Renovation Lessons: God is God, I am not.

Greetings from the land of dust, fumes, and noise. It’s been a while. I know. I’m sorry. It’s been a rough few months, though, filled with delays, setbacks, and unexpected problems (and lots of writing to pay for those unexpected problems). I haven’t blogged about it all because I figured you people have better things to do than listen to me whine. Today, though, in celebration of our mantles and bookcases getting installed and the picture rail going up, I thought I would do some whining with a theological point (and a few progress pictures, thrown in for good measure).

For starters: The Mantles (still in need of finishing trim, but in place at long last).

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Dining In the Time of Dry Wall Dust

They say if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. If, however, you want to make Him do more than laugh, if you want to make Him double over and fall down on the floor in stitches, write a book.

In it, be wise. So very wise. Combine the writings of the saints and Scripture with practical examples and tips from your own life about how you personally Do The Wise Thing.

Admit, ever so humbly, that you don’t always follow your own advice. But give the advice just the same.

Before the book is even off the presses, God will be in hysterics. And you will find yourself nearly incapable of following a single word of your own advice.

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Day Drinking In the Rubble

Living through a major renovation teaches you all sorts of things about yourself.

For example, spending day after day, working and planning, eating and drinking, talking and resting in the same shadowy 450 square foot space, unable to invite anyone over for dinner or even a drink, has taught me that I would make the world’s most crashingly awful hermit. If I tried really, really hard, I might last three days—three dreary, miserable days that would inevitably end with me being kicked out of the hermit club, and all the other hermits cheering with glee since I’d spent those three days repeatedly breaking out of my hermitage and sneaking into theirs because I wanted a chat…and variety…and space.

Self-knowledge: I am a women who needs lebensraum. The lack of it makes me a little tick-tick.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for someone to keep you company in a bombed out, post-apocalyptic shell of a building, I am your girl.

Despite my love for beauty, order, and floors that don’t have 4’ x 8’ holes in them, I have discovered that I have a surprisingly high tolerance level for filth…and rubble…and 4’ x 8’ holes.

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The House: Week 1 (Part Deux)

Welcome back!. Today, we’re continuing the tour upstairs. Yesterday, for those of you just joining us, we covered the downstairs. I hope, after seeing that, you got offline and thanked God that you live in a home without bathtubs on the back porch. To us, that is the stuff of which dreams are made.

Although (drum roll)……Demo has finally begun! Yay!!!! Our wonderful contractor’s schedule finally allowed him to turn his attention to this project, and as I write, men are banging away downstairs. I couldn’t be more pleased with all the dust and noise. I’m sure that will change, but right now, as far as I’m concerned, the more destruction happening below, the better. A contained dynamite blast would be best of all.

Once it’s safe to take pictures down there, I will. But, for now, let’s go upstairs. As you’ll see, I’ve put zero effort into staging the rooms. My apologies.

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The House: Week 1

If, anytime in the next eight months, you find yourself wondering, “Where is Emily? Why is she such a slack, good for nothing, lazy blogger?”, just think of this.

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Or this…

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Or this:

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Welcome to our new home: a 3,000 square foot, 1890 Victorian/early Arts and Crafts Four Square, in Crafton, PA. Once the lovely summer home of a well-to-do Pittsburgher, it was turned into an up-down duplex sometime in the 1940s (we think). Lots and lots of remuddling went on then. More remuddling went on in the years that followed. Now, it’s ours. Yay.

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Who’s On My Dream Dinner Guest List…and Other Fun Questions

Guilty. That’s the single best word to describe how I’m feeling these days…at least about
this blog.

Yes, I know I had two surgeries in the month of November, moved homes, and am beginning a major house rehab. I also know I’m supposed to be limiting my hours on the computer while my eye continues to heal (emergency surgery for a torn retina was one of those two surgeries, in case you missed it). And I know I have deadlines galore still to meet that editors have been patiently waiting for ever since my eyes decided to go on hiatus.

Nevertheless, I’m still feeling guilty about my inability to blog regularly here. Not guilty enough to prioritize it over the other deadlines. But guilty enough to feel a little bit sick about it every morning when I sit down to write something else.

So, although more time or better eyes have not yet presented themselves, I have decided to mildly assuage my guilt by sharing the fun conversation I had with Zoe Romanowsky earlier this week about The Catholic Table: Finding Joy Where Food and Faith Meet.

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The Catholic Table’s Guide to a Guilt-Free Thanksgiving, Part 1

Despite the fact that most of my kitchen is currently packed away in about 464 different boxes, I’m still planning on cooking this Thursday. Not the whole shebang, mind you. Just some of the shebang: sausage and apple stuffing, creamy garlic mashed potatoes, and winter spiced cranberry chutney.

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I’ll then tote those delights over to my mother-in-law’s house, where the rest of the shebang is being cooked. These are some of my favorite dishes I cook all year, and I’m not letting some pain-in-the-rear move keep me from happiness.

Moves, however, aren’t the thing keeping many a person from happiness at Thanksgiving. For many of us, it’s guilt…and anxiety..and poorly cooked Brussels sprouts. The devil is always at work, and he loves to turn what’s supposed to be a merry feast into an occasion for sin and fear.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though. It is possible to navigate both seasons of feasting and seasons of fasting with peace, freedom, and ample amounts of tasty treats.

In Chapter 9 of The Catholic Table: Finding Joy Where Food and Faith Meet, I talk about how I do that. Here’s a small “taste” of my thoughts on the subject. Continue reading

Books, Boxes, Bread, and Babies

You know what’s not easy?

Dealing with mortgage lenders. Also, finding contractors who actually show up when they say they will to give you an estimate. And most of all, staying off Facebook when you have 101 opinions about the recent election that need expressing, but also a dozen different deadlines that need meeting.

You know what else isn’t easy? Blogging and moving houses at the same time. It’s kind of like patting your head and rubbing your belly. Only harder.

Regardless, now that Facebook is moving on from the “Trump versus Clinton” debate to the Gilmore Girls’ “Dean versus Jess versus Logan” debate (I’m an ABD girl: Anyone But Dean), the publishers and I have decided that maybe it’s time for us to start talking about the little project that kept me hopping all last spring…

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The Catholic Table: Finding Joy Where Food and Faith Meet is here It’s bee-yoo-tee-ful! And it makes the perfect Christmas gift for anyone you know who likes to cook…or eat…or support the Help Emily and Chris Put Heat and Electricity in the Attic Where They’ll Be Living for the Next Four Months Fund. Continue reading

Leaving Home

I hosted the first party in my Steubenville home on January 2, 2005. I’d only closed on the house a few hours before, but that didn’t stop me from calling up a half-dozen friends and inviting them to join me for dinner. We ordered Chinese, laid out a blanket on the floor of the empty living room, and ate off paper plates. It was a glorious evening.

I hosted my last party in my Steubenville home this past Friday night. There were too many of us to sit around the table, so we ate in the living room this time too. Only, there’s furniture there now. Life has gotten more comfortable over the past 12 years. The food has gotten better too. For the occasion (introducing my home’s soon-to-be-new-owners to some of my closest friends), I cooked one of my fanciest and easiest pasta dishes. Guests sipped martinis, and we all ate off my pretty English china. It also was a glorious evening, albeit with a touch of melancholy.

Looking Back

Twelve years ago, when we ate Chinese on the living room floor, there was the promise of more parties to come. On Friday, the promise was gone. In its place, however, was gratitude for parties past.

There was gratitude for Thursday Night Dinners—my once weekly dinner parties where children ran wild through the house and dozens of grown-ups found seats wherever there they could—sofas and chairs, basement floors, front porch railings, and garden beds.

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