The Heavy and Light of World Youth Day

heavy and light

I’ve been home from our World Youth Day pilgrimage for about 2 weeks now and am (mostly) caught up on sleep and back to our regular routine. I’ve also had some time to ponder my WYD experience plus the highs and lows of this pilgrimage of life.

Before leaving overseas, I listened to Switchfoot’s new album on repeat and a line of one song hit me hard. In “Heavy and Light”, Jon Foreman sings, “On my pilgrimage, I’m traveling light with the heavy heart. On my pilgrimage, I’m traveling light and heavy.”

That lyric was stuck in my head during our entire pilgrimage and I’ve realized it reflects my experience with both World Youth Days I’ve attended. Let me explain…

I went to WYD in Rio de Janeiro back in 2013. At that point, Jason and I had been struggling with infertility for about 5 years. I’d just had surgery a month prior to the trip which did a major endometriosis clean up and I had no idea what the future held in terms of being able to have children. I was holding on to hope but deep down, tried not to get those hopes too high since I’d already been disappointed over and over again. During that pilgrimage, I insist that mama Mary was stalking me (another story for another day) and by the end of our journey, I’d found incredible peace in God’s plan and will for my life, whatever that might be and according to His perfect timing. It was a huge turning point for me and I felt like most of that heavy weight on my shoulders had been lifted. Then sure enough, we were able to conceive our sweet Clare right when we returned home and went on to have no problem getting pregnant with Catherine. I’d gone to Rio with a heavy and uncertain heart but God made it light and revealed his beautiful plan with our long awaited children.

Fast forward to 2016 and our recent WYD pilgrimage to Krakow. I went into our travels with a heavy heart once again. My grandmother (the only living grandparent on my side of the family) was seemingly in her last days when we departed. Thankfully we were able to visit her before leaving and say what we thought could be our last goodbyes. Traveling overseas, knowing that your family, especially your mother, is going through such a difficult time, is tough. I honestly had a feeling that she would pass away while we were gone and sure enough, while at the airport in Rome heading to our next leg of the trip in Prague, I got the dreaded news.

Talk about a heavy heart. I shed some tears right away and got hugs and comfort from my husband, but I had my hands so full with the girls that it was hard to fully enter into the fresh grief and mourning. I only told a few people in our group and just wanted to keep the sorrow private and not make it into a huge ordeal.

While I hated being away from my family, being on pilgrimage was a pretty great second best place to be and truly helped lighten my heart. I was able to pray at countless holy sites and plus, it being the Year of Mercy and visiting the city that promulgated so much of Christ’s divine mercy was ideal for the tough situation. So while my World Youth Day experiences have certainly been fun and exciting, they’ve also been met with a heavy heart along the way. Thankfully, we have a Lord who promises to ease our burdens, carry our yoke, and turn our heavy hearts light on this pilgrimage that we call life.

Pesto Chicken Stuffed Shells

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Pesto sauce is one of my favorites – between eating it with pasta, using it as a pizza sauce, and spreading it on sandwiches, I can’t get enough! This dish is a favorite simple go-to meal in our house that even Clare enjoys.

Just cook some jumbo pasta shells, stuff them with a combination of shredded chicken, mozzarella, and pesto, and bake them for about 10 minutes. If you have some extra garlic on hand, feel free to add that too. (it’s hard to have too much garlic, in my opinion)

You can eat them as they are or drizzle with some extra pesto sauce. Serve with a salad or vegetable and enjoy this delicious meal!

Pesto Chicken Stuffed Shells

Ingredients:
12 jumbo pasta shells
2 1/2 cups shredded chicken (about 3 chicken breasts)
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella
5-6 Tbsp pesto sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
Salt and pepper
Parmesan and basil for garnish (optional)

Yield: 4-6 servings (12 shells)

Directions: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cook the jumbo shells in boiling water for 9 minutes, or according to the package directions. Drain, rinse, and set aside to cool. In a medium bowl, combine the shredded chicken, mozzarella, pesto sauce, salt, pepper, and additional garlic if wanted. Mix until well combined.

Stuff a spoonful of the mixture into each shell. Spray a baking pan with non-stick spray and line up the shells. Bake them for 10-12 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Garnish with grated parmesan, fresh basil, or extra pesto sauce if wanted. Serve while hot and enjoy!

Source: A Becky Original

Watermelon Lemonade Boozy Popsicles

popsicle

For a refreshing grown up treat this summer, make some simple alcoholic popsicles! The fresh watermelon and lemon are the perfect combination of sweet and tart and the tequila gives it a nice punch. We had extra watermelon and couldn’t eat it fast enough so these were the perfect solution. Just make sure to hide them in the back of the freezer, because if spotted by a toddler, they’ll want one for sure. Just trust me on that one.😉

If you want the refreshing fruit flavor without the booze, simply substitute 1/4 cup water or lemon lime soda for the tequila and triple sec. You could also make these with lime zest/juice instead of lemon. Enjoy and hope you’re staying cool this summer!

Watermelon Lemonade Boozy Popsicles

Ingredients:
3 cups cubed watermelon
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup tequila
2 Tbsp triple sec

Yield: 6-8 popsicles

Directions:
In a blender, blend together the watermelon, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, tequila, and triple sec until smooth, 1-2 minutes. Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl, discarding any solids and seeds left behind.

Pour watermelon mixture into popsicle mold or paper cups then insert wooden sticks. Freeze until firm, preferably overnight.

Source: Chocolate Moosey

30 While 30

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Well, I just turned 30. It was a simple but sweet celebration filled with family time, Shiner beer, and my mom’s classic strawberry shortcake. Hello new decade, so long 20’s. You’ve been real. You’ve been great. You’ve been really great. (name that movie, anyone?)

I’ve seen a lot of folks make lists of goals “30 by 30” style but 29 year old Becky couldn’t get that together in time. So I’ve decided to make my own list of 30 things I want to do while 30. Sharing this will hopefully help keep me accountable and I’ll post updates along the way (maybe monthly?), marking things off the list as I go. This year is going to rock, I can already tell – can’t wait to share it with yall!

1. Read (at least) 5 new books

2. Run a 5k again

3. Travel to new places, near and far

4. Meet my cookie business profit goal for the year

5. Expand my garden in the backyard

6. Donate to some charities/causes that I feel passionately about

7. Try some new cocktails (including some classics that I’ve never tasted)

8. Lose 30+ lbs from birth weight

9. Learn how to make macarons (I tried once and failed miserably!)

10. Make new friends and keep the old

11. Host the 12th night (Epiphany) party that I’ve wanted to for years

12. Finally try out my Italian stovetop espresso maker

13. Get a new pair of glasses

14. Donate 100+ ounces of milk to the Mothers’ Milk Bank of North TX

15. Write my conversion story

16. Visit 2 breweries

17. Read the entire Old Testament

18. Learn to make gumbo & jambalaya

19. Pray 5 novenas

20. Learn more about how to do makeup – maybe try to rock some bold lipstick?

21. Plan a super cute 2017 birthday party for my May babies

22. Write 12 handwritten letters to friends/family

23. Learn how to do at least one cute braid hairstyle

24. Go somewhere fun with my mom

25. Watch a few classic movies that I’ve never seen

26. Clean out my closet & dresser

27. Do something special for local police/firefighters as a thank you

28. Learn how to make fresh pasta

29. Plan a fun surprise date night for me and Jason

30. Do 6 random acts of cookie kindness

And who knows what else will be in store along the way? I look forward to finding out!

Invited: The Ultimate Catholic Wedding Planner – Book Review & Giveaway

For several years, I worked in the hospitality industry at hotels doing event coordination among other things. Weddings were always fun to help plan and oversee but as you can imagine, I saw a little bit of everything over the years, moments both beautiful and crazy. So when I saw that the lovely blogger, Stephanie Calis, had written a book named “Invited: The Ultimate Catholic Wedding Planner”, I was intrigued. She was lovely enough to send me a copy to review and I’ve just gotta say – I loved it!

My first thought was “Why didn’t they have a book like this when I was getting married?”. I said “I do” almost 8 years ago and while I don’t think I did a terrible job planning our wedding and reception, a resource like “Invited” would have been beyond beneficial to have along the way to keep me on track and make sure I didn’t forget anything. I absolutely recommend this book to any Catholic couple that’s preparing for marriage and honestly, engaged couples in general. There’s so much helpful information for planning any wedding, especially if you’re not sure where to start.

On the practical side, there are extremely helpful checklists and guidelines included to help keep you organized along the way along with resources for further information on a variety of topics. It helps you navigate planning the wedding mass and reception, plus the wedding preparation process itself. There’s also a section from the groom’s point of view and questions for discussion at the end of each chapter which really help make it a well rounded resource. “Invited” also provides the Catholic Rite of Marriage and samples for important things like invitations and programs.

On the spiritual side, this book seriously emphasizes the fact that as a Catholic, your marriage is a Sacrament and points your focus to the lifelong vocation rather than only the one day and event. One of my favorite lines in the book says, “It’s your spouse, not your stuff, that makes a marriage” which is a great reminder of your priorities when preparing for the big day and your life together afterwards. “Invited” also delves into the hard but necessary topics such as cohabitation and contraception and also the deeper topics of authentic love, beauty, and dignity. There is great advice throughout the book about navigating the difficult parts of wedding planning like family disagreements/drama and offers advice on how to keep peace in your life during this exciting but stressful time.

On a related note, Stephanie is the co-founder of a lovely new website, Spoken Bride, for engaged and newlywed Catholic women. It’s full of beauty and inspiration for those preparing for the Sacrament of marriage and includes everything from style/beauty advice, spiritual guidance, and vendor information. Plus you have the opportunity to submit our own wedding photos to be featured on their site!

“Invited” can be purchased online through Pauline Books and MediaAmazon, and various other sites. Or, check your local Catholic book store!

Finally, I have a copy of “Invited” to give away to one lucky reader! There are several ways to enter, so pick which ones you want and please leave a separate comment for each entry. The giveaway will end on Friday, 7/1/16 at midnight Central time.

Comment on this blog post and tell me what you wish you’d known when planning your own wedding OR if you’re not married, what you’d like to know. (1 entry)

Visit Spoken Bride on Facebook and if you want, please “like” the page. Leave a separate comment saying that you’ve done so. (1 entry)

Visit Vita Dulcis on Facebook and if you want, please “like” my page. Leave a separate comment saying that you’ve done so. Current followers can claim this too! (1 entry)

Follow Spoken Bride on Instagram. Leave a separate comment saying that you’ve done so. (1 entry)

Follow Vita Dulcis on Instagram. Leave a separate comment saying that you’ve done so. Current followers can claim this too! (1 entry)

Follow Spoken Bride on Twitter. Leave a separate comment saying that you’ve done so. (1 entry)

Subscribe to Spoken Bride via email (found on the right sidebar) and leave a separate comment saying that you’ve done so. (1 entry)

Subscribe to Vita Dulcis via email (found on the right sidebar) and leave a separate comment saying that you’ve done so. Current subscribers can claim this too! (1 entry)

Good luck!!

*Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post or giveaway, however I did receive a sample for my review. All opinions are my own.*

Baked Oatmeal with Berries

baked oatmeal

Gotta love when you make a recipe, just knowing that your kiddo will love it. And then, rejection. Wouldn’t even give it a try.

My Clare is a huge fruit fan so I was so confident that she’d love this baked oatmeal with berries and we’d enjoy it together for breakfast all week. Easy, mostly healthy, colorful – just what a mom wants to make for her kid. But then you end up eating the whole dish yourself because they refuse to even taste and see. Ah well, the best laid breakfast plans…

This recipe is super simple to toss together and pop in the oven. Even though Clare isn’t a fan, I’ve continued to make a pan for my own breakfast since it’s quick and easy to reheat some in a bowl each morning. I like to add a splash of milk to make it extra moist and creamy. So delicious, especially right now when berries are plentiful and cheap.

This version is layered with fresh strawberries and blueberries but you can totally mix it up with other fruit and berries that are in season or that you prefer. Or you can even make it plain and jazz it up separately if wanted. I like to throw in some extra healthy additions sometimes like a handful of chia seeds or almonds. So go ahead and get creative!

Enjoy!

Baked Oatmeal with Berries

Ingredients: 
3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 cups fresh berries (strawberries sliced)

Yield: 6-8 servings

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter/grease a 2 1/2 quart baking dish.

Combine the oats, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Place half of the oat mixture in the baking dish, top it with half of the berries, then top with the remaining oat mixture.

Whisk the eggs, milk, vanilla, and melted butter. Pour over the oats. Gently shake the baking dish back and forth from side to side to allow the wet mixture to get down into the oats. Top the oats with the remaining berries.

Bake uncovered for about 40 minutes, until oats are tender, and the mixture is set. Serve immediately with a splash of milk, or let it cool, then cover and refrigerate to reheat later.

Source:  So Fab Food

Monday Morsels #25

Hi yall! Well, life has certainly changed since my last family update! Without wasting any time, here’s what we’ve been up to lately.

clare 2nd bday

My sweet firstborn turned two! Goodness gracious, how the time flies. We started the day with her two year check up which thankfully didn’t include any shots. Then we stopped to get a Birthday donut, went to the neighborhood pond to feed the “quack quacks”, and played at the park. We had one of her favorite meals for dinner plus cake of course. As much as I wanted to have a big celebration for her, I loved our simple day together and honestly, at 40 weeks pregnant, I couldn’t have handled much more!

family of 4

Then two days later…our precious daughter Catherine was born! Things happened pretty quickly and labor went as smoothly as possible. We are totally in love with this little lady! Life has been full of visits from family/friends, meals delivered, and adjusting to being a family of 4 (most adjusting from a certain toddler) and while we’re tired, life is beautiful. I actually hope to finally write a birth story for both girls soon, so stay posted for more info besides “hey! we had a baby!” if you’re into that sort of blog post.

baptism catherine

Then 9 days later, little Catherine was baptized and brought into the Church. It was sort of last minute since we weren’t totally sure when she’d arrive but worked out just perfectly and also happened to be the feast of Pentecost. So fitting! Our sweet little saint smelled of chrism and peacefully slept through the whole thing. Who could ask for more?

ordination

Then besides the everyday crazy life in new baby land, we’ve been right in the middle of busy event season and trying to attend what celebrations we can manage. First off was the ordination of our friend, now Father Joseph Keating. I have to get used to calling him that! We became friends during my college years and it’s been just beautiful seeing his vocation unfold. When we met, he was a vibrant youth minister, then entered the seminary, was sent to the NAC in Rome for his studies (we even got to visit him there while traveling!), had the honor to sing the Gospel at the Easter mass at St. Peter’s this past Easter, and now is officially a priest in the Diocese of Fort Worth. Congrats to you, Fr. Joe, and I can’t wait to see where God takes you next on your journey!

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One of the youth from our former parish invited us to her graduation party which was also a blast. I was her confirmation sponsor a few years ago and got to know her really well during our time there. I’m so proud of her accomplishments and know she’ll do great things at Benedictine College. The party was full of yummy BBQ, cake, and a fun photo area with props. We got to catch up with some old parish friends and Clare wore herself out with an inflatable ball. Good times all around!

IMG_2405

We also got together on my side of the family to celebrate the May birthdays in the family. Which is my mom, Clare, and now Catherine too! So it’s basically now a party for grandma and her granddaughters, which I know she loves. We had tons of delicious food as always, a variety of desserts, gifts, and great company. Clare had a cookie cake that grandma made especially for her, since she’s a total frosting and cookie girl. (which baffles her cake loving mother) Catherine got to meet most of the rest of her Texas family and it’s such a blast having more littles in the family now, running around and playing during our gatherings, plus plenty of arms wanting to hold the babies. It’s a beautiful thing!