When I was a little girl, I used to imagine the perfect bedroom. It was atop a high, high tower, naturally in a castle, built with beautiful gray stones. My room had a tall ceiling and large, airy windows, with white muslin curtains flowing in the breeze. My bed was certainly canopied with the same said cloth. All was peaceful; all was beautiful.
Alas, I have grown up, and to my dismay, I do not live in a castle. But I have not given up my hope of a peaceful, beautiful bedroom. One wants a quiet place to retreat to after all.
Today I’ll look at our master bedroom, which may give you an idea or two for your own bedroom. Also, if you have any good ideas, please be sure to post them below. I am always looking for ways to simplify.
There are a few things I’ll point out about our room first:
In order to achieve a quiet atmosphere, I’ve limited the amount of objects sitting out. You’ll notice that each night stand has a lamp, with my side also featuring a clock and my Bible. (My Bible is the only reading material in the room. This is intentional.) The other dresser has a picture of my family, a few flowers, and a little perfume bottle that my mother gave me.
I’ve also limited the number of objects on the walls. You’ll notice in the photos below that I’ve got a picture of our wedding ceremony, a picture of the Sacred Hearts, and a crucifix. Nothing else.
There is no mirror anywhere to be found either, not even a tall looking-glass. There used to be one attached to the dresser, but I got rid of it, and in our old house, I kept a tall looking-glass behind the closet door, but I decided I didn’t want it anymore. Yes, there is a mirror above the sink in my bathroom, and I suppose it’s necessary, as I don’t want to look completely disheveled all the time, but in the end, it is better for me to not walk by mirrors all day long.
Lastly, you will not find a TV in this room. Nope. We wanted an atmosphere of simplicity and peace.
So here we go. If you’re walking down the hall, here’s the first glimpse of our room that you’ll see:
Notice the wooden rocking chair? That’s my time-out chair. It’s one of the best things about our bedroom. I have a place to go, when it’s loud and chaotic in the rest of the house. Truly, I am very thankful for this little spot. Above it is a photo from our wedding and off to the side you’ll see this hanging on our wall:
I intentionally put the crucifix on that wall because I can see it from both the rocking chair and from our bed.
Here is another shot of our room when walking in the door. The only obnoxious thing is the big, ugly fan. I wish I didn’t need it, but I do. Every afternoon I lie down for about twenty minutes and must turn it on, to drown out noise from the rest of the house. I have heard about white noise machines and have wondered if I should look into them? We’ll see.
The opposite wall looks thus:
You might be able to see the holy card of Jesus to the left of the dresser. Next to Him is a drawing (also of Jesus) that my daughter made for me. I hid those two little pictures there on purpose. It’s my little spot where I sometimes kneel to say prayers.
The door on the left is our bathroom.
There isn’t anything special in here. For example, you won’t find tons of towels. I’ve already mentioned elsewhere that my husband and I each have two. You also won’t find a scale, though, either. About ten years ago I got rid of that Mood-Wrecker.
And the closet? I think I’ll do a separate post on clothes later on. I’ll just leave you with one last photo.
This is my little bird that perches on my windowsill. It was my Grandma Martha’s. I think she’s rather pretty. She brings joy to my heart. I find that she often changes locations, though. My children have a habit of sneaking in my bedroom and flying her around the room to land somewhere else.
If you’re looking for a really good video on fasting, look no further! Dr. Taylor Marshall and Timothy Gordon knock it outta da park HERE. The history of the tradition of fasting is fascinating, but my husband and I were really inspired by what these gentlemen are doing.
Seriously, watch it tonight with your spouse. Again, it’s HERE.
Anyone need of a good laugh? If you have any amount of children, you’ll be able to relate to and appreciate Jim Gaffigan’s hilarious snippets about parenting in this book, which was published back in 2013. I read it aloud back then to my husband on a road trip, and we laughed uncontrollably at times. Six years later, it’s still funny.
This book was written when all five of his children were under the age of 8 or 9, which makes for some romping hilarity as he details outings in restaurants, parks, and vacations. Seriously, we can all relate. What makes the book even funnier, however, is that he and his wife cram their family into a two-bedroom apartment in the middle of New York City, where they have to navigate five flights of stairs just to get anywhere. They don’t even own a car. Imagine that.
In any case, if you’re feeling down about the ridiculously cold weather, go read his book for fun. (Do know, however, that at times he does throw his family under the bus. He’s not perfect. And certainly stay away from his TV shows. They’re downright terrible.) Incidentally, his second book, Food: A Love Story, is also good, too.
Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy
Now this book is just terrible. I mean, it’s really bad. It’s the worst book I’ve read all year. It’s the worst book I’ve read in the last ten years. For any fan of Anne of Green Gables, just stay away from it, and here’s why:
McCoy has sexualized it, and that’s downright despicable. For example, she’s got Marilla at age 13 tripping on her cloak and somehow falling on John Blythe’s chest. Or staring at his wet lips and bulging arm muscles, etc. etc. Puke.
McCoy gives Marilla a twentieth-century mindset. For example, Marilla is concerned about politics and women’s voting rights and reversing male/female courting traditions. Blah, blah, blah.
In fact, the book is very much concerned about showing what’s going on in Canada politically, which is not what one expects, if one’s used to reading L.M. Montgomery.
She’s got Matthew Cuthbert courting and galavanting around with Johanna Andrews, in spite of what L.M. Montgomery explicitly wrote about him in Anne of Green Gables. For example, look at the following dialogue between Anne and Matthew below, which you can find on page 140 in Montgomery’s excellent novel.
“Did you ever go courting, Matthew?” [From Anne]
“Well now, no, I dunno’s I ever did,” said Matthew, who had certainly never thought of such a thing in his whole existence.”
Clearly McCoy didn’t read Anne of Green Gables very closely, or she wouldn’t have him chasing after Johanna Andrews!
All that said, maybe the second half of the book straightens everything out. For you see, it was so terribly written that I couldn’t, could not, finish it. So if any of you want to borrow my copy, send me an email. You can have it.
Now this is a phenomenal book. It’s about an Englishman, Mr. Philias Fogg, in the 1870s who decides to take a bet, traveling around the world in 80 days.
A friend of mine recommended this book, saying that her children particularly enjoyed listening to it, via audio book. So, I checked it out from our library’s audio section, and we loved it so much, that I had to buy a written copy too. Then my husband got hooked, and he added it to his audio collection for his drives to and from work.
I’m telling you, this book is well done. I love the characters, the plot, everything. And you know a book is really good if all ages can enjoy it. I will warn you, though, that the first chapter or two may seem a little dry, but keep going. You’ll be rewarded.
And if you prefer listening via audio, be sure to get the version with Jim Dale narrating. His voice changes and accents are truly remarkable.
For those of you without children, you probably won’t be interested, and I’ll see you next time. For those of you with children, here we go.
Does it seem like an oxymoron to anyone else, to put the three words Christ-Like, Minimalism, and Toys in the same sentence? Uh, yeah. Because it is.
Nevertheless, as Chesterton reminds us, “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”* So, we have too many toys. Let’s look at the situation and see what we can do.
It’s Complicated (i.e. An Excuse)
First of all, we need to acknowledge that this is a complicated situation. I can think of four reasons why this is so.
We practically live in the Arctic Circle, therefore we need some toys, lest we die of boredom while we’re trapped in our houses for ten months of the year.
We homeschool, therefore we need some educational toys.
We don’t own a traditional TV, therefore we need some board games and the like.
Our extended families are generous, and we do not want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
That said, we need to learn detachment, and less is always better. Nobody wants their children to be greedy or have an attitude of entitlement. So in our household, we have a simple rule:
If something comes in, then something goes out.
Let me illustrate that. If Grandma makes a quilt for my son, then another blanket in our house goes out. If my little girl gets a doll for her birthday, then she must give one of her previous dolls away. (Or she may give the new doll away too.) If a new game comes in the house, then an old, unused game must be given away. Ect, ect.
In order to do this, one must have already purged to a point where no more is needed to give away. For example, you must determine how many of each kind of toy your child actually “needs.” If Suzy has 15 dolls, then that’s likely too many. Find a number that hurts just a little and go with it. Then when Aunt Sally gives her a new one, she must choose.
In our house, we decided two dolls per girl. This has worked well, and the girls get it. But even two dolls per girl gets to be a lot. We have four girls after all!
So just what do we keep?
It depends on what you call “toys.” There are really two big categories:
Educational books, supplies, and games
Toys that tend to be age and/or gender specific
Educational Supplies & Things
This first category has such things as books, puzzles, circuits, art supplies, coloring books, play-do, and games. These things are all great to have on hand. But again, one doesn’t need hordes and hordes of them. In fact, you’ll go crazy if you don’t limit the amount of puzzles or coloring books you own.
And there are ways to cut back too. In our house, we don’t have markers or watercolor paints. I detest them. So they’re just gone. We do have, however, a small container for crayons and a small container for colored pencils. And these containers are located where everyone can access them.
Fortunately I have a closet in what we call our “Homeschool Room” where we keep most of these things. And that’s just it, everything must have a place. If it doesn’t have a place, then likely you should just get rid of it, or something else, so that it does have a place. This is so important because then your children know where things go and can put things away properly.
Back to Toys
This second category I will break down into Boy Toys and Girls Toys. But first I’ll just say that we really have a preference for toys that can be manipulated, like legos. (Although one can have too many legos, as we learned last year. Click HERE for that one.) These kinds of toys are far more likely to get used in our household, so these are the ones that have survived our many purges over the years.
So, I took an inventory of what we own, and I’m embarrassed. It’s a lot. Nevertheless, here you go.
trains and wooden train tracks
nerf guns (I hate them, but my husband loves them)
a marble run
a couple trucks, tractors, and balls
dolls, a few doll clothes, doll chair, 2 doll beds
my old barbie dolls
some fake food
some paper dolls that they made on their own.
And that’s it. Well, actually, the girls have one stuffed bear and two stuffed bunnies.
What have I gotten rid of over the years?
We have gotten rid of a lot of toys over the years, and the children have never missed them. It’s funny how that works. For example, we got rid of all our electronic toys a few years ago. These were annoying contraptions that required batteries. One was a leapfrog device, another was an alphabet computer thing, another was a talking Elmo stuffed animal, etc., ect. Good Riddance.
But there are many other things that have been tossed too. I mentioned earlier that we don’t have markers or watercolors, but I also got rid of construction paper. I hated the mess. Instead each child gets their own spiral bound sketchbook. This way they have paper, which is thicker than normal paper, and it stays in their notebook, unless they tear it out.
Now of course, if I have a child that is interested in making something particular that requires a certain material, I will purchase that, if it’s reasonable. For example, my eldest daughter took an interest in learning calligraphy, so I did buy her 6 calligraphy markers and calligraphy paper, which she keeps in a special place.
A few other things we’ve gotten rid of are stuffed animals, except the three mentioned above, and an entire box of army guys and trucks. These things were just never played with. Of course if your children aren’t playing with certain toys, get rid of them.
We’ve also tried to cut back on Big Plastic Toys. For example, we used to have a big kitchen set, and I hated the amount of space it took up. While it did occasionally get used, it wasn’t generally for its purpose. Rather, the boys used it to make forts because it made for a nice, tall wall. We got rid of it.
We used to have a racing car track. Gone. We also had a big, plastic basketball hoop. Gone. Plastic barn and silo. Gone. And then there are the baby things that I hated because they took up too much space. High chair. Gone. Baby Swing. Nope. Extra baby gate. Nada. Nursing pillow. Don’t need. In fact, babies need a lot less than most people think!
We still have too much. I never even mentioned that outside things – ice skates, rollerblades, balls and bats, ping pong table, bikes, and wagons. Seriously, have you ever taken an inventory of every single toy you own? It’s an eye-opener. It might be a worthwhile activity, if you’re trying to determine what stays and what goes.
I don’t claim to have all the answers. I do know that for our family, and for my sanity, less is always better. We’re always trying to cut back, but then also, not to take so much in. Anybody else have a few thoughts or ideas?
*It comes from Chesterton’s book What’s Wrong with the World. Click HERE for a great little article on it from the American Chesterton Society.
Yep, this Sunday is Sexagesima Sunday, in the Old Calendar. Kind of a funny name, no? It means that we’re on the threshold of Lent. Are you ready?
Septuagesima, Sexagesima, & Quinquagesima Sundays
In the Old Calendar, the three Sundays prior to Ash Wednesday were specifically dedicated to preparing one for Lent, and they have funny, Latin names: Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima. They mean, seventieth, sixtieth, and fiftieth, which is to say, it’s roughly 70 days until Easter, 60 days until Easter, and fifty days until Easter. This next Sunday, we’ll be at Sexagesima. Clear as mud?
Well, in the Old Calendar during the three weeks prior to the actual start of Lent, priests wore violet vestments and certain elements of the Mass were dropped, like the Gloria and Alleluia. (In fact, there’s a sweet tradition of physically burying the Alleluia, only to dig it up again at Easter.) All of these things were meant to get you thinking. Sober up, people! Let’s start preparing.
The 3 Pillars of Lent: Prayer, Fasting, & Almsgiving
During these fore-lenten Sundays, my husband and I like to begin preparing for Lent. We take a look at the classic 3 pillars of lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Below I’ll offer a few thoughts for you all to consider.
Do you set aside a time to pray, every single day? If not, what’s stopping you?
For those of you who are married, are you praying with your spouse? Every day?
Or how about praying Compline in the evenings? (There’s an excellent book, The Office of Compline, by Fr. Samuel Weber.)
For those of you with children, are you praying with them every day?
How about a family rosary?
Fathers, are you blessing your children every day?
And finally, go to confession! At bare, rock-bottom minimum, go at least once this season. If you’d like a challenge, consider going every week or so.
Fasting is the second great pillar of Lent. In our culture, this one gets ignored a lot. And we need it. I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in Mark 9:28-29, “And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast [the demon] out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.””
Do you have something in your life that needs casting out? Try fasting. Do you know of someone who really needs Jesus? Try fasting.
If you’ve never done this before, start small Give up one meal a week.
If you’re accustomed to weekly fasting, try two days a week.
This one’s a little tricky, as every family is in a different place financially. If you’d like a little more on what the Church officially says, click HERE for Jimmy Akin’s take on tithing and giving.
The point during Lent is to work towards the virtue of generosity – the virtue of being unattached to material goods and in gift giving. During Lent, one may look at it in two ways:
How can our family work towards giving more of our total income?
In what ways am I able to make a monetary sacrifice during Lent to benefit a charity?
The first one…again, as each family is different, this one cannot have some uniform answer. Wherever you’re at on this one, take a step towards giving more of your total income. If you’re currently giving 1%, try 2%. For those of you who’d like a stricter guideline, I once read somewhere to shoot for 5% of your income to your local church, 4% to any charity, and 1% to the Bishop. This would be a true 10% tithe. (The word tithe means one tenth.)
If you really want a challenge, and are already tithing 10% of your income, then consider giving 10% of your total income before taxes. And tithe that bonus too.
The second point…during Lent make an additional monetary sacrifice. For example, maybe you are accustomed to dining out a few times each month. Consider not eating out, and expressly give that budgeted money away to your favorite charity.
In the end, God cannot be outdone in generosity, and He will reward you! Just take the first step.
And Lastly, a Lenten Challenge
Have you ever wondered what it was like for most Catholics throughout the history of our Church to pray the Mass? I mean, what was it like for St. Catherine of Siena to receive the Eucharist? Or which Mass inspired the great writings of St. Thomas Aquinas? Or the great missionaries?
For nearly 2000 years Catholics have been worshipping the same way at the Latin Mass, and if you’ve got one near you, check it out. Don’t worry about not understanding everything. Most places have hand missals, if you’d like to follow along. (But you don’t have to.)
If you live around here, we’ve got one this Sunday at Christ the King Church in Mandan at 11:30. I’d love to see you there.
We loaded up all 7 children and took them to a museum this morning. And out to eat.
Are You Nuts!?!
Yes. Yes, we are.
But you see, one gets desperate in the wintertime when we’ve had about four weeks of subzero weather.
So today we drove even further north (not kidding) and made it to a museum called the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Washburn, ND,* where a kind lady met us at the door to charge admission. This lady took one look at us all, and then decided that we qualified for the Group Rate because we had so many children that she couldn’t do the math to figure out how much to charge us for entry.
Now, did I learn anything at this museum? Nope, because I was too busy either holding the baby or corralling the little children.
I did notice, however, this sign:
After I read that sign, I decided it was a very good thing to be born now, in these days, than to be alive 150 or so years ago. Can you imagine daily killing rats! Oh, no thank you. I’ll gladly change dirty diapers all day.
Back to the Museum
My children thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Thankfully at this museum there were a few wooden chests lying around that one could open up and feel free to get into the spirit of things by dressing up.
And here are the boys in some other fun coats and hats.
So in all, the museum was a success.
And so was eating out. I was a little nervous about this, but we just do what all sensible parents do. We bribe them.
“Now children, if you’re really good at the diner, we’ll stop at the gas station and buy you fountain pops and candy for the ride home.”
And that, my friends, is how you do it.
At the diner, I was very thankful that the waitress brought out their milks right away, as this gave them something to do. But even better was that the milks had lids. (See photo below.) No sensible parent buys drinks for children without lids.
Secondly, while we waited for the food, I remembered that I had a pack of cards in my purse, so I gave it to the children, and they played Up and Down the River. This kept them pretty quiet until the food came.
This was one of our most successful Dining Out Trips, for there were no major incidents. So of course we drove straight to the gas station and bought them fountains pops and candy.
We listened to Anne of Green Gables on the way home. I love that book.
Happy Presidents’ Day Y’all!
*Of course, after the initial fiasco of changing diapers and running back into the house for sundry objects – hats, sunglasses, water – we had to drive straight to a coffee shop. One must be properly medicated with caffeine to survive this kind of endeavor. And then we drove north towards the Arctic Tundra. Might as well be in Canada.
Today I’ll continue the minimalist discussion with a look at my kitchen.
I’ll say it again, always be careful about comparing yourself to other families. We are all different and are called to different stations in life. No two families will look alike! I am only offering one way that works for us. Maybe an idea or two will stick out for you in the following.
So here we go. The above is my kitchen, which you can see is one big room with the dining room to the east and the living room to the north. (You can’t see the living room, as I’m standing in it to take the photo.)
I probably don’t need to say that our kitchen is used for preparing food, (I do have 7 perpetually hungry children and 1 husband who is grateful to eat anything) and the dining room is for eating in. Except that I feel that I do have to mention it. Not all families cook and eat together. We do. So this space is important.
A Note on Beauty
Beauty matters. Beauty is objective, and it affects us. I learned this in grad school, studying art and reading what St. Thomas Aquinas and others had to say about it. But really, I didn’t need to study those great thinkers to know that I am influenced by my surroundings. Walking into a clean and simple room has a calming, peaceful effect on me. Walking into a dirty and chaotic room will instantly overwhelm me.
Since I am at home all day, with 7 loud children, I find it very important to live as neatly and simply as possible. And if I can, I add a touch of beauty. Maybe it’s a candle; maybe it’s a few flowers for the table. Wild flowers are readily available where I live in the warmer months, and during the rest of the 10 months of the year, my husband can pick them up from a florist very cheaply, if they’re bought by the stem. (It’s only arrangements that are expensive.)
I’ll say it again, beauty matters, especially in our culture of throw-away, plastic ugliness. We are not utilitarian communists after all. We are Catholics. Do you suppose Jesus ever picked a bouquet of wildflowers for his mother? I’ll bet he did.
Back to the Kitchen
So in the kitchen, I’ll point out 3 things I try to do.
I try to put very little on the countertops. In the above photo, you’ll notice that only the items that get used daily get a place there. This is for both practical and aesthetic reasons, for it allows for more space to cook, and it makes the space seem cleaner and bigger.
Everything in the kitchen has a place. If it doesn’t have a place, then it doesn’t belong. And I try to put things in a logical spot. For example, since my husband and I drink a bottle or so of wine per week, these items need to be easily accessible. (See the photo below.) Of course if wine isn’t your thing, then get rid of all those wine glasses taking up space!
And lastly, #3. If I haven’t used something in a year, then I get rid of it. I’ll highlight that for you again.
If you haven’t used it in a year, get rid of it!
Seriously, if you haven’t used that egg separator in over a year, get rid of it. If you’ve never used that brand new juicer, get rid of it. If you have two ice cream scoops, get rid of one. For that matter, how many large, cooking spoons do you have? Or when’s the last time you used all those cook books crammed in your cabinet? Or how about those 52 water bottles?
It’s freeing, living with less. And who knows? Maybe someone will be overjoyed at finding your mini-muffin tins and champagne flutes at the secondhand store.
Lastly, I’ll point out a few other practical things that I do in my kitchen.
Here’s a shot of the island.
Like the countertops, I keep this as clear as possible too, so that it is a space that can be used throughout the day. Children will do homework here, work on a puzzle, or just sit and watch me chop vegetables.
The other notable thing about the island is that I put all the plates, cups, and bowls in the lower righthand cabinet. I did this so that the little children need not climb the cabinets to set the table.
The other thing I’ll point out is a shelf by the dining room table. (See photo below.)
We keep our laptop here, so that we can listen to audio books during lunch. (The speakers are on the middle shelf.) My husband I also enjoy listening to jazz music in the evenings too, so it’s nice to have it readily available.
Next to the laptop are our prayer books for meal times. This includes the Magnificat for the Mass readings and Butler’s Lives of the Saints. I also keep the children’s current poetry there too, since we review them at breakfast.
And next to the speakers, you’ll notice a white basket. This is where we keep our cloth napkins during the day. After supper, Child #5 empties it into the laundry.
That’s all for today. If you have any questions, be sure to ask in the Comments Section below. Others may have the same question! Or if you have any great ideas to live more simply in the kitchen, post them for us to see.
*Two notes here. 1. We enjoy drinking wine out of proper wine glasses. Hence all the different stemware. 2. Did you notice all the glass bowls? It also may seem ridiculous that I own that many. And I agree with you. I think I’ll give away one or two. But I’ll also have you know that I’ve made progress in this department. I used to own about 25 beautiful glass bowls. Not kidding. People were very generous to us at our wedding.
My son’s migraines have been increasing in frequency lately. Instead of suffering a major episode once every 3-4 weeks, he’s now experiencing them every 5-10 days. In case you’re new here, his migraines begin with a headache, but quickly advance to an all-out debilitating migraine. He quits moving; he quits eating. He curls up in a ball on the couch or his bed and trembles in pain. His eyes glass over, and he moans. Hours later, he vomits and vomits. It takes anywhere from 24-48 hours to come out of it.
After visiting with three of his doctors yesterday, we have yet another CT scan scheduled for tomorrow to check his shunt. (When he was 3 years old, we discovered an arachnoid cyst that covered 1/3 of his brain. This shunt continually drains this fluid into his stomach cavity.) I am not very hopeful, however, that anything will be discovered because he just had an MRI this last fall with everything checking out just fine.
In any case, if you have a minute, stop what you’re doing right now and offer a small prayer for him. His patron saint is St. Paul, who was no stranger to suffering himself.
Today I’m going to begin a series examining each room in my home, in light of minimalism. But not the secular minimalism void of any deeper meaning. No, I hope to have the message of the Gospel at the heart of all of this. Christ is the beginning and the end after all.
I am not an expert. I don’t know what I’m doing, really. I just know there is an overwhelming interest in this area lately and many are asking for help and guidance. I’m only sharing what has worked for me and my family. Of course my family will be different than yours. You will have different needs. I only hope to offer a few ideas that may work for you.
My main source of inspiration comes from Fr. Thomas DuBay’s book, Happy Are You Poor. And man, let me tell you, I fall so short from where he would have me be. But I like that because I like a challenge. If you don’t own this book, you should. It’s a great one to come back to.
Secondly, though, I was greatly inspirited by Darci Isabella. She has shown me that a large family – she’s got ten children – can homeschool and live with less. If you look around on her YouTube channel, you will find videos where she does room tours. I found them helpful over this last year, even if I didn’t do things exactly the same way she did. (For example, she doesn’t like owning books. I do.)
And that’s my goal. Just so show you an example of a large family, bumbling along, and trying to live a more Christ-like simplicity through what our cultural calls “Minimalism.”
The Living Room
So here we go.
What is the purpose of your living room?
Certainly our living room is a place for anyone to gather at any time, but it’s real purpose is for us to have a place to pray. We gather here as a family twice a day for that very thing. In the early morning, at 6:15am my husband and I begin Lauds with him lighting the four votive candles that you can see on the fireplace mantle. (We love candles.) On Sundays, we light the two tall tapers too.
I wanted the focus of this room to be on Jesus, which is why His icon is centrally located above the fireplace. You can also see the house phone on the mantle, but that has been bothering me lately, so I moved it to a more discreet location in the dining room. Also on the mantle are two family photos and a vase of flowers. (I love flowers – fake or real, but preferably real.)
The bookshelf consists of four inner shelves. The lowest shelf is usually empty because the baby just tears stuff out of it anyway. However, sometimes I will put a baby toy or two there, as you can see from the photo. The next shelf up contains the children’s prayer books, since they join us at about 6:40am for prayer. The shelf above that one holds my grandmother’s King James Version of the Bible that we frequently reference for the beauty of the language and so want it to be easily accessible. There is also a family photo here and a bowl of rosaries. The last inner shelf are all current books that my husband and I are reading in addition to our prayer books.
Next to that bookshelf on the floor is a basket full of children’s picture books.
To the right of the fireplace is another chair. (See photo below.)
Behind this chair you will see the children’s rosaries on hooks. We need the rosaries to be in a handy spot because every night after dinner, we kneel before the Sacred Heart of Jesus as a family and pray five mysteries together.
Here is a shot of the opposite side of the fireplace. The end table between the chair and loveseat usually has our periodicals on it with a book or two that someone may have been reading and did not put away. Ideally, I’d put the periodicals in the bottom part of that stand, but I can’t with the baby always tearing things out right now.
The lamp to the right of the loveseat is the only other light we have on in the mornings. I particularly like its location because is lights up Jesus in the Last Supper directly above it.
Here’s another shot of the living room. You may be able to see that to the left of the gray couch, on the floor, are two folded blankets. They are kind of hiding, but they’re important since we live in the Arctic Circle. (Not really.) The children use them every morning to snuggle in.
And that’s all that’s in my living room. I used to have all kinds of toys in my living room when my older children were younger, but I never liked it. I hated the mess. So a few years ago, I said enough. No more. And let me tell you, it’s way better.
Now that doesn’t mean that stuff doesn’t get drug in throughout the day, but it does mean that it gets put away after dinner.
Toys are a big problem for most families these days, and I hope to address that one as I go along in this series. For now all I can say is, less is better. I’ve never regretted giving away toys. And strangely enough, neither have my children.
That completes my living room tour. If you have any comments or questions, be sure to put them below in the Comments Section, as others may be interested in what you have to say. In a week or so I hope to examine another room, but I want to leave you with a memory that popped into my head while typing this out.
The Family Whose House Burned Down
A few years ago a local family lost their entire house to a fire. It was devastating, as they only escaped with the clothes on their backs. Somehow I got wind of it all and heard that they were living in hotel room and were asking for household supplies to start over again.
So I thought, what can I give? I went to the basement and grabbed our extra suitcase. (I thought they might as well have that.) And I began to fill it. I had an extra quilt. I had a whole set of unused kitchen towels. I had a few kids’ games that were never used. I found so many things that I filled the suitcase and had to get a garbage bag.
Then I found my beautiful set of extra silverware that I had never used. I held the wooden box in my hands. It was a gift that someone had given to us for our wedding. I didn’t want to part with it, partly because I worried about what that person would think should she find out and partly because the set was complete and like I said, beautiful.
I started to put it back on the shelf, but something inside me said no. This lovely silverware set was not meant for me. It was meant for this poor family, and so in the end I gave it too.
The next day I drove over to the hotel and gave them my things. The mother of the family was so thankful. So thankful. But you know what? I was the one who was thankful for the opportunity to give. I walked away with Love burning in my heart.
Of course when we simplify or declutter our homes and give things away, we don’t always get to see who might benefit from it all. But that one time I did get to see. And it was worth it.
But it is always worth it, no matter what. For giving our things away teaches us detachment from them, and more importantly, it teaches us Love.
Awhile back a friend gave me a great recipe for Lentil Stew, which we loved, but had to modify a little to feed everybody. As it’s one of our favorites, I offer it to you today.
Here’s how I made it. (See the bottom of the post for the actual recipe.)
Step 1: Chop up your vegetables and sauté them for a few minutes in olive oil.
Step 2: Start dumping stuff in your crockpot while the vegetables cook.
Step 3: Add 5 cloves of garlic to the vegetables and sauté for just a minute or two longer. (Don’t burn the garlic!)
By the way, do you have a garlic press? No? You need one.
Step 4: Add the vegetables and everything else to the crockpot.
Step 5: Bring it all to a boil, and then let it simmer for about thirty minutes. Then turn your crockpot down to warm until you’re ready to eat it.
And what to serve with the stew?
Most days I make my own salad dressing, but if I’m in a hurry or feeling lazy, I go for this because it comes with dressing.
But I have to dress it up and add more so that it feeds my family. I usually add spinach, dried cranberries, and unsalted cashews. If I’m not feeling so very lazy, and if I have it on hand, I especially love to add green onion.
Now the children generally set the table, and I always fill the salad bowls at the last minute, before we pray and sit down to eat. I’ve found this to be much less chaotic, than attempting to pass around the salad bowl with everyone making a mess. It’s just better to have the salad waiting in everyone’s bowls.
And here we are, after the salads, eating our soup.
A Note About the Wine
This evening we drank a Petite Sirah, which is not my favorite, but it paired well with this soup, because of its strong, spicy flavors.
And because I wanted to know the difference, I’ll share this with you too.
A Petite Sirah is not a Shiraz or Syrah. A Petite Sirah is the American name for the French Durif grape, which is a cross between the Sirah and Peloursin grape. It is not a lighter version of Syrah. In fact, from what I’ve read, it’s higher in tannin, making for a bolder taste.
Shiraz and Syrah are also full-bodied red wines, but these are made from the Syrah grape. Shiraz is made exclusively in Australia.
Shiraz and Syrah wines pair well with barbecue and barbecue sauce, especially spareribs. Petite Sirahs need rich or fatty foods with exotic spices. (Hence, the Lentil Stew did do nicely.)
Recipe for Lentil Stew
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
5 stalks of celery, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
6 cups of broth
3 cans petite tomatoes
2 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (16 oz.) package of lentils
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne
3/4 tsp salt
Sauté vegetables in olive oil for a few minutes. Add garlic for a minute or two more. Combine everything else in a crockpot and bring it to a boil. Let it simmer for about thirty minutes or until the lentils are fully cooked.
Note: This is a great recipe for meatless Fridays. I will, however, frequently add meat, if I’ve got some on hand. For example, today I added a few cups of chopped ham. I’ve also done sausage and bacon too.
*No wine, of course! (I hadn’t poured it yet.) And the silverware does not match, but that cannot be helped.