Thursday, September 18, 2014

Tech Thursday question: Family tablet?

In a bit of an interesting trend, I appear to be coming up with technology questions on Thursdays. I was looking for a topic for today's post on which I could be brief, since it is a bit of a busy day. I'm on a search committee, and we had a meeting this morning at 8:30 (thank God there was coffee). Not that 8:30 is all that early, it's just that I had to be on campus, stuff dropped off in my office, and then journeyed to the other side of the academic spine and ready to talk to other human beings by 8:30. I had to get up a bit earlier and leave right after Mike dropped Henry at school in order to make this happen, so my routine is all off. And you know how I am about my routine.

:0

Anyway, as I was contemplating what to write (came up with the 54 day rosary novena, which I will incorporate into tomorrow's 7 Quick Takes post, so look for it there :)) I journeyed over to Amazon to check on a book order I had placed for Anne that is due to arrive later today. And what do I see? Amazon has new Kindles out today, one of which is a Fire Tablet for a mere $99
 My interest was immediately piqued, because tablets have been on my mind. We need a new family tablet, and so Christmas gift ideas have been floating around in my brain. We really just need something that Mike can use for web browsing (he doesn't have a Smartphone, and isn't interested in one just yet), Henry can use for games, and I can use for video chatting. I can also use my phone for that, but a bigger screen that you can affix to a spot via a stand up case would be very useful depending upon the circumstance. This new and very inexpensive Fire tablet actually has a front and rear facing camera. Intriguing. However, I haven't heard fantastic things from other Fire owners on their impressions of older versions of this product.

I am also considering an iPad Mini:

They can be had on Amazon for around $250, and I've heard nothing but good things about the quality of the product. This would have a bigger screen and a nicer camera. It is certainly more expensive, though. Since I have zero experience with either of these items, your input would be greatly appreciated. :)

I have a Kindle e-reader which I absolutely adore, but that is a completely different product from the tablet line. I also note that all Kindle e-readers are now moving to a touch screen. I would love one of those, but I can't justify it just yet when my older Kindle still works like a champ, and I use it *daily*.

Ok, so, have at it! I would appreciate everyone's input on this one. :)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Muddy grass, dead leaves and active insects: Adventures in garden belly dancing...

This is a two dance post kind of a week, apparently. :) But they're fun for me to write, and I hope that you all enjoy reading them even if dance isn't your passion as it is mine. I thought I'd pen a quick summary of our performance adventures yesterday, since they are inevitably amusing, and this instance was no exception. It'll be back to Catholic stuff tomorrow and Friday. :)

As I mentioned, our venue was a community garden, and we were under the impression that the place was quite spacious. We all met at the studio and drove in one car to the garden since it was in a city location none of us were very familiar with. Well.

We roll up in Claire's car and survey the scene. In unison, all 4 of us say:

"Oh."

Decidedly NOT spacious. A corner postage stamp with a few handfuls of people standing around. A good number of children and some adults, several of whom look a bit sketchy.

Mackenzie summed up exactly what we were all thinking when she said:

"So often with these dance gigs, you drive up and see the event, and you just want to keep on driving."

:0

We pile out of the car. We knew that there would be zero space in order to dress, so we all arrived in our costumes with flowy coverups over top. We each have flower trays, Claire has a giant sound system, Mackenzie has a silk veil blowing in the breeze behind her, and I have a sheathed sword. Inconspicuous we were not.

Everybody turned to stare at us as we walked up. Claire found the woman who had organized the event, who had lovely purple hair, by the way. :) No judgement here, this is coming from the woman wearing a hot pink caftan cover up. I always thought pink highlights in my hair would be pretty cool, actually, but I digress.

She's all excited to see us and Claire asks her where we will be dancing.

"Oh anywhere you like! The grass isn't *too* muddy."

Glamour, all glamour.

We find a tiny cleared spot to set up and confer in a huddle. We make the immediate and unanimous decision to excise the solos, save for Claire's. This is an awkward situation without many audience members, and shorter is always better in such circumstances. Leave 'em wantin' more!

I will say that the small crowd that gathered around us seemed pretty into it. There were maybe 20 people there, and they looked on curiously and politely as we got ready to dance. We start the first group number.

As we enter and start our first formation I espy a gaggle of small girls in the front of the crowd. They appear *very* interested, and one little girl is clearly watching me and mimicking my arm and hip movements, trying to dance along with us. She was *adorable* and I gave her approving beams in regular intervals.

Our grassy surface was making turning difficult, and leaves kept getting caught in the hems of all of our skirts, so we dragged them around with us, there was no help for it. :0 I stepped on the hem of my skirt multiple times, crunching leaves as I went, that was a first. But keep dancing I must!

Around the time we started the drum piece I noticed that a few cars had stopped to watch us dance, and lots of people were taking photos and videos of us on their phones. I always wonder about where those photos end up, but such is all of our lot in life in today's day and age.

When we finished, Claire came out to dance, and she immediately got the eager little girl up to dance with her. This went over very positively, and soon she had other willing volunteers to dance with her. She is *very* good at interacting with the crowd that way. One girl was reluctant at first, but soon Claire had her relaxed and dancing. I'm *terrible* at this. I really don't want to ask anyone to dance with me for fear of rejection anyway :0 and should they show any signs of reluctance I'm already wide eyed and dancing in the opposite direction.

#IntrovertBellyDancer

When Claire's song was over, we just had our tray/improvisation number left to go. Leaving the most fun for last, no? :)

We did the tray balance thing, and Mackenzie was the first to improvise. She used a silk veil and swirled around in an absolutely lovely fashion. I had my sword at the ready and was batting away a few insects while enjoying her dancing as she floated to one side. It took me a couple seconds to realize that she had exited our "stage." She didn't use up quite as much music as I anticipated, but then again, normal people don't time things as anally as I do. :0

I recovered quickly and sashayed my way out to the forefront. I had been so caught off guard with my start time that I didn't really have time to be nervous. I spun a few times and balanced the sword on my fingers while I did a few hip movements. The music crescendoed, it's wonderful when things work out like that :0 (if I had tried to plan this, it never would have gone so well), so I took the opportunity to balance the sword on my head. It went well, and I could tell that our gaggle of tiny girl fans really liked this part. The sword is always a crowd pleaser. :)

I danced until a good stopping point in the music and exited so that Lara could dance with her flower tray. When she finished up, we all breathed a sigh of relief. We were done, and our small audience seemed to have enjoyed it. Only about 15 minutes had elapsed. :0 But, hey. They weren't paying us, and things ended with the crowd happy. That's a good note to finish things on.

So that was that. It wasn't glamorous, but it certainly was fun and makes for a good story. Onward to our next dance adventure!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Belly Dance Tuesday: "Just make something up. Can you bring your sword?!"

It's *always* interesting with my dance girls, let me tell you. We were back together on Friday after a 2 week break and excited to move on to new movements, choreographies and performances. Claire brought back tons of great fodder from the convention she attended in Miami, and we had a good time with that for the first half of class. She took a Shaabi workshop that particularly inspired her, and she led us in energetic new combinations in that style. Shaabi is a less inhibited style of dance, commonly called "Egyptian street dancing," and it isn't my favorite. What can I say? I'm inhibited. :0 When it was my turn to make my way across the floor, Claire called out to me:

"Do your shoulder shimmies like this, more free form. Less ladylike!"

*snort*

So after all of that, we had to rehearse for this garden gala that we're set to dance in tonight. Turns out, only 3 of us, plus Claire, can make it. This make choreogrphies and formations very difficult, with so few people. But we've been dancing together a long time, and we always find a way to make things work. Our solution?

"I'm going to put the music on. Let's see what happens!"

She put on a pop song that's been in our repertoire for quite a long time. We had to switch up sides to enter from with just 3 of us, but other than a few minor modifications, it actually worked. Good. We have the new drum piece that would not have worked with 4 people (since Claire joins us for that one), so she put on a previous drum number. Claire calls our memory of this particular piece "Pavlov's Dogs" because she thinks we know it so well we could do it at any time without thinking. And she was right. We all remembered it. Another score. So that's 2 short numbers taken care of.

"How long do we have to dance for?"

"We have an hour. But that's not happening. Sooooo... as long as we can?"

Joy. :0 And we're going to be outside, with chilly weather.

"Ok, let's talk about the wings number. Hopefully it won't be windy."


Because nobody wants to see the miraculous flying belly dancers.

We quickly determined that our wings number would look weird with only 3 people, given the formations we usually have in the choreography. We start out that piece with a tray balancing sequence. Claire suggested we do the tray balance segment, and then just take turns improvising for the rest of the song.

Now, here's the thing. :) When I first started dancing, the above sentence would have made me reel back in horror, as if I had just seen maggots in my garbage can or some such thing. Up in front of people who are watching me. Dance. Without a fixed choreography of any kind, just making a routine up on the spot. Oh, and:

"Why don't you each use a different prop. Tiff, can you bring your sword?"

With a sword balanced on my head.

Fantastic. :0

But I've gotten braver with dance the older I get, so thank God for small favors. We each have about 45-50 seconds to improvise. I know this because I carefully timed the music and divided by the number of people. I'm a Type A freak, no need to belabor. ;-) At first, I thought that given the short time frame, I would just balance the sword on the side and when it was my turn dance out with it already on my head. But I changed my mind. With a sword, dancers *always* balance it while out in the performing space. You can build some nice anticipation that way, and it just looks nicer. Plus, it will eat up a little time. ;-) So that's what I'm going to do. I'm hoping that it goes well.

#PrayForMe

So that's 3 numbers. Claire will do a solo.

"We still have a lot of time to work with. Why don't you guys do solos too."

So now I'm making up yet more stuff, this time for a full 3 minutes. :0 This involved picking out a song on Claire's iPod that I can improvise to. All by my lonesome, eek. I picked an even tempo instrumental piece that I'm very familiar with. 2 minutes and 58 seconds of anxiety, right there.

I do like improvising better than choreographing a piece. I'm more relaxed and I perform better, I know this for a fact, I've seen the videos (yikes! :0 It's always terrible to watch yourself on video, in my opinion). But it's still scary. :) I'll usually plan how I'll enter the stage, an ending pose, and maybe a few accents therein. But otherwise, I just do whatever moves me in that moment. Sometimes, two movements will come into my mind at the same time, collide, and leave me executing a mangled combination of both that resembles Middle Eastern dance only in the most tangential of ways. But I press on. I always feel better about my dancing when I improvise. I feel like I project a more relaxed vibe, which is always good. The emphasis being on *more.* I'm never fully relaxed when up in front of other people, but I do what I can.

Soooooo...that's the "plan." :0 I practiced a bit over the weekend, but I don't have a lot of free time at home in order to dance. Plus, my practice studio consists of our kitchen with the microwave as my audience, so conditions are not great. 

I'm sure this is going to be amusing, and I will report in tomorrow. Hopefully, I won't be completely traumatized. ;-)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Of swinging from pews & tantrums in the aisle - Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross 2014...

I generally like to tie the theme of these liturgical day posts around the readings, but that would assume that I actually *heard* the readings, soooooo...that can be a problem on weekends like the one I just had. :) In looking back through my Magnificat, I see that the second reading and Gospel were very dramatic in tone (the "at the name of Jesus, every knee should bend" reading from Philippians, and "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son" from John) so that fits with the tone of my weekend, I suppose. ;) Let's discuss.

This weekend marked the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, a nice highlight to celebrate during Ordinary Time. We decided to attend the vigil Mass this week to accommodate a Sunday morning trip to the cider mill, and instead of our regular parish we went downtown to a beautiful historic church that Mike loves.

Well. It seems to me that our daughter, little Miss Sassafras Anne, behaves much poorer when we're all together at Mass. When I have the kids by myself, she toes the line pretty well. Usually. You know how that goes. So anyway, we arrive just before Mass starts, and I was all looking forward to some quiet time to pray and recollect. This church has a large and beautifully detailed crucifix near the front of the sanctuary by the votive candles, and I thought that would be perfect to use as a meditation aid for this particular feast. Doesn't that sound lovely?

Unfortunately, the moment we cross the threshold of the holy water font, Anne announces:

"MOMMY! I have to go to the bathroom!"

I try to talk her out of this so that we can at least have Mass underway before we have to depart again, but she will not be dissuaded. We find an empty pew, and Henry says that he also has to go. A real party, no? I head to the back with both kids while Mike gets our stuff settled into our pew. I couldn't find the restrooms at first, then discover that there is only a single stall unisex situation. Henry hustles in.

*long suffering sigh*

I stand with a squirming Anne outside the door until he is done, and then she and I go in. Only for her to sit on the toilet for perhaps 30 seconds before declaring that "the pee pee isn't coming!" Wherefore art thou, pee pee? It was hiding, apparently. And no amount of persuading was getting it to unmask itself.

I got her reassembled and washed up. By the time we get back to the pew to join Mike and Henry, Mass has begun, and the congregation is singing the Gloria. And then the real fun begins. :-\ I was looking forward to seeing the red vestments and any other special liturgical enhancements for this particular feast, but my attention was totally distracted by Anne's attempt to swing from the end of the pew out into the center aisle. Immediate ceasing of this activity brought about truculent responses and dramatic evasive body movements. When my quiet but stern lecture to her on proper church behavior resulted in the ever popular Toddler Makes Body Go Limp While You Struggle To Corral Them As They Begin To Scream maneuver, Mike scooped her up and brought her to the back vestibule for a spell. Since he holds her and won't let her down to run around, Anne *hates* this, as you might imagine.

By this point, it was the homily, so I had completely missed the readings. But I had a nice break with just Henry by my side to listen to that and recite the Creed. Mike and Anne came back around the time of the collection, during which time Anne refused to put the money in and it had to be wrenched out of her fist. When I got the money out of my purse, she noticed her forgotten little pink Lalaloopsy purse on the pew beside it. Before I can stop her, she grabs it and dumps the contents out onto the pew. Clattering out we had:

A Brillo pad;
A headband;
A keyring in the shape of an alpaca;
A plastic cracker with slice of cheese affixed;
A plastic piece of cake;
A purple toy cell phone complete with picture of Dora the Explorer on it.

She rummaged through the stuff just long enough to make a lot of noise with it, and then turned her attention to the giant pulpit positioned to our left. This church has an old style raised pulpit that's in the center of the congregation, and I've only seen it used during Christmas Eve Mass. Anne decided that it would be super fun to go over there and explore the bottom of it, which we didn't necessarily have a problem with, but then she started running in circles around the base. Yeah, NO. Her retrieval went over like a lead balloon to the surprise of absolutely no one, and by this point I was counting down the liturgical acts until we could hightail out of there. A shame, but such is the way of things when a toddler is in tow.

And the cider mill thing that we rearranged everything for? Let's just say that I'm repressing the memories from that little outing, and so are poor Mike and Henry. Going anywhere with a 3 year old runs this risk, and our luck just ran out this weekend.

When we got back from that disaster on Sunday, I decided to run some errands to try and perk myself up, and I brought Anne along so that Mike could get some lesson prep work done at home. I will say that she was actually pretty good for this trip, with the exception of trying to boycott sitting in the cart at Target, saying she's "a big girl now!"

#WHYGODWHY

I remedied this little situation with good old fashioned bribery, and everything was fine from that point on. We made it to Target, Carter's and the craft store, all without incident. Our last stop was at the liquor store to pick Mommy up a treat for later. ;-) We got there at approximately 12:02 pm, and in New York alcohol can't be sold until after noon on Sundays, so the place with mobbed with anxious football fans. :0 It was a humbling commentary on my weekend as I stood in line with two magnum sized bottles of wine, and my toddler shouts over to me from her perch at the display of mini sized $1.00 bottles of vodka:

"MOMMY! THEY HAVE THE CHERRY WHIPPED CREAM KIND YOU LIKE!!"

...and I don't even blink before replying:

"Ok Honey, grab two!"

:0

And so that was my weekend, dear reader, how was yours? I have lots of dance news, but I'll save that for tomorrow. Belly Dance Tuesday! Come on back tomorrow afternoon if dance posts interest you. :)

Friday, September 12, 2014

7 Quick Takes {Take 53} Fall weekend activities commence, and encountering the saints edition...

-1- Apple cider for everyone!

Hello everyone, and happy Friday! This second weekend of September marks my family's official beginning to the frantic stuffing in of autumn-related activities. Fall is my absolute favorite season of the entire year, and I never want to waste a single opportunity to partake of something festive. This weekend, we have lined up a trip to the farmer's market on Saturday morning, and then a pilgrimage down to our favorite cider mill on Sunday. The cider mill is so popular, that we're attending the vigil Mass on Saturday evening just so that our Sunday morning is freed up to arrive at the mill the instant they open. Otherwise, you get trapped in a long line and the place is so small that you really can't breathe, let along shop in the cute gift store while chasing after unruly toddlers. :0 I'm hoping to come home with some pumpkin fudge and lots of candy corn, in addition to the requisite vat of cider.

*beams*

-2- Getting to be sweater weather, and who doesn't love *that*?!

We've had some mild weather here in WNY at the beginning of September, but this weekend is taking a turn to more seasonable temperatures. There is a little bite in the air this morning, and I've officially moved from my open toe work shoes to my cute new pumps. And lots of cardigans.

But finally, I blocked and dried the tweed sweater that I knit for myself. Only took a year, I'm super speedy like that. ;-) Here it is, with my weekend up-do in place:

I'm very happy with how it turned out, but it is wool, so there is an itch factor. I'm going to get a light long sleeved tee or something like that to go underneath. Nice and toasty for the winter.

-3- Been a busy, crafty bee...

Besides finishing the sweater, I knit a hat for my nephew:

This is the second of two, for a set of twins. :) I'm going to Maine to see them next month for their birthday, and I wanted to assure that the hats were done in time. I'm very excited about that trip. I also made a pair of earrings, I call them Copper Fire :)

I really like the cool cord that hangs from the back of your ear when you wear these. They're very simple, but fun and go with so many outfits.

-4- Back to my belly dancing ways...

After a two week recess, my dance troupe is finally back in session tonight. I have missed it badly, but with that nasty cold I had, the break was actually timed fairly well.  We have a performance coming up on Tuesday, so tonight will be some frantic practicing of routines that hopefully haven't gotten too rusty in our minds. After dancing together for so long, we're pretty good at winging things on the fly. I will report back in on the performance front on Wednesday, and I'm very glad to be getting my weekly dance fix back. :)

-5- You mean there are children's books on saints that I haven't discovered yet?! NOT POSSIBLE.

You know me and my Type A devotion to the saints. Not to mention my Type A approach to books and librarianship.

*halo*

Well. A few weeks back, I received a book to review for Catholic Library World. The editor let me know it was a middle reader book, and asked if that was all right with me. Of course! I answered. I always like getting new ideas for reading material for Henry. Well, it arrived, and it's:

http://www.amazon.com/Saint-Thomas-More-Conscience-Encounter-ebook/dp/B00L8B0VVI/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1410530922&sr=1-1&keywords=encounter+the+saints+thomas+more

:0 I LOVE it! It's part of a *whole series* of books, published by Pauline Books & Media, called "Encounter the Saints," and they are written for middle readers aged 9-12. Henry and I have been reading a chapter each night before he goes to bed and it's very well done. There are several others in the series that I'd like to get him, especially the St. Kateri volume. Nice Christmas gifts I'm thinking!

-6- The book club approaches!

Our next official Catholic Book Club date is September 24th, and I have started reading the book in the evenings. This month, we're reading Dominican Life, by Walter Wagner, OP.

This is a series of retreat talks that Fr. Wagner gave, and it's a very nice way to wind down the day and reflect on things. The focus is on the Rule of St. Augustine and how it applies to religious men and women, and laypeople alike. Do join me if this sounds interesting to you! I have this on my Kindle, and it's $7.99 for that version right now, $12.60 for the paperback on Amazon (eligible for Prime!).

-7-Liturgical calendar nerdiness

This Sunday is technically the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, but it is also the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. This feast commemorates the dedication of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher, which was built on the location of the Crucifixion. When the church was under construction, three crosses were found, one of which was identified as being that of Christ. An interesting story there, involving St. Helena, go check it out. :) Our priests will be wearing red vestments that day in commemoration, another fact I find terribly interesting. I love Church calendars.

My attention to this upcoming feast was drawn by listening to Monday Morning Catholic this week, a podcast I've been subscribed to for about 3 weeks now. I really like it, and you can subscribe easily on iTunes. Besides the Sunday readings, this week the panel also discussed liturgy generally, and being the Catholic nerd that I am, I was totally fascinated.

All right, back to work for me. Talk to you all on Monday! And check out more 7 Quick Takes over at Conversion Diary!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

On a difficult morning, gifts to help us remember the importance of intercessory prayer...

Morning everyone. This is always a difficult day each year, and as I was plotting out a prayer plan of attack yesterday :) the mail arrived, and I received some beautiful reminders of our faith and the great cloud of witnesses that have gone before us. Remembering that we can call upon their prayers brought me great comfort, and I thought I'd share what I received with you all, to perk us up a bit on a very somber morning.

I mentioned previously that I adore saint peg dolls, and I collect them and buy them for my children. Henry, in particular, likes to display his along with the small saint statutes we seem to acquire any time we're at a Catholic gift shop. Henry is a huge fan of the saints, and I had a proud Catholic mother moment when his teacher commented to me how well he does in their religion curriculum and always contributes interesting saint tidbits at impressive intervals.

#beams

I adore instilling a love for the saints into my children, and I'm so grateful that I have the opportunity to share this with them. A few weeks back, I placed an order with St. Luke's Brush on Etsy for a few new saint dolls. These are the friends that arrived yesterday :) and they and I had a little photo shoot in my office this morning so that I could show them to all of you.

For Henry's Christmas stocking, I chose one of his very favorite saints, St. Isidore the Farmer:

Isn't he amazing?! Here's a side view:

He is depicted carrying a scythe and a sheaf of grain. The detail is just spectacular. I'm so excited to give him to Henry.

For the family generally, to adorn the fireplace mantle, I requested a custom doll since the shop didn't include a listing for her: Our Lady Star of the Sea. The owner/artist (his name is Gary) is *extremely* kind and attentive, and got in touch with me to talk about the imagery to use in the doll. He messaged me a few days ago to let me know that Our Lady was completed, and that he thinks it's one of the best dolls he's ever painted. Given that I had already seen his gorgeous work, I couldn't imagine how this could possibly be even better :0 but I was pretty antsy with excited anticipation. Here she is:

She is *beautiful*! She has a gold star in the center of her nautical wheel, and is holding an anchor. On the sides, you can see the the edges of the anchor:

...and the lovely waves of water:

I am so, so pleased with the dolls. I have Our Lady Star of the Sea on my desk now, and just looking at her makes me feel soothed. Especially on a day like today, it's a wonderful reminder every time I see her to pray a Hail Mary and ask for Our Lady's intercession for peace in our world.

There is now a listing up for Our Lady Star of the Sea, if you or anyone you know has a devotion to her, like I do. :)

Let us all remain in prayer today as much as possible, and ask for the intercession of our family in heaven.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A tech question (unusual, coming from me): Is the iPod dying off?

Happy Wednesday everyone! I often do book reviews or talk about Catholic products/themes on Wednesdays, but this week I didn't have any of those things ready to go. Instead, I've been thinking about the Apple event yesterday, and how this all affects me in my quiet Catholic librarian sphere. I certainly use a lot of technology, especially at work, but I'm not what I could call a "tech person," really. I'm often way behind the current trends with regards to my personal electronic devices, although I usually come around. :) I'm just very selective about what I buy, wanting to be sure that I'll use and enjoy it.

Besides a laptop that I acquired when I started law school, my very first electronic device was the original iPod Shuffle. The one that looked like a pack of gum. :0 To this day, an iPod (I now own a 7th generation iPod Nano) is the only Apple device that I own. But I was hooked immediately on the convenience and versatility of an MP3 player. I'm from the mix tape generation, so you see what we're working with here. ;-) I got started on iTunes, and the rest of my music and podcast life is history. I'll come back to this in a second.

Besides my iPod Nano, we have a family Nook tablet (which I hate, but that I acquired used and very cheaply) that introduced me to the beauty of quick access to information. Not having to wait to boot up the desktop to post something to Twitter, or look up the title of something? Brilliant! I also have a Kindle e-Reader, which I absolutely love and adore. I was resistant to getting a smartphone for a LONG TIME, but life with a Qwerty keypad gets old quickly in our text message centered world. And text messages are just so imperative for us telephone-conversation-hating introverts, are they not? :0 I also wanted to change providers, because I was paying far too much simply for a call plan that I barely used and 500 monthly text messages. I moved over to Republic Wireless, and bought a Moto G smartphone.

Well. I love it. :0 I mean...I can't even imagine the way I used to live without this thing. I didn't consciously choose an Android device over an iPhone, but this was one of only two phones available if you wanted to go with Republic, so that's what I did. And it was the right decision, I'm saving a ton of money and I love the phone, so it's a win/win. But there are certainly disadvantages to not having an iPhone in our now Apple-centered world of small electronic devices.

And this is where we circle back to my beloved iPod. I'm a dancer, I have a lot of music. And I need to be able to play it easily at various venues for performances, which have so far all been iPod docks. I also download a lot of podcasts. I ADORE Catholic podcasts, I subscribe to eight of them, plus five secular ones. I listen to them everyday while in the car or otherwise have some down time by myself. And so my iPod gets a lot of use.

But it seems to me that Apple is being very quiet about iPods lately, no? The iPod lineup hasn't gotten an update since 2012, and I read that the iPod Classic has flat out been discontinued. The iPod Touch, Nano and Shuffle technically are still available, but their demise is being predicted by many (according to the Google search I did on this very topic :)). A lot of people aren't investing in a separate MP3 player anymore when they can use their phone or tablet to store and listen to their music.

For me, this is problematic, mostly because I don't have an iPhone. My music is all in iTunes, and I don't know how to get that onto my very non-Apple phone. Plus, it seems to be that this would take up a lot of space, and I don't have the capability to play it in my car or for dance events (that I know of). With regard to my car, we're talkin' serious old school here, people. I have a 2000 Honda Civic. This thing doesn't even have an auxiliary input. :0 I use an *fm transmitter* with an adapter since my Nano has the new lightning connection.  Hey, the car still runs like a top, I'm not ready to get rid of my baby yet. :)

Sooooooo...I still love my iPod. It's nearly 2 years old and is starting to misbehave occasionally, so I was thinking of replacing it. But with what? I could get another Nano. But should I? Is this going to be usurped by some as-yet-unknown new device? Or am I going to have to figure out a solution for my phone?

All thoughts are very welcome in the comments. :) And if you haven't read the comments from yesterday's post about getting more involved in our home parishes, please do! Some excellent fodder in there to think about.

*photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/devos/74096598

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Need some ideas - parish involvement? Chime in!

Our very first long Monday of the fall semester is behind us, and I'm very glad that it's Tuesday. :) Mike has his longest day of teaching on Mondays, and the kids had their challenging moments while home with me in the evening, but we navigated everything well. Today is a beautiful day, and I'm wearing cute new tweed work pants and my acorn earrings, what could be better? ;-)

This morning, I was listening to Catholic Weekend on my way into work, and Fr. Cory Sticha (@FrCorySticha on Twitter, whom I met at last year's CNMC, and is absolutely adorable) was talking about a conference he recently attended about building a vibrant parish. He discussed reigniting the parish council at his church, and building a new leadership team.

This got me to thinking, especially with it being fall and the season wherein parish activities get kickstarted for a new year: how can I become more involved in *my*parish? I've wanted to do this for awhile, and the right opportunity just hasn't seemed to come along. I used to volunteer for Children's Liturgy of the Word, and that worked out well for a few years. I felt a bit burned out with that after a time, plus once I started bringing Anne to Mass regularly, it just wasn't feasible anymore. So I began just scouring the bulletin weekly for ideas, and so far...nada. There is a Women's Sodality, but they meet on Monday nights, which is a night I can never attend because of Mike's teaching schedule. Mike also points out that I may be significantly younger than the other members of that organization by several decades. :) That really wouldn't dissuade me if it weren't for the problematic meeting time, although I note that their activities often take place during times I also couldn't do because of my own work schedule (cleaning the altar at 2 pm on Thursdays, for instance, or praying the rosary following 8 am daily Mass). So, for the time being, the Women's Sodality doesn't appear to be right for me.

I would LOVE to look into the parish council, if only my parish appeared to *have* one. :0 I never see anything about that in the bulletin. I just keep mentioning this intention in my prayers, and hoping that one day something will jump out at me.

Do any of you volunteer at your parish? If so, what do you do? How did you originally get involved? Let me know in the comments, I'd love to hear new ideas!

Monday, September 8, 2014

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - reflecting on love while at Mass with spirited children, and fall crafts...

Aren't they precious? :0 Anne helping her daddy mow the lawn yesterday afternoon following Mass. Anyway, happy Monday, everyone! I'm back from a beautiful fall weekend, filled with both challenging children and lovely free time. Let's discuss. :)

It was a beautiful Mass yesterday, late in our season of Ordinary Time leading up to Advent, with the readings focused on loving our neighbor. At our parish, the music ensemble was back from summer hiatus, the bulletin was filled with information on the parish groups and events starting back up, and fall was definitely in the air. Anne was *very* climby - on the pew, down the pew, down on the kneeler, under the pew, swinging from the end of the pew (!). I restrained and distracted her as best as I could. There were a lot of other children there, which helped, since she spent a lot of time clandestinely spying on them.

Henry was very quiet and good, as he always is, but now that he's a bit older and receiving communion, I've been working to instill more reverence into his routine at church. Genuflecting before the tabernacle, praying after receiving the Eucharist, things like that. I can tell that he doesn't like it when I point these things out to him, which makes him not want to do them all the more, so I try and restrain myself when possible and lead by example.

But I'm Type A, so it's not easy. ;-) And I take my promise and desire to raise my children in the faith very seriously. Keeping with our theme from the readings for this Sunday, teaching my children the faith is a duty, but it is a duty that I truly love. I love my faith, and I hope that that love shines through to my children and makes them want to emulate it.

Both children really love the seasonal Catholic traditions that we practice in the home, so I was thinking that Advent may be a good opportunity to light a fire under Henry without his really knowing it. :) In addition to the fan favorite activities of Advent calendars and the Advent wreath, we could start a small prayer tradition. Perhaps I could take Henry with me to Adoration for Advent? I'm toying with some ideas, but a major liturgical season is always the perfect opportunity to introduce a new routine and tradition. I will keep you apprised of my ideas on that front as the season draws closer.

In crafty news, with the NFL season also starting yesterday (I don't count that ridiculous Thursday situation the NFL insists upon :0) I was feeling very much in an autumn mood. While Anne napped, I worked on some seasonal jewelry. I just love seasonal items, the craft store is one of my favorite places to be in the spring and fall. This, of course, from the woman who made Easter egg earrings, after all. ;-) And so, as a sister to the infamous egg earrings, come ta DA! Acorn earrings:

I love them. :) I wore them the whole day yesterday. I also made an autumn-hued rosary bracelet:


I need a cross charm to hang from it, that's enroute, but the Ave beads are a Swarovski pearl mix called "Maple" and I paired it with tiny copper crystals and an olive crystal Pater bead. I love how it turned out.

How was your weekend, everyone? Leave me a comment. It's Monday, and I could use a pick-me-up. ;-)

Friday, September 5, 2014

7 Quick Takes {Take 52} Reporting in from the infirmary, excellent tv, & lots of fall knitting...

-1- So much coughing...

 Happy Friday everyone! Although, over at my house, things are a bit more sick ward-ish. Mike caught my cold, but he is faring pretty well. Which is good, since he has a very demanding teaching schedule. Anne and I are still coughing and a bit headachey, but seem to be mostly getting better. But precious, precious Henry... :( He has asthma, so whenever he gets sick, it hits him harder. I had him at the allergist yesterday, and we had to adjust his medication. He's on a strict new regimen for the next week, and then a slightly reduced one for the next month. He's got to go back to be checked in mid-October, right after we get back from Maine. I feel so bad for him, and this morning he woke up looking glassy-eyed and miserable. We kept him home from school, and he willingly laid on the couch in a pathetic fashion. Poor little guy.

-2- In the evenings, we are obsessively watching...

True Detective. Has anybody else seen this show? Wow. SO GOOD. It aired on HBO, which we do not have, but Mike and I are the king and queen of procuring DVD sets from the library because we are freaks and do not subscribe to Netflix or Hulu. :) We had to wait a while for the discs to come in, but they did last weekend, and it's been a bonanza of viewing ever since. Set in Louisiana, this stars Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey as homicide detectives assigned to a ritualistic-looking murder case that they suspect is the work of a serial killer. The show volleys between two time viewpoints: 1995 when the murder took place, and 2012, where we see the now estranged partners separately being interviewed about their previous relationship and work on the case. A lot has happened between those two dates, to each of them personally as well as new evidence in the murder case. Very, VERY well done. An excellent show. I haven't been this intrigued and taken by a show since Breaking Bad. And you know how I feel about *that* show. I *still* think about it!

-3- While I obsessively knit...

Whenever we watch television, I knit, so I've been very productive of late. I finished this hat last night for my nephew Will's birthday:

I'm going to make his twin brother one in different colors. It turned out very cute, I'm happy with it. And it's a free pattern! Soon to adorn very cute little heads...

-4- But why let knitting obsessions end there?

 My knitting group starting a knit-along this week for a shawl pattern, and I got my yarn all ready to participate. The pattern is called "Leftie," and the purpose is to create a shawlette using up your sock yarn leftovers. I knew that I had some brown fingering weight yarn in my stash in a colorway called "Kindling" that I have been dying to use, plus lots of leftovers in colors reminiscent of fall leaves. So we started the knit-along on Tuesday, and this is what I have so far:

I *LOVE* it. I'm going to keep repeating that 4 color leaf sequence throughout and the shawl will just keep getting larger until I run out of yarn or decide to bind off. Ingenious, no?

-5- I have indeed been hyper organizing my playlists. #TypeA

This is the last week of our summer dance break, and I am glad because I seriously miss it. In the meantime, though, I went through the playlist I keep on my iPod of Middle Eastern songs I could potentially dance to in the future. I cleaned out some songs:

"What was I thinking when I downloaded this?!:

...moved others that I still like, but don't think I'll solo to:

"This sounds too veil-y. And, right. I hate veils." :0

...and downloaded a few more for consideration. I generally prefer upbeat songs, and I love a rock solid instrumental with a few different types of segments to keep things interesting, all packaged into less than 4 minutes. Because I hate cutting music, and I'm terrible at it. So, there are now a nice list of contenders, and I listen to them on my walks to see what inspires me. Our next hafla is November 22nd - exciting!

-6- Feast day today!

 I have been as into the liturgical calendar this year as much as ever, and today is a pretty interesting feast: Blessed Teresa of Calcutta:


I remember the day that she died quite clearly. And isn't it an amazing thing to have lived at the same time as someone who is a canonized saint/well on her way to being one? When I was in graduate school in New York City, I remember calling once to a convent associated with Blessed Teresa's order in the Bronx to inquire about volunteer opportunities there for laypeople. The nun I spoke with was the sweetest thing ever, and gave me lots of helpful information, but I never made it up there to check it out. I am, of course, kicking myself about this now. I would have loved to have seen her sisters in action.

-7- Currently on my Kindle...

Along with the September Catholic Book Club selection, my fiction book this week is My Montana Twins, by Carolyne Aarsen, the third book in the Big Sky Centennial series:


This story centers around a widowed young mother of twins who is struggling to find any semblance of normalcy following the death of her husband a year ago. She is organizing a fair and picnic basket raffle for the centennial efforts, and the town and her church congregation are rallying around her to try and lift her spirits. I just love how I'm experiencing the change of seasons along with the characters in these books, since there is one released each month. I just started this installment, I think I'm 4% of the way in, so a long way to go. But very pleasant so far!

All right, time for afternoon tea. We're planning on watching some football this weekend and ordering in some food. :) Do you have any fun weekend plans for the first of September? Let me know in the comments!

And head over to Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes!