February 28, 2013

Farewell Papa

God Bless you Pope Benedict XVI.  You will be dearly missed, but won't ever be far from my prayers.  Thank you for all you have done for the Church.

‎"When, on April 19 almost eight years ago I accepted to take on the Petrine ministry, I had the firm certainty that has always accompanied me: this certainty for the life of the Church from the Word of God. At that moment, as I have already expressed many times, the words that resounded in my heart were: Lord, what do You ask of me? It is a great weight that You are placing on my shoulders but, if You ask it of me, I will cast my nets at your command, confident that You will guide me, even with all my weaknesses. And eight years later I can say that the Lord has guided me. He has been close to me. I have felt His presence every day. It has been a stretch of the Church's path that has had moments of joy and light, but also difficult moments. I felt like St. Peter and the Apostles in the boat on the See of Galilee. The Lord has given us many days of sunshine and light breezes, days when the fishing was plentiful, but also times when the water was rough and the winds against us, just as throughout the whole history of the Church, when the Lord seemed to be sleeping. But I always knew that the Lord is in that boat and I always knew that the boat of the Church is not mine, not ours, but is His. And the Lord will not let it sink. He is the one who steers her, of course also through those He has chosen because that is how He wanted it. This was and is a certainty that nothing can tarnish. And that is why my heart today is filled with gratitude to God, because He never left—the whole Church or me—without His consolation, His light, or His love."

—Pope Benedict XVI, from his final Audience

February 27, 2013

Soup Night! : Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup

For the duration of Lent, my family and I have a specific meal assigned for each day of the week.  Tuesday night is soup night.  We allow ourselves a little bit of variety here, rather than only one kind of soup for the whole of Lent.  I'm planning on trying a handful of new soups and thought that I would share each weeks recipe with y'all.

This week we had Butternut Squash & Carrot Soup.

Where I found it: Family Circle Magazine
Prep time: 1 hour

1 large onion, cut in eights
3 cloves garlic, whole
1 butternut squash (2 1/2 lbs), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 lb carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tbs olive oil
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

  • Heat oven to 425*.  Toss vegetables with oil, salt and pepper.  Spread vegetables on a baking sheet and bake at 425* for 30 minutes, turning after 15 minutes.
  • Puree vegetables and broth in 2 batches until smooth; transfer to a large pot.  Bring to a simmer.  Stir in brown sugar and nutmeg.  Serve with croutons if desired.
Per serving: 144 calories.  Serves: 6  
(I increased the vegetables and the broth to make enough soup for 9 people)

To go along with the meal, I prepared an Olive Garden Salad Mix (with Olive Garden Salad Dressing) and Olive Garden Breadsticks.   The breadsticks are amazing, by the way.  They really do taste like the ones that you get from Olive Garden!  I was very, very happy with how it all turned out.

I had a few hesitant reactions to the words "butternut squash" and "carrots" prior to dinner time, but this ended up being a meal that everyone actually enjoyed.  I think it's a keeper.

February 24, 2013

The Liebster Award

I was given this lovely award by my Mom, at Homeschooling with Joy. The Liebster Award is given to up - and - coming bloggers who have less than 200 followers.  Liebster is German for "sweetest," "kindest," "nicest," "dearest," "beloved," "valued," "endearing," and "welcoming."  Thanks Mom!

Here are the "rules" for The Liebster Award: 
1. List 11 things about yourself.
2. Answer the questions that the nominator has posed for you.
3. Nominate 11 up and coming bloggers who have  less than 200 followers.
4. Create 11 questions to ask the nominees.
5. Go to the page of each nominee  and tell her about her award.

So here are the 11 things about me:
  1. I'm an introvert, which doesn't mean I'm shy or I hate people.  I love being with people and being social, but I can only handle it in smaller doses, and I draw my energy from being alone rather than being always surrounded by people.  
  2. If a person/place/thing is something everyone else absolutely loves to death and oh my gosh it's the greatest thing since canned corn, I tend to dislike it or not even bother just because.  Hence the reason I've never read G.K. Chesterton (know lots of people who rave over him), I'm not a big David Tennent fan (because he's everyone else's favorite Doctor) and you'll never see Downton Abbey on my list of favorite TV shows (because it's the darling of the rest of the world). I'm contrary with a lot of things like that ;)  Not all, but a lot.
  3. I recently decided I like pickles and guacamole.  But not together.
  4. I have a wild side.  I've thought about getting my ears double pierced.  
  5. I am also a sarcastic person....
  6. Going off of #2, I have already decided that beer is going to be my favorite beverage after I turn 21 just because I've had several people tell me that they could never see me liking beer.  So there.
  7. My dream job is working in a library or a bookstore.
  8. One of my biggest pet peeves is people who gloat when they win.  I could care less if I lose the game, but if you beat me and you have a smug attitude about it... don't expect me to be anything close to a gracious loser.
  9. When you first meet me, I'm a very quiet person and prefer to listen to what you or everyone else has to say.  After a time though (few weeks to a month or two) I will open up and start talking a lot more.
  10. Personally, I think we should elect a nun for Pope.

       Joking! Joking!  Totally joking! Keep your mitres on, the last thing I want is a nun as Pope.

Now for the 11 questions that I was asked.

1.  What prayer do you find comfort in?  The Memorare
2.  What is your guardian angels name? Matthew, I like to call him Matt, but I think he prefers Matthew.
3.  Beef or chicken? Beef.
4.  What is your favorite eye color and why? Brown... because blue eyes are in every song and story and TOTALLY overrated (just like blonde hair...), also my Knight's eyes are brown.
5.  Describe your dream vacation.  Some place quiet, in the mountains with extensive forests and a small river and maybe a few little waterfalls.
6.  Would you rather live someplace rural or urban and why?  Rural... I like having space, the scenery.  Urban seems so close and clustered and loud.
7.  Which season is your favorite?  Fall.  Spring is a close second, but in Fall the weather tends to be a steadier mild, and not so much cold and warm and cold and hot and cold like Spring can be.
8.  What is the farthest place you have traveled to?  Treasure Island, Florida
9.  Would you rather work for someone else or be self-employed?  I would much rather work for someone else
10. David Tennat or Matt Smith?  Matt Smith
11. What do you like to do on a Sunday?  Go to Mass, come home and just be at home with no one else around and nothing that I have to do.

And 11 people to tag... Well, I don't really follow that many blogs, but here are a few!

And anyone else who is reading this who hasn't been given this award already!

11 questions for the next round of people

1.  If you could date a historical figure, who would it be?
2.  In the winter, do you prefer making snow angels or building a snowman? Why?
3.  What is your favorite kind of candy?
4.  Which Saint/Title or apparition of the Blessed Mother is a source of inspiration for you?
5.  What do you do to cope with sadness?
6.  What kind of toppings do you like on your tacos?
7.  In another life, would you rather be an impala or an iguana?
8. Do shopping sprees help you relieve stress or are you an anti-shopper?
9.  What does your dream home look like?
10. What is your favorite mystery of the Rosary?
11.  Do you think you will actually do all these questions?

Have fun!

February 20, 2013

Modest Mondays: Brightening up Winter Gray

Just joining the Modest Monday party? Here's the original post (from My Spare Oom). Each Monday, I post a modest, stylish outfit. 
Why? Because I believe you don't have to sacrifice fashion and style for purity. 
 Modesty does not equal frumpy. This is my way of showing that modesty can be fashionable 
and pretty. I'm a girl determined to live a life of 
and plenty of style. 

- - - - - - -

Yesterday was a dull, cold and gray winter's day.  It was a quiet day as well.  Only my work in the morning, and at home in the afternoon - to watch and bewail the season finale of Downton Abbey.  Seriously, that was the most depressing last minute of a show that I have ever seen.

To brighten up the cold and dreary day, I decided to throw some red into my outfit.

Beret: I crocheted it myself!
Black Shirt: Forever XXI
Patterened Camisole: Either Wal-Mart or Target
Belt: Had it forever and don't know where it came from
Red skirt: One that I made from a Simplicity pattern a number of years ago
Bracelet: Charming Charlies
Evenstar Necklace: Why, I got it from my Elessar, of course!

Admittedly this was a self photograph that I took while preparing dinner last night.  You can see it there on the stove behind me... what else better to bring cheer to a chilly day than a warm pot of soup?

Grace at My Spare Oom is the mastermind behind Modest Monday.  If you feel like joining in... post on your blog and then share the link over on hers!

February 15, 2013

Modest Monday: On a Friday... with the outfit I wore Thursday

To quote from Grace's blog My Spare Oom, from whence this post originated....

Just joining the Modest Monday party? Here's the original post. Each Monday, I post a modest, stylish outfit. 
Why? Because I believe you don't have to sacrifice fashion and style for purity. 
 Modesty does not equal frumpy. This is my way of showing that modesty can be fashionable 
and pretty. I'm a girl determined to live a life of 
and plenty of style. 

- - - - - - -

That being said, I plan on participating in Modest Mondays from time to time here on this blog.  However, I usually work all day Monday and from there run off to choir practice, which leaves me without much time to take a photo or blog about my outfit.  Therefore I have a feeling most of my Modest Mondays will actually be Modest Other-Day-of-the-Week.

Since I actually had a picture of what I wore yesterday (and thought it a pretty cute outfite).... voila!  What I wore on Valentine's Day.

Sweater: Burlington Coat Factory
Skirt: Goodwill
Boots: Payless Shoe Source
Necklace and earrings: gift from a friend!
Belt: Khols
Rose headband: ... I think a fundraiser somehow connected with the FTN forum?
Roses: My Knight ^_^

This was such a fun outfit to put together and wear - and I got quite a few compliments while I was at work. One sweet old lady saw my outfit and gushed about how cute it was that my rose and lipstick and shirt all matched so perfectly and how adorable I was.  It was cute.

The best part of getting dressed up for Valentine's Day was then getting to skype with my Knight, who was of course, the reason I fancied up in the first place. ;-)

February 14, 2013

Long Distance Love

As many of my readers may already know... I live in the Midwest.  My Knight lives on the East Coast.  We have been in a long distance relationship, well, really since we first met five years ago.  At first we were long distance friends, and then we came to realize at about the same time that God was leading us to more than friends, and we entered into a long distance courtship.

When people find out that my Knight and I are long distance, usually the first question is does he go to school out there/is he from around here.  After hearing that no, he lives out East and has always lived out East, the response is generally a surprised "Well how did you guys meet?"

Of the questions and statements that often follow, the ones I hear most frequently are: "Is it hard being long distance?", "do you get to see each other often?" and "Wow, that must take a LOT of trust."

I've been thinking about this for a while, and I want to spend a little time sharing with you now, what being in a long distance relationship is like.

To answer the question of how we met, my Knight and I became friends through The Fairy Tale Novels Forum, a wonderful online community where fans of The Fairy Tale Novels by Catholic author Regina Doman gather to talk about the books, get to know fellow fans, and have crazy, awesome discussions and adventures together.  We discovered that we both took an uncommon side on one particular topic, and began messaging back and forth.  Over the next few years we became close friends.  The story of how we fell in love is one for another time, but I will say that God made it very clear that He was leading us together, and neither of us would have entered into the relationship otherwise.

Do we get to see each other often?  We are 1,000 miles apart... so we don't get to see each other nearly as often as we would like.  My Knight is still in school, so with his schedule and breaks and work over the summer, and money for plane tickets, it works out to about a week long visit every three to four months.

Is it hard being long distance?  The short answer: yes. The long answer: unless you've been long distance yourself, you have no idea how hard it is.  When your day sucks, and you need the shoulder of the one you love to cry on, they are much further than a drive away.  You can't spend time together whenever you want, drive over to hang out when you would like to, or go on dates (in person).  When he is struggling, I can't be there to wrap my arms around him and comfort him.  Getting to see his smile, hear his voice, listen to his laugh, is limited to an often fuzzy Skype connection, and a phone call.  Skype, cell phones, texting and facebook/gmail chat make things SO much easier... but even all of those wonderful inventions cannot compare to being together in person.  Yes, being long distance is one of the hardest things I've ever done.

On the issue of trust... honestly, I was a bit surprised the first time I heard that comment, because it had never occurred to me to not trust my Knight.  Our relationship was built on a strong, and solid friendship.  Despite never having lived close by each other, we knew each other.  We knew each others backgrounds, what the other person valued, what they cared about.  There is a lot of trust involved in a long distance relationship.  There has to be.  If you don't have trust, any relationship will suffer, and I can guarantee you that a long distance relationship without trust will fail.  I have been blessed with an incredibly wonderful young man in my Knight, I have always trusted him, and I always will.

I remember a conversation I once had with someone.  She was talking about a guy she sort of liked, and lamenting how the guy went to school in another state so she wouldn't really have a chance to get to know him better in person.  Then she sort of laughed and said "you probably wouldn't recommend a long distance relationship, would you."  I'm not sure how I answered, but I do remember being taken aback.  To say I wouldn't recommend a long distance relationship makes it seem like I don't think it is worth it... and nothing could be further from the truth.

Is a long distance relationship for everyone?  No, of course not.  God has a special path laid out for every couple, and not all of them have long distances along the way.  I can only speak for myself.... and yes, it absolutely is worth it.  He is worth it.  Every single minute and second of the often painful separation.  If I was given the chance to choose again, knowing just how hard long distance can be, I still would choose him. Not for an instant have I ever regretted falling in love with him.  There are plenty of tears, there is tension, and a struggle to communicate and connect despite the distance.  Yet for every tough moment, there are at least three beautiful and joy-filled ones to make up for it.  The good, the laughter, the memories, the new and creative ways we come up with to learn about each other and grow closer together even when we are 1,000 miles apart far outweigh any of the hardships that we have to endure.

February 9, 2013

Gearing up for Lent

Yep, it is that time of year again.  Time to figure out what kind of penance I'll be doing for Lent.  What am I giving up?  Is there anything extra that I will be doing?

I will of course be participating in the penances that my family does together.  And I do have a few things in mind for personal penances.  For something to do... there is a 40 Days for Life campaign going on at the abortion clinic a couple of towns over.  I am considering signing up for one day, or at least once or twice, depending on what the gas budget allows for driving.

My mom passed along an idea that she got from a friend of hers, that sounds like a beautiful plan.  For every day of Lent, have a particular intention, and offer up all of your penances that day for that one intention.  That will help to give the sacrifice more meaning, and you more motivation to stick with what you are giving up/doing.  (I know that I don't do all that well with sticking with Lenten penances!)

I plan on doing that, so if you have any intentions that you would like me to pray for during Lent, please feel free to leave them in the combox.  You can leave it with your name, or anonymous is fine with me.  I'd be more than happy to pray for you!

February 7, 2013

Make them feel loved, or, the five love languages - Part 2

Generally speaking, each person has one primary love language, one way that really lets you know that people value you and love you and care about you.  In addition to your primary language, there is often a secondary language.  How close in your first and second languages are in "fluency" varies from person to person.  Typically, this is also the way that you show love to the people around you, and that is where the challenge lies.  James' primary language could be words of affirmation, but if Mary Margaret's is acts of service, compliments and positive reinforcement and encouraging words will be nice, but they won't mean as much as if James were to voluntarily clean the house for her. Learning the love languages cannot only help us communicate what we need to feel loved and fulfilled  but can also help us to learn how to best love the people around us.  

That being said, let's take a brief moment to look at each of them, shall we?

Quality Time
My sister #1's primary love language is quality time.  To feel loved, she enjoys having people spend time with her and do things together.  There doesn't have to be any talking involved, though that is nice too.  Simply taking the time to spend some one on one time is enough.  For someone who speaks the language of Quality Time, it is essential that one on one time really does mean one on one.  Going out together and still texting friends doesn't cut it.  Cuddling while watching a movie, but then checking Facebook or your e-mail on the phone, won't fulfill the Quality Time need either.  Spend time with that person, give them your undivided attention, and they will feel loved.

Physical Touch
Physical touch is definitely my youngest brother's primary love language.  I don't think the kid goes more than ten minutes without running up to my mom, myself or one of my other siblings and giving them a hug or a kiss on the cheek.  When he's talking to you, he usually has to be touching your arm.  Of course, he absolutely loves it when he gets a hug, or you cuddle with him.  Speaking Physical Touch doesn't mean you have to be constantly hugged, but it does mean that any touch speaks volumes.  Just a simple touch on the shoulder as you walk by, a light kiss on the cheek, touching or rubbing the back while you are talking can go a long way. And of course, deeper expressions of physical touch will go even further.

Words of Affirmation
Sister #2 speaks the love language of Words of Affirmation.  For a while we didn't realize this, because she can tend to be one of the more sharp tongued people in the family.  Once she told us that though, and we read more about the love languages, it made sense that she would lash out verbally when she didn't feel enough love.  It's not that she wasn't getting any, but generally speaking verbal affirmation just isn't a big thing with us, and that is the language she responds to the most strongly.  To make a Words of Affirmation feel that they are loved, try to get into the habit of praising them.  Share compliments on their appearance, their talents, their accomplishments.  Encourage them in a positive way.  Want bonus points?  Affirm them in front of their friends or co-workers or anyone else.

Acts of Service
This is the language that my mom speaks, and we found that out the hard way because... as far as we've figured out she is the only one in our family who speaks that language.  When someone you love speaks a different primary language than you, it is so important to try and learn to speak that language as well.  The key to Acts of Service is that they have to be completely voluntary.  If someone who speaks Acts of Service asks you to please wash the dishes, and you cheerfully respond "Of course honey!" and go do it, yes that will mean a lot to them.  Yet it will mean even more if you were to see that the dishes needed to be washed, it's time for the dinner to start getting prepared and you do those things without having to be asked.  Voluntarily doing a chore for that person will make them feel loved as well.  Actions speak louder than words.

Gift Giving
My primary love language is Gift Giving.  Nothing is more sure to bring a smile to my face than an unexpected gift, or tangible token of affection.  With this language, it can be easy to feel like you are materialistic.  The gift has to be something you can touch, that you can hold and keep, and feeling guilt over my love language is something that I have struggled with.  Gift Giving as your primary love language is nothing to be ashamed of though.  A gift can be so many different things.... to show love to a Gift Giver, a surprise little "hey, I saw this and knew you would love it so I just had to get it for you", or a handmade object created during a craft session can mean worlds.  A gift can also be something like a handwritten letter, picking a flower off of a bush, an extra copy of a book that you had that you thought they might like.  The possibilities are endless... because it's not the actual gift, it's the fact that you took the time to buy or create something, and you thought of the Gift Giver when you did that will make a Gift Giver feel love.

I am by no means an expert on the love languages (though I did read The Five Love Languages, The Five Love Languages for Children, The Five Love Languages for Teens and The Five Love Languages for Singles).  I find them absolutely fascinating, and I've found that they really help in my own relationships.  If I've piqued your interest and you want to learn more... well, as you can see there are four books you can read.  Possibly even a fifth, but I can't remember what demographic that love language book was for.  In the mean time while you are getting your hands on a book, the 5 Love Languages website does give you a little quest to help you figure out what language you speak.

I hope this post was of interest and some help to anyone who has been struggling to come up with the perfect idea for a Valentine's Day gift for their sweetheart.  Now go out there and share the love!

February 6, 2013

Making them feel loved, or the five love languages - Part 1

We all want to be loved, and to make others feel loved as well. Wanting to feel loved is a part of human nature.  (Unless, of course, you are a coldhearted Scrooge.  He did long to be loved though, he just buried under all his greed and selfishness.  But I digress.)  Yet we can have the best of intentions, we can have the strongest desire to show love and the deepest longing to feel it... and still sometimes our best attempts don't quite cut it.  It's frustrating, and I'm sure that trying so hard to show love and falling short is no doubt what leads to the crumbling of many relationships.

As Valentine's Day draws closer, we start to plot and plan ways to ensure that our special someone, our family members, our friends, really know how much we love them.  Naturally, we want to get it right.  We want to make sure that we give them the best Valentine's Day ever.  Sometimes finding the perfect idea is easy, sometimes we end up wracking our brains for hours on end.

One thing that I have found to be very helpful - both around Valentine's Day, and every other day throughout the year - in making a loved one feel loved, is the theory of the Five Love Languages. You might be familiar with them already, or this could be the first time that you've ever heard of them.  It's an awesome theory that is both simple and brilliant.

A good part of the reason that we can often run into trouble with making someone feel loved is the fact that not everyone gives and receives love in the same way.  What makes me feel loved may still mean something to my sister, but it's not what really lets her know that she is loved and cared about.  Gary Chapman, relationship counselor and author of the book The Five Love Languages, breaks love down into - you guessed it! - five categories.  These categories are: Quality Time, Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service and Gift Giving.

After I wrote this post I realized it was kind of long, and if I have learned anything from my Marketing Major father, it's that people don't like to read long things on the internet.  Thus, part two shall follow tomorrow.  Also, to make this post a little more interesting, here is an early Valentine with a kitten.  Because everyone on the internet loves kittens ;-)

February 1, 2013

Precisely when it intends to

Love is never late, nor is it early.  It always arrives precisely when it intends to.

Who would have thought that one of the most profound statements I've heard this week would come off of a little Lord of the Rings Valentine's graphic of Gandalf, floating around on Facebook?  The other sayings were cute, some a little silly.  Boromir and "One does not simply stop loving you", and The Mouth of Sauron with "My Master, Sauron the Great, sends me to give thee a Valentine."  They made me smile.  But the twist on Gandalf's "wizards are never late" quote made me stop and think.

I have been greatly blessed in that love found me a year and a half ago, far sooner than I had dared to hope for.  I knew that it must come eventually, but I had not expected it to arrive so early.  Yet it was not early.  I could start to see then, and I can see even more clearly by looking back now, that love had arrived precisely at the right moment, right when it intended to.

Of my close girlfriends, I am currently the only one with a boyfriend.  Some are fine with the absence of a romantic other, some are wishing and wondering when it will be their turn.  I know many girls, and young men as well, are out there wondering when or even if love will ever come to them.  I know that there are some in the world who have grown impatient and feel like love is very, very late, and so they go out to look for it.  Some will find the wrong love, some will bump into it by accident, and some will sadly cross paths without realizing they have done so because they are looking too hard.

But love is never late.  God has a plan for each of us, a beautifully written story starring you, and one other very special person.  It is hard to be patient and wait for that part in the story where love makes its entrance, and it is easy to start to worry that it is late, and has missed it's cue to arrive.  Patience.  Love is never late... it will arrive precisely when it intends to.

And how wonderful it is, how it will make up over and over again for keeping us waiting, when at last Love does arrive.