7 Quick Takes Friday – November 30

Please join me and other Catholic bloggers at Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes Friday.

1. Advent is almost here!

Image copyright Full Quiver Publishing

Image copyright Full Quiver Publishing

2. Snow, Snow, Snow!
We woke up to this winter wonderland a few mornings ago!

3. Loreena McKennitt Concert
Tomorrow, my husband and I are looking forward to seeing Loreena McKennitt in concert at the National Art Centre in Ottawa. Here’s a beautiful video of her performing “Snow.”

4. Favorite Advent Books
It’s that time again! Here are some of my favorite Advent Books:
Donkey Bells – Catherine Doherty (Madonna House)
Welcome Baby Jesus – Sarah Reinhard
Joy to the World: Advent Activities For Your Family – Kathleen Basi
Advent, Christmas and Epiphany in the Domestic Church – Peter and Catherine Fournier
O Radiant Dawn – Lisa Hendey (Just released this year!)
Advent and Christmas with Fulton Sheen

5. Make Your Own Advent Wreath
Years ago, my husband made our advent wreath and we have been using the same one every year (we replace the candles). Our wreath uses the shorter votive type candles. To learn how to make your own advent wreath, click here: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/activities/view.cfm?id=954

6. Stuffed French Toast
A favorite of ours every Christmas morning is this easy-to-make, easy-to-serve breakfast. I usually prepare it the day before, then pop it in the oven just before the kids wake up to open presents Christmas morning. There are many different variations, but here’s the one I use because it serves our large family.Full-Overnightfrenchtoast

7. New Blog Photo
Regular readers may notice that my “water” blog photo above has been changed. This photo from Venice was taken five years ago when we traveled in Italy.AAheader for blog

Copyright 2012 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Bread Upon the Water Book Review

Here in North America, many Catholics have become indifferent. A large number don’t attend Mass on Sunday. Contrast that to the Catholics in developing countries who often walk miles to attend Mass.

Bread Upon the Water by Deanna Klingel is the true story of the difficult and painful journey of Duong Tien, born in South Vietnam, who from an early age knew he had a vocation to the priesthood. When communism invaded his country, he left his family, became a boat person and refugee in a frightening journey to freedom.

This man’s determination is inspiring. Through all the hardships, sicknesses and dangerous situations, he continued to persevere and trust that God would allow him to someday become a priest in America. In fact, the author shows that this man would have welcomed death to the alternative of living in a communist country with no religious freedom.

Although the target audience is young adult, I highly recommend this book to everyone, young and old. Reading Duong Tien’s story could certainly help us all appreciate the gift of our Catholic faith.

To purchase the book on Amazon, click on this link:

To find out more about this book or read an excerpt, click this link:

Copyright 2012 Ellen Gable Hrkach

NFP and Communication

My latest post at Catholic Mom is entitled Natural Family Planning and Communication.

Lack of communication is one of the leading causes of marital breakdown. For the NFP-using couple, communication is essential. Procrastination isn’t an option. The NFP couple discusses whether or not they will be avoiding or planning pregnancy. In order to be successful at this, it’s necessary to discuss the woman’s signs of fertility and infertility. My husband has often said, “If you can talk about your wife’s cervical mucus, you can discuss anything.”

To briefly review how NFP works: husband and wife chart the wife’s signs of fertility and infertility. (Note: the man is fertile every day of his post-pubescent life, assuming there are no health difficulties). The couple then determines the start and end of the fertile time (we call it Phase II). If they are avoiding pregnancy, they abstain in the fertile time. If they are planning a pregnancy, they engage in relations during this time. Although it sounds simplistic, there are various scenarios, conditions and more complicated issues that arise, so formal NFP classes (either live or online) are recommended.

One of the keys to each couple’s success in using NFP is effective communication. NFP works best when the couple, together, study and observe the woman’s signs of fertility and infertility. Ideally, each month, the NFP couple discusses whether they will be avoiding a pregnancy or achieving a pregnancy. Because NFP can be used both to plan and to avoid, it’s a good idea to have this conversation every month, even if the couple has decided that they will be avoiding pregnancy for a year or more. When internal shifts in emotional attitude are brought to the surface, the couple can unite in their efforts to carry out their plans regarding abstinence.

In over 30 years of using NFP, we have found that frequently one of us was more open to pregnancy and the other still wanted to avoid it for the time being. Sometimes our monthly conversations were long and complicated; other times, short. The important point is that these types of dialogues are meant to take place well beforehand and not in the middle of the marital embrace.

When the NFP couple is discussing intimate topics such as mucus and other fertility signs, it enhances their marital and sexual life, thereby increasing intimacy. This sort of communication should also continue when the couple is postpartum (after having a baby) and in post-menopause (after menopause).

When they are avoiding pregnancy, abstinence can be difficult and challenging. Being able to talk to your spouse and know that you are not alone in the struggles and challenges brings a couple together in love. NFP demands the kind of intimate and deep conversation that a married couple needs to enhance their marriage. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that NFP couples have a lower divorce rate.

For more information on NFP:

Copyright 2012 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Sunday Snippets – November 18

Image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

Please join me and other Catholic bloggers at RAnn’s Place for Sunday Snippets where we share posts from the previous week.

Does Self-Publishing Mean Substandard? (Latest post for CWG Blog)

Frozen Footprints by Therese Heckenkamp Book Review

7 Quick Takes Friday I’ll be traveling down to NJ for Thanksgiving, a high school reunion and to speak to a group of Catholic high school students in Philadelphia.

7 Quick Takes Friday – November 16

Please join me and other Catholic bloggers at Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes Friday.

On Sunday, I’ll be traveling down to New Jersey to visit with my extended family and to take part in other various activities.

1. Hallahan High School
This Tuesday, I’ll be visiting my mother’s alma mater, Hallahan High School (My mom graduated with the Class of ’51) in Philadelphia to speak to some of the Freshmen Theology Classes.

2. Reunion
Speaking of high schools, I’ll also be attending my 35-year high school reunion next week. I’m looking forward to seeing my fellow Class of ’77 classmates. It’s no surprise that I was one of the shortest in our class. The photo below was for the “Who’s Who’s” in the yearbook (that’s me on the left).

3. Frozen Footprints
Therese Heckenkamp’s exciting new novel, Frozen Footprints, has been released! Read my review here.

(I’m skipping #4 since I posted eight last week!)

5 and 6. We Sure Have Changed!
We recently had a formal family photograph taken for our parish directory. The last time we did this was 15 years ago before we had our youngest son (top).

7. Let’s Get Healthy Cartoon

image copyright Full Quiver Publishing

Copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach