Tuesday, October 28, 2014

My Fall and Winter Wardrobe {2014}

I knew I needed to clean my closet and get rid of a lot of stuff that I was never going to wear again.

I finally got the kick in the pants I needed first, by Kendra's daily devotion at Blessed is She and then again by Kendra's post, An Inspired Capsule Wardrobe. Kendra was my first inspiration, but there is a ton of information about capsule wardrobes and simple, clutter-free closets on the internet. 

I filled two trash bags full of clothes and shoes to donate. Then I separated the rest of my clothes in a Fall/Winter pile and a Spring/Summer pile. The latter was put into Ralph's closet because all of his clothes fit in one small dresser, so it was an empty closet. My goal was to make getting dressed as quick and easy as possible, so I didn't want the out of season clothes getting in the way. The Fall/Winter wardrobe has a total of 49 pieces (including shoes and house/workout clothes). The Spring/Summer wardrobe is similar in size. Although, when I pull them back out some of those pieces will be donated, and I will purchase a few essential pieces (I know I need new black sandals to name one thing). 

Before I put the clothes that I will wear for the next six months back into my closet, I took pictures of them so I could share them here for your viewing pleasure. After all, someone out there must be interested in the clothing choices of a homeschooling, thirty-eight year chubby mom! Right? 

a pair of jeans and six skirts

eleven cardigans

nine blouses

eight t-shirts

workout/house clothes: two sweatpants, one cotton skirt, two sweaters, four tops

shoes: boots, sneakers, and three casual flats  

Several of these items are a few years old, and I will probably discard them after this winter. They are still in decent shape, though, so I didn't want to get rid of them yet. Looking at my skirts lined up like that, I had to laugh. There is a lot of denim, but I like what I like. And I do not like the print skirt, but I think I need a choice other than solid. My goal is to look nice but not flashy. I also strive to look classic, not trendy, but also current. Does that make sense? I am not sure if I am successful at it, but I am happy with the way I dress. I think it is important to feel happy and comfortable and presentable. 

My everyday look.
One last thought, I know I look heavier in my skirts and my cardigans (plus, I am actually heavier this fall than I have been the last couple of years). Several people have informed me that I look about ten pounds heavier in skirts than I do in my jeans. I think it is because I have an apple shape, so I carry my weight above my legs. But after years of trying to feel happy in pants and without my adored cardigans, I just don't care anymore. I used to care, but I think I cared because of my low self-esteem and my desire to be pretty. Now, I wear what makes me feel good. Plus, Chris always tells me I look beautiful, and that is the only complement I need!  
Cleaning out my closet, getting rid of a lot, and separating what I have into two separate wardrobes has been a freeing experience. My closet is open and clutter-free, and I know exactly what I have to wear and can easily find what I want to wear. Plus, knowing what makes me happy and what I have to wear means that I won't impulse shop. I can wear what I have until it wears out and then purchase an item to replace it. 

Have you cleaned out your closet and created a capsule wardrobe? Or are you thinking about doing? Or do you think it is silly and not worth the effort? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Linking up at Catholic All Year.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Let's Eat!

Nell at Whole Parenting Family started a weekly meal plan link-up. Just in time, too, because I have become uninspired in the dinner department. We eat spaghetti with meat sauce, nachos, and salad with chicken nuggets every week. On Fridays, we eat some variety of fish with some form of potato and cooked broccoli. The other three nights I totally wing it, and throw something together from what we have in the house. Usually a soup one night, rice or bean one pot meal another, and maybe burgers or meatloaf or baked chicken another night. We rarely eat out or get take-out.

Here are the highlights from this past week.

Haluski  or Cabbage and Noodles - My grandfather grew up eating it. His parents were from Hungary. If I remember correctly, his mother cooked the cabbage and noodles in bacon grease, not butter. This time I cooked about a pound of thinly sliced pork chops in the pot with a little butter first. Once cooked, I removed them from the pot and added the onions and cabbage to the pot. While the onions and cabbage sauteed, I cooked the egg noodles according to the package directions a different pot. Once the onion and cabbage were soft and the egg noodles al dente, I transferred the noodles to the pot with the cabbage. I then sliced the pork chops into thin pieces and threw them into the pot and added a couple more tablespoons of butter and salt and pepper to taste. The recipe I linked to suggests using a cup of butter. I have never used that much. Butter is an important ingredient in this recipe because it gives it flavor, but I think a cup is way too much.  Also, I never finish this recipe in the oven. From the start to finish, it is cooked on the stove top. 

That same night I made an apple cake. It was very yummy. I reworked an old recipe to use the ingredients that I had on hand. 

Apple Cake Redo 

2 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup virgin coconut oil 
1 1/2 cup natural sugar 
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt 
4 cups chopped Granny Smith apples 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch pan. 

Mix the eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl or stand mixer. In a separate bowl combine the dry ingredients. Then slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Once combined, gently stir in the chopped apples. Pour into a greased pan and bake until the sides start to pull away from the pan, and the center is firm (about 45 minutes). The cake will be moist.

Also, I gathered the last of the kale, Swiss chard, and peppers from my garden. We ate the peppers with sausage and onions one night. Then I made baked kale chips with my kale (except I use coconut oil, not oil). I love kale chips so much that I tried to make Swiss chard chips and ruined the Swiss chard. Don't do it! It is not tasty cooked that way. 

This week we are looking forward to enjoying two family favorites. They are full of flavor and very easy to make.

Sausage and Black Bean Chili

1/2 pound to 1 pound mild sausage 
1 onion diced 
5 cups cooked black beans (if using canned drain and rinse them)
1 cup frozen corn
2 (14.4 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
*spices are approximations* (add as little or as much as you like)
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp oregano
dash cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
water to thin 
garnish with fresh cilantro and sour cream or plain Greek yogurt

Crumble and cook sausage in a pot. Once browned, add onion and cook until tender. Next add the cooked beans, frozen corn, tomatoes, spices, and water to preferred consistency (thick like chili or thin like soup). Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. Top individual portions with fresh cilantro and sour cream, and serve with tortilla chips or corn bread. 

Red Hot Chicken (this recipe is easily doubled and tripled) 

2 chicken breasts
1/4 cup cayenne pepper sauce 
1/4 cup yellow mustard
1/4 cup brown sugar

Place chicken breasts in an oven safe dish or crock-pot. Combine the cayenne pepper sauce, mustard, and brown sugar in a bowl and pour over chicken breasts. Bake at 350 (or in a crock-pot) covered until the chicken is tender enough to shred. Shred the chicken and serve with tortillas, taco shells, or on top of a big bowl of lettuce with beans and corn and a dollop or sour cream or plain Greek yogurt. 

Need some more meal planning inspiration, head over to Whole Parenting Family for a lot of great ideas. I am looking forward to trying some in the coming weeks! 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Happy Little Things {Five Favorites}

1. My new Lilla Rose Flexi. 

My new Night Owl Flexi arrived on Monday. I love it!

2. New supplies for a cross-stitch project. 

I designed a happy fall scene to stitch onto these hand towels with DMC Color Variations. I am going to put them in a gift basket with a candle, candy, and my #3 favorite to give as a birthday present.

3. $1 hand soap with pretty autumn pictures on them.

When I was purchasing my cross-stitch supplies at Jo-Ann Fabrics, these cute seasonal soaps were at the register and totally what I needed! Score! 

4. Panettone

Every fall my local Sam's Club gets Panettone in stock for the holidays, and almost every year they sell out before I get a chance to buy it. Not this year! This morning, the boys and I enjoyed a slice of Panettone with our scrambled eggs. Yum! 

With all of the talk about capsule wardrobes, I decided it was time to overhaul my closet. With my recent weight gain, my closet was full of multiple sizes. First I packed up a bunch of clothes to donate. Then I took a quick look at what I have, and decided I needed three more tops to wear under my cardigans. My favorite outfit to wear in the fall/winter is a skirt and a thin, flowy top with a cardigan over it. Yesterday I went to Kohls, armed with a coupon, to find what I needed. Mission accomplished!

Linking up with Jenna at Call Her Happy for Five Favorites

Monday, October 20, 2014

An Early Review of Classically Catholic Memory

This year I, along with two other moms from our homeschool support group, started a Classically Catholic Memory co-op. We are having a great time so far! 

The Program

We are using Classically Catholic Memory. Classically Catholic Memory offers memory work in eight subjects: Religion, Latin, Math, History, Timeline, Geography, Science, and Great Words. It is a four-year program, geared toward ages five through twelve. Each year has a name (Alpha, Beta, Delta, Gamma) and consists of 18 weeks of memory work. The four years can be taught in any order. Classically Catholic Memory is very detailed and provides step by step instruction for the parent to lead their child through each subject. It works as a supplement to your homeschool lessons. 

The Details of Our Co-op

There are three moms and ten children in our co-op. We meet every other Monday for about two hours to introduce new material and to complete group activities. We spend two weeks on each week of the program, so that the program extends over the entire school year. Currently, we meet in each other's homes, alternating each time we meet. The children are between the ages of four and thirteen. We broke the children into two groups that by chance happen to be of equal size. Our younger group is kindergarten through fourth grade, and our older group is fifth through eighth grade. 

We start our morning together with a prayer, and then we go over Religion and Latin together. Then we separate into groups. One mom teaches the younger group; another mom teaches the older group. The final mom teaches Science (it is the most involved subject) to both groups separately and helps with the youngest group once both groups have finished science. We meet after breakfast and finish before lunch, so that we do not need to have a snack break.  At home, each family goes over the new material daily (it takes about 15 to 20 minutes) as part of their school day until we meet again. 

My Review 

Since I started homeschooling ten years ago, I knew that I wanted my boys to do memory work. But beyond learning prayers and a few poems, I struggled to include it in our curriculum. I think Classically Catholic Memory is a wonderful program because it guides the parent step by step and covers eight subjects. I think the materials are of good quality and pleasing to use. I teach science, and I appreciate all of the information and activity suggestions. The information in the teacher edition can not be read word for word aloud to the group. To prepare, I spend several hours making teacher notes and worksheets for the kids, looking up extra information on the computer, and gathering supplies for the activities. 

What the Boys Think

They like it! They look forward to their daily memory work and smile big when they correctly remember a subject. Thomas (age 11) is gaining confidence in recitation. He holds his head up and doesn't mumble like he used to. And the other day, while he played with his Mega Bloks, I overheard Ralph (age 6) repeating part of his history memorization from week one. 

If memory work is important to you, but you find yourself struggling to add it to your school lessons, I think Classically Catholic Memory would be a great addition to you curriculum. Or if a co-op is something that you are interested but there isn't one in your area, all you need is another family or two, a home to meet in, and a program like Classically Catholic Memory to get you started.  

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Running to the Music of my Life

Anne Shirley asks early in L.M. Montgomery's novel, Anne of Green Gables, "Which would you rather be if you had the choice - divinely beautiful or dazzlingly clever or angelically good?"

My answer was always beautiful.

Having grown up in a home where a regular topic of conversation was my lack of beauty, I have always had this desire to feel pretty. I felt that all my childhood problems (my grandmother would like me, my father would want to see me, my mother would be involved in my life more) would be solved if I were beautiful.

Thankfully, I didn't seek unhealthy ways to feel better about myself, such as alcohol, drugs, and promiscuity as an adolescent and young adult. But I did binge eat and avoid many social situations.

Once I moved out of my grandparent's home, I started exercising about five days a week, and I got my eating under control mostly. I mean I love good food, and I have allowed it to comfort me through postpartum depression and my miscarriages. When I am not comforting myself with food, I follow a healthier diet and exercise plan. I am never thin, but I maintain a larger but fit body size.

But that young girl that thought physical beauty would solve all of her problems has remained a part of me. That meant that most of my thoughts surrounding diet and exercise would focus on my physical appearance. The desire for good health was there, too, but it took a backseat to my pants size and the number on the scale. This year I have been trying to focus less on my appearance and more on my overall health - physical, mental and spiritual.

For the last couple of years, my exercise of choice has been running. I have always listened to music when I run. I usually listen to current music; a lot of Alice Russell, Florence + The Machine, and Demi Lovato (don't judge). Since I ran in my basement, I did not have to wear those awful earbuds. One day I realized that while I was listening to music my thoughts tended to turn negative, and they were all about my physical appearance and the number on the scale. They were the type of thoughts that I wanted to avoid, so I switched my music to Christian music in an effort to be angelically good. Guess what? It didn't feel right. I felt like I was doing both things, spending time with the Lord and exercising, poorly. So I broke up with music completely and created a dazzlingly clever plan. I decided to run outside instead of in my basement, and I enlisted one of my favorite people to join me on my run.

my running partner

Ralph loves to talk. He can talk all day long. I knew that he would help me to focus on important things, like flowers, bugs, birds, neighbors, dogs, what we had for dinner the night before. You get the idea. I knew he would keep my thoughts from turning inward, and then ultimately turning negative.

It has been fun! Ralph rides his bike, and I run beside or behind him and we enjoy nature and each other for 20 to 30 minutes. At the end of our time together, all I am thinking about is how good I feel, and we are both happy with what we have accomplished.

I don't miss the music because Ralph's voice, the sound of my feet hitting the asphalt, and my breathing are better than recorded music. They are the music of my life.

side by side

Anne Shirley was not able to answer her question. She tells Matthew Cuthbert, "I can never decide. But it doesn't make much real difference for it isn't likely I'll ever be either. It's certain I'll never be angelically good."

It is not a question that needs an answer. Sometimes we will be beautiful, other times clever, and hopefully we will always strive for goodness, and we will have times in our life when we radiate all three qualities. I finally realize what L.M. Montgomery tried to tell me through eight wonderful books. A life well lived is one spent in the company of those we love and who love us, encouraging each other; a life filled with affection and loyalty and faith. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Celebrating My Marriage

Today Chris and I celebrate our anniversary. Eighteen years ago we said, "I do."

I am so thankful that we have made it this far and look forward to many, many more years together.

Yesterday, on the eve of our anniversary we had a big misunderstanding, as we sometimes do when we have to use words when communicating with one another, and it was not pretty. He couldn't understand what I was saying. I had no clue what he was saying. 

We have this habit of thinking the other just intuitively knows what we are explaining, so we leave out crucial details. Then by the end of the conversation one person is lost and the other is frustrated.

Has that ever happened to you and your spouse?

We worked it out, as we always do, but by the end we both needed another cup of coffee and some time apart. Ha!

As I thought about our relationship, I remembered early years of our marriage. They were rough. We both made a few mistakes, behaved barely better than spoiled children, and separated briefly two times. We went to marriage counseling and read books (this one helped me a lot).

Our marriage success took work. We had love, but we didn't always have understanding and selfishness played a big role.

But all the work was worth it. And it still is!

With some effort, a misunderstanding can be made understood. 

Saying "I'm sorry" is easier than the break-up of my marriage. 

Forgiveness moves me past the hurt and anger and reminds me that I love, and I am loved. 

My marriage isn't perfect, but it is real and honest and happy. 

And it is worth celebrating! 

Monday, October 6, 2014

About My Writing (A Blog Hop)

Bobbi at Revolution of Love Blog kindly tagged me to join the blog hop about writing

All I have to do is answer four questions and then tag three fabulous bloggers to join the hop.

Here I go!

1. What am I writing? 

The tabs under my blog header sum up what I like to write about here at Saint Affairs. Family, faith, and things that make up our life. I enjoy writing most about the books that we read, the crafts that we make, and our faith. Occasionally, I write about diet, exercise, beauty products, and what I am wearing. 

2. How does my work differ from those in my genre? 

Work? Genre? Ha! I don't think I take my writing that seriously. I guess I am a mom blogger, and there is a bunch of us (seriously, a ton of beautiful and talented mom bloggers). So I differ from other mom bloggers because I write about my life, the things we do, the stuff we like. If that helps or inspires someone else, I think that is wonderful! 

Also, I read over and again how I should have a set time to write and a regular publishing schedule, but I am not good at doing that. Other mom bloggers are good at creating excellent content on a regular basis, and I enjoy that when I visit their blogs, but I don't write or blog that way. I fit it when I can, and when I feel inspired to share something. 

3. Why do I write what I write? 

I write a lot but mostly in notebooks. I write out my thoughts, feelings, and ideas that I need to work out, so my writing is purely selfish. Why do I blog? I blog to remember our days, to update family and friends, to create a community, and encourage others. 

4. How does my writing process work? 

I enjoy the process of  writing, editing not so much, but I make the time to clean up what I have written before I hit publish. Blogging about our adventures, the books we read, and crafts are easy. I take a couple or twenty pictures, then type out the details. But deciding to publish something from my journal takes longer, much longer. My journal writing is free form, so when I transfer it from paper to screen I do a lot of revising. Then I do some praying, and occasionally I ask a trusted friend to look it over. I need to feel certain that what I am sharing is not going to hurt anyone and whether it is encouraging. Then I spend a little time looking for bible verses and quotes that add to my thoughts, and add them to photos. I add the quote photo to my writing, and finally, I hit publish. 

That's it! 

Here are the lovely bloggers that I am tagging: 

Krystin @ Tattered Veil  - Krystin is a homeschooling mom with six kids. She writes about her life and Catholic faith.

Amelia @ One Catholic Mama - Among other things, Amelia writes about parenting, homeschooling, and healthy eating on a budget. 

Cammie @ A Woman's Place - Cammie writes about faith, family, and sells beautiful handmade snoods and veils.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

God Gives and Forgives Generously

 "You get get back what you put out." 

I heard that phrase all the time while I was growing up. I believed it wholeheartedly. 

And when it came to school work and in the workplace, it was true most of the time. If I worked hard on a school project, I got a good grade. If  I completed all of my tasks at work, I got a glowing review and a raise at the end of the quarter. 

But it did not always hold true for relationships, especially with family. I thought that if I put forth the effort into building relationships, by exhibiting the character qualities such as kindness and honesty that I hoped to receive back, people would show those qualities back to me. Everything would work out, and everyone would be happy. 

It didn't always work out that way. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Busy, Busy, Busy - Daybook 2014 {four}


What we have been doing:

Our days have been busy lately. Busy in a good way.

Honestly, most of this summer was hard for me. Losing my grandmother forced me to think about things that are better left forgotten. My anxiety reached an all time high, and them I had the pesky infection that kept me on the couch for almost a month.

Once I started feeling better, we jumped right into vacation mode and  enjoyed ourselves. 

First we had our trip, then we got together with friends that we hadn't seen in weeks. Then we spent most of our afternoons visiting with friends for talking (the moms) and playing (the kids), had lunch with our friends, and went swimming.

One day the boys and I went to a Back to Homeschool  field day and picnic at a local state park. Then I enjoyed a dinner out with a couple of mom friends.

Chris and I took the boys to a water park for the day, and I rode the one water ride that I said I would not. It was super scary. I prefer roller-coasters to water-slides.

I planned my homeschool year and a co-op with a couple of other moms from our homeschool support group. 

Finally, I met my new nephews. They are twins and super cute!

The last month has been so wonderful that it totally makes up for the spring and early summer that I experienced!