Seven Quick Takes: Friday, January 31

1. My dad is home from the hospital! And by home I mean at his home in St. Louis. I wish I could be there again to help out and just see him, but I am pretty sure that three kids running around the small ranch house my parents own would not be helpful for a tired man recovering from a major surgery. So, I will have to settle for the occasional Skype conversation where all three girls chatter away at him for five minutes and tire him out. It was great to see him looking so well yesterday!

2. I have discovered how I am going to survive the rest of the Winter. I have a plan. I did not realize when we bought this house how wonderful it would be to have South facing windows all Winter. You see, even though we have at least 24″ of snow currently on the ground, and it is crazy cold out all the time, it is sunny most days. Yesterday we woke up to a snow storm that brought us 6 new inches of snow, but as soon as the snow stopped the sun came out. I have sunshine in my kitchen nook from sunrise until 2pm everyday, and then it passes into the dining room, and finally into the living room. I am going to get to sit in the sun everyday for most of the Winter! And the cheery Winter sunshine if much more pleasant than the harsh, hot Summer sunshine.

3. Heavy cream is my children’s new favorite ingredient in food. I made cream of mushroom soup the other night for dinner, and all through the meal my kids were saying: “Mmmmm, Mom, this is sooooo good! This is the best thing I have every had!” And I thought, yes it is a pretty good soup (thank you Julia Child). Then a few days later I made a quiche for dinner, and realized that it also called for heavy cream. Normally I use the highest fat milk we have around, and everyone likes it, but Wednesday I used cream. Oh my goodness, it was the creamiest quiche that I have ever had! G declared to me, “This is my favorite food ever! It is soooooo creamy!” And L said that she liked it even better than macaroni and cheese, which is the biggest compliment on food that one could ever receive from her.

4. I had a girls’ craft night at my house last night. One of my friends from church organized it, and since M was going to be out late at a work dinner, I decided to host it this month (after I got the kids in bed). We had a really nice time, so nice that it was 10:45 PM before anyone realized it, and that is late for a bunch of moms who have husbands who work and children who need help sleeping. I took it as a good thing, that we were having such good conversation that we lost track of the time. Thanks for a nice evening ladies!

5. The difference between a Buffalo and a Minnesota winter is that in Buffalo you get lots of snow but you usually get a thaw about once a month or so, but in Minnesota the snow just piles and piles and stays frozen. Here is a comparison of our yard from the summer and what it looks like after yesterday’s snow:

We are waiting to have a sledding hill that is taller than the fence…
The garden with a 20″ fence around it.
Where is the garden now?

The parting of the Red Sea, the Grand Canyon, or our front walk, whichever you prefer…

6. A favorite active indoor activity of my kids is sliding down the (carpeted) stairs belly-down, feet first. They were demonstrating this to my brother and sister on Skype yesterday when my brother reminded me that we had done that in sleeping bags all the time growing up. I can’t believe that I had forgotten about it! I mean now that I remember, I have memories of countless hours flying down stairs into piles of cushions. I am not sure we are willing to sacrifice our nice camping sleeping bag to the sliding on the stairs, but maybe when the kids get their first sleeping bags I will throw that idea our there…

7. I have run out of things about this week. It is hard to think of much when the whole week spent inside soaking in the sunshine in the comfort of my heated home. I’ll just say that F (almost 15 months) refuses to walk, but loves to climb on tables and up and down stairs. However, she has really good balance on high surfaces so I am not too concerned…

Linking up with Jen at Conversion Diary. Head on over for more Quick Takes.

How to Survive the Polar Vortex

 When it is too cold for the old car to start, so your husband takes the van to work,
When your neighbor’s driveway looks like a trench of snow,

When the man in your yard has been frozen for eight weeks, and the lady three as well, and there is no hope of them leaving for three more months,  

Then you put some roses in your sunny kitchen nook, 

Make snowman pancakes with chocolate chip faces,

Soak in the sunshine while you eat your lunch,

Remembering that it is not even Candlemas and still the Season After Epiphany,
And that Lent does not start until March!

Seven Quick Takes: Friday, January 17

1. I had to put down a novel, The Nether World by George Gissing, to write these today. It is either a sign that it is a good book or I have lost the habit of writing since we traveled for three weeks. Or maybe both. I have had several topics bouncing around my head this week and all I have to show for it is that I am 82 pages into a new novel, which is better I suppose than perusing the internet for all of naptimes. Being married to M means that he thinks it is a productive naptime when I sit and read for an hour or so, which is not a problem in my book. I will try to get back into writing in the next week. Another reason I put off writing these is that we did not really do much interesting this week, besides playdate, our church moms’ group, and the library. It was a pretty laid back week. Oh, and I reorganized the kids preschool things moving them from the front closet back to their permanent home in the basement. See, these are the kind of quick takes I am writing for you all this week. Not very interesting.

2. Have you heard of the new Spencer Trappist Ale? While they claim it is named for the town the monks live in, I am sure they also had our family in mind. I hope to try the genuine trappist beer someday; maybe someone will ship it to Minnesota.

3. L (3) has a fever today and I am really hoping that it is not the flu. It would be pretty annoying to have us all get sick, but then I could have reasons to stay inside and at home and not feel guilty not seeing anybody. Please pray for our health, because it would be much more fun to be able to go places. 🙂

4. Sunday it was 39°F out and I took the big girls outside and we reconstructed the old snowman and made him a snowwoman. I am pretty sure that he is a few inches shorter than he was originally. They also took advantage of the warmer temperatures to go sledding with M. They loved it. I think next time we will all have to go.

5. I am really thankful that we invested in a treadmill back in October. I have been using it a lot, and because it is way to cold to exercise outside. I might actually get back to my pre-baby weight. I have managed to after each baby and was giving up on this time since it has been over a year. I guess it just gets harder as one gets older? I mean I am closer to thirty than twenty…

6. M and I spent most of an evening the other night sitting and talking like we used to do back in college. When we lived on campus we would meet up in the courtyard between our dormitories in the evening and pray Night Prayer and then talk for awhile. When we were both off campus, we would eat dinner at one of our houses, do homework, and then sit and talk for awhile until M drove me home or he left for his house. Since we’ve had kids, we usually plan on doing things like reading or watching shows or movies, rarely do we sit and just talk when the kids are in bed. (We talk a lot throughout a day, but evenings are usually for relaxing.) What inspired it was the talk our pastor Fr. M gave at the moms’ group, when he asked about the first dates each woman had had with her husband. Later M and I reminisced about our “first dates” which consisted of walking together all over the campus of Franciscan University of Steubenville, and then the second time we dated all over the little town of Gaming, Austria. Even now walks alone together, especially in the snow, remind us of our early relationship.

7. My friend C gave the girls this Advent calendar published by Magnificat. The kids really like it, and what is so great about it that it has a little window to open on Candlemas Day (The Presentation of Our Lord) February 2, which is the Traditional end of the Christmas season. So, our tree is still up as well as the lights I put up in our nook. If you need a little bit more of Christmas or the Season after Epiphany, come on over. 🙂

Linking on up with the lovely host of Seven Quick Takes Jen the Executive Vice President of Blogging at

Seven Quick Takes: Friday, January 10

1. Merry Christmas (it is still the Season After Epiphany!) and Happy New Year! I took a little vacation from my blog to spend nearly three weeks traveling with M and the kids to visit almost every relative we could and a number of friends. Of four large family gatherings in three different states, we only missed one and that could not be helped. As Road Trip Pros, we clocked 2200 miles on our van going from Minnesota, through Wisconsin, Indiana, stopping in Michigan, stopping in Ohio, going back through Indiana, stopping in Illinois, stopping in Missouri, and then headed back up North through Iowa and back into Minnesota! It was a lot of fun, and we had great times with family.

2. The house survived our prolonged absence without any major problems, without any problems that we can tell. Even the Polar Vortex left our home unscathed. Turning off the water and the hot water heater, and praying continually everyday that nothing would go wrong or flood seems to have worked out for us this time. We would not like to have another Saga of the Leaky Pipe.

3. Our good old snowman still stands in the front yard. I have never had a snowman this old! I will have to post a picture of him when I take a new one.

The day he was made. Now he is five weeks old!

4. The kids had today what we call “the grandparent effect”, which occurs after they have been visiting with other adults who give them more attention than they normally get at home. L (3) complained all day that she wanted to go on another trip, and G (4.5) got so cranky that she took a nap (which happens for her every 60 days or so). F (1) could not handle life today, but I think that was due to teething and having a cold. We will adjust back into normal life soon.

5. When we were in St. Louis, we were reminded of how they deal with snow outside of Minnesota (and Buffalo, NY): CLOSE EVERYTHING! They had 8-12 inches on a Sunday, and then a high of 5 the next day. Everything was closed, all the schools and many businesses. We stayed inside, because, really who likes to be in a -15 windchill? My mom braved the great outdoors to pick up our favorite St. Louis Style pizza. They opened at 4pm for pickup only, and we were so relieved! We almost went all the way to St. Louis without our favorite pizza! We made a Ted Drewes Frozen Custard run the night before the storm, and my dad stocked up on their quart sizes while everyone else was buying milk and bread.

6. Now that we are past the holiday business, I am going to start a Winter deep clean/organization. There are things we moved that we never unpacked and things that got brought up from the basement that never were put back, plus we have a new excess of toys. I am going to make it through the Winter by busying myself inside with lots of things to do. Starting next week I am going to make my lists and get into organization mode.

7. I am not sure what else to say tonight, since I am being waited for by my husband. We are going to rewatch a few Sherlocks before PBS airs the new season in 11 days. If you want to catch up, PBS has the old shows available for watching until January 19.

Linking up with Jen at Conversion Diary.

Seven Quick Takes, Friday Dec. 6

1. We had that cold front the rest of the country had this week. And while Jen’s (linking up with her quick takes here) chart on how cold is so much colder for her in Texas is nice, the reverse chart for Northern people and hot weather is not entirely fair. She gives 10 degrees for “every time you were snowed in”, but the thing is being “snowed in” is not something that happens in the North. That only happens in places where people don’t get very much snow. Here in Minnesota snow is just part of life and you just deal. We even have a massive snow blower that our kind Minnesotan neighbors gave us since they had a spare! But as it is, I don’t mind the heat, it is much more bearable than the cold.

How it feels to live in Minnesota.

2. Speaking of warm weather, I took the kids outside on Wednesday morning since it was a wopping 33°F out and there was fresh layer of snow on the ground. We I built a snowman in about five minutes. The snow was perfect for packing. I could have made the balls a lot bigger, but packed snow is heavy and I was afraid I would not be able to lift it.

He is an artist, which is why he a wearing a beret. I almost gave him a pipe, but thought M might not appreciate his pipe left out in the snow.
 Every time I see this figure right outside our picture window, I do a double take thinking it might be a person standing in the window. 

3. I do confess that I am wimpy about 2°F weather with a -20°F windchill, so much so that we were pretty worried when our furnace stopped working last night. I posted for prayers in a Catholic mom’s Facebook group and right after people started praying the furnace started keeping the house at our set temperature. I am convinced that their intercession played a large part in our furnace running all night. We only got down to 67°F in the house by the time our repairman came and figured out the problem. We now have reliable heat! Praise the Lord!

4. Happy St. Nicholas day! We prepped the kids all week for it and this morning they were thrilled to find the goodies in their shoes. G (4.5) has us figured out and asked, “Why did you put candy in our shoes?”I will not get into it right now, but we are very forward with the kids about pretend things adults do for kids.

St. Nick had Aldi stock up on Sea Salted Dark Chocolate Cover Caramels.
M will be lucky if there are any left when he gets home from work today.

It is pretty amazing how new flavored lipsmackers and hair clips and can keep two little girls happy for hours. It is so funny to see them with the bottom half of their faces smeared with it. My favorite part about St. Nicholas day though, is buying the chocolate Santas and eating them all well before Christmas…

5. Happy birthday to my dear sister S! I am the only sister left in my 20s. I will try not to rub it in. S is a beautiful, wonderful, intelligent, and holy woman! I am so happy that I have her as a sister. We had a great conversation yesterday on the phone and it sounds like she is having a fun gathering tonight. If only I were in St. Louis…

6. I finally finished Crime and Punishment on Wednesday, two days before my goal. It is an impressive book, but I suppose everyone already knows that. I am not sure if I am entirely convinced by the events in the epilogue, but maybe I just need to digest it longer. I will say no more, if you want to know more about it, read the book! This is a great translation. I have now started Baseball and Memory by Lee Congdon. M gave it to me for my birthday two years ago. It is about history, baseball and why they are important to remember.

7. Two weeks ago I asked for prayers for a friend’s baby born by emergency C-section, and since then the family has started a blog with daily updates. Please continue to pray for her, and if you would like to know more you can read the blog. Thank you for your prayers!

Musings on a Snowy Monday

It is not the typical Monday in the Spencer household. The house guests left yesterday morning. We had my in-laws and two sisters-in-law for the long weekend, and it was a very nice visit. Thanksgiving day had the typical delicious fare as well as macaroni and cheese for the birthday girl (L turned 3) and a vegan roast for certain non-meat eaters. To add to the fun, on Friday we had 14 more people arrive for the afternoon: 2 aunts, 2 uncles, 9 cousins, and a fiance. Our new house had its first large party and it survived mostly unscathed (we got the ink spill off the new carpet within minutes of the incident).

The older girls were pleased to have so many people around to play with for three whole days, but by mid-afternoon yesterday, G (4.5) was running a decently high fever and F (1) was miserable with a cold. Today has been a sick day, as L developed a fever this morning. Cranky, sick children makes for a quiet, uneventful day for me. We called the doctor, and she thinks they have “what’s going around.”

And now the snow is swirling about outside and the blackbean soup is simmering with the leftover hambone. The Jesse Tree is awaiting its first ornament of Advent and the wreath is sitting on the table. A friend wished on Facebook yesterday a Happy Catholic New Year, and really that is what it feels like to me. Bringing out our strong liturgical year traditions for Advent really does make it feel like a new year.

I am going to list a few goals I have for this next year:

  • Start making all my own stocks by next Advent. I have a strong dislike for boning meats, and prefer to buy boneless, skinless meats, but it is time to get over it.
  • Regularly cross stitch so that by next Advent I actually have a finished stitched Jesse Tree ornament. 
  • Not cave and restart Netflix and use the library instead.
  • Go through the stuff I brought home from my parents house.
  • Paint the girl’s dresser.
  • Do school every school day.
  • Sew kitchen valance curtains.
  • Be kinder.
  • Listen to my children.
  • Never cease to seek holiness.

Seven Quick Takes, Friday, Nov. 8

1. With the basement finished (my post with pictures is here), I am not sure what else to look forward to, but then I have nothing to complain about either. I guess we can start living in our home unhindered by workmen, their schedules, and daytime drilling and hammering. I want to talk about a few things besides the basement and all of that.

2. M went to a philosophy conference last weekend, and there saw a lot of colleagues that he knows from graduate school, previous conferences, and even former professors. He saw one of my favorite philosophy professors from my undergraduate studies who asked about me and said that he remembered me fondly from being in his classes. That really made my day. For some reason I am always a bit surprised when people, who are not my closest friends and relatives, remember me or are even interested in how I am doing. I just don’t really think of myself a a particularly memorable person. I am thankful to this professor for the beginnings of my formation in more serious, intellectual thought. While I am not doing it professionally, I do enjoy it an aside to the rest of my life.

3. I am also feeling thankful to my mother who came and stayed with us for eight days to help me with the kids while M was away (he was only gone two nights) and celebrate F’s birthday. It is always nice to have house guests who help so much with dishes and cooking that they make it easier to run the house. My father was able to fit a visit in between his church music obligations, and it was great to see him. He took some beautiful shots of our family and of the baby, so if you are on our Christmas card list or a Facebook friend, you will get to see them!

4. After a week of having my mom around at lunch time, I went to make lunch for the kids and had no motivation to do so, especially because they were playing happily in the basement. Even my own empty stomach was ignored to peruse the internet for about 10 minutes before I reasoned to myself that if I just went through the hour process of making lunch, eating, and getting the kids down for naps/quiet time, I could have a quiet time of my own to do nothing (or blog).

5. Question about Minnesota life: If it snows before you rake all of your leaves, what are you supposed to do? Can we count on the snow melting before it really freezes up for the Winter? Further, I wasn’t finished “Winterizing” my garden. Please tell me that there will be a thaw. I will be hiding in my warm, cozy soft basement until then.

6. I have been following a this blog called Blossoming Joy by a Catholic, homeschooling mom since August. There is something about it that I find sweet, and I really enjoy her thoughts and the way she raised her children. Further, I am pretty sure my husband was just like her teenage son when he was a teenager.

7. This is the obligatory comment on my blog about the World Series not turning out as I had hoped. A brilliant author once penned: “Baseball is a cruel, but beautiful game, played in the shape of a diamond.” Let’s all think about that for awhile…


Photo by Canadian Veggie.

For more Quick Takes head on over to Jen!

In the Nick of Time…

We woke up to this outside, and the kids are the only ones happy about another six months of Winter:

What is better? Snow in November or snow in April and May?

 But the new finished basement/lower level was also completed today! It was a long four months of waiting from the discovery of our leaky pipe and flooded basement until now. 

More pictures will come soon! I promise!