Friday, December 26, 2014

Why, hello!
{back from an unplanned break!}

Hi, friends! It was not my original plan to take a two (plus) week blogging break, but here we are. It's that time of year when most of us have been so busy. At first I was stressing about not blogging in the midst of the busyness when I decided to accept it and embrace a little break. I made an effort to stay in the present and occasionally even find time for quiet (which is not something that comes easily to me).

I'd love to share a few highlights:

• I was blessed to attend a special Young Adult Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral with Cardinal Dolan as the presider, and Matt Maher leading the music. It was so great!

• If you follow me on instagram, you may have noticed we took a trip to San Francisco for a conference Michael had.
 And we got to hang out with my sister who lives there, which was the very best part!

• Our pregnancy continues to go well - praise God! I'm 28 weeks pregnant now! Here's a picture from last week at 27 weeks:
I can't believe I'm already in the third trimester! Crazy. We have our first baby shower this weekend, and we are so looking forward to celebrating this sweet blessing with our family and friends in a special way. 

• Though I have no photo evidence to document it (oops!), on Sunday I got to meet the beautiful Dwija of House Unseen, and her family. Her family and my in-laws attend the same parish. It's always so much fun to meet my favorite bloggers in person. Love it!

• Of course, I also spent time preparing for Christmas, which included wrapping gifts. I absolutely adore wrapping gifts for my loved ones.  I went with a white and kraft paper theme this year.
We spent Christmas Eve and Day with my in-laws, and now are heading to visit my family in Ohio for some more celebrating. After all, there are twelve days of Christmas, so this is only the beginning! (Be sure to follow the #twelvedays hashtag on social media!)

More coming soon...but I wanted to stop in to say a quick hello. I've missed you!
I hope you and yours have been enjoying this special time of year together.




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Thursday, December 25, 2014

the Light given to us


                              The people who walked in darkness 
                              have seen a great light;
                              upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom 
                              a light has shone.
                              You have brought them abundant joy 
                              and great rejoicing,
                              as they rejoice before you as at the harvest, 
                              as people make merry when dividing spoils.
                              For the yoke that burdened them, 
                              the pole on their shoulder,
                              and the rod of their taskmaster 
                              you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.
                              For every boot that tramped in battle, 
                              every cloak rolled in blood,
                              will be burned as fuel for flames.
                              For a child is born to us, a son is given us;
                              upon his shoulder dominion rests.
                              They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero
                              Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.
                              His dominion is vast 
                              and forever peaceful,
                              from David's throne, and over his kingdom, 
                              which he confirms and sustains 
                              by judgment and justice,
                              both now and forever.
                              The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this!
                                             {Isaiah 9:1-6}

I just love this reading proclaimed at the Midnight Mass. It is such good news for us; it's a scripture brimming with hope and promise. My heart is filled with gratitude this Christmas for so many blessings in my life, the greatest of which is the gift of Christ Himself, who came for me and for you. I sometimes fall into the trap of taking this for granted, but the gift of Christ is truly awesome. Awe - some. I pray our hearts would be awakened and filled with wonder at this truth this Christmas, and always.
Michael, Baby Howe & me • Christmas, 2014

Wishing you and yours a bright and blessed Christmas filled with His peace, joy, and great love...




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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Lost & Found {by our Shepherd}

Here we are...it's Tuesday of the second week of Advent. Can you believe it? How is yours going? To be honest, mine has had highs and lows. Regardless of whether yours is going well or not, I have good news for you: you still have time. I was reminded of this a couple times at the Blessed is She twitter chat last evening {and P.S. - If you haven't been to one of those chats, I have to say, they are always so beautiful and fruitful. I really hope you'll join us sometime!}.


I'm over at Blessed is She today sharing my thoughts on Jesus, our Shepherd, and His heart for us.

Here's an excerpt from my post:
It’s easy to get lost. I don’t mean lost in a physical sense (though I admit I sometimes do that, too), but lost spiritually—and especially at this time of year. With sixteen days to Christmas, there is so much to be done. There are parties to attend, cookies to bake, trees to decorate, lights to hang, presents to buy and then wrap . . . the list can seem endless. Many of these things bring us joy—and that joy is a gift—yet deep in our hearts we know these material things will come and go. They will fade away.
To read the rest of my reflection, click here.

Praying you find time for quiet in your day and week during this blessed Advent season...




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Friday, December 5, 2014

7 Quick Takes {no. 36}
On Advent, Art, St. Nick & Thanksgiving

It's Friday, which means it's #7QT time - linking up with our new host, Kelly!

{1}
How's your first week of Advent going? I shared how we are preparing our home on Saturday. While it's been a crazy week, I have found peace in making time for daily Mass as often as possible, and reflecting with my Blessed is She Advent Journal, which has been such a blessing.

{2}
One of the projects that's been keeping me busiest this week is my etsy shop. I have several new downloadable, printable designs available. This is probably my favorite new one:
{also available for download in black, purple or pink ink}

You may have seen my Fiat print on a handful of blogs this week that have so kindly shared my shop. You even have a chance to win one for yourself in two places right now!

{3}
First, there's Jenna's independent artists giveawayMy shop is included on the giveaway along with eleven other wonderful artists. You could win twelve gifts! Don't miss it.

{4}
Secondly, a print is included in Kendra's amazing giveaway (which is second to her super, super exciting news!). Click on over to enter!

{5}
Or, you could just visit the shop and purchase a print yourself (the downloadable ones are less than $10 - less than $8, in fact!). The Blessed is She and the Fiat prints are especially fitting for this Monday's Feast of the Immaculate Conception (and all year long, for that matter). Thank you for letting me share, and for supporting my small business! I so appreciate it.

{6}
Speaking of upcoming feast days, St. Nicholas's Day is tomorrow! Do you and your family celebrate? Even though we don't have any children's shoes or stockings to fill just yet, we plan to fill each other's shoes with a couple little treats. Somehow I have an inkling that St. Nicholas will be bringing Michael
and
for me. 
Fingers crossed! :)

And while we're talking about St. Nicholas - have you seen KendraBonnie, & Jenny's posts about him? I loved hearing how each of these women talk about St. Nicholas/Santa Claus in their homes.

{7}
We had a great time this Thanksgiving with my in-laws who came to visit us. One of the highlights was going to the Macy's Parade on Thanksgiving morning.
We also went to Radio City to see the Rockettes' Christmas Spectacular, which was so much fun!

So, so much to be thankful for this year (and every year). Praising God in a special way for our sweet baby boy who is now 25 weeks, and enjoying this second trimester energy while it lasts...

Praying you have a blessed weekend, friends.




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Monday, December 1, 2014

Happy December! Happy Monday!
{+ a Cyber Monday deal}

It may be December, but the projected high temperature in NYC is 61 degrees today! And that's just crazy. I can't decide how I feel about it.

I can, however, tell you I feel super excited about what I have to share with you on this Cyber Monday.
{SHOP NOW}
I want to offer you, my dear blog readers, something very special. Today only, receive 20% off your order in my etsy shop with the code INENDLESSSONGCM. This includes the entire inspiration series line - both the handmade and downloadable prints. It also includes custom orders {of a favorite quotation, bible verse, etc.}. Offer only valid on inspiration series orders placed Monday, December 1, 2014. 

Give a gift that might inspire or encourage someone's heart this Christmas. Your support of my art means so much to me!

These prints make personal, thoughtful gifts for:
• family members
• friends
• members of a women's group or Mom's group
• your child's teacher(s)
...or even to inspire you in your home throughout the year.

It is my heartfelt prayer that this artwork will be a blessing to you and yours, and that God would be glorified in the way it touches your heart.

Wishing you a beautiful Monday...




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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Preparing Your Heart & Home for Advent

Happy First Sunday of Advent! Can you believe it? Advent is one of my favorite seasons of the church year (and it marks the beginning of a new church year, too - so, happy new year!). Advent provides an opportunity for me to quiet my heart and spend some time preparing for the Lord's birth at Christmas. So many wonderful posts have been written about preparing for this season, but I'd love to share what I am doing to prepare my heart & home for Advent this year.


Most traditionally, we have an Advent wreath on our kitchen table. We light the candle(s) at dinner each night. This year I would like to try praying the O Antiphons beginning December 17. Have you ever done that? For more about how I make our Advent wreath each year, see this post.

New to our simple decorations this year is this Advent pendant banner. Below is a step-by-step DIY tutorial in case you're interested in making one for your own home {and if not, scroll beyond for more on our Advent celebration!}.
Cut strips of paper {purple, pink and optional gold} so they are 3 1/2 inches tall (by whatever the width of your paper is - mine was 12"). Note: If you want bigger pendants, cut your strips taller.
Mark and cut each paper as pictured below. Feel free to vary the size of your pendants depending on where you plan to hang your banner in your home. You will need three times as many purple pendants as pink and gold.

Using scotch tape, attach pendants to string of your choice (I love to use baker's twine!), as pictured. Be sure to start your purple, purple, pink, purple, {gold} pattern from left to right. I managed to make mine backwards both times I made one of these banners this year! 
That's it! Find a special place to hang your banner in your home as a reminder for you and your family of the four weeks of Advent and the great feast that will follow. 

I am so excited about this next decoration, too. This new, downloadable Fiat inspiration print is now available for you to purchase and print in my etsy shop. It's a perfect reminder for me to say "yes" to God each day - in ways big and small - just like Mary. It is available in three different colors. I love the way the eggplant printed on this piece of kraft brown paper.
{fiat // available here}
As far as preparing my heart goes, I find that if I don't make a plan, the season will come and go without much of a difference. And I really, really don't want that. This free Advent printable calendar is perfect for just that. I intend to use a copy to plan meals and a copy to remember special prayers, feast days, and blog posts I want to write. I hope this 2014 Advent calendar will be helpful for you, too. I'd love to know how you use yours.
{download & print}
I am so looking forward to using my beautiful Blessed is She Advent Journal. If you didn't get one before they sold out this year, there are many other options (some of which I plan to do, too!): 
• read the daily Mass readings
• subscribe to daily Blessed is She e-mails for reflection 
• journal - based on your personal prayers, your thoughts on the Mass readings, etc.
• attend daily Mass when possible
• spend time in adoration with Jesus (this always brings me such deep peace)
• Meg's Advent Boot Camp

What have I forgotten? What do you and your family have planned to make this season special?

Wishing you a most beautiful and blessed Advent season...
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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Celebrating St. Catherine of Alexandria

Happy Feast of St. Catherine of Alexandria! She is my confirmation saint, so we are celebrating today. Can I be honest with you as to why I chose her? I am named after my mother's confirmation saint, so I thought it would be good to choose a name that I would name my future daughter. Well, I liked both Catherine (preferably spelled Kathryn) and Alexandria, so there you have it. Probably not the most ideal way to choose a confirmation saint! Ha! Turns out the time from eighth grade to adulthood is a long time, and now I have a whole different list of names, should I one day be blessed with a daughter. :)
Anywho! St. Catherine of Alexandria, virgin and martyr, was really quite an incredible woman of God. A convert herself, she helped bring hundreds of men and women to the Christian faith. She refused to deny her faith to the Roman emperor, who then had her imprisoned, and eventually sentenced her to death on a spiked wheel. The wheel is said to have shattered into pieces when St. Catherine touched it, so she was beheaded.

I was inspired by this post to make St. Catherine of Alexandria's Miraculous Wheels for dinner tonight.
Here's my recipe:

{ingredients}
8 oz. pasta wheels
2 Tbsp. flour
2 cups milk (I used skim)
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of nutmeg
1/8 tsp. hot chili powder
2 cups + 1/4 cup shredded cheese, separated (you pick the type - I used sharp white cheddar this time)
3 Tbsp. + 1 1/2 Tbsp. butter, separated
2 Tbsp. bread crumbs

{how to}
Boil water and cook pasta wheels according to box instructions. Drain. Set aside.

Heat 3 tablespoons butter in large saucepan until melted. Add flour and stir until combined. Pour in the milk, salt & pepper. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring most of the time, until mixture begins to bubble. Simmer for two minutes. Turn off heat. Add nutmeg and chili powder. Stir. Pour in 2 cups of shredded cheese and stir until melted. Add the cooked pasta wheels; mix well.

Pour pasta wheel mixture into 8x8" greased baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the 1/4 cup shredded cheese and breadcrumbs. Dot with 1 1/2 Tbsp. butter.

Bake at 350 degrees 20-25 minutes or until top is browned. Easy peasy and super delicious. Enjoy!

*     *     *
Prayer to Saint Catherine of Alexandria
Glorious St. Catherine, virgin and martyr, help me to imitate your love of purity. Give me strength and courage in fighting off the temptations of the world and evil desires. Help me to love God with my whole heart and serve Him faithfully. O St. Catherine, through your glorious martrydom for the love of Christ, help me to be loyal to my faith and my God as long as I live. Amen. {source}
St. Catherine of Alexandria, pray for us!

Praying your Thanksgiving week is off to a good start...




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Friday, November 21, 2014

7 Quick Takes {no. 35} In case you missed it...

Happy Friday, friends! TGIF! :) Here are 7 actually quick takes for your weekend...

{1}
Thank you so much to all of you who have sent love & congratulations on our gender reveal announcement. We are just so grateful, and super excited to meet our handsome blessing this March!
{2}
Have you downloaded and/or printed your free Advent calendar yet (from Monday's birthday post)? I'd love to hear how you plan to use it. I do hope you enjoy!

{3} 
It's your last chance to enter my blog's first birthday giveaway of:
no. 1 // a print of your choice or a custom design from {with joy calligraphy}
no. 2 // a homemade advent pendant banner
no. 3 // a beautiful Blessed is She Advent Journal
If you haven't entered yet, what are you waiting for? :) Giveaway ends tomorrow, Saturday, 11/22 at 11:59 p.m. Winner will be announced Sunday!

{4}
There are some great feast days coming up in the next several days! St. Cecilia's feast day is tomorrow. Maybe you could do some music-making! The Feast of Christ the King is Sunday. I plan to make this recipe from Like Mother, Like Daughter in celebration. And next Tuesday is my confirmation saint's feast day - St. Catherine of Alexandria.

{5}
Debuting some time next week in my etsy shop are a few new printable prints (meaning you can print them out at home)! Here's a sneak peek of one of my favorites:
Such a needed reminder {for me at least} - and just in time for Advent, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and honestly, for any time of the year. 

{6}
I really can't believe it, but 'tis the season for holiday shopping! Along with many other bloggers, I belong to a handful of affiliate programs with certain online stores. Basically, if you visit my blog and click through the affiliate link in my sidebar to shop, I will earn a small percentage of your order, at no extra cost to you! In case you're looking to get a jump start on your shopping pre-Advent, here are a couple affiliate links/sales I'm currently watching:

40% off everything at Shutterfly.com // their photo books make especially great gifts
trying to behave myself and watch the budget, but the baby clothes here are oh-so-cute!
Amazon's Black Friday deals // or just everyday shopping - we heart Amazon at our house!

Thank you, in advance, for any holiday {or any kind of} shopping you do through the affiliate links in my sidebar. Every little bit helps! And we are truly grateful.

{7}
On Tuesday we had a follow-up ultrasound, so we got to see our little man wiggling around inside me. Thankfully they were able to get a clear view of what they couldn't see last time, and our babe is looking big and strong. Thank you for your prayers! I am blown away at the absolute miracle he is when I see all the details of his growing little body on the ultrasound. So amazing. I can clearly feel him kicking, punching and squirming these days, and am eagerly anticipating Michael being able to feel him really well, too!

This weekend my old NYC roommate, a dear friend from high school, is coming to visit. We also have a double date planned with another married couple that we haven't spent time with in a while. And, my in-laws are coming for Thanksgiving next week, which is sure to be a fun time. Life is good.

Have a great weekend! And don't forget to click over to Kelly's for more quick takers...





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Thursday, November 20, 2014

It's a...

On Saturday evening we had a few friends over for our gender reveal party. We had so much fun!
I had a lot of fun making some pretty decorations and planning some themed foods. Here's our little spread:
The boy side of the table was pretty funny. We had gummy worm "snakes" and soft pretzel "puppy dog tails" (creativity credit goes to Michael for that one!).
We also served "snails," which turned out pretty cute and were super easy to make! {This recipe plus halved pretzel sticks for antennae.}
Everything nice and sugary sweet was on the girl side of the table. I braved a trip to M&M World in Times Square to get the pink and blue M&M's for these blondies. Yum!
And of course we had to have pink and blue drinks, too. We served raspberry lemonade and Berry Blue Kool-Aid Bursts. Oh my sugar, y'all - those Bursts! I could barely drink half of one it was so sweet! Wowza.

Then it was finally time for the big reveal!



Have you made your final guess? 



I'll give you a second...



Boy or girl?



The answer was found in the cake...




It's a boy!!

We are so happy - overjoyed in fact - to have this little guy in our family. What a gift he already is to us!
Praise God from whom all blessings flow...

{Linking up with p, h, f, r - click over for more!}

So thankful to celebrate with you! 

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