Friday, February 27, 2015

I Won, I Won!

I rarely enter giveaways because I've never won anything.

Until Now!

Last month, Amber, at Crazy Little Projects hosted a super easy giveaway where you only had to enter your name. So, I figured I'd give it a go. 

And I was so shocked when she e-mailed me! 

She sent me a lovely package containing an adorable divided notebook, gift tags, pens, a super cute scarf, delicious chocolate (consumed before I could grab my camera) and a boatload of notecards. 

I loved Amber's blog before she sent me this wonderful present (of course). She has all sorts of great tutorials for sewing, kid friendly crafts, and yummy desserts. So you should probably go take a peek! 

I'm using the notecards to write Teacup's birthday thank you notes. I'm letting her have a go at coloring and she has created some lovely, one-of-a-kind artwork.

Have you ever won a giveaway? 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

First Birthday Party Extravaganza

So I wasn't as good about taking pictures of the food and decorations as I hoped.

I was too busy focusing on the main attraction...

Teacup and Gigi

Although I did sneak in a couple quick shots of the cakes.

The bakery added a special smash cake for free

Teacup's party outfit was mostly removed for the cake smash.

Happy Birthday Sweet Munchkin! 

Ironically she didn't do much smashing. Mostly digging.

There were lots of presents to open.

Ellie met a new friend from Gigi! 

And then we attempted a group shot with all her little friends!

She had a great time, and I felt like it was really the perfect size/scale for a first birthday. We ended up with about 30 guests. Lots of extended family generously helped prepare the food and put up decorations. The menu consisted of slow cooker jelly meatballs (the smash hit), Italian pasta salad, fruit salad, veggie tray with homemade ranch, and a four layer bean dip served with tortilla chips. And cake. Of course.

I forgot to blow up the balloons, but no one seemed to miss them :)

Friday, February 20, 2015

7 QTs vol 3: Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday Recap, and a Little Third Trimester Fatigue

A bit of writer's block has hit me lately, and all that "awesome content" necessary for successful blogs Ruth Soukup talks about just ain't happenin'. I blame pregnancy. And the cold. And probably a host of other excuses that are super lame and just that: excuses.

So without further ado (and unnecessary whining), 7 quick takes, linked up with This Ain't the Lyceum. 

1. Monday: Monday I grocery shop. Every Monday. It's just part of my routine. What's not part of my routine is snow. Or at least the projection of snow, and especially a projected foot of snow. We don't have cable or network television, so we never watch the local news and thus never see the weather report unless we happen to check the handy weather app. So this storm was off my radar (har har). It also happened to be President's Day. I had scheduled my dreaded one hour glucose test since hubby would be home and could watch Teacup. I then planned to run quickly to the grocery store. So did everyone else. My normal twenty minute grocery trip turned into an hour with checkout lines backed into the aisles.

All for this:

Does that look like a foot of snow to you?
I'm pretty sure all my friends and family back up North are rolling their eyes at us "Southerners" 
DC was shut down, which resulted in hubby working from home. I'm not complaining. Even though we try to pretend he isn't around, it's so nice to see his face pop up from the basement once in awhile throughout the day.

2. Which brings me to Tuesday: The storm, although interfering with my Monday routine, actually benefited my poorly thought out Fat Tuesday. Due to all that white stuff on the ground (Bostonians would laugh... or weep), most of Virginia stayed home. My Monday meal didn't turn out so great and I hadn't made enough for leftovers as planned, so we decided to go out. I was a little worried about the restaurants being packed for Mardi Gras, but most of the parking lots were empty and we had no trouble getting into Applebees. Apparently I'm one of the only New Englanders south of the Mason Dixon line. Two inches of mostly melted snow doesn't usually scare me off the roads...Although, maybe the Virginia drivers should...

Teacup choosing some drinks for the night

3. Moving onto Wednesday: If I had planned ahead... or just not been lazy, I could have entered Kendra's Fat Tuesday Giveaway. However, I actually already ordered and received my Blessed is She Lenten Journal, although I could have gifted it to a friend. Hindsight is 20/20 (enough with the cliches!! I'm sorry, I just can't help myself). The journal is great though! I really felt more motivated to read and reflect on the readings before mass and I took the time to jot down a few thoughts during Teacup's naptime. Hubby and I will probably download the Magnificat App this weekend.

4. More Wednesday: Originally I planned to read Scott Hahn's First Comes Love, but I started it a little before lent and realized I've already read it. That doesn't mean I shouldn't read it again, but I have so many books that I've never picked off my shelf, so I decided to peruse the bookcase one more time. I found this gem:

It's so perfect for me for lent! And it's actually compiled by a professor at my alma mater.

5. More Wednesday: Ash time! We wanted to go to mass as a family, so we caught the 6:30 pm mass. As a pregnant mama, I'm apparently exempt from full out fasting, but I did abstain and when I did need to snack, I made sure I picked up something I really didn't prefer... you know, those healthy things, like bananas and pears...Anyway, poor hubby really was famished (I know, that's kind of the point) because we didn't get dinner until 8:30. He was very gracious about it all.

Second Annual Ash Wednesday photo. It's sort of freaking me out that she already is already experiencing a "second" of anything! 

6. Thursday: I'm officially into the third trimester! I was 28 weeks and 6 days at my prenatal appointment. Wahoo for the home stretch, or boo hoo for the return of pregnancy fatigue which = not enough energy to finish all the stuff I wanted to do before baby arrives in 2.5 months. Two and a half hours of babysitting and an hour and a half doctor's office wait completely exhausted me. Oh, and did I mention the return of pregnancy brain fog? I forgot to put my roast in the slow cooker, so a panicked call to hubby transpired where I begged him to pick up a pizza, oh and to please add a side of cheesy bread. Overkill? The day after Ash Wednesday, I think not!

7. Friday: Today was a frigid 7 degrees at 9 am. Teacup and I went out around 11 to babysit for some friends. My poor toddler still puts up with the infant car seat, but in these temperatures, I'm so grateful and don't care about the approximate 30 lbs (carseat and baby) I have to lug around. Poor hubby had to work till 8 pm tonight, so Teacup and I had a lot of time to play in her 25 year old toy kitchen my mom and sister resurrected from my family's attic.

I'm pretty sure that should qualify for some ultimate thrifty play gear award. Normal Toy kitchen cost: $100. Actual toy kitchen cost $0. Savings: $100.00!!!!!!

The weekend's goals consist of organizing Teacup's bedroom, catching up on some chores, and snuggling with my loves while sipping hot chocolate and hibernating from the newly projected five inches of snow and ice ;)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Lenten Countdown and Five Favorites

Hurry! Lent is right around the corner!

Every year I feel like Lent creeps up on me and I head to mass on Ash Wednesday completely unprepared. I'm walking down the aisle, scrambling to finalize my Lenten sacrifice. I'm driving home with a smudgy forehead, debating whether to switch giving up chocolate again to giving up Facebook on the weekdays.

So last year I had an added distraction ;) 

Generally, I'm not big on sharing Lenten sacrifices. Just for me personally, it seems like it lessens the sacrifice if someone knows what I'm giving up. However, I've had trouble sticking with (or even deciding upon) sacrifices, so hoping for some accountability, I'll tell you what I'm giving up and doing.

Facebook: Lame, I know. But it seriously sucks up a lot of my time (which is even more lame). I'm going to use my extra time to focus more on interactive play with my little girl, prayer time, and reading spiritual books.

Spiritual Books: No, I'm not giving them up :) I'm committing to reading more. Minimum of spending fifteen minutes a day reading about the saints, sacraments, or some other theological topic.

Daily Rosary: Saying it, every day, no excuses.

And now, to link up with Jenna for Five Faves, I'll share five things I'm excited about that also happen to be related to Lent!

1. My Lenten Journal: Ok, it's not even here yet, but I ordered this journal by Blessed is She. I'm hoping daily, written reflections will help immerse me more in the season.


2. This Rosary Book: Shared by Leila this week!

3. Baby Prayer Board Books: My mother in law gifted these for Teacup's baptism, so we've had them for awhile. This week the Our Father book is one of Teacup's favorite (alongside Moo, Baa, La La La of course). I love praying with my little girl daily even though she's only one. We usually say the Divine Mercy Chaplet before morning nap, but these books make things a bit more interactive for her.

4. This Blog Post: Lots and lots of resources for the whole family on how to have a better Lent. From Catholic All Year.

5. This Recipe: I love this slow cooker meal and it's so easy! I make mine meatless for Fridays by using vegetable stock instead of chicken stock and omitting the sausage. Perfect comfort food... too comforting for Abstinence Fridays? Ehhhhh....

What are you doing to prepare for Lent this year? 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Return from the North Pole

Phew! We just returned from a whirlwind trip to visit my family in snowy CT. The trip was extra crazy because it actually (and ironically) got cut short by snowstorm Ellie. We intended to drive back Monday, but instead had to leave midday Sunday to beat the weather.

We went up to celebrate Teacup's first birthday!

She preferred the frosting

I think she returned home with twice as many toys and books than she already owned.

I'm taking full advantage of her new found distractions by cleaning the house and getting ready for her party here this weekend.

For the birthday girl's decorations, I'm doing a combo of homemade and store bought items to create a St. Valentine's Day theme. I got the majority of the decorations, plates, utensils, etc from the Dollar Tree. Other than the food, everything came to less than $20!

I can't wait to share pictures from the big day!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Wednesday Book Review: Saints and Bloggers

No, I did not find a book about saints and bloggers, but if one isn't already published I'm sure someone will write one soon.

I love reading books about saints' lives and I don't read them nearly enough. Some of my favorites have been The Life of St. Catherine of Siena by Blessed Raymond of Capua, and Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta.

Another biography you can add to your reading list I just finished this week: Saint Catherine Laboure of the Miraculous Medal by Joseph I. Dirvin, C.M. 

My mother gifted me a Miraculous Medal for my 18th birthday and I wore it pretty much every day. However, I really didn't know anything about how it came to be. I vaguely knew that Mary appeared to a young Sister, Saint Catherine Laboure. I also knew the saint's body resided in Paris, France and was incorrupt. In 2006, I had the opportunity to visit the chapel where the apparitions appeared and see St. Catherine Laboure on Rue du Bac. 
Rue du Bac, Paris, France

Oh how I wish I'd read this biography before visiting eight years ago! 

This little saint, affectionately known as Zoe to her family, had an intriguing personality and lived through some of France's most tumultuous history . Sometimes perceived as cold, St. Catherine was extremely practical yet zealous, quiet but determined, submissive and at the same time, a leader. Her postulancy began on January 22, 1830 and only three months later she was welcomed into the Motherhouse of the Sisters of Charity in Paris. That same year the Virgin Mary appeared to Catherine three times. 

In Saint Catherine Laboure of the Miraculous Medal, you'll find rich detail about the saint's life weaved into France's volatile history, and read about the astonishing conversions and miracles attributed to the power of the Miraculous Medal. 

One of St. Catherine's attributes that particularly stuck with me was her humility. Compelled to tell the world about Mary's incredible apparitions to her, she successfully managed to keep her own identity a secret. It wasn't until the final year of Catherine's life, that she revealed to the world, that she was the little Sister who saw Mary. She knew how important it was for the focus to be on Mary's message and the spread of the medal rather than the world recognizing God's servant on Earth.

"Favored though she was with visions and celestial delights, she did not advertise herself to seek worldly fame, but took herself merely for the handmaid of God and preferred to remain unknown and reputed as nothing."
                                                                                  ~Pope Pius XII, July 27, 1947 

It must seem so ironic to the secular world, that this person who strove to remain unseen during her earthly life, has become such a well-known, honored, and beloved figure in the largest religious institution on Earth! 

So, if you've ever wanted to learn a little more about the medal you see everyone wearing at church, this book is a wonderful resource! Reads like a story and extremely easy to understand, I felt it to be a very thorough and well researched biography. 

The other book I'm currently plowing through is How to Blog for Profit: Without Selling Your Soul by Ruth Soukup. The author would be proud because I borrowed it via the kindle lending library (Ruth writes a blog about saving money) per Katherine's recommendation. 

I waffle between getting really excited and then discouraged while reading this. I certainly haven't started this blog with the mindset of making money, but I do really want to improve the quality of my content and visual aspects of the blog. There are so many good tips here, but one minute I start jumping out of my chair thinking "This is so cool, I can't wait to do this!" to wailing into a pillow "My blog has no direction, no creativity... It's going NOWHERE!". 

This isn't meant to be a pity party by any means, I guess I'm just finally coming to grips (and appreciating) how much work writers put into their blogs. For example, it took me HOURS to write this post and that didn't even include prepping pictures. Successful bloggers are working many hours every day at perfecting their content, taking pictures, and promoting their site. The people that make this a full time job are working HARD. 

My little space here isn't intended for anything grandiose, but I'm still hoping to use the information in this little e-book to improve what I have. I would recommend this book to any beginner blogger no matter what their goals are for their blog!

And, since I know you're all really here to see pictures of my cute kid....

We got to go outside today! It was fifty degrees. It was sunny. It was glorious!

Linking up with Jessica at Housewifespice!