Saturday, October 26, 2013

Get cozy!

It's getting colder outside so it's time to get out winter coats & gloves & scarves! I learned to knit right after Thanksgiving 2005 so I could make my aunt a Gryffindor scarf for Christmas. She was the one who gave me the first two Harry Potter books and I thought a long burgundy and gold scarf would be just the thing. It was the first thing I knit, other than my practice piece, and ended up being 11 feet long.

I have been knitting ever since and opened my own little Etsy shop, LadyJaneDarcy's Cozy Handknits, about two years ago. In celebration of our new blog I thought I would share a link and some discounts with anyone who stumbles upon us!

  • CATHSISTERSFS for free shipping
  • CATHSISTERS15 for 15% off any order
  • CATHSISTERS25 for 25% off a minimum purchase of $20.00
  • CATHSISTERS10 for $10.00 off a minimum purchase of $30.00
Being cozy is one of my favorite things on earth (hot tea & blankies & a good book---if only I had a fireplace!) and I love making others feel cozy, too. In case you can't tell, I really love knitting cowls! If you have an idea for one or what anything in a different color send me a message on Etsy and we will see what I can do.

Do you knit or crochet? What do you like to make?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

"Exactly how this grace thing works . . ."

Music is one of my very favorite things and I have been blessed to see some of my very favorite bands the last few years. Being a rather sentimental creature I like to remember the anniversaries of the most significant gigs and spend some time listening to the music.

Today is 3 years since I was blessed to see Mumford & Sons at the Paramount Theater in Seattle. I can't believe that much time has gone by and I still haven't seen them play live again! Unfortunately I have no idea where my camera card with the show pictures has gone but some lovely people put their videos on YouTube so I can relive the show through them.

At that time M&S only had "Sigh No More" and some EPs out so most of the songs performed were the amazing ones I still listen to practically daily. I say most because they also performed some early versions of songs which later appeared on "Babel."

The always delightful and eccentric King Charles opened the show, followed by Mt. Desolation, composed of members of the band Keane. I confess I usually do not listen to opening bands before I go to shows but enjoyed both immensely.

Then it was time for Mumford & Sons. I really could not believe I was seeing them play live. It was a huge crowd, with those of us on the ground floor standing cozily as close to the stage as possible, and more people up in the balcony. The band had a backdrop or two and two strings of lights going from the sides of the stage to the center of the ceiling, much as they still do now. As you can see in the video below, the lights were used to great effect. When you put on a good show because you are passionate about the music and not just "performing" you don't really need a lot of flash and bangs.

I can't really remember my favorite live song but I do remember how enthusiastic the crowd was in response to the band's joy. It is a great delight to be at a show where the crowd is swaying, dancing, singing, clapping, and participating in the music. I'm very much an introvert but when you listen to such music you cannot help moving along. Marcus Mumford is one of the most Joyful performers I have ever seen. He literally beams it when he plays and the rest of the band participates with such enthusiasm. I wished the show would go on and on.

I still listen to the songs from "Sigh No More" nearly daily. A friend of mine, who is also a fan, and I were talking about their music on Facebook one day and how we can hear their songs over and over without getting bored of them. She likened them to saying prayers such as the Hail Mary over and over. The lyrics are so rich and deep that you always find something new in them and they provide a certain comfort. I have noticed that sometimes I will be listening and a line will hit me in just a certain way and I can't help but get teary-eyed. It's like God is speaking to me. If you have never listened to Mumford & Sons I strongly recommend them. In addition to literary allusions, there is so much Catholic Truth in their music and even the sad parts have hope.

I could go on and on about their music but I'll leave you with one of my favorite songs, performed at the show I attended:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Of Saints and Sinners

I don't believe in chance. I believe that everything happens for a reason, even if I don't find out until I stand in review of my life before God. So let me dive right in.

I love autumn. It's been my favorite season for as long as I can remember. At one point in my life, I would have gladly changed my name to Willow October if I’d know I could when I was adopted. But names are a story for another time.

Some of my fondest memories were Trick or Treating with my family. And my mother was born on October 23rd, so Halloween was always a big thing when I was with her. This year, especially, it's poignant for me.

I am not a "Cradle Catholic." Although my father was raised Catholic, and the first church I attended was Catholic, I was raised far from it. I have only been a Catholic for about two and half years.

That said, I’ve been trying to embrace the Catholic lifestyle and celebrations (part of why I became Catholic) and one of those is All Saints - remembering those who have gone before us. And this is where my mother ties in: She died on Leap Day in 2012.

My mother was no saint. Some who knew her would put her into that category as soon as she died, but I was not so blind. Don't get me wrong, I loved her and I have a few precious memories of her. I am thankful that she gave me life. But she banked on me and my father's faulty Catholicism to keep him. She told me so in one of the last conversations we had. In a strange way, I have the faith to thank for being alive and having two sisters. 

I have not really been at leisure to mourn my mother. My cousin called me and told me that she had died - but they debated almost the entire day before telling me. Why? I was 4 months pregnant with my son.

While my father's family barely cared, only one of my sisters had vague memories of her, my mother's family was mostly terrible to me. I had one aunt tell me I wasn’t allowed to mourn my mother because I didn't grow up with her. (My mother gave us up when I was 7.)
I shelved mourning for her due to the pregnancy, the hostility, then nursing and caring for my children. I made a memory box for her and it’s somewhat unfinished. She didn’t have a memorial service, and she was cremated. Due to her family's infighting, even her ashes have been hidden.

It is only now that I can take a moment to reflect.

My mother left me an orphan.

For years, I was almost sure she was dead due to her lifestyle. The people who adopted me eventually disowned me, even though we are blood. I reconnected with her as an adult and while it helped me to understand her better, it ended up benefitting neither of us. Then her lifestyle caught up to her and I really lost her.

It was more devastating than I thought it would be.

Her loss brought out the worst in her family and my father's family had little sympathy - but I’ve learned from it. My faith was not shaken. The family I have with my husband is firm. The actions of my mother were refreshed in my head. I can learn from her mistakes and try to avoid them.

I can see why some things affect me the way they do now. For instance, I’ve had short hair for years, because I was so terrified of becoming her. I couldn't have long hair like she had when she was married to my father and had small children.

I can also remember the times she showed who she could've been, the mother of my dreams. 

I have my new faith too. I have a mother figure to look up to in Mary - a strange concept for me after the other mother figures I've had in my life and my Protestant upbringing. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that. I am trying to be a good mother too.

Out of all of this, I find myself thankful. Everything I’ve gone through in my life has brought me to where I am today. The pains I have endured have given me the ability to not only have sympathy for others, but empathy also. The joys have given me opportunities for praise and blessing others. The mistakes and triumphs have given me greater ability to be humble, either from pride fallen or realization my battles were not won alone. None of that would've been possible if my mother had not been determined to have me.

In this upcoming event of All Saints I think it's fitting to remember my mother. Like the real Saints who have been examples of how we should live, we can also learn from the sinners to avoid the pain. This year, I will pray to Mary and thank her for her example of how to be the Ultimate Mother. I will also pray for my mother. While her time here on earth is done, her ripple is still on the water. I want to do what I can to make sure that it's a gentle one.

Sesame Beef with Broccoli...A New Family Favorite

I originally found this recipe on Pinterest, but it included chicken instead of beef. We eat a lot of chicken in our house, so I thought I'd do something different with the recipe and use beef instead.

I feel bad, as I cannot find the pin on my boards, but seriously, I've made a ton of changes, so here's my recipe!

Sesame Beef with Broccoli


(An unnecessary photo of the ingredients I will use)

5T soy sauce
5t honey
2T vegetable oil
2 (or a lot more!) green onions, white parts thinly sliced, greens reserved
4t cornstarch
1t chili paste (I don't use it, because I never have it)
3T toasted sesame seeds (I don't toast them)
2t toasted sesame oil (I just use vegetable oil, because it's what I have)
1 1/2lb stir fry beef
1T freshly grated ginger (or just a few shakes of the powder stuff like I do)
3 cloves garlic, minced (again, or just some shakes of the powder)
1 1/2c chicken broth (I didn't change this, but yes, it seems weird, because chicken and beef together?)
1T rice vinegar
1 lg head broccoli, chopped and steamed (or boiled, because the steamer is going to be used to cook rice)
Hot cooked rice


In a med-lg bowl, whisk together 3T of the soy sauce, 1t of the sesame (vegetable) oil, and 2t of the honey. Add the beef and coat, then let sit for 20ish minutes. (Side note: you could do this the day before and have it marinating alllll night and alllll day, or even do it in the morning.)

(Marinating beef)

In a large skillet, heat 2T of your vegetable oil over med-high heat and cook your beef. I usually do it in batches, and I don't cook the beef all the way through, because it's more tender that way. Transfer your beef to a plate.

(The beef cooking in the large skillet)

In the same skillet (using the remaining oil and drippings), add the rest of the vegetable oil and the white parts of your green onions, the ginger and the garlic. Stir while cooking, about 2ish minutes, until it's fragrant (what that means, I have no idea, but I just go with it!).

(See where I burned dinner? Thankfully I couldn't taste the burned parts...)

For the sesame sauce, whisk together in a small-med bowl the following: the rest (3t) of the honey, the rest (2T) of the soy sauce, your broth, the cornstarch, vinegar, and (optional, in my recipe) chili paste. Make sure the honey and corn starch are nice and blended in! Put this stuff in the skillet and try not to burn your house down like I did! Cook and stir 2-3ish minutes (I do longer) until it's thickened and darkened in color. Then stir in your remaining 1t of your sesame (vegetable) oil.

(Here is the sesame sauce, which includes nothing sesame at all)

(The sauce, thickening and darkening in color)

This is when I then add the beef back to the skilled and heat it up a bit more, because let's face it, it's going to be cooled down quite a bit, especially with how slow I do things!

(Broccoli, cooking)

Now, for the grand finale. In a large-ish eating bowl, put your rice (sorry, I didn't photograph the rice), then your beef with the lovely non-burned (hopefully) sauce, then your broccoli, and garnish with reserved green onions and (non-toasted) sesame seeds. Enjoy!


Reflections on a School Shooting

Sitting at my desk, headphones in, listening to news radio. The story of the most recent school shooting in Nevada is being discussed and I have to hold my breath. Some reports mention the 12 year old student who was the shooter made comments about no one else being able to bully him. So many people affected. My prayers for the soul of the 12 year old shooter and the soul of the 45 year old teacher Michael Landsberry, who tried to get the student to put the gun down. Also for the two unnamed students in critical condition. 

The radio reported an estimate of 30 children saw the violence. The LA Times reported 5 or 6 gunshots. That's all it took to change so many lives. This shooting is incredibly sad. It is hard to not cry out of empathy every time an event such as this takes place.

A few days before my most beloved grandmother passed away I asked her what she felt were the most important prayers to her during her life. She listed the Rosary and the Act of Contrition. Also she included the 1st prayer I remember learning from her and my mom, the prayer to our Guardian Angel. This is also the 1st prayer I have been teaching my 4 year old son (other than the sign of the cross). 

The Rosary is a weapon against evil. The Act of Contrition to remind us of our sin and if we are unable to confess is the least of what we can do to prepare for an unexpected death. The prayer to our Guardian Angel to protect us throughout the day and night. The devil is out there. We must use the "tools" we have to prepare ourselves, to fight the battle and to ask for protection. I hope to never be in any situation like this, but if I am I hope I remember these "tools".

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Five Favorites 10.23.13

1) Almay CC Cream
This stuff is magic, y'all. Magic. I'm not really a makeup every day kind of girl, but I do like to pretty it up on Sundays. I have sensitive skin that breaks out with harsh chemicals, so it's tricky business trying to find something that works for me. The search is over!!! Hooray! I wore it all day last Sunday, and my skin is still 100% clear. Yippee! Plus it has SPF 35, which is definitely a win.

2) Pear and Cinnamon Jam
I've been cranking out jam like crazy lately, and this weekend was no exception! I found some forgotten pears in the back of my fridge, and jam was pretty much the only thing i was able to make with them; they were way too gross to eat! I used this recipe from the always helpful "Food In Jars" blog. I halved it, and ended up getting around 1.5 pints. Delicious!

3) Rereading Children's Books
As you all know, my birthday was this past Saturday. I headed straight to Barnes and Noble to spend some birthday money. Lo and behold, there was a sale on the classics! I bought a book of poems by Emily Dickinson, Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass," and Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book." It's been great revisiting all the best parts of my childhood favorites.

4) Emily Dickinson
Speaking of Emily Dickinson:

It can’t be summer,—that got through;
It ’s early yet for spring;
There ’s that long town of white to cross
Before the blackbirds sing.
It can’t be dying,—it ’s too rouge,—       
The dead shall go in white.
So sunset shuts my question down
With clasps of chrysolite.

5) Essie nail polish in "Splash of Grenadine"
I don't normally wear nail polish, but I just had to buy this swoon-worthy light plum shade! Not too summery, not too gloomy. Love!

Head over to Moxie Wife for more favorites!

The Blog Post with ALL THE EMOTION (and a little about me)

To begin this blog post, I will begin with some back story...

I've been blessed enough to use a fabulous and wonderful midwife as my care provider for both of my pregnancies. Ann is spectacular and nobody can compare to her, in my opinion. My first birth (Hannah, 2010) took place at The Birthing Inn (TBI), and my second birth (Nora, 2012 took place in the comfort of my own home.

Fast forwarding to this year...

I went in for a routine physical on August 4. I had noticed some significant bruising on my extremities, some major fatigue, and some lightheadedness upon standing. The doctor wanted to check my cholesterol (as she does with everyone over 30) so she told me to come back for a fasting blood draw. I did that on Thursday, August 8 in the morning. I received a phone call after 5:30 pm from the doctor's office informing me that my platelets were at a critically low level and I needed to go to the ER and be admitted to the hospital to figure out what was going on. Cue freaking out...

While in the care of the ER doctor, I was informed that I had Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia Purpura, or ITP. Idiopathic = they have no idea what is causing the problem, Thrombocytopenia = isolated low platelets. All my other blood (white blood cells, red blood cells, etc) were at normal levels. I was admitted and put on a dose of corticosteroids and also received Intravenous Immunoglobulin (IVIg) to help boost the platelets.

Backing up a bit...

Normal platelet levels are between 145,000 and 400,000. My level when admitted: 9,000. So, after the first dose of that (and hardly any sleep that night), my platelets went up to 19,, progress. That day, I got go get a needle stabbed into my hip bone for a bone marrow biopsy. In order to continue with nursing my then-9-month-old daughter, I opted to not be sedated. Yes, it hurt (more so in the following days), but it was worth it. Everything came back normal with that biopsy.

I got to stay another night in the lovely hospital and had another round of IVIg, along with continuing on the corticosteroids. I prayed the rosary that night and then again in the morning after my blood was again drawn to check my levels. Prayer works, y'all! I asked God for 100,000 platelets and He gave them to me! I met with the hematologist and she said I could go home as soon as the nurse was able to discharge me. So that was good.

I got to spend most of the weekend at home with my family, being discharged before noon on that Saturday.  My parents were great enough to keep our daughters those two days/nights I was hospitalized, so my husband could be with me all the time.

I've been getting my blood drawn every week since, and just this week, was given the okay to start doing every other week. There's a lot of detail that happened between then and now, but I will save that for another day.

I am currently unable to have any more children because apparently you either don't have a menstrual cycle, or it's extremely heavy. I have none, so no babies right now. If and when I am able to have more babies, I will not be able to use the aforementioned fabulous wonderful amazing awesome midwife, because I am now considered high risk. Instead, I am stuck with a maternal-fetal medicine doctor. Don't get me wrong, there is a definite need for this kind of provider, but I just prefer the midwifery route. I am devastated that I won't be able to have Ann anymore.

Back to why I am writing this post...

I met with our birth class (from 2010) ladies and toddlers and babies today. We meet monthly, and it's wonderful that we are all friends. The house that we met at today was right next to TBI, and I took the same exit, and all the emotions came flooding and I started bawling, yes, while driving. I had all of my prenatal appointments with both girls there and Hannah was born there, and so it will always have a special place in my heart. I didn't know it would hurt that bad just driving by.

As I was leaving to go home, I started crying again, and because Mumford & Sons' album Sigh No More was spinning in my car, I cried even harder. This album was included in my birth playlist for Nora's birth, and I will always love the album, hence why I'm still listening to it almost exclusively nearly a year later. Crying down the street, crying down the freeway...

So, traffic in one lane isn't moving as fast as I would like, so I decided to get off the freeway one exit early and take the scenic route, but again, more tears, because that's the exit we took to get gas when we were bringing Hannah home from TBI. Seriously, crying more and more, it was pretty lame. I am glad I was able to write this blog post because getting this out in the open instead of bottling it up and eventually burst is what I would usually do, and it's worse.

I will leave you with photographs of my beautiful daughters:

Hannah Colleen 12.25.2010

Nora Catherine 10.29.2012

My girls, October 2013

Thanks for listening (reading). So if you see (hear) me weeping about birth and babies and weird blood disorders, you know why.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Little About Me

Hello whoever might be reading this, my name is Ann. I am a 30 something wife, mother and cradle Cath. I am from California. I reside in the home that I grew up in which was built by my great-grandfather. I like different things, many different things. I will write more blogs and through them you can get to know me better. It might be a slow process, but it will be interesting.