5/08/2018

book report - spring 2018


Totally cheating by adding in a book I read TO MY KIDS to make my stack taller. But look at that cute yellow spine!

1. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
Barbara Kingsolver
First up: the book that made the now ubiquitous farm-to-fork movement really take off. Kingsolver's classic bestseller from 2008 was an incredibly successful non-fiction project for this prolific fiction author. I didn’t know until I read it, though, that Kingsolver is pretty darn antagonistic toward every deeply-held belief I have: my Catholic faith, the structure of the Church, gender (that link is a doozy) patriotism, and basically everything else I stand for in life.

What do we have in common? We both like to eat vegetables. 

The closer I got to finishing her book, I started calling it Animal, Vegetable, Eye Roll because come on, the lady bashes on All Saints Day. All Saints Day! But whatever, Kingsolver is a master wordsmith, and her book is a one-year snapshot of the life of living off food she and her family either grew, or purchased within a 100-mile radius of their home in the Appalachian mountains. She’s a literary giant and the queen of writing accessibly and colloquially. Kingsolver writes fascinatingly about, literally, dirt. And slaughtering her home-grown turkeys. The book’s a classic, even if she’s quite a piece of work. Glad I read it, but won't be picking up The Poisonwood Bible anytime soon.

2. The Wideness of the Sea
Katie Curtis
I follow Katie's New England life on Instagram and love seeing pictures of both her beautiful family life--including the recipes she creates for her foodie blog, the humble onion. This is dangerous. She regularly makes me seriously rethink giving up meat and dairy. Drool. 

This beautiful little book alternates between New York City and a small coastal town in Maine. It follows a family and one daughter in particular after her mom, who was a successful and talented painter, dies of cancer, and the emotional ripples an event like that sends out for years in a family. 

If it sounds like it might be a sad read, well, yes, parts of it are more bittersweet than merry. But as a whole, this book made me feel like I was on a vacation and this was the beachy yet soulful book I had taken along with me to read with my sand in the toes. Heartily recommend. 

Trevor Lee Stewart
Do you have children? Do they have ears? Yes to both? READ THEM THIS BOOK. 

It's a well-written, hilarious, triumphant gem that celebrates the ingenuity and value of children. We're reading it's sequel now which I'm finding a little dark, but this first one is pure gold and we've read it out loud, twice, by request of the boys. 

Trent Horn
I loved getting to chat with Trent for an interview that aired on both Coffee & Donuts with John & Mary and the Morning Drive show. This scrappy little book on popular (yet either fake or inaccurate) quotes by Catholic saints is useful, relevant, concise, and most importantly, it's incredibly well-researched. The first quote that's debunked (quite thoroughly) in the book is the old trope trotted out in the name of St. Francis of Assisi to silence the more vocal supporters of the faith: Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words. 

You know, because the New Testament is full of Jesus not preaching. Just opening doors for folks, and such. 

G. K. Chesterton
Additional cheating: I have not finished this book, this 800-page book, which has type so small, a lady in my book club avowed that she physically could not read it--because the words are so tiny. ;)  I've nearly finished the first set of stories the collection, dubbed "The Innocence of Father Brown." At "The Flying Stars" I nearly gave up--reading and grasping anachronistic cultural references isn't my strong point. But after pushing through the next two or three stories, I think I'm going to stick with it for a while. Uncannily insightful yet unassuming, Chesterton's humble crime-solving cleric was the literary answer to the question posed by the popularity of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes: To brilliantly solve the crimes of the world's psychotic criminals, must one by a sociopath? Chesterton said no, of course not. And he's got 800 pages to prove as much. 

That's my stack! Let me know if you've read of of these too, and what your thoughts are!

5/01/2018

five favorites / amazon music


And by "free" I mean the music you get with a Prime membership, but not with the ridiculous up-sell of an Amazon Music Unlimited membership. So, free-ish. 

I'm having a resurgence of playing music during the day, during the dinner hour, in the afternoons. Seems to make me less on edge, less fully overwhelmed by the magnitude of tantrums, and toddler pants wet from another bathroom accident, and babies cranky over anything. It's like playing something, anything, allows 10% of my attention and patience to be reserved and focused on the music, and therefore, I don't lose my sh*t when all hell breaks loose.

It helps.

Top five melodies on repeat here:

1 / Want you back - Haim 

They're three sisters, I think, singing bubbly little pop tunes. 
Stephanie of NieNie Dialogues wrote a post on this, and said it beautifully: "If you only do one thing today, (besides saying your prayers of course), listen to "Spring 1". Now, don't just play it in the background as you work or do the laundry. Promise me that you will sit down and listen to it.
And I hope you can be alone since I am almost positive the arrangement will make you cry.
I also hope you are able to listen to it as loud as you possibly can and unequivocally know that GOD IS." 

It was good advice. I did it, cried, and have listened to it at least 5 times every day since. 

3 / The Piano Guys - custom set of sappiness 

Made myself a good ol' fashioned playlist circa college in 2006 and added my faves to a good neutral-yet-toe-tapping playlist: Ants Marching, Begin Again, Beethoven's 5 Secrets, What Makes You Beautiful, A Thousand Years. Prime has a bunch of their albums to cherry pick from. 


Auntie Leila at Like Mother Like Daughter mentioned this one in a bits & pieces post a while back, I think because her kids are wickedly talented fiddlers. I pluck no strings over here, but man, these fellows make some great music. Don't miss "Go, Lovely Rose."


Ok ok, it's not on Prime music! I listen to it on YouTube (is that illegal? immoral??) so it fits the free-ish category. I've been seeing folks talk about this one for MONTHS now and finally rented it from redbox last weekend. And now, a million dreams are keeping me awake, and this is brave, this is bruised, OH!! THIS--IS--THE GREATEST--SHOOOOW, etc, etc. Can't stop it from playing hourly, either in my head or on my phone. Polling the audience: How long before you get it out of your system? A week? Ten days? Does it take buying the whole thing to be cured of it? 


4/16/2018

making grown-up spaces (in a house overrun by kids)


Nearly 10 years ago, Sean's first official act of preparing to bring his bride back to what would become "our" apartment after our wedding was to go to a furniture store and buy us a set of bedroom furniture.

I'm pretty sure he owned a sleigh bed before he owned a couch.

At the time, I, of course, balked. Wait for me to pick it out with you, I said (since he was in Washington and I was living in California). I want to help! I want to see the choices! I want to give OPINIONS!

And Sean, in something of an act of defiance and bravery for a groom so young, said, no, dear, I'm going to buy this before our wedding, and we're going to come home to it, and I'll let you give opinions, but this is something I'm doing for you.


More times than I can count since that pre-marital purchase of his, I have thanked him (probably more in my mind than actually saying it out loud). Not every couple starts their marriage with a matching 5-piece set of classic, solid bedroom furniture. And then after the wedding, other expenses (like BABIES) come, and a matching armoir and dresser seem low on the priority list.

So maybe it's because the bedroom furniture is our one "thing" that's been with us since before having kids, but we've both always agreed that our bedroom is a toy-free and somewhat kid-free zone. Sure, the co-sleeping infants are notable exceptions, and we've been known to host a Saturday morning snuggle fest or two.

But for the most part, this is a little sanctuary for us. For mom and dad.

It's not fancy. There's no jetted soaking tub in the miniature en-suite bathroom. You cannot walk into our closet--if you do, you will walk into the clothes hanger bar. The room holds a queen bed, one nightstand, two dressers, and even with just that, it's a little tight.

But I like it. There's room for him, and room for me. The kids, who proudly fly their kid flags in the other 90% of the house, recognize this. And for the most part, they're respectful of it.

One way I try to set off our bedroom from the other rooms of the house is to put the breakables and the fragiles in there. Queue the silk peonies and the picture frames.


Faux flowers are, to me, a no-brainer when it comes to decorating in houses with little kids. Sure, the real deal from Trader Joe's at $3.99 a bunch is a great deal and beautiful, but real flowers need real vases with real WATER in them. Ain't no way I'm putting a vase full of water in my living room (which often doubles as a wiffle ball war zone).

Using flowers like this in my house helps bring a little more dignity and grace to a room--but without the threat of spillage. It makes me feel a little less like I'm living in the loony bin of PBS Kids shows and Magformers.

Silk Plants Direct kindly offered to send out one of their products for review, and I jumped at the chance to work with them. In waiting for my 12 stems of pearl cream peonies to arrive, I wasn't sure what to expect. But I've been delighted by their quality and size.

Their silk flowers from their site come with stems that are pre-notched for easily changing the stem length. I used longer stems in my bedroom vase and shorter ones for my living room.


Silk Plants Direct is offering readers 10% of all products (except custom orders) with code BLOGGER10.

My arrangement of 12 peony stems is only listed at $45.99, which comes down to $3.83 a stem. Compare that to peony stems on Pottery Barn, which cost $16 a stem!

Many thanks to Silk Plants Direct for the chance to review their product.