Sunday, August 07, 2022

Nature Quilt

 It took me nearly two years to complete this one, but that is okay. It is good that it takes me a long time to complete these quilts (I sew by hand). My family has plenty of blankets! (And yes, I have given a few of my quilts away as gifts.) This quilt was based on nature photos I found, some of which my daughter picked for me. Each block was pieced and then embellished with stitching. 

Here are some close-ups of a few of my favorite blocks:

While my last few quilts have been art quilts (which I do love making), I've decided to return to geometric piecing for my next quilt. 

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Open Book for August 2022


I'm joining up with Carolyn Astfalk who hosts an #OpenBook Linkup on Here's what I've been reading this past month. The dates indicate when I finished the book. Thanks for stopping by!

7/10/22 - Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and The Rise of Jim Crow - Henry Louis Gates, Jr. - This was a painful (but important) read about white supremacy and the Black efforts to live as equal Americans from after the Civil War until the 1960s. The illustrations are particularly effective at demonstrating the racism inherent in the United States. 

 7/11/22 - Within These Gilded Halls - Abigail Wilson - This was an engaging mystery / treasure hunt / romance set in 1819 Southern England. Phoebe Radcliff is an artist working on a ballroom restoration when her patron is murdered, setting up a race to find the long-buried treasure on the property. (Read for a book review publication).



7/12/22 Rescued: True Stories for Catholic Kids - Kathryn Griffin Swegart - This collection of short stories shares true-life rescues where people were miraculously rescued from dangerous situations (often with the help of their guardian angels). While it is geared to 8 - 12 year olds, adults will also enjoy these stories. At the end of the book, Swegart includes a "Facts Behind the Stories" section that provides additional information on the stories. This section is as interesting as the stories themselves. 

7-17-22 Overdue: Reckoning with the Public Library - Amanda Oliver - Anyone who knows me knows I love libraries. Libraries, churches, college campuses, and bookstores are my favorite places to visit. But this isn't a feel-good book about libraries. Instead, it is about libraries as safe spaces for homeless populations (or as Oliver refers to them, "houseless" populations) and the expectation that librarians serve as quasi-social workers. It is a difficult read, but an honest one. I live in a medium-sized city that has a significant homeless population. There are libraries in my city that I avoid because I don't feel safe there even with the security guards visibly standing guard. I've seen librarians deal with situations they shouldn't have to, and because of my privilege, I am able to go to the library in the more affluent suburb I live near because I am more comfortable there. This book raised a lot of questions about the place of libraries in our society and while disjointed in parts is an important book for that reason. 

7/18/22 Culture Club: The Curious History of the Boston Athenaeum - Katherine Wolff - I read a magazine article recently on the Boston Athenaeum, an incredibly beautiful member-based library / art gallery in Boston that I had never heard of! This sent me on an immediate search in my local library system for more information on this place. Culture Club discussed the beginnings of the Athenaeum in the 1820s through the start of the Civil War. Dr. Katherine Wolff pays special attention to its treatment of women and how it responded (or didn't) to the abolition issue. She also discussed its relationship to the Boston Public Library.  

7/23/22 The Amish Quiltmaker's Unconventional Niece - Jennifer Beckstrand - This is the third book in a series, but you don't need to have read the other two to enjoy it. Part comedy, part romance, it features a young Amish woman on her rumschpringe who decides to run for town council in order to fight a local law banning Amish buggies from streets. (Read for a book review publication)

7/24/22 Acquired Tastes: 200 Years of Collecting for the Boston Athenaeum - This book continued my foray into exploring the Boston Athenaeum. It is a coffee-table book which highlighted many of the special books / paintings / sculptures in their collection. I didn't read every word, but it was lovely to browse.

7/24/22 Write for Your Life - Anna Quindlen - I almost didn't read this one. I picked it out of the to-be-read pile two days before it was due back at the library, but I'm glad I did. It offered some lovely reflections on writing hand-written letters and journaling. 

7/31/22 The Other Alcott - Elise Hooper - This novel is based on the life May Alcott, the youngest sister of Louisa May Alcott of Little Women fame and the prototype for the character of Amy in that famous book. I really knew nothing about May Alcott before reading this and while much is fictionalized, I learned more about the Alcott family. I also greatly enjoyed the story about a young woman striving to be an artist in a man's world. Shortly before her death, May Alcott wrote Studying Art Abroad, and How to Do It Cheaply to help other young women with similar ambitions.

Since spring of 2019, I have been making my way through the Great Books Curriculum of Thomas Aquinas College (I'm currently working on the readings for sophomore year). 

7/8/22 Aeneid - Virgil - trans. by Robert Fagles.When I first started this project, I read the Iliad and the Odyssey by Homer. I really struggled to understand them (To be honest, I mostly read the Sparknotes.) I did much better with the Aeneid. I think that is because unlike the Iliad and Odyssey, this was written to be read not listened to. I also think the translation by Fagles was excellent and very accessible to the modern reader. Virgil was born in 70 BC and died in 49 BC. He was the supreme Roman poet. The Aeneid is based on Homer and uses many of Homer's characters. The first half is most like the Odyssey as Aeneas wanders while the second half is more like the Iliad as it describes a war. It combines a mythological epic with themes from Roman history.   

7/24/22 On the Nature of Things - Lucretius - trans by H.A.J. Munro. Lucretius was a member of a Roman senatorial or equestrian family who lived from 98-55 BC. This work was published after his death. It was his effort to explain how things come into existence. He spoke of first things - which we would probably refer to as atoms. He rejects the idea of creation myths and the Greek and Roman gods. He maintained that the soul died at death and that there was no afterlife.


My eleven-year-old daughter and I read the following book this month:


7-13-22 The Black Reckoning - John Stephens - We finished up The Books of Beginning series with this book in which Emma must find the Book of Death and the prophecy about the three children is fulfilled.


This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Purchases made after clicking a link help support this site. Thank you!

Wednesday, July 06, 2022

Open Book for July 2022


I'm joining up with Carolyn Astfalk who hosts an #OpenBook Linkup on Here's what I've been reading this past month. The dates indicate when I finished the book. Thanks for stopping by!

6/1/22 Laura's Shadow - Allison Pittman - This book is "Little House" fan fiction, but it was a delight to read. Pittman takes a minor character in These Happy Golden Years and creates a story about her and the animosity she held toward the famous author. Mariah was one of Laura's teenage students whom Laura Ingalls Wilder portrayed as Martha in her book. In real life, Mariah was jealous of Laura because Cap Garland was in love with her and Mariah was in love with Cap. When Mariah is on her deathbed in the 1970s, she finally shares her story with her great-granddaughter Trixie. I really enjoyed this book. Even though I was reading it for work, I didn't want to put it down. (Read for a book review publication).

6/4 and 6/5/2022 I was craving some light, leisure reading and Seasons of Highclere and Christmas at Highclere, both written by the Countess of Carnarvon fit the bill perfectly. These books are all about life at Highclere Estate, the location where Downton Abbey (as well as several other movies) was filmed. They discuss history, customs, daily life, and what it means to care for an estate that goes back over 1000 years. They were a delight to look at, filled with beautiful images, and provided a mini vacation!  


6/14/22 Beneath the Bending Skies - Jane Kirkpatrick - I didn't realize until I reached the end of this book that it was about a real person, which changed my perception of the story. When I was reading through, I felt like the author was trying to cover too much ground. There were too many events. There wasn't necessarily a true narrative arc (although there were threads that tied things together). Once I realized this was a fictionalized biography, this made way more sense. It tells the story of Mary (Mollie) Ronan from 1858 - 1890. She was an Irish immigrant who lived in Kentucky, Montana, California, and then lived out most of her adult life in Montana where she was married to an agent at Flathead Reservation. It is a story of family relationships and life on the frontier, including the complex relationships between the Indians and whites. Those who enjoy historical women's fiction will find this one interesting. (Read for a book review publication.)

 6/15/22 - God Loves the Autistic Mind - Fr. Matthew P. Schneider - Fr. Schneider was diagnosed as an autistic after he was ordained a priest. In this book, he attempts to reach out to autistics, an underserved segment of the Church, to offer a guide to prayer and faith. My favorite section of this book is the second half, which offers 52 devotions geared for autistic individuals as well as those who love them. 

 6/24/22 The Santa Run - Beth Pugh - If you enjoy Hallmark Christmas movies, you'll enjoy this book. A big city man goes to a small town to manage his company's takeover of the local railroad. His father (who owns the company) is a Scrooge due to losing his wife at Christmastime. This puts the small town railroad's Santa Run in jeopardy. The Santa Run brings gifts, clothes, and food to the poor in the surrounding area. Meanwhile, big city man falls in love with the small-town girl who manages the railroad. This is pure Christmas relaxation. Totally formulaic, but a good escape.  (Read for a book review publication).


6/25/22 Pudge & Prejudice - A. K. Pittman - This fun retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in the 1980s has been making the rounds of the #OpenBook readers. It's a YA book, but I think it is more geared to middle-age women who remember the 80s! It includes lots of song references which may make you long for the days of mixed tapes. This is pure leisure reading, but it was an enjoyable escape. 

6/30/22 Jane Austen's Genius Guide to Life: On Love, Friendship, and Becoming the Person God Created You to Be - Haley Stewart - While I was reading Pudge and Prejudice, I was also reading this book which discusses how Jane Austen can be a life coach. Her characters teach us how to live well. While those without an affinity for Jane Austen probably won't get much out of this book (although Stewart does provide plot summaries), fans of the novelist will enjoy delving deeper into these characters and learning what lessons they teach. (Read for Catholic Library World)


7-1-22 The Whole Body Reset - Stephen Perrine - This is a diet and exercise book for age 50 and up. Unlike many fad diets, it doesn't make any big restrictions and it acknowledges that there will be times you will splurge and that is okay. It is basically about increasing your protein and fiber intake (especially early in the day) while still eating good carbs, and getting regular exercise. Basically, this is a diet plan that people can live with and adapt to their food likes and their needs. I'm trying to incorporate the ideas into my diet. Of course, it didn't help that I was reading this the same week my daughter was at cooking camp and kept bringing home delicious meals and desserts that definitely weren't healthy! But, next week is a new week!

7/4/22 The Baxters - Karen Kingsbury - Kingsbury has written about 20 books about the Baxter family. Over the years, I've read most of them. This one is a prequel and gives the series a new book one. These are Christian fiction with characters and lessons that anyone of the Christian faith can relate to. This particular one is centered around the wedding of Kari Baxter and Tim Jacobs and the challenges of having adult children living vastly different lives (some of which are very different from what their parents would have wished for them). It was an enjoyable leisure read.


Since spring of 2019, I have been making my way through the Great Books Curriculum of Thomas Aquinas College (I'm currently working on the readings for sophomore year). 

6/3/22 On Conoids and Spheroids - Archimedes - Archimedes lived from 287-212 BC and was a Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, astronomer, and inventor. He was one of the leading scientists of classical antiquity and the greatest mathematician of ancient history. In this work (as the name suggests), he was exploring cones and spheres. 

On the plus side, this was the last math text for the sophomore reading list! Halleluiah!


My eleven-year-old daughter and I read the following book this month:


Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief - Rick Riordan - I first read this book over a decade ago to my sons. It was great to revisit it with my daughter who enjoyed the story. Many of her friends have been reading the Percy Jackson series and she wanted to join in the conversations. My sons were a huge fan of this series. They reread it many times. My copy of The Lightning Thief is currently held together with tape! Rick Riordan makes Greek mythology come alive in this series about demigods going on modern-day quests.



This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Purchases made after clicking a link help support this site. Thank you!

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Understanding Prayer and Faith for Autistics


Fr. Matthew Schneider, LC was diagnosed as an autistic after he was ordained a priest. In God Loves the Autistic Mind: Prayer Guide for Those on the Spectrum and Those Who Love Us, he explores some of the challenges that autistics may face in their relationship with God. While he does touch on some of the issues facing autistics who are non-verbal, this book is primarily geared to high-functioning autistics (also known as Level 1 autistics or those with Asperger’s Syndrome).

There is a common adage in autistic circles that if you have met one autistic, you’ve met one autistic. Those on the autism spectrum are not all the same. While they may share some common characteristics, autistic brains are quite diverse. Fr. Schneider encourages those reading this book to use what applies and disregard what doesn’t.

As. Fr. Schneider points out, autistics often feel like outsiders in the Church. They are nearly twice as likely not to attend church and more likely to be atheists or agnostics. His stated goal in writing God Loves the Autistic Mind is “to help my fellow autistic Christians and their families pray better.” I come to this book as the mother of a young-adult autistic (diagnosed at age nine), who unfortunately falls in that category of having left the Church.

This book is divided into two different sections. It could have been two different, albeit related, books. The first part focuses on what makes autistic prayer different from neurotypical prayer. Autistics often take comfort in repetition and familiarity. Short, repeated prayers can sometimes serve as a stim, a repeated action that helps calm an autistic. Fr. Schneider also encourages autistics to stim during prayer if it helps them to pray better. Mass, on the other hand, can sometimes cause stress due to the sensory overload. Fr. Schneider suggests autistics can consider going to Mass to be part of their cross to offer up.

He also offers a guide to mental prayer. He explains that prayer does not need to use words, a benefit for autistics who may struggle with communication. Prayer is ultimately about a personal encounter with God.

A difficult section of this first part of the book deals with myths about autism and prayer. Fr. Schneider points out how some in the Church have wrongly thought autism is caused by demons or sin. Many have tried to “cure” autism. Fr. Schneider, like most autistics, maintains “that autism is part of who we are, part of our personality; thus curing our autism would mean that we would become someone else.” I would hesitate to give this portion of the book to autistics because I feel it would add to their sense of rejection and alienation. Why would they want to belong to a Church whose members think such things about them?

The second part of this book is a devotional with 52 meditations designed for autistics to help them realize how much God loves them. As Fr. Schneider states, “Even our autistic aspects are made in God’s image and likeness. God looks on our autistic brain with love.” This section of the book is extremely well done. I wish that it was a separate book because this section is beautiful; it would be wonderful to have it available to give to autistics as its own work.

The end of the book has a useful guide to the Sacrament of Reconciliation for both autistics and the priests hearing their confessions.

Autistics are an underserved segment of the Church community. Fr. Schneider believes the best wants to reach autistics who have left the Church is by having other autistics reach out to them and evangelize to them. God Loves the Autistic Mind is his attempt to do that. I encourage other mothers of autistics to read this book to get a better understanding of how to encourage their children’s prayer lives and to share the parts they feel are appropriate with their children. This book should also be read by those who minister to autistics in the Church.

Wednesday, June 01, 2022

Open Book for June 2022


I'm joining up with Carolyn Astfalk who hosts an #OpenBook Linkup on Here's what I've been reading this past month. The dates indicate when I finished the book. I've been super busy this month with work and life and household / outside projects so reading has been taking a back seat and the list is shorter than usual. Thanks for stopping by!


5/4/22 Off the Chain: Gone with the Dogs, Book 1 - Janice Thompson - This is the start of a new series centered on Mari, a vet tech, who dreams of opening a rescue shelter for dogs. This book has a bit of everything - humor, romance, mystery. As the first book in the series it was trying to introduce a lot of characters and plot lines, but it was fun to read. (Read for a book review publication). 

 5/15/22 The Last Garden in England - Julia Kelly - Fans of Downton Abbey (as I am) will love this story centered on a garden at an English estate. It is a triple timeline story featuring three women: the garden designer in 1907, a land girl in WWII, and a modern garden designer trying to restore the garden to its original glory in 2021. I really enjoyed it!

5/22/22 Better Together - Pam Barnhill - I really enjoy Pam Barnhill's homeschooling site. This book discusses Morning Time, a way to start your homeschool day in a peaceful manner. The goal is to review it for my homeschool site, which hopefully I will have time to do soon. If you homeschool, I highly recommend this book. 

5/29/22 Wired for Love - Stephanie Cacioppo - I always enjoy books about neuroscience. In this one, Dr. Cacioppo (an expert in the science of love) discusses what happens in our brain when we love someone in a romantic way. She also shares her unlikely tale of romance (with a fellow doctor who studied loneliness) and the process of grieving she went through when he died of cancer. In some ways, this book holds up the ideal (much like Theology of the Body which also gives me pause), and real life is often messier. But, the science is interesting and the author's experience of grief is truly heartfelt. It made for an interesting read.

Since spring of 2019, I have been making my way through the Great Books Curriculum of Thomas Aquinas College (I'm currently working on the readings for sophomore year). 

5/15/22 Conic Sections - Apollonius - I trudged through this math text about conic sections, parabolas, etc. Apollonius lived from 15 - 100 AD and was a wandering Greek philosopher.


My eleven-year-old daughter and I read the following book this month:


The Fire Chronicle by John Stephens - This is the second in the fantasy / adventure series about the Books of Beginning. My daughter and I have both been enjoying this series.



This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Purchases made after clicking a link help support this site. Thank you!

Monday, May 09, 2022

Joyful Encounters with Mary


Women who want to dig deeper into the meaning of the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary will benefit from Maria V. Gallagher’s new book, Joyful Encounters with Mary: A Woman’s Guide to Living the Mysteries of the Rosary. Gallagher’s goal in writing it was to help us see Mary’s hand in our daily struggles and achievements so that we might “experience a powerful relationship with her.” Cultivating a deep relationship with Mary does not serve to take us away from Jesus but rather also deepens and enhances our relationship with him. Mary “can help us to become better servants of God.”

The five Joyful Mysteries are: The Annunciation, The Visitation, The Birth of Jesus, The Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple, and The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple. Each mystery is covered in four chapters. The first offers a personal reflection by Gallagher which includes stories from her own life. The second is a reflection on the mystery itself, examining the Scripture and considering how Mary might have felt. The third chapter of each mystery encourages readers to grow in virtue based on the fruit of that particular mystery. The fourth chapter introduces readers to a saint who exemplified the virtue of that mystery. Each chapter concludes with reflection questions which are great for personal or group use.

In the conclusion, Gallagher emphasizes:

By contemplating the Joyful Mysteries and how they relate to our lives, we can grow in the joy of Jesus, who is the Bridge to our ultimate happiness. We reflect on the way God weaved a tapestry of hope in the lives of Mary and Jesus, through the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity, the Presentation, and the Finding of the Lord Jesus in the Temple. That hope can bear good fruit in our own lives.

Joyful Encounters with Mary: A Woman’s Guide to Living the Mysteries of the Rosary invites readers into a deeper relationship with Mary and provides the opportunity to reflect more deeply on these mysteries of the Rosary.


This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Purchases made after clicking a link help support this site. Thank you!

Nature Quilt

 It took me nearly two years to complete this one, but that is okay. It is good that it takes me a long time to complete these quilts (I sew...