Wednesday, January 31, 2018

January 2018 Favorites {Five Favorites}

Here are five things that brought me joy this month. 

1. Walmart Grocery Order and Pick-Up App  I have used this service since mid-December, and I love it. It saves me so much time. It saves me money, too, because I am not wandering through the store buying things that we don't need. 

2. L'Occitane Shea Butter Light Comforting Cream  I have sensitive, combination skin. During the winter months, my dry areas get very dry, but my oily areas stay oily. This cream moisturizes my dry patches but doesn't make my oily areas any slicker. It is nonirritating and has a mild, pleasant smell. I use it every morning and night.  

3. doTERRA Hope Touch Essential Oil Blend  I don't wear strong perfumes, but I enjoy uplifting fragrances. This oil blend of Bergamot, Ylang Ylang, Frankincense, and Vanilla Bean is a favorite of mine. It is described as bright, fresh, and sweet by doTERRA, and I agree with that description. Plus, doTERRA donates the full purchase price to the doTERRA Healing Hands Foundation with its focus on rescuing at-risk child around the world from sex-trafficking.

4. A hot mug of tea.  I enjoy a cup or two of coffee in the morning, and I look forward to my afternoon tea. This month I have been drinking several mugs of tea in the afternoon and evening. My favorite brands are Traditional Medicinals, Yogi, and Bigelow. 

5. The Little Catholic Box  My mother gave me the January 2018 box as part of my Christmas gift. It arrived in my mailbox very early in the month, and it was so much fun to open. I loved everything that was in the box. The box included lovely items from Mathew Kelly, Rakstar Designs, Dominican Nuns of Summit New Jersey, Motherhood Press, and The Little Catholic Box. They used to have a monthly subscription service, but recently it changed to a quarterly service. I think it is a great gift idea for a family member or friend or a nice treat for yourself! 

Joining Ashley at The Big White Farmhouse for Five Favorites.

Monday, January 22, 2018

My Sunday Best #20: 3 Reasons Why I Won't Use A Beauty Filter

I have been thinking a lot lately about beauty. At 41 years and after 21 years of marriage, I am finally comfortable in my physical appearance, including my big nose, frizzy hair, wrinkled and flabby skin. I want to model health and beauty to my children. It starts with loving and accepting my imperfections, and by being kind to myself as I work towards improving the areas that can use a little help. Maintaining a workout routine and following a healthy diet help me to feel healthy and happy. Wearing moisturizer and a little makeup makes me feel feminine and presentable.

My goal isn't to fight my age, but instead, I want to age well. I am thankful for my 41 years of life, and I would love to live another 41 at least. Exercise, diet, and a daily beauty routine are habits that complement me. They don't alter me. I enjoy trying new activities, reading about diet trends and medical advice, and sampling new creams and oils that hit the beauty counters. Although, I must admit that my makeup routine has been the same for years. It has changed very little from this post that I wrote almost four years ago. 

One new trend that I am skeptical about is beauty filters for pictures. For some people, they are a way to have fun and laugh with friends. But what about the person who only shares filtered photos, who dislikes every picture of herself that hasn't been adjusted by the filter? Does what she sees every time she looks in the filter free mirror make her unhappy? 

For me, using a filter that slims my face, blurs my wrinkles and scars, and makes my eyes larger is a sham. The image becomes an inaccurate representation. A fake. There are three reasons why I will not use a beauty filter to alter my photos.

Authenticity is important to me. Growing up, having people call my grandmother a saint was hard for me to hear because of how verbally abusive she was to my grandfather and me. I always felt like there were two of her, the woman that the neighbors all loved and the angry woman that was raising me. There is only one of me, and I want to be recognizable to everyone; my family, friends, acquaintances, and myself. I am real. I am honest. Altering my features in a picture, and then posting it to my social media accounts feels dishonest to me. If we pass each other on the street, I want you to know me when you see me.

My imperfections and features tell my story, the good and the bad. Laugh lines, frown lines, scars, and sun spots hint to the experiences that I have lived. Painful acne as a teen, smiling and laughing with family and friends,  nights spent worrying about a sick child or an angry teen, long days outside swimming, running, hiking and playing. I inherited my eye shape, nose size, and bone structure from my parents and grandparents. When comparing my untouched photos with the pictures if my ancestors, our shared features are noticeable, but those similarities start to vanish when contrasted to an image that was altered by a beauty filter.

I want my daughter to appreciate her physical features and to enjoy being photographed. I want her to be confident whether it is with a naked face, or wearing a little or a lot of make-up, or even occasionally with exaggerated features and a digital flower crown. But I don't want her to become a slave to make-up or filters, or to believe that they are necessary to make her beautiful and worthy of love. I don't want her to stare at herself in a mirror and think that what she sees isn't good enough. Then need to buffer the feeling of inadequacy by taking a selfie and using a beauty filter to change her features until she looks like a barely recognizable, plastic version of herself. That would break my heart. I will not model that behavior to her.

For the sake of comparison, I made a side by side collage of a picture of me from April 2017. The left side is unfiltered. On the right side, I used my smartphone filter to smooth my wrinkles, slim and brighten my face, and enlarge my eyes. I only altered those features between a three and a six on the sliding scale (it goes up to ten). I am sure that I didn't need to tell you which side was the altered photo as it is very noticeable. The right side creeps me out, honestly. I showed it to Chris and asked him which one he preferred, and he responded with "The real one." Smart man!

It is not my intention to be controversial. Using a beauty filter is a personal decision. I have decided beauty filters are not for me. What is your opinion of them? Do you prefer to use them? Or are you creeped out when you see an altered version of yourself? 

It is Sunday (at least it was when I started typing), so I asked Thomas to take a picture of me so that I can join Rosie and the ladies for My Sunday Best. This photo is very raw and real with its poor lighting and the extra eight pounds that I gained over the holidays!

Have a wonderful week! Please visit Rosie and the gang for more My Sunday Best posts!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Remembering December {7QT}

1. I love how excited the kids get every year the night before the Feast of St. Nicholas. After dinner, we read about St. Nicholas in the Loyola Kids Book of Saints. Then we read The Baker's Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale. Before bed, they leave their shoes by the front door in anticipation of a small gift, candy, and possibly a gold coin or two.

2. On December 9th, Mary Rose played in the snow for the first time! She loved it, at first. She walked all over our front and back yards. Then she fell three times, landing with her face in the cold snow, and she was done. Ralph played outside on the trampoline while Mary Rose explored the yard. 

3. I usually make a photo card to send to our friends and family for Christmas. This year I had the kids pictures taken at J.C.Penney. I think they turned out well. I had to buy paper cards for the first time in many years. I was happy to see that The Dollar Tree had such lovely cards to choose! I enjoy sending and receiving Christmas cards, but every year I send fewer cards than the previous year. I am okay with that because relationships change, or sadly we lose a dear friend or family member, but I hope that the tradition of sending cards never dies. Every card my family receives brightens our day and makes us smile, and with each card I address I pray that it brings the recipient a bit of joy, too.  

4 A family member asked for an old-fashioned apple cake as his Christmas present. I searched the house for my grandmother's recipe which is the only apple cake recipe that I have ever used. Unfortunately, I couldn't find it, so I looked up several recipes for apple cakes online and in my cookbooks. I knew he wanted the cake to be full of chunky apples and no nuts. I combined several recipes hoping to bake an apple cake to satisfy his craving. He told me to keep the recipe because it was the best apple cake that he has ever eaten! I am posting my recipe here so that I know where to find it next time I need to make it. 

Old Fashioned Apple Cake

3 cups peeled and chopped fresh apples 
1 1/2 cups oil
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 pan. Prepare the apples and set aside. Beat the wet ingredients and the sugar together in a large mixing bowl. Combine the dry ingredients in a smaller bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture, but do not over mix. Add the chopped apples to the batter, and stir until all ingredients are just combined. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake in the oven for 60 to 75 minutes or until golden in color. 

The apple cake in the 9x13 pan was given to a family member. The smaller apple cake and the ginger cake were kept for Christmas dessert. 

5. Christmas Eve was a busy day for us. We went to the 11:00 Mass to celebrate the 4th Sunday of Advent in the morning. After Mass, we went home and had a quick lunch. Then Mary Rose took a nap while the rest of us laid around the house, anticipating the rest of the day. At 3:00, I woke Mary Rose up from her nap, gave her a quick snack, and put her Christmas dress on her. Then we left for the 4:15 Christmas Mass. We usually go to morning Mass on Christmas Day, but since Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday this year, it meant that Chris had the day off from work, so we were able to attend an evening Mass. After Mass, we went to my cousin's home for the annual Christmas Eve dinner with my mother's side of the family. We stayed for about an hour and a half. Then we visited Chris' parents for their Christmas Eve celebration. We were home by 10:00, and all of the kids went to bed shortly after we arrived home. On Christmas Day, we stayed home (the way Chris likes it). I made breakfast (quiche and cinnamon buns), we opened presents, and then I started cooking for Christmas dinner. I made pot roast, mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, green beans with bacon and onions, and dinner rolls. For dessert, we had a variety of sweets from cheesecake to gingerbread to Rolo pretzels and cupcakes to celebrate the birth of Jesus. It was a nice, relaxing day, spent with the kids and our oldest son's girlfriend.

In our Christmas Eve morning Mass attire. 

6. We use an artificial tree in our home. Chris prefers an artificial tree because it is less messy. I prefer a fake tree because it means that we can keep our tree up for a long time. It is our tradition to put our tree up on or close to the feast of St. Lucy. Just the tree and the lights. Then we slowly add ornaments until Christmas Eve. Candy Canes are the last decorations to be added to our tree. Then we keep our tree up until Candlemas (February 2nd), slowly removing the ornaments after celebrating the Epiphany. This year we put the tree up in our office because Mary Rose does not have access to that room thanks to two well-placed baby gates. Since we put the Christmas tree next to the whiteboard, we used it to count down the days until Christmas. As I was going to bed on Christmas Eve, I decided to write Merry Christmas on the whiteboard and draw a picture of Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus. I am no artist, but I was happy with how my drawing turned out. On Christmas morning, Chris complimented me on my drawing, saying he could not have drawn the Holy family so well. The boys playfully made fun of my drawing. Later that day I noticed that someone had erased St. Joseph's head! After interrogating the members of my family, Ralph finally confessed to it. I think he was jealous of my crazy good drawing skills!

7. In December, I used Jen Fulwiler's Saint's Name Generator to pick my saints for 2018. Usually, I only choose one saint to be my saint for the year, but this year I felt the need to pick two saints. The first saint that I got was St. Conrad of Piacenza. He is the patron against hernias. The next saint I got was St. Scholastica. She is the patron saint against rain, against storms, of convulsive children, and of nuns. On January 1st, I met two of my friends for breakfast. One of them has a hernia and is contemplating surgery for it this year. My other friend's youngest son was just diagnosed with epilepsy. I am glad that I have these two saints as my patrons this year and to be able to ask for their intercession on behalf of my friends. I also used Jen's Word of the Year Generator to help me decide on my word for 2018. You can read about how I ended up with three words for the year here

Please visit Kelly at her blog This Ain't the Lyceum for more 7 Quick Takes

Monday, January 8, 2018

Our Morning Basket: Inspiration for the Mind, Heart, and Soul

I am a seasoned homeschooling mom. I have taught my children at home since my oldest was nine years old. It has been almost four years since he graduated from our homeschool, and he is now a full-time employee and part-time college student. I am confident in my ability to educate my children at home, but I enjoy reading about how other families teach their children at home. I have read articles about morning time (aka morning basket) for several years. I thought it sounded like a great idea. For other people. You know, moms who were just starting their homeschooling journey or had children closer in age than my own.

As we approached this new school year, I was concerned with how our day would flow. With a ninth grader, a fourth grader, and a one-year-old, I was worried that our days would be disjointed. My idea of a perfect school day is one that flows seamlessly, moving from one subject to another, with lots of discussion and time together. As the school year approached and Mary Rose became more mobile and vocal, my ideal started to slip. Still longing for the perfect schedule, I created lesson plans for the boys. Separate lesson plans that only included time together for daily prayers. They didn't fit my ideal, but I held on to my hope that we would have a great school year.

The first several school weeks were highly productive. The boys completed all of their assignments, and Mary Rose learned to walk. However, I spent my time moving from room to room, child to child, reading, listen, giving instructions and advice when needed. Our days were successful, yes, but I was left feeling like there was a more efficient way to use our time. I was sure that I could simplify our day if I could combine some of the boys' individual studies into group lessons. My thoughts went back to the examples of morning time routines that I had read about in the past. I re-evaluated my lesson plans and pulled things from each of the boys' schedules, put them in a basket, and created a morning time routine that has streamlined our school day. 

Our morning basket offers inspiration for our mind, heart, and soul. During our morning time routine, we cover topics from our religious studies, character building discussion, and literature study. We end morning time by praying the rosary together.


We say morning prayers, read from The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism and The Holy Bible, and write our scripture memory verse. This is also when we fit in lessons about saints, feast days, and holy days.


We have been covering rules of etiquette for different social situations. I am using the book 365 Manners Kids Should Know by Sheryl Eberly as my guide. I discuss two or three topics a day. Once we finish etiquette, we are going to start studying the virtues.


We have been reading poetry and discussing the lives of the authors. We are working our way through Classic Poetry: An Illustrated Collection. After our poetry discussion, I read aloud a short story. First, we read the D'Aulaires Book of Norwegian Folktales. Now we are reading Edgar Allen Poe's Tales of Mystery and Madness. After Poe, we are going to read the D'Aluaires Book of Greek Myths.


For years I have tried to incorporate a daily rosary into our day, but I always scheduled it for after lunch or the end of our school day. Often there were days where we only prayed a decade and some days we didn't pray a rosary together at all. By including the rosary as part of our morning time routine, we have prayed it together every school day. Plus, by completing our morning time by praying the rosary, our minds, bodies, and spirits experience a calmness and focus that we lacked previously.

Our morning time routine has helped me feel less frazzled during our school day. The boys still need my guidance separately with their other subjects, but our morning time routine sets the mood for the rest of the day. The lessons we learn first thing in the morning from faith formation, character building, and our literature study help to guide us through our remaining school subjects. We continue our day with calm and focused attitudes. 

I was wrong to think that a morning time routine wouldn't be right for us. Our school days were fine before incorporating morning basket, but now our days are even better! And I can see that if the boys were closer in age, how including group lessons from their other school subjects would be even more beneficial. Do you have a morning time routine? What is in your morning basket? 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Yarn Along {January 2018}

Happy New Year! I am excited that Ginny decided to start Yarn Along again, as knitting and reading are two of my favorite hobbies. I also like that it will only happen once a month. Participating once a month is a pace that I can keep up with easily.

Currently, I am knitting a dress for Mary Rose. I am not following a pattern, but I am taking notes as I knit. I hope to finish it before the end of the month. I want her to have plenty of time to wear it before the weather warms up in the spring. I am also knitting a vanilla sock for me. I only knit vanilla socks, and that fact will probably never change. I am almost ready for the toe. Once I finish this sock, I am going to switch back to my Anne with an E socks.

I usually have several books that I am reading simultaneously, but right now I am only reading one! I started Mrs. Mike, written by Benedict and Nancy Freedman, on New Year's Eve. I am in the middle of chapter eight (about a third of the way through the book), and I am thoroughly enjoying the story so far.

A few days ago, I wrote about my three words for 2018. My words are create, enough, and finish. You can read more about why I have three words in my previous post. One of the guidelines inspired by my three words is that I can not add to my knitting stash this year. I don't have a large stash, but it is big enough to keep me knitting all year. I plan to show updated pictures of my stash quarterly to help me keep track of my progress.

The top picture shows what I think of as my stash. Every project bag has a project in it right now. Then I have a good idea of what I plan to do with the yarn that is in front of the project bags. However, I am not letting myself cast on any new projects until I complete one of the projects that are on my needles. The second picture is of my cotton stash for dishcloths that I knit to give as gifts, and the Vanna's Choice is for beginner knitters when they ask me for a lesson. The lovely green yarn was given to me this Christmas, and I think I may knit Mary Rose a stocking with it. I also have a small basket of odds and ends (mostly fingering weight yarn), but I didn't take a picture of that because it is little and boring. I would love to knit up all of the yarn in the house this year, but if I complete all of the projects that are on needles in my projects bags, I will be content.

For more knitting and reading inspiration, please visit Ginny and the other bloggers that participate in Yarn Along.

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