Saturday, February 23, 2013

My Sisters the Saints

I recently finished the book My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir by Colleen Carrol Campbell, the first book I chose from my earlier What I Want to Read post. And what a book it was! I loved it.

My Sisters the Saints is the story of Colleen's life beginning in college until about her mid-thirties. During that time she faces many struggles including overcoming the emptiness of living a lifestyle focused on temporal pleasures, her father's more than a decade long struggle with Alzheimer's disease, searching for what it truly means to be feminine and how that affects work/life choices, as well as a long, difficult struggle with infertility. Throughout this time she discovers the lives of 6 different women saints who show up in her life (usually in the form of a book given to her) at just the time she needs them. Through their life stories she discovers insights into how to deal with the very real difficulties she was then facing. For instance, the father of St. Therese of Lisieux also battled and died from Alzheimer's. The example of a very holy woman facing the exact same cross in her life provided unmeasurable consolation and strength for Colleen as she watched her dad's condition slowly degenerate. You'll be inspired, as well, by Colleen's dad himself. If I can be a parent to my children the way her dad was to his and suffer with as much love and dignity as he did, then I know I will have done well and pleased God with my life.

This book is very well written, seamlessly weaving the details of the lives of saints into the narrative and making Colleen's personal struggles come alive. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and often had a hard time putting it down so that I could get some sleep. I very highly recommend it!

Monday, January 28, 2013

What I Want to Read

So many good books. So little time.

My goodreads "to-read" shelf is just busting with good books that I want to read. Almost all of them are recommendations from bloggers, podcasters or friends so I have no doubt that every one of them is worth my time. So, these days my problem isn't trying to find a good book but trying to make up my mind as to which good book to read next.

To help me focus, I'm going to make a list of the books I would like to read this year in several different genres. I may or may not get to all of them, but I'm going to try to give some kind of short review of each of them on the blog as they are finished.


Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt. I read The Wednesday Wars by the same author and loved it. Mr. Schmidt is an excellent YA writer and I'm really looking forward to reading this book.

It looks like I need some more light fiction recommendations. Anything? Anyone?


Something by C.S. Lewis. I'm not sure if I'll read The Problem of Pain or The Great Divorce (oops, this one is fiction, isn't it?) or Mere Christianity or maybe something else. What's your favorite book by C.S. Lewis?
J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century by Tom Shippey. Continuing on my Tolkien kick.
The Inklings by Humphrey Carpenter. Have I mentioned my fascination with Tolkien and Lewis?
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain. As an extreme introvert, I need to read this one.


My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir by Colleen Carrol Campbell. Memoir and saints? I'm there. It doesn't hurt that the author is named Colleen.
Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis De Sales. I'm very intimidated by this one. But, I'm determined to give it a go.
The History of the Catholic Church: From the Apostolic Age to the Third Millenium by James Hitchcock. I think this would be a good follow up to the Walking with God book I mentioned in my last book post and just finished last week.

Read Alouds

The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald and The Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. Elizabeth and I have been enjoying princess books and both of these were highly recommended.
The Marvelous Land of Snergs by E.A. Wyke-Smith. I think both my older kids should like this one.
The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart. A fun prequel to the Mysterious Benedict Society books. My kids are begging me to read this one to them.


The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I read this in high school and don't remember much except that it was very hot and the characters were all sweaty and uncomfortable. I want to read it again before the movie comes out this year.
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I like to read a Dickens book every year.
Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell. Elizabeth Gaskell is one of my favorite authors. Every book of hers is a treat.

What else do I need to read this year?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

What I Wore Sunday: vol. 2

What I Wore Sunday linkup

So last week I decided to join this link up on a whim. I didn't think too much about my outfit, just snapped a quick picture of what I was wearing before heading out to church. Well. This week I've been planning all week to do this again and for some reason I decided to put all this pressure on myself about it. I was determined to come up with an original outfit that I have never worn before (even though none of you would know if I've worn it before or not!). So silly. But, I did it. So here's my outfit, a combination of clothes and accessories that I haven't put together before.


We're at an odd place seasonally in Texas right now. It's still January (i.e. the middle of winter!), but temperatures were near 80 degrees! I wouldn't normally wear this linen dress this time of year, but this weekend it was appropriate. I could have easily worn sandals as well, but I went with boots in memory of the cool weather that seems to be long gone.

Dress: New York & Co. 
Belt: Kohl's
Cardigan: New York & Co.
Watch: Timex
Boots: Dillard's
Earrings: JC Penney

Sunday, January 20, 2013

What I Wore Sunday

What I Wore Sunday linkup

I've been watching this "What I Wore Sunday" link up from the sidelines for quite awhile; I love seeing other people's posts but I hadn't really thought much about doing it myself until today when I saw that Blair was participating. Well, that did it. One of my friends was doing it so I decided to do it, too (I always have been a follower).

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Photo credit: Jonathan

So, here I am before mass this evening. We attending the evening mass because Eric and Jonathan were camping with the scouts this weekend and didn't return until mid-afternoon. My hair is getting really long and is overdue for a significant haircut. We had beautiful weather today (upper 60s) so I pulled out a shorter skirt that I haven't worn since the weather got cold. Lavender is becoming a staple in my wardrobe. It's a color that I'm drawn to more and more often when I am shopping. I'm pretty conservative when it comes to accessories so, as you can see, they're pretty basic.

Shirt: New York & Co. (a great store for all you tall girls out there!)
Skirt & Belt: Kohl's
Shoes: Dillard's (a birthday present this year)
Watch: New York & Co.
Necklace: A four-way medal, a gift from my parents when I was a child. I wear it always.
Earrings: James Avery (simple hoops)

This was really fun to do. I hope to do it again soon!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

I took a picture!

I took out my big-girl camera and took a few pictures yesterday. I think it may have audibly groaned when I turned it on, being a bit stiff from it's long hibernation in my camera bag. I am determined to get my creative juices flowing again and turning on the camera and snapping a few pics while the kids played in the backyard was a good start. The temperatures are back up in the 60s again, perfect for some outdoor play for kids and grown-ups alike.

And the light was beautiful.

Bathed in light

I got a little artsy-fartsy with the processing of this one. What do you think? (Honestly. Does it look too processed?)

Here's the original to compare:

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I wanted to keep the light, airy feel of the original but improve the overall color and punch it up a bit. I also wanted to de-emphasize the less than beautiful background of our backyard fence and playground.

A note for Jill (or anyone else interested in post-processing): I edited this one by overlaying it with a texture in photoshop as well as adding some brightening, adjusting the contrast and warming up the colors.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Favorite books read in 2012

According to my "read" bookshelf on, I read 64 books in 2012. At the beginning of the year I had set a goal for myself to read 25. I guess I got on a roll. Here is a short review of some of my favorite books from the past year.


Clara, Gustin and I have thoroughly enjoyed the Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems. The illustrations and humor are delightful and they are at the perfect reading level for my little Kindergartner who is learning to read this year. I gave a pack of these books to my four year old nephew for Christmas. They are wonderful books.

Elizabeth and I loved reading The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge and The Borrower's by Mary Norton. Both these books fire up the imagination and are simply lovely, especially for young girls. Elizabeth also really enjoyed The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. This book is unique in that the illustrations are not merely a companion to the prose, but rather they actually advance the story. It's a fascinating book that is great for both boys and girls.

Both Elizabeth and Jonathan eagerly sat through The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart as well as the other two books in the trilogy. The books had them thinking hard trying to figure out the different puzzles and mysteries in the story and often laughing out loud in delight.


I've been on a literary analysis kick lately fueled by great books like How Harry Cast His Spell by John Granger, which discusses the Christian symbolism of the Harry Potter books as well as the fascinating structural and stylistic choices that J.K. Rowling made while writing the books, and Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit by Corey Olsen. I've posted a number of times in recent months about my admiration for Professor Olsen's podcasts and I found his book just as fascinating.

Eric and I both read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. Wow, what an amazing true story and Laura Hillenbrand (the author of Seabiscuit) has the unique ability to make a work of non-fiction flow and engage the reader as well as any fiction author. Highly recommend.

Catholic Non-Fiction

A Catholic book I read this year, gave as a gift to friends, and am sure to read again is Style, Sex and Substance by Hallie Lord. There is so much to learn from this book and the writing is so good that it immediately earned a spot on my mental list of "books to read again".

I took my time reading A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms by Lisa Hendey. The book is formatted to read about a new saint each week with prayers and reflections for each day of the week about the saint. I followed the format and loved my time spent meeting and praying with so many wonderful saints.

I'm about 2/3 of the way through Walking with God: A Journey Through the Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins but I had to include it as one of my favorites. The book walks you through all of salvation history bringing richer meaning to old Bible stories and unraveling the confusing or obtuse sections of the Old Testament to create a clean, coherent story that leads up to our redemption by Christ. I often found myself stopping and reading particularly fascinating sections aloud to my husband.

Catholic Fiction

I read two light-hearted, fun, but still Catholic, books this year that I thoroughly enjoyed. Looking for the King by David C. Downing is a mystery novel with references to Arthurian legends and the characters interact with several members of the famous Inklings (C.S. Lewis, J.R.R.Tolkien). Catholic Philosopher Chick Makes Her Debut by Rebecca Bratten Weiss and Regina Doman is Catholic chick-lit that is quirky and fun yet also intelligent. It was a great summer read.


My list of favorite fiction books is too long to go into each one individually, but I really loved all of them and did not want to leave any out. My favoites include: The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge, The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, The Blue Castle by L.M. Montegomery, Bleak House by Charles Dickens, Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell, and Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt.

Two others could also be considered great Catholic literature with their complex Catholic characters, moral dilemmas, and insights into the nature of sin, grace, human nature, and God. They are Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset and Gentian Hill by Elizabeth Goudge. These two books are probably my top two books of the year, though I feel compelled to include Bleak House as well, so instead I'll say they are two of my top three books of the year.

Favorite Re-reads

Since I am often drawn back to my favorite books because they seem to have more and move to give with each reading, I decided to re-read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen, and The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

Now, I'd love for you to share. What are some of your favorite reads from 2012 that I simply must add to my "to-read" bookshelf in 2013?