Friday, February 24, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday vol.14

--- 1 ---

The Hunger Games movie will be out on March 23. Thanks to my favorite blogger, I was turned on to the books a couple of years ago and I found them to be fantastic stories. I think Eric and I may even splurge and go see the movie at the theater (date night!). We have a (modestly firm) rule in our house that you have to read the book before you see the movie, so Eric has 28 days to start and finish the book. Given that he only has time to read a handful of pages a day (we can't count those pages he "reads" before bed with the book propped open but his eyes closed), seeing The Hunger Games in the theater may be a pipe dream. But I sure hope we can make it happen!

--- 2 ---

When you take photographs, with which eye do you look through the view finder? I am left-eyed. I would never have noticed it, but people comment on it fairly often since it strikes them as odd when they see me taking pictures. Most people seem to be right-eyed. I guess that would make sense given that most people are right-handed, but I am also right-handed. So, maybe the two don't always coincide.

Are you "handed" and "eyed" the same or are you a mix-match, like me?

--- 3 ---

Betty Duffy recently recommended a memoir, The Me Years by Ellen Finnigan, and I decided to check it out. I am a newb to the memoir genre, but have found the few memoirs (make that the one memoir) that I have read fascinating. The Me Years continues the trend. The book is full of foul language and most of the characters epitomize what is wrong with the current generation of 20-somthings; but, Ellen's process of discovering Truth that slowly unfolds as she painfully makes the same mistakes over and over again is extremely insightful. I recommend it but be forewarned that she is very honest about the lifestyle she lived during her "me years".

--- 4 ---

Jonathan and Elizabeth receive an allowance every week. A portion of each allowance goes into savings, a portion is for charity, and the rest they are allowed to spend. For charity, they would bring their money to church and put it in the collection basket; at least that is what happened in theory. In reality, we would forget their church money almost every week. It was a small, but fairly irritating, problem.

But, I finally came up with a solution to the Kids' Charitable Donation Problem.

Now, each week they put their charity money in a jar. We went to and the kids chose a gift that they want to buy for the poor in Latin America. Jonathan and Elizabeth chose 20 baby chicks, which cost $25. So now every week when they add their charity money to the jar, they know they are saving up to buy those chicks. They are so excited about it and it really puts a value and a face to the money they are donating. It's turning into a great Lenten project, as well, as they are trying to find creative ways to come up with extra money to put in the jar (like adding the money we save from fasting and from not eating meat).

--- 5 ---

For Christmas this year we got Jonathan the perfect gift: a small video camera. It was a bit more expensive than what we normally spend on Christmas gifts, but there was so much potential for creativity. I imagined the kids creating their own movies, maybe starring themselves or their Lego creations and mini-figures. I foresaw hours and hours of imagination-expanding play.

Well, that's not what happened.

Instead, Jonathan uses his camera to video cartoons as they play on TV. He and his siblings will sit around and watch these jiggly, background-noise-filled videos on the camera's teeny tiny screen for hours if I would let them. And, not a single original movie has been created.

Sigh... Oh, well. You can't win them all.

--- 6 ---

I've mentioned before that we are still having a difficult time with Gustin's potty training, even though he will turn 5 in May. We picked up the registration packet for Kindergarten last week and in it it specifically states that children will not be accepted at the school unless they are potty trained.


How am I supposed to motivate this child to get potty trained when nothing else has worked so far and now we have a hard deadline (registration is due by March 7th)?

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit came to my rescue.

I casually mentioned the other day that pretty soon Clara will be ready to potty train and that Gustin will have to teach her how to do it. Well! That motivated him immediately! He went and dug his dusty, little child-sized potty out of the garage and cleaned it up all by himself. He then got Clara to sit on the potty and she even went! Clara has now tinkled in the potty at least half a dozen times in the last 2 days. And the best part: Gustin hasn't had a single accident. Hallelujah!! Miracles do happen!

--- 7 ---

I can't have entire post without a single picture, so here are a few random photos that I've taken recently. Roll over each photo with your mouse to see the unedited version (I did this for you, Jill!).

Have a great Friday!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Guessing game

Can you identify this flower?

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I'll give you a few hints. The bees love it. They buzzed around constantly while I snapped these photos this morning.

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This plant grows in cooler months and is gone long before the intense heat of summer.

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It's very accessible. I took these pictures in my back yard. You can also find them, in bud form harvested well before bloom, in your grocer's produce section.

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Any ideas?

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Find the answer in the comments!

Friday, February 17, 2012

What blogger do you want to be when you grow up?

Do you ever think to yourself: When I (figuratively in a bloggish way) grow up I want to be a blogger like (insert name of awesome blogger here)?

There are many big name bloggers that I admire.

I adore Kelle Hampton's photography. I'm learning so much from her about composition and focal length choice and I just can't get enough of her precious little Nella. Her pictures alone show the great value and dignity of children with Down's syndrome. She has a remarkable ability to embrace the beauty in everyday life.

Everyone loves Margaret in Minnesota. Her humor and absolute honesty draw me back to her blog time and time again.

Betty Duffy and Simcha Fisher's writing regularly blows me away. These women have more intelligence, wisdom and wit in their little finger than I can ever hope to aspire to. I never miss anything these women write.

And then there's Jen Fulwiler. Oh my goodness. This cradle Catholic has learned so much from this former atheist. What a blessing she is to the Church.

But, as a blogger, I hope to one day be like... Karen Edmisten. She seems so down to earth, yet also wise, so intelligent, yet also accessible. She has such a beautiful writing style. Any book she recommends I know I will love; and, I hope to one day have relationships with my children that are as deep and meaningful as the relationships she has with her equally intelligent and witty daughters.

So, what blogger do you aspire to be?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Picture of the day: Ducks!

I had the distinct pleasure of being sick again for the last several days. I sort of half way enjoyed it the first time around, not so much the second. Since I'm still recovering I'm just going to make this a quick picture post of one of my favorite recent photos. Roll over the image with your mouse to see the unedited version.

As you can see I had to do a bit more editing than normal with this shot, but I'm very happy with the results. When shooting it I had been waiting for Clara to get in just the right position relative to the ducks and at the last second Elizabeth lunged into the picture, trying to be a good big sister and keep her little sister from running off. I was pleased that I was able to successfully edit her out. (That sounds awfully harsh, doesn't it? Poor Elizabeth removed for the sake of photographic composition.)

I also applied a texture to this photo which gave some nice, subtle variation of tone to the grass color that I particularly like. I really had a lot of fun with this one, both in the shooting and in the editing.

Now, time to head off to bed early. Enjoy the rest of your week!

Friday, February 10, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday vol. 13

--- 1 ---

We had a bit of an eclectic Superbowl menu this year. Our menu consisted of a baked, cheesy spinach dip, bruschetta topped with cherry tomatoes and our homemade pesto, fresh berries and . . . Cheetos. For dessert we made chocolate-pumpkin whoopie pies. I do believe I'm becoming a big fan of the whoopie pie genre.

--- 2 ---

I am finally caught up on all the episodes of Downton Abbey. I had to make it a priority because I keep getting spoiled on twitter! I was way behind because it is impossible for me to watch the show when it is airing on Sunday nights, something to do with having 4 young children and all. But, I've found a great way to get caught up and motivate myself to exercise at the same time. Did you know there is a PBS app for the iPhone? All the shows that can be found on PBS online are available through the app. So, I grab my earbuds and jump on the elliptical and before I know it I've gotten in a great workout and caught up on all the happenings at Downton Abbey.

--- 3 ---

To all my fellow photographers out there: Do you ever edit your photos with textures? Using textures basically involves overlaying one photo on top of another and blending them together to manipulate color and contrast and to add, well, texture to the photo. If you love textures (or would like to give them a test run), Sarah Gardner is giving away a free set of textures on her site available until February 14th. If you've never used textures before, Sarah has some nice tutorials on her blog and some absolutely amazing photography. She truly is an artist so go check her out and prepare to be inspired.

The above is my own amateur-ish attempt at using one of Sarah's textures. The before/after rollover will give you an idea of what textures can do.

--- 4 ---

Amy Welborn's new book, Wish You Were Here, is now available in paperback and on kindle and I can't wait to read it. I remember hearing about her husband passing away suddenly a few years ago and my heart just ached for her. One of my greatest fears is to lose my husband and to have to support and raise my children without him. I think her story of grief and then learning to continue on without her life partner has to be tremendously inspiring. I'll be sure to report back with a review once I've read it.

--- 5 ---


I love these happy, sunshiny flowers so much but I've never actually grown them in my garden. Last fall when we were reworking a flower bed in the front yard I remembered to buy a few daffodil bulbs and plant them. I am beyond ecstatic that they are now actually coming up!

If I'm this excited for a few little green shoots then I won't be able to stand myself when they finally bloom! My camera better get ready for a workout!

--- 6 ---

Clara's babble continues to crack us up. She still only has a few words, but as you can see in this video, she can communicate just fine. Who knew that toddler jabber could be so emphatic!

--- 7 ---

There are so many foods that I did not appreciate properly as a child. So many of them are foods that I now love and can not imagine cooking without.

For instance, I used to pick out any and every little sliver of onion I saw out of every dish my mother ever made. Now I cook with fresh onions daily. I don't think I ever had a homemade dish with fresh garlic in it until after I was married. Now I think roasted garlic is one of the most heavenly foods I've ever put on my tongue. As a child I had never even heard of olive oil or leeks or dried cranberries. I refused to try avocados though now I can't imagine life without guacamole. And after my mom's limp, squishy microwaved zucchini I swore that when I grew up I'd never let any type of squash ever cross my lips! Now during the summer we grill yellow squash or zucchini at least weekly and even grow them in our vegetable garden.

Are there any foods that you hated or wouldn't try as a kid but now you love?

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

So maybe it's about that time?

Note: Roll over the images in this post with your mouse to see the unedited versions.

I'll be 35 later this year. It's strange to think that in just a few months I'll be considered of "advanced maternal age". It makes me feel old just typing those words. Which is silly, of course, because one is hardly old in her mid-thirties. I have started to notice some changes in my body recently that remind me that though I may not be old, I'm no longer young anymore either.

For instance, I've been wanting to lose about 10 pounds. Those pounds have been hanging around since Clara stopped nursing and it's high time they went away so I no longer have to squeeze into my clothes. I'm not a fan of dieting--I'd rather establish good, sustainable habits--so I've been focusing on tweaking what I eat, getting back in line with good nutritional habits that I've gotten a bit lax about. I'm also back in a good exercise routine, working out for about 30 minutes on average about 4 days a week. I'm very happy with my new routines and habits and I feel physically better with less back and knee pain.

But, there is one thing I'm not happy about: the number on the scale.

It has not budged a bit in the last 6 weeks. In the past a similar regimen has yielded a slow, steady weight loss of about a pound a week. This time...nadda!

I like to tell myself that I must be building muscle as fast as I'm losing fat and that's why the number on the scale hasn't moved. A look in the mirror, though, contradicts that since the jiggly area around my middle hasn't diminished a bit.

Maybe the reality is that at my age I'm just going to have to work harder to get results.

I've never worried about portion sizes, I've usually focused on nutritional balance at meals instead, but maybe I need to be a little more conscious of how much food I'm putting on my plate. Maybe I need to up the intensity or duration of my workouts. Maybe I've been eating a bit too much chocolate (please say it isn't so!).

Or maybe I just need to be satisfied with myself just the way I am.

It's hard to find the right balance between properly caring for oneself and not making health an obsession. I want to do what is good for me physically and emotionally. But, I also want to have a realistic understanding of what my body, that of a 6' tall 34-year-old mother of 4, should look like. That is hard. Just what is realistic and reasonable? Should I judge myself based on a number: weight, BMI, waist measurement, dress size? Or by what I see in the mirror?

I don't know what the answer is to any of these questions, but I do know that I want to be both healthy and content with the body God has given me (flaws and all) at the same time. The only way I know to find that balance is to question periodically where I'm at and make any adjustments that seem prudent. I guess if I know I'm making healthy choices, I should be content with the body that results from those choices.

Or maybe we should make a few less homemade double chocolate chunk cookies.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

About that writing thing...

The master plan went out the window this week as I've been sick. Resting and recuperating were priority over writing and pretty much everything else.

Don't tell my family I said this, but it was almost like a mini-vacation. I felt bad, but not too bad to read, and I felt much worse if I tried to get up and do anything. So. for about three days I was completely justified to sit around and read. Well, not really. I still had four kids to care for, but I gave myself permission to rest way more than normal. And I gave the kids permission to watch more movies than normal. And they were allowed to completely destroy the house if they wanted as long as they left me alone and didn't fight.

As a result, Bleak House by Charles Dickens is now officially in the "read" column. It took the entire month of January (and a convenient illness) to complete but was well worth the time investment. Five stars.

I'm looking forward to getting back in the groove this week. I've got some catching up to do around the house since the kids destroyed just about every room except mine; and, I'm more than ready to get back to blogging and photo editing.

Rest is over. Time to hit the ground running!

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