Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Gifts for my Sweetheart

It's time for another Wedded Bliss Wednesday hosted by Table for More and Life After...   I haven't missed a single one since it started four weeks ago!  This week is yet another great topic: gifts!

What is the best gift to give your husband? David's love languages are acts of service and words of affirmation, so helping him out with something around the house or praising him when I notice he's working hard or did something amazing means a lot to him.  These aren't big gifts, but meaningful little acts that brighten his day.

What is a meaningful gift that you can give that does not cost money? I've been seeing several "date jar" ideas on Pinterest that would be nice gifts and could be enjoyed all year. I think making homemade coupons for your spouse is a thoughtful gift too, as long as you personalize them for your husband's unique interests. I made some for David earlier this year, including "an afternoon watching the game and drinking a beer", "your favorite homemade dessert", and (his favorite) "a do over" when I get upset about something he does/says.
What is the best gift you have given to him? This year for our anniversary, I made a map craft for us to put in our room.  It highlighted three spots that meant a lot to us: where we got married, our first home, and where our daughter was born.  He loved it and was really touched!

What is the best gift he has given to you? A Papal blessing for our first anniversary. It took six months of planning in order to get it in time for our anniversary.  He even had to get a letter from our priest and worked out a sneaky way for him to hide it in the room where we taught religious education together!

What are you giving this holiday? He reads my blog, so I can't say. (I don't know yet anyway.) The last few years we haven't had much money, so we've had a $30 spending limit. This holiday season won't be any different, so whatever it is will be small but meaningful.  I love getting gifts that show he paid attention to the wants/needs I've displayed, and I try to do the same.  He's a great gift giver and I'm often stumped with what to get him.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Almost one! Time for fun!

Invitations are going out this week for our baby girl's first birthday party!  A little over a month away!  I had a hard time finding a teddy bear invitation I liked, so I found this baby announcement on Minted and turned it into an invitation.  I think it came out great! 

I don't have any details put together other than the place, time, invitation...and the colors/theme: brown teddy bears with pink and purple accents.  I know I'll be making a teddy bear cake and cupcakes.  We're also going to make these "teddy bear car" treats.  I need to figure out the food.  I'd love to make Lulu a little birthday crown and tutu.  Help me, what else do I need to start thinking about? 

Monday, October 29, 2012

#Happy1stBdayBaby: Get Ready!

The Happy First Birthday, Baby! giveaway is coming up in ONE WEEK!  There are some new sponsors since initially announcing the event so be sure to check out the event page.  I will start putting up reviews this week and our first giveaway will start next Monday.

For an extra TEN entries into every giveaway, grab the event button now, display it on your blog, and leave a comment with the URL to the page where it's displayed.  The opportunity to get these extra entries closes the day before the event starts (Nov. 4).  If you haven't left a comment on here by then, you've missed out!  Ten entries is huge, so claim them now!

Happy 1st Birthday, Baby!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

#Happy1stBdayBaby: Making Babies Book and DVD Set

The Making Babies book and DVD series are must haves, not just for pregnant mamas, but for any woman that is looking for help living a healthy and natural lifestyle.  In fact, I think the name is misleading - this is not your average fertility, pregnancy, or childbirth guide.  Both the DVDs and the books are chock-full of recipes for healthy meals and natural remedies ranging from granola to a ginger tincture to diaper rash cream to homemade toothpaste.  These would be useful in any household, regardless of the age of your little one (or if you have a little one at all!)

Of course, there are some pregnancy specific tips, including excercises for pregnancy and advice for surviving morning sickness.  The last section of the book has a "pregnancy" journal where you can record some of the most important memories of your pregnancy and birth.  The DVD series is wonderful for a first time mom who is seeking a natural pregnancy and childbirth; it follows Making Babies author Shoshanna Easling through her pregnancy and gives you a good idea of what to expect. 

I received a copy of this set a few months ago, when Lucia was already seven months old, and it has been an invaluable resource.  Since I got married two years ago, I've becoming increasingly more natural and have often sought out recipes online for natural household, health, and beauty products.  That said, nothing made me change my lifestyle more than learning that I was pregnant.  While I would have loved to have had this set as a resource during my pregnancy, I still get much use out of it now and look forward to having it for the next baby.

I can't talk about this series without mentioning my absolute favorite part of the book: the gorgeous photography.  The pictures of the recipes will make your mouth water; the pictures of pregnancy and motherhood are a beautiful tribute to motherhood. 

To learn more about Making Babies or to purchase a copy for yourself, visit Bulk Herb Store

As part of the Happy 1st Birthday, Baby! giveaway event,
 Bulk Herb Store is offering the
Making Babies book and DVD set!
Giveaway will be live November 10-17.
Enter the giveaway here. 

I received the Making Babies set to facilitate this review.  I was not required to give a positive review.  Opinions are 100% mine.  See Disclosure Policy.

What I Wore Sunday: Black & Brown

Sweater: Dress Barn | Cami: Ann Taylor Loft
Skirt: Casual Corner Annex | Boots: Macy's

I don't usually like black with brown, but it seems that's I've seen them paired quite a bit lately and I thought I would try it today.  I love these brown boots and thought that I could pull them off with the mustard sweater, but I'm just not too sure that I like how it turned out.  What do you think?

I never used to like mustard.  That is, until last year.  Now this sweater is a wardrobe staple of mine.  It goes with so many things!  And short sweaters like this go a long way, making many of my sleeveless dresses appropriate for work and Mass.  I have a white, grey, black, and red one as well.

This skirt?  Well, Casual Corner went out of business in 2006 but this skirt is still going strong.  Right after we moved back to Colorado, my mom purged her closet of all the clothing that she no longer liked, that no longer fit, or that didn't cover the scars on her chest from her thyroid surgery.  Several of the pieces weren't my style or were very dated, but there were several others that I saved from the Goodwill pile and are now oft-worn pieces of my wardrobe, including this skirt. 

I'm linking up to Fine Linen and Purple's What I Wore Sunday linkup.  Check it out for more church attire inspiration.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Holy Spirit Cross Review + #PinAWin Sweepstakes

If you've been following for a while, you might remember the review I wrote back in April of this gorgeous Swarovski crystal rosary bracelet:

I was honored to receive an email from Discount Catholic Products recently asking if I would like to review another of its products, this Holy Spirit Oak & Pewter Wall Cross:

Isn't it lovely?  When it came in the mail, I knew exactly where it would go - in Lucia's room over her crib:

When we lived in North Carolina, we had a crucifix hanging over Lucia's crib, but we haven't been able to find it since we moved back.  We know it's in a box somewhere...we're just not sure which box.  It made me a bit uneasy without a cross in Lulu's room and this cross really made her room complete.  When we do find the crucifix, we'll move this cross above our front door. 

What sets this cross apart?  I find the combination of wood and pewter to be a novel mixed-media take on a traditional cross.  It's also unique to find a Holy Spirit cross with more than one dove.  The craftsmanship is high-quality, much better than I would have expected for the $24 price tag. 

This cross would make a lovely gift, especially for a Confirmation.  I received a Holy Spirit cross for my confirmation, but it was very delicate and dainty.  This one would be nice for either a girl or a boy because of the natural wood.

Discount Catholic Products has a wide variety of beautiful products for the Catholic home and you can enter to win one in their Pin-a-Win Sweepstakes!  It's already started, so don't miss your chance to win!  Check out the  Pin-A-Win Sweepstakes board and the rules below to get started:


In addition to Pinterest, you can also connect with Discount Catholic Products on Facebook, Twitter, and G+.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of theproducts or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255:“Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Friday, October 26, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 72)

--- 1 ---

Today is the last day of the first quarter.  I survived my first quarter as a teacher.  Well, almost.  Grades for specials teachers are due tomorrow, so we'll see if I make it through that.

--- 2 ---

It snowed last night.  And it was frigid today.  I like looking at snow, but otherwise, I really hate winter weather. There was no real winter weather last year in North Carolina so it's been a while since I had to deal with this.  Ugh.

--- 3 ---

Lucia went to sleep last night without crying or nursing. This is huge!  Usually she either nurses to sleep or screams for a few minutes while being patted to sleep.  She's also gotten better at sleeping through the night since we instituted a "no nursing during the night" policy.

--- 4 ---

My husband wrote a post this week.  This week, as part of the Wedded Bliss Wednesday linkup, the husbands had to answer a few questions about their ladies and he did a great job. 

--- 5 ---

I wrote a guest post earlier this week for Fine Linen and Purple about professional dressI also linked up to Fine Linen and Purple's new What I Wore Sunday linkup to show off my church attire.  I have the same picture in both posts.  I figured I would just point that out before someone else did, but hey, I wear the same clothes to Mass that I wear to work (and on Fridays, I go to Mass while at work!). 

--- 6 ---

We voted on Tuesday.  It was the first time I've ever "early voted" and it was the first time David has ever actually voted in person (he's always done mail-in).  It was awesome: no line to speak of and we got "I voted" stickers. 

--- 7 ---

Lulu even got one:

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Husband's Perspective

It's time for another Wedded Bliss Wednesday hosted by Table for More and Life After...   A few weeks ago, I introduced you to my sweet husband, but this week, the tables are turned and he's answering a few questions about me.  For the past two years, you've been hearing all about me and our marriage from my viewpoint, now it's his turn to get his perspective out there:

What was the first thing you noticed about your wife?
The first time I saw my wife, it was a picture on CatholicMatch.  We don't remember who contacted who first, but the picture that I remember seeing first was her at a restaurant celebrating her birthday with her grandparents.  Specifically, I noticed her smile.  I could tell she was very happy where she was.  To this day, one of my favorite things to see my wife do is smile.
When you first started dating your wife, what kept you calling/asking her out?
When we met, I truly felt that God had brought us together.  I loved her personality, her intelligence, and her faith the most.  I knew that she was the one that I would spend my life with after just a short time of talking to each other on the phone before we even met.
What is your wife's best quality?
My wife's best quality is her faith.  She teaches me new things about the faith almost everyday and helps me grow closer to God in doing so.
What is your favorite thing to do with your wife?
My favorite thing to do with my wife is cook with her.  Right now, we live with Mandi's parents and we frequently cook for all five of us.  We usually go to the grocery store during the day and cook a nice dinner at night.  While we chop vegetables we usually talk about what is going on in our lives and it is very peaceful.
What are you most excited for for the future with your wife?
I am most excited for when we own our own house and fill it with kids.  Since we've been married, we have only lived in cramped apartments and with Mandi's parents.  It will be great when we finally have a place to settle down, decorate it how we want, and not worry about moving within the year.  Spending time with Mandi and our children inside our house is something I dream about a lot.
How do you make your wife feel loved?
I try to make my wife feel loved by doing the little things that most people take for granted.  For example, I love to make her lunch for the following day when she goes to work.  Sometimes I put a little note in there to tell her how much I love her or I cut her sandwich so that it resembles an "M" for Mandi and mommy.
This question isn't part of the linkup, but I wanted to give him a chance to show my readers that I'm only human: What are your wife's biggest flaws?  What about her drives you crazy?
My wife's biggest flaw is her impatience.  I know she has a lot on her plate right now with work and writing lesson plans, so I understand.  I also appreciate that she tries to improve on her patience everyday.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Guest Post at Fine Linen and Purple: Dressing Well for the Job

This week, Fine Linen and Purple is talking about careers and the workplace.  I'm so excited to be able to contribute my thoughts in a post on dressing professionally.  Here's a little tidbit:
This fall, I started my first “professional” job as a teacher. Like many young people starting their first professional job, I felt like some kind of imposter; I couldn’t believe that I had miraculously hoodwinked a principal into thinking I was a “real” teacher. Sure, I had the degree and the teaching license, but I certainly didn’t feel like a teacher. I was certain that it was all some big joke: me a teacher? A real teacher, entrusted to teach children? Somehow my education classes hadn’t prepared me for this.
So what was the first thing I did to prepare for that (scary!) first day of school? I went through my closet and went shopping to put together a few outfits for a professional wardrobe. If I didn’t feel like a teacher, you better believe I was going to at least look like one...continue reading at Fine Linen and Purple

Sunday, October 21, 2012

What I Wore Sunday: A Little Bit Classy, A Little Bit Country

Dress: Talbots | Boots: Big Buddha

When I sat down to write this post, I was a little bit surprised to notice that I was only really wearing two things: a dress and boots.  Although I shouldn't have been too surprised, while I'm making an attempt to accessorize more, I fail more than I succeed in that aspect.

I recently bought this dress from Talbots online when there was a 80% off sale (I also had a code for 20% off that and free shipping).  I think it came out to be around $20.  I wear petite and a fairly common size, so it's rare that I find items in my size for major discounts, so I was over the moon when I ordered this piece.  I've been wanting to get a classic wrap dress for a long time because I had read somewhere that it was flattering for my body type.  This is a faux wrap dress, but it has all the benefits of one: it does flatter my curves and easy to nurse in. 

My Mass clothing is similar to the work clothing I wear during the week (I actually wore this same outfit on Friday to work.  Shhh...don't tell anyone!), however, there is one big difference.  My work clothes don't have to be easy to nurse in since I'm away from my daughter all day and I have a private room to pump in, but breastfeeding-friendly is essential for Sunday Mass.  I'm sure I'm not the only one who nurses her little one during Mass in an attempt to keep her quiet.

These boots...ah, these boots!  I'm not really a "country" girl, but in the past few years I've developed a yearning for a pair of cowboy boots.  I couldn't justify buying a pair until my brother-in-law's wedding.  His lovely bride asked me to be a bridesmaid and cowboy boots were part of the attire.  These aren't exactly "real" cowboy boots, but they were much cheaper and are just so darn cute!  When we were out visiting my husband's family for his graduation, I mentioned that I needed cowboy boots for the wedding and his aunt bought them for me.  Isn't that so sweet?  Everytime I wear them, I'm reminded of how warm and welcoming his family has been toward me, treating me like a niece and not just their nephew's wife.  I didn't think I would get too much wear out of these boots after the wedding, but I've found that boots are just so versatile and add a little "fun" to many of my simple dresses.

I'm linking up to Fine Linen and Purple's first What I Wore Sunday linkup.  Won't you join in and show us your church attire?

Friday, October 19, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 71)

--- 1 ---
I found the absolute most amazing baby board books ever. Seriously.  Kelley of Over the Threshold sent me an oh-so-sweet email telling me about this post entitled 10 Books You Must Read to Your Daughter (Or How to Keep Your Daughter From Ending Up Like That Horrid Girl in Twilight).  Great post!  Great blog!  But even more exciting... in the comments someone linked to this Pride and Prejudice Counting Primer.  And that's not even the most exciting part; this is only one of a whole series of BabyLit board books inspired by the classics!  So cool!

--- 2 ---

David got a job! This is big news and probably should come before cute board books, but hey, I don't feel like reordering it now.  Before you start getting excited, let me tell you it's not a job in his field, it's at a coffee shop.  But it's a job and it has benefits.  We're really happy.

--- 3 ---

We are on the search for childcare for Lucia. Our first choice is to have her with a stay-at-home mom that wants to watch only one or two kids in addition to her own.  We've found several in the area and are planning to meet with one this weekend.  Since David's job schedule might be different each week, and we are hoping he'll be able to be off at least one of the days I work, we would only need someone to watch her a few days a week and those days might change weekly.  That makes it a little harder since many moms looking to babysit are hoping for regular hours.  Will you say a prayer for us that we find the right fit for our family?

--- 4 ---

Do you hate to throw out jars?  It drives David and my parents crazy but I never throw (glass) bottles or jars out.  They are just so useful and there have been a few time that I've really needed a few for a craft I wanted to do but didn't have any.  So I've started a Pinterest board for jar crafts.  David's been drinking those Starbucks drinks in the glass bottles and I can't wait to turn them into some of these great ideas!

--- 5 ---

Do you attend church on Sundays? Do you wear clothes to said church service?  My friend, Kendra, is starting a new Sunday linkup on her new blog project, Fine Linen and Purple.  It's called What I Wore Sunday and it's a chance to show off your church attire.  If you don't have a blog to link up, definitely still check it out for some Sunday fashion inspiration!

--- 6 ---

I wrote a post earlier this week on what it's like to have a "mommy body"I was really nervous about writing it because I don't particularly like to talk about my insecurities, but I've gotten a ton of positive feedback and if it positively impacts just one woman, I'm glad I wrote it.

--- 7 ---

It's been quite a week:
Thank goodness it's Friday!
Corn maze/pumpkin patch/petting zoo tomorrow!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Marriage Advice

I love joining Table for More and Life After... each week for their link up, Wedded Bliss Wednesdays.   Two weeks ago, I introduced you to my husband, last week I told you how we do date nights, and this week I'm sharing my best marriage advice.  A few months ago, I offered some advice for newlyweds, but marriage is a constant learning experience, so I'm sure my advice is a bit different now. (I purposely didn't read that post so it couldn't influence my answers.)

If you could give one piece of advice to any married (or soon-to-be married) couple, what would it be? Focus on the big picture.  There will be plenty of difficult moments or days, but don't judge your marriage by those brief periods of time.  If I really try, I can think of specific arguments and hurtful moments over the past two years.  But when I think of our marriage in general, I think of the incredible blessings it has been.  When you experience those hard times, take a deep breath, think of our marriage as a whole, and know that once the difficulty passes, you'll get back to the beauty of your marriage.
What is an absolute MUST for any marriage/relationship? Selflessness.  When you get married, you make the decision to put your own personal desires on the backburner for that of your family.  (And yes, a husband and wife without children are a family). 
What is the #1 no-no in a marriage? Airing your dirty laundry.  It's not appropriate to talk negatively about your spouse or spread the intimate details about your marriage.  It's hurtful and if you aren't your spouse's biggest supporter, who is?
What is the biggest lesson you have learned from your marriage? Marriage is so much harder than it seemed as a single woman but the rewards are much greater too.  Joy is magnified when you have someone with which to share it, and sorrows are cut in half.  A married couple forms a bond that I never could have imagined was possible to two people without the bond of blood.  Also a huge surprise: that I could be best friends with a boy :)
with my best friend (on our honeymoon)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mommy Body

I have wanted to write this post since my daughter was born (ten months ago).  A post about my postpartum body and my reaction to (interaction with?) it.  But it never seemed like the right time.

Our society expects the postpartum phase to end six weeks or so after birth, at about the same time working moms are cleared to go back to work.  But in truth, if you consider the postpartum period as the time a woman's body is recovering from childbirth, it lasts much longer than that.  This is especially the case for women who breastfeed, because fertility, and thus typical hormonal levels, often doesn't return for months (or years!).  I am just now feeling like my body is returning to normal.  It's not how it was before I got pregnant, but it's a new normal.  I'm starting to feel comfortable in my body again.  It's becoming familiar and second nature to live in this new mommy body.  

When I was pregnant (and before), I had certain expectations of how a woman's body changed postpartum.  I naively thought that these changes took only two forms: weight gain and stretch marks.  I now know that you can't have a baby and come out with only a few subtle reminders that linger in your midsection.  Oh no, the marks of motherhood are much more widespread than that!

Of course, every woman experiences different changes during pregnancy and childbirth.  My mommy body might not look anything like another woman's, but my pre-pregnancy body wasn't cookie-cutter either.  My experiences may or may not be your experiences, but right now, I'm feeling the call to be completely honest (and a bit vulnerable) and speak the truth about what having a "mommy body" is like for me:

Stretch marks.

In short, yes I have them.  On my stomach and on my sides (didn't realize your sides aren't safe).  I didn't start noticing them until I was 39 week pregnant, but Lucia cooked until 41 weeks 1 day, so they were pretty pervasive by the time she was born.  But of all my body changes, stretch marks is probably the one I mind the least.  I barely notice them.  I didn't wear bikinis before so they wouldn't ever be visible anyway.  Only my husband sees them, and I believe him when he says they don't bother him at all. 


We get used to seeing celebrities who lose all the baby weight in six weeks.  In "real life", most doctor's don't even clear you for exercise until six weeks, so to have all your baby weight gone right away isn't realistic.  I was constantly told that if I breastfed, the weight would just "fall off".  Well, not quite.

I gained about 35 lbs total during pregnancy.  I had already lost close to 20 of it by my first appointment at seven weeks (of course, eight of those were the baby alone - lost at birth!).  At my next doctors appointment when my daughter was about five months, I had lost... no additional weight.  But at six months, the weight started to just come off without much effort from me and at ten months postpartum, I now weigh less than I did when I got pregnant.  The only actual effort I made to lose weight during this time was cutting out all drinks but water.

The most difficult part of the extra weight for me wasn't how big I was, it was more that I didn't have any clothes that fit me well.  For the first few weeks after Lucia was born, I continued to wear maternity clothes, but they soon became too big.  I was still many sizes away from wearing my pre-pregnancy clothes; it was a terribly awkward in-between stage.  Since I was continuing to lose weight, it didn't make sense to buy a whole new wardrobe.  (In truth, we couldn't afford for me to buy new clothes either.)  In fact, I did break down and buy a few pair of pants at thrift stores, but they only fit me well for a few weeks, then were too baggy.  While I didn't initially have much in the way of "body image" issues due to my post-pregnancy weight, I did develop some poor self esteem because I looked like a ragamuffin.  I will never again underestimate the value of a few nice outfits that fit me well.


I may have lost all the baby weight, but my body doesn't look like it did before I had my baby.  And it never will.  My hips are wider.  I have a little mommy tummy that may or may not eventually go away.  Overall, I feel softer all over, as if my body has relaxed into motherhood.


My anything-but-clear skin is the one change that I didn't expect at all, and the only one that truly bothers me more than once in a while.  I had heard that sometimes women get bad skin during pregnancy, but my skin was clearer than ever, so I didn't expect that postpartum, I would have the worst  skin I've ever had.  (Easily three times worse than the worse breakout I had as a teenager, only daily).  Just so you don't think I'm exaggerating, here is what I'm facing (no pun intended): three or more new pimples daily, plus the ones from previous days that are in the process of healing, plus the scars and "marks" from the past several months that are very visible.  It's so bad that I often don't want to leave the house.  It has taken a considerable amount of humility (and courage) to write about it in this post.  This isn't a common postpartum experience, but it does happen.  I'm hoping that it will clear up considerably after I stop breastfeeding, but despite my insecurities, I'm willing to suffer poor skin for a while longer so my daughter can get the best nutrition for as long as possible. 


This is another one that really gets me.  It's not the shape, size, or "perkiness" that I'm worried about; since I'm still breastfeeding, I really don't have any idea what they will be like after my baby weans.  What bothers me is the, uh, "unevenness".  If you aren't very familiar with breastfeeding (I wasn't before I got pregnant and read tons of books), a baby doesn't usually empty both breasts at each feeding.  Which means that one breast is always bigger than the other.  I hope that it's only noticeable to me because I'm aware of it, but unfortunately, I don't think that's always the case.

Although this probably belongs in a separate post about breastfeeding, there is a bit of discomfort that comes from breastfeeding when I go long periods of time without feeding Lucia or pumping.  In the perfect world, I would never have to go that long without pumping, but sometimes things get in the way.  I truly love nursing my baby and the thought of her weaning makes me sad, yet there is little part of me that wants to rebel against having to arrange my schedule around breastfeeding.


Ah, this is probably the biggest and definitely the most positive exchange I've experienced.  Although I know some women have the exact opposite reaction, for me childbirth and pregnancy made me more confident in my body.  Yes, there are some changed that I view negatively.  I sometimes experience self doubt and poor body image as the result of some of these changes.  But overall, I have developed an attitude of gratitude and awe about my body.

No longer to I think of my body in terms of what it looks like, but instead in terms of what it can do.  My body protected and nourished a baby from one cell at conception to eight pounds at birth.  It can birth a child completely naturally without medical interventions or pain medication.  It created the sole source of sustenance that my daughter received for the first six months of her life (and that still makes up the majority of her nourishment). 

It's not just the big things my body can do that I celebrate, it's the little things.  I can bend down and pick up my daughter.  I can walk around a grocery store buying food for my family.  I can make love to my husband.  I can mop the floors and scrub the counters.  I can roll on the floor and tickle my baby.  I can live and provide a life for my family.

How has your body changed since becoming a mother?

What can you do to concentrate more on the wonderful things your body can do instead of how it looks?

Friday, October 12, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 70)

--- 1 ---

Yesterday was the beginning of the Year of Faith.  What are your plans to grow deeper in faith this year?  I wrote a post yesterday with 7 ideas for the Year of Faith.  I'm also planning to put together a post of ideas to celebrate the Year of Faith with a toddler.  If you have any ideas, leave a comment or email me at 

--- 2 ---

Yesterday was a BUSY day for us: Story time at the library. Mass. Errands. Lucia's last swim lesson. Making zucchini muffins for my mom's work.  Vice presidential debate.

--- 3 ---

I just found my favorite new online dress shop. The clothes are modest, so classy, and they even have a page that points out all the dresses they carry that are "breast-feeding friendly".  Sigh.

--- 4 ---

Speaking of breast-feeding friendly, have you seen the blog Milk-FriendlyIt's a breast-feeding friendly style blog.  Love.  Love love love.  
--- 5 ---

And while I'm mentioning blogs I love, here are two of my new favorites: For Where E'er We Go and The OT Mom. They're great.  Seriously.
--- 6 ---

How do you feel about a pie with avocado in it?  If you are a little (or a lot) disturbed by that thought, I guarantee that you will change your mind after you try this Chocolate Orange Truffle Pie.

--- 7 ---

Have you already started your Christmas shopping?  If you have, I'm simultaneously intimidated and in awe of you.  I have started to think about Christmas gifts.  I love supporting small business and WAHMs, so I thought I would share two of my favorites that I had the chance to review this year.  Belle of the Ball makes custom, hand stamped jewelry and Sweet Joyful Creations makes car seat canopies.  

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

7 Ideas for the Year of Faith

Today, Catholics celebrate the beginning of the Year of Faith.  What is the Year of Faith? 

According the the US Conference of Catholic Bishops website: "The upcoming Year of Faith declared by Pope Benedict XVI is a “summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the One Savior of the world” (Porta fidei 6). In other words, the Year of Faith is an opportunity for Catholics to experience a conversion – to turn back to Jesus and enter into a deeper relationship with him. The pope has described this conversion as opening the “door of faith” (see Acts 14:27). The “door of faith” is opened at one’s baptism, but during this year Catholics are called to open it again, walk through it and rediscover and renew their relationship with Christ and his Church.

Don't you love the "door of faith" imagery?  I wish we didn't need a special "summons" from the Holy Father to learn about our faith and grow closer to Christ, but since many of us do (myself included), don't pass up this opportunity to learn more about the beauty of the Church. Here are a few ideas of how to use this year to grow in faith:

1. Read the Catechism.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church isn't exactly a page-turner, but it does contain the invaluable wisdom of the Church.  Imagine how much you would grow in faith by reading the entire Catechism.  Sound daunting?  Sign up to receive daily emails from Flocknote, each with a little snippet from the Catechism.  Read a little each day and read the entire Catechism in a year!  Hurry, sign up now so you don't miss any!

2. Defend the faith.  I often remain silent when I hear a negative comment about the faith.  Sometimes it's because I think that I'm not capable of saying anything that is going to make a difference.  Other times, it's because I don't have the apologetic knowledge to counter negative arguments.  More often then not, I'm silent out of fear.  My personal goal this year is to speak up when I hear negative comments about the Church and (with the Holy Spirit's guidance) counter with kind, logical, and fierce arguments in Her defense.

3. Let no question go unanswered.  When I accepted that the Catholic Church has the fullness of the Truth, I put my trust in Her completely.  While faith in the Church is certainly a blessing, it means that I don't often ask the "why?" questions.  Let me tell you, "Because the Church said so" doesn't go very far in a faith discussion.  The Year of Faith is the perfect time to look into the "whys" of the Church.  If you (or someone around you) wonders why the Church has a particular teaching, don't stop searching for the answers until you have them.  

4. Read a book.  Ignatum Today has a great list of 100 Catholic books for the Year of Faith.  Read one (or all 100).

5. Share the faith.  Have you felt called to share the faith with someone in your life but held back?  This is your time to do it!  Have you purposely avoided sharing that you are Catholic?  You don't necessarily need to shout it from the mountaintops, but if occasions arise to share a little about your beliefs, take them!  

6. Find a Patron Saint for the year.  (Or a Patron Saint in general, if you don't have one.)  Jennifer Fulwiler over at Conversion Diary has this amazing Saint's Name Generator if you need help.  What better way to grow deeper in faith than by following the example and seeking the intercession of those with great faith that came before us?

7. Start a new faith habit.  Perhaps you would like to start praying the rosary every day.  (Perhaps you need to start praying every day in general?  Don't worry, you're not alone!)  Maybe you've wanted to start setting 5 minutes in the morning for scripture.  Or you've decided you want to go to daily Mass.  Just like you might start new healthy habits at the beginning of a calendar year, make a faith resolution for the Year of Faith. 

To learn more about the Year of Faith, visit the Year of Faith official website and the USCCB's Year of Faith resourcesFor more ideas of how to bring the Year of Faith alive in your life, see my friend Jamie's post at her blog, For Love of Cupcakes.

If you’re Catholic and have been away from the Church, I invite you to use the Year of Faith as an opportunity to learn more about the faith and come home.  We miss you!  For more info, check out Catholics Come Home.

Linking up with:
Saints and Scripture Sunday

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

How We Do Date Nights

Last week, I joined Table for More and Life After... for their brand new link up, Wedded Bliss Wednesdays.  It was so fun to introduce you to my husband!  This week's post is equally as wonderful: date nights!  (To be honest, with a name like Wedded Bliss Wednesdays, I'm sure each week will be great!)

on one of our first dates as Mr. & Mrs.
How often do you and your husband have a date night? When we were living in North Carolina, we had exactly one date night between Lucia's birth in December and our move to Colorado in July.  Our night out was great, but it really wasn't a big deal not to go out much because Lucia was asleep by 8:00 and slept all night (it's a much different situation now!).  We had every evening to devote to ourselves as a couple.  Since we've moved back to Colorado, we've tried to have at least one date night a month.  We live with my parents right now, so we don't have as much "alone time".  Living with my parents does mean that we have two very willing babysitters almost any time we want.  Finances are tight, so we can't go out much, but we budget, find cheap things to do, use coupons, and make it work at least once a month.

What did you do on your first date?  It was also the first time we met in person since we met online, so we didn't commit to much.  David picked me up for dinner.  I remember looking out from my upstairs window to see his car when it pulled up and watching him walk to the door in a salmon shirt.  He was so cute!  We went to dinner at a Mexican restaurant.  He barely touched his plate (he says he had a big lunch, but I know he was nervous!) and I ate everything on mine and was embarrassed about it!  The date was going to well that we ended up going to miniature golf and then renting a movie to watch together.  It was about the least romantic movie on earth, "No Country for Old Men". 

I can't share our first date without sharing this gem: I went to the bathroom after dinner and was in there a while because my mom had texted me and I had to write her back. (She was worried that he was a serial killer since I met him online.  I texted her back, "Leave me alone. He's cute!")  Years later I found out that because I was gone so long David was afraid I had climbed out a window and ditched him.  No such luck!

What is your favorite kind of date night?  I love any date where we have the opportunity to talk and something to talk about other than our daughter.  We love being parents, but we are united as parents 24/7.  It's nice to reconnect as husband and wife.  I recently wrote about one of my favorite dates ever, seeing a movie after we both read the book it was based on and then discussing it.  I'm hoping to do this again soon when The Great Gatsby comes out as a movie.

How do you do date night on a budget? Those are the only dates we do nowaways.  If we had our own apartment or if my parents took Lulu somewhere, we could make dinner at home, watch a movie or play a board game.  Usually we go to dinner or dessert (with coupons or deals through Groupon type sites) and sometimes the $3 movie theatre.  We often will take a walk after dinner.   

What is the best kind of date your husband could surprise you with?!  It sounds really cliche to say a nice dinner, but both my husband and I love eating new, interesting ethnic cuisine.  I really love getting dressed up and feel like we don't have much of a chance to do it anymore, so I would love if he would give me an hour to get all dressed up and then take me out to a nice restaurant with exotic dishes.  On the other end of the spectrum, I also adore picnics or an afternoon in the park.

I think it's so important to continue to "date" after getting married, especially once children come into the picture.  I feel like dates take on a different meaning now and it's amazing to be able to go home with your date and know that he's your partner for life!  Especially after two years long distance, to not have to say (or kiss) goodbye at the end of the date reminds me of the beauty of marriage!  Marriage means...not having to say goodbye.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

My Ten Month Old

Lucia turned ten months on Friday.  Ten months is such an odd age.  Still a baby in so many ways, but nothing like the little newborn we brought home from the birth center ten months ago.   She's an absolute joy, very playful, and is getting quite the attitude.  It seems our house is either filled with screams or giggles.  (We much prefer the latter.)

This is the first month that I have seen Lucia actively learning.  Of course, she has been learning and developing since the day she was born but it's all seemed natural, the result of daily interactions with the world around her.  This month, I saw development based on intentional teaching on the part of David and me.  We've been taking Lulu to swim lessons and the first three weeks, she screamed and cried every time she had to float or "swim" on her back.  It was heartbreaking.  We tried everything to calm her down while on her back - singing songs, playing little games, etc.  This past week, we've finally seen a huge improvement and she could actually be on her back for a while without crying.  It's so rewarding to know that we've been able to help her become comfortable and get over her fears. 

This month has been huge for physical development.  Lucia is very mobile now and is constantly pulling up on furniture and walking along it.  She can even let go and stand on her own for up to five seconds.  David noticed that if you put a toy in her hand and stand her up, she'll stand on her own for a bit longer.  She's so engrossed in the toy that she is able to keep her balance, but once she notices that she is standing, she psyches herself out and falls on her bottom.  She's going to be walking very soon!

 Lulu is getting to be quite the food connoisseur.  I suppose I can't really call her a connoisseur because she's not very critical, she's loved just about everything we've given her (other than my mom's homemade applesauce - poor Nana!).  Some of her favorites: cheese enchiladas, butternut squash, refried beans, and all fish.  We tend to take the baby-led weaning approach to feeding her, so she eats whatever we eat and has never eaten food from a baby food jar.  (She does, however, LOVE the baby "puffs" snacks.  Confession: I do too!)  I hope eating what we eat means she will continue to like whatever mama makes for dinner and won't be a picky eater later on.  We are working on the signs for "food", "more", "all done", "please", and "thank you", but she rarely uses them and has found, ahem, other ways of telling me she wants more and she wants it now!  Let's just say she's not shy. 

Linguistically, she hasn't added any more words this month.  She's still at seven: hi, dada, dog, mama, ow, wow, and that.  She makes several other noises that sound like words but that she doesn't seem to associate with anything yet.  I took a first language acquisition class in college that discussed many of the amazing intricacies of language that the human brain is able to process.  It's so interesting to see them in action in Lucia.  For example, right now, she associates the word "dog" with any animal or stuffed animal, but not with people.  How is she able to group all animals together, since they come in so many shapes, colors, sizes, etc., yet know that humans are different? 

Lucia's ability to eat solids is much enhanced by the fact that she now has SIX teeth.  She has the front four teeth up top and front two on the bottom.  It seems that she's been having some teething pain the past month or so, which may be one of the reasons that her sleeping has become so erratic.  With so many teeth, we've started brushing them at night before bed.  I bought a Dr. Mom Finger Tooth Brush and was nervous that Lucia wouldn't like it.  She loves it!  She loves chewing on it and it seems to relieve some of her teething pain.  She actually cries when I stop brushing her teeth.  I guess I can't complain about that!

Sleep has been... challenging.  Lucia has been waking up at least three times a night and often is up for long stretches of time.  As I mentioned, some of the problem is teething, but there seems to be something more, but we can't figure out what it is.  She slept through the night from six weeks until about five months, and then off and on after that depending on whether she was teething or had a cold.  But for at least the past three months straight, she hasn't gone a single night without waking up several times.  We're struggling a bit with the lack of sleep, but Lucia seems to be making up for it with several naps so we aren't worried about her development.

Lulu is such a mama's girl right now.  I'm eating it up because I know it won't always be this way.  If I'm in the room, she doesn't want to be held or played with by anyone but me.  She cries if I leave the room or hand her to someone else (which makes David and my parents quite sad).  I worry that she is having some separation anxiety since I recently went back to work, but she seems happy enough once I leave.  I call her every day during my lunch and talk to her on the phone.  Sometimes she even "talks" back.  She's gotten very used to hearing familiar voices over the phone and will even pick up our phones and put them to her ear.  So cute!

One of the funniest thing my little girl does is search for "specks".  She'll find the tiniest piece of fuzz or dirt, pick it up with her pincer grip and stare at it.  David and I can rarely keep her attention for more than a second because she's all over the place, but a speck can keep her entertained for minutes!  This makes me think of Horton Hears a Who and wonder if she can hear something I can't. 

Playing "peek-a-boo" and "stinky feet" are sure ways to get her to giggle.  Give her a blanket and she'll play peek-a-boo with you over and over again, lifting it up to cover her face, then bringing it down and giggling when she sees you.  I've been trying to say "Where's Lucia?" and "There she is!" in both English and Spanish.  (I would be a bad Spanish teacher if I didn't try to teach my own little one!)  "Stinky feet" is exactly what it sounds like.  We sniff her feet (or bottom or underarms), make a face and say "Ew! Stinky!" and she giggles, giggles, giggles!  The things babies find funny!

Remember last month when I said Lucia bends her head when someone asks for a kiss?  She's just started puckering and kissing back!  She's been kissing her stuffed animals (and her monkey chair and our dogs) for a few weeks now, but as of yesterday, she is kissing mama and daddy when we ask for kisses and has even kissed us a few times unsolicited.  Poor Nana and Papa, they've been begging for kisses and not gotten a one!

David and I take Lucia for portraits once a month (thanks to $8 picture packets!).  This past month, we kept forgetting to pick up her nine month pictures so we didn't get them until we took her in for her ten month ones on Sunday.  When we opened them, we were amazed by how different she looked.  In one month, she has slimmed down quite a bit and her face is so much more mature.  I've said this for a few months, but now more than ever she looks like a toddler and has lost much of her baby face.  My baby girls is growing up fast!

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Monday, October 8, 2012

Belle of the Ball Jewelry and Accessories Review + Special Discount

I absolutely adore hand stamped jewelry.  Unlike many of the recent jewelry trends, hand stamped jewelry is classic, delicate and feminine.  It also can be customized to reflect the initials of you and your love, your children, or a word that reflects your values.  I've been eying several designs for a while now, but I thought that I wouldn't actually be able to afford one.  That is, until I found Belle of the Ball Jewelry and Accessories. Owner, Elise, offers custom hand stamped jewelry for as low as $15.  

When Elise contacted me about partnering with Catholic Newlywed to promote Belle of the Ball, I was elated.  She offers beautiful jewelry for the most affordable prices I've seen.  More than that, though, she is a young Catholic wife and mother, and I love being able to promote small businesses that are backed by strong family values and Christian faith.  I enjoy learning about the people and stories behind a business, so here is a little bit about Elise in her own words:
I grew up in a small town and moved back after college to raise my family.  I loved returning to the parish I got baptized in!  I have my bachelors degree in marine biology and my PhD in Biomedicine.  I have been married for five years to Paul and we have a sweet little girl, Isabelle, who is two. Our faith is extremely important to us and we are raising my daughter in the same way.  Belle loves pictures and statues of Mary and baby Jesus and even carries a card of them in her "purse". She loves to thank God for random things throughout the day which melts my heart.  I currently am staying home with Isabelle and enjoying every second.  In order to make ends meet, I started making jewelry.  I love creating custom pieces and am always up for new ideas! 
Elise sent me a hand stamped piece that she made just for me.  She didn't tell me what she was making which made it was SO exciting when the package arrived in the mail.  This is what I found inside:

I absolutely adore it!  Isn't it just lovely?  I've worn it almost every day since I've received it and have received numerous compliments.  This is also Lucia's favorite necklace and anytime I wear it, she can't keep her hands off it!  (My little one has great taste, if I say so myself!)  This piece is copper and silver plated (I love the contrast of the two metals); Elise also works with sterling silver and Swarovski crystals.  In addition to hand stamped jewelry, she also makes darling  necklaces and bracelets for little girls so they can feel like princesses too.  Next month, Elise will be giving away one of her little girl's jewelry items as part of my month long First Birthday Baby giveaway in honor of Lucia's first birthday (What? You mean I haven't told you about this yet? Stay tuned for a formal announcement sometime in the next week!)

In the meantime, check out Belle of the Ball's Facebook page and message Elise with any custom orders you would like her to create for you! She's offering a special discount to any Catholic Newlywed readers who like her Facebook page: Free shipping anywhere in the US, 10% off if you purchase two items, and 15% off three or more items.  Christmas is coming up and these would make really sweet personalized gifts for the women and girls in your life.  Some gift ideas: lover's initials for newly engaged or married ladies, children's initials for the moms you know, or an inspirational word for a hardworking student.

I received the necklace mentioned in this post to facilitate my review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are 100% mine.  Please see Disclosure Policy.