Monday, April 27, 2015

Behind-the-scene studio pics, the great NW, and the winner is.....

In March I was able to visit the top left corner of the continental United States. It was still cold and snowy in Illinois so when I got to Oregon / Washington I was thrilled to see GREEN.

And more green. 

And flowers.

I went for two reasons: to speak at a women's conference and to record episodes of The Visitation Project, the radio show I co-host with Rebecca Frech and Heather Renshaw. 

Since the show launches in less than a week (!!!!!) I thought I'd share some pictures from my trip. 

I was greeted at the airport with this sign:

Spent some time blogging over my Subway lunch at the studio...

which is very Catholic.

And then we started it off with a bang... and a group shot... and a big box of tissues.

Heather, co-host and producer, and Keith, our sound engineer.

The equipment.

Show notes:

All ready for dinner with friends:

Before I left the lovely Caitlyn took me to The Grotto.

I finished my time in Portand a little soggy, reading blogs, and eating a Tillamook cheeseburger while waiting for my flight.

Recording the show was so fun, you guys and I can't wait for you to hear it and tell us what you think. We speak openly and honestly about being Christian, postpartum depression, music, our favorite saints, marriage, books, pop culture, theology, Scripture... all in a 26 minute show.

The studio's new website will be launching Friday and that's when I'll share the link so you can listen live Sunday night (if you wish) or download the audio file from the archives for your later listening enjoyment (if you prefer).

Thanks for all the support, friends. You're the best. 

And now, Cajun Texas Mom, YOU WON the TVP Loves Catholic Radio Giveaway!!! I'm so happy for you! Shoot me an email and we can work out the details. 

PS - As we gear up for the debut of The Visitation Project, Rebecca has been hosting a little "get to know the hosts" at her blog. You can go over there and see what Heather and I both have planned for the zombie apocalypse.

Friday, April 24, 2015

TVP loves Catholic radio: a giveaway

There is a Catholic radio station whose director and board members felt like the women in their listenership needed something new. 

This station, KBVM, wanted a show that would meet women wherever they are, a show that would make them laugh, touch their hearts, build up their faith, and leave them feeling encouraged and renewed. Thus, The Visitation Project was born. 

The Visitation Project, co-hosted by Rebecca Frech, Heather Renshaw, and yours truly, begins airing on May 3rd. I know you haven't heard it yet so I know it's a bit preposterous to ask you to financially support KBVM, but I'm gonna do it anyway, and then I'll make it worth your while

KBVM needs to raise another $62,000 by the end of today, the last day of their share-a-thon. We can help them reach their goal. 

Here's what you've got to do:

Call 1-888-823-5286 to make a pledge or visit to make an online donation. 

$5, $10, $25, $80, $250, $1,000 - whatever you can do! And when you do, be sure to tell them that The Visitation Project sent you!

Okay, so how will I make it worth your while? Well, every friend of A Knotted Life and / or The Visitation Project who makes a donation should then come back here and leave a comment letting me know you gave and doing so will enter them into a drawing to win:

- a free blog consultation from me
- a free copy of Rebecca Frech's best-selling book, Teaching in Your Tiara.
- a free copy of Matt Maher's new album, Sinners and Saints
- a free copy of All Things Girl: Truth and Teens, featuring Heather Renshaw
- a batch of homemade, from scratch chocolate chip cookies, baked with love by me
- a guest post slot on Shoved to Them, Rebecca Frech's blog with over 40,000 hits a month. 
- a free ticket to the Catholic Women Rejoice conference, featuring keynote speaker Jennifer Fulwiler. (lodging and travel not included)

This gift is worth over $110! 

Also, on top of the donation-earned entry, you can enter again by leaving another comment after you tweet, 'gram, or Facebook about the giveaway. Make sure you use the hashtag #TVPPrizePack and even better if you use the graphic above. 

The KBVM share-a-thon ends tonight at 7pm Pacific (that's 8pm Mountain, 9pm Central, and 10pm Eastern), which is when this giveaway will also end. We've got SIX HOURS!

UPDATE: Exciting news, friends! KBVM is closing in on its overall funding goal yet still needs to raise the rest of the cash. So, for the rest of this weekend, they will be accepting donations (online only) that may be credited to the Spring Share-a-thon. This means we at TVP will be extending our fantastic #TVPPledgePack giveaway deadline to Sunday night! Visit to donate and then comment and share to enter. Thank you so VERY much to all who have so generously given in support of Catholic radio! We love you!"

And thank you so very, very, very much for your support, financially, prayerfully, and emotionally. God bless you and your generosity!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Seven Shows to Watch on Netflix

Travis and I are always tired at the end of the day and the one thing we want to do after the kids are in bed is to sit and barely think about anything.

So of course we watch tv.

A couple weeks ago I suggested the movie Chef, which I really enjoyed, but I've actually been compiling a list for a few months of shows and movies I have enjoyed and wanted to suggest to you. These aren't reviews and I obviously don't know exactly what you are sensitive to and how sensitive you are to it, and keep as a frame of reference that a short list of my favorite movies / shows are:

3:10 to Yuma
Jane Austen novel adaptations
Doctor Who
Friday Night Lights
Silver Linings Playbook
The Walking Dead

So westerns, period pieces, zombies, crazy people, BBC stuff, Riggins, and a zen guy who loves fruit.

Not your cup of tea? Then you can probably safely pass these all up.

Sound good?  Then let's get started!

I didn't like the novel Jane Eyre when I read it in high school and I've never cared about any of the film adaptations I've watched before but this one was perfect. The spooky parts were spooky, the writing was fabulous, the locales were perfect, and the acting was superb. Michael Fassbender's portrayal of Mr. Rochester made me finally understand the character. Mia Wasikowska was perfectly perfect. And the moors were great. (I've watched it about three times in as many months.)

I am a sucker for a good Jane Austen period piece movie and this baby delivered. Death Comes to Pemberley was better than the novel, I thought. Matthew Rhys was an excellent Mr. Darcy. Clara, I mean Jenna Coleman was perfect as Lydia. And I love Anna Maxwell Martin and she did a wonderful job as Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy. (She's also really great in The Bletchley Circle, which is also on Netflix, fyi.) The story is a great who-dunnit but is even better because I love the Darcys and good manners.

Turn. Oh dang. We just plowed through the first season of this AMC show and we loved it. It takes place during the American Revolutionary War and it's really cleverly written and very interesting. The character Anna Strong drives me crazy, but I love Caleb Brewster so it kind of balances out. The main character in the show is Abraham Woodhull and he's not perfect though he is very well acted by Jamie Bell (who plays St. John Rivers in Jane Eyre). I also really like how they use a lot of music in the show - songs that are appropriate to the period are often sung or performed, but the theme song sounds a lot like The Walking Dead, as a complete aside.

Broadchurch is probably not for everyone. It takes place in a small coastal town in Britain and centers around the death of a boy and the investigation that follows. I didn't predict any of the twists and I found it to be well written and well acted. It was a bit suspenseful, but not too much so (too much suspense gives me nightmares), and another great who-dunnit. Also, David Tennant is the lead so a big yay for Doctor Who fans everywhere. If you have watched The Bletchley Circle and you enjoyed it I do think you'll enjoy this one.

If you liked Broadchurch then you'll like Hinterland. This show a lot like Wallander or even Sherlock at its more intense moments, except this show is a bit creepy and makes Wales seems really, really creepy. I loved it. It's intense, smart, edgy, and its characters have a lot of back-story and dimension. Great writing and wonderful acting.

(Okay, totally cheating and throwing this in here. If you like mysteries / detective shows that aren't as flashy as Law & Order and you like westerns, but not so much these Brit shows I'm telling you about then you should watch Longmire. Travis and I both enjoyed it. A lot.)

And now for something totally different: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. For very different reasons than Hinterland  this show is not going to be for everybody but I thought it was hilarious. The theme song has been stuck in my head for over a week now. The show is almost silly, the characters are kooky, and the cultural jokes are often spot-on and really funny. The show pokes fun at everyone, which I appreciated, so no one can feel like they're being ganged up on, and overall I think the show just exists to make us laugh. If you liked 30 Rock you will enjoy this.

I love Good Eats because it combines useful information, delicious food and drink, and campy humor. This is a show I think the whole family can watch and everyone will enjoy - science, humor, recipes, history - it's all there!

Okay, another cheat:

Begin Again was on Netflix for awhile but is no longer so you'll have to go to your local video store to find this one, which is what we did because I was binging my way through Doctor Who for the third time while it was online. Travis picked this one up and brought it home to me after a long rough day, thinking it looked like a movie I would like. He was right.

The movie is about a singer-songwriter (Kiera Knightley) whose musician boyfriend (Adam Levine) breaks up with her, leaving her stranded and alone in New York City. She finds her friend (James Corden) which leads to a washed-up producer (Mark Ruffalo) hearing her perform. And in between it all some really wonderful things are said and the right people end up with the right people and I just really enjoyed it.

Okay. Enough. Thank you so much to Kelly for hosting the link-up. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

#WIDN (or really, what I did today)

There are three good, solid, well-written posts in my draft folder, but none of them are finished.

Instead today I made invitations for Lydia and Teresa's upcoming Minnie Mouse / Ballerina birthday party and helped Travis put together a trampoline the kids were given at Christmas. I watered the boxwood clippings I'm hoping will take root and survive (Cari told me in the combox it can happen!). I cleaned the kitchen 3 times. I gave the baby a bath and I read The Book Thief, but not enough of it to be ready for my book club's next meeting.

Tomorrow will bring Mass and thunderstorms and a couple of projects I need to finish on my computer and probably no time for blogging.

In the absence of a real post I give you a new playlist. Some of the songs are a bit older but some are fairly new to me and I've been enjoying them. I hope you like at least a couple of them.


Monday, April 13, 2015

Wedding Cake, Christianity, and a Bottle of Port

For the record, I want to live in a country where there is a difference between an event and a person.

I believe people should be able to understand that saying "no" to an event is not the same as saying "no" to a person. Even more so, I wish our society understood that we can disagree about things - even incredibly large things like religion - and still be genuinely kind and respectful to one another.

I do not think it makes you a bad person or a good Christian if you turn down providing a service for an event you personally disagree with. I do think it is absolutely ludicrous that so many people in this nation think it does.

I have met bakers and photographers for whom their small business is a passion. It is a part of who they are and they pour themselves into that work. I get it when those people have a firm belief and conviction that marriage is between one man and one woman, forever and they don't want to bake a cake for a polygamous marriage, a gay wedding, a divorce party...

What I don't get is how people don't see that the same law that protects those bakers and photographers (and so forth) is the exact same law that will allow:

- a photographer to say to a member of the KKK, "I will not photograph your upcoming rally."

- a protestant to say to me, "I'm sorry, I don't bake cakes for first communions. When you need a graduation cake, though, I'd be happy to help."

- a gay event planner to say, "I do bar and bat mitzvahs, house-warming parties, bridal and baby showers, graduation parties, anniversary parties, and birthday parties. I'm sorry, I do not do anti-gay marriage rallies."

Again, if you personally have no qualms about those things and will bake a cake for anyone or anything because it’s just a cake and it pays the bills - fine. I’ve got no problem with that. But why is it so wrong for a person to legally be protected so they can say ‘No’ to situations that they believe are truly wrong? I am sincerely confused about this and I've noticed that just asking questions or stating a differing opinion is enough to write someone off as a bigot.

I am not a bigot, I just have a different definition of sex, marriage, gender, and family than some. A really basic run-down of what I believe:

- Sex is for marriage only because sex is incredibly and specifically intimate, meaningful, communicative, and fun.

- Contraceptives (the pill, condoms, vasectomies, tubal ligations, withdrawl, etc) should not be used for birth control because God designed marriage and sex to create families because families, life, and love are awesome.

- If a couple needs to not get pregnant they can use natural family planning, because nfp does not prevent or destroy our bodies from doing what God fearfully and wonderfully made our bodies to do.
- Men and women are different but they have equal dignity, and this is true from the very moment of their conception all the way to their death.

- Marriage is for one man and one woman and the only thing that can end a valid marriage is death.

There was a time when I didn't really believe these things, mostly because I didn't really know these things, and I definitely didn't know that the above list was what the Catholic Church taught. 

In fact, as I learned more about my faith I was both elated and annoyed. Annoyed that I had never had these things explained to me. Elated that there was so much consistency from teaching to teaching, unlike pretty much every other denomination I knew. (If you want to learn more about these things, I encourage you to read the Catechism and this grouping of articles.)

The consistency, the beauty, and the truth of the Church's teachings on sex, family, gender, and marriage does not mean that it's always easy to live out. Of course individuals may find any and all of these teachings to be easy or difficult to embrace depending on their personal crosses, family influence, inclinations, virtues, and temptations. However, even if individuals struggle to embrace and live out these teachings it doesn't mean the teachings are not true or that it's okay to not try.

Christ is not a warm fuzzy, a fluffy bunny who exists to make us feel good and let us do whatever makes us happy because God is love and "religion should open your heart not close your mind." Our hearts definitely should be open and ready to love but our minds should be closed on some things. There is a true right and wrong and if we don't acknowledge that we are dooming ourselves and our children for Hell.  

If you don't believe that you are worshiping a god you have created.

Christ has asked us to pick up our crosses and to follow Him. This is not about comfort and being happy - this is about redemptive suffering and everlasting joy.

Or, as C.S. Lewis put it, "I didn't go to religion to make me 'happy.' I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don't recommend Christianity."

I would go a step further and say I especially don’t recommend Catholicism.

Please do not misunderstand: I am not saying “shape up or ship out.” The Catholic faith is true and beautiful and for everyone.

I want you to be Catholic and I want you to fully embrace and live out its teachings and culture. I want you to know and love and serve not fluffy bunny Jesus but God as He truly is: Lord God Almighty, Creator of the Universe, who cares for and loves you deeply, fully, and passionately. I am certain that if you do, though you will certainly still have burdens, you will also have immeasurable joy.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

My summer goal extravaganza, OR All the simple things I want to do so I like my house and yard more

Here's two things you should know about me:

#1 - I do not have a lot of expendable money. Maybe $10 a week. 
#2 - I am pretty lazy. 

But I am not going to let those two facts get in the way of my Summer Goal Extravaganza! 

I spelled "extravaganza" correctly on the first try, which is amazing because:

#3 - I am a horrible speller. 

But this is me rambling. Back to the topic!

Now that the weather is getting warmer and windows may be opened and 32 degrees a thing of the past I am itching to get a few smallish projects done around the house.

For starters, the kitchen. Now if money weren't so tight I'd gut it and redo it all. White subway tile with a subtle, grey grout. Creamy, grey cabinets. Crisp, white countertops. A stainless steel fridge with the freezer on the bottom. A double oven and a great big stovetop. A new window with a stainglassed panel across the top.

But money is tight so instead I'd like to take down the floral wallpaper on the soffit and paint it white, then change the outlets and light switches for white ones.

Next, I'd like to buy a new storm door; one that doesn't drip grease and allows for a breeze and isn't dingy.

Instead I'll put a fresh coat of white paint on the front door... and maybe splurge for a new storm door anyways.

The main bath was filled with towel wracks and nail holes. It had ugly wallpaper and all I wanted was to take the paper down and paint everything blue. We didn't fill in any holes but everything got painted blue.

A pretty blue, but one that ruins the awesomeness of the tile. And it turns out that the holes drive me crazy. So my next little job is to fill in the holes and repaint the room white, possibly a very light grey. I'd love to rip out the sink and its cabinet and put something else in, add some shelves to the wall, put in a new floor. (We had this in our old house and I loved it. I don't like tile because it's too cold, hard, and difficult to clean. Give me linoleum!)

Now outside.

I want to paint this bench, which has a mate and together they convert to a picnic table. I was thinking of a clever almost charcoal color. What do you think?

From the back patio, which is where this bench sits, up to the sidewalk jutting into the yard below we would like to pour a nice, wide sidewalk. Next to the house I'd like to mulch and plant hostas, bleeding hearts, a butterfly bush, hydrangeas, yarrow, cosmos, snap dragons - a whole flower garden. 

To the right of the sidewalk there is a large oak and grass doesn't grow, as you an see from all the dirt. I'd like to throw down more mulch and place our St. Francis statue. This, in the cheapest version possible, may actually happen. (Depending on how many speaking gigs I'm able to book. so hire me! I'll make you laugh, cry, and praise Jesus, and then I'll plant me some flowers.)

Then there's this corner of the backyard. At the top of the rise is a rec trail so people cycle, run, and walk past our house all day long. And we will soon have new neighbors so we'd like to plant some bushes and get privacy. Evergreens, forsythia, maybe.

And then that nasty bump... well the twiggy mulberry bush needs to die once and for all, the burn barrel needs to be gotten rid of, and I'd be happy  to put up a simple but pretty fence and make it our compost (which it unofficially and rather sloppily already is). Maybe plant a boxwood or two. I love boxwoods.

Here's the back of the house. Not soooooo bad but you're not up close. We need a storage shed to store the bikes and some other toys. I need to get my benches painted, put flowers in some pots, and create a specific seating area. We also need to mulch along the house and to do some landscaping there. I was thinking oregano, lavendar, and a lemongrass with something flowering, too.

And I know you can't really see it but the space between the left of the patio and the trunk of the pine tree would be a perfect location for a cute, little pondless waterfall. I have the pile of rocks (you can see them in the bench picture above) so we'd just need to buy some river rock and the pump... and all the stuff to run electricity out there. I'd also like to fill the under boughs with white lights because: gorgeous. This part will not happen this summer, but I wish it could.

Then there's the front.

A few things:
 If the bushes don't start to regrow by mid-summer we will likely cut them down to the ground. I need some kind of edging to keep the yard out of my flower bed. The white columns need to be repainted and flower pots need to be planted and new mulch needs to be thrown down.

Some of those dreams are a bit too big: pretty fences, lots of shrubbery, and pondless waterfalls, but the cheaper versions will probably happen. And that's enough to make me happy. :)

Wish me luck on my Summer Goal Extravaganza and tell me about your goals. Do you have any plans for fixing up and prettying your house now that the weather's warmer?

Monday, April 6, 2015

Easter Sunday and the days preceeding

Jesus Christ is risen! Alleluia! Alleluia!
(and then you say) He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia!

We had an unremarkable Holy Week that was capped off with very pleasant but also very tiring Easter celebrations.

I was able to help with the celebration in Bennet's preschool classroom. I made these little tombs out of donuts and donut holes on a plate smoothered with green frosting. I walked the kids through Good Friday and they all rolled the "stones" in front of the "tomb." Then we became very quiet as I talked about how sad the whole of creation was on Holy Saturday. Then I had them roll their "stones" away and open up the empty "tomb" because it was Easter Sunday and Jesus was risen!

They sorta cared.

Good Friday I was nothing but hangry the whole long day. We ate hot cross buns, walked to the library, had a quiet afternoon, did the stations of the cross, and called it a day.

But Holy Saturday started well, with my family and I attending the Blessing of the Easter Baskets at our Cathedral. Bennet was able to "serve" and hold the book of blessings for the Bishop, who was a delightful ham and made everyone laugh repeatedly.

It ended well, too, with lots of fun with Travis' family.

Then Easter Sunday came and I was so happy to see it.

I did my decorating late Saturday night and finished up Sunday after 7am Mass and breakfast of bacon, coffee, and fresh cinnamon rolls.

Our Easter mantle looks a little like this:

I love this crinkle paper grass.

Some pictures of the kids with their Easter booty:

And finally, what I wore Sunday. (Linking up with the ladies at Fine Linen and Purple!)

This is as good as it got. I wanted to take a picture after Mass but the 8:30 crowd was showing up before the 7:00am Mass was even finished and then I was passing out fliers and Travis loaded the kids in the car. So, dining room picture was as good as it got. 

The girls are wearing Easter dresses given to them by my mother-in-law. Their cardigans are from Target. 

My dress: Target, this spring
My cardigan: Target, last fall
Glasses: Firmoo
Bangs: a whim

I currently love my dress but I have a pretty strong feeling that in a few years I'll be embarrassed by it. But for now: I look great!