Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Lectio: Fill These Hearts

{recommended reading}

If you've been following this blog for a while, you'll know that I have a deep love for the Theology of the Body and Christopher West's take on it, and a fascination with longing and hunger (I just searched all my posts for the word "ache" and discovered it appears many, many times, in no less than 10 posts).  So, I excitedly bought Christopher's new book, Fill These Hearts, just two days after it came out in January and am so happy to share it with you today.

In keeping with his gifts and his scholarly background, most of West's books take a theological stance on love and sex.  In the introduction to this one, though, he says that he intends to step back from a solely religious outlook and to engage the world and the culture more, the better to counter their many false goods and to explain how even the sentiments felt and choices made in the secular world point to something greater.  "This book," he says plainly, "is about desire." The desire every single human person feels to be loved and seen, the desire for intimacy, and the desire for more than this life, whether one recognizes it or not. 

Fill These Hearts is centered, then, around who we are, complete and full with our aches.  The book moves on to describe how our desires point to our design as men and women created for God, and our destiny to live in communion on earth and in Heaven.  Three D's, if you will.  So Theology of the Body, but in a way I'd never considered before: in the light of examining what we're most longing for and why we sometimes ignore these longings or settle for less, the culture made sense to me in a new way--West presents the choices people tend to make in response to their desires as either starvation, fast food, or a true feast, and it feels so accurate.  It's why so many misinterpret the Church's teachings on sexuality as repressive or prudish, or why some struggle with repression in their own hearts.  It's why rejecting chastity and devaluing sex can seem so easy and appealing.  It all comes down to our woundedness and our hunger for love.

I have to admit that sometimes, I'm too quick to judge those who fear vulnerability or who buy into the culture's lies about love, masculinity, and femininity.  Reading this book, though, softened and humbled my heart in so many ways.  I think it provides such an amazing insight into human nature and motivations, and though it does deal with love and sexual desire, it places desire so squarely in the context of Heaven, not just earth, which is a constant reminder to me that everything beautiful in this life is just a tiny taste of what's to come in the next, God willing I get there.  What's more, because this book is so accessible, with its frequent references to pop culture and its general candor, I think it could be such a powerful, perspective-changing resource for introducing someone to the Christian life with an honest, truthful vision of who we are, why we feel the ways we do, and what we're meant for.  We need to remove our fig leaves, this book says, and all of the worldly things it's easy to hide behind, so that we can truly know ourselves before God.  "We need to be loved in our nakedness: warts, blemishes, and all," says West.  I'm amazed.

Have any of you read this yet?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Veritas: Thomas and Caitlin

{real life love}

Have you ever felt like someone you know online is totally your friend in real life?  I have the biggest girl crush on Caitlin from Catholic Cookie Jar.  Her blog is full to the brim with sweet, inspiring date ideas, decadent-looking treats, reflections on Scripture, and gorgeous photography as she chronicles newlywed life with Thomas, her husband and high-school sweetheart.  I'm so excited to share their love story with you today!  I'll turn it over to her now...

My husband and I are high school sweethearts! Thomas was the new guy from England, and I was the new girl from another school system, both starting out our freshman year at a Catholic high school.  It sounds so cheesy, but it all started at our lockers (which were side by side).  During the first year of high school, we made small talk at our lockers every morning, but it wasn’t until sophomore year that we became good friends.  We had several classes together and lots of mutual friends, so much of our time was spent together in group settings, where we got to know each other better. 
I had the biggest crush on Thomas, but I was as shy as could be.  Little did I know that he also had a huge crush on me too!  Since I lived 45 minutes away from school and neither of us had cars, Thomas joined the track team to spend more time with me after school.    
Our relationship went from being just friends to boyfriend and girlfriend shortly after our junior prom!  He got the code to my locker from one of my friends, and stuck roses and chocolate in there to surprise me and ask me when we were at our lockers together.  He was just as sweet then as he is now! 
Thomas and Caitlin's first date, proposal, and wedding day!
I liked that boy a lot, and I figured I had to keep things going!  So I gathered up all my nerve, and told him I wanted to take him on a surprise date to make up for all the fun we had at prom!  He came home with me on the bus, and I took him out to a  park on the lake for a picnic, and then we went out for some ice cream.  
After that, we were pretty much inseparable.  There are two things that come to mind when I reflect on why I was so drawn to Thomas.  The first is that he was always so incredibly witty and cheerful.  He cracked me up multiple times a day (and still does), and he always put me in such a good mood. The second is that he was the only person I ever felt like I could totally and completely be myself around.  I was able to let all my quirks out, only to find out that he had just as many quirks that I enjoyed as much as he enjoyed mine!   He was always so respectful, and I felt like he really cherished me and loved everything about me. 
By the end of high school, I truly foresaw marriage as a very real possibility for the future, and it was something that we had both talked about.  We ended up going to the same college, and now those four years together seem like an absolute blur!  We kept the tradition of picnics going, ran our first marathon together, went to sorority dances, went on some of the most random dates, studied together, and just enjoyed the college experience.  
During the summer before our senior year, Thomas worked about two hours away from me.  I went to visit him for the day to celebrate our four year anniversary.  He told me he had a secret date planned to celebrate, and I was really excited to see what he had in store! When I got there, he already had a cooler packed so he told me not to worry about lunch, and he took me to a park.   Thomas insisted that we go eat our lunch in the grass by the water, even though I did not want to and tried so hard to get him to sit at a picnic table!  He finally convinced me to sit on the ground, and he pulled a folded  blanket out of the cooler.  He asked me to spread it out while he got the food ready.  I spread it out and was shocked to see that there were words on the blanket that said "I love you more than words can say, but maybe this will help..."  Before I could even process it, I looked over to see Thomas down on one knee with a ring in his hand, asking me to marry him!  It was one of the best moments of my life, but between the tears and the excitement, all I remember is that I said yes! 

It was an especially sweet and special proposal because Thomas had spent a lot of time sewing the letters on the blanket over that month…In his apartment…with three male roommates.  Now that’s a true act of love if I’ve ever seen one!   It was also really special because Thomas had made plans for us to go celebrate with both of our families with dinner at his parents’ house!  It was such a joyful day, one with sweet moments I will remember forever.  

I had so much fun with all of the wedding planning, and I think I really surprised my family with being such an easygoing bride about everything.   I just felt so incredibly blessed to be marrying my best friend after so many years of dating, and I felt so appreciative of all my parents were doing to make sure I had an amazing wedding.   I was really excited about our wedding, but even more excited about the marriage after the wedding! 
We got married on a hot summer day in July.  It was everything I had dreamed about and more, and I couldn’t get that smile off of my face!  
While I wish that I could say we were faithful Catholics with some sort of awesome Catholic love story that involved intercession of the saints and so forth, that’s just not the case with us.  It was more of a journey to get to where we are today, and it’s a journey that will continue throughout the rest of our lives.  We both loved our Catholic faith throughout high school, and we continued it by going to mass together every weekend and having conversations about our faith during college.  
However, I think it was getting married that really moved us to further delve into our Catholic beliefs.  We decided that we needed to provide ourselves with a solid faith foundation in our marriage to help us avoid the negative influences of our culture.  Once we moved to a new town for me to start graduate school and Thomas got his first job, we had to adjust to being away from all of our family and friends.  We joined the local Catholic church, and we fell in love with everything about it!  The priests are just wonderful, the people there are so welcoming, and they had so much to offer.  We joined a couple’s Scripture study at church right after getting married, and we’ve been participating in them ever since.  The Scripture studies have been the best way for us to really learn and grow together.  
We have met so many wonderful, holy couples who are striving to live out their faith, and they have been amazing role models for us.  We even met an NFP instructor through the study, and decided to stop using contraception about a half a year into our marriage.  What a blessing that has been!  It has made us fall more and more in love with the church, and God’s blessings began to increase tremendously after starting to use NFP.  
In terms of bringing our Catholic faith and prayer lives into our relationship on a day to day basis, we read the Bible together and pray together.   We have adapted the Lectio Divina type of study into our own way of reading the Bible with one another.  We talk about our intentions for each other and our intentions for our marriage.  Above all, we constantly try to make sacrifices for one another every day to model the love that God has for us. 
God has blessed us and our relationship so abundantly, and I am so thankful that he planned for me to share my life with Thomas.  I constantly pray that we will glorify God through our marriage and let our love be a sign of God’s love to others. 

Don't you just adore them?  Be sure to visit Caitlin's blog for more, and if you'd like to see your love story featured on Captive the Heart, email me at!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

What I Wore Sunday, Volume 14

How's your first full week of Lent been?  Andrew and I were on vacation from Ash Wednesday to the first Saturday of Lent, and honestly, when you're constantly eating out and on the go, it's much harder to keep prayer and fasting in mind.  It made for the start of Lent not feeling particularly like Lent to me. Now that we're home, we've both been able to act on our promises to help each other by doing the other's "usual" chores that are unenjoyable for us.  I hate washing the dishes, whereas my husband doesn't mind and literally does them every night.  He's lucky to wake up for work later than me most days; for Lent, though, he's getting up with me and helping me make breakfast and get out the door, which is a big sacrifice for him.

What we've found, though, is how hard it is to accept another person's help sometimes.  I'm looking forward to learning to truly let my husband serve me, and vice versa, in the coming weeks.  We can both be so stubborn sometimes about letting the other person do something nice when we could just as easily do it ourselves and don't want to inconvenience one another, but I'm hoping to truly see these as acts of love.  Isn't it so similar in prayer sometimes?  I occasionally feel like I don't need to bring certain things to the Father because they don't seem important enough, or because I think I already know the answer to a certain problem and just need to get around to putting it in action.  In reality, though, I totally need to remember that nothing is too small for him, and that true humility is letting His guidance, not mine, direct me.

Outfit-wise, we got a little peek of sunshine and springy enough temps today that I ditched my tights and jacket.  This was my college graduation dress a few years ago, and though I used to only wear it in warmer months, I've also discovered this winter how much I like the mint shade with gray or black tights.  So now I have a four-season dress!

Dress, J. Crew.  Cardigan, Gap.  Scarf, Lilly Pulitzer (thrifted).  Belt, old and stolen from my mom.  Flats, Land's End.

Before you go, two more things:

1. Mary so nicely nominated me for a Liebster Award this week, and I'm passing it on to a few of you! See what it's all about here.
2. Of course, many thanks to the ladies at Fine Linen and Purple for this weekly outfit roundup!  There's plenty more Sunday fashion inspiration here.

Hope you're having a wonderful weekend!

Just in time for Oscar Night...

...award mania seems to have struck the blogosphere, too!  Mary was sweet enough to tag me for a Liebster Award, a thing unbeknownst to me before this week.  According to Kinsi, "Liebster" means "dear" or "beloved."  It goes a little something like this:

Feel free to reuse this image!  Please link back to this page.  Photo Source.
The personality-quiz-and-chain-email-loving twelve-year-old in me is thrilled.

Eleven Facts:

{1} My favorite prayer, and my husband's, is the Memorare.  Our wedding rings have a line from the prayer, before thee we kneel, engraved inside.  {2} All day long, for the last decade or so, I have had a particular variety of constant hiccup christened by my friends "The Meeps."  Meep is the sound they make.  {3} Since I was really young, I've dreamt of a job where I get to name the colors for crayons and nail polish.  If that exists, someone please tell me.  {4} I eat eggs and vegetables almost every morning for breakfast, but never in omlette form.  I saute the veggies and fry the eggs separately, but then I eat them together.  {5} I knew I'd marry my husband even before I became good friends with them.  In a Holy Spirit kind of way, I like to think, not a creepy way.  {6} I had a childhood obsession with Michael Bolton.  I know.  {7} Until I was 23, I didn't know how to ride a bike.  After many years of friends promising to teach me, Andrew finally succeeded, and now bike rides are one of our favorite weekend pastimes!  {8} I have a recurring dream where I suddenly feel all of my teeth falling out.  I usually wake up desperately feeling around to make sure they're all still there!  {9} When I was in 4th grade, two of my classmates and I had a project go into space on the shuttle Atlantis.  We wanted to see if baking bread from yeast that had been in space would be different than bread made from earth yeast.  And up the yeast went.  {10} I dream of participating in a flash mob.  {11} I would like to be friends with Jennifer Lawrence.

Mary's questions for me:

What is your least favorite book?  About a year ago, I read a book I just hated called Leaving the World by Douglas Kennedy, but even when I don't like a book, I almost always finish it--I keep thinking it'll get better!

What is your perfect day?  Sleeping in just a little, bacon and eggs, the farmer's market, a long bike ride, reading and napping on a blanket in the sunshine, and settling in for a movie, all with my sweet husband by my side.

Who is your greatest inspiration?  Both of my grandmas love so abundantly.

What is your favorite song?  
Can this be a multi-way tie?  My favorite song ever is "In Your Eyes" by Peter Gabriel.  Right now, though, I can't stop listening to  "Poison and Wine" by The Civil Wars and "Live and Die" by The Avett Brothers.

What is your go to dinner? Mexican!  When I make fajitas for just my husband and I, they feed us for at least half the week, but I also love sharing them with guests!  We make spicy, shredded pork or chicken in the Crock Pot, brown rice, black beans, and sauteed onions and peppers and eat it all with lots of avocado and corn tortillas.

Can you name a current event that has changed the way you think?  All the talk of the government budget and spending lately has helped me see that political party lines aren't as clear cut as I thought they were when I was younger.  Because of its general pro-life tendencies, I used to blindly align myself with the Republican party without really thinking critically about its other principles.  I still lean a little more towards their views, but in recent months, I've thought about how being pro-life is certainly about protecting the unborn, yet it's also about seeing every human person, born or unborn, with dignity.  It's made me consider that the way one views wealth and success can either honor or use another person, and that there's such a need for government that is compassionate without being enabling.

Name the funniest movie ever, of all time.  It's so inappropriate, but I practically pee during This Is Spinal Tap.

Coffee or tea?  Green tea, please.

What is most misunderstood about you?  I love keeping busy socially and chatting with new people, but I am  huge introvert at heart.  There are times when I feel guilty refusing invitations and have a hard time explaining why I just need an evening or two to spend time by myself.

Which city in America do you like best?  Annapolis, Maryland.  Blue crabs, boat shoes, and bayside beauty.

What do you appreciate most about your life?  He's appeared in so many of these answers already, but I feel so wonderfully blessed that God has given my husband to me.  There is no one else who understands and affirms me so well, cracks me up, and doesn't mind my countless quirks and weird habits.

The Nominees (in no particular order):

{1} Stephanie  {2} Stacy  {3} Deme  {4} Mandi  {5} Catherine  {6} Erika  {7} Caitlin  {8} Emily  {9}  Jenny

My questions for them:

1. I collect...
2. Tell me your favorite Disney movie.
3. What's the last book you read?  Did you like it?
4. In case we ever meet in real life and you come over to my house, how do you take your coffee?
5. Everyone has a few...what trend do you totally regret following?
6. Your flower of choice?
7. Name something you've always wanted to learn.
8. Are you more head or more heart?
9. How's Lent going for you so far?
10. What social or political issue are you most passionate about?
11. What saint has had your back the most?

Can't wait to read your answers, ladies!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Love Notes: Your First Dance

{small ways to show great love}

Photo Source
On a night in August almost three summers ago, my brand spanking new fiance and I went to the movies to see Despicable Me.  Afterwards, we took pictures in a photo booth (an item I could hence cross off my bucket list) and drove home to my parents' house on starry back roads.  Somewhat impulsively, we stopped in the Adoration chapel at my church on the way.

As we got ready to leave, I started the car and rolled down the windows.  Instead of getting in, Andrew held out his hand and asked me to dance.  I sang along to the music in the CD player, and just like that, we had our wedding song.

Maybe you've had a song since the beginning, or maybe not, but regardless, choosing your first dance can be tricky business.  Personally, we wanted a song that was romantic but not cheesy, and original but not too obscure.  Maybe it's our English major roots, but lyrics were important to us, too.  So many choices, but I feel lucky that we sort of stumbled into ours, thanks to our sweet dance in the parking lot.

So, how to go about picking out the perfect soundtrack for your first dance?  Do you have a memory like mine, where a song that was just ordinary somehow became special because of a singalong, an inside joke, or a trip or visit from a particular time?  Is there a tune you could play as a nod to one of your parents or grandparents' favorites (unfortunately, my parents' wedding was at the height of 80s power balladry, but maybe this will work for someone else...)?  Are there any songs you've just always loved and found romantic?  I thought, for a while, that wedding songs should already mean something to the couple, but as I've thought about it for this post, I think I've changed my mind a little more to the idea that any love song will take on meaning when you choose it for such a significant moment.  Thoughts, anyone?

Click on the "Music" tag on the sidebar to see a few first dance, and other dance, songs I've recommended for your reception; maybe you'll find a new favorite!

In the meantime, the nosy girl in me is dying to know about your first dance!  Do you have a song picked out yet?  How did you choose yours?  I love hearing your stories!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Like A Lily: Ana

{what she wears}

Being a mama definitely doesn't mean sacrificing style.  Meet Ana, who sews, crafts, makes healthy goodies, and takes care of her three adorable daughters, all while dressing practically and so prettily, at Time Flies When You're Having Babies.  I absolutely love the all-white wedding she's imagined here, with pure, simple blossoms and plenty of lace.

Here's what Ana has to say about these picks:

I love lace!  So classy and elegant.  Flats are a must for me for a wedding day; these look super comfy and just so beautiful.  I love lilies--the smell, the reminder of new life, and the simplicity of them.  I had them at my wedding and I'd have them again if I were doing it over.

Best of all, maybe, Ana loves this veil for its mantilla styling, but also because her mom made it!  Check out the gorgeous, affordable veils in her Etsy shop here!

Read on for Ana on multipurpose shopping trips, DIY wedding day beauty, and how to feel pulled together even when you're not leaving the house

Ana's Style:

Describe your personal style in five words.  Relaxed, comfortable, colorful, random, and frugal.

Name a few of your wardrobe essentials: 1) Pretty earrings.  I feel a little naked without earrings.  Even if you're just wearing house pants and a sweatshirt earrings bring some feminine class without any work!  2) Skinny jeans.  I was so skeptical at the dawn of skinny jeans, but I feel like if you get a pair that compliments you, they can really slim you down and compliment your form.  3)  Cardigans.  Mostly colorful ones, but really just any cute cardigan adds to an outfit and a level of comfort.

Favorite Shoes: Currently, my Franco Sarto boots.  Living in the Midwest during the winter can be pretty drab, but a cute pair of boots that are also good in the cold and snow make it a little more bearable.

Signature Fragrance: Heavenly by Victoria's Secret

Favorite place to shop: Target.  Where else can you pick up groceries with the kids and find trendy and comfortable clothes for a great deal?  They always have great sales, and I can kill two birds with one stone.  Love it!

Every girl has days when she struggles with her looks and her worth.  What do you do to remind yourself you're a beloved, beautiful daughter of the King?  On days when I am not feeling so hot about how I'm looking, I go to my husband.  He is my helpmate, and God gave him to me to build me up when I am feeling down and out.  I am usually really honest with him about how I am feeling about myself and he always has wonderful, affirming words and ways that help tremendously.

What's an item you can't live without?  I cannot live without mascara.  I look like I’ve lost days of sleep without it and it is almost always applied before I leave the house.  Most of the time it’s on even when I will be home all day--it just makes me feel put together. 

How can a bride reflect her everyday style in her wedding day style?  When I got married the one thing I was adamant about was doing my own makeup.  I really wanted to look like myself when Mike first saw me, and in this way I felt like I reflected my everyday style at our wedding.  I didn’t want to hand all the makeup control over to someone else who didn't know what I like and end up looking like a clown--it just seemed too risky.  I splurged on some makeup items I wouldn’t usually get and spent extra time the day of the wedding, and I loved the outcome. 

Fashion, evangelization, and the Feminine Genius: your thoughts?  Since becoming a mother, I have had to go through various cycles with style, fashion, and rediscovering my femininity in my motherhood.  My body changed a lot after giving birth, and I wasn’t sure how much time and energy I should be focusing on myself and looking good when there were children afoot.  I feel like I’ve got a better grasp now on living my vocation while remaining fashionable so as to not turn the rest of the world off.  Motherhood is beautiful, being a woman is beautiful and I think doing what you need to do to look and feel beautiful as a woman, and if it is your vocation, as a wife and mother, is not just acceptable, but necessary. 

Want to share your style picks on Captive the Heart?  Email me at!

Monday, February 18, 2013


Happy (Happy?  Yes; I'll go with happy) first full week of Lent!  Until Easter, I've decided to take on my least favorite chore, washing the dishes, every day (I am completely spoiled having a husband who doesn't mind doing them almost every night).  Maybe even Sundays, to give Andrew a break...

For the past few weeks, walking through the desert, like Christ during these 40 days, has been on my mind a lot.  One of my closest friends has been going through a tough, tough breakup, and there's such a cry in her heart to find the One.  The weekend she ended things with her boyfriend, the Gospel reading at Mass was the wedding feast at Cana, and (I'm momentarily diverging from the desert thing) I couldn't get this image out of my head of empty vessels that Jesus needs to fill.  

It struck me that when someone experiences a longing so deep for romance and authentic love, her heart is like a well.  For whatever reason and in His time, the Lord constantly digs the well deeper and deeper.  At the time, it makes you feel the ache even more, but only because He's going to fill it even more.  You can't fill something that doesn't have enough room for what it's supposed to hold, you know?

Waiting for love can feel like such a desert experience.  You wander.  You thirst.  Believe me; I've been there too, and I've known the depth of that hurt.  Know this, though: Christ didn't just stay in the desert.  He emerged, and even in the face of death, He poured Himself out in a gift of purest love.  None of it goes unredeemed.  My prayer for you, and for me, this Lent, is that the most burning desires of our hearts are deepened, even if it's painful, if only for the Lord to flood our emptiness.  Amen.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Reach Down

Happy First Friday of Lent.  Have a wonderful weekend!  

Follow along with this week's adventures in New Mexico on Instagram, @stephmariecalis!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

My Spirit Rejoices: Fly Me To the Moon and Arise, My Love

{sweet sounds for your Mass and reception}

While I was planning my wedding, my friend Jess was always warning me about the people she dubbed "The You Should-as."  You know, the people that seem to have an opinion about everything surrounding your engagement, your Mass and reception, and your future.  I thought the whole thing was kind of funny, and actually didn't receive too much unsolicited advice, but against my better judgment and my loyalty to Jess, I have a "you should-a" to offer you today.

It comes from my DJ, Jack.  Part of the paperwork with him involved listing what songs we wanted for certain milestones throughout the evening.  Some were obvious events, of course, like the first dance and cake cutting, but one I hadn't considered much before then was the second dance.  The way I saw it, the second dance should draw everyone onto the dance floor after our first dance (at his suggestion, as well, we moved our first dance from after the wedding party entrance, which is more typical, to after dinner, which felt much less rushed and made things flow better--I recommend it!), so naturally, I wanted something catchy and fast.  I picked Sean Kingston's "Fire Burning" (you know; "Somebody call 911!").  Instead, Jack nicely suggested something a little quieter and older, reasoning that everyone loves a slow dance, especially after a romantic first dance shared by the bride and groom, and that in his experience, almost every couple would happily join in.  He also told me he preferred to start the night with more oldies and classics, and then move towards newer, top-40 type selections as the evening progressed.  It worked perfectly.

That brings me to today's song suggestion.  If you decide to go this route of a slower, universally appealing second dance, I feel like there's hardly a better choice out there than good ol' Frank Sinatra (incidentally, we chose Elvis' "Can't Help Falling In Love," but still).  Fly Me To the Moon is so old-school classy, and interestingly (I'm such a nerd), my friend brought this song up in a Philosophy class on love and friendship one time.  One line of the song is,

You are all I long for
All I worship and adore.

This kind of love, he pointed out, speaks the language of the Divine.  If married love is meant to image the Father's love, this is a beautiful reminder, even if Frank didn't intend it that way.  You can listen to the song here, and here's another, acoustic version I just, well, adore.

Remember Stephanie?  She has a beautiful new blog about newlywed life, and she and her husband Michael are expecting!  A few weeks ago when I wrote about the Song of Songs, Steph introduced me to a few amazing hymns taken from the Scripture verses.  Arise, My Love is an amazing expression of love's search and fulfillment from the Scripture, with singing parts for a man, woman, and choir.  I love to think that the different parts mirror the actual text of the Song of Songs in such an obvious, beautiful way to make real the sentiments of the bride and bridegroom during a wedding Mass.   You can listen to it here!

What do you think?  Any opinions on how to get all of your guests dancing?  Are there any other new-to-you worship songs you've stumbled across recently?  I'd love to know!

P.S.  Do you have your Valentines Day planned out yet?  Click here to read my guest post on Stethoscopes, Style, & Grace for three sweet date ideas, with outfits to match, and stay for a while to admire Erika's super classy style!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Rite Resources: Registry Essentials You'll Actually Use

Walking through department stores, hand on scanner and head dreaming of shared dishes, sheets, and towels, is totes fun.  The thing is, it can also be so darn stressful.  There's the matter of learning to compromise and envision things together, of course, but there's also the all-too-overwhelming question of what you even need to register for.  Euro shams?  Ice buckets?  Charger plates?  It's enough to make any bride a little crazy, so I thought that today, I'd humbly offer you some of the best things I registered for, the things I wished I did, and what, in my opinion, is the best purchase you could ever make.
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Sheets Food Processor Frames Skillet Board Games
Nice Sheets: As I may have alluded to before on this blog, I tend to be a bit too much of a spender.  My husband tends to be too much of a scrimper.  We're constantly learning how to meet in the middle, but when we were registering a few years ago, I suppose we had less of a handle on this.  Having grown up in twin beds, Andrew and I both felt the sticker shock of queen-sized sheets, let alone nice queen-sized sheets.  We deemed sheets too expensive a gift to ask for, and halfheartedly chose one set.  But not even the accompanying pillowcases.  Anyway, fast forward to two years later, where we own nothing more than two cheap-ish sheet sets from Ikea.  They get the job done, but I so wish we'd gone for a few nicer sets on our registry!  The way I see it, there are few other items you'll use every single night of your life, and when the average human spends something like one third of his or her life in bed, I think it's worth making sure that bed is comfy.  One set of crisp cotton and one of cozy flannel is already on my Christmas list for next year!

Food Processor: I love, love, love to cook, and after a year and a half with a food processor, I'm not sure how I ever lived without one.  Seriously, this thing can mince garlic, ginger, and onions way finer than a knife for sauces and stir-fries, shred a whole mountain of cabbage for slaws and my favorite, fish tacos (still talking about shredding the cabbage, not the fish, just so we're clear), pulverize chocolate, slice perfect carrot coins, and make a piecrust, a longtime source of baking intimidation for me, in a flash.  Actually, all those conveniences make it perfect for saving time even when you don't like to cook.  We received a bigger food processor than the one we registered for, with a few more gadgets like a mini bowl attachment and shredding disc, and I'm so glad. I won't worry about upgrading to a larger capacity when we have, God willing, lots of kids to feed one day.  I definitely recommend getting a nice, roomy 14-cup one like this one that we received.  Go big or go home, right?

Cast-Iron Skillet:  Can I gush for a minute?  About a heavy old piece of iron?  During high school, my TV watching consisted largely of Food Network, and after hearing the virtues of cast iron on shows like Good Eats and Paula's Home Cooking, I bought this one when I moved into my first apartment my junior year of college.  Simply put, I'm obsessed.  These things cost less than 30 bucks and are so durable and solid, they're said to outlive you. You can grill and char meats without an actual grill, bake a cobbler, make heartier eggs than you get in a regular pan, and go back and forth from the oven to the stove.  You don't need to cook with much oil, iron is a more natural material than Teflon and coated aluminum, which means it's healthier and can even add important iron to your diet, and oh, I could go on and on.  I've given three of these pans as engagement presents, and I honestly think it eliminates the need for a large set of cookware, since it can do so many jobs.  Even though cast iron can smoke so much sometimes that I set off the fire alarms in my college apartment building more than once (consider yourself warned), I'm committed for life.

Art & Picture Frames: 
From the "I never would've thought of that but I'm so glad I did" category: When you settle into your first little nest together, of course you'll want to decorate it.  And, when you get your wedding photos back, of course you'll want to display them.  It might not seem like the most natural choice, asking for home decor instead of appliances or linens, but a friend of mine advised me, and I'm so thankful for such an original piece of advice.  Requesting a set of matching frames in all sizes, along with a few images you love, is a fantastic way to get a head start on furbishing.

Board Games: You didn't think this list would be all function and no fun, did you?  Your newlywed days, when you'll want to spend plenty of time together and invite friends over to see your new digs, are, to me, the perfect time to start building a game collection.

Now.  Surely I've left something off this list, so help me out!  If you're married, what's the best wedding gift you received, what genius, unusual item has been the most helpful to you, and what do you wish you had put on your registry?  If you're engaged, tell me what's at the top of your wish list!

P.S. Click here to read my latest column on Ignitum Today, where I talk about talking about sex.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

What I Wore Sunday, Volume 13: I Cheat Again

You know how a while ago, I took photos on a different day than the one where I actually went to Mass?  Here I go today, an impostor again.  After a long car trip yesterday, the golden sunlight seemed too good an opportunity to pass up, so I put my Sunday outfit on a little early. Then I put it all back on today.

Oxford, Ralph Lauren.  Sweatshirt, Old Navy.  Necklace and Skirt, Forever 21.  Tights, Hue.  Boots, Target.

Also, please enjoy this little outtake.  Clearly, my photographer takes things very seriously.

I hope you're having a wonderful weekend!  Visit Fine Linen and Purple for more Mass outfit inspiration!

Friday, February 8, 2013

7 Quick Takes, Volume 14

{story of a soul, condensed}

Visit Jen at Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes!

{1} Andrew and I are teaching our first NFP class tomorrow!  It's been almost a year since we became certified, so I'm more than a little nervous.  Pray for us!

{2} At this time next week, I'll be in Albuquerque, New Mexico!  I'm so looking forward to turning Andrew's work trip into a little Valentine's Day getaway and to taking plenty of pictures.  Deme has been so sweet in sharing some of her favorite local restaurants and activities with me, and we're excited to meet for a little date...can you help me add to my to-do list?

{3}  On a sort of similar note, I was reading an article recently where the author shared 10 things he does on every trip, like bringing home some local honey and wandering by foot, not just in a car.  I'm not super frequent traveler, but I'd love to know: do you have any little travel rituals like these?  I'd love to adopt them myself!  Generally, I try to never eat at a chain while I'm in a new city (with, since I'm from the East Coast, the exception of In-N-Out Burger), and I love to explore thrift stores and flea markets in other parts of the country.

{4} My friend Tara and I just spent an evening making Valentines.  Andrew goes to a men's group at our church once a week, and on the night when he's out, I usually end up doing something he'd never enjoy, like watching Dawson's Creek (I know...) while I give myself a manicure.  It was so nice having someone to share the girliness with!

{5} As Lent approaches, I have to admit that I haven't given much thought or prayer yet to what I'll be doing this year.  In the past, I've given up makeup, given up shopping, and tried, several times, to read St. Faustina's Diary before Divine Mercy Sunday (I've never finished it!); I haven't decided yet if these particular sacrifices will have the same fruits for me now as they did when I chose them.  I get that, by nature, Lenten promises can be more of a private thing, but if you feel like sharing yours, I'd be happy to hear about them and to join you in prayer.

{6} I just finished the book Beyond the Sling, about a method of parenting called attachment.  Attachment parenting seems to mirror a fair amount of practices that are popular among Catholic moms, like natural birth, breastfeeding, homeschooling, and wearing your baby often in a sling or carrier.  I wasn't sure I agreed entirely with all the aspects of the book, but I did really enjoy reading it, and it helped me realize that while books are one thing, real-life parenting is another--to me, it seems not just okay, but healthier even, not to exclusively subscribe to one parenting label or method.  Your thoughts?  I would be so interested to hear them!

{7} Maybe I made my Valentines already, but after I found this roundup of chic/adorable/delicious-looking Valentine's Day ideas, I knew I couldn't stop at cards.  Have a look!  This is seriously one of the sweetest Valentine project collections I've ever seen.  I definitely have my eye on those arrows... 

Have a wonderful weekend!  Anything exciting going on?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Inspired: The Rehearsal Dinner

{wedding candy}

Of course, one of the biggest wedding-day things whirling through your mind is that gorgeous white gown, and why wouldn't it be?  Consider, though, your rehearsal dinner: some family members will be meeting for the first time, eyes will be on you and your almost-hubs, and even if you're planning on an early bedtime, it's a night to celebrate.  If you have the time and the budget, I think your rehearsal is the perfect occasion to treat yourself to a fancy new frock.

So, what are you going to wear?

Left to right: Necklace, Peplum Dress, Pumps.  Sunglasses, Dress, Boots.  Clutch, Tunic Dress, Shoes.  Cocktail Ring, Dress, Shoes.  Polish, Maxi Dress, Sandals.
What do you think?  Do you have your rehearsal wear picked out yet?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Happy Birthday, Captive the Heart!

 Oh my goodness.  Yesterday, this little project of mine turned a year old (I feel like I'm talking about my child...)!  In the past 366 days (2012 was a Leap Year, remember), Captive the Heart has become so special to me for the friendships and community I've found.  Even while I wished otherwise, I never would've guessed that anyone besides my husband, and maybe my mom, would receive what I write.  So humbled by you for every visit and every comment--I love hearing what you have to say, and I pray that in its tiny way, this blog has borne some fruit in your engagement or your life in general.

From my heart to yours, thanks so much for accompanying me on this adventure.  Cheers, you beautiful girls!


P.S. Did you catch my informal survey last week about how to make Captive the Heart better and fresher?  Your input would mean the world to me.  Pretty please!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

What I Wore Sunday, Volume 12: The Weather Outside Is Frightful

An entire weekend's worth of snow derailed my plans to watch my friend make her first profession as a Poor Clare nun this weekend.  I've tried, somewhat successfully and, admittedly, somewhat resentfully, to offer the pain of not being there for the fulfillment of her vocation.  Join me in praying for Sr. Mary Damiana of the King of Glory?

We like to walk to Mass.  Even when it's cold and precipitating.  You don't have rain boots for nothing, right?

Sweater, Land's End.  Shirt, Gap (from the Boys' Department!).  Jeans and belt, Forever 21.  Pearls, DIY.  Headband, Gap (from the Women's Department).  Boots (below), Hunter (Hers), L.L. Bean (His).

Oh, and don't worry; I wore a coat when we weren't taking pictures.  See?

Visit Fine Linen and Purple for more Mass outfit inspiration!  And while you're here, it'd make my day if you'd give me your two cents in making Captive the Heart fresher and better as it turns a year old!

Happy Sunday, and Happy Superbowl.  Despite being a few states away this year, this born-and-bred Maryland girl knows who she's rooting for!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Project 2013: February

{a month-by-month shine-up}

Last month, I introduced you to my revised approach to New Year's Resolutions: a monthly project focusing on a specific interest or habit, rather than the overwhelming, whole-year's-worth list I typically tend to struggle with.  My January goal was to recommit to better habits, physically and spiritually, that I let slide during the busy holidays.  Here's how I fared:

Set, and stick to, a regular bedtime and wakeup: I cannot tell a lie.  I still fail big-time on this.  When your husband is up late grading papers and you want to talk to him, or when it's so cold out that you eat dinner in bed for a week (true story), wrapped in blankets, getting into or out of bed is no small task.  I'm trying to keep at this, though.  For most of January, I treated my sleeping and waking times a little arbitrarily, but I want to treat them as more concrete.  Just because it's a new month, I shouldn't abandon all of my previous hopes, right?  

Say a daily rosary: I've loved praying the rosary more frequently.  I've noticed a huge change in my workday when I say it in the car while I drive.  My days aren't necessarily less busy or less filled with the noise of life, but they are so much more peaceful.  Things run more smoothly.  I react less to stress and to other people's requests.  Even on busier days, I have a sense of calm that wasn't there before.  At this time in my life, as my husband and I discern where we'll go if he's accepted to a PhD program and when to start a family, I'm so content to keep myself in Mary's womb.

Floss: Check.  For the most part.

Exercise: Aside from sleep, this was probably the January resolution I was most excited about.  In high school and college, I was very active, but working a 9-5 desk job and living in a wind-y, hilly neighborhood with varying degrees of safety makes it hard to go for walks or runs.  I anticipate that in the springtime, Andrew and I can go back to our frequent long bike rides along the trail that runs through our town, but until then, I'll have to stick with my workout DVDs (actually stick to them, that is--I thought twice a week was a nice, minimal commitment, but I've struggled even with that!) and the occasional dance-along to Just Dance clips on YouTube.  If I can stick to an earlier wake-up, in fact, I'd love to start working out in the morning.  It's that darn getting started!  Any ideas for staying accountable?

Create an organizing system for Christmas decorations: Well...I had every intention of doing this.  The containers I ordered for my ornaments and decorations arrived squashed!  The lids can't fit on the boxes, so our tree is still standing tall in the living room (don't worry; it's fake) until I replace them.  

So, all in all, January was a semi-success, I think, but I've really been trying to view these lessons as a school of discipline for the sake of holiness.  I struggle so much with time and with following through on things I set out to do, and I hope all these aspirations are purifying me.  For now, at least I'm praying and have clean gums.

On Monday, this humble little blog of mine will be one year old!  I've gone from knowing nothing whatsoever about blogging to knowing slightly more than nothing, and have been so thankful for the community of Catholic young women I've found.  I'm so looking forward to spending this month giving Captive the Heart a little makeover and getting a little more social media savvy.  By the way, are any Blogger users out there having trouble, like me, applying changes to your blog templates?  I've read that most browsers don't get along with Blogger's system, and it's frustrating.  I'd be so thankful for any of your advice!

As I start February's little adventure, I'd love your input!  Tell me, and don't be afraid to be real: What do you most enjoy reading on Captive the Heart?  What do you think is missing?  Any features that are just meh to you?  To get you started, here are a few more specific questions...

1. Rite Resources: Yay or nay?  I feel like I'm always stumbling across pretty/functional/helpful things that I want to share with you, but I never want to pretend like I can afford extravagance or come off as too attached to worldly things.  What's more, for the sake of transparency, I hope it's clear that everything I feature is something I genuinely like, and am not getting any kind of incentive to endorse.  So, should I ditch this feature?  Would you like to see things presented differently?

2. On the subject of fashion posts, specifically What I Wore Sunday, what's your take?  I'm ridiculously awkward in front of the camera (how do full-time style bloggers just pose away while people walk by?), and I've been wrestling lately with whether I'm participating in this linkup with pure intentions to evangelize and cultivate beauty through fashion, or if it's for the sake of my own affirmation.  Do these posts seem honest and genuine to you, or do they put more of a distance between us? I realize there might be some divisive opinions here, but don't hold back!  I love hearing what you have to say, for good or for bad.

3. On the flip side, blogging about weddings is a tricky balance: there's an inherent need to talk about stuff, rather than about myself, but I've noticed in the last year that my spirituality and a few stories have snuck their way into my writing very naturally.  That said, what do you want to hear about my normal life?  Do you want to hear about it?  I'm blissfully content, though I can't say I'm consistently fascinating.  Do tell!

It would seriously make my day to hear what you think!  Help me make Captive the Heart fresher and more focused, and meanwhile, pardon any disorder as I attempt to redesign this thing.  Beautiful readers, here's to you.

P.S. I know we're already a month into the new year, but if you want to join me in this little project, check later this week for templates to list your own resolutions!

7 Quick Takes, Volume 13

{story of a soul, condensed}

Pieces of my life, here and there, this and that.  Visit Conversion Diary for more!

1. I spent last weekend gallivanting around Washington, D.C. for a little reunion with my college friends.  All of us are married now, which is still so crazy to me considering how many hours my girlfriends and I would spend wondering about our future husbands, and we're embarking on a new tradition of taking turns hosting a dinner party every few months as a way to stay in touch (remember when I asked you for reunion ideas)?.  My friend Siobhan is an amazing hostess who set the bar very, very high for this maiden voyage--there were bacon-wrapped appetizers, people.  So, so much fun.

2. I am constantly overbooking myself...the day after this lovely, lovely dinner, Andrew and I spent the afternoon with Sara, another of my most precious friends, eating frittata, exploring a vintage bookstore, running into a few friends who were still in town after the March for Life, and wandering through an outdoor flea market featuring cheese, jewelry, homemade soaps, toys, inauguration paraphernalia...where else, I ask you, can you find all of that in one place?  I found out that day, too, that Sara's roommate is none other than Christina, The Evangelista!  If you've never visited her site, which is all about fashion, authentic beauty, and (kindred spirit alert) Christina's musings on the literature and philosophy articles she rounds up, check it out.  These are a few shots from their gorgeous apartment and our afternoon wanderings.

3. For when I have some freer weekends, I'm so happy to have discovered this, a weekly list of five inspiring weekend suggestions.  It's like a to-do that I actually want to do.  Glitter manicure?  Ice cream tasting party?  Wandering through my town with a piping hot cup of coffee?  Yes, please!  Tell me: what's your favorite weekend adventure?

4. My two best friends and I have a new hobby: frequent workday emails in which we discuss our newest crunchy discoveries in the worlds of beauty and cleaning products.  We're all on the hunt lately for clean makeup that's not too expensive or ineffective.  We've stumbled across this, this, and this, and I'd love to find more!  Do you have a favorite naturally-based beauty line?

5. My best friend Beth's little sister, Joan, entered the Poor Clares, a cloistered religious order, three years ago and is about to make her first profession this weekend.  Basically, she's committing to living out the vows of the order for the next three years before taking final vows.  Since her order is cloistered, I've felt so much of the same ache as Beth that Joan will essentially live the rest of her life in her monastery, rather than in the world and in close contact with her family and friends.  Visits like the one this weekend are rare, and it will be my first time seeing her since she entered.  Join me in lifting up these sisters, and Beth and Joan and their family, in prayer this weekend!

6. I first heard of Mike Mangione and The Union on a Theology of the Body retreat I attended two years ago, and have been listening to this song on repeat this week.  I love their lyrics on our desire for the infinite, for Heaven, in spite of our brokenness and the sometimes-destructive choices we make.  So Theology of the Body, don't you think?  Beauty.

7. Did you catch my New Year's resolution project last month?  Instead of making a laundry list of life improvements to tackle all at once, I've broken things down into monthly projects.  I plan to spend February focusing on my blogging and social media savvy.  Click here to read more about it and to give me your two cents with a little informal survey!

Have a wonderful weekend!  What are you up to?


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