30 December 2013

Peppermint Oreo Cookie Balls...

...were most definitely my go-to cookie recipe this holiday season.  When Natalie first shared the recipe on her blog and made it sound easy peasy, I wanted to give them a try for upcoming parties.

These little yummies were SO good. and SO easy.  Milk's favorite cookie plus peppermint? Be still my rumbling tummy:)

1 8oz. package of cream cheese, softened
1 package of Peppermint OREO cookies 
4 packages of semi-sweet baking chocolate
8-10 candy canes, crushed ( I cheated and used pre-crushed mints from Costco ;)

1//  Blend up cookies until they are finely crushed

 2//  Mix cream cheese and cookie crumbs until well blended.  (The second time making these I learned how MUCH easier it is to use clean hands for this part, rather than mixing utensils.)
It took a lot of self control to not lick some of the yumminess off my hands during mixing.  Somehow, I was able to keep it together:)

3//   Shape the mixture into 1 inch round balls.  Throw in the freezer for 10 minutes.

4//  While dough balls are freezing, melt baking chocolate in the microwave.  Then, dip balls in melted chocolate.  To help make the dipping go more smoothly, I used forks to to gently scoop them out the melted chocolate yumminess and then let the excess chocolate drip off in the ball. 

5//  Set on lined wax-paper pan and sprinkle the crushed candy canes on before the chocolate hardens and the candy won't stick.

6//  Refrigerate for an hour and then store cookie balls...unless you're like and the chocolate-peppermint combo is too much to handle and you have to "sample" a few ;)

If you need a fun, easy treat to bring to your New Year's Eve festivities, these little dough balls pack a tasty punch!
All this baking chit-chat has made me hungry...I need a snack;)
Happy snacking!

09 December 2013

Worthy: See Yourself as God Does

One of the best things about the long weekend for Thanksgiving (along with a full tummy and family time) was the chance to get in some hard core reading time.  I.love.books.and.to read. a lot.  There are few things in that get me as excited as walking into Barnes and Noble with a gift card, I feel like a kid on Christmas morning.

One such book I finished (that was long over-due) over the holiday weekend was this treasure.  The lovely authoress (new word!) Amanda writes over at her blog, Worthy of Agape and she wrote a post recently for my series "Catholic and loving it".

I have been hearing a lot of good things about this book from other bloggers I follow so it definitely has been on "must read list" for awhile.  The basic premise of the book is helping to awaken the hearts of women today, to call out the lies that we have blindly believed for too long from Satan, but also speak the unchanging truths to our hearts that we are worthy.we are beautiful. we do have dignity. and we are called to be fierce (think Joan of Arc, the young woman solider).  I have to be honest, I have read of TON of books for women dealing with some of topics and other related ones like body image/self-esteem, but this one by far has been the best in comparison.  Honest and heart-felt it spoke truth to areas of my heart that have been bogged down for too long believing some of those lies.  This book will not help solve your emotional issues with body image, self hate, self-esteem, etc. over night, but for me personally it definitely help me grow more aware and understand myself better.

The book starts out in the beginning, with the story of the fall of Adam and Eve and how that set up humanity for a struggle in life to battle against the lies of Satan.  Amanda writes, "The Father of Lies has to start somewhere.  Satan's biggest defense, one of his greatest weapons against us, is doubt.  If he can get you to start doubting that God loves you then he begins to work his way into your heart and soul....we can start to recognize this by starting with the first lies Satan tells us as women" (pg. 20).  And what are some of those lies?  Ones many, many are too familiar with through the journey of their own life (including me): that you are not good enough, unworthy, unlovable, not pretty or thin enough,you need more make-up, and it just goes on and on.

Section two of the book focuses on the real triumph of God's love in our lives, which is really the only force that helps us love and see ourselves as He does.  In the last section of the book, this is where Amanda really offers a full punch and speaks truth to your heart on all the above issues and more.  One thing she spoke of that I never really considered before was that it takes humility on our part for love to happen and flourish.  We spend much of life at times building up walls around our hearts so we will never be hurt, but in that process we prevent joy, peace, and love from entering the deepest parts of our heart that need those things most.  Pope Benedict XVI once said, "God loves us; we need only summon up the humility to allow ourselves to be loved."  Amanda talks about what it really means to be a woman of strength and dignity; and to live it with a certain 'fierceness'.

One of the most powerful things for me in the book was when Amanda talked about the lies we have come to believe and make our own; that if we are told something enough times, we really believe it to be true.  She wrote of this analogy that just registered so deeply in my heart: "The lies are beat into our heads and hearts and they make their home within our souls.  In many ways these lies are similar to trenches often used in warfare.  Troops dig their way into the ground and hide out in the trenches.  In order to keep troops safe from incoming bullets and incoming fire, the trenches must be dug very deep into the ground.  The deeper the trenches, the safer the troops were from enemy fire.  If the trench was shallow troops risked poking their heads or limbs up and being shot.  Troops dug trenches so deep that they could stand up in them comfortably.  Satan's lies work in the same wayThe deeper he buries his lies in our hearts, the safer the lies are and safer he is.  If he only buried his lies knee-deep in our hearts he would risk attack from his enemy (God) and his defense would be blown.  So he tells us more lies, locks us in more coffins and entrenches his lies on our hearts.  These lies are entrenched so deeply that if we aren't careful, we too join in the battle, and defend Satan.  When we begin to defend Satan, we give him room to dig his trenches even deeper in our hearts, often to disastrous ends" (pg. 64)

Reading this book has been such a blessing for me in my own journey as I continue to work to on loving myself as God does, and undoing some of the lies I have believed for too long in my life.  No matter how deep our darkness is, God is still deeper.  There is never no pit of lies so twisted, no trench so deep that God cannot reach into it and totally transform our hearts.
I pray that you may blessed as I have in reading this book...

06 December 2013

What does it feel like to have the Christmas shopping done?

 I'm glad you asked!  Let me tell you...um, freaking.awesome.  Fist pump it Dwight style:)

It's been a crazy long time since linking up with Jen and her loyal crew of Friday quick takers, glad to be linking up once again:)

 1.  Christmas shopping is done!  AND most of the wrapping. 
Even though I went shopping on Black Friday with my mom and sister, most of the things I bought were some things to cute to pass up for Jim/our apartment.  How can you say no to cute boxers with the Valentines Day candy all over them?  That's what I thought too.
Having it done before Thanksgiving has made me realize how much of the month of December is spent trying to figure out what to get for those tough people to shop for and just more focused on getting the perfect gift, instead of really focusing on what this season is really all about.  I feel like it is SO easy to get caught up in all the business of getting ready for one day (Christmas) that sometimes I forget to really prepare my heart and mind, so I'm hoping by having some of that jazz taken care of early on, I can better enter into the season of Advent.
 One thing I'm excited we are using at our casa during Advent is this awesome book.  It is a short, easy book to use every day of Advent, complete with Scripture verse, reflection question, and song.  I'm actually really starting to love our off-key version of 'O Come O Come Emmanuel'.
2.  After 10 hours of hitting the pavement on Black Friday and engaging in some yummy leftovers, we were ambitious bears and decided to bust out the Christmas tree and decorations.  Our tree is somewhat 'special' because for whatever reason it does not have the ability to hold a normal sized star or angel on the top.  Thank you Walgreen's for having mini sized stars and helping our tree look more complete.  After busting out the holiday cheer, we ended with a movie night on the couch with some hot chocolate and peppermint Hershey Kisses.  Nothing like a little Clark Griswold to get some holiday cheer going....
3.   Do you ever fight with your husband/significant other?  Whew, me too!  We've had some interesting ones over the past 18 months of being married.  This past Wednesday evening, we decided to hit up a local 7pm Mass, cause who doesn't need an extra dose of grace in life?  Well we had a tiff...maybe a big tiff...let's just say I was about as friendly as an ice berg at the sign of peace.  I have a ways to go to being a saint...here's to getting better at it.

4.  I'm pretty good at planning ahead for things and using my calendar.  However, this week I realized from November-March I have 5 lock-ins on our youth ministry calendar.  epic.planning.fail.  Don't get me wrong I like teens, but the crazy weird things that no sleep at these 10 hour gigs does to your body is not always the fun part.  Two of them are combined ones with other churches, 2 are for our women's ministry for the teen ladies, and 1 is for our men's ministry for the guys.  Tomorrow night is the kick-off for men's ministry.  If you think of it tomorrow night as you head to bed, say a prayer for Jim as he is helping at it...he and no sleep don't work together well.
5.  I am really excited my brother-in-law David is going to our pictures for our Christmas card this year.  He is great with photography and editing pics, so I'm looking forward to seeing what he comes up with.  Even better, I have a coupon for them at Walgreen's and they have some great deals going on right now too!  If you're looking for photo cards, check out Walgreen's.  I was pleasantly surprised!
6.  Have you read this book??
 If you haven't you are missing out. so. good.  And even better it is coming out as a movie right in time for Easter this year.  I watched the trailer a few times this week and am already looking forward to seeing it with my family and hopefully having a field trip with the youth group to go see it.

7.  I'm starting to realize how my love affair with Diet Coke over the years is starting to catch up with me.  Any tips/suggestions how on to kick a mean diet pop habit??  I have started drinking a little more tea, specifically caffeinated green tea, but how much caffeine does tea really have though?  I'm all ears for any thoughts folks.  Hook this lady up.

 Happy weekending!

02 December 2013

Top 5 Stupidest Fights...

....in the 18 months we have been married.

A few nights ago, Jim and I were reminiscing about the crazy, stupid fights we have had in being married thus far.  Feels weird to talk about reminiscing on old fights, but man oh man have we wasted time and energy on fighting on some crazy dumb things.  We actually categorized which ones were our top 5.  Thankfully we didn't argue on that; well, at least not too much.
The following were our favorites:)

1. The ever sacred "chore chart"
Let's just say I like structure.  I especially like my way of structuring things because lets face it before you I got married, I definitely liked doing things my way.  Because of course my way was the correct way.  This was very true especially when it came to keeping a neat/clean home.  About two weeks after we got back from our Alaskan cruise honeymoon, I eagerly sat down with Jim at dinner and said something to the effect of, "Okay, so honey when are we going to make up a chore chart for our home?"  I was dead serious, and Jim just stared at me.  Clearly I didn't get it, because I started happily chatting away about how often things should be clean and home maintenance and blah blah blah blah (insert the voice of the teacher from the Charlie Brown movies here).

We have fought long and hard many time on when to clean, how to clean, who should clean; you name it, we've probably had some "lively discussions" about it.  The trickiest part of it all was that in my home of origin I grew up on chore chart, Mom had it color coated and all perfectly aligned and hanging neatly on the fridge; chores were just a part of life as I knew it.  In Jim's family of origin, it was the total opposite; he had no household chores and his Mom did everything herself, including everybody's laundry.  So here we had little Miss Lysol meets Mr. Pigpen.  Obviously after we came home from our lovely honeymoon, our two worlds of expectations on chores/household cleaning were about to have a head on collision. 

Only in the past few months have we begun to strike a balance that challenges me to be a less critical and controlling bear, while challenging Jim to be more pro-active and responsible in chores.  We created a chore chart together with chores that to need to happen and how often we complete them.  It is a fine and fancy Excel document that even has a box to for our initials when we complete chores.  Oh.happy.day.  Even better it has definitely helped resolve some of the crazy tension around chores in our home.

2. Are farts funny or gross/stupid?
If you be a gal who doesn't find potty humor funny, move on to #3.
My dear husband is the type of man who finds potty humor to be quite hysterical, like uncontrollable-giggles-hysterical.  Growing up for him it was very normal to have burping contests at dinner and multiple people finding humor in the noises of bodily functions (farting).  Manners were a big deal for us growing up and when we were younger my Mom didn't even like the word fart.

We actually had a debate one night (that may have did escalate in term of volume aka yelling) on how Jim thinks some potty humor is fine and that there is nothing inherently wrong about laughing at a fart.  I on the other hand find constant potty humor and drawing attention to farts icky, gross, and generally not as funny.  Needless to say I have gotten my panties all bunched up about bodily noises and probably did make a bigger deal on it than necessary.
So our combined conclusion when it comes to farting? There is an appropriate time and place to find such related things hysterically funny (Jim), but it is certainly not something to get SO bent outta shape on (Patty).  I may never find a good fart story terribly funny, but then again Jim probably will never get stoked to scrub the kitchen floor or do a crafting project with me either:)

3.  How often to clean the toilets
 Yes this is related to #1.  In fighting about how to do chores/make a chore chart, one thing we kept coming back to was how often to clean the toilets.  Jim's prized theory?  Clean it when you think you should, i.e. maybe once a month.  When I heard that I was ready to hit gingerly tap him on the head with the toilet brush.  I was shocked and kindly let Jim know just because you don't see germs or the toilet looks like it needs to be cleaned, doesn't mean you just leave it for a whole month.  After some a lot of going back and forth and researching online actually how dirty a toilet easily gets in a small household, we both came to a happy place and decided we can live in a home where the toilets are cleaned every other week.  Although sometimes I still get an urge to throw in an occasional weekly clean...

4. Decorating
 Both of us can tend to be stubborn people at times, so when it came to decorating it definitely took longer than needed because whether a picture to hang or where to place furniture we both wanted it done. our. way.
How many ungodly hours did we spend arguing where to hang our Papal blessing we received as a wedding gift....really of all things to argue about we chose that one??  Then there were of course the several occasions I decided to take a whack at hanging pictures/decorations on the wall myself.  After too many holes in the wrong place and not putting it in an agreed place between the both of us, Jim wasn't too impressed with my efforts. 
Learning to decorate together with both of us involved has been a process, but looking back I see now how it really is important that we both are a part of making our house into a home.

5.  Names for future children
This is one is my personal favorite.  Ever since I was a little girl, I always liked to dream and imagine what the names of my future babies would me.  So off course when I met the husband, I thought this would be a fun game to play together. no.such.luck.
Currently we have no children and no bun baking in the oven, but geez-a-lou have we had some discussions on names for future little ones.  I got so mad one time, yes I admit I stormed out of the apartment.  I really think Jim likes to come up with the most odd, possibly heinous names merely to piss me off and drive me bonkers.  Apparently it has worked.
Jim's favorite names? Bartholomew, Odysseus, Thor, Samson, Gizmo, Edna, Marge.  Even though he was mostly joking, it made me mentally nuts to even imagine bringing home a baby Thor Hubbard.  The situation was not helped any when Jim said my favorite girl name (Emma) could never work because it made him think of enema.  Thanks dearest for that one:)
All I know is when we do have little ones I think we will already have had plenty of discussions to cover names we do and do not like.

18 months in and we have had some interesting just plain crazy, weird fights...here's to hoping the next 18 months and years are full of more wisdom and maturity on both our parts!

30 November 2013

The cup of coffee that made me more thankful for my Mom and sister...

Black Friday my Mom, sister, and I have a standing tradition of waking up early to hit the stores and snatch up some bargains. 
This year we were hitting the pavement at 5am, and no we did not trample people to death to be the first ones in the mall; we were the perky ones skipping into the store. 
We literally shopped till we dropped.

And sure while we all found some great deals, it didn't compare to the awesome heartfelt conversations I had with my Mom and sister. 

We laughed so hard till it hurt, people watched, and giggled about jokes between the three of us no one else could ever appreciate.  At one point while perusing the racks at JC Penney my sister pulled me aside and thanked me for everything I helped plan and do for her recent wedding; how much it meant to her, her new husband, and how much fun she had doing it with me.  It completely caught me off guard but totally warmed my heart in every way.

After hitting up one of our favorite stores LOFT (everything was 50% off...what the gravy!?!?) we headed to re-fuel ourselves with some caffeine at Starbucks where I also had the second coffee of my life; an iced peppermint mocha.  Coffee and I are new acquaintances.

My sister just got married in October so this has been the first time in a long time all three of us have really had some quality girl time together.  Once we all sat down and started talking it got deep fast. We talked about.everything. Being married, sex, future baby names, how to be an effective Christian witness, being a good wife, mistakes we've made in life, etc.  Annie and I talked with Mom/asked advice on being married and how to be a good wife; Mom shared her wisdom and life experiences with us and what she has learned from her mistakes in marriage and motherhood. 

We talked about how since us girls have grown up (mostly) how MUCH we appreciate our family origin, as we've met so many people who were not blessed with the family life we had growing up.  We talked about our relationships with our Dad and brother.  I asked their advice on how to handle certain situations/people with my in-laws and how to make those relationships work out well.  I talked to them on issues Jim and I have been working through in the time since we've been married. 

We talked about how not to judge other people and shared lessons we have all learned in doing that.  There was really nothing that was off limits.  We were just present to each other; three women in different stages of life and facing different challenges. Honestly it felt like just a heart-felt therapy session with Mom and Annie, and was just what my heart needed.

As I came home and was telling Jim about our day, (and showing him the purchases) this was more than another Black Friday shopping trip for me.  It was a simple, beautiful, grace-filled moment to simply be with some of the people I love most in the world.  I was so blessed by it and am so thankful God has given me these amazingly awesome women who both encourage, support, and challenge me all at the same time in my life.

An iced peppermint mocha, two scones, and 10 hours later...I was excited to that all our Christmas shopping was done, but more importantly I was counting my blessings for these two ladies in my life:)

20 November 2013

Shake it up, baby!

..Twist and shout!
Nothing a little bit o' twisting and shouting with the Beatles to start your Wednesday off!! :)

Two weeks ago, I hosted my women's small group at our house.  I wanted to make a fun fall-ish dessert for our evening together, which also happened to be the first snow of....fall!?
Life in the Midwest, go figure:)

So I whipped up some tasty gingersnap pumpkin milkshakes.....hence the shake it up baby play on words ;-) 

Gingersnap Pumpkin Milkshakes

  • 12-15 small gingersnap cookies
  • 1-1 1/2 pints of vanilla ice cream
  • 1/2 cup of cold skim milk
  • 1 cup of canned pumpkin ( I ended up using the whole can, cause I'm a pumpkin fiend:)
  • 1 tablespoon of cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • (Optional) Cool Whip topping and gingersnap cookies for scooping/snacking

1// Put gingersnap cookies into blender on high speed until pulverized into fine crumbs

2// Add all the yumminess: pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, ice cream, and milk
Blend on high speed until mixture well combined

3// If too thick add more milk...if too thin add a little more ice cream

4// Pour into pretty glasses (cause it makes the shake drinking experience that more enjoyable:) and enjoy the taste of fall!

12 November 2013

Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and also happens to be my most favorite type of food to eat.  Growing up I would love it when my Mom would surprise us with breakfast food for dinner.

A few weeks ago, when Jim came home from errands and I told him we were having pancakes for dinner, he looked a little confused...apparently he didn't get the memo in marriage prep class that breakfast food is a totally righteous thing to eat for dinner also;) 

Thankfully, he didn't seem to mind the blueberry buttermilk pancakes I had made.  Apparently they must have been good because I didn't have many left-overs to throw in the freezer for future snacking.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup fresh blueberries
2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 lemon, zested

  1. Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl
  2. Combine buttermilk, eggs, and lemon zest together in a small bowl
  3. Slowly pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, mixing just until combined(batter may be lumpy, that's a-okay)
  4. Fold in the blueberries (I ended up using 1 1/2 cups of blueberries)
  5. Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium-high heat
  6. Spray with non-stick cooking spray 
  7. Ladle 1/3 cup batter onto skillet for each pancake.
  8. Flip when small bubbles appear on the surface and continue cooking until golden brown
  9. Grab some Mrs. Butterworth and chow down

 Nothing like a good hard cider to wash down yummy pancakes ;-)

11 November 2013

I've had some work done...

Okay so I'm not referring to "that type of work", but I have changed things up around here in this space.
For one thing I have changed the name/title/address, whateves you call it of my blog.  Honestly, when I started blogging I just picked some title at random without putting much thought into a name that really reflects me.  So after a skype date session with Jenna aka blogging school, I decided to really switch everything up with a new name, design to reflect it, and TONS of ideas to really help me write better and more intentionally.  I decided on 'a modern grace' because growing up my favorite old movie actress and style icon was Grace Kelly.  I loved her movies (Rear Window is still my favorite!) and read anything I could get my hands on about her life.  This title also reflects my love for things like design/clothing/home decor that I like to call "classy elegance"; but more importantly it reflects my desire to become the woman/wife/sister/friend God wants me to be.  Striving to do this with with a huge dose of grace, class, and at times, a little bit of sass ;-)

It's been a good long time since I have posted here regularly.  The last month has been crazy busy!  My grandpa, Papa died, there have been 2 weekend long retreats in youth ministry land, Jim and I have been busy doing some intensive marriage enrichment, and oh yeah, that 10 page biblical exegesis paper on a few verses of Genesis didn't help much either.

I'm looking forward to writing much more frequently, but also being much more intentional about what/why I write.  The last month away has been good to re-evaluate why exactly do I blog and how I can use this space to be honest, real, and just more of who I am; instead of trying to be like other bloggers or comparing myself to others.
Like all other people who have a blog, at the end of the day, we are all just people behind a screen, and that's been a good reminder for me over these past weeks to think about as I really think about why I blog.
I'm looking forward to this fresh start:)

27 September 2013

Baking Gone Bad.

Why hello, Friday, nice to see you!
Joining Jen and her faithful crew of quick takers for some Friday shares! 
Last Friday evening in my eager excitement to begin celebrating this lovely autumnal season, I decided to whip up a batch of pumpkin waffles.  So I dug out our waffle iron from our wedding shower, and followed a recipe for some pumpkin waffles.  My first moment of concern should have been when I tasted the batter and it just, well, plain yuck! It was certainly not the taste feast in my mouth I expected. Darn it!  Some I thought a 'couple' extra dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg would 'magically' do the trick, but alas no; still had a yuck factor.  Last time I play around with spices unsupervised.

Still, I thought I could save these soon-to-be-waffles.  On the box it said this waffle iron was non-stick.  For a split second, there was a little voice in my head that said, "Hmm probably should still spray this thing with baking spray."  Did I listen to that little Betty Crocker inside me?? (I imagine you know where this is going...) 

So there I was merrily pouring waffle mix onto the hot iron and jamming out in the kitchen to jazz music on the radio.  It was only until I saw smoke steaming out of the waffle iron I thought it could be potentially a problem.  Well turns out you are still supposed to spray non-stick waffle irons even if it says non-stick.  After a few 'choice' words and 45 minutes of scrapping and scrubbing batter out of the waffle iron in the sink; I decided to call it a night and reacquainted myself with a Woodchuck hard cider and some episodes of "I Love Lucy"

This Sunday, I'm planning to go round two at the waffle iron again.  This time I'm using the lovely Pam to help prevent burnage this time around:)

This next week is gonna be crazzzyyy round these parts!!  All day Friday and Saturday I'm going to a Youth Ministry conference sponsored by our diocese.  I love getting together with some of my besties in ministry, and especially excited to have a well-needed chat/some advice with my dear mentor.  Oh and the food at these things is always good; which is of course an added bonus!

Youth Group kick-off is also on Sunday, yay! Pray for a good start to the year.  And Jim and I are also getting our god-parenting duties on the first time together beforehand.

The best thing about next week is my sister Annie is getting married! I'm already looking forward to our spa day of pampering with Annie, Mom, and ourAunt...not to mention my dancing shoes are ready to get down with my funky self and boogie the night away at the reception next Friday!
Oh and I also have a biblical exegesis paper on the call of Abraham that I somehow have to find time to start working on...looks like I'll really have to master some serious time management this week!
Prayers for all that busy; especially the bride/groom and my time management skills, are muchly appreciated:)

Gotta get a fun shot of us 3 sibs at Annie's wedding for sure!!

A few weeks ago, I asked you all for advice on drinking coffee.  Diet Coke has not been doing it, and I figured at 28 was as good a time as any to try it out.
Thanks for the idea's! So I had my first official cup of coffee with carmel something creamer (Jim seemed to think I would be able to tolerate it).  Well I got half way through and oddly enough it gave me a stomach ache; I definitely felt more awake, but boy it was hard to swallow down.

I know some of you recommended Earl Gray tea's and I still have yet to get some the next time we go grocery shopping.  Tomorrow before heading out to my day conference, I may be hitting up Bigby for something sweet and sugary in a mug:)
Any other good caffeinated tea flavors?? I tried raspberry, but it just tasted like bland, flavored water.

Monday Jim and I got a big surprise!  Someone we know at a church we frequently go to on Sunday wants to pay for us (as a gift!) to attend this 2 day weekend marriage enrichment conference, called 'Living in Love.'  We were both humbled and really surprised when this man told us he thinks our marriage can help other people because of some challenging situations we faced this year, that it could be a witness to other engaged or newlywed couples.  So we get to go and really do some serious reflection and prayer together for a weekend, and then afterwards perhaps will be trained to be a "marriage mentor couple" to help walk alongside other couples who are preparing for marriage at this church.
Of course we said yes!  I'm really excited to see what this brings for us as a couple, praying about this opportunity together, and am looking forward to this weekend enrichment already:)

Since getting from our retreat a few weeks ago, I've really been thinking about the constant stream of excuses I make to explain why I can't/don't have time/or am too busy to find time to pray each day.
The last talk at the retreat was given by a nun who just really convicted to me as much as I can to stop the excuses and get my lazy rump out of bed and just spend time with the Lord.  Of course, easier said than done.
Last week, I set my alarm and hour earlier before I needed to be getting ready for work to have quiet time with Jesus.  I did it twice last week (work in progress ;) and the days I did I noticed just an overall difference in my attitude and mindset.  Its a sacrifice sure, but I'm really starting to see if I don't make time then, I''l find too many excuses to not pray later in the evening.
One thing I also did in my prayer time was bring my day before the Lord and share my plans, but then ask him if there's something specific he wants me to do or take off my list.  Especially for a chronic list make and control freak like myself, its a simple way to strive to do more of God's will and less of mine each day.
Know of course its Friday, and this week I've only got up once early to pray...like I said...a work in progress...

I'm already excited and dreamily planning our next trip to the grocery store.  Is that weird??
No? Whew, okay I thought I was the only one that found grocery shopping to be fun...I'm sure give me a few years and a couple kids later, I'll think differently.  But call me crazy, I really do find grocery shopping to be fun!
Especially when I can do this......

OR dress up like this.....

Don't worry we don't dress up like bears and I don't use the cart at Kroger's for my personal photo shoot...although the bear thing would be freaking. hysterical.

But for real, I'm just excited for some of idea's I have to try out in the kitchen: shepherd's pie, spinach lasagna roll ups, spinach mushroom frittata, and funetti pancakes (for the birthday boy in the next few weeks!)
All this food chatter, has got me hungry.....hhhmmm wonder what its the fridge?

Lastly this picture and words. Cause its just good stuff.

Wishing you all a beautiful weekend...and don't forget to share your smile, cause its a gift!! :)

24 September 2013

Crockpot Chicken Stroganoff

One of the things my Mom made a lot when my siblings and I were growing up were casserole and stroganoff type dishes, probably because they were so easy with three little kids running around!

I've spent some time looking on Pinterest for ways to make some of my favorite childhood dishes but also making them a little healthier too.
With Fall officially here and also being a really busy time at work, I wanted to try a couple recipes that were pretty easy to make for a nice dinner during the work week, and when I came across this light version of chicken stroganoff, I knew it sounded like something I would want to take a crack at.

1.5 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 can of 98% fat free cream of mushroom soup
1 packet of onion soup mix
16 oz. container of fat-free sour cream


1// Place the chicken breasts in the bottom of the slow cooker

2// Combine the rest of the ingredients in bowl and mix up

3// Cover the chicken with the mixture

4// Cook on low for 7 hours

 5// Spoon up the deliciousness with noodles (I used a whole wheat pasta)

6// Add a dolup of sour cream for garnish and let the chow down begin!

Happy eating!! :)

13 September 2013

An Accusation of Magic

I've been meaning to publish this newest guest post from Molly, and I'm staring Friday off right by clicking "publish"!  Molly is the lovely author behind Molly Makes Do.  She is a wife and mommy, and entered the Catholic Church in 2012...welcome home, girl!  Stop by here corner of the blog-o-sphere and check out what she has going on!  Today she is writing on her experience on how entering the Catholic Church really became a magical experience for her...

When I was married I was still searching.  I made it very clear that I wasn’t comfortable getting married in a Catholic Church, the religion my husband grew up with, and we made other arrangements.  I didn’t know what I was being drawn to, but I knew with a great deal of certainty that it wasn’t Catholicism.  I might as well walk around with an “I *heart* the Crusades” t-shirt on.

My husband was clear – he didn’t mind what ever I found that satisfied my soul, but he’d be remaining Catholic.  He wasn’t even that devout, but he was steadfast in this.  My first reaction to this was probably something poetic and philosophical like “Seriously?”  It was probably around that time that I started asking him ridiculous amounts of questions of an equally poetic nature - “So what’s up with the Saint thing?” is a good example.

Then I got myself in trouble; I started reading and let this be a warning to you.  If you’re at all interested in Catholicism and you start reading, it’s all up hill from there.

Eventually I started to know the answers to my questions – I knew more about the Mary thing, the Saint thing, and the prayer thing – but I still couldn’t figure out why my husband was so committed to staying Catholic.  I had grown up Protestant and was used to shopping for and jumping ship between churches so what was the big deal? 

Then, one night, I was reading a section in one of my many Catholic books about the Eucharist and suddenly, just for a moment I had figured out.  I knew exactly why he was so drawn to his religion and I was poised to attack.  A few hours later Ben walked through our front door and I just about catapulted myself over the couch, finger raised accusingly in the air.

“I know it!  I’ve figure it out!  I know why you like being Catholic so much,” I shouted.  “It’s because it let’s you believe in MAGIC!”

Now, dear reader, do not worry I’m not and was not talking about real Magic (or well actually fake Magic, because come on now), and luckily my intelligent, but incredibly nerdy husband knew what I was trying to say.

I had realized that the Church let my husband have every reason to believe in the fantastical, the unbelievable, and the miraculous and that spoke to him.  He could go to Mass and not just have a nice worship service, but witness a miracle every Sunday.  He could teach his child about amazing men and women who could do wondrous things because of their faith.  He could believe that faith and prayer can work miracles.

It was then that I realized what the Church offered him and I, a chance to be part of something real, something that could have real effects.  A symbol is just that and nothing more, but a real presence and a chance to engage fully in our roles in this amazing world around us through our faith, well, that’s kind of magical.


11 September 2013

5 Faves: Kitchen Gadgets & cleaning tricks

Two weeks in a row with joining the five faves link-up, score!  Today Grace is covering the hostess with the mostess duties for Hallie.
Going with a double whammy combo today of cleaning tricks (Thank you God for Pinterest!) and fav kitchen gadgets.  So without further adieu...

1.  As I looked at our sorry excuse of a microwave, I decided it was probably a good time to give that machine a good cleaning; probably not a great statement to my domestic skills if I cannot remember the last time I cleaned it?  Don't it was within the last year. I think.
Not knowing where to begin cleaning off the gunked on spaghetti sauce and tomato soup stains, I turned to Pinterest for a quick way to clean the ol' microwave.

I loved what I found and more that was simple: 1 cup of vinegar mixed with 1 cup of hot water in the microwave for 10 minutes.  I may as well warn you that your kitchen may smell of burning vinegar, because my husband came out wondering why it smelled like burning salt and vinegar chips...other than a slight temporary smell, no biggie.
After 10 minutes, take a wet cloth and wipe the whole inside out...and voila! A happy microwave is a clean microwave...or something like that:)

2. Was I the only one who apparently registered for crap steak knives at Bed, Bath, and Beyond for our wedding? They have gotten rusty well within the first year of being married, and I'm just bummed we now have to add a good set of knives onto our Christmas wish list.  No we are not cereal killers, we just like our beef. chicken. lamb. you get the idea ;)

Who knew lemon juice could get get rust stains off your knives?  Not this girl!!
Another little genius find on Pinterest.  I soaked the knives for about 10 minutes, and then I scrubbed then another few minutes with the rough side of the sponge...oh happy day!
Nothing is better than cutting into a juicy steak with rust-free steak knives.

Now onto to fun kitchen gadgets...

3.  This little wooden contraption I won as a prize at my sister's wedding shower...just looks like a glued together chop stick, right?? WRONG.
It is a bamboo tong to safely get your toast out of the toaster without electrocuting yourself!! pure. genius.  All I know is this bad has prevented me from burning my fingers and impatiently jamming my fork in the toaster.  Simple, but handy to have in the kitchen:)

4.  My DIY soap/sponge holder...

Another find on...yup you guessed it, Pinterest.  It's handy, easy, and having something pretty to look at almost makes scrubbing pots more pleasant.....almost.  If you're looking for an easy craft, here is where I wrote on how to make it.

5.  This is last one isn't as exciting, but oh so handy lately for me! Muffin pans.  I've gotten really into baking mini egg white muffins in the muffin pans.  We're talking spinach, feta, tomato, and onion=amazingly delicious experience for you taste buds!
Next muffin pan recipe? Mini pumpkin cheesecakes.  be.still.my.autumnal-loving.heart.

Happy Wednesday loves! :)

06 September 2013

Back to school...with a bouquet of sharpened pencils

It is Friday and that is something to jump for joy over:)  In keeping with tradition, I'm linking up with Jen again for the good ol' quick takes...

{1} Grad school classes started up again this week.  Even now as an adult (ish), I get SO excited about seeing the school supply section at Target; like it brings the hugest smile to my face:)  There is a scene in You've Got Mail where Meg Ryan talks about getting a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils, and I've always loved it since having a special place in my heart for back-to-school supplies.

I'm taking two classes for the fall semester, and one of them only meets every other week (heck yeah!).  I had my second class this afternoon; its a Scripture course where we intensely study the first 5 books of the Old Testament (the Pentateuch) to really understand and see how the story of salvation is written in even from the beginning of time/Scripture; to see that all of Scripture points us to Jesus.  The bishop who is teaching the course shared this quote today that really struck me: "The Bible is shallow enough for a child to wade in, but deep enough for an adult to swim in" -St. Augustine.  Looking forward to really getting into the Old Testament more intensely!  I love the fact I can study something that excites me and fills my heart with energy and passion:)

{2}  Since getting home from Brazil a month ago (has it really bee that long!?!?), our group of pilgrims has thoroughly shared our journey and experience with the folks of our church.  One awesome way we did this is through a kick booty video one of our pilgrims made.  She sent me a copy this week in the mail and to put on our church website.
Give er' a watch :)

{3} Growing up did anybody else legitimately think that Labor Day was a national holiday to honor women in labor to give birth!?!?! No just, me okay then...moving on right along...
On Monday, we went over to my folks for a bbq and a lively family game of Apples to Apples.  We had some drinks, ate some tasty pulled pork, and my sister and chatted about blogging and books we each have been reading. 
I'm really thinking about changing the name (re-branding?...I don't even know the terminology) the name of my blog.  Honestly, I'm not really the creative type and when I wanted to start blogging I just threw this title together to get going; now I'm just not crazy about it and what something that just reflects me better and sounds better.  All I have come up with on my own is "H is for Hubbard" (Jim and my sister quickly nixed that one) and "The Wifely Life"...
Any of you creative, type gals have idea's?? I'm stumped and am all ears for suggestions/idea's.

 In case you haven't heard, Pope Francis has called September 7 as a day of fasting and prayer in the world to pray for peace especially in Syria and also the Middle East.  Honestly it is scary to read some of the stories I have come across about the great persecution of Christians in this part of the world.  My question is what the heck is going to happen to these people whose homes and churches are already being destroyed and families being kidnapped/killed after a military strike???  We live in a broken fallen world due to sin (grad school education at work here:), but prayer and fasting are like spiritual dynamite, and I'm thinking with all the evil in our world and the horror going on in Syria and other places...what our world needs more of is PRAYER.

The awesome thing about what the Pope is ding is that he asking all people in the world: Catholic, non-Catholic, believers, non-believers, all people of good will to pray and offer up sacrifices together on Saturday to pray for peace in Syria.  Isn't praying for peace (whether you tight with Jesus or not) something we can all get behind?
Cause prayer and fasting isn't official until you get a cool graphic for it

Thursday night was the kick-off monthly meeting to our young adult group i.d. 916.  Jim and I went with my sister Annie and had a great time!  Mass, dinner, a relevant talk for young adults, and just great resources for trying to live out our faith as Christians.  In being in one of the small groups they run for women, it is really helping me meet other young women and especially new wives/mom's who are on a similar vocation path as me.
Next weekend they are having a fall retreat, and I am SO excited both Jim and I get to go.  Looking forward to spending all next weekend with the husband, other young adults...oh and yeah, Jesus too ;)

Last Sunday after Mass, Jim and I got to meet our little goddaughter, Eliana.  Her Mom and Dad brought her to Mass and afterwards when we were chatting, asked if we would like to hold her.  yes. please. Only two weeks old, she looked like a little doll in my arms, and it made my heart swoon.
The cutest thing is when I did a hand off to Jim of the baby (he has never really held a baby before) and it was awkward and sweet all wrapped into one.  You could tell he wasn't used to holding babies and he held her in this weird way so close to his face/mouth, later I said it looked like he was going to eat the baby.
Seeing him with a baby like that is crazy cool...and even more crazy.weird.cool. is thinking about us having little ones:)

Okay peeps, I need some advice.  I have never liked the smell and/or taste of the very very few times in my life I have tried coffee.  Jim is encouraging me to give it a second chance, especially Diet Coke doesn't give e the extra umph to plug through a busy, tiring day.
So I'm open to giving coffee a chance.  However, I have NO idea where to start.
Flavored or black coffee? cream or sugar? what are good types of liquid creamer to try?
Help a girl out as she branches out into a new area of caffeinated beverages.

 I'll leave you to get your Friday 'happy dance' on with Carlton Banks.  
 Seriously. How does this just not make you smile!?!?!

Have a fantabulous weekend!!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

24 August 2013

The 'Skinny-ish vs. Fat-ish' Wars

I can still remember like it was yesterday.  The first day I thought I was fat. 

I was probably 10/11 years old and it was summer time.  My best friends at the time (who were twin sisters) and I were riding our bikes to end of my street.  I have this distinct memory of looking at my legs in shorts and then at Sarah/Theresa's legs in shorts and not liking what I saw when I looked at myself.  When I didn't like what I saw, I equated what I saw in me as bad, ugly, fat, etc.  It is a distinct memory I have shared with therapists over the years on how the majority of my life I have not liked what I see in the mirror when I look at myself;  I have judged myself to the world's standards of beauty and have spent much of my life looking in disgust at my body, constantly wishing I could be "skinny-ish" instead of "fat-ish".

Over the last month or so, I have seen a lot posts in the blog-o-sphere related to these types of issues.  One thing I really enjoy about blogging is the real, heartfelt honesty of so many of the gals I follow...all of us have a story, and I think one the deepest desires of the human heart (after knowing God and truth) is to be understood by others in the context of genuine relationships. 

We are created/made for relationships, I mean why do babies not emotionally thrive when they are not nurtured as infants?  Because in the depths of our soul, we crave.thrive.desperately need. relationships!  And so today I share something deep on my heart...

So that summer day in my childhood has left a mark on me on how I see/value myself in the world.
I grew up watching and hearing my Mom look at her own body in disgust and complain and self-loathe in the mirror (No, I'm not blaming my Mom, but those experiences leave a lasting mark on a little girl).  As I became a teenager, the junior high years were rough for me.  Looking back I was never very overweight.  I went through chubby stages, but I would constantly compare myself to other girl's my age. 

In junior high my Mom could sense my frustration with my body, she started having me stand in front of the mirror after I brushed my teeth at night and helping me practice saying nice things to myself to help kill my negative self-talk.  When I knew girl's my age wearing bikini's, I decided one time while at Target myself to just try one on and see how it looked.  After seeing how I looked, I broke down in the dressing room and came home and cried about some more.  I hated how I looked in shorts.  I freaked the freak out if I was trying on a sleeveless top/dress for fear of my jiggly jello arms.  My stomach looked like a deflated balloon.  

Over the years, I have done quite well with different diets.  I thrive on routine and structure and became quite good at expecting the utmost perfection with my body; however, when my idealistic expectations are shattered because the number on the scale is too high for my comfort zone, my world comes crashing down and I flip on the inside.  When I did the Atkins diet, I was down to my lowest weigh ever, 145 pounds.  For a taller girl at 5'8, my parents started getting worried about my excessive dieting habits, and told me I could no longer do that.  I was devastated.  I had no sense of balance and self-medicated those awful feelings with food.  When I got my first job at Panera, the weigh piled back on as I sought "comfort" in the left overs from the bakery as I came home from a shift.

My highest weight, was at 195 in the beginning of college and I started doing Weight Watchers.  I have kept off a good portion of that for a long time; even though I'm still not at at weight I'm really comfortable with.  I still to this day struggle with food.  This week, I gained weight.  After a disappointing weigh in, I went and tried to drown my sorrow and frustration with a chocolate milk shake.  Knowing I need to fuel my body with good, healthy choices vs. emotionally eating to satisfy a need within me I think I cannot fix without eating it away.

To this day I still have a love/hate relationship with my body, even with striving to live a Weight Watcher lifestyle (which is pretty healthy and safe).  I still feel HIGHLY uncomfortable bearing my arms in a sleeveless dress/shirt.  I already worry about what will happen to my body when my husband and I have children someday; what that will do to my already shaky impression of how I view myself.  Will a new postpartum body send me off into a black hole of feeling even worse?? I still struggle with emotional eating and feel I'm constantly on a see-saw going back and forth how I feel in my own skin.

I heard some statistic recently that more people in the US would rather shave 10 years off there life earlier just so they could be at the exact ideal weight they have wanted their whole life?  What does that message send to us??  What kind of message are we sending to young girl's learning to feel comfortable in their own skin or young men on how they treat the women in their lives??  There is an emotional, spiritual epidemic in our culture that robs peace/joy of many men and women who struggle with the desire to be more "skinny-ish" vs. "fat-ish."  And I am one of those women.  Recovering? Yes.  But very, very slowly with many mis-steps along the way...

BUT...amazingly enough, over the past 6 months or so, I have had this strong sense, that I REALLY have to do some serious work in this area of my life.  I have sensed just in the little day to day things in my life, and most especially in my spiritual life as I talk to my spiritual director.  I have been battling the "skinny-ish vs. fat-ish" wars for a long time, but I ain't giving up!!  I'm going to keep working, learning, and allowing myself permission to NOT be perfect...in how I think I should be or how the world tells me I should be.  I want to be an emotionally, spiritually, and physically healthy woman...I want to be healthy in all those ways for ME.  I want take tack back the territory in my heart/soul that I have believed for too freaking long in my life, the lies that I have let cloud my vision who I really am.

Maybe you're in the midst of your own version of the "skinny-ish vs. fat-ish" wars, but lets work together as women to help support. encourage. nurture each other to embrace our bodies.  Together let's work to put a greater emphasis on living a life a virtue, being a good wife/mom/student, etc. over what size we were or what we look like.

 I am leaving you with something I have recently discovered that have helped me check myself as I work on my own "skinny-ish vs. fat-ish" wars in my life....may this speak to your heart, mind, and soul as well :)

                                                Watch with a box of Kleenex. FOR. REALZ.

So go out there you beautifully, bodacious woman...and beat the "skinny-ish vs. fat-ish" wars in your life :)

22 August 2013

Friday Quick Takes {vol. 17}

There are many times since getting married that I feel like this towards Jim as we go to bed...
 Yes, he snores.  It wouldn't drive so batty if I wasn't such a light sleeper.  And if I couldn't hear him with my ear plugs in, plus two fans going in the bedroom.  At least several times a week I am awoken by this sleeping bear, and when I am woken up by his "music" I typically kick him under the covers or shake him and say to cut it out.  This week, Jim ordered a mouth guard to sleep in to prevent him from snoring.  He has been using it for a week, and I haven't had any problems with noise pollution since he got it.  Thank. you. Jesus.  Jim even noticed that he feels better rested in the morning when he gets up too, so he must be sleeping better too.

Here's to hoping noisy nights of sleep are gone for good!!!
So far, so good:)

Sleeping snoring elephant

Monday night I hosted our women's small group meeting.  I'm really starting to feel comfortable with them and feel like we are becoming a little community together.  This next couple of weeks we trying something new.  Each of us is paired up with another gal to send each other little text reminders each day to remind each other to pray daily and just encourage each other through the weeks till we meet again.  I really like this because 1.the ol' prayer life needs a little pick-me-up and 2. it helps me get to know another gal in small group better too.  So far it has been going really well...and come on who doesn't need encouragement throughout the week!?!?

Jim and I are going to be godparents together!!  Last weekend we had a young married couple over whose first baby is due any day.  A few years ago, I helped lead the husband "Sam" through the RCIA process as a teen and was his sponsor for Confirmation.  Since then he married a woman "Sara" who is also a convert to Catholicism.  They both come from non-Catholic families but very much want to raise their little daughter in the Catholic faith.  Being that Jim and I are the only Catholics they know, they asked us to be the godparents for their daughter Eliana.
We're both so humbled and honored and are very much looking forward to being a support network to this young family and helping the parents do all we can to help raise Eliana in the Catholic faith.

Wednesday was just an all around rough day for both of us.  Jim is anxious and on edge waiting to hear back from some job leads and I just had a not so hot day at the office.  When I came home, Jim had surprised me by scrubbing the kitchen floor...it meant so much to me that I burst out into tears; just so appreciative of him going out his way to do that even though he didn't feel like it.
It ended up being a good night with some quiet prayer time, Middle Eastern leftovers, and curling up in bed watching one of my favorite old movies together, "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House."

It is crazy to think in just two weeks grad school classes start up again, and later in the month another year of youth ministry begins.  It feels like summer just flew by for me!  At the beginning if the summer, I had all of these grand expectations of things I wanted to do and prep for the upcoming youth ministry year; however between leadership training, a youth conference, prepping for WYD, and going to WYD, I just don't feel as rested or as prepared to start another year.  I'm totally excited and looking forward to it, but also wish I had more time to rest up and work on a couple more things.

For not being such a crafty gal, I have surprisingly been able to accomplish some pretty easy craft projects over these summer months.  If you're looking for some fun, simple things to try at home check out some the projects I've tried out here

I'm really excited to meet another blogger friend in real life this coming Monday.  I'm gonna grab some lunch with Jenna from Call Her Happy.  She is definitely one of my daily favorites to read; and I'm looking forward to getting to meet another Michigan blogger!! 
See you Monday girl! :)

On that note...


For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

12 August 2013

Top 10 list of World Youth Day 2013

Yes I know I am writing a lot about WYD recently.  But I mean come on, when 3.7 million people gather for something totally fun, peaceful, and not involving anything crazy/weird...it is easy to keep thinking and reflecting on it cause it is jam packed full of awesome.
So I decided to take a Dave Letterman top 10 approach to savoring the awesome, great moments along with stressful ones that may have led me to freak the freak out on the inside.  Only a little bit. :)

So, drum roll pleaseee...doesn't Dave Letterman always start his with a drum roll?? I thought so. Hmm, okay...moving on right along...

WYD 2013
10.  My "virgin" cocktail with a sleeping pill
Okay, I get this one may sound rather strange...no I did not drink on a trip I was in charge of teens.  First of all, when I travel internationally I typically don't sleep well; it takes me a long time to re-adjust to my new surroundings and by the time I do, BAM!  It's time to go home.  Once our group got to Rio, we were able to balance a a fairly good routine of keeping up with the official schedule and resting...but about half way through the week, I knew I needed a little help to keep me going.  So I pulled out the prescription my doctor gave me for Ambien to help me sleep better and with a chilled glass of zero cal cherry flavored ginger ale, I put on my sleep mask and threw in my ear plugs was off to sleep.  It did help me sleep sounder and give me the energy to not only survive, but thrive all the festivities of World Youth Day.

9.  "The Great Backpack Fiasco of 2013"
This phrase was termed by one of our teens...you can read when she wrote about it on our pilgrimage blog here and here. 
So one of the things all WYD pilgrims receive upon their arrival is this backpack full of goodies: an official t-shirt, hat, cross, a pilgrim guide with maps and resources for getting around, liturgy guide, and most important our free transportation and meal cards.  When we arrived in Rio at our hotel, we were told to drive 50 miles in the opposite direction to go pick them up.  So two adults went and waited for the backs.  After four hours of waiting they were told, they ran out and to come back the next day.  Apparently it was quite chaotic from what I heard when this happened; people were shouting and chanting, "Give us our backpacks! Give us our backpacks!"  The same adults went back the next day even earlier, but no backpacks.  At this time, I was preparing for the worst that we might actually never get them and we wouldn't get the free transportation/food cards.  On Wednesday morning our group was out doing some sight seeing in Rio, when we got a call from one of the other adults that they finally were able to find backpacks!!
We were in the metro station when we got the good news, and burst out into cheers and shouts because we were so excited...and only drew more attention to us as American pilgrims!  In thanksgiving we joined hands in the station and prayed the Our Father out loud together.  We were all so relieved that the "backpack fiasco of 2013" was now officially resolved!

8.  Going to Corcovado and seeing Christ the Redeemer statue
Our first full day in Rio we went to the famous Christ the Redeemer statue.  When we arrived there, the weather was very cool and cloudy...we took a tram up to the top which is about a 20 minute ride.
 As you walk up to the statue, you actually come up around the back side on the left of Jesus...hence the picture of Jesus' backside.

The day we went it was cloudy, and honestly you couldn't see all those famous views you hear or read about.  It felt like monsoon winds and we got pelted with buckets and buckets of rain...but hey it makes for all the more special a memory, right? :)

All of this proved an interesting reflection for several in our group that we talked about later that evening in prayer and de-briefing.  For a tourist, getting that perfect picture is important and matters...but we were not tourists in Brazil, but rather pilgrims on a spiritual journey. And sure would I have liked to see all the scenery around us, of course! But honestly that wasn't what going to Corcovado is really all about.  What I took away from that morning was more the spiritual meaning this famous statue of Jesus represents to me and to my life.  Christ welcomes all int His arms, no. exceptions.  He just wants us all...and in striving to be like Jesus (even though half of the time I royally suck at it) I really do want to be that way to all the people in my life.  And even though it rained cats and dogs, I really did experience God's light and warmth that day...just to be there and witness cultures from all over the globe being there in a celebration of faith was definitely one of the high points for me while in Rio.

This is as the high winds broke my umbrella...
But I was still smiling through it all :)

7.  Seeing Pope Francis
On Thursday was the official welcome of Pope Francis to Rio.  He was already in the city doing other things, but it was the first official time he met with the WYD pilgrims and prayed with us.
Having been to WYD twice before, I knew how awesome and special it is to see the Pope up close and I wanted to be sure our pilgrims could have the same experience.  I took our crew to catechesis in the morning; where we had prayer, music, and learned about our faith from a bishop around the US.  My Dad, our body guard/male chaperone was sent on a special mission right after breakfast to stoke out a post along the barricade so we would be sure to front row seats to see Pope Francis.  Our group left catechesis a little early to beat the rush of people and also before the metro closed down into the city at 1pm.
We arrived about 11am and set up a good ol' USA camp along the barricade:)

From about 11a-2p, it was pretty empty around Copacabana.  We were able to split into groups so somebody was always at our spot, and go walk on the beach a little bit, go shopping at the official WYD store, and get food.  I popped a squat on my foam mat and started reading the pilgrim and liturgy guide that came in our backpacks we got the day before.  Nothing like sitting on the street reading a good book ;)

From about 2-4, it got more crowded.  Some Brazilian people started gathering around us, probably hoping we would be gracious to give them our spots. fat.chance.  I'm sorry but if ya want a good standing spot to see the Pope get your butt out here early like we did.

From 4-6pm, it was.crazy.insane. We were literally pushed.right. against the barricade.  The folks behind us were yelling at us to move our backpack, but we chained them to the barricade.  They kept yelling "Americanos, move!" Heck.no. First of all they were pushing so hard that they actually moved the barricade over our stuff that wasn't chained to it.  On top of that there were volunteers pushing it back, with the National Guard behind the volunteers.  Lucky us we got to be sandwiched in the midst of it all...but it is all bout perspective, and I'm choosing to say it was a very 'unique' memory:)

This picture sums it up pretty well, and was probably about 30 minutes before we saw the Pope drive by.

You can of just now when the Pope is en route: people get more pushy, lots of chanting, and then once you hear the screaming a see a flash a of camera light you know the moment is upon you:)
I had become friends with one of the volunteers in front of our area, and he said when Pope Francis drove by he would take my camera and get some pictures.  I was more than happy, because I knew there was no way I could get a good a shot because I would be to busy yelling and cheering my little heart out.  No they ended up not being great shots, but later in the week I got a great video that was really clear to see.
Here he comes!!

And there he goes!!

I know for people who aren't Catholic understanding what the Pope is/means to Catholics may seem odd.  We don't see Pope Francis as Jesus at all.  But when Jesus commissioned the 12 he specifically told Peter, "You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church."  We understand Peter to be the first Pope, and we see the role of the Pope as a representation of Jesus...the Pope is the spiritual leader/teacher of all that Christ left us.  Did you know every Pope can be historically traced back to Peter?? Crazy!
6.  The porta potties...and how to remain dignified
So originally the overnight vigil was to be held somewhere else in Rio, much further away.  However because of all the rain at the beginning of the week on Wednesday the officials decided to move the whole horse and pony show to Copacabana..especially after they killed 4 alligators at the original site because of all the flooding!! I'm all for adventure, but NOT when it involves alligators!

So anyway because the vigil was moved to the beach, there ended up not being enough porta potties.  Long lines I can live with, but the smell of umm you know, bodily fluids, as you wake up in the morning is not the type of thing that makes you want breakfast.  I used them on Saturday night before I went to bed, and the smell was already bad...bad enough where I jammed toilet paper in my nose when I went in.  By the next morning many people were saying they were overflowing, so in the morning I dug a little hole and did my business in a fairly dignified manner.  Don't judge me.
We were all so glad to get back to the hotel that night and use a real toilet!!

5.  The experience of being with 3.7 million people, all on the same beach
Yup, you heard right; 3.7 million was the total number of people at the closing Mass on Sunday morning.  Honestly other than the whole bathroom thing and it being crowded, it is actually such an awesome experience!  I really loved when our group split off into pairs and just walked around the beach in prayerful, quiet...just observing all of these people, cultures, flags, and many expressions of our faith in Christ.  People sometimes say that the Catholic Church is dying or not vibrant, well clearly they haven't been to World Youth Day.
It is just such a joyful thing to witness and be a part of!  It makes me feel not alone in my faith and really does re-charge my spiritual batteries to see so many people, young people mostly, pumped up and fire for Christ and their faith!

4.  Prayer Vigil on Saturday night with the Pope

The vigil on Saturday into Sunday I think is one of the high points for many people.  We arrived at the beach about 11am and where able to secure the same little grove of palm tree's we hung out during the Stations of the Cross on Friday.  We made such good time because we decided not to wait in the LONGGG line for the food boxes for the Vigil.  We ditched the line and decided to head to the beach so we would have a good spot on the beach.

Saturday afternoon and early evening was spent keeping an eye on our stuff and protecting 'Camp USA', walking to a market far away to get some water/snacks, walking around the beach just observing all the people/flags/cultures present, and standing in very long lines to go potty.  Saturday evening was the prayer vigil with the Pope.  There was Eucharistic Adoration, music, silent prayer time, and Pope Francis gave an awesome reflection.  It was amazing just to close my eyes and look back in my mind that I was there praying with millions of people from all over the globe.
After the prayer, I busted out my blankets and ear plugs...and after one final trip to the bathroom, was off to sleep:)

Setting up camp at Copacabana

Red bike lights on our palm tree...Christmas in July

 3. Participating in the largest flash mob EVER!
Sunday morning before the closing Mass, all 3.7 million of us participated in the world's largest flash mob to welcome and honor Pope Francis.  Not gonna lie.  It was wayyy cool.
Our group is somewhere in there...I'm the one dancing around wearing an Iraqi flag:)

2.  Going to Mass with people from all over the globe
The closing Mass started about 10am on Sunday.  The language used was Portuguese but on mini radios we brought with us we were able to tune in on a certain station to listen in English.  We sang...prayed together....heard the Word proclaimed...and reflected upon the challenge Pope Francis left us in the homily: GO. DO NOT BE AFRAID. SERVE.
Check out the text here, it is really awesome!! :)
Honestly, even with the masses of people on the beach and over flowing onto the streets, you could hear nothing but the bells ringing at the consecration.  To see so many people kneeling in reverence for their love of Christ as they waited to receive communion.  We all walked to special umbrella's where priest's were giving out holy communion.  The communion hymn was "We are one Body, one body in Christ..." the same song played the previous Sunday when we attended Mass at Immaculate Conception in Jacarei.  That song means so much more to me after worshiping with so many of my brothers and sisters in faith from all over the world.  We really are all one family, one body in Christ.

After Mass, Pope Francis announced that the next World Youth Day will be in Krakow, Poland in 2016!  I'm very much considering going to the next one...my Dad even said he is ready and willing to do this again:)

1.  Most powerful words of World Youth Day...
Surprise, surprise it was from Pope Francis.  But even since returning home, I've sat and reflected on them and they still mean just as much to me as they did hearing them the first time on the sandy beach of Copacabana.

"We need saints without cassocks, without veils - we need saints with jeans and tennis shoes. We need saints that go to the movies that listen to music, that hang out with their friends. We need saints that place God in first place ahead of succeeding in any career. We need saints that look for time to pray every day and who know how to be in love with purity, chastity and all good things. We need saints - saints for the 21st century with a spirituality appropriate to our new time. We need saints that have a commitment to helping the poor and to make the needed social change. We need saints to live in the world, to sanctify the world and to not be afraid of living in the world by their presence in it. We need saints that drink Coca-Cola, that eat hot dogs, that surf the internet and that listen to their iPods. We need saints that love the Eucharist, that are not afraid or embarrassed to eat a pizza or drink a beer with their friends. We need saints who love the movies, dance, sports, theater. We need saints that are open sociable normal happy companions. we need saints who are in this world and who know how to enjoy the best in this world without being callous or mundane. We need saints." 
--Pope Francis

"What do I expect as a consequence of the Youth Day? I expect a mess. There will be one. There will be a mess here in Rio? There will be! But I want a mess in the dioceses! I want people to go out! I want the Church to go out to the street! I want us to defend ourselves against everything that is worldliness, that is installation, that is comfortableness, that is clericalism, that is being shut-in on ourselves. The parishes, the schools, the institutions, exist to go out!" 

 --Pope Francis

So GO OUT in the world! Be saint and be a messy Christian!
Go make an awesome, beautiful mess in the world for Christ:)

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