Thursday, March 31, 2011

Just in case you're wondering ...

where to see me over the next couple of weeks ....

check out my knitting blog for some exciting knitting/fiber events coming up in the area!

Make sure you stop by and say "howdy" if you're able to attend either of these events.  The weather should be gorgeous ... and the content will be stellar!


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Yarn-along: March 30th ... new design and new book ....

~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs. I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading? Take a single photo and share it either on your blog or on Flickr. Leave a link below to share your photo with the rest of us! ~ Ginny at small things

 This week's yarn-along finds us with a new design on the needles and a new book on my table.  The new design (close-up below) is a spring-shawl in a fun lacy pattern.  The yarn is fingering weight cashmere/bamboo from Spring Gate Farms (whose yarn is gorgeous -- she'll be at the Olde Liberty Fibre Faire -- as will I -- on April 16th if you want to head down for some fun and a good cause ... all proceeds from the Faire will go to area hospice!).  The idea from the shawl came from a question from Ginny ... so it's quite appropriate that it's presented here on her Yarn-Along!  
BTW, to get the nice airy look and wonderful drape, I'm using a size 8 on this yarn.  The bamboo gives the cashmere enough body to really show the stitch definition.

On the book table -- we're continuing to read-aloud the Another Whole Nother Story ... which my kids have deemed even better than the first book, A Whole Nother Story (which ranks right up there as a fabulous read-aloud).  Another one we're delving into that is great fun is M.B. Synge's A Book of Discovery -- wonderful short readings for history/geography!

In yesterday's mail, I received my newest reading book ... one for review for Thomas Nelson's Book Sneeze program.  Titled, No He Can't: How Barack Obama is dismantling hope and change, this book is written by Kevin McCullogh and details not just how Mr. Obama's administration is taking away our hope and changing what is good, but also gives suggestions on how to stop the hemorrhaging in economics, national security, human rights and accountability.  I went to bed at 8:30 last night so I could get reading this one!  It is really good.

Won't you join the yarn-along.  Check out Ginny's post and add your own link.  And let me know what you think about the burgeoning design by adding a comment at the bottom of this post!

Off to read and knit before the squidges get up!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lenten Retreat on a DVD ....

If you're like me, Lent kind of sneaks up on you.  I'm never as prepared as I should be ... with offerings/sacrifices, spiritual reading, and/or Lenten retreats scheduled.  Or, if I am prepared, I realize that Lent is longer than I thought, and I need something more to read, listen to, or sacrifice (and, yes, I know that Lent is always 40 days ... but some years it just seems longer!).

If you are like me, have I got a great suggestion for you:  Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Lively Virtues is a retreat in a box, all ready for you to watch and listen and meditate upon.  Fr. Robert Barron (whose Conversion cd/study guide set I reviewed recently) takes the seven capital sins of pride, envy, anger, sloth, avarice, gluttony and lust and explains why they are present in our lives and how to eradicate them.  He gives great practical advice on how to turn these sins into the seven virtues of humility, admiration, forgiveness, zeal, generosity, asceticism and chastity.  A recurring theme is that sin is caused by our own fear (thus, pride is the root of all sin) that can only be conquered by true love, the love that God shows us all round (see the meaning of faith) and that Christ showed us when he died on the Cross.

This DVD is great!  In just under two hours, the viewer understands how Dante's Purgatorio is peopled with sinners and why he assigns them the punishments he assigns (for instance, those who are in purgatory because they were gluttons in life are shown as repeating ad infinitum Psalm 51:17: Lord, open my lips and I will sing your praises).  Barron does a wonderful job of giving practical advice on how to begin to counteract these sins in our own lives.  It's interesting to hear him mention such folks as Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. when giving examples of how to be a better person!

I recommend Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Lively Virtues to all Catholics, particularly middle-school and above.    In the video, Fr. Barron is speaking to adults, but there is no reason why tweens and teens shouldn't hear Barron's advice, especially if you need some Lenten retreat material!

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Lively Virtues CD Bundle . They are also a great source for serenity prayer and baptism gifts.


Lenten Thoughts ... the meaning of faith

Here's a link to this amazing book:  Abandonment to Divine Providence ... a very worthwhile read!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Family: please pray for BamBam this week ...

... as he'll make his First Holy Communion on Saturday, April 2nd at 9:00 a.m.

April 2nd is the anniversary of Venerable John Paul the Great's death ... and since we named the little guy for him, it's a very auspicious day for him!

Here is an excerpt from what Pope JohnPaul II wrote in 1994 in a letter to children, during the Year of the Family:

Dear friends, There is no doubt that an unforgettable meeting with Jesus is First Holy Communion, a day to be remembered as one of life's most beautiful.  

The Eucharist, instituted by Christ at the Last Supper on the night before His passion, is a sacrament of the New Covenant -- the greatest of the sacraments. In this sacrament, the Lord becomes food for the soul under the appearances of bread and wine.  Children receive this sacrament solemnly a first time -- in First Holy Communion -- and are encouraged to receive it afterward as often as possible in order to remain in close friendship with Jesus.
This event is usually commemorated in a family photo, so that it will not be forgotten. Photos like these generally remain with a person all through his or her life. As time goes by, people take out these pictures and experience once more the emotions of those moments; they return to the purity and joy experienced in that meeting with Jesus, the one who out of love became the Redeemer of Man.

For how many children in the history of the Church has the Eucharist been a source of spiritual strength, sometimes even heroic strength! How can we fail to be reminded, for example, of holy boys and girls who lived in the first centuries and are still known and venerated throughout the Church? Saint Agnes, who lived in Rome; Saint Agatha, who was martyred in Sicily; Saint Tarcisius, a boy who is rightly called the "martyr of the Eucharist" because he preferred to die rather than give up Jesus, whom he was carrying under the appearance of bread.

For Catholics, FHC is a big deal and a wondrous gift, a major milestone along the child's path to Heaven!

He is very excited ... and a bit nervous ... so if you could please keep him in your prayers.  Please pray for our BamBam, especially to his patron, Venerable John Paul the Great (soon to be beatified in Rome).


Friday, March 25, 2011

We have the best kids ever ...

... this was on the laptop this morning to greet Rick & I:
BTW, that would be a "pen flower" that our favorite mail-lady gave him one day -- a loved present indeed!
... and this just came from Kotch and the "littles":
Gorgeous flowers for this gorgeous (but COLD!) day ... the florist even put real lemon slices in the vase

Lenten Thoughts ...

... from Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre de Caussade:

Holiness is produced in us by the will of God and our acceptance of it.  It is not produced by intellectual speculation about it.  If we are thirsty we must have a drink and not worry about books which explain what thirst is.  If we waste time seeking an explanation about thirst, all that will happen is that we shall get thirstier.  It is the same when we thirst after holiness.  The desire to know more about it will only drive it further away.  We must put all speculation aside and, with childlike willingness, accept all that God presents to us.  What God arranges for us to experience at each moment is the best and holiest thing that could happen to us.                                Chap 1: 4
Hmmm ... "speculation aside" ... "childlike
willingness"  .. I'm not so good at that.  What would you suggest?

March 25th: Annunciation and an Anniversary!

Icon received on our First Anniversary --
 note that Mary is holding yarn and knitting needles!

Today is a great feast in the Church -- the Feast of the Annunciation.  It is such a feast that most all Catholics will not abstain from meat today (unless they want to).  The Feast of the Annunciation is very near and dear to my heart as it is also my wedding anniversary.

Here's the story, in case you haven't heard it before:

On May 26, 1992, my husband Mike died of cancer.  He died four days after his 31st birthday, leaving me with a just-about three-year-old boy and an 11-month-old baby girl.  I was devastated, but I had the love and care of family and friends who helped me through the time.  I was climbing the corporate ladder at Delta Air Lines and they couldn't have been kinder.

But more importantly, I had the Blessed Mother to wrap her mantle around me ... to pray for grace to see me through the ordeal ... the loneliness ... the uncertainties.  God was always near.

Fast-forward five years later and I decide to we need to jump-start our lives again.  It is time.  I prayed to God and through Our Lady's intercessions, we ended up in Raleigh, NC just when the principal of a parochial school needed a computer teacher (which I could do) and had space for my two parochial school children!

How good is God!

At this parochial school, there was a certain middle-school science teacher with whom I became instantly attracted.  Something pulled us together -- we credit our prayers to the Blessed Mother.  He was a conservative Catholic and so was I.  He had been married (and annulled) and had older children who didn't live with him and so accepted mine with open arms.

On March 25, 1998, we married in the parish church of the school where we taught ... with some of our family-member and many students, faculty and staff in attendance.  Friends came from near and far to wish us well and witness to this near-miraculous event.

And so, as our 14th year together begins today: we renew our "I Do's", our fiat to live together in the state of Holy Matrimony, to assent to our Lord's will and abandoning ourselves to Divine Providence.

Thank you, dear Lord, for the past 13 years ... for being with us on this journey together.  
Thank you, Blessed Mother, for your intercessory prayers and always wrapping us in your mantle of love.
Thank you, dear Rick, for loving me even when I am not at my most lovable and thank you, too, for the three "littles" we have together and the blended family we continue to love and pray for daily.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Yarn-along: March 23rd and the swatches are almost done ...

~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs. I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading? Take a single photo and share it either on your blog or on Flickr. Leave a link below to share your photo with the rest of us! ~ Ginny, Small Things

Unfortunately, last week was a tough week for any kind of knitting as my laptop was dying a slow death and I was in the "denial" stage most of the week, trying to get the blasted thing to limp through its work.  Well, it made it till Thursday a.m. and I quickly hopped on dh's and ordered a new Toshiba (and a wireless printer while I was at it) -- thank goodness for overnight from Amazon and for design sales!

Well, this week is starting out much better! I've been knitting and reading and generally doing the good.
On the needles:  swatches for my talk at the Dog House Yarns Retreat (will we see you out at Graves Mountain on April 9th?).  The morning session will discuss how to substitute yarns for designs so I collected up different yarns, all in worsted weight, and am doing 50st by 72row squares(on size 8s) to show the differences in gauge, feel (or "hand"), drape and other characteristics.  I'm finishing up on the midnight blue wool/silk blend and then I have one or two to go and then I'll be ready to move on to real knitting again.

FYI, the yarns shown (clockwise, starting at the lower left) are:

  • Plymouth Yarn's Boku (95% wool, 5% silk) in color 8 (very autumnal stripes)
  • Universal Yarn's Poems Silk (75% wool, 25% silk) in color 803 "Baffinis" (greys and blues)
  • Plymouth Yarn's Jelly Beenz (75% acrylic, 25% wool) in color 9623 (rosy pink with dashes of brights -- perfect for a little girl's sweater)
  • Cascade Yarns' Venezia Worsted (70% merino, 30% silk) in color Forest (a gorgeous dark green)
  • Plymouth Yarn's Royal Llama Silk (60% fine lama, 40% silk) in color 1842 (midnight blue)
  • Stonehedge Fiber Mill's Shepherd's Wool (100% wool) in Antique Rose (a pale, but warm, pink)

On the reading table:
Our current read-aloud is the sequel to the wonderfully fun-to-read-aloud, A Whole Nother Story.  We just started Another Whole Nother Story yesterday, and it promises to be just as much fun as the first.

I just finished reading the fascinating, based-on-fact, novel, The Daughter's Walk by Jane Kirkpatrick.  I have now turned my reading toward that pile of books you see in the upper right corner of the picture:  lots of books on decorating on a shoestring!  Spring always gets my interior design creative juices flowing and these books have gorgeous ideas:  Flea Market Style, Simple to Sew Slipcovers and Cover-ups (especially for the leather furniture -- we stick to it in the summer!), Country Living's Cottage Style, Better Homes and Garden's New Cottage Style, HGTV's Design on a Dime, and Country Living's Shoestring Chic.  If those don't keep me busy this week, I've also got a few Windows 7 books to help me deal with all the changes to un-broke Windows programs that Microsoft decides we all need!

Go check out Ginny's post for today and add your own knitting/reading activities for this week!


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Review: The Daughter's Walk

Imagine yourself in eastern Washington state in the late 1800s.  You are the eldest daughter (barely 20 years old) living in a Norwegian immigrant family, a family of farmers.  Your family has hit hard times:  your dad was ill and the farm has been mortgaged and your mother has found a solution.  The solution involves you.  The solution involves giving up all that you want to do to save your family. You are told (not asked) to sacrifice all for your family.

This is the premise of the based-on-fact novel titled The Daughter's Walk by Jane Kirkpatrick. The Estby family, a family of Norwegian descent, are about to lose their farm due to lack of funds to pay the mortgage.  The family is desperately trying to find a solution and the mother of the family discovers a solution.

The solution?  The mother has worked out a deal with some New York fashion moguls who want to spread the word about the new "reform dress" -- above the ankle dresses for women.  This is a dress that many see as indecent (remember, it's the 1890s) but the fashion pundits want to encourage.  The deal is that if the Helga Estby and her daughter Clara walk from Spokane (WA) to New York City within a set amount of time, gathering dignitaries' signatures as they go, the Estbys will earn $10,000 -- enough to save the farm, send the children to college, and better the lives of this immigrant family.

What would you do?

The book doesn't stop with this harrowing (true) journey these women take.  The book continues with their return to Mica Creek, Washington and the family's reception of the women.  The story, told through the voice of Clara, than takes a sharp turn -- Clara is ostracized and for 20 some years is denied her family for whom she sacrificed so much.  Clara finds community, finds family, with two older women showing that we all need someone, that God never meant us to walk our earthly journey alone.

This is an amazing story.  This is an amazing tale based on the actual walk the Estby women undertook. This is an amazing tale based on the daughter's actual rejection by her family when she returns to Mica Creek.  This is an amazing tale, pieced together through family records, newspaper articles and family legends that Kirkpatrick weaves together to make a fabric of forgiveness, love,  family and courage.  With a bit of suffragette history thrown in, this really makes a great read.  Kirkpatrick also does a wonderful job explaining the fur business (in all its many aspects), the coming of World War I and its impact on the homefront, and other work that respectable women of the early 20th century could do in the West.

Kirkpatrick has wonderful notes at the end that explain what was based on verifiable facts, what came from family reminiscences and what was pieced together as "probably happening" in the lives connected to Clara Estby.  This is what I would call a living book ... a book where the author revels in her story and shares that joy with her reader.

I would highly recommend this book for high schoolers and above, especially those interested in American social history ... in the suffragettes' movement ... in the lives of immigrants ... in the stories of family who cling together in good times and bad.

As a side note:  I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of early 20th century Spokane -- I went to Gonzaga University in Spokane and I knew the places discussed, the street names and the area.  Very cool personal link.

Disclaimer:  I received this book as part of WaterBrook Multnomah's Blogging for Books program.  I received no other compensation and only was required to write an honest review of the book.  The critique above is my honest impression of The Daughter's Walk.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Max: putting family first

Six months ago, we got a mini-schnauzer from a dear friend (and breeder).  He was my birthday present for my 49th.  Many of us were excited to have him in our lives ... some of us were not.  Six months later, we have found him a new home because nothing ... NOTHING ... should ever be allowed to disrupt a family's peace and well-being.  No thing should be allowed to disrupt the harmonious living together of a family.

Nothing: not a pet, not a job, not an activity.

Family is the core unit of society and receives bombardment from all directions, bombardment that can rip a family apart.  Society tells us we can have it all ... but it doesn't tell us how to share or how to balance the give-and-take necessary.  Society says that "I have a right to xyz", "I should be able to do abc", "I have the right to go to 123".  There are lots of I's in those sentences and not too many "wes".

A family must be a "we" ... must be a unit that works toward the same goals and builds up from within.  A family must be a give-and-take ... with all helping to support each other, nurturing different interests and activities of the individuals while ensuring that nothing tears up the family unit.  At times, things will come into a family that throw that balance off, that can cause a small tear in the family fabric that can become a large rent and then a total disconnect.  Max was throwing our family off balance ... he was causing a small tear.  Max was causing loss of sleep ... tension ... stress.  It wasn't fair to us or to Max.

So, with the help of the dear friend, we found him a lovely, perfect new home.  I should amend that:  thanks be to God, we found him a new home.  It was fast, virtually pain-free and all are happy.  It's a bittersweet happiness though as we're also a little sad to lose our mini-Max.  But we know that he is in a better situation -- lots of room to run, another puppy to play with and a "mom" that really wants him.

And, our family is whole peace again.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Review: Conversion: Following the Call of Christ

Fr.Robert Barron's latest cd-talk, Conversion: Following the Call of Christ, is a wonderful tool for increasing your spirituality during this Lent.  The review set I received from Catholic Company contained a two-CD set of six talks (plus an introductory overview of conversion to the Truth) given by Fr. Robert Barron, a professor at Mundelein Seminary (Illinois) as well as a popular speaker.  Also included in the set was a study guide and workbook written by the talented Amy Welborn.

The talks by Fr. Barron are twenty minute sermons based on various Biblical conversion stories: 
  1. Bartimaeus (the man born blind whom Jesus cures) from Mark 10:32-52
  2. The Rich Young Man (who is not too sure about selling everything and following Christ) from Mark 10:17-31
  3. The Calling of Matthew (the tax collector known sometimes as Levi who choses to give up his life as a tax collector and follow Jesus) from Matthew 9:1-13
  4. Jonah (the only OT story of conversion where Jonah at first heads the other way when God asks him to go to Ninevah) from the Book of Jonah (which Fr. Barron describes as "a hoot to read").
  5. The Woman at the Well (who, as Fr. Barron explains, is definitely from the proverbial wrong side of the tracks) from John 4:1-42
  6. The Journey of the Magi (a tale of the calling of the Gentiles) from Luke 2.
Fr. Barron's talks -- each about 20 minutes -- cover many interesting and provocative descriptions and explanations of each of these conversions to the Truth ... conversions to God.  The talks assume knowledge (or pre-reading) of the particular scriptural story.  The short talks are just long enough to listen to on a run to the store or just before starting evening prayers.  Fr. Barron has a pleasant speaking voice and his message is deep, profound, but lovingly delivered. 

The study guide/workbook by Welborn is a nice addition, with leading questions for each talk to help the listeners really meditate and understand what Fr. Barron is saying.  The questions are split into "questions for understanding" (with definite answers) and "questions for reflection" which should lead to some pretty lively discussions.  This workbook is quite useful for small groups (or, for us, in the homeschool!) when listening to the talks. 

In addition, Word On Fire (the publisher of the cd's and workbook) has password-protected, free supporting materials for this set of talks.  The materials include a facilitator's guide (for small groups); promotional materials for stirring interest in the small group meetings, and an answer key for the workbook questions. 

This set -- especially with the additional materials on the website -- really makes for a practical small Lenten retreat to do at home or in small groups.  And, because it is so self-contained, it's not too late to order for this Lenten season!  I highly recommend this set, Conversion: Following the Call of Christ -- VERY nice.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Conversion CD Bundle (CD/Study Guide Bundle) . They are also a great source for serenity prayer and baptism gifts.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Friday, March 11, 2011

Homeschool Connections: wonderful summer-school option!

Whether you've got middle-schoolers or high schoolers trying to earn more credits, Homeschool Connections has some great summer-school/online classes scheduled.  AND if you register on or before April 1st, you'll save up to $40!  Cool, huh?
All you need is high speed internet (not dial up) and a headset (easily available and inexpensive). The classes are live and interactive. It's all user friendly and fun too. The greatest advantage of these courses is that you and your child have access to some of the best teachers in the country.

HC also offers recorded courses which include past summer boot camps. This way you have many options if you like to keep learning year round, even if on a much lighter schedule.

Recorded summer courses include:

  • Literature: MacBeth (Catholic Shakespeare series)
  • Literature: Beowulf and Christ 
  • Catholic Apologetics with Gary Michuta
  • SAT / ACT Preparation and Practice
  • Foundations of Christian Historiography 
  • Latin I
  • Latin II
  • Life Skills: Job Search Skills

 Go check it out at Homeschool Connections; I think you'll be impressed by the offerings they have!