A Fall of Marigolds

I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction lately, and I decided it was time for a novel. I actually started several novels in the past few months and then stopped reading because I wasn’t enjoying them.

A Fall of Marigolds was a pleasant surprise. It follows two main characters: Clara, a nurse on Ellis Island in the beginning of the twentieth century and Taryn, a fabric specialist in post 9/11 Manhattan. Both are grieving profound losses and trauma in their lives. These women, though living a century apart from each other, are linked through a scarf decorated with beautiful marigold flowers.

Stories that jump back and forth can sometimes be confusing or burdensome, but the author does a great job linking the two together, especially towards the end when more of the connections are unfolding. I definitely felt like Clara’s story was the focus, and I enjoy historical fiction so that was delightful!

I was displeased during only one point in the book. A story line progressed in such a way that a man starts acting pushy towards a woman he fancies. I found that part offensive because I felt like he was beginning to violate her emotional boundaries. However, I was glad when the unfavorable encounter was short lived and their relationship moved forward in a very positive and hopeful direction.

I thought this novel was a lovely read, and I’m looking forward to reading more from Susan Meissner!



Grateful Thursday: Community

Welcome back to Grateful Thursday, a time when I share what I’m grateful for lately. Right now I’m appreciating community in my life. In particular, I’m seeing how community evolves over the years and continues to fulfill an important role in my life through every unique season.

In the years of growing up and college, community was primarily focused on my family and school. After college, my communities grew to be focused around a shared commitment to serve the Church in various ministries. Most notably, my MDiv community holds a special place in my heart. Though our time of formation has concluded and I’m far in distance from these lovely people, our hearts remain united in Christ through the Eucharist, close in our prayers for one another, and joyfully expectant of reunions in person. This time post graduation is not without heartache and longing because I truly miss our connections in real life, but I remain grateful for the cherished memories and role each person played in shaping my life as a disciple. Our MDiv group offers community that persists even as lives move on. I’m also reminded that our Christian community recalls the past, dwells in the present, and hopes for the future.

Now as my husband and I live in a new place, community changes once again. We are forming community in our town, especially at our parish. This month, I’m grateful for the support of a strong faith community as Zack and I navigate the newlywed days. I’m grateful to share life with people striving after relationship with Jesus and to know that in discipleship we are united as we journey towards God.

The opening words of Gaudium et Spes describe community rooted throughout the ages so beautifully: “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of men. United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in their journey to the Kingdom of their Father and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every man. That is why this community realizes that it is truly linked with mankind and its history by the deepest of bonds.”

Community, past and present, I’m grateful for you all!

How We: Take Care of Ourselves

I’m linking up with Mix and Match Mama and A Little Bit of Everything today! The topic is taking care of ourselves. I love this topic! I think it is important to be mindful of ways we can nurture ourselves so that we can maintain our health and give lovingly to those in our lives.

Self care is a broad term with different meanings and manifestations depending on the person. For me this means taking care of my physical health, nurturing my relationships, developing my relationship with God, and creating time for fulfilling activities. I have certain practices I strive to do daily or weekly to take care of myself in all of these areas.

Physical Health: When I was in graduate school I attended a presentation about sleep, and the presenter emphasized sleep, nutrition, and exercise as all key for maintaining a healthy life. The importance of the three has stuck with me, and I try to be continually improving in each of these areas. With sleep, I strive to have a consistent bedtime with a night time routine, including not looking at my phone before bed. I’m not the best sleeper though so this area can be challenging for me, but the book Sleep Smarter offered some great insights that I’m hoping will help me!

Nutrition is one of my favorite areas to focus on because well, I love food! I’m gluten free and although I do have a sweet tooth, my diet is mostly proteins, fruits, veggies, and a few GF grains. Don’t get me wrong though, there’s a ton of ice cream in our freezer right now 😉

Finally, exercise is the third area of focus. I grew up studying classical ballet, jazz, modern, and musical theater. I like to dance, but now that I’m an adult that is much less structured than it was when I was a student. I enjoy dance fitness classes as my primary means for working out. The dilemma comes around if I need to miss a class or if a class is canceled. Well, my workout kind of goes out the window. One of my goals this year is to pursue more exercise options. I look forward to continuing to work on this so I can set myself up for a healthy life.

Community/Relationships: One of my favorite ways to spend my time is with family and friends. I’m especially fond of time with smaller groups or one on one. As a general guideline I try to make sure I have one of each per week: date with my husband, phone call with my immediate family, and time with a friend (on the phone or in person). This doesn’t always happen perfectly, but usually I feel better when I’m able to nurture these relationships each week. As for community, I’ve found it necessary to be connected in my local community through work, school, parish, or volunteering. Having a place to be at home away from home, especially a faith based community, really helps me.

Relationship with God: This point is foundational to everything else I’m discussing regarding self care. If my relationship with the Lord isn’t my first priority, then everything else I strive for won’t be as fruitful. I incorporate daily prayer, time reading Scripture, Sunday Mass, and prayer with my husband into my weekly routine. Aside from specific prayer times, I strive to make my life centered around God, following God’s will, and growing as a virtuous woman.

Fulfilling Activities: The first few points are so central to meet my basic physical, emotional, relational, mental, and spiritual needs. But I also like to have fun by traveling, reading, writing, and listening to podcasts. I enjoy these activities that enrich my life and help me to value life long learning as well as grow as a person.

Taking care of myself is a big priority. I want to be able to give generously to God, my husband, my family, my passions, and my community. It all begins with filling my own cup so that I am able to give from a place of abundance rather than scarcity. I’m grateful for people in my life that encourage me as I take care of myself. I hope you enjoyed reading about my life, and please do take some time to reflect on your own self care!

Top Ten Gluten Free Products

During my life I have tried numerous gluten free products. Here is a list of ten of my favorite treats! I have linked to the websites, but often times local grocery stores carry these products. None of these companies are compensating me. These are my personal opinions about gluten free products that I enjoy.

1. Absolutely Gluten Free Crackers: My mom purchased these crackers a few years ago for me to try. I “absolutely” loved them! In fact they are soooo good that my Dad was munching on them and didn’t even realize they were gluten free 😉 For flavors they have original, cracked pepper, everything, and toasted onion. My favorite is original, but I tend to like plain foods so that isn’t surprising at all. I like to pair the crackers with almonds, fruit, and cheese for a snack.

2. Betty Crocker Gluten Free Cake Mix: Sometimes it is fun to make a cake or some cupcakes. Personally I’m partial to cupcakes. This mix is my favorite that I’ve found. It is simple to make and really yummy!

3. Bob’s Red Mill Oats: Sometimes people eating gluten free avoid regular oats because of how they are processed. Bob’s Red Mill Oats are processed in a dedicated gluten free facility. I’ve never had an issue being gluten free and eating these oats, but I encourage each of you to consult your doctor before making any decisions. These are great for oatmeal (with berries!) or for making an apple crisp.

4. Cheryl’s Cookies: Back when we were dating, my husband’s family got me a box of these cookies as a gift. I tried the buttercream frosted and snicker doodle. Buttercream frosted are definitely my favorite. Cheryl’s has a variety of chocolate cookies and brownies which I haven’t tried, but I’m sure they are equally delicious.

I love these cookies so much we even had them at our wedding reception! If you are looking for a treat for someone gluten free, these would be an incredible gift to give! They do beautiful gift boxes of cookies and bonus: they freeze well in case you don’t eat them right away.

5. General Mills Corn Chex Cereal: If I’m going to eat cereal it is always this one. The corn chex is my favorite one, though they offer multiple flavors. This brand seems to be readily available at most grocery stores so that is definitely a benefit.

6. Pamela’s Pancake Mix: This is one of the products I have enjoyed for a long time. I remember trying this when my family back when we experimented with lots of different brands. This mix makes delicious pancakes, waffles, muffins, and banana bread. We most often make pancakes and banana bread. For pancakes, I recommend trying to keep the batter thick because it makes the pancakes fluffier. For banana bread, use honey in place of sugar for a moist result.

7. Pamela’s Pizza Crust: My husband and I recently tried this crust for homemade pizza. It is delicious and simple to make. Plus, you get two crusts out of one bag so we each get our own pizza!

8. Synder’s of Hanover Pretzels: I don’t eat pretzels often, but when I do it is these ones. These are nice and crunchy. I like the plain ones, but they do have other flavors.

9. Udis’ Bread or Live GFree Bread: I like the multigrain Udi’s bread or the Aldi brand of bread. To be honest I don’t tend to eat bread that often. If I do want a sandwich or toast (with homemade jam!!) these are my go to bread brands. Lightly toasting the bread in the oven improves the texture of gluten free breads, which can be dense and/or crumbly.

10. WOW cookies: When I was in graduate school I tried some of these cookies at a family party, and I was so impressed by the lemon cookies! I searched high and low for them in my town and was disappointed when I couldn’t find them at any local stores. However, my new boyfriend (after visiting several grocery stores) found the WOW lemon cookies in his town! He would often buy them and bring them when he visited me in Indiana. Lucky for all of you these cookies are much more widely available now. Lemon is my favorite, but I bet the other flavors are equally tasty.






Grateful Thursday: The Christmas Season

It’s January which means the start of the semester for my husband, goals for the new year, and lots of friends’ weddings to anticipate in 2018! I’m excited for what is ahead this year, but today I’m reflecting back on our Christmas.

One of the benefits of Zack’s job is the long break in the winter. This year we were able to visit both families during the Christmas season. Quality time is definitely my love language so I was delighted to see our immediate families and have time together. We shared special memories: lots of delicious meals, visiting my sister at work, post holiday shopping (mostly looking to be honest), an escape room with my in laws, reading fun books, and seeing Zack’s grandmother. I know as things change and we go through different seasons in our marriage, we may not always have this time with family. So for now I’m incredibly grateful for the times we are able to share!

This was our first Christmas Eve and Day celebrated together. While dating we always spent Christmas Day apart with our separate families. Now that we are a family of our own, I’m glad we share in the joy of Christmas season as a married couple. We started fun traditions this year like our date of lunch and a museum visit. I’m looking forward to many more Christmases together.