Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Wishing you all a blessed Ash Wednesday!

Hello friends, and I hope that everyone is having a blessed start to Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season! I'm writing to you earlier than usual this week, but Ash Wednesday just seemed like an ideal time to check in with each other about the start of Lent. How is it going for you?


For my part, I'm all worried about several things behind the scenes right now (one of which was the intention for the Our Lady Undoer of Knots novena I just finished praying), and have been working on cultivating faith and peace within myself. We're getting there! I think this is going to be my theme for Lent this year.

I dropped Henry off at school, and immediately pulled out a new rosary that I bought specifically for Lent:

St. Thomas Aquinas rosary, made by: Rosaries by Allison
I just love these smooth Czech glass beads, I picked them out based upon another rosary Allison made for me that is one of my very favorites. It brought me a lot of peace as I drove in to work this morning. I prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries, and I have this little rosary booklet that advises the mystery distribution this way, which I have to say that I have always loved:

Pray the Rosary, available on Amazon for just 99 cents!
In the past, I have kept to this schedule, which means that Lent is exclusively the Sorrowful Mysteries, and I love how set apart it makes this special season feel. Come Easter season, the other mysteries feel so decadent! I will probably veer a bit and still pray the Glorious Mysteries on Sundays during Lent, because those are always Solemnities.

I also pulled out my main Lenten devotional and am all excited:

33 Days to Greater Glory, available from

I started the Introduction this morning (should have read that yesterday, d'oh!), and plan to get all the way through Day 1 today. So far I am LOVING IT! Fr. Gaitley has such a natural and relatable style to his writing, and I'm becoming quite absorbed in it.

Also yesterday, I saw an ad for the Magnificat Lenten Companion 2020, and those hold a special place in my heart. I've ordered the print versions many a year, and have also tried out the Kindle version on occasion. The print copies sell out well in advance of Lent, plus I was pretty low on time, so this year I decided to try out the app version:

Linky to Kindle, Android and ios versions
I have Android, and it looks absolutely beautiful on my phone. I read the Morning Prayer selection this morning, and am in love. This isn't the full Liturgy of the Hours, but I think this is a lovely, shortened option for those who do not have the full set of books, and/or do not have the timeslots to fit all of the official Hours in. Their Morning Prayer includes a hymn, a Psalm, a scripture reading, Canticle, intercessions, and a closing prayer. Also included are the daily Mass readings, a Lenten meditation, and Evening and Night prayer (same structure as I mentioned above: not the official Liturgy of the Hours, but something modeled after it). This is absolutely LOVELY. I'm curious as to whether I'll keep it up for all of Lent, and whether this will tempt me to get a digital subscription to Magnificat. I have a print subscription to Living with Christ that I use as my missal and aid to meditation on Sundays, but if I find myself using this app regularly during the week, it may be worth it to pursue as an additional aid to prayer.

I'm leaving work a tad early today so that I can attend the 4 pm Scripture Service and Distribution of Ashes at my parish, and I'm all excited, especially since I attended the Worship Committee meeting a few weeks back to discuss all of the decor and liturgical options that we will observe. 😀 We are making cheese ravioli at home later as our meatless dinner for this special day. No desserts or snacks after dinner for anybody!

So! I'm contemplating posts here for Lent. I'm still not entirely decided on how I'll structure them, but expect lots of specifically Catholic content during this season. I'm thinking of maybe some saint features, or Lenten themes each week? Also, is there interest in a weekly link to meatless Friday dinner options? I'd love to hear from you what you would like to see! And let me know how your Ash Wednesday is going. :-)

Friday, February 21, 2020

Lenten planning 2020 - Catholic nerd alert!

Happy Friday everyone, and happy last full week of Ordinary Time before Lent begins! I am getting SO excited for this particular Lent! Maybe because Anne is making her 1st communion this year, maybe because I've been doing so much discernment lately about both of my kids and their schooling and hobbies situation. But whatever the reason, I want to be armed for a fruitful Lent!

This year, I feel called to do a lot of reading during Lent. I was contemplating tackling a larger spiritual work on non-fiction that I'd had in my personal library for quite some time, like perhaps the mammoth John Paul II biography. 🤔 But then I saw this at all of the entrances to my parish, next to the bulletins:

33 Days to Morning Glory
...and Father announced at Mass recently that anyone who completed this retreat by May would be able to participate in a special consecration ceremony that he would hold in the church sometime around the feast of Our Lady of Fatima. And I was inspired. :-) I have completed 33 Days to Morning Glory in the past, but it's been several years, so I figured this was an excellent opportunity to approach it anew and also connect with my parish community in the process. Win/win! In the past, I've used the full size book to complete the daily reflections, but these little guys that Father gave us are booklet size, nice and convenient to carry around with me in my daily routine. So I'm going to be starting this during Lent! But THEN...

*gleeful hand rubbing*

I saw this:

33 Days to Greater Glory
This whole 33 Days phenomenon by Fr. Michael Gaitley has it's own little fiefdom, and I'm FASCINATED:

Sorry about the glare! That middle one is 33 Days to Merciful Love

I AM SO EXCITED. Doesn't the Greater Glory book look PERFECT for Lent?! Look at all of this shouting I'm doing, I'm so excited!! :-0 I kept admiiring it online when I discovered it (it's fairly new), and next thing I knew, the Marian Helpers had sent me a review copy in the mail and I was like: "Holy cow, this is obviously meant to be!"

SO! It's going to be a consecration kind of Lent for me. I'm going to start with 33 Days to Greater Glory on Ash Wednesday, which will take me through to the 3rd Sunday of Lent. Then the following week, I'll begin 33 Days to Morning Glory, which will bring me into the Easter season, and to the first few days of May, depending on when I actually begin. I'm really stoked for the spiritual benefits that are to come, and think this will really keep me focused this Lent! I'm also going to single out each of my children to do something special with them this Lent of their choosing: Stations, adoration, they can pick. But I'll take them so that it'll just be the two of us, and then we can grab a bite to eat and chat about what we learned. :)

Super excited! Anybody want to join me with either of these 2 books this Lent/Easter? What are your Lenten plans? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Friday, February 14, 2020

Winter Wellness Series #3 - Water and other fun ideas!

Happy Friday everyone, and welcome to the conclusion of our Winter Wellness Series for 2020! I've enjoyed this little foray into a topic that I've become much more interested in over the past 6 months or so, and I hope that you enjoyed sharing it with me!


I thought this week we could chat about other ways we try to stay fit and healthy, outside of our nutritional goals and exercise. Please do drop your suggestions in the comments! For me, I try to drink more water. Water flushes your body out in a healthy way, and helps you to feel fuller, longer. I've also wanted to try and experiment with protein shakes, especially in the mornings when I tend to eat sugary breakfast cereals, but that hasn't really gone anywhere. Let's start with water!

I've always kept a water bottle chilling in the refrigerator for when I want a cold drink (it's always enticing for me when it's super cold and waiting like that!), and I'm pretty good about drinking water every day. But I knew that I could improve. So I bought a new bottle water with a new goal in mind. Never one to take the easy road when the impossible road will do, I purchased this:

Bottled Joy 1 Gallon Water Bottle
Yeah. That's a gallon jug of water. When it's full, I can hardly lift it. 😂 Maybe if you're going to be hiking through the wilderness for days at a time, you'd need this water bottle, but this suburban librarian does NOT need one. I'm curently keeping it in my office for ease of using my Keurig machine and calling it a day.

I reapproached Amazon, and then settled on this cute little number:

Bottled Joy 32 oz Water Bottle
Now this is a good water bottle. It's 32 oz, and has a little timeline along the side so that you can track your intake throughout the day. If you fill it up twice a day, you'll drink a half gallon of water, which is a very worthy goal. It's much more manageable to carry with me throughout my day, and I love it.


Then, when Anne and I were out shopping one day, I found these guys:

Fruit Slice reusable ice cubes
I mean, did you ever? These are reuseable ice cubes, and I love them so much I can hardly stand it. They really perk up your water, and keep it colder longer when you need to take your bottle on the go!

Isn't this SO ADORABLE?!
I'm just in love. I drink way more water now, and overall I feel much better throughout my day.

So, as I mentioned, I really want to experiment with protein shakes to take the place of the breakfast cereal I tend to quickly eat in the mornings. This experiment has not really gotten off the ground, but I had some protein powder leftover from a previous experiment, so I decided to use that instead of buying anything new until I found whether or not I liked it or not. Previously, I had just mixed with water and put shook it together in a regular water bottle. The result was: 😷

Oh my. It was not good. :-0 So, in an effort to further explore this topic, I bought this little guy:

BlenderBottle Classic Loop Top Shaker Bottle, 28 ounce, Clear/Blue
This comes with one of those wire balls that help to mix and distribute your powder and liquid better. I also used milk this time. I mean...

It was somewhat less pukey. But I have to say, it was still pretty chalky. I think the key is actually blending everything in a real blender, and also adding fresh fruit or other produce to add texture and taste. I have my eye on a little Magic Bullet thing for my birthday, I'll keep you posted. ;-) Does anybody drink protein shakes regularly and have products and/or recipes to share?

Also, I'd love to hear other wellness tips and ideas! Our little series of talks has really energized me as me move closer to spring, yay!

Next week, I'll be posting about some ideas for Lent and see if anyone would be interested in joining me for a fairly informal read or pray -along, or something of that nature. Stay tuned!

Friday, February 7, 2020

Winter Wellness Series #2 - Fitness!

Happy Friday everyone, and welcome back for week 2 in our Winter Wellness series! Today we are talking about exercise and fitness!


What I'd like to do is chat about our workouts or other ideas to stay active, and then talk about how the rest of the month will run here on the blog in terms of topics. Sound like a plan? :-)

So, I'm a pretty physically active person, but I have a confession: I hate gyms, and I also hate running. These are, of course, two big ways in which many people work out and stay active. 😂 Here, though, is something that I think is of utmost importance - when it comes to exercise, you should do what you know you will do. In other words, there's no use in trying to force yourself to do something that you loathe and have little chance of following through with longterm. If you like to take walks, you should do that, and challenge yourself to up your game a bit by adding distance and more challenging hiking paths. If you enjoy dancing, you chould try a Zumba class or other dance fitness. If you're not usually very active, try some different things to ferret out what you like best!

I really do hate running, btw. I hate how long it takes to build up endurance, and I hate the constant risk of injury doing something that I don't like doing anyway! If I get injured dancing, well, at least I'm doing what I love. :-) When I have tried running in the past, I would dread doing it, get frustrated when all of my hard word would get derailed by a single cold or something that kept me from running for a short stretch, and eventually I'd give up in a huff. This is what we don't want, for sure!

While it's true that I don't like the gym, I do like group fitness classes (which are often offered at gyms, I will grant). I love the community spirit, it keeps me motivated, and I so prefer a class format to lifting weights or toiling away on a treadmill (again with the running). I am a huge fan of Zumba dance fitness, and have a class in my regular rotation. I also take Piyo two times per week, which I LOVE. This is a yoga/Pilates fusion that works your entire body with your own natural resistance (no weights involved), and it is amazing and you will SWEAT! I've been wanting to challenge myself to try new things, and so this winter I have also added in a HIIT class (high intensity interval training). While it's not love like with the other ones (exercises involving running *snort* and jumping are not the best fit for this body with a bladder that has experienced multiple pregnancies 😨) the instructor is amazing and incorporates strength training with hand weights, and that part I do like!

In addition to specifically fitness classes, I also dance two times per week, and I walk when I can with friends or my husband. :-) Check out your town's community education class schedule, there are often new things to try in there in terms of dance, martial arts and other types of fitness classes. It's a great way to find new things, and try them out for a manageable and limited time frame so that you can see if if you like them! Community ed. is actually how I first discovered belly dance!

Planning a fitness routine is key, in my experience. For me, the best time to work out is during my lunch break at the campus gym/recreation center. For a lot of people, that time is right after work. Again, it just should be a time that is convenient for you, that you know you can stick to with some regularity. For walks, those are in the evening or on the weekends if I have Mike with me. Whatever works!

I also think a lot depends on what your goals are. Working with a personal trainer can really aid in establishing and working towards these, and that's something I'm interested in trying! If you're looking to build muscle and tone up, they will likely suggest a different track for you than for someone who is looking to lose a set amount of weight. I'm in my 40's, and looking to build muscle and generally get in the best shape of my life. I'm excited. 😁

So I'm going to keep trying new classes where I can, and look into the personal training thing. It's good to have goals, and to encourage each other!

What are your fitness goals? I'd love to hear about them! Next week, we're going to wrap up the wellness series with a talk about water intake, protein shakes, and anything else I can think of that we haven't covered already. ;-) Then the week after that is just before Ash Wednesday, so we'll be doing some Lent planning, can't wait! 😀