Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
~ GK Chesterton

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Have to see it to believe it. . .

Nothin' like making sure your yogurt is low-fat, when you're mixing in the Oreo cookie.

Friday, May 29, 2015

SQT: Book Giveaway!

~  ONE  ~
A Spiritual Growth Plan for Your Choleric Child.  This is the book I have wanted to see for a long time.  This book is what I had in mind when I began my blog, for this is remarkably close to what I set out to do in my scattered way in the Children & Prayer section.  I am thrilled to see this book has been written and published by the very capable hands of Connie Rossini. 

~  TWO  ~
This is not my official book review.  I haven’t had adequate time to digest all the information.  And you wouldn’t expect instant feedback from a phlegmatic personality, right?  Regardless, I am dedicating a Seven Quick Takes to this book, as my contribution to the book launch.

~  THREE  ~
Background. Only in passing have I mentioned on this blog how much I enjoy reading about personality types and temperament types. I’ve been interested in Myers-Briggs for a number of decades now.  (I am an INFJ and test quite strongly on the I and the J.)  I know the M-B types of my husband and my children, which helps in recognizing the reasoning behind the behavior that puzzles us about each other.

I am less familiar with the four temperament types, except to know my own. This book is the first exposure I have had to looking at my children’s temperaments. (I’ve tested phlegmatic in online tests, until I took Connie’s test [see next Quick Take] which put me at slightly more melancholic. Thus, I’m not sure if I’m a phlegmatic-melancholic or a melancholic-phlegmatic.  Either way, this book has helped me see anew my relationship with one choleric in particular.)

~  FOUR  ~
Don’t yet know your child’s temperament?  That’s simple.  Determining Your Child's Temperament: A brief quiz for Catholic parents.  It’s the prequel to the book for the choleric child. Check out Connie’s website for instructions on downloading this.  I think it’s free if you are one of her subscribers.  Or, just buy the Kindle version.  It’s only $0.99.

~ FIVE  ~
Why do you need this book?  It contains three things that are important in any how-tos about children & prayer.  

One: This book assumes that a rich inner prayer life is not beyond the reach of children.  I agree. Many parents today will complain about their own religious upbringing and its watered-down catechesis.  This watered-down catechesis springs, in part, from the belief that children cannot handle anything of depth.  I disagree with this; children hunger for meaning as much as any adult.  I am not saying that every child can be Augustine, if only they are reading the right books.  I am saying that we shouldn’t withhold exposing our children to the riches of the faith merely because they are children.  And I will admit that I’ve failed my children in more ways that I could count, but I live by the hope that those things I have done well for their spiritual growth will help them today and in the future.

Two:  This book is more than just a ‘curriculum and instruction’ manual.  By focusing on temperament, it gets to the core of who your child really is.  An understanding of your own temperament goes a long way in helping your personal relationship with God.  An understanding of your child’s temperament is an important way for you to guide the spiritual development of the little soul placed in your care.  In the book-in-my-mind (see Quick Take ONE), I imagined narratives about meeting a child where he is, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually.  Connie has gone deeper, showing us how the essence of a child’s temperament is the way to find out how to meet a child where he is.

Three: Activities! Lessons!  Lists! Worksheets!  The theoretical meets the practical.  The prayerful heart of Mary gets support from the lesson plans of Martha. You won’t be left thinking, “This all sounds great, but how do I go about it?” Connie puts you on the path.

~  SIX  ~
Go buy this book!  Read this book.  Use this book.  Buy it online, either paperback or e-book.  If you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, borrow the book, as authors receive a royalty when you do this.


~  SEVEN  ~
In order to help share the knowledge contained in this book AND in the interest in supporting a writer I like, I am going to offer a giveaway.  

ONE paperback copy and TWO Kindle editions will be won by three lucky blog readers.  I’ll keep the offer open for one week, ending at the end of the day Thursday, and work out the winner over that weekend. 

We are small potatoes, here at the Irish Stew Blog, so I’m not going to go through the effort of a Rafflecopter or anything like that.  My comment moderation is on, so feel free to leave your name, e-mail address, and preferred format (paperback or Kindle), knowing it will be kept private.  No one except me will have access to your information; I’ll throw away the names and addresses once the winners are drawn. 

NB: Please do enter if you are a ‘real life’ friend of mine; you are not excluded just because you have a personal connection.  And if you’re a visitor who clicked over from elsewhere, visiting the blog for the first time, be assured that the drawing is completely random and it doesn’t boost anyone else’s chances, knowing me personally.

Thanks to Kelly for hosting Seven Quick Takes Friday!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Garden Journal Vol 1, Issue 1

Gardening journals.  They are something that I try to keep up with, if only to reassure myself as the years go by that it really is all right that a certain plant hasn't yet bloomed by the expected date.  Often, that expected date was something I'd conjured up in my head, forgetting what the plant had done in previous years.

None of the journaling in my garden file folder contains photos.  Enter: the blog!

I wish I'd thought to do this earlier in the season.  No matter.  Last weekend's work:

I remembered only after getting started that I'd want photographic proof of my labor under the hot sun.  One bed cleared; the foreground of the photo shows both plants waiting to be planted and weeds about to be weeded.  That tarp is from B&Q - it has held up so well over the years.

 Completed!  That is the new asparagus bed, way up at the top.  Chives in full bloom.  Newly planted: tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, cayenne peppers, and cucumber.

Another view.
Let us pause for the moment to admire the lovely quality of the soil in this pot.  That soil is home-grown.  It came from the compost pile and it is what happens when the detritus of the garden has been left to decompose.  The color is a lovely dark brown.  The consistency is a fluffy dirt that should make those pepper plants weep for joy.  The smell is that of a rich soil.
It is true that there are still chunks in it.  Bits from the ornamental garden grasses haven't quite broken down.  When it is time to put the garden to bed this fall, or perhaps next spring, I will be scooping out the whole pile to add to the vegetable and fruit gardens.  In the meantime, it's where I go to get soil for pots.

Progress on the Mary Garden.  Marigolds are the only annual in this border.  The small plants are all herbs taken from this list of Mary Garden plants.  My plan is to label them with some sort of permanent labels, sharing their traditional (pre-Reformation) names.

A happy petunia.  Why is it happy?  It is growing in the lovely soil taken from my compost bin, thanks for asking.

Just a handful of photos.  A lot more work went into this endeavor than is evident from the scant photographic evidence.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Memorial Day Weekend

For this weekend, a re-post of last year's tribute.

 In honor of those who have died in the defense of freedom.

GK Chesterton wrote, “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”


In honor of military chaplains, both living and dead, via the Archdiocese of Military Services.

Prayer for Military Chaplains
Heavenly Father, bless and protect Military Chaplains and fill them
with the joy and courage of their vocation as personal ministers of
Christ in preaching your word and nourishing us with the Sacraments.
Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Cultivating Silence

How the Devil Detests Silence and Fills our World with Noise

A Note on the Importance of Silence

The first link is full of truths about silence.  How God works in silence.  The need to keep distractions at bay for our spiritual sake.

The second link is mine.  I do feel, passionately, that we need to cultivate silence.  As someone who needs it so desperately for survival of my sanity, I sure do spend a lot of time with self-inflicted noise.

So what happens when you crave this:

But it all feels a bit more like this:

I don't know the answer.  I have my suspicions that being in possession of a good interior peace helps in coping with all the exterior noise.

Neither is there any need for wings to go to find [God]. All one need do is go into solitude and look at him within oneself.
St Teresa of Avila
Way of Perfection 28.2

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Wordless Wednesday

Not quite wordless. 

I pulled over and got out of the car to take these photos.  A full rainbow!  Alas, the one end was already being overtaken by rain by the time I was able to get out of the car.  Still, you get the idea.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Being Little

Don't ask where I found the link for this podcast episode, as I do not remember:

How Our Obsession With Greatness Kills The Ability to Do Good Work

The host and his guest are discussing podcasting (something I won't be doing from this blog, I add, in case you wonder why I am sharing this): how seeking to do grand things hurts the ability to get anything done.  This is true in the secular world; it is true on the spiritual level.

Is there such thing as coincidence?  After I hear a podcaster saying, "I spend so much time trying to make such a small difference, and it kills my productivity," I find St. Therese reminding us what it means to remain a little child before God:
It is to recognize our nothingness, to expect everything from God as a little child expects everything from its father; it is to be disquieted bout nothing, and not to be set on gaining our living. . .

To be little is not attributing to oneself the virtues that one practices, believing oneself capable of anything, but to recognize that God places this treasure in the hands of His little child to be used when necessary; but it remains always God's treasure. Finally, it is not to become discouraged over one's faults, for children fall often, but they are too little to hurt themselves much."

St. Therese of Lisieux
Her Last Conversations

It always comes back to Carmel for me, doesn't it?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Corporal Works

If you ever have the chance to participate in one of your community's emergency disaster drills, I highly recommend it.

Some of my children and I volunteered at the local children's hospital, during a city-wide emergency drill.  The hospital staff said it is helpful to have real people to practice moving through the stages of emergency treatment, as opposed to just pretending patients are there.

Unlike other disaster drills I've read about in the news, we didn't get made up with blood or wounds.

The benefit for us?  Our volunteering meant a behind-the-scenes tour of the hospital.  For obvious reasons, this isn't something a hospital can typically offer.  But in this scenario, we were able to experience the inner workings, without having to suffer any trauma to do it.

I also learned what an actor my son can be.  When he was meant to be an unconscious victim, he never broke the role.  I even threatened to sing, but he couldn't be persuaded to acknowledge me.

I played a patient, too!

There was a sobering moment, when I was accompanying son-as-victim to the PICU.  There were real children, real parents, with real problems at the same time we were doing role-playing.  I said prayers for the well-being of patients, family, and staff.  The corporal work of mercy (volunteering) became a spiritual one.  I think I had that backwards, as spiritual should precede corporal; my wake-up call.

The bright point?  Hospitals have come a long way since I was hospitalized for a skull fracture in 1976.  Back then, the décor was rather sterile, parents were not encouraged to spend the night with their frightened child, and there wasn't much room for privacy in the ward-like room I was in.  Nowadays, the rooms (the ones I saw) were private.  The décor was pleasing.  The rooms were equipped with a couch that could be shifted, futon-like, into a bed.  Funny that all these years later, I  recall what was difficult about my hospital stay.  I'm not saying it would have been a spa-like retreat for me or anyone, but the five-year-old I was would have like a private, nicely decorated room that would allow lots of visiting time with my parents!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Quest: Simplifying the Wardrobe

There's an article that has been making the rounds of the internet. Why I Got Rid of My Wardrobe. Those who know me might laugh: You? A fashion blogger? Um, no. But I am always eager to do what I can to simplify life.

Thus, I cannot get enough of these artcles. Call it what you like: the Capsule Wardrobe, the 10-Item Wardrobe, the Minimalist Wardrobe, the Uniform. Aahhh . . . the idea of a pared-down, well-matched, and interchangeable/coordinated collection of clothes satisfies three issues I have: 1) I lack fashion sense; 2) I hate shopping; 3) I hate clutter.


Some people have it down very well. Luckily for me, my two eldest daughters have it. I believe it is intuitive for both, but the costume-designer-in-training daughter is always able to give me the technical reason for why a particular garment does or does not work on me. Still, even without an inborn eye for fashion, I think most of us have a sense of what makes us feel good, or confident, or presentable. It helps to build one's wardrobe based on that, getting rid of the stuff that makes us feel frumpy or embarrassed to be caught in. This is why the Capsule Wardrobe has been so wonderful for me. Having fewer items, but items that fit well and work with my lifestyle, simplifies things greatly for the fashion-challenged like myself. I keep only the items I love. I donate away what I don't so those garments will be loved by women taller/shorter, heavier/lighter, more suitably skin-toned, etc. for whatever it is I cannot use. Going forward, I refuse to purchase what doesn't fit my parameters.


Maybe it's the HSP in me. Retail stores are overwhelming to my senses. I am always exhausted after being in stores. I never knew why until I came to understand that it is probably too much sensory stimulation for me. Add to this the frustration at being unable to find what I want, and the declining quality of so many garments, AND that too much clothing seems suitable only if you're 20 years old or 120 years old. The Capsule Wardrobe comes to the rescue here: the big reward in knowing what I want in my minimalist wardrobe, and in knowing that I don't want to violate the minimalism, is that I feel less intimidated by shopping. I am no longer satisfied with putting up with something because it "almost" works. Neither will I feel pressured into buying an "almost works" because it's on sale. I WILL walk out, if I'm not satisfied. I still don't like shopping, but I feel as if I'm in control now.


There's the ubiquitous "we wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time." I'm not sure how true this was, when I had a larger collection of clothes. I do know that I kept things for all the reasons that others hoard clothes: this sweater was a gift, that skirt was expensive, that shirt was worn on a special occasion. I decided to purge those things from my closet. I give away the things that others might enjoy. And if it's too tatty to give to the second-hand shop, why on earth would I wear it? I feel physically better when clutter goes away and I hope that doesn't sound crazy. There's such a sense of relief when the world around me shifts from chaos to order. It's very calming. I haven't perfected this "letting go" just yet. I will confess to one superfluous dress that I really cannot wear. It screams 1990s, but I bought it at Goodwill for mere dollars, it still sports its Marks & Spencer price tags, and it has a "Made in the UK" label sewn in. There it is. A huge weakness in my list of inordinate attachments: the Anglophile in me cannot easily get rid of British things. We can analyze that another day.

See? No need to be a fashionista to blog about the wardrobe.  Simplify, simplify, simplify.

Looking for inspiration? Links for suggestion only; no money in it for me.

Amazon Link
Jennifer L. Scott's book was the first one I found, when I went researching the 10-item wardrobe. I enjoy the non-wardrobe sections of the book, too.  It's filled with lots of reminders about taking time to enjoy and create beauty in the world: fresh flowers, fresh and wholesome meals, appreciating art.

Amazon Link
Miss Minimalist lives minimalism in a radical way.  No couch, even.  But her collection of essays is a quick read to inspire the closet clear-out.

Amazon Link
Another step-by-step decluttering book.  I find it helpful that "wardrobe essentials" are provided, as it helps to know what you can part with, if you're feeling unsure before your packed closet.

Amazon Link
This book is taking the world by storm, on more than one continent.  I recommend it with one caveat: I think the author is a little OCD.  But if you love declutter how-tos, this will satisfy.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Spring Walk

For someone who is not a photographer, who takes photos only with an iPhone, I sure do share a lot of pictures online.

These are from last week's nature walk.  Have I mentioned I simply love springtime?

A shy lizard, who did not want to come out!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Not BATS in the belfry . . .

We saw this, when going into church the other day.  Canadian geese perched way up high.  Everyone was amused.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Wordless Wednesday

All right, not quite wordless.  I have to put in that this is a few weeks old.  I meant to post this in April, but I ran out of time.  The flowers aren't doing this any longer, but it was lovely when they were.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Breaking News!

Breaking news in that this is the first time I've read this.  This was published in April:

Bishop Larry Silva: Returning the sacraments of initiation to their proper order

This is awesome news.  I pray, fervently, that this spreads like wildfire.  I have been predicting that this is the future of the Roman Rite and I stand by it.  I have been arguing this point with friends for a few years now.  I maintain that holding off on the Sacraments of Initiation for the myriad reasons that we do shows a lack of belief in the Grace of God.  If we act as if projects need doing, boxes need ticking, essays need writing before the reception of the Sacraments, we are displaying, even unintentionally, a lack of belief in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Bishop Silva's words:
Such a plan requires that we trust in the Holy Spirit. We believe that Confirmation gives the gifts of the Holy Spirit — wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and the fear of the Lord. Young people need these gifts as they grow up, not when they are nearly done growing up. So we will need to trust that the Spirit will fervently work in our young people from an earlier age and work in all of us as we strive to engage our youth in the life of the Church.

Amen!  Let the Grace conferred by the Sacraments lead us to do our projects, tick our boxes, and write our essays.

Do read the letter from the bishop.  It outlines what I've been saying for a while, albeit more eloquently.  Now, I'm off to share this with the people who have been forced to listen to me all these years. . .

Monday, May 4, 2015

Touched & Went Our Separate Ways

I'm sorry.  I find this completely depressing.  Most of the comments are depressing, too.  I was happy that the "Top Comment" was awarded (when I read the opinion piece) to a mother of seven whose children were spread out over a 25-year span.  It counteracts, a bit, the anti-child tone of many of the comments.

Why We Do Not Take Family Vacations

We have a parallel situation in our family.  Thanks to advances in technology, we can all be sitting in the same room, but each person is watching his or her own movie or TV show, listening to his or her own music, not having to share the inconvenience of watching or listening to something he or she doesn't like.

I'm not sure this is a good thing.

A while back, I threw a bit of a tantrum because my daughter's favorite radio station was on in the car when we turned it on.  I, as the driver, didn't feel that I should deign to listen to music that was not of my choosing.  I am ashamed of that tantrum to this day.  As I pondered my poor behavior, it occurred to me that I'd become spoilt.  I was unused to having to compromise on my choice of entertainment.  Because in a very short time, I'd grown accustomed to not having to compromise.  It made me wonder what we lose in interpersonal skills, when we no longer have to take turns with our entertainment choices.

Not long ago, an online mother shared how she'd been exposed to all sorts of music over the years, whilst driving her children to their various activities. She was writing this as a fond remembrance. (It was Elizabeth Foss, but I don't remember where it was she wrote this. Blog? Instagram? Her "Catholic Herald" column?)  It brought me up short, knowing that our family has this Thing about radio control in the car.  I decided that, when I look back on life, I would prefer to have that as my memory, rather than carry the smug satisfaction that I had ultimate power as long as I was the driver.  Since then, I've tried to be more generous in offering radio station choice to my passengers.

Back to the separate vacations.  I think it is fine for select members of the family to go off and do their own thing, every once in a while.  Some people really hate camping, alas.  But I still believe in the concept of the Family Vacation.  No, we will not be able to always do what makes everyone happy.  Is that so horrid?  Does it harm a toddler to learn that the world doesn't revolve around her likes and dislikes?  Will it kill a teen to do what grandma or baby sister want to do?  Is it really that bad for a parent to play like a kid?  In Catholic circles, we call this "dying to self."  In secular terms, it's called "extending yourself to others so you won't be a self-centered jerk."

I hope I don't come across as being harsh to those who feel separate vacations are great.  More, I am coming from the place of being rather selfish about wanting time to myself, wanting to watch a movie without worrying about others not liking the genre, wanting to sing along loudly to songs I've loved for decades. . . . but also coming from a place of realizing how my life has been enriched by getting to know other people and their likes and dislikes. 

If you cannot do this within your own household, how on earth can you expect to do it in the world at large? 

And isn't that a lesson we would want to impart upon the next generation?

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Garden Views: End of April

End of April views at the beginning of May.

I make a point of embracing what is beautiful in each of the seasons, but I think spring is my favorite.  It is the season most likely to fill me with such a sense of gratitude for the loveliness of the world that I can never express to my satisfaction.

Must cover strawberry bed with net before it's too late!

I wish cilantro was harvested at the same time as tomato, peppers, and onion.

April Showers - coming our way!

The raspberries are more prolific every year.

Roses seem to have survived their first winter.