Friday, December 12, 2014

Field Notes and blogging

Frank loves this company called Field Notes. He gave each of his groomsmen a three-pack of their notebooks customized to his home state as part of the groomsman gift at our wedding.

Today he emailed me this little video they put together for the holidays...

Field Notes Brand - Holiday 2014 from Coudal Partners on Vimeo.

... and after I watched it, I wrote back, "This is how I feel about blogging!!"

That video captured it so perfectly—how shadowy our memories can be, how tiny images jump out at us from the blur of every day—and how writing about it helps to preserve the moment. I particularly love that line at the end: "I'm not writing it down to remember it later, I'm writing it down to remember it now." Yep.

So, "let us keep writing."

By the way, hi to Megan from Lombard—Frank told me he ran into you at the mall yesterday! Thanks for saying hello. :)

And Chicago readers, check out this sweet giveaway from my friend Giedre!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Five Christmastime favorites

This blog post brought to you by Frank taking the baby to Target with him, giving me an uninterrupted hour to write. Hurray Frank!!

1. Our updated fireplace

Some of you guys might remember how we've been trying to figure out what to do with our fake fireplace since we moved in here a year and a half ago.

Well, it took us a while, but we finally found the perfect thing! We bought one of these electric stoves, which fits perfectly in the space. It adds such a warm and cozy feeling—we love it! Now, why didn't we think of that a year and a half ago??

Some of us love to sit and look at the "fire" and occasionally shout excitedly at it. Luckily the outside doesn't get hot, so it will still be safe when Frankie is crawling.

2. We decorated for Christmas!

Meet this year's tree, Linus. (Do you name your Christmas tree, or is that just a weird thing we do?) (I put entirely too much thought into what to name the tree every year. This year is a shout-out to the saint and to Charlie Brown's Christmas. Frank rolls his eyes, but he thinks it's fun to name the tree too. Definitely a LOT easier than picking baby names!)

Frank went a little nuts with the greenery, lights, and berries over the fire, and I must say he did a fantastic job!

It's so crazy to look at those stockings and remember picking the middle one out a year ago for a little peanut whose name and sex were still unknown. We used the stockings to announce my pregnancy here and on Facebook.

Meanwhile this year, we had this happy little face watching while we decorated:

3. We got flannel sheets!

I've been wanting to get some for these awful Chicago winters, but we never got around to it last year. Then we were at Target a few weeks ago and found some with Scottish terriers on them... and you know about Frank's obsession with Scotties... so it was kind of meant to be.

I mean seriously, how cute is that?

I posted this photo on Instagram with a hashtag I'd seen for "make-your-bed Monday" (because don't we all need a little push to tidy up after the weekend?):

And now my parents are pretending to be scandalized that I only make the bed once a week. So here is the necessary clarification: occasionally I make the bed WITHOUT even posting about it on social media! Crazy, right??

4. My grandmother's annual tradition of buying Christmas jammies for each of her 20-some grandchildren is going strong. This year, she got to include not just her grandsons-in-law, but her two little great-grandsons. Here is Frankie modeling his adorable Christmas jammies:

The best. Thanks Grandma!

5. Homemade candles and the best little printable

I already mentioned the awesome Advent wreaths from Home Depot (here is ours in action):

But I also wanted to share about the gorgeous handmade beeswax candles we ordered from this family in the Chicago area.

Recently I read a blog post about how you can use the filters on Etsy to search for goods made in your own state, which is such a cool way to "shop local" (a Catholic blogger wrote the post but I can't remember who it was... if you know the post I'm talking about, can you let me know so I can link to it?). Last weekend I wanted to honor Small Business Saturday so I searched for Illinois sellers of Advent candles, and found those.

I'm so glad I got them, because they are by far the slowest-burning and prettiest Advent candles we've ever had! I also found some cool little things from Illinois craftspeople that I want to put in Frank's stocking for Christmas. I definitely recommend checking out what people in your state are selling on Etsy—you can find some pretty sweet stuff.

Also, I wanted to share this blog post with its link to a gorgeous printable of the St. Andrew Christmas Novena (that's the thing framed next to the Advent wreath). Thank you to Elizabeth for this post, as I had never heard of this tradition before this year (and everything she writes... I love her blog so much. This recent post had me in tears of gratitude for the fatherly witness of my husband, father, and father-in-law.)

I decided to find out some more about this tradition, and here is what I have learned about it:

1. The name is a total misnomer. It's not a novena (in the sense of "nine days") and it doesn't involve St. Andrew (it merely begins on his feast day).

2. You say this prayer 15 times every day from November 30 until Christmas.

3. It is not magic but it is incredibly powerful.

I was intrigued, especially since I have some pretty major prayer intentions on my heart (don't we all?). So I printed out the prayer and got to work. I have been amazed at the effect that just one week of saying the prayer daily has had. Every year I feel as though Christmas sneaks up on me and I don't really celebrate and appreciate the Advent season. Thanks to this prayer, for the first time in my life, I feel like I am slowing down and savoring each day of Advent. It's been wonderful. (And last night I totally fell asleep without saying it. But I will get back on the horse and keep going!) Do you have any favorite Advent traditions to get you in the Christmas spirit?

Finally, the Old Navy giveaway! The giveaway ended last night and the winners have been emailed. Thank you all for entering!!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Our trip to NJ (photo dump!)

So this trip kind of took place a month and a half ago, the weekend of Oct. 12. But I'm finally getting a chance to blog about it! Let's pretend I was just holding off and waiting for the pictures my sister-in-law took on her film camera to get developed. ;) All the fun stories after the jump!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A few little things

I'm just going to throw this out there: ladies, if you're interested in working from home after you have kids, consider going into editing. Since I quit my full-time job four months ago, I've received four unsolicited offers of part-time, remote editing jobs. Obviously you have to be pretty darn good at editing (two of the offers were from former employers of mine who know me and like my work), but there's a substantial market for editors, especially with the easiness of doing this kind of work online. Just a thought.

Right now I'm working on a post about the trip we took to New Jersey in October, hopefully getting it up tomorrow, and then I want to post about our fun Thanksgiving weekend celebrating Frank's 25th birthday and decorating for Christmas. I always love getting our tree and Advent wreath up! I was thrilled to find that Home Depot has "candle ring" wreaths that perfectly fit the metal base of our Advent wreath and are small enough to fit nicely on the table. I recommend them if you're still looking for one—I always have a hard time figuring out the Advent wreath (we live in the city so we can't pick our own greenery like a lot of people do) so this was perfect.

Also, I've extended the Old Navy giveaway to Saturday in case anyone still wants to enter!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A year and a half

Someday maybe I'll stop counting half-years in our marriage, but it's still new enough that I think I can get away with it.

A few months ago, our wonderful pastor invited Frank and me to join the One in Christ team, giving talks at monthly seminars for engaged couples. I wasn't sure what to think when he first asked us. We'd barely been married a year ourselves. What business did we have giving advice to engaged couples?

Since then, I've come to think that he asked us so that our own marriage could be strengthened, because presenting at the One in Christ seminars is one of the best things that's happened to our relationship. When we stand in front of a room full of engaged couples and talk to them about the importance of date nights and monthly "state of the union" talks and fighting fair and how marriage is supposed to be "faithful, fruitful, and forever," it's impossible not to put our money where our mouths are and follow through on those things ourselves.

Or at least try to follow through. We have both come to realize that we have all sorts of flaws and weaknesses that we didn't know about before we got married. Marriage is a mirror held up to your truest self, isn't it? We have so many things we are trying to work on, so many ways we need to improve. I'm proud of how far we have come in the past year. We are much better at responding to each other gently, at assuming positive intent, and at remembering that 98% of fights happen because we are tired or hungry.

I still have so far to go at keeping things clean, tidy and organized. Frank is still working to be more patient. But both of us are better than we were a year and a half ago. And we love each other more than we did when we got married. Maybe that's the most important thing?

I didn't get a chance to do an introspective marriage post for our one-year anniversary because I was three weeks postpartum, so I guess I am doing it now. More than anything this past year and a half, I'm proud of how hard we have worked to be better partners for each other. Going forward, what I want most is to keep that commitment to our work—the constant, careful work of building a strong marriage. Here's to many more years-and-a-half.

And speaking of the One in Christ talks, what is the best piece of marriage advice you've ever heard or received? We would love to hear your ideas, and hopefully incorporate them into our next talk. Thank you in advance!

p.s. The Old Navy giveaway is still open in case you want to enter!