Songs for Chilly Days // A Playlist

I think this has been an exceptional year for fall foliage. When I look out my kitchen window I see several tall trees towering over the houses on the block behind us. Over the last couple of weeks I have the great pleasure of watching them go from green, to yellow, to orange. It makes washing dishes and prepping dinners a lot happier than those tasks might otherwise be. Any reminder that the world is a beautiful place is a good thing.

The trees that line our street couldn't be any prettier than if someone had painted them. They really do look like someone planted them with their fall colors in mind. A red tree, next to a yellow tree, then orange and green, and the pattern repeats itself for blocks. It's been a beautiful autumn and we have been out in it as much as possible.

But not today. Today I can see the snow out my window, not just falling down, but blowing sideways, and I can hear the gusts shake the house and rattle the windows. The tea kettle is on the stove, and I'm feeling more than content to stay inside. Today is a day for hot tea, wool socks, and cozy blankets. And, of course, songs to fit the mood.

I hope you enjoy this cozy playlist, and I hope you are staying snug and warm.

How We Met Pt. 2: Misnomers

If you haven't read part one, you may want to get caught up. 

At the start of each shift at the bakery I would head to the back of the store to stow my purse and don an apron. I'd scan the schedule to see who else I was working with that day, and inevitably my eyes would float to the top of the list where Alex's name was, hoping we might be scheduled at the same time.

It took only a few shifts working together to make me realize that I liked Alex. After that it was only a matter of getting to know him well enough to decide if I actually wanted to date him. I knew he was kind and funny and easy to talk to. I knew we had many shared interests, music, movies, travel. I knew he liked to cook and eat interesting foods. And I also knew that he was a Catholic.

It was this last fact that gave me pause. Unfortunately, in my Evangelical upbringing, Catholics were given a bad rep. "They only pray to Mary, and they don't read the Bible. They don't even know who Jesus is, they just follow a bunch of rules."And as far as I could tell, that was more or less true.

But I wasn't so judgmental as to think that no Catholics could be "actual" Christians too. Alex seemed like a decent guy. He didn't swear or use vulgar language, he was respectful to all our customers and coworkers. I thought there was a good chance he was "for real", but I had to find out. And believing that sometimes it's best to be direct, I asked him point blank.

Me: So you're Catholic right?

Alex: Yeah.

Me: So, what do you think about Jesus?

Alex, after thinking for a moment: Well, He's God, and....I love Him?

I was satisfied. If he asked me, I would go out with him. And I told my sister as much. She worked at the bakery too, and got scheduled with Alex more than I did. "If Alex ever asks you if you think he should ask me out, say yes." Because being a 20 year old who'd never dated, I thought that's how things went.

But that wasn't how it went. We spent half the summer flirting with each other a couple times a week at the bakery before we managed to hang out with a group of coworkers outside of work. On the second of these group hangs, Alex and I were walking to our cars together at the end of the night, and he turned to me and said:

"Amy, would you like to go on a date with me?"

No, that was not a typo.Yes, he called me Amy, which is the name of my little sister, who also worked at the bakery with us. In Alex's defense, I was called Amy by my mother nearly everyday since she was born, and I'm still called Amy by many of my relatives at family gatherings. We're sisters, we look a lot a like, and our names both start with A. It's bound to happen. But it was pretty awkward that he called me Amy in that particular moment. I think I handled it well. I said:

"Yes, but you just called me Amy."

He assured me that he was intending to ask me out and not my sister. And I assured him that it really was not a big deal. We fixed a day and time, and I drove home, probably without seeing any of the road.

Beginnings and Second Beginnings.

Wow. Time does not stand still. Ever.

We are constantly moving and changing, for better or for worse, whether we like it or not, whether we are aware of it or not.

It's something I've been seeing around me a lot these day. In my kids. They are changing every day. They are getting bigger, trying new things, pushing boundaries, surprising me by putting away the Play-Doh without being asked, eating lentils and saying "It's yummy!", and asking me, "Mama, how old are you?"

I see it in Alex. He graduates from PA school in less than two months! It seems like it was last week that he was starting school and trying to navigate class schedules and balancing study time with family time, and now he's applying for jobs. He's been a student the entire time we have been parents, and in just a short while, Lord willing, he will be working as a health care provider.

I see a lot of change in me. And most of it is recent. If you follow me on Instagram you are certainly aware that a couple of weeks ago I got to go on a retreat with my fellow Blessed is She writers. #BISTeamRetreat. I had been looking forward to it for months as a much needed break from my darling children whom I love, but whom I am around all the time. And while being an off duty mom for a couple of days was heavenly, there was so much more that happened. More than I could have possibly imagined.

To put it in one sentence, I got to sit at the feet of Jesus and just *be* with Him in a way I have not done in years. I've never been far from the Lord, but the cares and chaos of parenthood have made it difficult to have quality time with Him. It's like the difference between taking gulps of your drip coffee from a travel mug while flying around doing a million chores and errands, and sitting down with expertly crafted latte in a beautiful mug and just drinking it, and doing nothing else.

I got to just sit, and breath in, and drink deep.

I have gotten way off course from what I originally intended to sit down and write about. The point is, my heart has been renewed and I am so thankful.

The reason I was thinking about newness in the first place is that I wanted to tell you about some new things!

The first is that the 2017 Advent Journal from Blessed is She is available starting today! This year's journal, In The Beginning, is written by Laura Kelly Fanucci, who is one of my very favorite writers, and such a lovely and inspiring woman, and it is designed again by Erica Tighe, who has such a beautiful heart and it is really evident in everything that she makes.

I've already had a chance to look through my copy and not only is it beautiful to behold, but the content is stunning. In the Beginning will be looking at the beginnings of each of the four Gospels. Because, beginnings matter. As Laura puts it,
"The beauty of beginnings is how they invite us to behold with fresh eyes. This is why newborns are a wonder. Why gardeners love spring. Why fans cheer at kickoff. Why falling in love makes your heart flutter. Why you can't sleep the night before a new job. Why the start of each school year sparkles with promise...Anything could happen. "
I am really excited to incorporate this journal into my prayer life this advent. The Advent journals have been wildly popular in the past and they always sell out. So if you want to get one, you better get on it. And if you want to use my affiliate link to shop, I would be so appreciative.

The second new thing I wanted to share with you is not really a new thing. It's an old thing that I have spruced up a bit. And it's my Etsy shop! Middle West Knitting Co.

Oh, you have an Etsy shop? Says almost everyone I talk to about this.  In the past I have not done a good job of getting the word out about my shop, and so it languished, and last winter I shut it down completely. But I love to knit, I am not happy unless I have a project on my needles. And since my own children can only wear so many hats, I thought now was a good time to re-open the shop.

My plan is to keep the shop open leading up to Christmas, and then take a break for a while, and maybe open it up again with some springtime offerings. So, if you're into shopping local/handmade/small business for Christmas gifts, I'd love it if you'd stop by. I also love collaborating with people for custom orders, so if you've got something in mind you'd like to have made for yourself or someone you love, get it touch with me!

Thanks for sticking it out with me here. I hope your autumn is going beautifully.

How We Met Pt. 1: Bakery Love

When people ask how Alex and I met I tell them we worked at a bakery together the summer after my sophomore year of college. That's when we started dating. But we first met three years before that.

Alex was the one working at the bakery and I was working at the smoothie place next door. It was the summer the movie Napoleon Dynamite came out and I was rocking a side ponytail a la Deb and Alex thought that was pretty cool. He made me a mix CD with a bunch of They Might Be Giants songs on it, and I thought that was pretty cool. We chatted in the back hallway and traded muffins for smoothies. We car pooled to a mutual friend’s birthday party. I made Alex a survival care package when he went on his first trip to India, because I had gone with my church youth group the summer before.

And that was the extent of our acquaintance for three years.

I was, at that point in time, pretty ok with not having a boyfriend. I had an amazing group of girlfriends in high school. We had so much fun together, going to shows and music festivals, dressing up like pirates for the midnight premiers of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, having keggers (root beer kegs, that is), watching The Princess Bride and Little Women, and laughing until our sides hurt and our faces were wet with tears.

We were a sisterhood. That sisterhood gave us a sense confidence, security and self worth that I think is very uncommon among teenage girls. We also were deeply aware of our shared identity as beloved daughters of God, and this belief lifted us above what was normal for girls our age. Sure we had crushes on boys, but very few of us dated. I’m so thankful for the innocence and simplicity of my teenage years. I never felt the need for a boyfriend because I was too busy having fun with my friends.

So while I had a crush on Alex, at the very tender age of 17 I would have freaked out and never spoken to him again if he had asked me out then.

I worked at the smoothie shop until I went to college. Then the summer after my freshman year I traded my smoothie-maker's visor for a bread-seller's apron and started working at the fateful bakery. But I didn’t see Alex at all. While I was pedaling pumpkin muffins and pumpernickel, Alex was traveling to India, Ireland, and then did fall semester in Spain, and I went back to my own school for Sophomore year. Alex was coming back from his semester abroad just as I was leaving for my semester in India. We were ships passing in the night.

But there was one thing that connected us. And her name is Amy.

My little sister Amy started working at the bakery that winter. She was there when Alex came back from his travels, and she would tell him about my travels. She told him about the fun things I was doing and she also told him about how hard my time abroad had been and how homesick I was.

When Alex heard that I was having a hard time, he sent me a Facebook message. I remember it being only a few lines, and couldn't quite remember what those lines were, so I looked back in Messenger to see if it was still there. And it was! Thanks Facebook! It wasn't a few lines though, it was a few paragraphs. The opening sentence read "I would have sent you an email, since I think Facebook messages are sort of silly, but I don't have your email address." Oh 22 year-old Alex. If only you knew then how much you would go on to use Facebook Messenger.

But I've gotten sidetracked. His message was very encouraging, telling me to hang in there, that I was in the middle of an amazing opportunity, and that even if it was hard, it would have a huge impact on my life. It made me smile, and I filed it away in my brain under "pleasant surprises."

Meanwhile, still in India, I began to feel a dissatisfaction with my heretofore status as single. I had a desire for marriage and was feeling ready to be in a relationship. I poured out my heart to the Lord about this over and over again during that semester. I had trusted Him with my heart and my dating life, and I had really been ok with where He had lead me so far. But now I was 20 years old, and I was feeling like it was my turn.

I was ready for something to happen, and I felt that change was coming, but I had no idea what it would be. So when I got home from India in May of 2007 I resumed my job at the bakery, and kept on waiting.

Product Review: Lark Adventurewear

This sweltering Monday afternoon finds me camped out in front of one of our TWO window air conditioners. Wait. Don't you live in a two story house? Yup, that's right. And still only two air conditioners. They're like the Little Engines That Could, chugging away all summer.

The kids have *Thankfully* lined up their naps today, enabling me to enjoy these tasty guys from Trader Joes.

TJ's, why you keep doing this to me? Why you take all my money and then give me love-handles? Maybe we should break up.


Summer is halfway over. We've been enjoying the nice weather as much as possible and sweating and melting our way through the hot days. I used to try to stay clean on hot days. But now that I almost always have sweaty kids attached to me, I've given up the fight.

Alex says that he loves the smell of sweaty little kids in summertime. I did too, for about the first week of summer. Now it's just sweaty kids all time, and trying to figure out how the keep them dry and clean while still satisfying the desire/need to go outside is another fight that I've been giving up on.

Then I got a sweet little package from Lark Adventurewear in the mail and am feeling like maybe there is hope!

Lark Adventurewear makes breathable, moisture-wicking clothing to help keep your little people cool and dry while they're having their summer adventures. I have not come across a product like this before. It makes so much sense! We've got moisture-wicking active wear for adults, so why not for little kids and babies? Lark Adventurewear makes super cute clothing and pajamas sizes newborn-2T. I hope they continue to expand because I'd love to see something Johnny-sized in this fabric. 

We got the Short Romper, and there are so many things I love about it. I love the cute pattern. I love that it has snaps at the top as well as at the bottom. Trixie's off-the-charts head size means that sometimes we can't get clothing over her head. Not the case with this! I love how soft the fabric feels and that it does seem to keep Trixie less sweaty. I also love that it has sleeves. I recently realized that most of the summer clothing I got for Trixie is sleeveless, and so I have to be extra vigilant about sunscreen for my fair-skinned girl. It's nice to have an outfit that covers her little shoulders, but is still light and cool.  This is definitely going to be a wardrobe staple for us this summer. 

If you think you could use some warm weather baby gear, Lark Adventurewear is offering 15% off your order with coupon code ANNA15. Take a look around their site and see if there's something for your little sweat bundle. Happy shopping!

disclaimer: This is post sponsored by Nakturnal. 
I received this product free of charge in exchange for an unbiased review. 
All opinions are my own.  

CWBN Recap and Decompression Session

Have you heard me talk about the blogging conference I've been planning with my friends Jacqui and Susanna?

Probably, because we've been planning it since last summer. And it's the only thing I've blogged about in the last two months.

Well, it finally happened! And it was AMAZING!

Jacqui said in her recap post that she couldn't think of one thing that went wrong. Well, I can only think of two: 1. I forgot to wear earrings. And 2. We forgot to put out the orange juice with breakfast.

But other than that. It really did go off without a hitch.

Hey Jacqui!

My day started at 5:15 am when Trixie woke up to nurse. I had set my alarm for 6:00 but decided to just stay up to have plenty of time to get ready and out the door. But I was still running terribly behind, went to the wrong place to pick up a donation, and, as already mentioned, forgot to put out the OJ.

Hey Dirty Mirror!

Through the generosity of my in-laws we were able to hold the conference at their beautiful historic St. Paul home. It was the perfect setting for all 40 of us women to hang out and talk about blogging. I cannot thank them enough for opening up their home to us.

We had three friends helping us out in the kitchen throughout the day. They were amazing and are the only reason I got to actually enjoy the conference myself. If you're reading, you know who you are and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

 Most of our menu was hand selected from the very best that Costco has to offer. Our lunch was provided courtesy of my dad's business. And our dinner was catered by local restaurant Gardens of Solanica. Super tasty Greek food. Do yourself a favor and get over there for your next girls night/date night/whatever night.

 We had three sessions, some workshop time, and a Q & A panel.

First, Nell talked about blogging basics - what to think about when starting a blog, how to find your niche, utilizing social media, and working with sponsors and other types of revenue sources. It was incredibly informative. The thing that has stayed with me from her talk was the importance of being authentic. Everyone wants to be seen and heard and build their readership and it's easy to think you need to do all the gimmicks and gizmos and be like all the other successful bloggers out there to do that. But really, all you need to do is be yourself and write about what you're passionate about. Authenticity is attractive.

I have found this to be true. When Jacqui and I went to the first Midwest Bloggers Conference in South Bend two years ago my goal was to grow my readership. For a short while I thought I had to get sponsors and post ads and be a "professional blogger" to make that happen. I tried to go that route and really hated how forced it felt. I realized I'd rather write what's on my heart than write something I don't really care about, even if no one reads it and I and never make a dime off this blog. It's been two years of working with that philosophy. And, even though I would still consider mine a small blog, my readership has grown a lot, slowly, and steadily, and authentically.

Next we heard from Laura. Her talk was about developing writing technique, how to edit yourself, how to "try on" another writer's style, read to write more, journal to write more, how to be vulnerable, but still guard your heart. If you read Laura's blog you know that she very openly shares her heart, and it's beautiful. So I was surprised when she said that only about 10 percent of what she writes ends up on her blog. The rest of it no one will ever see, it's between her and God.

Before I started blogging I used to journal. A lot. I have boxes in our attic filled with my old journals. Since I started blogging I haven't felt the need to journal nearly as much. But maybe I should. Maybe if I wrote more I would find I have more to say.

Finally we heard from Haley, who shared her journey from brand new hobby-blogger, to using her blog to help support her family. The main point that I took away was that you don't need permission to be a blogger. You don't need to be invited. If you have a blog, then you're a blogger. It's not a super fancy secret club.

It was so good to hear Haley say that, because sometimes the blogging world does feel like a super fancy secret club. Blogs can get pretty narcissistic pretty quickly.  Sometimes it feels like a competition to see who has the most fabulous life. It's good to remember that we're all just regular people and we're all just looking for meaningful community. And as Haley put it, it's hard to feel like a big deal when your kid has just thrown up on you.

Wise words.

One of my very favorite parts of the day was giving away all the amazing prizes that were contributed for this event. A Lily Jade bag, a Nena & Co bag, and some Kiki Koyote jewelry, were just some of the goodies.

And we all got some great stuff in our swag bags too! Thank you to Hatch Prints, Brass & Mint Co, Mata Traders, Pink Salt Riot, and Magnificat for being part of our day. (See our full list of sponsors here)

 Love my necklace. And I cleaned my mirror!

And of course seeing my Instagram feed materialize before me was truly amazing. What a world we live in that we get to have such fun! Thank you to everyone who came. It was such a special day.

For more conference recaps head over to Jacqui's

A Tale of Teething and the Best Baby Carriers. And A Giveaway!

You love hearing about baby teething woes, right? Good! Because I love talking about those woes.

Trixie used to be such an easy baby. She took great naps, she slept on her own (through the night, I might add) and she let anyone hold her and put her down for her naps. You could plop her down in the middle of some toys and she would be happy for an hour, leaving me ample time to get all the things done. And then she started teething.

She was a pretty late teether, so we had about 10 months of happy Trixie. But since she got her first tooth in September they have been coming in rapid succession (13 teeth in 4 months) and they have been making her pretty miserable. Obviously this has some major disadvantages during the night, like we are very sleep deprived, crabby, etc. But there are also many day time challenges, like my once happy baby is now clingy and needs to be held all the time. That means something as easy as doing a load of laundry becomes almost impossible, unloading the dishwasher takes forever, and trying to make dinner?  Please don't make me! As much as I'd like an excuse to ignore the laundry and order takeout for dinner, the solution that's better for everyone in my family is to wear that crabby baby. It's the only way to get things done. I know there's probably a thousand beautiful attachment parenting reasons wht you should wear your baby, and they're all great. But in this household, it's just a necessity.  

If you're going to be baby-wearing, it's important to get the scoop on  the best baby carriers out there. I have used a variety of baby carriers over the years, and different carriers have worked better during different baby phases. Here are the ones that I have loved. 

Moby Wrap: This was the first carrier I ever used. Johnny took his first walk in it when he was just two weeks old. He was a baby who always wanted to be held so baby-wearing was something I picked up pretty early on. The Moby Wrap was great for a newborn because it was snug and gave lots of support for baby's head, leaving me totally hands free. The fabric is very stretchy, and as Johnny got heavier we graduated to carriers with less stretch to help support all his baby chub. 

Ring Slings: If you been following me on instagram over the years you know that I love my Sakurabloom ring sling. This was probably the hardest baby carrier to learn how to use. I had to watch many tutorial videos and get help from other baby-wearing friends. But practice makes perfect and that adage is as true for baby-wearing as it is for anything else. It took me and my babies a little while to get used to the ring sling, but now we're all big fans. One of my favorite things about my ring slings is their compactness. They're very easy to roll up into a little ball, so that's what usually comes along on the diaper bag. 

Ergo 360: My structured carrier is the one I have been using the most lately. It's very supportive and can hold a lot of weight. And Trixie is a hefty baby. Have you seen her baby thighs? It's also very easy to wear her on my back with an Ergo, which, when I'm trying to get stuff done, is the best place for her to go. Johnny finds it very amusing when I put Trixie in my "backpack." So not only am I getting stuff done while comforting my baby, I'm also providing entertainment for my three-year-old. Win, win, win.

Speaking of winning. You have a chance to win a $50 gift card to Diapers .com to use towards your own baby carrier. To enter leave your email address with Rafflecopter and then leave a comment with your favorite type of baby carrier, or if you don't have one, the kind you would most like to try! 

Disclosure: this post is sponsored in partnership with Nakturnal. I am being compensated for my time and so are you if you win the $50 gift card! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

7 quick takes vol. 25: summer wrap up

linking up with Kelly for some quick takes.

It's always hard to say goodbye to summer, but it seems especially hard this year. Summer was this beautiful oasis of rest and family time and no obligations. And now it's almost over. Alex starts school on Monday, and the following week Johnny starts school and I start teaching piano lessons again.

Here's a little summer wrap-up before we dig back into schedules and homework and deadlines.


We redid our front porch! We have a three season porch on the front of our house that we like to hang out on, even though it sort of looks like it's about to fall off the house. But we had hardly used it this spring or summer because the carpet that was out there (for who knows how many years) was so dirty it would turn the bottoms of our feet black. I didn't like the idea of Trixie crawling around on it. We decided to rip out the carpet and just paint the wooden porch floor. But since we had the carpet out, we decided we might as well go ahead and paint the walls and trim as well.

I forgot to take Before Pictures until after we had started. So they're not truly before.


And After:


And After:

This was the first house project we'd done since Trixie was born, and it gave me a new respect and admiration for people who remodel/renovate their homes while living in them, with kids. It took us almost a week of late night painting after the kids had fallen asleep. One week and one Ikea trip later we had a new front porch that we absolutely love spending time on. But we were exhausted and I vowed no more house projects for the summer.


But then....

We decided to replace our bathtub! 

The bathtub that was in the house when we bought it almost 7 years ago was a whirlpool, but we never used the the jets because they leak water into our kitchen. Over the years we've been sort of worried that the unused jets were just harboring all sorts of mold and bacteria, so this summer we decided we couldn't bathe our children in there one more time and we had to put a new tub in. 

The online tutorial said you would need one day and two people to get this done. 

I'll spare you all the gory details, but one WEEK later, we had our bathroom back to normal.  Once again, I have no idea how you DIY-fixer-upper people do it. House projects make me really crabby. But I do love the end result. 


During: I cannot handle chaos!!!

And After:

Mad props to Alex for getting this done without having to bring in a professional. (Besides my carpenter brother.) Now that's it's over I'm really glad we did it.  But, #neveragain.


In knitting news. I made this sweater!

And also played around with some sewing and crocheting. Now I am turning my attention to Handmade Christmas. I'd like to make everyone in my family something, even if it's just a little thing. But I have to start now! 


We lost control of the garden. I weeded once in July. But somehow we're still managing to get quite a lot of vegetables! Here's a list I made a couple years ago of things I like to do with my tomatoes. 


Alex and I finally finished Downton Abbey! We had given up on it after Season 3. Too many people had been killed off, and the story felt too contrived. We didn't feel like we were missing out on much, but then I kept hearing from people how great the final season was. So we gave it another chance.  Parts of season 4 were sort of painful, but once we got to season 5 I was thoroughly enjoying myself. And I cried my way through season 6. 


We had a very brief stint of potty training. Johnny doesn't have to be potty trained for his wonderful deaf and hard-of-hearing preschool; they don't want any barriers between DHH kids getting the aural training they need. But I thought it might be nice to have him potty trained for this fall anyway. Day 1 went ok. Day 2 was a nightmare which left me in tears and consulting all my mama Facebook groups. And this, my friends, is why it takes a village. I got so much encouragement and helpful advice. I felt released from trying to get him potty trained right now, and I didn't feel like a failure because of my decision to quit. We are going to wait a few more months and see if Johnny takes any initiative. Thank you everyone who advised me! 


Calling all bloggers! My friend Jacqui and I are planning a Midwest-region Catholic Women Bloggers Conference for March of 2017 here in St. Paul. We're still in the early stages of planning but I can guarantee you it's going to be so much fun!! If you blog and you want to stay in the loop about this you should join our Facebook group. We want to see you all there!