Five Days in Paradise

I’m tan, rested, and ready to share some photos (too many photos) with you from our trip to Key West. Let me give you a little back story before I dive in to the pics. Last September, The Hubs asked me how I wanted to celebrate my upcoming 40th birthday. The conversation went something like this:

“Party or trip?”

“Trip.”

“Beach or Mountains?”

“Beach.”

“Mexico or Caribbean?”

“You choose.”

“Okay then. Renew your passport!”

Hubs drops the mic, Mary packs her bag.

At the end of September, I went to my new OB-Gyn here in Indiana for the first time. It was just an annual exam, and of course, the nurse made me step on the scale. I was not surprised to see that I was twenty pounds overweight. My closet was filled with clothes that no longer fit and I was feeling pretty down about how I looked. It was time to do the unthinkable: I needed to start working out.

I don’t know why I’ve always been so down on exercising. I was a self-proclaimed non-exerciser and I was proud of it. I used to tell people how much I loathed exercised. Much like my daughter who detests foods she’s never tried before, I was the girl who never went to the gym or tried an exercise video because I detested working out.

Well guess what? As it turns out, I love it! Back in October, with the encouragement of my new friend Becca, I joined a gym. We would meet in the weight room a couple times a week so she could teach me some exercises that I could then do on my own. I also started power walking two miles a day, either around my neighborhood or at the gym track. Before long, I started to really feel a difference in my energy level and some of my clothes started fitting me again.

On December 6th, we found out we were expecting and I continued to work out. My hope was that the exercise and low carb, high protein diet I was on would help with the terrible morning sickness I normally experienced in the first trimester. To be on the safe side, and just to keep travel simpler, we decided against leaving the country. The Hubs had a co-worker who had just returned from Key West and had an incredible stay at Casa Marina right near the Southernmost Point. The more we looked into the resort and the island of Key West, the more excited we got.

Then, at the end of December, at my eight week appointment, I found out that I was miscarrying our baby.

My body was turned inside out during the process. It was a very, very dark time for me, physically, mentally, emotionally. The skies were grey in every sense of that expression. I was literally clinging to the hope of our upcoming trip. During the long days of recovery, anemic and pretty depressed, I shopped deals on line for fun clothes and bathing suits, perusing pictures on line of the resort and the sights to see on Key West. Three weeks after the miscarriage started, I headed back to the gym. It felt so good to get back to my workout routine.

What started out as a quest to lose weight for vanity’s sake, turned into a mission to restore my body.

At the beginning of February, I quit the gym and started doing a forty-five minute exercise video at home. I was tired of shlepping over to the community center, and I was fairly convinced that Little One was picking up a lot of germs in the child care. I started out with the Brooke Burke Tone and Tighten video and it was kicking my butt. I seriously think I would have stopped doing it out of sheer discouragement, but those weeks at the gym had strengthened me enough to keep up. As soon as the kids left for school each morning, I’d turn on the TV for Little One and head upstairs to work out. Forty-five minutes of sweating it out with Brooke everyday, toning and tightening, I got to the point where I had memorized everything she said and didn’t have to watch the TV to know what to do. It was time to mix it up. I switched to her Strengthen and Condition video and boy, was I getting a daily butt kicking! This video was definitely more challenging, but again, I don’t think I would have stuck with it if I hadn’t already gotten stronger from “Tone and Tighten.”

By the way, I am laughing at myself big time. This post was supposed to be about our trip and all I’m talking about is exercising. You know, the thing I supposedly hated.

Our babysitter was hired, our trip was booked, and we were getting so close we could taste the salt air. Just a few more weeks and we would be far away from our usual routine. For the first time since that OB-Gyn appointment in September, I stepped on the scale. I was twelve pounds lighter and feeling fit. More importantly, on a physical and personal level, I felt restored.

The Hubs and I have left our children in the care of several different adults we trust over the years, but never for five days, and never for a vacation getaway. We had not been on a true vacation, just the two of us, since our honeymoon thirteen and a half years ago. Assuming that we would not have this opportunity again for many years, our approach to this trip was, “Go big, or go home!”

We stayed at Casa Marina, one resort over from the Southernmost Point of Key West. It’s a Waldorf Astoria resort, now owned by Hilton and let me just tell you: All the rumors are true. Waldorf Astoria’s customer service is bar none. We were so impressed by all of the employees we encountered during our stay. From the hotel room maid staff to the cabana boys, we were always greeted with cheerfulness and a, “What can I do for you today?”

Half the time we were in Key West, we had no idea what time it was. I gave my cell phone, aka my watch, to The Hubs and he left it in the room most of the time. We were laying on the beach on day three of our stay and were able to determine the time by the arrival of our complimentary drink of the day brought to us on a tray by a server. Must be noon! There were many simple exchanges between us that went something like, “You hungry?” “No.” “Need a re-fill?” “Yes.” “Wanna go somewhere?” “Nah.” “Sounds good to me!”

Now that’s what I call luxury.

Speaking of luxury, couples’ massages, fifty minutes, on the beach. What an incredible experience! It was so relaxing, and so needed. At the end of the appointment, my masseuse said, “I don’t know if you’re religious or anything, but there is the most beautiful shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes about a ten minute walk from here. Are you familiar with her?” Uh, yah! Apparently, the locals built the shrine after a hurricane had taken many lives as a sign of their devotion and to ask for protection. Since then, no lives have been lost due to hurricane. We were able to make a visit to the Perpetual Adoration chapel before we walked the grounds and took in this island gem. I love how Our Lady made herself known to us through the massage therapist. It was a highlight of our stay on Key West.

Sleeping in while away from home usually doesn’t happen for me, especially since having kids, but I was hopeful. Key West Gypsy Chickens and Roosters, however, roam free and are protected by law. So, the whole sleeping in thing didn’t quite work out and I was up by 7:30 each morning. A little Nespresso and some Blessed Is She retreat on the balcony with a stunning view of the beach and the ocean and I didn’t mind. I’d rather be up and at it than sleeping any day, especially on vacation.

Our resort was within walking distance to everything we wanted to see, but when we wanted beach time, the resort was the place to be. You really can’t beat having someone set up your chair, get your towels, set up an umbrella, and serve you drinks. And if we wanted to just stay put and have lunch we could.

This may have been planned as a 40th Birthday Celebration for me, but in the end, it was a chance for my husband and I to reconnect. He keeps referring to it as our “Marriage Retreat” and I absolutely agree. We spend our days working hard and serving our children, as we should, but this trip was all about being totally present to each other. Our day to day life together is in service of each other and our children. But for five days, the kids’ needs were being taken care of by a wonderful, loving college student and the army of friends who offered to drive them hither and yon for school and activities. And you know what? They were so adorable when we came back home. It felt so good to be hugged fifty times, kissed a hundred times, and told over and over again that we were missed. As for us, don’t take this the wrong way, but we didn’t miss them. Well, not until the last day. This past year has been jam packed with major life changes. We sold a house, we bought a house, we moved our family of seven to Indiana, and we experienced a loss. Aren’t those on the top ten most stressful life events? On this getaway, we got lost in each other’s eyes and got back to the beginning. We rediscovered the fire between us – the reason the children came into being in the first place!

I know I’ve said too much already, but I would be remiss if I didn’t give credit to the man who made it all happen. My wonderful, generous, giving spouse who moved heaven and earth and saved and saved and worked our budget to make this dream vacation a reality. In reading and experiencing the lives of others through blogs and Facebook, I’m always worried about the impression some posts give, especially this one. We are not ones for extravagant vacations. I’m not gonna lie, I enjoyed the luxurious aspects of this trip and I appreciate the incredible service and care we received during our stay at Casa Marina. It was the time away together, however, that I will treasure the most when I look back on this trip years from now. I’ll remember taking a nap in a hammock under the palms, reading books side by side on the beach, and praying at the grotto. Turning forty is no big deal after a trip away with my beloved. Bring it.

 

A Valentine Birthday Party, Indiana Edition

Well hello! I cannot believe I haven’t blogged in two months. Sadly, I miscarried our littlest one in January. After this miscarriage, I came to the realization that instead of mourning the loss of our baby, I should instead turn to the ones here on earth and do my best to love them and care for them with everything I have. It’s almost been an opportunity, really, to start this journey of parenthood anew. In the end I am grateful for God’s Goodness in all things, even loss.

Once I started feeling better, I set my sights on a Valentine Birthday Party for our spunky little resident First Grader and her sweet classmates. There is nothing like a party to plan to lift my spirits. I know, I have issues. When I asked her what kind of party she wanted, she quickly responded, “A Valentine’s Day Party just like last year! Besides, my new friends weren’t at last year’s party, so they won’t mind!” Sweet girl.

Big sister Dimples was such a wonderful helper. From helping me plan the order of the day, to running up and down and all around to set things up, she was the perfect assistant. It was also a wonderful opportunity to help these two quarreling sisters to re-discover their love and devotion for each other. Melt. my. heart.

It really was an easy party to execute, simply because we’d done it before. We even served the same snacks and drinks! I did add some new decorations since we’re in a new house, but other than that, it was a breeze.

I found these little muslin pouches in the dollar spot at Target. Each girl made a bracelet at the beginning of the party while we waited for all of our guests to arrive. They kept their bracelet and extra beads in the pouch at the dining room table.

Then we enjoyed a snack and some raspberry lemonade. The snack was popcorn, animal crackers, teddy grahams, pretzels, and Valentine M&M’s all mixed together in a big bucket. We just scooped the snack into big plastic cups and the girls carried their snack around with them.

Then it was down to the basement for our photo booth session. The girls were absolutely precious. They wanted a picture with each and every girl, a group shot, and on and on. I used my Instax mini and I must say, I loved watching the girls “Oooooh!” and “Ahhhh!” as they watched the photos develop before their very eyes. What was really hysterical, though, was when they each wanted a copy of the group shot. They had to keep their pose as I snapped eight photos of them. Kids these days with their digital cameras.

After pictures we played “Musical Hearts” instead of the usual chairs. I just threw a bunch of large paper heart cut outs in a circle on the floor and they had to sit down on a heart to stay in the game. They had a blast!

We headed back upstairs for cake in the dining room. The girls put all of their polaroids in their little pouches with their bracelets.

Social Butterfly really wanted to open her gifts in front of her friends, and the girls were so excited to watch her read their cards and open the gifts they chose. It was pretty darn precious. They were all so proud.

They all ran around in the basement a little more, we took a group shot, and they were off! We gave each girl two cookies, made with love by a local gal, Mama’s Cookies. Seriously? Best darn frosted cookies I’ve ever tasted. It was an absolutely beautiful day, so everyone was out in the front yard, waiting for their moms to pick them up and waving good-bye.

As always, I enjoyed watching my daughter interact with her friends outside of the classroom and school environment. Each one of them is so very different, and they are all sweet little gifts from God. I felt so blessed to have them here in our home for our first girl birthday party in Indiana.

Happy Valentine’s Day, all! I’m happy to be back to the blog. I truly have missed it. See you back here in a week!

xoxo

Santa Lucia 2016: How our family celebrates the Saint of Light

I don’t remember where I first heard about the beautiful traditions surrounding the Feast of St. Lucy. It was probably on the blogs I started reading when I had two little ones, twenty months apart and was desperate for some direction and perspective. What I discovered was a world of catholic family living, beautiful, real live depictions of the Domestic Church and I wanted in on it. The celebrations of the Liturgical Year, specifically Saints’ feast days were what appealed to me the most. Really, what I desired so deeply, were traditions, and so began our family’s observance of the Feast of St. Lucy, the Swedish way.

I should mention that we are not Swedish, but I feel like when you’re catholic, you get to enjoy all the cultures of the world when you venerate the Saints. If everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, well, we’re Swedish on December 13th.

This year, more than any other, our family’s traditions are so important. Having moved out of our Virginia home of eight years, here to Indiana, so very many things have changed. When you have young children, those changes can cause a ripple effect of reactions, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Clinging to traditions from our days in NoVa has really grounded us here in the Mid-West. In fact, it reminds me of the darling books that we read each year around this time, Hanna’s Christmas and Kirsten’s Surprise. In both stories, the young girls are living with their families in the United States and missing their homeland of Sweden. It is the celebration of the Santa Lucia traditions that makes them feel more at home in a new land.

This year, we decided to move our early morning breakfast in bed tradition from the traditional December 13th to the following Saturday. Our little “Lucy Queen” was a bit disappointed, but, having been in a boot for a foot injury for the past two weeks, she was happy to wait. On her feast day, the doctor told her she no longer had to wear her boot, so yesterday, she was able to carry trays of Saint Lucy bread up the stairs to her dad and siblings with ease.

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Speaking of Saint Lucy bread, we have never actually baked the traditional “lussekatter” saffron buns, although I would love to try to someday. In fact, for the past two years, I’ve gotten the cinnamon rolls in the tubes from the grocery store. You know the ones: slathered in icing, jam-packed with sugar. They were sufficient. The idea was to celebrate the feast, trying not to stress ourselves out, or worse, not celebrate just because we didn’t have time for homemade bread. But this year, moving the feast to Saturday was perfect for taking the time to bake Saint Lucy Braided Bread. I have made this a couple of times before, but never has it turned out quite as beautifully as it did this year. Dimples and I woke up at six o’clock to get started. We followed all the steps of the recipe with one added little trick that I think was the key to our success. At the advice of a chef friend of mine, I allowed the dough to rise in a greased bowl, covered with a hand towel in a warm oven. I just heated the oven at the lowest setting then turned the heat off. Allowing the dough to proof in a warm oven cut the allotted dough rising time in half. Then we followed the recipe, punching down the dough, cutting it into three equal pieces, rolling it out, and braiding it. We placed it on a greased cookie sheet, covered it with a towel, and placed it back in the warm oven to proof again. Again, the rising time was cut in half. Another little tip: Have some foil ready while the bread is baking. Ours got nice and golden brown a little too early, so for the remaining baking time I loosely covered it with a couple of pieces of aluminum foil and it did the trick! I also have a glazing tip for you. Place a cooling rack over some parchment paper. Put the bread on top of the cooling rack after you’ve let it cool for about five minutes. Drizzle the glaze on the bread. Then slide the bread off the cooling rack onto a platter. This helps keep your platter nice and clean, if you care. Follow me on Snapchat! I love Snapping when I bake and cook. I was adding to my story all morning on Saturday. So fun.

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It’s a lot of fun executing these family traditions with my children. It was tricky when they were too little to really help out. Now that Dimples is older, she gathers all the trays, sets them up, gets herself all dressed up in her Saint Lucy outfit, and just loves being a part of this tradition.

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The rest of the family obviously loves this particular feast. I know we’ll look back on the years we had our children under our roof and this annual treat in bed tradition will be at the top of our list of fondest memories.

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A note about her white dress… Our Dimples has been wearing various flower girl dresses given to us by a few nieces who were in our wedding. Well guess what? The biggest size we have won’t fit her for next year’s Saint Lucy Day. All the crying emojis. I could barely button this one up the back! Ah well. We’ve enjoyed many years of these lovely little dresses. I’m hoping our friends who are visiting their family in Sweden for Christmas this year could pick up the real deal while they’re there. Wouldn’t that be awesome!?

We’re making memories, one month at a time in our new home. I’m so glad. Each week that passes, I feel more settled. God is good!

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If you’d like to save this recipe or any of the information or ideas I’ve shared in this post, please, Pin It! Here’s a pin image for you to use!

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A Tour of Our Home at Christmas 2016, Part 2

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Welcome to my Fifth Annual Christmas Tour of our Home! That is just crazy for me to say. In 2012, I started this blog, almost solely because I wanted to link up with The Nester’s Christmas Tour of Homes. And here I am, still at it, albeit sporadically, doing the blog thing and sharing our digs with you. This year is particularly exciting because we are in a new home, so what was old is new again! If you’ve toured our home in Christmases past, then I’m sure you’ll recognize most of what you see. For me, Christmas memories are wrapped up in what’s familiar, so I like using and re-using, changing up and re-purposing the stuff we’ve had for years. In the case of our new home, I’ve had to add a few new things, but not much. It’s been a fun process and I hope you enjoy! Once again, thank you so much for hosting, Nester!

Yesterday I started the tour with the entryway and dining room. Today I’d like to show you the kitchen and family room.

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Typically, we have Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinner in the dining room, but Christmas morning brunch is best enjoyed at the kitchen table. We’re grazers on Christmas morning: super hungry from opening gifts, but ready to get back to perusing the presents, then back to the table for seconds, etc. I always set the table the night before so that I don’t miss any of the fun of Christmas morning.

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We always have a big honey ham, french toast casserole, fresh berries, and mimosas for mom and dad. The casserole can be assembled the day before and takes an hour to bake, so I pop it in the oven as soon as I wake up. Easy! Links to Christmas recipes and menus for your cooking pleasure!

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I drive my family crazy, but I put away all the extra appliances at Christmas time. I have too many cute bowls, dishes, and serving trays that just need to be on display. So the toaster, toaster oven and blender go into the cabinets. And since everything feels more cluttered than usual, I absolutely must have an empty island. There’s just something about having one space in the room that is cleared, although it hardly ever is.

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Usually I dedicate this counter to the printer and my command center, but since I’ll be doing so much baking and cooking in the next couple of weeks, I’ve reserved this spot for my mixer, cookie cutters, and recipes. This will be our first Christmas with a double oven. Does that mean twice the cookies? I hope so!

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I enjoy having some space above the kitchen cabinets to place more decorations. Red berry garlands and just a couple of red chargers give a nice splash of color in our very wooden kitchen. Maybe I should consider putting some colorful items up there after the holidays to break up the brown.

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The Advent Calendar Clings from Wee Believers has been a huge hit with the kids. They can’t wait to add new clings to the Nativity Scene each morning. Admittedly, I love to watch the scene grow too!

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I scored the garland on the mantle at a 70% off sale over Thanksgiving weekend and added some battery operated dew drop lights for a little glow. I am so happy with how it looks. I think the pomegranates are what sold me.

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Each year, my brother-in-law, Fr. David, adds to this nativity scene on December 6th, the Feast of St. Nicholas. What started out as a wedding gift has turned into an annual gift, one that we look forward to so much! He puts quite a bit of thought and care into which piece he’s going to add next which is what makes it so meaningful, I think. This year’s addition has two pieces: It’s the woman sitting on the well at the left. Isn’t it incredible? Hands down my favorite piece yet…

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Second only to the Three Kings’ elephant. I love that they have somewhat of an entourage, as they should.

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And the beloved Christmas tree. We have to have faux greenery inside the house because one of us has a pretty severe allergy to fresh pine. I never thought I’d say this, but I don’t mind it, really. A pre-lit fake Christmas tree is pretty easy to put up and take down each year, I must say!

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Surrounding ourselves with familiar things that evoke memories of Christmases Past will hopefully help us get through our first Christmas without visiting or being visited by family. We’ll enjoy all the old traditions, and maybe start some new ones in our new Mid-Western home. Whatever emotions we may feel, one thing is for certain: Our joy will only be complete because of a Baby in a lowly manger coming into our humble hearts.

Merry Christmas!

A Tour of our Home at Christmas 2016, Part 1

Welcome to our Indiana home at Christmas! So glad you stopped by. I look forward to sharing our home at Christmas every year. I love the whole process: tidying up, lighting the candles, fluffing the pillows and placing each little detail just right. Taking the pictures, editing them, and sitting down at my laptop, taking the time to share my ideas and decor with you is so rewarding! I especially love when the kids come home from school and throw their backpacks in our dining room and spread their homework all over the perfectly staged Christmas Eve table. Once a year, just before school lets out for Christmas break, I get to pretend that our home is being featured on the pages of Better Homes & Gardens. All the effort and attention to detail that I put into decorating for Christmas gets put on display for all of you to see and that just makes me happy. So, welcome! Come on in! I’ve been anticipating your arrival. And it goes without saying that my home is not ever this neat and tidy, so don’t stress. There’s a mess there. I have five kids! How could there not be?

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We moved here to Indiana in May, so this is our first Holiday Season here in our new home. It was my goal to buy as little as possible in the way of new decorations, simply because we already had so many bins filled with stuff. I wanted to see how far I could stretch what we already had. I also love to reinvent decorations in our new home. What I placed on a door in our old home might look even better over a mirror in our new home. However, our color scheme in our Indiana home is slightly different, so I decided to try some new ribbon this year. The black silhouette sleigh ribbon jumped right out at me at a holiday open house at Allisonville Garden & Home, my favorite local store. I was drawn to it because of how different it is than the usual stuff. I do love a ribbon that is easy to work with.

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Sarah at Memories on Clover Lane posted a tutorial that I discovered a few years back, illustrating how she took her family Christmas card photo each year and made an ornament with it. I took her fabulous idea and made it my own. Thanks, Sarah! I’ve loved your blog for a long time.

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While Sarah wraps her scrap booking paper to cover the outside edge of the ornament, I paint the outside edge of the wooden rectangle with red or green craft paint. After the paint dries, I Mod Podge a piece of scrap booking paper to each side of the ornament. Once the Mod Podge dries, I gently sand around the ornament so that the paper is flush to the edges. If the paper lifts at all, just use a little brush and get some more Mod Podge in there so all the edges are glued down. I glue the number of years we’ve been married as well as the calendar year on one side, and this year’s Christmas photo on the other side. I cover the ornament with Mod Podge Hard Coat with a brush. (When you first paint it on with a brush, it looks a little scary. Then when it dries, it’s completely clear and covered for posterity.) Lastly, I drill a small hole in the top of the ornament and thread a little piece of cord or ribbon through the hole and tie it at the top to hang on our garland. Here’s a close-up for you…

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The first year I made these ornaments, we had been married about eight years, so I had a bit of work to do. Now I just add one new ornament each year. Easy! And so worth it. Seriously, this is my favorite decoration in our entire collection. I love imagining the ornaments going all the way up the banister and down the other side, one year of marriage and one Christmas memory at a time.

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Okay, moving on! Up at the top of the stairwell, I have our little feather tree, dripping with hand made (and some store bought) ornaments. I love having a little something up there in the hallway. And how about that evergreen and peppermint candy table cloth? Thrift store score.

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The alcoves above our front door are five and a half feet tall, like I can stand up inside them no problem. We found a pair of topiaries that fit just right, and for Christmas decided they had to have some lights on them. I tried some fairy lights and I’m very happy with how they look. It was The Hubs’ idea to put the packages under each tree. The boxes and bows are all Sugar Paper for Target from last year. Cute, right? He sure does surprise me sometimes! Love that guy.

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Welcome to our dining room! I am still looking for the perfect chandelier for this room, but honestly, I don’t mind ours for Christmas. The gold works with all the other gold decor I have. Maybe I’ll hit up Wayfair in an after Christmas sale and find the light fixture of my dreams.

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I really like using pitchers as vases and cake plates for height. They’re both things you can pick up at low prices at Marshall’s and Homegoods and they’re so useful! The gorgeous tapers you see are placed in my grandmother’s glass candelabras. Aren’t they dreamy? I only pull them out for special occasions. I love how dramatic they look.

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It’s so funny, every time I post a picture of this room on Instagram, someone mentions my jade green dishes and how much they love them. I purchased the entire set at a Goodwill in Ohio while shopping with a dear friend of mine. She can attest to the fact that I literally circled the dishes like a hawk, around and around, walking by them, having a conversation with myself about how the last thing I need is another set of dishes. “I don’t want my spouse to file for divorce over dishes, Christine!” And then I bought the whole dang set for 65 smackers. He was a good sport about it, truly. The fact is, I don’t know a man on the planet who has or ever will really understand a woman’s need for ___________. Fill in the blank with the following: dishes, pillows, shoes, bags, scarves, lamps, picture frames. Just as we gals may never understand a man’s need for ___________. Fill in the blank with the following: guns, guitars, fishing rods, baseball caps, nose hair clippers. So let’s just accept our differences and move on. Aren’t they just the cutest little green tea cups you ever did see? They’re called Petal Ware and I love them. A lot.

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I let the girls make the snowy scenes this year and I think they did a fantastic job! Each girl got their own glass dish, a bag of fake snow, and some little figures and trees to arrange. I laid everything out for them and left the room. This is what I have to do to allow creativity: Provide the materials and space in which to be creative and then walk away. You know what? It worked! The girls worked together, encouraged each other, complimenting one another. I listened from the other room and thought, “I have arrived!” Small victories, people. Small victories.

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Since I’m fairly certain someone will ask in the comm box, the liquor decanters are from Reclamation Etchworks. Check ’em out! Such a cool company.

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I decided to put a little mini Advent wreath in the dining room by way of some votive candles I purchased from Toadilly Handmade. Gotta have my beeswax candles! The three-tiered platter is a new favorite of mine to arrange and re-arrange, and move around the house. So many possibilities with this piece. I think it’s going to look so stinkin’ cute with Christmas cookies on it!

Thank you so much for stopping by. If you’re new to Sometimes Martha Always Mary, welcome! I’m so happy you’re here. And if you care to learn more about me and my family, I share all my deepest, darkest secrets here. Not. Just click on the “About” tab. I’ll see you tomorrow I hope! I’ll give you a Christmas tour of the kitchen and family room.

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This is not a sponsored post. I like to mention where I purchase certain pieces just to help my readers out. Feel free to ask where I found any of the decor you see in my posts!

Halloween House 2016

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I don’t know about where you live, but here in Central Indiana it has been quite a warm autumn so far. Right now, every window in our house is open and there is a breeze blowing through the tree outside my dining room window. I have on jeans and a tank top and I’m not the slightest bit chilly. In fact, at one point this afternoon, I contemplated closing all the windows and turning on the AC. Our thermostat said it was 81 degrees in the house! It seems a bit strange to be decorating for Halloween and figuring out costumes, especially since I was told that it would be quite chilly, even cold for trick-or-treating in just two weeks. We’ll see about that. But, the calendar says that it’s time for all things fall decor, so I decked the halls, walls, table tops, and porches with whatever we moved here from Virginia. I tried so hard not to make any new purchases, but it’s just such a fun time of year, I couldn’t hold back on a few little purchases from my two favorite places. At Home and Homegoods have so many reasonable decorations for autumn and Halloween. We even took the kids with us to At Home and they chose, well, you can guess:

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…. a bag o’ bones! Yup. The skeleton was all them. I feel I have displayed it rather tastefully, thank you very much. One of the least expensive things you can use to decorate for Halloween are photos of your kids from Halloweens past. I keep the photos in the Halloween decoration bins and then just add a couple of my favorite pics each year. The kids love to look back at their different costumes over the years.

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When we bought this house, the previous owners left all their drapes and cornices as well as the black silk lampshades on the dining room chandelier. Black silk doesn’t really jive with my color palette, but I kept them in our basement storage specifically for Halloween. I know, I’m nuts. But don’t they look great?

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For me, the best part about decorating our home for holidays is playing around with what we already have. Something I used a certain way at any of our former homes can be reinvented and refreshed. Last week, while the kids were at school, I spread all of our Halloween decorations all over the entryway and dining room table. Over the course of the school day, I took my time placing items here and there, taking a step back to look at it, sometimes snapping a photo on my phone to look at it from a different perspective. By the time the kids came home from school, the house was decked with all things autumn and Halloween. It was so cute watching Little One’s excitement over every little detail. They were so excited to see all the familiar decorations from our old house, displayed here in our new home. It conjures up fond memories and creates a space for new memories to be made. That’s what home is, right?

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Truth be told, I never really liked Halloween that much. I guess as a kid I did, but you know how it is when you’re older. Things that were magical and exciting in your childhood lose their luster when you get older. I sort of surprised myself and my spouse when I started getting into Halloween as a mom. It’s such a child-like holiday, one where I can create memories with our children and maybe be a bit of a kid again myself.

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Admittedly, some of the decorations I’ve added to our collection are for me. The candy corn I have displayed in the kitchen is totally for me. It’s my favorite candy, so when I saw this metal painted giant candy corn, I just had to have it. It’s such a cheerful candy, isn’t it?

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This is our guest bathroom as well as the only bathroom on the main floor, so it gets a lot of use. My favorite Halloween touch are the bat finger towels I found online last year. Aren’t they the cutest? Totally impractical, but completely adorable.

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I hope you and yours are enjoying this fun season! Here are some other posts you might enjoy…

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Halloween party graphic FB

 

Memories of John Paul II and a book list for you!


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Pope John Paul II was canonized on April 27, 2014. When I pause and think about the many times I was blessed to be in his presence during his papacy, it takes my breath away, really. My memories of St. John Paul are like family memories. In October, 1979, Pope John Paul II came to Philadelphia. I was just eighteen months old, so when my mom ventured into the city with a couple of my siblings and their friends to stand on the Parkway for Mass, I was at home with our neighbor. This Papal visit, his first to the United States, was the beginning of a long relationship between American Catholics and JPII. My parents shared their love for the Holy Father with me, and so when we first heard that he was celebrating World Youth Day in Denver, Colorado, my parents didn’t hesitate to put me on a bus, alone, at the age of sixteen. I didn’t know a single soul on that bus, but the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal accompanied us on our three day journey, one friar on each of the fourteen buses that left from Franciscan University. I became fast friends with Br. Terry, and even attended his ordination by Cardinal O’Conner at St. Patrick’s Cathedral just a few years later. We drove from Eastern Ohio, across Indiana, first stopping at Belleville, Illinois at the Shrine of Our Lady of Snows. We drove through Missouri to Wichita, Kansas for a candlelight youth rally. Then, Denver. We slept on cots in a catholic school gym and ventured out to the city center each day for daily Mass, catechesis, concerts, and prayer services. The anticipation built as we awaited the vigil, camping out at Cherry Creek State Park, spending the evening with JPII. I fell in love with him that night. I’m serious. It was a love that a grandchild feels for their grandfather. I believed that he came all the way to Denver to show us the love of Christ, so reveal to us the beauty of the catholic faith. His mere presence moved me to tears, and now that he’s gone, when I think about my experience there in that State Park, I get emotional. I have a lump in my throat at the reality of his absence. Yet I feel his presence in such a palpable way, even more than my encounters with him, whenever I pray for his intercession.

jp-ii-magazinesFrom top left, the memory books from World Youth Day Denver, 1992 and Paris, 1997. Under that, the commemorative edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer, kept all these years and given to me by my parents, and the iconic Time magazine that was published just after his first visit to The States. The four magazines on the right were all published just after JPII passed from this earthly life. These are all such treasures to me. 

Just as my parents handed on to me a love and respect not just for Pope John Paul II, but for the Papacy itself, we try to do the same with our children. I want our kids to get to know him and love him. I don’t know that it will ever be the same relationship as mine. Each one of us who were blessed to be in his presence over the twenty-seven years of his papacy could claim the same closeness, I think. When you had an encounter with JPII, whether you were at the back of the crowd, or in the front seat at a Papal Audience at Castel Gondolfo, you were encountering Christ Himself. I pray that our children will experience Christ in this familiar way, specifically through an encounter with a pope. It is such a uniquely catholic experience, one that makes you know, you are part of a family, and he is our Holy Father, leading his sheep to Our Father in Heaven.

One simple way I try to instill knowledge of St. John Paul in my children is by reading books to them, and offering them books to read themselves. I think all of these books on my list are excellent, so I can’t really advise you to order any one of them over the other. However, the first one is the most appropriate for little ones. The comic books are obviously for older children, I’d say nine and up. The Feast of St. John Paul is October 22nd! If you have Prime, you have time! Just click on the image of each book below to see the listings on Amazon.

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I hope and pray that you and yours do something to remember our beloved JPII this coming feast day. He is a powerful intercessor, this we know!

Pope Saint John Paul II, pray for us all!

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Books about Owls

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Books about Apples

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7 things I love about living in Indiana

Living in Indiana for five months doesn’t make me an expert, however it does give me a bit of a compare and contrast perspective. Certainly, these opinions and perceptions may change over time, I’m sure they will. Some of my friends back East have been asking about what the differences are between living in Northern Virginia and Indiana. I think instead of offering comparisons, I’ll to give you a list of seven things I love about living here in Indiana. Then wherever you dwell, you can make the comparisons for yourself.