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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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

5 Favorites {no. 14} Thanksgiving Dinner Edition

I can hardly believe Thanksgiving is next week! Are you hosting Thanksgiving this year? Or bringing a dish to share? For today's edition of five favorites, I wanted to share some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes - beyond the turkey! {Linking up with Jenna - thanks for hosting!} {updated: linking up with Nell, too!}
This picture is from Thanksgiving 2012 - our first married Thanksgiving. I hosted my in-laws for Thanksgiving in NYC and made the meal. You can see pictures of my first two recipes in this picture - both are above the flowers.
{1} garlic mashed red potatoes // Michael requests these instead of traditional mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving. To make, cut red potatoes in half and boil until tender. {I love that you don't have to peel potatoes for this recipe!} Drain water from pot. Add ~1/4 stick of butter, 2-4 cloves minced garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Re-cover with lid to let butter begin melting. When ready to mash, pour in some half & half and beat with an electric mixer. Keep in mind that it's better to start with too little half & half and add more than to over-pour - it takes less than you might imagine to make creamy potatoes! Add more half & half if necessary and mix until potatoes reach desired consistency.

One other tip: try to keep the potatoes covered and hot until ready to serve. NOTE: These amounts are for one large pot of potatoes, but you can alter the amounts of butter, garlic and S+P depending upon how many people you are feeding. :)

{2} made-from-scratch stuffing // This is my mom's version of my grandmother's recipe. My mom knows how to make it by heart, so one Thanksgiving I watched her and wrote it down as she went. There's a printable recipe card at the end of this post if you are interested in trying this super delicious recipe. In my opinion, way better than the boxed stuff, and it's really not that difficult! Promise! TIP: Tearing the bread into one inch pieces is a great chance for kids to help. My sister and I always loved doing that part.

{3} not your average cranberries // Even if you think you don't like cranberries, you should try this recipe at least once. I actually like the canned whole cranberries, but this fresh recipe is an absolute delight. Michael never ate cranberries until I started making this recipe and now he loves them. Again, a printable recipe card is at the bottom of this post!

{4} pumpkin pie // Thanksgiving isn't complete without a slice of pumpkin pie (preferably with homemade whipped cream!). I shared this recipe last year. Hope you enjoy!

{5} dinner decor // So this isn't a recipe, but I love setting a beautiful table for any holiday. It's one of my very favorite parts. Click here to see the table details at our family Thanksgiving in 2013.

Do you have a favorite or traditional recipe for Thanksgiving dinner? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Most importantly, let us remember:

Monday, November 17, 2014

Happy 1st birthday, dear blog!
{a gift for YOU + a giveaway}

I can hardly believe it. Today is my blog's first birthday. When I started my blog and sent my first post out into the wide internet world, I really had no idea what to expect. I had been reading blogs for a while and felt a tug on my heart to participate a little more actively. Oh, I am so very glad I did.

Blogging has been such a gift to me. It has blessed me in many ways I could never have imagined. You prayerfully supported me through a most difficult season and rejoiced with me in times of delight. But there is no question in my mind what the very best part of this whole blogging thing is: It is the gift of connecting with so many wonderful, beautiful women {bloggers and readers alike} who are on this journey, too. And for you I am so very thankful.

So let's celebrate!

First, I want to give a gift to each and every one of you, dear readers, because you help make this place special. So here is an Advent printable calendar, designed with love, especially for you!

You can download and print a copy (or three) for your own personal use by clicking here. And feel free to share it with your friends & family, too! As you can see in the photos above, I plan on using my calendar as a meal planner for the season. You could also use it to keep track of your schedule, to make a special plan for your Advent prayer life, or if you're a blogger, to plan your posts for the season. I do hope you enjoy your gift!

Secondly, I am hosting my very first giveaway! The winner will receive three gifts:

{No. 1} your choice of a print from my etsy shop, {with joy calligraphy} // Pick one of the designs in the shop or have a custom design made just for you.
{No. 2} Advent pendant banner // just a little something fun to hang in your home
as a reminder of this beautiful church season
{No. 3} Blessed is She Advent Journal // such a special way to prepare your heart and soul
for our Lord's birth on Christmas Day

There are many ways to enter the giveaway via the Rafflecopter at the end of this post. It will be open for entries through the end of the day this Saturday, November 22, so the winner will be sure to receive her (or his!) Advent treats in time for the season. Good luck!! I wish each of you could win!

*    *    *

As you may remember, "in endless song" is part of a lyric from one of my favorite hymns, "How Can I Keep from Singing?" As I reflect upon my first year of blogging and look forward to the future, I know this verse will always hold true:
The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,
A fountain ever springing;
All things are mine since I am His
How can I keep from singing?

Happy first birthday, dear blog.  Here's to many more!





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Friday, November 14, 2014

7QT {no. 34}
new projects, chatting on twitter & looking forward

It's Friday, dear friends. Praise God!

{1}
First, a prayer request: Would you please pray for beautiful Kellie and her family? Their sweet Lily Frances was born sleeping on Tuesday. I like to think that our Saint Thomas Gianna has a new friend in Saint Lily Frances, and they are praying and praising together in heaven. May they both pray for us.

{2}
I have been hard at work this week on some upcoming projects for my etsy shop. Here's a little sneak peek at a few of my sketches:
Can't wait to share this new line with you!

{3}
Can you believe Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away? Is it just me, or does it seem like November is flying by super quickly? If you need some last minute decor for your feast or a gift for your Thanksgiving host, this print would make a great gift. Pictured here in black ink on ivory cardstock, I also think it would look beautiful in gold ink.
{in everything give thanks}
{4}
Were you able to make it to last Monday's Blessed is She twitter chat on prayer? It was so much fun. (You can search #BISchat on twitter to read some of our conversation.). I also found it to be very fruitful and inspiring to hear from other women on how prayer is a part of their lives.

Annnnnd, exciting news - this Monday, November 17, there will be another twitter chat! This time the topic is getting more out of Advent. I would so love to talk to you there. Mark your calendar and join us!

{5}
Tomorrow is our gender reveal party! We are just having a few friends over, but I have had a lot of fun planning some special appetizers, treats and decor. You can count on a post next week with all the party details...including our baby's gender!

{6}
Have you made your guess as to whether there is a little he or she inside? I'd love to hear what you're guessing in the comments! Here's my 22 week bumpdate:

{7}
Monday is guaranteed to be a very exciting day here on my blog. Any guesses why? (And it's not the gender reveal.) Be sure to stop by for a gift, a giveaway, and a celebration!

Linking up with Kelly, guest hosting for Jen this week.

Have a beautiful mid-November weekend!




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