Church Tour: Our Lady of Sorrows, South Orange, NJ

Since we got married two years ago, my husband and I have been parishioners at Our Lady of Sorrows parish in South Orange, New Jersey. We’re really lucky to have such a lovely church within walking distance. I grew up in northern Virginia, where most of the parishes look like 1980s Pizza Huts, so I’m always excited to find more traditional church styles. This parish is packed with beautiful symbolic details inside and out.

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The church was built in 1931, designed in the French Gothic style by Boston architects McGinnis and Walsh. The copper steeple is visible from far away, and is similar to the one on the nearby Newark cathedral.

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The exterior doorways feature images of Mary’s presence at her Son’s death. I especially like how the iron hinges on the doors are in a heavy medieval style. As with many older churches, the narthex here isn’t very big. On the left side is a room that was originally a baptistery, but is now used for vestment storage. The doorway carving here depicts Christ’s baptism in the Jordan.

There are many delicately carved wood elements throughout the church, like this screen separating the narthex from the nave.

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Inside the nave, there are two votive shrines to the Sacred Heart and St. Therese. The octagonal baptismal font sits in the middle of the rows of pews; the eight sides symbolize Jesus’ resurrection as the 8th day of creation.

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The nave is full of columns, pointed arches, and vaulted ceilings.

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The ceiling appeals to my architectural history nerd tendencies because of its zigzag tilework. This resembles the work of Rafael Guastavino, who designed vaulted ceilings for many famous spaces in New York City, like the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and the oyster bar at Grand Central Terminal.

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Renovation work was done on the church in the 1980s, but fortunately not too many traditional features were removed. You can tell that the current altar replaced the marble one further back where priests used to say Mass ad orientem, but it matches the building’s overall look nicely.

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The oak pieces in the sanctuary are some of my favorite parts of the whole church. The pulpit features carvings of the twelve Apostles plus painted portraits of some Doctors of the Church: St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Ambrose, Pope St. Gregory the Great, St. Augustine, and St. Jerome.

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I also love getting a close look at the baldachin, or altar canopy, when Iím sitting in the sanctuary as a lector. The center medallion depicts the Trinity with Jesus as the Lamb of God. St. Peter and St. Paul sit on the corners, and the angels across the top look like they’re going to zoom up into the heavens.

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So many different saints appear in the stained glass windows, from Mary Magdalene to Thomas Aquinas to Joan of Arc. Since he went to a Jesuit high school, my husbandís favorite is the one in the left transept depicting the North American martyr missionaries.

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Weíre both fans of the unique artwork around the church. The Marian shrine has a painting of Mary being presented in the Temple along with the usual statues. I’ve never seen brass Stations of the Cross like this before. Did you know that all church Stations must have a small wooden cross attached? It’s a symbolic connection to pilgrimages in the Holy Land.

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Thanks for visiting along with me. Stop by if you’re ever in north Jersey; our choirs sing beautifully!

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Bklyn Bridge headshot Sarah blogs regularly at Catholic History Nerd. Learn more about her here!

Are You Done?

Nosy Friend is ecstatic that I’m having a baby boy.  She arrives at my doorstep, flinging her cross-fit toned arms wide open to hug and congratulate me.  I grab the package of mouthwatering French macaroons straight from a Paris bakeshop off her hands, but she snatches it back.

“Hang on. You get this after I get to cross examine you,”  she says.

I’m slightly nervous.  My old friend from law school is a pro at squeezing witnesses, and she already knows the vast majority of my most embarrassing moments so a round of Q & A would stuff her arsenal with more things to blackmail Anabelle Hazard with.  But the macaroons, oooh, I gotta have them. “O-okay. Shoot.”

are you done

“So, now that you’re having a boy, are you done?”

“Define ‘done’.”

Eyeroll.  “Are you done having kids?”

“Didn’t you read my blog post about letting God plan our family size two pregnancies ago?”

She shakes her head.   After I hang up her lamb’s wool coat, she perches on the bar stool of my kitchen island.

“What kind of friend doesn’t subscribe to her friends’ blog?” I ask.

“The kind who is in court or with clients wracking billable hours.”

I sigh as I slip in beside her. “Okay, in gist, my husband and I are practicing Catholics who understand, believe and abide by the teachings of the Church.  Every marital act is self-giving and open to the fruit of love…children.  Frankly, I’d feel used if all he wanted was the pleasure of sex without the gift of children and responsibility of parenthood.”

Her dark red lipstick is turned downward. “You’re not getting fixed?”

Vasectomy or tubal ligations are also against Church teachings. Mutilating the co-creative/self-giving nature of sex is like unwrapping a precious present, throwing away the fertility eggs inside, tying up the gift back up and returning it to sender with the tag: ‘No thanks, God!’

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I hand her my i-phone. “You must not have read this blog post from a colleague on vasectomy:  Why fix something that isn’t broke?”

“I don’t do blogs.”  Nosy Friend pushes my phone away.  “That’s like reading opinionated cliff notes or case digests in comics form.  Its’ for people who can’t read big stuff.”

“What?” I shriek.  “I write plenty of big stuff!  I write explosive posts with deep reflections, like the time I rammed into a truck and hopped on a motorcycle.  I wrote about the time I went on vacation and got the stomach bug and my husband wheeled me in a baggage trolley with my arms wrapped around a trash can… well maybe I meant to, but anyway, that’s major stuff because I wound up in the ER! The E.R.! I could have died and you wouldn’t have known it.”

“You rode on a baggage trolley?  Gross.  Why couldn’t your husband get a wheelchair or sweep you off your feet and carry you?”

“There were no wheelchairs in the resort, he has a bad back, and I was carrying extra pregnancy weight.”

Another lipstick-ed pout at the word ‘pregnancy’.  “You’re close to forty. Don’t deny it.  Your dermatologist sister did an awesome job zapping away your sunspots, but I know we both graduated the same year.  Do you really think your body is capable of another pregnancy?”

“I know God wouldn’t call me to be a mother, if He didn’t give me all available graces to answer my vocation.”

“But didn’t God also give you contraception and birth control?”

I pause and scrape my chair back a smidge. “God gave me Christ. Christ gave me the Church.  The Church gave me theology to understand that natural family planning, which involves self control, is an even better gift that God gave me.  You really should read my blog post on the number of law suits surrounding birth control side effects.  There is no way I would think it’s a gift from God. Its from hell, more like.”

“So you’re not done?”  She shudders.  I can almost read her mind. She is thinking of her travels all over the world to five star resorts with her rock star husband, tasting exotic cuisine, and coming home to luxury linens, a yipping Japanese Pomeranian, and weekly nail spa appointments, everything posted on Facebook for me to drool on, which I have, by the way … except for the dog with matching owner’s pink pedi.

“That’s a loaded question,”  I say. “If you mean ‘will we use artificial birth control and resort to sterilization’, then no, we’re not. If you mean, ‘would we like to have more children’, yes, we’d like some if God gave us more, but we’re also grateful enough if He doesn’t. But if you mean, ‘are we going to have more children’, then I don’t know.  Next year, God could bless us with twins, we could discern serious reason for spacing or avoiding pregnancy (which the Church allows) or we’d have a fourth miscarriage –“

“Wait. Wait. You’ve had three miscarriages and you’re willing to get pregnant again? You’re crazy!”

I shrug. “I’m also afraid of losing another baby and winding up in the ER or the OR again, I’m only human.  But faith overcomes fear.  This life is only temporary. I can look forward to eternity with my children.  Catechism says children are your crowns in heaven and three of them are already there! I have more reason to look forward to heaven, and teach my children on earth to aim for it at all costs…  But not so fast, I’m enjoying their childhood.”

“You mean you actually like children?  Want a whole gaggle of them?” Her smokey shadowed eyes are practically sending SOS smoke signals to the Chikasaw tribes.

“Yes! No one held a gun to my head to quit the firm to stay at home with little people. I love them: girls or boys.”

“Even when they break your kindle, stain your carpet, deprive you of sleep or ruin your figure?” She skims her eyes and stops at the pudge in my middle section, which will never go back to its concave unstretch-marked origins again.

“Yes.”

“So none of them were unplanned?” She clucks her tongue.

“Our third pregnancy which resulted in my first miscarriage was a surprise,” I say.  “But she was certainly planned by God.”

“So how many surprises do you plan on having?”

“I’m counting on a lot. It comes with the territory.” I smile. “Did I ever tell you about the time I went shopping with my middle child and she shoved a size 18W dress at me, insisting it would fit me perfectly.  When I told her it was at least 10 sizes too big, she said “What exactly does 18 W mean?”  I said, “It means 18 women.”  She said, “What?!  How can 18 women fit in there?”

Nosy Friend laughs.  “Children can be funny.  But pesky, too, and a lot of work.”

“I’m not saying it’s easy.  I’m saying ‘No sacrifice, no true love. no cross, no crown.’  If you have no further questions, can I have the macaroons? Want a piece?”

She slumps down on her barstool.  “I need a drink.”

I pour her Sunsweet Prune Juice, a favorite for, er, digestive reasons. “Now, can I ask you why you and Barry never had kids?”

“We can’t have any,” she says.  “We’ve tried IVF (in vitro fertilization) and both times they’ve failed.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,”  I say.  I am sorry they couldn’t have children and that they used IVF.  Again, the Church teaches against IVF because procreation is a marital sexual gift and since life begins at conception, the status of the embryos are not ours to determine:  whether to be thawed indefinitely or dispensed with.

“We wanted one. Just one.”

“You know, Nosy, we struggled with secondary infertility.  Catholic friends recommended we consult a Napro physician who could help us with our issues in the ways the Church permitted.  But we couldn’t afford that, so we had a holy priest pray over my womb and voila! Miracle baby! Blog post June 2014.

“Well you didn’t tell me you wrote about that.”  She finishes up the prune juice.  “I may just start reading your blog.”

“You should. You’ll be on it tomorrow.”  I motion to her glass.  “Do you want a refill or are you done?”

“I don’t know.  Are you done?”

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I pick up another macaroon.  Mint chocolate. “Why? I’m just getting to the good part.”

+AMDG+ (Work of fiction.  Any similarities to real persons are purely coincidental but the questions are not imagined.  They have actually been asked, and those are my honest answers.)

abAnabelle Hazard is a practicing Catholic and a non-practicing attorney. She is a managing editor and columnist for Catholic Stand but a disorganized novelist and long-winded blogger at Written By the Finger of God.

Chocolate Green Smoothie Recipe

This post contains affiliate links.

My Chocolate Green Smoothie recipe was one that a good friend of mine passed on to me.  This smoothie is what I usually eat drink for breakfast most mornings.  The great thing about smoothies is that you can add or take away ingredients and come up with your own taste, but I will share the one I enjoy most in hopes it will be something you may be interested in trying.

Chocolate Green Smoothie recipe

Disclaimer:  I LOVE this chocolate green smoothie recipe, but after my husband and children tried it they do not like it.  Well, I should say no one likes it in my family, but my 17 month old daughter and me. YAY!

They are missing out on a great taste and excellent nutritional benefits too.  Maybe one day they will grow to like it! And maybe your family will be brave enough to try it and like it! :)

Chocolate Green Smoothie recipe

Here’s a photo of my youngest at 17 months old drinking a chocolate green smoothie :)  She really does like it, I promise! :)

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Chocolate Green Smoothie Recipe Ingredients

Chocolate Green Smoothie recipe

In a blender:

* 1 cup of unsweetened Almond milk
* 1-2 cups water, depending on how thick or runny you want the smoothie
* 1 handful of organic spinach leaves
* 1-2 cups of frozen fruit (I like to use the bag of frozen mixed fruit and wild organic blueberries.)
* 1 scoop Whey Protein Isolate: buy HERE from Amazon OR 2 Tbsp plain, nonfat, gluten free Greek yogurt
* 1 Tablespoon of Organic Golden Flax Seed
* 1 Tablespoon of Chia Seeds
* 1-2 scoops of Stevia Natural Sweetener that I buy HERE from Amazon.
* 1 Tablespoon Unsweetened Hershey’s Cocoa

Blend all ingredients together and enjoy!  If your blender mixes the ingredients well enough, you will not be able to taste the spinach leaves and the smoothie will be…well, smooth!

Chocolate Green Smoothie recipe

Close up shot of all the chocolate green smoothie recipe ingredients before I blend them together…

Chocolate Green Smoothie recipe

…And here’s the Chocolate Green Smoothie after the blender goes to work.

It may be a taste you have to get used to, but it really is yummy and tastes like a chocolate shake to me without the guilt and filled with great nutrition!

Do you have a chocolate green smoothie recipe…or any smoothie recipe I need to try? Let me know! 

BLOG Profile PicTracy started blogging in 2010 because she loves sharing her Catholic faith, family and homeschooling journey. Her wonderful husband and 5 blessings keep her on her toes and make life beautiful and busy. When she’s not busy baking cakes for her family or dreaming she had a housekeeper/professional chef or making memories in real life, she enjoys blogging at a Slice of Smith Life. Find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ and Bloglovin’.

 

Church Tour Series: St. Andrews, Chicago, IL

Welcome to our Church!

I *love* visiting other churches, so I’m thrilled to bring you an electronic tour of mine.  This is a fairly small church, but it’s full of beauty.  Enjoy!

We’ve recently moved into our first house in a different town, and so we had to find a new parish.  Though I wouldn’t say it’s filled with a lot of young families/kids, it is certainly very family-friendly.  The usher seems to love us, at least!  Here’s what the pew of a family of four looks like in winter.  I can’t remember why Cupcakes isn’t happy here, but it’s probably that I asked her to put on her coat…  So, on to the tour!

cupcakes in pew

I know, I know, Christmas is over.  So I hope you’ll forgive me, but I really wanted to get pictures while the Christmas decorations were still up.  They’re so warm and festive!  These were all taken on the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord.

Let’s start with the most important place in the church: The Sanctuary.  Here you’ll find Jesus – truly present, Body, Blood, Soul & Divinity- in the Tabernacle behind the alter.  I love the angel candle holders.

Alter and Tabernacle

No Greater Love

I love seeing a crucifix in the sanctuary.  It helps us to reflect on Christ’s Passion, to remember just how much He loved us…  how much he loves *you* and *me*.  In our church, I love how it’s got a lovely cross backdrop.

Crusifix

When the Christmas season started, I was blown away by the amazing Nativity Scene here.  On the right, you’ll notice the three wise men.  They had been traveling toward the manger for months (just like in our house).  So beautiful.  Cupcakes loved the whole thing.

Nativity Scene with Cupcakes

Our parish is actually trilingual!  (We’ve even been to one trilingual mass, though usually it’s just one at a time.)  Guess which three languages!  Alright, I’ll tell you: English, Spanish and Polish!  Here are some things:

Polish wall

I’m pretty confident that these are Polish words, a Polish icon, and Polish… artifacts?  relics?  I’m not sure.  I googled the words for you, and according to the translator I found, they mean “under” “your” “in defense of”.  Do any of you speak Polish; what does that mean?  I messaged a friend of mine who speaks Polish, and she informed me that these words mean, “under your protection,” and that they usually refer to Momma Mary.  Ah yes, that makes sense.  I’ve never seen anything like this display so I had to show you.

Here in the back, we have two of my favorite images: Divine Mercy Jesus pictured here next to the Vatican Flag and Our Lady of Guadalupe pictured above the intentions candles (is that the official name for those??) and next to the Infant of Prague, which has a pretty awesome story, so look it up if you have the chance.

DM and mary

Here’s the Confessional!  It’s conveniently located in the back of the church, with confession times right before the vigil mass, for your convenience.  So stop in a few minutes early, get your soul a squeaky clean up, and stay for mass.

Confessional

Look how at peace my son was after mass last weekend:

Caleb sleeping at church

He’s usually calm and observant during the first part of the mass, and then starts loudly yelling praying, “Da! Da! Da! Da!” (clearly praising his heavenly Father) during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, and then passes out right at the end. “Let the little children come to me,” right??

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little glimpse into our church; I’d love to see all of yours! If you post a virtual tour of your parish, link it below so we can see too. If not, at least tell us: what is your favorite part of your church?

IMG_9424-e1420209461948About Jamie: My blog is a Mom blog, but I write about motherhood,Catholicism, education, marriage, baby/toddler food, saving & making money, blogging…   My interests include: writing, drawing, reading, crafting, taking walks, and Internetting. I love my friends — they are all amazing!  Sometimes I socialize with the ones in real life, but many of them also live in my computer. I love my Catholic faith. I love Jesus; I love the Eucharist.  I am passionate about the Pro Life Movement. I LOVE LIFE!!!

Healthy Homemade Almond Joys

You know those people who aren’t really into candy? Those who never really crave sweets? Those who who rather have a pear or a salty pretzels than a fatty piece of cake? Those who “don’t really like chocolate”?

Don’t you kind of hate those people?

Just kidding! But I am a bit envious of them because I am on the opposite end of the craving spectrum. When I’m wanting to indulge, I want chocolate ice cream, chocolate cookies, chocolate covered bacon, chocolate candy, and chocolate chocolate. Any and all of it.

But my health (and my waistline) strongly protest against frequent indulgences like these, so I’ve had to find ways to sweetly satisfy my sweet tooth without going overboard (in which case, just send me a gummy lifesaver). When I saw how Katie makes her own chocolate candy using molds, I thought I might have a good chance at recreating my favorite candy of all time: almond joys.

The flavors of chocolate and coconut are so irresistible, and their smoothness is wonderfully balanced with the crunch of an almond. It’s magic in the mouth, people.

My attempt at making healthy homemade almond joys turned out to be pretty successful, and my husband devoured them on Valentine’s Day. They are incredibly quick and easy to make and are a great little treat at the end of a long day.

Ready to make your own? Here we go!

healthy-homemade-almond-joys

Ingredients:

  • silicone mold (I use the heart molds, but there are so many other fun options!)
  • 1 cup good dark chocolate (I realize the original Almond Joys are made with milk chocolate, but I prefer dark)
  • 7 Tbsp coconut butter
  • 15 almonds
  • optional: heavy whipping cream

Instructions:

  1. In a double broiler, melt half the chocolate over medium low heat. At this point, I add a few dashes of organic heavy whipping cream. You don’t have to do this, but I find it adds a richness. You could also use coconut or almond milk for added flavor and a smoother texture.
  2. Fill 1/3 of the mold with the melted chocolate.
  3. I like to chill my chocolate at this point to form the foundation; however, I don’t let it harden completely so that it will mesh with the coconut butter.
  4. Add a 1/3 layer of coconut butter to each mold. Place an almond on top in each mold.
  5. Melt the rest of the chocolate. In the remainder 1/3 of the molds, add the rest of the melted chocolate. Chill or freeze until firm.
  6. Enjoy!

Have you ever found healthier homemade alternatives to your favorite candy? Would you try this recipe? Let us know below! I’m always on the hunt for a good candy replacement ;)

Special thanks and hugs to Jenna and Theo for letting me keep you fine Call Her Happy readers company while they get some good snuggles in. Congratulations, Hines family!

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Olivia lives in Kentucky, where sweet tea and bourbon flow like milk and honey. She’s a middle school religion teacher turned SAHM who is married to her high school best friend. She spends her time changing diapers, exploring the crunchy side of life, organizing anything she can get her hands on, and dancing in the moonlight. You can come along for the adventure at To the Heights.

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m4s0n501

13 Catholic Mom Fails (#convertproblems)

My husband and I entered the Catholic Church Easter vigil 1999. Thanks be to God! Among the many blessings of our Catholic faith is the knowledge that we don’t have to figure it all out ourselves. We are not on our own. We have the sacraments, the communion of the Saints, and the Magisterium to guide us. But even though we aren’t on our own, in the spiritual and universal sense, I do sometimes feel a bit alone in the cultural sense.

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We live in a small, rural town in Arkansas – smack in the middle of the Bible Belt. Growing up here, I knew two Catholics. Two. There are more Catholics here now, but my children are still very much in the minority among their peers.

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To make things more challenging, neither my husband nor I were raised Catholic, so we don’t have much experience with Catholic customs and traditions. Fortunately, since our conversion, my mother and my brother, Michael, and his family (and our former pastor and his wife) have converted to Catholicism. So we do have Catholic family. But Michael lives 500 miles away. They live in Maryland, and he works for the John Paul II Institute for Faith and Family. His kids go to Catholic school. All their friends are Catholic. They are immersed in Catholic culture. I’m not going to lie. I’m jealous. Happy for them, but jealous.

All of this is to say, that it has been a struggle raising our children Catholic – not in terms of the Faith, we love the faith, but in terms of giving them a truly Catholic experience. I try, but it’s not how I was raised, and there is little support or fellowship where we live, so I feel like I’m just skimming the surface of what Catholic life could be. Sometimes, I feel like we don’t even have our toes in the water. Here are just a few of my Catholic Mom Fails.

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  • Recently, my older daughter shouted, “The first shall be last!” to a car that cut her off in the parking lot after mass. Not exactly what I had in mind when I encouraged scripture memorization. Thank goodness the windows were up.
  • My younger son was four years old before I realized that he thought the words to the Our Father were “Our Father, who aren’t in Heaven, Hal would be thy name.” My husband’s name is Hal, so it kind of makes sense.
  • We have celebrated name days maybe two times. We have four kids. Half of my children have never had a single name day celebration.
  • When one of my kids doesn’t know a who someone from the Bible is, I say, “Oh that’s right, you weren’t raised Protestant.”
  • This past summer our girls attended their first Catholic wedding. The rest of us have never been to a Catholic wedding.
  • We have never had a Jesse Tree.
  • I haven’t put out the Advent wreath for the last two years because I felt so defeated by how few times we remembered to light it in the past.
  • Once I forgot to put Baby Jesus in the creche until December 27. (Protestants don’t wait).
  • My children’s idea of a nun is Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act.
  • Once for our parish All Saints party, I let my daughter wear her ladybug Halloween costume and go as an Our Lady Bug.
  • Once I let her dress as a flower, and she told everyone she was The Little Flower – okay, that one was pretty adorable.
  • My kids think meatless Fridays are a treat because they get frozen fish sticks and French fries.
  • My children refer to their cousins as really Catholic

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Since our conversion, I have fantasized about raising really Catholic kids. I’ve dreamed of elaborate name day celebrations and nightly family rosaries complete with candle lighting. I’ve imagined volunteering at their Catholic school where their teachers, Sister Mary Ignatius and Sister Mary Augustine would lead them in the Angelus each day at lunch. I’ve longed to name a baby Benedict.

As it is, I would just be happy if they each knew which Saint they were named for. We pray a morning offering in the car on our way to public school. I keep icons and holy images around the house to remind them that we are really Catholic. I try to use Catholic expressions like “Offer it up!”   And while I don’t do name day feasts, I do make Confess Your Sin-amon Rolls for a treat after the kids have been to reconciliation.

Still, sometimes I worry that our home and our lives don’t look much different from those of their Protestant friends. Then I overhear when one of their friends asks if we worship Mary or believe in the Bible. And my kids know the answer! I laugh when my daughter tells me how many people favorited her Confess Your Sin-amon Rolls tweet. I watch them kneel and make the sign of the cross and recite the creed at mass, and I know that the beauty of their faith is sinking in little by little.

Bottom line, we are doing the best we can to raise Catholic children in very Protestant soil. But my children are really Catholic. Imperfectly, beautifully, completely Catholic. May the Saints preserve us!

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 What is your best #catholicfail or #convertproblem?

A Little About Laura from Charming Farming:
My husband and I live on a farm in the Ozark Hills of Arkansas. We have four kids, three dogs, twenty chickens, eight ducks, and a herd of buffalo. I teach high school speech and drama, and I love it, but my dream job would be full-time writing and farming. My other dream is to be able to get a good latte without having to drive an hour. I blog at charmingfarming.com and youngcatholicsdaily.com.

 

Sweet & Simple 5-Minute Makeup Demo

Have you seen the winged liner look and are wondering if it’s OK for everyday? I’m here to let you know that yes, you can rock that winged liner and red lipstick as an everyday look.

Since pictures are worth 1000 words and videos are worth a whole lot more than that, grab a cuppa and let me show you how I get it done in the morning!

 

What is part of your daily makeup routine? Let us know in the combox. Until Next Time!

 

profile
Meet Karianna! My goal is to put forth my best self everyday and inspire others to do the same. There will be days when I want to do nothing more than to lounge around in my sweats and eat chocolate… but that’s not going to happen, so I might as well look nice while going through what I’m going through. I am a social person and I would love to hear from you whether it’s here in the com box or on Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter. I used to blog under the name Caffeinated Catholic Mama… and those descriptors still apply, more so than ever!

7 Helpful Gifts for the Postpartum Mom

One of the sweetest things I can think of to do for a newly postpartum mom is to bring something for her.  So often, people bring something for the baby, which is lovely and generous, of course, but a gift for mom is a beautiful, tangible way to let her know that her job is important and that she’s remembered, too.  And usually baby is already well taken care of; it’s mom who needs a little TLC, right?

When we really look at it we can be honest and admit our postpartum culture in our wonderful country stinks.  It really does.  In most places around the world and throughout history a woman would have a whole community of women gathering around to help for at least six weeks.  She barely gets out of bed, doesn’t have to think about cooking or cleaning or tending her other children, and is able to focus her primary attention on nursing, bonding with her baby, and healing. 

but what we can do is think of small ways to show mom that she matters, too

Here?  We get maybe a week, two if we’re lucky, sometimes with a couple meals from lovely friends dropped off at the door (and often those friends have their own brood of little ones to tend to), and then we’re done and expected to be back to normal life again.  When a woman has a need to be cared for physically, mentally, and emotionally and when the community has the chance to truly show their support of new life, we kinda fail.  It doesn’t foster a culture of life and doesn’t breed well for healthy motherhood.  It’s no coincidence that our rate of PPD, postpartum physical issues, and nursing complications is higher.

We’re not going to change that overnight, especially when many of us are running our homes and raising little ones, but what we can do is think of small ways to show mom that she matters, too. And maybe in that way do our own little part to support a culture of life.

7+Postpartum+Gifts

Food

Always food.  A ready made dinner is wonderful or something frozen that she can easily take out on a rough day.  So is a batch of healthy muffins or an egg casserole for breakfast.  Or a bag of basic groceries.  One of the greatest way to help is to organize a meal schedule and pester people to sign up (and yes, sometimes you have to do a lot of pestering) so that at least that first month postpartum has a meal brought every other day.  Both Care Calendar and Take Them a Meal are super convenient (and free!) resources for online scheduling so people can pick a day that works for them.  A gracious mom would, of course, never snub any meal brought but a gracious giver also should take into account the family’s eating style, preferences, and (of course) allergies.

If a homemade meal is not doable, a gift certificate for any local restaurant that delivers so that she can pick the day she needs it most, is also a wonderful idea.

Nursing Basket
I sometimes like to give these at baby showers but they’re great for a postpartum gift as well.  Possible things to include:  a water bottle, some healthy granola bars or other snacks, a magazine or book, good breast pads, some Mother’s Milk tea, some nipple cream or lanolin, maybe a nursing cover (if you think she’d appreciate that).  I’ve even included a nursing tank at times if I think mom would use it.
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Certificate for Cleaning

Oh my, I would be thrilled to get something like this postpartum.  What a generous gift that would be!  Often you can find deals for housecleaning on sites like Groupon and the like and they’re not too unreasonable.  Why not go in on one with a group of friends?  Or, if you know she’s not the type of person that would feel guilty and can accept your help, maybe you could offer to come for a few hours yourself and scrub some bathrooms and vacuum while she rests and snuggles that little one?

Bath and Body Items

I’ve made homemade crunchy-type baskets full of personal gifts for the mom and baby but you could certainly do it with store-bought things as well.  I like to include some homemade herbal bath packs and bath salts to help with healing, some homemade salve, tea (either a breastfeeding tea or a red raspberry leaf tea would be a good choice to help her body recover), and maybe some calming essential oil blends.  If you know her favorite lotion or soap, you could put that in, too.  Earth Mama Angel Baby makes some wonderful natural products specifically for postpartum moms – balm, bath herbs, and bottom spray to name a few.

In-house Massage .

A few of our local massage therapists have just begun offering in-house postpartum services!  Wouldn’t that be lovely to give?  A gift certificate (again, maybe with a few friends if you can’t afford it on your own) for a half hour or hour massage where mom didn’t even have to pack up baby and leave her house?  Luxury.

Help with Any Older Children

Some moms are more comfortable if you come stay at the house and simply keep the kids busy and fed.  Others would love for you to come take the older kids away for a few hours so she can have a little bit of quiet and rest (especially if you have your own children that will need to be there).  Ask her which one she would prefer and respect her boundaries with what is allowed and not allowed with her children.  (And please don’t bring them back high on sugar or too overtired! ;)

A Spiritual Bouquet

One of the absolute best gifts I think you could give a mom is the gift of prayer.  You can do it yourself or, even better, arrange for a group of friends to offer their own Rosaries, Masses, sacrifices, and other prayers for her during this special yet often difficult time.  Let her know in a card or some other way the things that you are all doing to lift her up in prayer and support her.  Maybe attach a Blessed Mother, Saint Brigid (patroness of newborns), or Saint Monica (patroness of mothers) medal or prayer card along with it.

I’m confident that helping and supporting and valuing postpartum mothers more is vital to building up a culture of life.  Got any other ideas of tangible ways we can support these moms?  Please share any ideas you have (or things you valued or would have loved to have had yourself) in the combox!

Mary Haseltine is a mom to four (and another currently in womb), a certified doula, and writer of things at www.betterthaneden.com where she blogs about babies, birth, her faith, marriage, homeschooling, and any other random ridiculousness that strikes her fancy.

 

Church Tour: Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, FL

Today I am going to give you a tour of my church. My church is the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, FL. It is America’s First Parish. The amount of history in this church is such a cool part of the parish.

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We are about to celebrate our 450th anniversary of the city and the parish in September. Because of that the church is actually closed until Palm Sunday to finish the renovations and therefore I was unable to get new/better photos.

I did however find this great video about the history of the church and the restorations currently in process. I didn’t even know all the information about the restoration before watching this video.

The church has hired liturgical artists (I didn’t even know that was a thing) who go around the country and restore churches. The artists have been repainting all the murals and matching the colors in our church by hand. It is amazing to watch. One of our priests was telling us one week in his homily how he goes into the cathedral just about everyday to watch them in action and sometimes asks them questions about how they got into liturgical painting and other questions about the job.

The entire Restoration process has been really interesting for the city as well. We’re constantly in the news for different things. A few months ago they moved the altar to restore the tile and they found a time capsule from the 1960s. They will be creating a new time capsule from 2015 before restoring the floor and placing the altar back in March. I think they should put an old iPhone or other electronic gadget inside.

This past week the news was downtown at the cathedral once again as the Marble from Italy arrived! I think it’s been really cool to see how the city reacts so positively to the Catholic History and how the news and been really positive. It really makes me appreciate our faith and the history of our churches.

One of the things I did get photos of before the church closed for renovations was before and after pictures of Mary. I know these pictures aren’t the best but in the after photo you can see how the gold is more prominent and restored.

Mary-Collage

The ceiling images have also been restored nicely.

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One of my favorite things to do when I travel is to visit new churches. I always learn about new saints and art and the beauty that is the church when I visit a new church. I hope you have enjoyed this mini church tour of my parish and a little bit about church restorations. If you have any questions about anything I have explained feel free to leave me questions in the comments, and I will ask around until I find you the answer!

 

Keep in the know with updates from the Cathedral Basilica on Facebook!

 

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Beth Anne blogs at BethAnnesBest.com where you can enjoy her stories about her travels, being single, Lent Meals, and being Catholic. She believes everyone has a story that needs to be shared. She helps creative people with mundane tasks as a VA. She loves God, Disney World, and Chocolate.

How To Meal Plan Faster and Cheaper

I have found a system to plan meals that has been a much better fit with both our schedule and our wallet. So when Jenna asked for a guest post that was a “How To” I knew that if it helped even one person than I should share!

How To Meal Plan Faster and Cheaper (1)

Here are some details about us, and why this fits so well in our lifestyle

  • I am home most days and we try to eat at home as much as possible
  • We have a deep freeze and can stock up on meats and freezable foods
  • I like to cook (sometimes) and am fairly proficient at adapting recipes
  • I get bored of repetitive meals, quickly
  • We don’t have any allergies or sensitivities and eating healthy, balanced meals is important to us

My first trick – Buy meat only when it is on sale, and not just a little bit, but a good hefty discount. Walking in the store with things like “pork tenderloin” and “rump roast” on your list, and having to buy them whether they are full price or not can increase your spending tremendously. As I gradually came to learn what a good price for each kind and cut of meat is, now when I see it, I can stock up! The large box of frozen chicken breasts that I like to buy is full price $36.99 but goes on sale for $25! I also stock up (buy enough for 3 or 4 meals worth) on beans, rice, pasta, tomato sauce, and other canned or frozen goods that can last a long time when they are significantly on sale.

Second trick – Shop the edges. When I get out to the grocery store, which is always super fun with a 2-year-old and 1-year-old, I try to make it in and out as fast as possible. I usually load them up in the double cart, and race around the peripheries of the store because the edges are where all the fresh stuff is – all the additives and preservatives live in the center aisles of most grocery stores. I load up the cart with any meats and freezable staples but only if they are on sale! Then, I grab the vegetables and fruit and dairy and other perishables that are needed for this weeks recipes, as well as any other must haves that are on the grocery list. Since veggies make up half our meals (more on that later), we go through a lot of them, so again, I buy a lot of what is on sale and in season, and have had to stretch myself to learn how to cook them in delicious ways (which is possible!)

mealplan1

Third trick – Shop your freezer (and pantry).  Within a few weeks of buying meats on sale, my freezer usually has quite a few options. I use my handy freezer inventory (which, honestly, is normally in my head, but I wrote it out all pretty for this posts sake!) and pick a protein to base each days meals off, usually trying to rotate through beef, pork, chicken and fish (we try to have at least one meatless day each week too). This also gives me a chance to take into consideration what days a crock pot or a quick meal would be helpful. I don’t plan a left over night for every week, because I find with my husband taking leftovers to have for lunch at work and the kids and I eating other leftovers for our lunch some days, we usually take care of them pretty well.

Trick number 4 – A Balanced Meal. My meal philosophy (ever since we did a Whole30 this past August) has been trying to have our dinner plates look something like this:

meal plan 3

and in real life:

Meal Plan 5

Not that it is always laid out on the plate that pretty. Sometimes it is all stacked up, like in the “cottage pie” that I like to make, which has a base of half vegetables and half meat, covered with a mashed potatoes and cauliflower. Roughly the same proportions but as a one “pot” meal… less dishes! Other times it is baked chicken thighs, rice, a quick salad of whatever is on hand, and some steamed frozen veggies. But working vegetables into at least half the meal is important to me, and I try to do it as much as possible.

mealplan2

Trick 5 – Remember what you like! When I am trying to think of meals based off the frozen meats we have on hand, I sometimes use a list I keep (in the back of Kelly’s awesome planner!) of meals I know we love and I can make without too much trouble. You could easily keep this list as a Pinterest board, or in Evernote or however you like to organize, but it is helpful in moments when I am not too creative. Other times I look on Pinterest or Google for recipes centering around two or three of the main ingredients I am working with (try it… type in three random foods in Pinterest and almost always something delicious appears! This started out that way and turned into a fam fave!)

I like to use the Pocket app on my phone to save recipes people (like some of my favourite bloggers) share or that I see on Facebook. So sometimes I look there too.

Trick 6 – Leave some room for Spontaneity. Once I have picked 5 main dishes (I guess it’s still the main dish, although often it doesn’t take up the majority of our plates) I just work with what I have on hand for sides and vegetables. I also do not plan for the weekends, since our plans change a lot on Saturday and Sunday, and my husband also likes to have his ideas (and his hands) involved in the cooking those days. Since vegetables don’t normally require as much forethought and planning (read: defrosting) I often just add that part on the day of, and use whatever needs using up or seems to fit with the main dish. But other days it is more integral to the meal (like when it’s spaghetti squash and meatballs or a one pot meal…) so it all depends on the meal.

Last Trick up my sleeves – Know what motivates you. In the end, I am left with something like this:

mealplan 4

Having something organized and ecstatically pleasing to look at makes me excited to follow it, but I try not to feel trapped by my plan and allow myself to make last minute changes when life just gets in the way (and when I forget to defrost something).  Knowing I am capable of putting delicious and healthy plates of good food in front of my family is also a big motivator, and I try to remember that on the days when takeout sounds soo appealing.

Amy is the wife to Brian and mother to Clara (2 and a half) and Hugh (1), she enjoys organizing, planning, and crossing things off her to-do list whenever her two little bosses let her. She reads blogs and sometimes shares her own thoughts at www.AllForHeavensSake.WordPress.com because it is the best way for moms to share a whole thought without being interrupted.