Sunday, February 24, 2013

What I Wore Sunday: Transition Outfit

by Shannon

Shameful plug: We've undergone another redesign here at The Sword and the Stein! I hope this one sticks. Feel free to peruse. The About tab is pretty much written, though I'd like to add more old and embarrassing photos. You can get to know us there, so pleased to meet you! I've started on a lot of the other tabs but have lots more work to do. We're also going to try to post more regularly, maybe even with a schedule of sorts (shock and awe!), and Ryan's going to have a sword post every week or so (or heads will roll). I've also started to put together a Facebook page, so I'd love your likes. Feedback is welcome. 

"Your presence, O Lord, I seek. Hide not your face from me."
– Psalm 27

Cruncher's project from today's CCD class, a "stained glass" Christian fish.

We had guests again this evening, and I needed to run errands for fabulous frittata ingredients before their arrival, so I wore a transition outfit to Mass. That means I was able to easily change my skirt and dress shoes for jeans and boots so I could get back out the door swiftly.

Deets for Mass:
Periwinkle headband: Goody's, Meijer
Cameo earrings: vintage, gift
Fair isle sweater: LL Bean, gift
Miraculous Medal: local Catholic store, gift
Metallic belt: Target
Plum wool skirt: H&M, consignment store
Boring brown tights: Target
Metallic mom flats: Naturalizer, TJ Maxx

Changes/additions for errands:
Amethyst necklace: gift
Skinnies: Old Navy 
Black boots: Target

No closeup on the cheapo $7 boots, because they'll be donated by this time next week. I've ordered two pair of end-of-season boots for next winter, but I'll probably wear them well into spring. I imagine I'll keep my Born boots, for when I want a grungy, slouchy boot, but I'm really looking forward to having boots that can be dressed up.

You will be seeing one of these two on my feet within the week.

Here's our cute little dinner guests. Check back in a few days for more adorableness and details on the fabulous frittata. 

Boo-boo, Bubba and Little Bear.

Last week, I asked readers to give me feedback on veiling if they do so. Conveniently, two other linking-up ladies wrote about veiling in their WIWS posts, so I had a wealth of new information. I loved Kelly's how-to post (which isn't so easy to research online). And Laura's heartfelt post touched on a lot of my own thoughts.

When I talk to friends who have considered veiling, they often say they're afraid people will think they're one of "those people." That issue doesn't hit home with me. I'm happy to be a good example in life, and even during Mass, when I'm being called to it. Because the Vatican no longer has an official statement about the who, when, where, why and how of veiling (correct me if I'm wrong), discerning to veil is truly a decision of the heart. Veiling is extremely personal, and it's up to each and every Catholic woman to decide if it's right for her and why.

My fear is instead this: My veil will look like just another accessory. I tend to dress head-to-toe, most of my skirts don't reach my ankles, I'm full-time employed, and I only have one child, thus I don't appear like a typical veiler from my parish. I don't want people get all judge-y on me, thinking I don't fully understand the veil and am only wearing one because it's, like, soooooo pretty.

This is also why Kelly and Laura's posts were beyond encouraging. I really needed to see examples of women who are both respectful of the Eucharist, emulating Our Lady, while simultaneously caring about their outward appearances. It seems that up to Vatican II, ladies would seriously wear their Sunday's best to Mass, pulling themselves together at least one day a week, and topping it off with a veil. Where did that attitude go?

There are so. Many. Distractions. The crazier this world gets, the more I want to just pull back and focus on Him. I pray that veiling provides me with a sense of reverence and focus on the Eucharist that I feel I am lacking as of late. I simultaneously long to be an example of true devotion and femininity to others, especially my son and husband, while also creating a sort of spiritual cocoon in which to pray and really meditate on the Mass.

I hope to give veiling a try at a Saturday morning Mass during Lent to see if it really is for me, and I'd love any further feedback on the topic. Now, go on ye to Fine Linen and Purple. Blessings!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Be ... Our ... Guest!

by Shannon

Ryan and I love to have guests. Brunch, lunch, dinner, dessert, nightcap, overnight, daytrip. We don't care, as long as there are more people in the house than just the three of us. With Ryan's love of craft beer, our mutual appreciation of locally-roasted coffee and our amateur-foodie attitude, we entertain with food at least three or four times each month. Today, we had Drina and the kids over for lunch. Her husband John is busy with tax season, so we were happy to get the kids out of the house (and to give Drina an opportunity for some adult conversation). 

By 7:30 this morning, Ryan, Cruncher and I had rolled out of bed and were readying the house for our guests. Per usual, Ryan was responsible for cleaning, with Cruncher's assistance, and I took care of the food. On weekdays, Ryan does most of the tried-and-true dinner cooking, since he gets home from work first. But on the weekends, I like to take over and try new recipes. For lunch, I was featuring loaded baked potato soup and gourmet grilled cheese. 

If you want to follow the real recipe for the soup, I started here. But I didn't really follow the directions.  At all. I more or less used the ingredient list as ... suggestions, if you will. Besides, I haven't screwed up soup in a long time. 

This would make a great meatless meal if you omit the bacon. Of course, bacon makes everything immensely better, but it would still be a great soup without it. For these recipe pictures, the descriptions go clockwise from top left.

I started the stockpot with five teaspoons of Better Than Bullion and five cups of water boiling at a medium-high temperature. Off to peeling potatoes, about 3.5 pounds (or 10 total spuds). I hate peeling veggies. One day, I'll take off a knuckle. I chopped the taters up in different sized pieces, as I wanted the soup to have some chunky pieces and some smaller pieces that basically disintegrated into the broth, to build up the thickness. I ground some pepper on top (I always add dried spices at the beginning), and boiled the potatoes in the broth for about 15 minutes (stirring occasionally), until I could stab them easily with a fork. While that was going on...
I chopped up a single bunch of green onions. Green onions are our family's favorite cooking onion. They add great flavor and color, and they don't make me cry when I'm chopping them. I chopped them up to the light-green part of the stalk and put the dark green chopped pieces aside. The dark green pieces are thinner and cook faster, so I don't don't usually add them until late in the game. In went the white and light green pieces. 
After the potatoes were stab-able, I turned the stovetop temp down to "warm." I took a one-pound bag of frozen broccoli and put it in my food processor with a couple scoops of the soup. (The liquid helps the food processor not hate me.) I pulverized the contents, then adding it to the stockpot. I didn't want the broccoli to scare the kids from eating a bowl, so I wanted the pieces small. 
I then put a couple scoops of the soup, 8 ounces of half and half plus about half a cup of sour cream into a bowl to stir and mix thoroughly. Apparently, it's better to mix the dairy separate from the hot soup, to avoid curdling. Then I poured the mixture back in the soup and stirred. Now it looked like potato soup!
Here's the "loaded" part of the loaded baked potato recipe. Five cooked bacon strips (we always use thick-cut, and Ryan fried them up first thing this morning), four tablets of butter chopped, 8 ounces of shredded cheddar and the rest of the green onion. Stir and eat when all is melted. I did add another 10 ounces or so of water, as this deliciousness had cooked up pretty darn thick by the time we ate lunch.
For the kids, "gourmet grilled cheese" means hearty bread with cream cheese on each slice and shredded cheddar between. For the adults, goat cheese with a shredded mozzarella/parmesan blend on the same bread. Drina supplied the perfectly ripe fruit salad and heavenly butterscotch meringue bars. We. Were. STUFFED.
The kids recovered from full bellies faster than us adults. They fashioned a rocket ship!
Sibling love.  : )  That Ducky — she is such a little mother.
And then they all chillaxed with some coloring. Cruncher took on Transformers, Ducky chose Our Lady, and Mag-Lite tackled Thomas the Tank Engine...
...while we had some adult conversation and enjoyed our favorite coffee microroastery's Tanzanian peaberry (roasted two weeks ago). And Baby Larry tried to tell everyone he needed a nap.

I know. I know. The question on all of your minds is, "But, Shannon, what were you wearing while you slaved over the stove and played hostess?!"

Jade stud earrings: heirloom
Porcelain ose necklace: gift from the MIL, formerly Ryan's grandmother's 
Red T-shirt: Old Navy
Wool cardi: United Colors of Benetton, vintage
Skinnies: Old Navy (always stock up on denim in August!)
Loafers: Crown Vintage, DSW

And Cruncher wore his favorite non-schoolday outfit: Darth Vader, brown plaid cargos, snake tattoo and black dress shoes. He's got a look, that's for sure.

And tomorrow, we do it again! Isaac, Tenille and their kids are due over for dinner. May as well have people over again since the house is already clean. I'll let you know how it went in my WIWS post. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

What I Wore Sunday: Unintentionally Liturgical

by Shannon

Where there is charity and wisdom there is neither fear nor ignorance. Where there is patience and humility there is neither anger nor worry.
Where there is poverty and joy there is neither cupidity nor avarice.
Where there is quiet and meditation there is neither solicitude nor dissipation.
Where there is the fear of the Lord to guard the house 
the enemy cannot find a way to enter.
Where there is mercy and discretion 
there is neither superfluity nor hard-heartedness.
~St. Francis of Assisi

(Note: I've been meaning to say this for weeks now, but I want to give a shout out to all you WordPress ladies. I have the darnedest time commenting on your blogs, and I want you to know that I'm checking out your Mass fashions too! I'll comment, and it doesn't show, so I'll comment again, and Wordpress goes all "duplicate comment detected" on me, so I move on, and check back a few days later to find my comment never posted. Does anyone else have that problem? Arg!)

Time for What I Wore Sunday, with the lovely ladies at Fine Linen and Purple!

I decided to pick out my Mass outfit before bed last night. Normally, that would sound like a grand idea, but I was über exhausted after yesterday's craft binging. Nothing in my closet was pleasing me. I laid out four different outfits, none of which were right, and Ryan and I got into an — ahem — discussion over the appropriateness of denim fabric at Mass. It was not a good night to approach that topic (or any other) with me, and I think I won purely because I was moody and. Was. Not. Having. It. 

I ultimately despised the final outfit I chose, but this morning I was much happier with it, especially when I realized it was unintentionally liturgically appro-pro:

I always forget to photograph my outerwear. You've seen the shawl before, and today I used it as it's scarf function. The wool blazer I've worn all winter in lieu of my coat. Yes, I know that sounds crazy. It's been as low as the single-digits, and I have yet to wear a real coat. I just throw this on with a scarf, shove a jacket, hat and gloves in the back of the car for emergencies, and then go on my merry way. I always feel like I'm fighting with a coat — the sleeves are too long, the hem hits too low on my short torso, my seatbelt doesn't fit right, etc. Also, it's a bit warmer here than temperatures run back home, so ain't no thang. 

Butterfly earrings: Target
Plaid scarf: TJ Maxx
Wool blazer: vintage, consignment shop I love (I actually think it had a former life as stage wear because it had an odd little ticket stapled inside when I bought it.)
White t-shirt: Target
Purple ruffle cardigan: Ralph Lauren, thrifted
Fuchia snakeskin belt: Target
Purple paisley skirt: Alfani, Macys
Tortoiseshell watch: Fossil
Brown tights: Target
Sloutchy boots: Born, Zappos

I went with the good ol' winterizing the summer wardrobe move. The skirt was recently uncovered while organizing our storage, so I was excited to wear it again. My mother gave me a gift card for my birthday the year after Cruncher was born, telling me to buy something nice for myself. This was my something nice, and I just feel good in it. This outfit was very comfortable, though the almost gauzy-like quality of the skirt's cotton caused it to stick to my tights as I stood, sat and knelt. I had Ryan on skirt-watch, as even the slip wasn't helping things.

While this outfit is a similar silhouette to one I shared a few weeks ago, and I tend to favor flouncy skirts, I do wish the skirt fit a little more straight and less poofy. 

I'm drawn to vintage-inspired, bottom-heavy silhouettes, which isn't necessarily the best for my shape and height. What do you think — does it look a bit better as an A-line or pencil? 

A bit more eye-candy of the accessories. I don't wear these items often, since I favor stud earrings and gold. This was a pretty easy-to-accessorize outfit, which is probably why I ended up choosing it late last night after I had lost my patience. 

Cruncher was a handsome little devil today (luckily not acting as one during Mass). The shirt and pants were gifts (and thrifted), so I'm not sure of their origins. The sweater is Old Navy, and the shoes and socks are Target. I was happy to get him in a decent pair of pants today, as he REALLY favors cargo pants, so I had to chronicle the event. He even butted me out of the frame for his own self-timer photo shoot. 

If you're still reading, and don't think this too personal a question, I'd love to know if you veil and why or why not. I'm currently discerning, and heartfelt thoughts aren't abundant online. Thanks!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Craft Binge

by Shannon

If I were a better blogger, I would stretch out this post over daaaays. But I'm not, so strap yourself in. This weekend was all about wrapping up some long-procrastinated projects, plus some Lenten inspiration. I tend to do crafts all at once, rather than one new project at a time. I like to call it Craft Binging.

Lent never fails to sneak up on me. By the time Shrove Tuesday arrives, I'm running to the grocery after work on Tuesday to buy latkes mix and meatless meals, rushing to Hobby Lobby for supplies, and desperately trying to decide between which penances to juggle for the coming liturgical season. This year was no exception, but I did manage to put off the crafting until the weekend. 

Four projects, clockwise from top left: "REPENT" letters for Lent prayer reminder, no-sew purple family-altar cloths, Scrabble-tile magnets and faux pull-down map.

I bought the letters and paint for the "REPENT" letters along with an "ALLELUIA" to bury, on Tuesday after work. Between frying potato pancakes and helping Cruncher with homework, I tore down all my winter décor and put up the REPENT with some Lenten-inspired items, but I knew the area needed some work.

By the way, those crowns of thorns (or mini grapevine wreaths) hanging down from Hubert represent each Friday in Lent, and we remove one each week to help Cruncher gauge how close we are getting to Easter. 

I had recently painted some unfinished wood with craft paint, and it had and almost chalkboard-like quality to it. While the dry-look worked fine for that project, I wanted REPENT to have more pop off the wall, so we'd really stop to take notice and reflect on the redemptive nature of the season. I gave glossy craft paint a try, and it turned out well.

After painting a couple letters, I found that applying heavy paint around the edges first and then applying broad paint strokes on the fronts made the process pretty fast and easy. Probably the easiest project of the day, but not without mistakes. I should have lightly sanded before painting. You can see the finish is a bit rough. (Though, Ryan says everything should be rougher during Lent — bah-dum-chhh.) Also, I should have let the letters dry on perhaps wax paper. My handy dandy archdiocese newspaper (the only paper we receive) stuck to the backs of the letters. In the end, not a huge deal, since the backs of the letters were to go up against the wall.

Before and after. I also no-sewed a cloth for this family altar. I had to be extra careful to ensure the hems were squared up, but the cloth resulted at exactly the right size. I'm happy with how clean and simple the altar turned out, perfect for Lent. I also no-sewed a cloth to place under some other blessed objects on the bookshelf. And I might do one more cloth for the coffee table, where we have a big family bible and a pillar candle inside a larger grapevine wreath.

Next up: Scrabble-tile magnets. We bought a fancy-schmancy wooden Scrabble board a few years back (complete with engraving), so the old, sad cardboard Scrabble box has been sitting in a drawer for too long. Ryan recently started using Scrabble tiles to help Cruncher cultivate his new love of spelling, so I decided our tired plastic letter magnets had to go and be replaced with nice wooden ones. Besides, we couldn't spell anything decent since there was only two of each plastic letter. Anything decent = Shannon. No fun! 

I used a hot-glue gun to reinforce the self-adhesive on the magnet strips. The magnets were easy to cut to size with plain ol' scissors. The worst part was picking off all the glue strings after the finished product dried. Well, I guess the worst part was actually the burns on my fingers. But it wouldn't be crafting if there weren't injuries, amiright? I love the smell of a hot-glue gun in the afternoon. You know the glue is ready for action when the gun makes that "I'll burn your flesh off, fool!" smell.

Old letters versus new. We gave most of those colorful letters away to another family a few weeks ago, but they keep cropping up all over the house. We're hoping that won't be the case with the Scrabble-tile magnets, because I figured out how to hang the drawstring bag off the fridge. Badabing!

Of course, when I went to implement the new magnets, I realized the fridge was a disaster. See that heart with arms and legs on the freezer door? That's from LAST Valentine's Day. I'm the most horrible mom on the planet because I don't keep all of Cruncher's awesome artwork, so I got rid of everything you see here except for the O Antiphons coloring page he worked on during Midnight Mass. I have an accordion file where I keep his best work. I put all of the thank-you cards in a photo box, and threw out everything else. Plus, I scrubbed the outside of the fridge (it was dusty — whaaaaat?), and I added a basket up top for Cruncher's lunchbox. Now I can breathe.

The last project is one I've been putting off the longest: a fake pull-down map for Cruncher's room. We moved our old computer into his room when he started school, and I thought a vintage-looking map would really top off the desk. I had already hung a shelf (that's the other project I painted with black craft paint) and added some collected items and some organizers. 

A real pull-down map to fit above that desk would retail for only about, oh, maybe $150. Since I have gobs of cash to spend, I rather like a challenge, so I decided to instead make my own. (Lies. All lies.) I did some research months ago and decided to go with this tutorial, but use 3M Command Strips. Well, it didn't work. The 3M Command Strips made the map look super wrinkly and sloppy. So, I rolled up the map and threw it in a closet. 

Today, I tackled the map once again! It was not a project without its difficulties (though there were no injuries). I did not take pictures of the process because it went so horribly (ripping the map, running out of staples for the staple gun, Ryan buying the wrong staples, me hammering in staples, ripping off one dowel rod and starting over, blah blah blah). The easiest part was the gel stain I applied to the dowel rods.

Doesn't look super awesome there, but wait until you see the dowels hanging on the wall.

I also added a little hook to the center of the bottom dowel, to really give it that retractable look.

Before and after! I'm really pleased with how it turned out. All the colors are jiving, the textures and layers are working, and — AND! — I can finally say I have a room in the house finished! That might be a first. 

And Cruncher's response when I asked him what he thought of his new map: "That's not new. We got that a long time ago." Well. Hmm. Can't fool him. 

Did you tackle any long-forgotten projects this weekend? Did you prepare for Lent before or after Tuesday arrived? Are you a craft binger, or do you spread the love of crafts across your calendar? 

See ya tomorrow. I have no idea what I'm wearing

By the way, I've linked up with The Pinterest Challenge (CHALLENGE, Challenge, challenge, challenge...) with Sherry at Young House Love, along with Bower Power, The Remodeled Life and Décor and the Dog.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Sunday, February 10, 2013

What I Wore Sunday: The One with a Special Guest

by Shannon

Ladies (and any gentleman), this is where I get my style sense:

My mama! 

Necklace: Macy's
Black top: Goodwill, Susan Graver 
Sweater: Goodwill, Casper
Skirt: Goodwill, Village from Liz Claiborne
Tights: Walmart? 
Boots: Clarks

(Funny aside: When I called to ask her the details on her outfit for the post, she told me the necklace was silver with chunky circles and the top was black. Thanks for reading the blog each Sunday, Mom.)

I decided to winterize a summer piece again. The skirt is actually linen, and I usually stop wearing it in September. The dark colors make it an obvious choice for wardrobe-stretching, though, so I paired it with a fisherman sweater, my trusty boots and a fun necklace. 


Jade stud earrings (not pictured, but shown last week): Grandmother heirloom
Fisherman sweater: Old Navy
Awesome necklace: vintage
Tortoise-shell watch: Fossil
Crazy skirt: hand-me-down, East 5th
Brown tights: Target
Riding boots: Born, Zappos

Another closeup on the necklace because I love it so. 

Hop on over to Fine Linen and Purple to see everyone's Sunday finest. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

What I Wore Sunday: Blanket and Long Johns

by Shannon

I have a secret.

I wore a wool blanket and long johns to Mass today. Well, practically.

We visited friends up north this weekend, where we anticipated very cold, snowy weather. (We left for home immediately after Mass, thus my pictures being in my newly painted guest bedroom.) I decided my Sunday outfit must feature two things: my favorite wool shawl and long johns. For the long johns, I settled on the ever-so-popular Winterize My Summer Wardrobe, which has been trending for the last few weeks on Fine Linen and Purple and with all the ladies who link up. And I did just that by wearing a sweater, shawl and long johns with a long summer skirt.

The wool shawl was required because I missed it so. It had been a year since I'd worn it and left it at my friend's wedding, and she's who we visited this weekend. So I got it back — yay! — and had to wear it immediately. 

I knew I was going to wear it for Mass when I packed for the weekend, but I couldn't exactly remember the colors in it. This outfit photographs a lot cuter than it is in person. You can see in that below pic that the shawl really has nothing to do with the skirt's colors. We'll call the look boho and move on. 

The shawl is basically a wool blanket in disguise, and I wear it a few different ways.

My favorite way to wear it is the middle one above. I often pin a brooch on it, which is my "put a bird on it."

Other than my usual rings and watch, I only wore some jade studs, which were also an heirloom from my grandmother who gave me my favorite piece of jewelry.


Earrings: heirloom
Shawl: TJ Maxx
Sweater: H&M (Aren't those exaggerated poof sleeves the cutest?!)
Watch: Fossil
Skirt: Hand-me-down, White Stag (Is that Walmart? I can't remember.)
Long johns: Cuddl Duds
Boots: Born

We're in the midst of a solid cold snap, so I'm sure you'll see plenty of winter-weather wear at Fine Linen and Purple.

(Correction: My mother has pointed out on my Facebook status for this post that the skirt was a hand-me-down from her. I'll go ahead and add that the long johns also were hers once upon a time.)