazy afternoon playing games together.  Think of a day that is noticeably different, one that indicates to each member of the family that there is indeed something special about Sunday.  And in being renewed in all the simple goodness in our lives, we can more clearly appreciate Him who is the source of this goodness and give thanks.

Since we've started being more intentional about Sundays, Justin and I have both felt a tangible peace in our house on Sundays.  We sit more, we talk more, we play with Anna more.  On a practical level, we generally don't do work, and so we have the time to enjoy simple joys.  It's one of the only times in the week that I get to sew in a fully-awake state (surprisingly, things turn out better at 1 pm than at 10 pm!)  I've been trying to figure out how to simultaneously not do work and yet provide a nice Sunday dinner - the crockpot has been my best solution, and it has been so nice to quickly put things together after church and then leisurely (and with limited dishes!) enjoy a warm meal together in the evening.

And, of course, the pinnacle of our Sunday is attending Mass, to come together as the body of Christ, to give praise and thanks, to hear His word.  And we receive Him in the Eucharist, the source and summit of our lives.  It is here that we can truly celebrate Sunday - a day of joy for Jesus' triumph.

And in recognition of the amazing gift we have been given - and continue to receive - we get dressed up.  I'm very much aware that focusing too much on outward appearances is definitely the wrong thing - we are to prepare our hearts.  But I think that our outward appearances indicate the importance of what we are doing, and this can in turn serve as a reminder for us.  As Anna grows, I think (hope!) that she will come to recognize that she wears her best dresses on Sunday because what she does on Sunday is the most important of the week.

And that brings me to my outfit from today.  We don't own a full-length mirror, so this is the first/best look I got at the whole outfit.  I bought the skirt at the thrift store last weekend and it was definitely one of those purchases that could go either way: stylish or totally frumpy!  Hopefully it went the stylish route ;)  (but someone please tell me nicely if it didn't!)

So, there you have it.  Finding the former glory of Sundays (and one neglected thrift-store skirt!)  Check out others in their Sunday best at Fine Linen and Purple, and tell me: how do you make Sundays special??

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

5 Favorites: Miscellaneous Happiness

Unlike my previous more "deep" 5 Favorites posts, linking up with Hallie today for a 5 Favorites as (I think) she designed it - simply a list of 5 things that I'm loving right now!


My newest mom uniform addition:

Remember my gray Old Navy tunic?  Well, it's a super favorite (I would wear it every day if I didn't have to wash it).  Justin and I were watching some recent family videos, and I was wearing it in  This hints at two facts: one, I wear it a lot; two, I apparently don't wear anything else that I'm willing to have memorialized on film.

So, I started the search for another equally comfortable yet somewhat pulled together dress.  This one gets bonus points because it's nursing friendly and it has POCKETS!  Definite mom-uniform perks.


I finally followed Rosie's advice and checked out Twice, which is an online consignment shop (buying/selling gently used clothes).  Here's a mini-5 favorites list about why I love it (and you will too):

a) They have the measurements for every item listed (so you can actually tell if it's going to fit)
b) Free returns (in case you misjudged, despite letter a)
c) Free shipping over $50 (and with free returns, it makes sense to try more stuff anyway!)
d) Designer brands (I'm starting to see the wisdom of having a few nice pieces rather than a closet full of not-well-made items)
e) Super reasonable prices (despite letter d, I still can't bring myself to pay even half price of designer prices - but now I don't have to!)

Bonus: if you shop (or sell) by using my link, we'll both get $10 in credit!  I'm thinking of several fashionista friends right now who will love it!!  (I'd have told you about it anyway, but the fact that referrals help to fund my mom-uniform expansion is icing on the cake.)


This brussels sprouts recipe.  Brussels sprouts used to be on my I-wouldn't-eat-it-to-save-my-life list (along with bananas and lima beans), but I've been coming around to them, and now that I found this recipe I want to eat them every day.  Make this for Thanksgiving, and you will be your family's hero.  Or just make it tomorrow because Thanksgiving is still over a week away, and you won't want to wait that long.

I made them tonight and meant to take a picture, but...well, there's better pictures on the original site anyway.  Go - look and start cooking!


It completely makes my day to see men buying flowers at the grocery store.  Today, I saw a guy with 2 dozen red roses.  It just makes me so happy to know that he is going to delight some lucky lady (because I know how delighted I am when Justin gives me flowers.  And no, hon, I swear this is not a ploy).  Today in addition to seeing the man-with-roses, I talked to an 80+ year old man (he told me a story about his childhood ("that was more than 80 years ago, you know!") after I helped him get the orange juice which he couldn't reach from the wheelchaired shopping cart).  He had a bright pink "to my wife - the love of my life" card in his basket too.  So, so sweet.

Handsome man, beautiful flowers (he arranged to have them waiting in the hotel on our 1st anniversary trip) (!)

I was looking online for some Christmas ideas for Anna and discovered Hape toys.  I've always loved classic, wooden toys, and theirs are SO so cute - I'm trying to resist buying her one of each!

I think (shhh, don't tell her) I'll get her this turtle, although the pound bench/xylophone is a close second.  I love that both of those are essentially 2-in-1 toys (shape sorter/pull-along, and ball pound/xylophone) - despite the temptation to buy one of everything on their website, I actually have a minimalist streak in me (both for the sake of toys not overrunning our house, but also for the sake of Anna not being totally overwhelmed by stuff!)

If you have kids on your Christmas list, definitely check out their stuff!  It looks like they sell primarily through small/local toy stores, although I found a lot on Amazon, too.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Quick Takes: Edition 12

Challenging myself to be super short - can these be the quickest of all the quick takes?

-1- Crazy week: in all, 11 people and 1 dog visited since last Friday.

-2- Also organized the inaugural playgroup at our parish on Wednesday.

-3- Still caught myself wondering all day why I was so tired.

-4- Justin getting ready for several big upcoming presentations. Feel like I've barely seen him.

-5- Both donated blood today; usually tag-team watching Anna but a volunteer held her so we could get done faster.  20 minutes lying on gurneys next to each other ended up being a really refreshing break.

-6- Maybe we should plan a real date sometime?

-7- Bedtime now.  See 1 through 6.

Bonus note: The long-awaited sewing post part three is now partly written!

Bonus note part 2: I forgot until I finished writing this that one of Jen's quick takes lauds powerful & concise statements.  I've at least mastered concise!  Visit her link-up to find others who handled the powerful :)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Working Alone

You know what I did today?  I ran away from home.  (Don't worry, I took Anna with me, and we both came safely back in time to make dinner).  

It was just one of those moments that I've described before where the frustrations of the inability to get any housework done with a toddler underfoot made me - rather than staying at home and doing the tidying and cleaning and putting away of laundry that I had planned - leaving the work behind and heading off for errands.  There were errands to be run, so it thankfully wasn't just a mindless trip to Target, but I couldn't help but notice in myself that desire to just get out that I had identified previously.

I took this picture right at the climax of feeling that everything I do is immediately undone.
Seeing the picture hours later (and after a game of 51-card pick-up [one is elusive]), it seems far less overwhelming, but of course the still shot doesn't capture the constant motion (one frame before she was all the way back by the three cards, still carrying the saucepan) or the open pots & pans drawer, or the open pantry (with unloaded bottom shelf) on the other side of the room, or the fact that she LICKED most of the pots and pans and so I needed to not just pick them up but wash them, too.  Or, of course, the lunch dishes on the counter, the cleaning-up-of-which was punctuated by countless stops to redirect a certain someone's attention.  Or the fact that every room we entered had a similar path of toddler-destruction.

All in all, it was nothing TOO terrible (the new routine plus a revolving door of company this week has kept me more or less on my toes), but it sure felt overwhelming.

One of the things I've been thinking about recently is the similarities and differences between my own life and that of my female ancestors, especially my maternal great-grandmother, who by all accounts was an amazing homemaker.  It seems like she (and others of her generation) were able to keep on top of things better than us moms of today - and with more kids, to boot.  There's a lot of things that I could unpack here (and may in the future), so today's observation is certainly not the whole picture but I think it's a piece of the puzzle.

Remember how I said that not having coworkers was one of the biggest challenges of being a stay-at-home mom?  I realized that it's not just in not having literal coworkers in the house - but also not having coworkers on my block or really anywhere nearby.  When my great-grandmother and grandmothers were home with their kids, so were all of the other moms on their block.  It was the same way in my neighborhood growing up.  Now, my closest stay-at-home-mom friend is in the next town over.

I thought about calling her today when I was so frustrated, but I realized (as much fun as it would be to get together and chat) it wouldn't solve the messy house problem (not that the errands did, either, but that felt more "productive" - a potentially dangerous baseline, I know, but still the way my brain operates).  But if she wasn't 20 minutes away, and I could pop outside and talk to her over the fence for 10 minutes before we went inside and cleaned our kitchens in parallel, well that would probably have been pretty refreshing.

Justin and a grad-student friend were talking recently about how nice it is to study or do work near someone else who is also working.  I liken it to little kids and their "parallel play" - they don't really interact, but they like to be near the other kids while they're playing independently with their toys.  Just knowing that someone is nearby in the same boat is comforting.  And it's also motivating.  You don't want to be the one person in the sea of cubicles that isn't working intently.

As an adult, I can look back and imagine the enjoyment that my mom and our neighbors had in an evening chat in the driveway as a herd of kids rode circles on bikes.  They had made it through their days, knowing that around them were women who were working in parallel - at times catching glimpses as they each hung out laundry - comforted by the knowledge that a friend was across the street in the case of needing an extra cup of sugar or a ready playmate for the tornado toddler.  

To make matters worse, a lot of the activities that were assumed to be shared tasks ("shared" used here again to mean occurring in each house up and down the block) are no longer in the collective norm.  I may be the only person on our block (stay-at-home-mom or not) who irons clothes.  On a given night (our amazing Italian-immigrant neighbor excluded) there might not be many home-cooked dinners.  I'm not judging their choices not to iron or to cook, but just noting the sense of lack of comradery in the frustrations, challenges, and little joys in the types of things that fill my day.

I guess I can imagine the women across the country who are doing the same things (and the online community is certainly helpful in that regard), but it's definitely not as easy as if everyone were right next door.  Jennifer Fulwiler wrote an excellent piece a while ago titled "What Google Street View Reveals About Why Women Don't Want to Stay Home," and I would add that it's not just the I'm-the-only-person-around isolation that can get to you, but the frustration of feeling that not only is no one working with you, the only person who's there is working against you.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Quick Takes: Edition 11

1. I feel like I start every Friday Quick Takes post with "wow, it's Friday again!"  Our November schedule is jam-packed (primarily with good things!) so I feel like time is going to fly even quicker.  We just were watching some baby Anna videos this evening, which is such a good reminder to cherish the moments that are going by so quickly!

2. You'll (those of you interested in learning to sew, at least!) be pleased to know that I finished taking pictures for the third learn-to-sew post.  In addition to my standard procrastination techniques, this took so long because I had to get out my other sewing machine.  Remember how I told you that the first item you should have is a machine in good working order?  Weelllll, I've been using a machine for two years now that doesn't do back-tack (you'll learn in the upcoming post that it's a fairly essential stitch).

Tired old's (finally) headed into the shop, I think.

I figured it important for the tutorials to have correct-looking stitches, so I dug the other machine out from the back of my craft closet.  And then, once I got it out and realized how much fun it is to sew on a completely working machine (and a newer one that does fancy embellishing stitches at that!) I got carried away and did 3 or 4 other projects before taking the pictures for the post.  So, I'll say it one more's coming...soon?

3. I would actually work on writing it now, but the camera cord is downstairs and the camera is in my bedroom.  Under normal circumstances this wouldn't create such a problem, but we've got a house-full of company - with people currently sleeping in each of those locations!  I love having a houseful of guests (right now we have 4 generations under one roof, isn't that cool?!) but the room layout of our house isn't ideal for people of varying bedtimes.  Justin and I are both typing (as quietly as possible) in Anna's dark bedroom where we're camping for the weekend :)  As sad as I will be to move from this house (probably this summer...), there are certain things that make me look forward to a new place.  Like - a guest room!

4. My sister emailed me these pictures a few days ago, and I wanted to give her a shout-out because I was so impressed by the creativity she and her roommate had in their Halloween costumes.  She tells me that they found the cute sandals first and were brainstorming what costumes they could create to justify purchasing the shoes!

Cotton candy!  So clever.  My sister is the pink one.  (The pink one who apparently got all of the good hair genes in our family.)

5. Seeing the fun they had with their costumes reminded me...(do I sound like "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" yet?)  Here's a throw-back picture from college - my dear friend and I were "roommates with two rooms."  We were both RAs so we had single rooms, but we were practically attached at the hip.  Thus - salt and pepper!

(Also, HAPPY BIRTHDAY (yesterday), friend!!  A better gift than this shout-out will make it your way...eventually!)

6. Tomorrow morning I will wake up and remember 10 things that I meant to include in this post, but right now I'm stalling out at 5 quick takes.  I should follow suit with some of the other bloggers who (intelligently) collect snippets throughout the week instead of relying on memory to write them all Friday.

7.  Oh - this is noteworthy - we finally have a Hobby Lobby in Ithaca.  Scratch that.  WE HAVE A HOBBY LOBBY!  I'm excited enough for all caps :)  I've showed impressive restraint in not going yet in the week it's been open, but I'm not sure how long that will hold out....I've finished a decent number of projects recently (and have a post in the works - inspired by a friend - about finishing the large number of unfinished projects that seem to accumulate when you're a crafter), so maybe we'll call that justification for a little shopping trip :)

Linking up with Jen.  Talk to you all soon.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

On Community (a note to self)

Note to self:

When you're having "one of those days" and you see another mom at the playground and think she must be the type who never has "those days," remind yourself you're wrong and say hello.

When you see another young family at church and you wish you could meet them, but figure they probably have plenty of friends and don't want to hang out with little old you, remind yourself you're wrong and introduce yourself.

When you hear that someone is having a baby and want to offer to make them a meal, but are worried that they'll think you're too forward, remind yourself you're wrong and make the offer.

The list could go on and on of the various situations in which insecurities prevent us from forming friendships or creating community.

I  have been there in each of these situations, thinking the other people certainly didn't want to be my friends.  But the crazy part is, in many cases they now are my friends - and I can joke with them now about the insecurities that prevented us from getting to know each other sooner.  One time, on "one of those days," (actually, the day I wrote my stay-at-home-mom challenges post), I was at the playground with Anna and, assuming she had it all together, didn't say anything to the mom pushing her daughter a few swings down - that is, until a mutual friend showed up and introduced us, and the other mom told me she was having "one of those days" and had talked herself out of saying hi to me earlier.  Perhaps we can blame it on my being solidly in the "not cool" camp in high school, but I tend to assume that everyone else is far cooler than me, and that they're too busy with all of their cool friends to talk to me.  I'm learning the lesson (several times over because I seem to be a slow learner in this case) that most people feel the same way.  So we risk just going on in our isolated worlds, wishing for the connections that are right in front of us.  I know it's not just me because my friends have all said it, and fellow bloggers have said it.    We're communal creatures - often without coworkers as stay-at-home moms - and the desire for connections is mutual.

So here's my take-away advice which is as much for myself as for anyone else who's reading:

When you think that you're the only one who is longing for community or friendship or that you're the only one who has these silly insecurities, remind yourself you're wrong and create the community.

I have never regretted someone's introduction or their offer to make a meal or their friendly hello.  With that in mind, I am trying to be the person to make the introduction and the offer and the hello.

I've decided I don't like posts without pictures, so I went through my files to find one that I could marginally connect to the topic.  I figured Anna looked welcoming in her little house (which she LOVED) at the apple orchard!

P.S. Incidentally, I am fighting the urge to just delete this post...(insecurity!)...but I feel like there might be someone out there who needs to hear this.  Or just that it's something that I'll need to read and re-read (especially when we move and I need to do this whole friend/community thing all over again).

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Quick Takes: Edition 10

Since I've already joined one link-up a day late this week, I figured I might as well keep with the trend and link up with Jen for a Saturday version of Friday Quick Takes.  And given my new penchant for a schedule, I can't miss my end-of-the-week blogging ritual!  We can subtitle this post: the pictures I've been meaning to show you for a while.


I finally switched from patriotic to fall decorations (a few weeks ago; I've meant to include these pictures in quick takes for at least 3 weeks.)


I shouldn't even share this, but that candle+beans in a vase decoration?  You don't even want to know what went into that.  (It will make more sense when I have the pictures soon)...I pinned it a few years ago and thought that it would be a super simple and very charming fall decoration.  I remembered to grab a candle and some beans at Target.  Then I came home (and - first mistake - without looking at the inspiration picture) put everything in the hurricane vase.  Then I decided that I didn't like it and (second mistake) tried to gently take out some of the beans to rearrange them.  Then it looked even worse.  So then (the mistakes keep racking up) I thought I would just re-do it.  And so I spent an embarrassing amount of time separating out the beans by color while feeling guilty about the fact that there are people in the world without beans to eat let alone waste time sorting them for a decoration.  So I finally got them (roughly) sorted and put them all back and (looking at the inspiration this time) carefully put them back in the vase.  I was 99% happy with the look, and just thought I'd pull the candle up a little bit.  Which obviously (to everyone but me) made the beans fall down in the previously empty space at the bottom of the vase.  I just had to step away from the decoration.  I put some other stuff in front of it (after I took the above pictures, apparently) so that I'm not constantly taunted by my simple craft failures.

Lesson learned:  I can do a lot of crafty things.  I can sew.  I cannot do basic pouring.


Telling that story reminds me...I am severely lacking in the microwave cooking department.  I've got the stovetop, oven, and crockpot down - but that microwave gets me every time.  I do not exaggerate in saying that I have created inedible disasters at one time or another while attempting Campbell's soup, microwave popcorn, and Ramen noodles.   In college, I always joked that my perfect man was tall, Catholic, and could cook in a microwave.  Thankfully Justin's got the bases covered.

Because when a girl wants popcorn...

ain't nobody got time for that.


Back to more photos of things that turned out as planned.  After linking to the tutorial for the simple skirt in my learn to sew post, I got pretty excited about making some for Anna.  I took a stack of her sweaters that didn't have anything to match them to the fabric store and found cute fabric.  I really wish that it was acceptable for me to do the same for myself.  


I was especially jealous of her candy corn skirt. 


We had our 3rd annual Halloween costume party this evening.  It's always fun to have a house full of people (and 13 adults and 11 kids (10 of whom are 5 and under) makes for a lively environment, for sure.  I have a few pictures from this evening (and similar ones from other parties we've hosted) where everyone is laughing, there's a bunch of kids sitting on various peoples' laps (often not even their own parents) and you can just see tangible enjoyment on people's faces.  I love those pictures because they show that we're using our home.  All the renovations, the routine cooking and cleaning - it's all for making a place to share with others, a place to be comfortable and happy.

This probably doesn't make sense without the pictures (I don't know that everyone in the pictures is necessarily cool with me posting them online) or perhaps without reading Keeping House (which articulates that lesson about making a place that can be shared) - but hopefully some of you reading know what I mean.


Costume pictures, of course!

My little monkey (very aptly dressed, given the number of times I took her to sit on (rather than stand/climb/swing from) her little chairs today!

In case you can't tell from the picture, Justin was a banana tree.  My favorite quote of the evening, as friends were leaving...Justin put his arms out and said, "Hug a tree!!"

This costume theme has been in the works since before Anna's arrival when Justin's mom found the monkey costume! (Thanks, GiGi!)  Check out last year's costumes here and the previous year here.