Monthly Picks

June Picks: Late Edition

Yes, it is now July, and I’m very late in getting after this.  Somehow the summer days slip by, and I thought, ah well, better late than never.

My Favorite June Things

  1. Jumping off docks at 8:00 in the morning is always a great thing.
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    Exhilarating!

    We spent a few peaceful days at my parents’ lake cabin.  Naturally the children wanted to swim all day.  My only requirement was that they first eat breakfast and then wait that full hour before taking the plunge…yeah right.  They shoveled in breakfast, scrambled into their suits, and literally ran off the end of the dock–end of story.

    And how about me?  Did I follow suit?  Not a chance.  I drank my coffee and read The Remnant on shore.

    2.  Catching Fish is a favorite for the boys.
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The boys caught this thing off the end of the dock.  Don’t ask me what kind of fish it was.  I love to eat fish, but I hate to touch them.

3.  Drinking wine on the deck with my husband and eating olives is a lovely way to spend an evening.

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I buy these from Sam’s Club because they’re reasonably priced.

I think I could live off of wine, bread, cheese, and olives–in all their varieties of course.  I’m pretty sure that all the food groups are present in the above list: fruit, grain, milk, vegetables…  Well, what are olives anyway?  Vegetables?  Fruit?  Meat?  Somebody clue me in, for I’m too lazy to Google it.

4.  I love fresh wild flowers from the backyard for my table every day.

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This is the Little Girls’ job.

The Little Girls supply me with fresh flowers for both the dining room and the breakfast-nook table every day.  They just hike up our hill in the backyard and gather at will.

At our old place in North Dakota, the ditches were very obliging for these kinds of bouquets.  We always found such things as alfalfa, aster, sunflowers or goldenrod.

Here, on the very edge of eastern Minnesota?  I’m still figuring it out.  We’ve got butterfly-weed, clover, fleabane, and what looks like daisies.

5.  Corpus Christi Processions are definitely a June favorite.

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Here’s the start of ours, as they were processing out of the Church.
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Father, Jesus, and 4 “Laymen of Distinction” holding the canopy.
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And heading around the block.

Our Corpus Christi procession featured six Torch Bearers, two Acolytes, two Thurifers, a Cross-Bearer, an MC, four Laymen of Distinction carrying the canopy, our priest, and Jesus Christ King of the Universe.  The rest of us trailed behind in gratitude and thanksgiving.

6.  Another favorite?  Campfires in the backyard with s’mores.

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Sure bliss.

The boys built a fire pit in our backyard up on the hill.  After dousing and sanctifying it and the surrounding area with Holy Water, we proceeded to enjoy a small blaze.  Everyone had to have a bath afterwards.

7.  Lastly, a DIY project.  Who doesn’t need a white cross in their backyard?

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In our neighborhood a couple of houses have erected large white crosses, which they lit up brilliantly during Lent and the Easter octave.  (Given these dark times, perhaps we ought to keep them perpetually lit?)

Anyway, as we had some extra wood lying around, my husband put one together.  And if you look closely at the photo, you’ll also see a small statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus off to the right.  This is our children’s mini shrine.

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Here’s Jesus.  We didn’t want Him to tip over, so we had to “ground” him in a flower pot.  The Little Girls are growing marigolds for Him.
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This is a view of the valley which our Cross overlooks.

DIY: Instructions on how to build your own Cross:

  1. Rummage around the garage for some spare wood.
  2. Get one of your sons to saw two pieces of wood to whatever lengths you desire, allowing extra length for the vertical beam to be buried.
  3. Grab the spare can of white paint from the basement.  If it’s not crusted and rusted over, and if it happens to be an exterior paint as well, paint your wood.
  4. Use one stake and a couple of screws to affix the crossbeam to the vertical beam.
  5. Get your husband to dig a deep hole.  (Who are we kidding?  In this household, my husband’s been doing all the work on this project already.)
  6. Keep digging.  You’ll need the hole to be deeper than you think.  (Apparently 10% of the length of a transmission pole, plus an addition foot, is buried beneath the ground for stability, etc.)
  7. Stand off from afar, as your husband holds the heavy cross, and say such things as, “A little to the left now.  Oh, well, a little to the right.  That’s it.  No, now it’s crooked!”
  8. Send a kid to the garage for the level to place on the crossbeam.
  9. Fill in the hole, crack a bottle of wine, and enjoy it from a distance.
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It’s nothing fancy, but because it’s white, you can see it when you enter the valley about a 1/2 mile away.  I can’t wait to wrap bright, white lights on it for Lent.
Life is Worth Living

Date Night: You Need It

A week ago, my husband and I enjoyed not just a Date Night, but a weekend away by ourselves.  Except that, it wasn’t really away, as we stayed at home, and the children went across town to Grandma and Grandpa’s.  (A “stay-cation” vs. a vacation.)  It’s a lot cheaper that way.

There is a danger, however.  One may be tempted to work on home projects and ignore each other, instead of simply enjoying carefree timelessness.  But we didn’t, and we had a great weekend.

A Word About Date Nights & Weekends Away

If you’re married, when’s the last time you sat outdoors with your spouse and enjoyed a drink?  Or played Scrabble together?  Or hiked a nature trail?  Or reclined under a tree and read a book aloud, without the children?

It’s time.  You need to schedule it.  Your marriage is more important than running around to baseball games or swimming lessons.  It’s more important than mowing the lawn and scrubbing the kitchen floor.  Shoot, it might even be more important than sleep.

After Jesus, this spouse of yours just happens to be the most important person in your life.  Then your children.  Many people mix this up and end up running themselves ragged, as the expression goes.  Life is too short.  If you can’t do a whole weekend away, surely you can manage a few hours on a Saturday night?

Our Recent Stay-cation

For those of you who’d like an idea, here’s what we recently did.

On Friday, I picked my husband up early from work with cappuccinos in hand, and we wandered around Menards.  We had a great time laughing and shopping together for trees stakes, mouse traps (now there’s a story for another time), and Mike and Ikes – just the essentials.

Then we parked the car downtown and strolled around some more.  We perused isles of used books at a local book shop and found a few good ones–Immaculee Ilibagiza’s Left to Tell and an authorized biography of Tolkien.  Then we were thirsty, so we enjoyed a cocktail and an appetizer.  Lastly, we made our way to a local pizzeria.

Saturday morning, we drove a mile down the road to Harmon Lake Recreation Area, and we hiked the 9-mile loop that we’ve always wanted to do, but never could because of the children.  And here’s what we saw:

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This single-file dirt trail was breathtakingly beautiful.  It wove in and out of trees and prairie.  We took our time, and quite literally, stopped to smell the flowers.

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Like these prairie roses, which were everywhere in bloom, along with many other wild flowers.

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Shell Leaf Penstemon
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Scarlet Globemallow

We also saw patches of wild strawberries, and we tasted them.

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Wild Strawberries

We crossed a bridge over a swampy area and looked at bluegills swimming in the water.

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We saw gnarled oak trees.

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I love these beautiful tree trunks.  One must reach out to feel the bark.

We saw cacti and yucca.

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Cacti, almost ready to bloom.  Did not reach out to feel these things.
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Yucca.  (In the wild is the only acceptable place for this horrid plant to be.  See HERE.)

And there was so much more.  We saw deer, bunnies, birds, and snakes.  Yes, snakes.  A garter snake and then a bull snake.  The 2-3 foot-long bull snake was sunning himself on the trail and was not about to move for us.  So we walked around him on the grass while my heart pounded away.

But more than everything we saw, heard, smelled, and tasted, we just felt God’s presence around us and experienced His blessing in our marriage.  It was just the two of us, meandering along, not worrying about anything.  Not necessarily doing anything.  Just being together.

My husband is my best friend, but he wouldn’t be, if I never spent time alone with him.  All relationships require time together.

Want my advice?

Make time for God in prayer every day.  And make time for your spouse too.

 

Christ-Like Minimalism, Kim's Kitchen

Christ-Like Minimalism: The Kitchen

Today I’ll continue the minimalist discussion with a look at my kitchen.

Disclaimer (Again)

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.

My Kitchen

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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.

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Tulips by the stem.  $12.83.  Always worth it, even if they only live for 5 days.

Back to the Kitchen

So in the kitchen, I’ll point out 3 things I try to do.

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
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I realize that to some of you, this may seem ridiculous that we own all these wine glasses, but trust me, we use them.*

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.

Parting Notes

Lastly, I’ll point out a few other practical things that I do in my kitchen.

Here’s a shot of the island.

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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.

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Every day plates and bowls on the bottom shelf, and cups on the top shelf.

The other thing I’ll point out is a shelf by the dining room table.  (See photo below.)

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Note:  Everything has a place.

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.
Call Me Catholic

An Act of Generosity & Ember Days

An Anonymous Act of Generosity

Two Sundays ago the children woke up extra early and were especially crabby.  (Oh wait, that was me!)  So my husband and I decided to attend an earlier Mass at a different parish, so that we could be home at a decent time for naps.

Now, our family is a little conspicuous wherever we go for a two reasons:

  1. We’ve got 7 children under the age of 12 and therefore take up a whole pew.
  2. The girls and I veil.  Even at the Novus Ordo.  (Don’t know what veiling is?  Click HERE.)

So in we walked with our troupe and commenced praying the Mass, which went fairly well.  There was only one incident when the baby pooped out her whole outfit.  Once I discovered that, I quickly exited to the back of the church and began hunting for a bathroom.

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This picture has nothing to do with my post.  It’s some wild flowers the girls picked the other day.  Aren’t they pretty?  Aster, fleabane, goldenrod, sunflowers, and dotted blazing star.

And I wasn’t the only one looking for a bathroom.  Lo and behold, another mother was in the same predicament as I was.  We both had visibly messy babies.  Eventually we found the ONE bathroom, which was of course locked and in use, with a line running back into the entrance/narthex area.

What to do?  The other mother suggested that our Blessed Lord surely wouldn’t mind if knelt right down and changed our babies in the church narthex, in front of scores* of people.  So we did.

Anyway, as I said earlier, everything else went as usual with no major incidents.  As we left the church, however, I happened to glance into my purse/diaper bag and noticed a wad of cash, which was amounted to $80.  I asked my husband if he had put that in there?  Nope.

Then my 5-year-old chimed in, “Mom, I know who put that in there!”

“Who?”

“That really nice, old lady behind us.  She tucked it in your purse when you weren’t looking, but I was.  I gave her a big smile.  Mom, she winked at me.”

I stopped in my tracks.  I couldn’t believe it.  Someone actually gave us money for going to church!?  What an act of kindness!  What a beautiful thing to an overwhelmed mother, who was just worrying about what in the world to feed her huge and ravenously hungry family!

I turned to my husband and said, “Dearest, the Lord wants us to dine out for lunch today.  Betake us to thy favorite restaurant.”

Whereupon he responded, “Certainly, my Dear.  How about the local diner?”

O glorious day!  And may God bless that most generous woman!

Reflection

I was seriously overjoyed at that woman’s act of charity.  It absolutely made my day, which got me thinking.  When’s the last time I did something kind for someone else?

Maybe I could pay for someone else’s coffee the next time I hit up the drive-thru?

Ember Days

Lastly, this Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday are Ember Days.  If you’ve never observed them before, consider it.  (Click HERE for a brief explanation.)

 

 

*The church was overflowing into the narthex area, which is a good problem to have, considering the state of affairs these days.