Friday, November 29, 2013

Gift Giving Ideas!

As you contemplate your Christmas lists this Black Friday (and beyond) I'd like to remind you of some great items for the people on your list.  It is so hard sometimes to come up with something nice, but useful, for friends and family.  I know I am not good at coming up with ideas for gifts for people, so I appreciate a good list of ideas to help me out.

The first thing I'd like to draw your attention to is The Goat Milk Soap Shop!  

Our all-natural soaps smell great and people really love the fact that they are all-natural and feel and smell so good when you use them.  This time around, however, buying our soap isn't just good for you and the people you're giving it to, but your purchase can help us to make a donation to the Saint Gianna Molla Shrine fund that our parish has.  We are building a pro-life, national shrine dedicated to St. Gianna as a place for people to come and pray and find peace and healing, especially those suffering from the effects of abortion.  We will be donating the proceeds from all sales between now and January 1, 2014 to the Shrine.  Won't you please consider helping out?

Next, is there a homeschooling mom on your list that is struggling with being organized?  Is she wanting a better prayer life or a more organized meal or chore schedule?  Why not get her a copy of "A Plan for Joy in the Home"?  It is a gift that benefits everyone :)

Don't forget that you can order Mystic Monk coffee from the image on my sidebar. That coffee is good all year long, but a definite treat for Christmas time!

Have any music lovers on your list?

Friends of ours put out this CD not too long ago and it would be a great gift for the people in your life who like peaceful, beautiful music.  You can order it from their website!

And finally, don't forget our friends over at Holy Heroes!  They have so many great gifts for kids this Christmas season.  We've loved what we've gotten so far, so why not check them out here.  

Hope this helps you in your Christmas gift-giving discernment.  Just for disclosure purposes, there is one affiliate link, two items that are my own and two that I just want to promote because I like them!  

God Bless!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Theme Thursday - Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!  I pray that you all have (had) a joyous, grace filled day.

In the Theme Thursday tradition, here is a picture of the things that I am the most thankful for - my family, of course.

If I could, I would post dozens of pictures of all my relatives and friends and all of the things I am thankful for on this great day.  Since I can't do that, I'll make a(n abbreviated) list:

My parents, brother and extended family
My in-laws 
My faith
our wonderful and supportive group of friends
priests that form us
beautiful liturgies
a warm house with a beautiful yard
food to eat and clothes to wear
cars that still work despite their advanced age and high mileage
jobs for my husband and older kids
the talents that have been given to us
people to celebrate with
people to love me

This is just a very short list!  I try to be thankful every single day for both the good things and those things that do not appear to be so good.  Many times those not-so-good things end up being blessings in disguise.  

So on this day, may the Good Lord bless you and your family abundantly.

Go over to Clan Donaldson to join in being Thankful!

God Bless!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Where Does "Hurry Up" Fit In?

I got up at my usual time this morning and started the daily routine.  About an hour later I started rousing the troops, except that today, after quite a few late nights, no one responded.  I tried again with the same result.  That was when I decided to leave them be and that Noon Mass would be a fine alternative to the morning I had planned.

Since I had some time to myself I was checking out a few new things on the ole internet when I came across a post about how one woman gave up saying "hurry up".  Now I believe that I am the queen of hurry up because I probably say it in between every other word that I utter.  Had the troupes actually gotten up this morning I'm sure I would have said it at least 10 times as we tried to get out the door.

After reading, and still having the house to myself, I started thinking about what it would be like to not have to say that at all.  By that I mean, what if you never rushed around and just went with the flow, being present to every minute.  I know this is the opposite extreme and after a short time I realized that it is not very realistic.  At some point in your life you have to realize that there are time constraints, that you do need to be at a certain place at a certain time.  Teaching your children these things is important because always being late because you didn't want to rush imposes on other people and other places in a way that is not good.

So where does "hurry up" fit in? Here are some ways that I think can help to eliminate the need for saying these words so often that they become blocked out!

* Being organized goes a long way towards eradicating the need for these words.  As the mom, if I'm not on top of my game, why would my kids be?  If I'm doing something last minute that doesn't really need to be done, then why won't my kids be.  Darn those kids!  They sure to learn what they see, don't they? 

* Just because I'm organized, however, doesn't mean everyone else in the house is!  Teaching the kids to be organized ahead of time (having things ready the night before, putting away their clothing and shoes so they can find them the next day, etc) is another big help. 

* Realizing that there are times that really aren't as "time-sensitive" as you think they are.  Sometimes there is a little wiggle room in the schedule, or it isn't a big deal if you wait an additional 5 minutes to "smell the roses".  See these for what they are, a gift, and forgo the urge to hurry everyone along.

* Find a different way to get your point across instead of just using the same old, exasperated sigh of "Hurry up or we are going to be late!".  To get us going in the morning, either my daughter or myself has started walking through the house giving 5 minute warnings:  "Five minutes.  Time to get shoes and coats on!"  This has helped immensely (except for the days that everyone tunes those out, too!).

* Sometimes you just have to leave that straggler who refuses to get their act together behind (assuming, of course, that they are old enough to be left behind!).  Do this a few times and I think they'll start to be a bit more accountable.

In summary, I really do think that there are proactive things that can be done to let go of that urge to always hurry everyone along.  Teaching the kind act of being on time is an important one, but, as I've learned, constantly yelling "hurry up" is not the way to teach that lesson!  My biggest thing right now is to stop and think about what I say and ask myself whether it really needs to be said or not.  My knee-jerk reaction is to grumble and hurry, but I bet that if I gave it some thought, I'd realize that quite often I don't need to do that.

Sometimes I get frustrated when my plan changes, but this morning I realized that it was okay to let everyone chill and it ended up being a profitable morning all around.  I hope you have a great, un-hurried day!

God Bless!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

St. Gianna Molla Shrine Dinner

I had the awesome opportunity to be the photographer for another wonderful fundraising dinner this past weekend.  Our parish is out to build a national shrine to St. Gianna Molla on our parish property.  The shrine will feature a beautiful life-size statue of Gianna and the oldest three children.  It will be a pro-life shrine and a place of peace and healing for those who have lost children or are suffering from a past abortion.

The dinner was held in our wonderfully transformed and beautifully decorated parish hall.
We've never done a formal sit-down dinner before, so a lot of planning and help went in to pulling this off.  Fortunately, we have a master chef and a restaurant owner as parishioners so that was a major help.

My hubby got to be a waiter and had a great time doing it.  Lookin' good :)

Drew Mariani from Relevant Radio gave the keynote address and he did a great job.  He talked about prayer and how we need to have complete faith and trust in Him.  He's had some awesome experiences and told a lot of interesting stories.

As I said, we haven't ever done anything like this before, so the task of feeding 200 people with a non-professional wait staff in a timely fashion was a bit daunting.  Everyone did a great job and, other than one minor incident, everything went off without a hitch.

Here's the chef torching the dessert.  I just love his devious little grin!  I am so bummed that there wasn't any of this creme brulee left over because it is one of my favorites and boy did it look delicious. 

The artist who designed and is making our statue came down from Canada to be with us.  He gave an interesting talk on why he designed it the way he did.  You can see part of it on the screen in the background and in the foreground, he is holding a print he did of St. Gianna that was getting auctioned off. 

One of the highlights of the evening had to be when our pastor got up on stage to auction off a dinner he and the other two priests from our parish will be bringing to the lucky winner's home.  They aren't cooking this Mexican fiesta, but they are bringing it, serving it and providing the entertainment.  They got a pretty good price for it, too!

It was a great night and I'm pretty sure they did a good job raising money for the project.  If you'd like more information about the shrine, or maybe even would like to donate to it, you can go here.

I am so grateful to have opportunities like this.  It is so fun to be able to take so many pictures and rub elbows with important people!  I thank God for this gift that He has given me and hope to continue to use my talents in His service.

God Bless!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Coffee Woes

Oh coffee, how does thou frustrateth me?  Let me counteth the ways.

I never used to like coffee.  It took my husband most of our 25 years of marriage to even get me to drink it.  Now, however, I look forward to that cuppa in the morning and then again around 4:00 pm.  I can't drink fully caffeinated coffee because then I get all jittery so I usually brew about 50/50, or sometimes 60/40 if I feel like living on the wild side.

Lately, however, I have had a HORRIBLE time finding decaf coffee.  Our usual brand seems to be no more.  I've looked at other brands and if they have decaf at all it is usually hazelnut (gag!!).

Oh, but I forgot one important thing.  My husband has always preferred to grind his own beans instead of buying ground coffee and ever since my daughter told us this story, I can't even stomach the thought of ground coffee.

Apparently a patient at the office she works at has a brother-in-law that kept having a reaction to something he was either eating or drinking.  He went through extensive food and allergy testing and they didn't discover anything that jumped out at them, but after even further testing, discovered he was allergic to cockroaches.  After even further digging and questioning, they discovered that it was his coffee that was causing him problems and that since he was drinking ground coffee, and apparently it is a known fact that coffee beans sit around on the warehouse floor and get scooped up and ground up without picking out the cockroaches, that it was the cockroach pieces in his coffee grounds that were causing his allergic reaction.

Okay, so I go to the store and look for my decaf and all I see are ground coffee options and my stomach turns.  I know, the same thing goes for coffee ordered out, but there's something about grabbing for that bag first thing in the morning to measure out the grounds and wondering just how many insect parts per tablespoon you are consuming.

Therefore, I will continue my quest for whole bean decaf coffee, even if it means I have to order it online and have it delivered to my house; or maybe drive far to find it.  Maybe it isn't even a true story and we don't need to worry about it at all. Sorry if I've grossed you out.

Time to go grind my beans for that afternoon cup - where I can guarantee you that no bug parts will be included.

God Bless!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Reacting Later is the Goal

How do you react to things?  Let's say you get an email that gets your blood pressure to rise.  Maybe your kids refuse to listen to a thing you say all day.  How about hearing that someone has been saying false things about you.

Do you immediately fly off the handle?  Do you type that volatile email and send it right back?  Do you bite the next kid to disobey's head off? 


Do you sit back and take a deep breath before you respond?

I can tell you that I do not do the latter and it has come to my attention through prayer and discernment that because of that, I am seeing this common trait in most of my children.  It's kind of like a Catch 22.  They misbehave so I react and then they react because that's what I've trained them to do through my reacting.

A vicious cycle that needs to be stopped.

If you react like this, have you ever tried not to?  If you have, you realize how incredibly hard it is to do.  Most of the time the words are out of my mouth before I even realize that I spoke them.  Many times I send a response in an email and realize that if I had just thought through the situation I would have responded differently.  Ugh, what to do?

This sounds like something good to work on during the upcoming Advent season.  I spoke to a priest about it and his advice was to ask for very specific help from the Lord each day and to realize that we cannot depend on our own abilities to conquer, or even subdue, things like this.

Total dependence on God; humility when we fall; slowing down so that there is time to think.  These are the things that will help me to even come close to remembering to stop and think before I react.

What about you?  Have you had this problem and if so, have you come close to dealing with it?  If so, how?

God Bless!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Catholic Woman's Almanac

Joining in over at Sucipio!

Moments of Gratitude:

* For safety for all of us as we navigated the storms that hit our area today.
* For staying home for a whole day this weekend and getting a lot accomplished.
* For the wonderful friends we were with to celebrate a friend's 50th birthday.

Outside my window:

It is pitch black (because it's nighttime :)) and the wind is howling away.  Thankfully the rain has stopped.

Around the House:

Since free time has been at a premium lately, I have really taken to heart the "do small things here and there" principal.  I might have a big project in mind, like clean the whole house from top to bottom and clean the carpets and fix the paint in the bathroom, but I realize that that isn't going to all happen right now so instead I've been tackling small jobs whenever I can.  While I cook, I clean in the kitchen.  While I'm waiting for my curling iron to heat up, I fold laundry.  While the coffee is brewing (which takes up to 1/2 an hour sometimes!) I pick up a room or two.  It might not be how I like it, but at least I'm chipping away at things bit by bit.

The Upcoming Week:

Our last IEW writing class is this week.  The kids in the class (eight in total) all wrote a five paragraph essay on a topic of their choosing and this week they have to give an oral presentation to the moms.  Should be fun - for us moms at least.  Mr 13 yo has threatened to lock me out so I can't watch him give his.  This is also the last week of regular classes for the Performing Arts Center and then begins the week of dress rehearsals.

At the end of the week our parish is hosting a fundraising gourmet dinner to raise money for a St. Gianna Molla Shrine they are going to be building.  For you Relevant Radio listeners, Drew Mariani will be speaking and yours truly will be the official photographer!  If you get a chance, you should check out the link and if you're ever in the area, sometime after next summer of course, you should visit.  It promises to be a place of peace and healing for those who need it.


* For many of my family members who are suffering emotionally and physically.
* For our upcoming performance and for the rehearsals that all will go smoothly.


How I can stop myself from loading up December with stuff to do since we'll be done with the play and there will be no extra classes for the WHOLE month.  I am so looking forward to that, but I fear I might get carried away with making up for lost time.


Isn't this such an adorably happy baby?  I love baby shots, so here's a few for those of you who do, too.

God Bless!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Brighter Perspective

Casement windows have been the bane of my existence for most of my adult life.  I know, it seems trivial given all of the things that could qualify for that status, but they are just one of those little annoying things that seem to follow me around into every house we live in.

We've lived in a five houses over our 25 years of marriage and all but one of them have had casement windows.  The other four have been a pain in my side.  If you have them, you know what I mean:  handles that fall apart and/or break off, windows that don't open all the way anymore, windows that won't close anymore from the inside (they require a special trip outside to give them a good shove - usually when it is pouring rain), screens that blow out with a good wind, screens that are bent and won't sit in the frame properly.  Oh, and have you ever had blinds or a shade on casement windows and wanted to close them a bit while the window is open?  Tough luck.

If you are lucky enough to have up and down windows (more commonly referred to as double hung windows), then you can count yourselves as blessed.

I have decided that Heaven will be full of up and down windows.

Anyhow, my fate having been sealed, I have tried to make the best of it.  One thing my mom has been telling me for years is that, in the winter, I should take all the screens out thus allowing more light to come into those dreary winter-lit rooms.  

Not one to shun motherly advice, I have finally taken her up on it and started in two of our rooms.  The first window I did was the one over the kitchen sink.  I was so impressed with how nice it looked and how much brighter the area was that I finally had time to do it in our bedroom.  

Our room is north facing so there isn't much light to begin with.  Take away those lovely screens and it immediately brightened the place up.

I am so happy with the results that my goal is to do that in all the rooms before Spring is upon us next year!  I'll let you know if I succeed.

God Bless!

Friday, November 15, 2013

7 Quick Takes November 15 2013

Well, I've never done a Quick Takes this late in the day, so here goes.  I've got 10 minutes to get it done before I need to flip some bean quesadillas, get everyone in the car, drive to pick up the boys and run over to our Miles Christi Evening of Recollection where I will actually get to stay put in one place without having to drive for 3 whole hours!  I cannot wait!

I always like to promote things that people I know have done (or even cool things from people I don't know) so here is a link to the new gluten free holiday cookbook that friends of ours put together.  They did another one a few months ago but this one has some great holiday ideas for those of you who are gluten free.  Speaking of free, the book is FREE right now for Kindle so go grab your copy asap. 
I've always wanted to take a picture like this...and now I have.

Usually there's too much going on and I forget, but this was on her actual birthday and half the family was away at play practice so things were a tad slower and calmer than normal.  Yeah!

For those of you following along, here's the newest installment of Hope's Cafe.
For those of you not following should be.
The boys needed scarves for one of their costume pieces so I finally took the plunge and dug through and organized our bin of winter stuff.  Oh my.  We can easily clothe about 20 people with scarves, hats and gloves.  Time to donate!  Also, can someone tell me why I found at least 7 gloves that had no partner?  How does that happen?  Do they run away with the socks?

We were in Wal-Mart today and upon exiting were greeted by the Salvation Army guy.  Really?  Is this earlier than last year?  It is November 15th and he wished me a Merry Christmas.  I was too stunned to respond.  Can we get through Thanksgiving first?

We are mostly home on Saturday, which is so cool and Sunday brings us with a lot of driving, but some fun intermixed in there, so it's good.  Hope you have a blessed and relaxing weekend.

God Bless!
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Starbucks, Writing and Scrooge

I'm sitting in Starbucks with my small decaf (I know, I'm so not pc) and an empty plate that held a rather dried out cheesecake brownie (note that the plate is empty; the dryness did not stop me from eating it!), hoping to be inspired.  I've heard many people say they go to a coffee shop to let those creative juices flow but they just ain't flowin' here, people.

1. Could it be that I'm sitting in a corner and it is very cold?
2. Could it be that I'm sitting under a speaker that is playing music that I do not find appealing?
3. Could it be that I'm just not able to be inspired?

I'm thinking it is number three.

We had a super busy weekend, celebrating the birthday of the now Ms 15 yo in between running other kids to and from rehearsals for the production of "The Conversion of Scrooge" that they will be in on December 1st.  Those of you who are local and want to see a great production to kick off your Advent, let me know :)

Today was our second to last writing class that we've had at our house on Tuesday mornings.  It has been an incredible blessing to me and, even though they won't admit it, Mr 13 yo and Ms 15 yo.  Now that I have the hang of it, this IEW program rocks.  I so wish that I had figured it out years ago.  While the bigger kids are learning it from the girls who are teaching the class, I'm working with Ms 10 yo and Mr 8 yo.  It continues to be a great experience for all of us; except for when they leave their assignments for Monday afternoon - then it is NOT a good experience for any of us.

Due to a cancellation in classes last Friday (which was great last Friday but there's always a payback isn't there?) we have classes at the Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week, as well as all day rehearsal on Sunday.  In addition, I must find costume pieces and do some sewing.  I know it sounds like I'm complaining and I guess to a certain extent I am, even though I consciously signed everyone up for this, but I will redeem myself by saying that it is all so totally worth it once I sit back and watch these performances.  They are truly amazing.  Until then, however, please pray for me :)

God Bless!

Friday, November 8, 2013

7 Quick Takes November 8, 2013

It's been awhile, hasn't it?  Glad to be here with y'all at this quick takes party.  Here are a few things that have been going on around here lately.

I've been sharing the episodes of Hope's Cafe on my blog as they come out so I thought I would share the latest one here.  This one is sure to be a favorite!  

 If you've missed them before, Hope's Cafe is a catholic internet-based sitcom that the adult/young adult theater class from the Little Flowers Performing Arts Center is doing.  

Nothing like a few moments in the kitchen to get one feeling like Martha Stewart.  We had some whole chickens the other day and I actually remembered to save the carcases (or would that be carci?) and put them in the crock pot over night with some water to make some good ole fashioned bone broth.  Yummy!  Nothing says good morning like the smell of chicken broth :)  This broth became an awesome pot of chicken soup for dinner.  

Can't you just taste all that yummy, good-for-you, homemade goodness???
Then, much to my amazement, I found myself with even a few more minutes in the kitchen so I whipped up a batch of homemade yogurt.  

This is only the second time I've done it, and while not everyone is excited about it (I mean it is kind of hard to beat out Chobani), I really like it.  Sure it's plain, but add a bit of fruit and it tastes oh-so-good!

November is such a great month; an entire month dedicated to praying for the holy souls.  Don't forget your loved ones in Purgatory!  Also, I was just reminded that at the end of the month is the feast of St. Andrew when the St. Andrew novena starts.  Last year was the first year we had done it, and I am looking forward to doing it again!

Our parish is in the midst of raising funds to build a National shrine to St. Gianna Molla.  This is so exciting!  It even has the blessings of St. Gianna's daughter.  I'm contemplating a soap fundraiser for Christmas to help raise funds so I will definitely post a link and keep you updated.  If you want to check it out or want to make a direct donation, you can do so here.
Lot's to do this weekend - some cleaning, baking, celebrating and rehearsing are all on board.  I suppose some leave raking should be, too, but we'll just have to see if we have time for that.  I did hear an ugly rumor that it might snow next week, but that still isn't enough motivation for me to carve out time to rake up those leaves.  Besides, they look very pretty right now all over the yard!  Have a great weekend.

God Bless!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Theme Thursday - Thumbs

Here's Ms 14 yo when she was a few years younger, I think around Ms 11 yo.  We took this picture because this was one of the first times that she was able to give us a thumbs up.  Can't explain it, but she could never do it before then.  She has this weird double-jointed thing going on with the rest of her fingers, but for whatever reason, her thumbs just wouldn't cooperate. 

It was a big day around here.

Join Clan Donaldson for other thumb pictures.  I wonder how many others will be accompanied by such a riveting story?

God Bless!


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Brain Fog and All Hallow's Eve

Too much to do, too little time and a brain that won't cooperate.  That, my friends, has been my life as of late.  The worst part of it all is the brain that won't cooperate.  I just can't seem to get it to work.  I can get through the morning school work, but when the older kids come to me after lunch with their harder questions, man does that throw me into a fog.  After that...nothin'.  

So today I decided to try to force myself to focus on some tasks that needed to be done.  I made some phone calls, ordered some pictures and then when my dh called to tell me he was on his way home, I remembered that I had forgotten to start the soup for dinner.  Ugh. Now the soup is underway and I came back here to post some pictures from our All Hallow's Eve party last week.  I know I'm kind of late to the party, but I hope you'll still enjoy them.

This whole event is the idea of one of our priests.  He and some very faithful volunteers organize the entire three hour event that consists of a carved pumpkin patch for trick-or-treating, a maze of some sort (this year was through Purgatory), skits, a game show, some kids games and a procession all ending in Holy Mass.

We were a bit more invested in it this year.  For example, Mr 13 yo was an angel that participated in all four skits and then handed out candy to people entering Heaven and to contestants in the game show.  Here he is sporting his wings and halo.

His first halo was a silver one suspended above a headband.  We quickly convinced Father that you just don't stick headbands on teenage boys.  Luckily he gave in easily.

Here he is intent on his duties.  What a good little angel :)

I had the opportunity to put all of those hours of sitting at dress rehearsals to good use by directing a short skit.  Our skit was about St. Faustina.  The kids did a great job (no thanks to me, of course, just their natural talent!).  

Gotta love my creativity, don't you?  I had Mr 13 yo make those wheels so we could have an authentic looking wheel chair.  Oh well, low budget productions, you know.

At the end of each skit the saint would lead the people in the skit before the Blessed Mother, the two angels and the Divine Mercy image and all would pray.  It really was very well done.

One of the other skits was about Bl Pope John Paul II.  The skit was about one of the miracles that is allowing him to become a saint.  In it, the girl heard a picture of the Pope she had in her room talking to her.  Instead of a picture of the real PJPII, they came up with this one.

Cracks me up every time I look at it :)

So there you have it, a quick peek at how our Halloween went.  We celebrated All Saint's Day with Mass in the morning, went to Mass with my mil on All Soul's Day to light a candle during the Mass for my fil (yep, many of us still cried like babies) and then JUST. STAYED. HOME on Sunday, or at least most of us did.  It was glorious.  

Hope your start to November was a good one.  Here's to hoping my brain kicks in again soon and I'll be inspired to write more.

God Bless!