Friday, October 31, 2014

Happiness. Lately. October 2014 (vol 5)

Happiness.  Lately.  October.  My monthly collection of "Happiness" - appreciating God's goodness in the little things and seeing his grandeur in the simplicity of my life and "Lately" - what I've been into and up to... in which it becomes very clear, very quickly that much of October revolved around food.

Happiness is...

this delicious treat in the produce department (finally under $3/lb and worth every penny of the splurge at $2.69/lb)...

fall candles... oh, how I love my scented candles, especially in Fall!! I don't burn many candles over the summer because we're not in the house that much, and heat, obviously.  But Fall is about coming home, gathering in, cozy-ing up, and hunkering down.  It's the best time ever to have a harvest-smelling home!   My November favorites are ready to go...

thermal everything.  It's true, I *heart* thermal :)

celebrating autumn with lots and lots of leaf collecting...

busting out my l.l. Bean fleece I got for $1 at a yard sale over the summer!!  (I love this color!  And it was A DOLLAR!)


We started the month out with a Rosary cake for the fest of Our Lady of the Rosary!  (We prayed one too!)

We went apple picking with my mom...

I hosted my 7th annual frozen meal exchange with friends.  I love this event so much every year.  This year was considerably different than all previous years in that it was a moms only wine and dessert evening.  In the past, I've had moms and kids over during the day for the exchange, but since we have a combined 27 children this year.... well, I don't think you can fault me for switching it to an night out for the moms!  We had a lovely time!   Aside from the social aspect and meals-on-hand aspect, one of my favorite things about the meal exchagne is I love having dinners that are out of our normal menu plan.  They're always delicious and such a treat.  This year I made my chicken sweet potato tacos (raw, frozen, ready for the crock pot) and I got chicken azteca, cabbage sausage soup, broccoli mac n' cheese, baked ziti with meatballs, and tuna noodle casserole.  Yum! 

I haven't been doing much reading.  I recently finished These Beautiful Bones: An Everyday Theology of the Body, by Emily Stimpson with the ladies from my prayer group.  I'm also reading (for the fifth time!) Five for Sorrow Ten for Joy, by Rumer Godden in the hope that I'll be able to participate in the October/Nov on-line book discussion hosted by Micaela at California to Korea (and back).  (Rumer Godden is one of my all-time favorite authors.  Have you read anything by her??)  

I've been crocheting more dish cloths, hats, something fun for the Fall Soup Party, and a couple rows here and there on blankets I started a while ago.  I usually crochet while "watching" something...

I made this Maple Bacon Upside Down Cake for Russ' birthday.  He loves bacon and I love him so...    
(I got the recipe from Shower of Roses via Amanda at Erring on the Side of LoveThanks, Amanda!  It was a hit!)

We spent a lot of time using up the 100 lbs of apples we picked (can't beat $.85 a pound!!) - tons of apple sauce (that's what's in the bottom drawer of the freezer) and lots of baked good goodness - apple crisps, pie, apple galette, apple pancakes, and this wonderful apple spice cake.  I've made it four times now, and just today two friends contacted me for the recipe, so... it's really that tasty :)  

Our annual Fall Soup Party is coming up, so of course I've been making soup like a boss.  My past method of making most of the soups in one or two weekends wasn't going to work for me this year.  So I've been cooking and freezing for several weeks a little at a time.  I made my own chicken stock for the first time (!) with some guidance from my friend, Lori, who, with her husband, runs a farm that conveniently has chickens!  Lori gave me chicken parts and tips on how to do it and two days later I had about two gallons of stock!  So my chicken soup is really homemade this year!

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**  Feel like joining me in reflecting on the past month and sharing some of the moments that made you happy and the things you've been up to?  Link up your October list of Happiness. Lately.  I'd love to have you join me! **  Don't have a blog?  Let's chat in the comments!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Grasping at Control by Organizing My Recipe Box

This day started well enough.  Around 11:30 I sent a text to a friend saying that even though we had started school lessons around 10:30 (usually a recipe for disaster) things were going surprisingly well.

Even still around 1:15 I sent a Facebook message to another friend that all was quiet in the house and I was eating a salad in peace.  

Soon after that fateful Facebook mistake, all insanity broke out around here in my mind.  I felt like my head was going to ex-plode from child-care/dinner-making/house-cleaning (my head, and my temper along with it.)

I thankfully held it together, but by the time Russ got home from work (I had already texted him begging him to take tomorrow off... so he already had some idea of how things were going here)  I was hanging by a nerve.  

The rest of the evening was still a struggle.  Right around the kids' bed time I got it into my head that I have to organize my recipe box right now.  I had already planned on doing this some time this week, but at one point this evening it was organize that box or check myself into a mental institute.  

Half way through getting my recipes cleaned up or cleared out, Russ came by with his brow raised quizzically.   


So there.

- before - 

ohh!  Christmas Snack Table menus from previous years stored right up front for reference
and inspiration.  (planning time is approaching, friends!)

I had two recipes for hot cross buns.  Do you know how many times I've made
hot cross buns???  ( zero.)

Besides recipes, loook what else I found in my recipe box - two  unused  pen needles, two used
lancets, and a bloody test strip.  (Aaron's Diabetes Command Center and my recipe box
share a corner kitchen counter space...)

look at all the recipes I got rid of!!  I only saved ones that I actually use.  If I found a
recipe for something that I've never made before but I might want to make it for a
future Easter brunch, I threw it out.  That's what Pinterest is for, people.

- after -
I'm still feeling a little unstable but at least my project is done... and Russ got all the kids in bed!  Isn't he the best?!  

Monday, October 27, 2014

The "In the Interest of Full Disclosure" Post

Would you be so kind as to take a few short minutes to complete this quiz:

Which of the following best describes Theresa of Ordinary Lovely?

a) She is perfect.  Absolutely perfect.  And everything she does shines like rhinestones in the Western New York sun.  

b) She doesn't really exist.  This blog is actually written by aliens who use it to  determine the extent of the the Earth's vulnerability when human beings naively believe that bloggers are who they say they are.  They use pirated pictures of food and crafts from Good Housekeeping magazine and pay the neighborhood kids in PopRocks to pose for "family" photos.  The aliens may or may not have included "attempt to infiltrate the Catholic mom blogosphere" in their 2 to 5 year plan.  

c) She labors in a kitchen with sticky floors and a dirty stove top to make very tasty soups, homemade granola, and jam.  She hardly ever leaves the house and wonders if she's developing a midlife case of agoraphobia.  She loves her family beyond what mere words can convey but she's often short tempered with her kids and husband.  She cares for her family in many wonderful ways but lets them drink fluoridated water every. single. day.  She is crafty and creative but uses crocheting as an escape from a reality that involves dirty diapers, felt ravioli stuck under the fridge, and bickering children.  (Ohhhh, the bickering...)  She once had a gift for order and cleanliness  but it was inexplicably taken out along with the placenta of her fourth child and now she cries about twice a week when forced to survey the clutter in her home.  She tries to eat healthily, exercise twice a week month, and shed baby weight from 2006,  but last week she sat on the toilet seat and it cracked... not a good sign.  She's pretty good at getting her family to enjoy healthy foods like kale, cabbage, squash, and garbanzo beans, but she overbakes brownies every. time. and she buys instant brown rice because she can not cook rice at all no matter how many times she's tried and she's thinking about breaking down and asking for a rice cooker for Christmas even though she used to poke fun at people that had rice cookers.  

d) I'm not really sure what this quiz is about.  Did someone mention brownies?

(Please submit your answers and wait for us to process the results of your quiz.)

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It has been brought to my attention that there may be some of my readers and friends laboring under the false impression that I am perfect.  

(Mwah ha ha.   My evil plan is working!)

I mean... I've got a lot of great things going for me - a fabulous-beyond-words husband who went grocery shopping for me last week even though it was on his birthday and he was sent to buy the stuff for his own birthday meal.  Not to mention the fact that he's the best looking old guy I've ever had the privilege of marrying!  (Want to guess how old he is??  Here's a recent shot...)

back to how great I've got it...  I have some incredibly attractive kiddos (they get it from the aforementioned husband who, in a crazy turn of events, also happens to be the father of my children.)  They are often polite, helpful, engaging, and awesome.  They even know Latin.  Some things are going well this year - like toilet training and homeschooling.  I love to make lots of crafty stuff and a lot of times it turns out cute.  I've found my groove in the kitchen and I mostly make tasty things.   We take nature walks.

But the absolute truth is I am so far from perfect and the imperfection runs deep and wide.  It's manifested in sin, in bad habits, in mistakes and poor judgement, and in everything that doesn't get done given the limitations of time, energy, and sanity.  

Sometimes you just want to defend yourself and ye olde blog and agree that, "yes, I tend to put only the good bits (happy, creative, successful, tasty, etc...) on here because that's what I want to recall and share."  In daily life, I struggle with complaining and discontentment and disorder and... other things... and don't feel it would be fun or productive to dwell on those here.  Just because it's not front and center on the blog doesn't mean it's not part of my life;  it doesn't mean messes and mistakes don't exist for me.  And I wanted to clear that up, because I am fully aware that catching a glimpse of someone else's reality - one in which a wonderful women admits that she has dust bunnies under her bed, overdue library books, and 19 cups worth of burned rice on the stove and a frozen pizza in the oven -  can be a blessing that clears up misconceptions and cements friendships :)  

And sometimes, it's just good to just laugh at how ridiculous it all can be.  So in the interest of full disclosure, I submit to you some recent evidence of my imperfections ...  

sometimes I bake bundt cakes and the tops get stuck in the pan.
then I eat it out of there with a fork...
this child frequently walks around in the front yard partially clothed, and what she is wearing is mismatched
and probably belongs to a sibling because I just don't have the energy to care much about propriety and match-i-ness anymore 
we have many beautiful books but 3/4 of them are missing at any given time and will probably eventually
be found mixed in with piles of dirty socks and underwear.
the books that aren't missing are usually on the floor .  quite frankly, I'm surprised there are so
many book on this shelf here
this is what the girls' room looked like last week.  then I cleaned it and now it looks like this again.  it's a combination of the bi-annual switch of sizes and seasons, James' dresser is also in this room, and Ruth is still very uncertain of  what "put your dirty clothes in the hamper" actually means (c'mon, girl!  I'm not talking in code, here!!
why,  there's the swatch of Opera House Peach we tested out two months ago thinking "wouldn't it
be fun to paint the girls room soon!"  (it's orange b/c it used to be the boys' room and orange is Aaron's 'thing")
also featured in this picture is the diaper rash cream that Clare used to decorate her dresser.
she has since wiped it off.
(2 gallons of Opera House Peach wait in the basement...)
and oh look!!  books under the girls bed, mixed in with dirty socks, just as I predicted! 
here,  have a glimpse of some of what is permanently on the ledge of the kitchen counter - does the TOOTH catch your eye? who leaves a tooth on their kitchen counter for weeks and weeks???   yuck.
the basement/play room/ big boys' room...   help!
And oh yeah...  I baked my husband's birthday cake the other day for 35 minutes at 0 degrees.  Could someone just pass me a beer.  There's too much to do around here and not enough time, so I'm just going to sit down and have a drink :)  
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If you have been scandalized in any way by this rare privilege of seeing my life beyond the beautiful baked goods, kids crafts, and crochet I usually share here, I beg you to pretend like this never happened and tune in again soon for more uplifting posts and beautiful photos of all the other pretty things that go on around here!  (hey, that's my favorite part too!)  And don't forget... no one ever found this blog by searching for laundry tips or house cleaning advice, so everything is just as it should be ;)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Hats for Kenya and a Family Giving Project (and a quick craftiness show and tell)

Last week I wrote about how God sometimes makes it really easy to lend a helping hand, give to a good cause, or give charitably from our own blessings of time, talent, and treasure.   Once in a while charitable giving opportunities fall into our laps and it just makes sense to do them.   I have Gina to thank for introducing us to two such opportunities.  These were no-brainers for us: crocheting hats for We Are Kenya (through Craft Hope) - I'm always crocheting something, so I did the crocheting and the kids were my color and style consultants :) and contributing to the fund for Cameron's diabetic alert dog.  Cameron's cause was an easy one to relate to, since the 8 year old in my own life also happens to have type 1 diabetes.  While my son, Aaron, knows that the chances of us ever getting a dog are very slim to none, we're all rooting for Cameron and his family and hope that they'll some day have a dog that will be Cameron's companion and helper in managing his diabetes.  

We had recorded a little video for Cameron but I can't find it now.  I think my computer ate it.  Because the video had been lost I kept putting off our donation b/c I wanted the circumstances to be perfect.  

Don't wait for perfect.  Just do it.  

Cameron, we think of you and pray for you.  A few weeks ago, Aaron, Dominic, Ruth, and Clare all did extra chores to earn money towards your dog!  They were happy to do it and we'll be looking forward to hearing the news of your new friend!  (and Aaron wanted me to tell you that he liked reading about you and wishes he could take insulin in his stomach like you were in the picture... his doctor won't let him yet and he's a little jealous :)  )    

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Here's a quick show and tell of the hats we're sending off to Craft Hope.  

the three beenies are pattern-less - I just did simple half double and double crochet concepts.
the ear flap hat is from this pattern here.  it's a good one.  I use it a lot :)

And here are Ruth, Dominic, and Clare to model them for you...

We'll be praying for the kids who end up with these hats :)   Clare even has a matching flower hat for herself.  It makes my heart smile to know she'll have a matching hat buddy in Kenya! 

Works in Progress :: Embrace the Ordinary (vol 14)

The best kind of work in progress is when it's a gift and I know who I'm  making it for.  I love thinking of the one who will receive it.  The work in progress is actually a project of love!  

"...there is something holy, something divine hidden in the most ordinary
situations, and it is up to each on of you to discover it."
Passionately Loving the World, St. Josemaria Escriva

Linking up with Gina at Someday (hopefully) They'll Be Saints

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Our Favorite Saint Picture Books (Books. Lists. Love.)

All Saint's Day is a week away!  We have a lovely collection of picture books about many different saints, and I thought I'd share some with you.  Instead of an exhaustive list I decided it might be nice just to mention our favorites :)  We *try* to read our saint books during the month in which the feast days fall, but it doesn't always work out that way.  Lately the kids have just been pulling their favorites off the shelf, and of course when that happens, they usually don't get put back in chronological order :(  

  ** Our Favorite Saint Picture Books **
(feast days in parentheses)

Brigid's Cloak; An Ancient Irish Story, Bryce Milligan  (Feb 1)

Saint Valentine, Robert Sabuda (Feb 14)

Pascual and the Kitchen Angels, Tomie dePaola (May 17)

Joan of Arc, Demi (May 30)

The Blackbird's Nest: Saint Kevin of Ireland, Jenny Schroedel (June 3)

The Man Who Loved Books, Jean Fritz (St. Columba, June 9)

Christopher, the Holy Giant, Tomie dePaola  (no longer considered a canonized saint; July 25)

The Holy Twins: Benedict and Scholastica, Kathleen Noris  (July 11, Feb 10)

The Little Friar Who Flew, Patricia Lee Gauch (St. Joseph Cupertino, (Sept 18)

Good King Wenceslas, John Wallner  (Sept 28)

St. Jerome and the Lion, Margaret Hodges (Sept 30)

Therese: The Little Flower of Lisieux, Sioux Berger (Oct 1)

Clare and Francis, Guido Visconti (Aug 11, Oct 4)

The Pied Piper of Peru, Ann Tompert (St. Martin de Porres, Nov 3)

The Legend of Saint Nicholas, Demi (Dec 6)

The Lady of Guadalupe, Tomie dePaola (Dec 12)  (St. Juan Diego, Dec 9)

(sorry no time to include individual pictures today :(  )

What are some of your favorite books about the saints? 
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