Tuesday, December 29, 2015

My 15 Favorite Photos From 2015

love taking photos. I love the ability a picture has to take you back in time to a place or moment. I love the different ways you can capture light and color. I love the amount of emotion photos can encapsulate. I love the stories they tell. And I could keep going on and on about my love for photography.

So, rather than write a traditional list of memories from 2015 (or perhaps in addition to - I haven't quite decided...) I wanted to share some of them via photo. And though a picture is worth a thousand words, below I included brief explanations for each image if you were curious to know more.

Row 1:

Last January I traveled to South Korea to visit an old roommate who was teaching there for the year. She welcomed me into her home and we spent just over a week exploring the beautiful (and HUGE) city of Seoul. The first photo is from Gyeongbokgung Palace which was gorgeous. The grounds were breathtaking and the colors were magnificent.
While I was in South Korea, a good friend and mentor from undergrad graciously traveled up to meet me in Seoul. We met up at Myeongdong Cathedral, had dinner and wandered around the city. It was such a blessing to see him.
In March, one of my best friends from high school flew into San Francisco for a long weekend visit. It was so much fun to show her where I'm living now and have some good quality time together. The selfie was taken after a long walk/hike up to Indian Rock in Berkeley. It's a beautiful spot in the hills with a gorgeous view of the Bay.

Row 2:

One of my housemates ran her first half marathon in April and convinced me to run with her. It was too late in the game to train for a half, so I agreed to run the 10k. The race was in Santa Cruz right along the coast line on a perfect, clear day.
The sunsets from my apartment are unreal. This one is from either May or June and other than cropping, it isn't edited. Crazy, right?!
At the end of June a group of classmates and I set off to hike the Ignatian Camino in Spain. This is our group visiting the home of St. Ignatius in Loyola a few days before we officially began our journey. I couldn't have asked for a better group of fellow pilgrims.

Row 3:

Our Camino Ignaciano crossed paths with the more famous Camino de Santiago. This tile helps to show pilgrims the way. Naturally, St. Ignatius chose to walk in the exact opposite direction of the other pilgrims of his time.
My professor with a walking stick and her grandmother's rosary - possibly my favorite photo of the trip.
After the Camino, I worked as an au pair in Italy for the rest of the summer. This photo is of my Italian Family and me after a beautiful hike in the mountains of Santa Stefano. My au pair experience was amazing because of their love and hospitality. I miss them so much!

Row 4:

I had weekends off in Italy, so I was able to do a bit of traveling, including a visit to the five villages of Cinque Terre. This photo is of Monarola which was even more beautiful in person.
Taking care of a toddler with a language barrier was a real challenge, but I wouldn't trade one minute of the time I got to spend with this peanut.
Il Duomo di Firenze was absolutely amazing. To be honest, Florence was never on my list of places to visit, but boy am I glad that I did. I was only there for a weekend, but it may have become my favorite city in Italy.

Row 5:

For my last week of travel this summer I headed to Poland. My grandfather past away two years ago this New Years and I really wanted to travel to the country his parents were from. While I was there I took a day trip to Wadowice, the city where Saint John Paul II grew up. If you're in Krakow and interested at all in JPII, I would highly suggest taking the trip. The town is adorable and the museum they recently opened to commemorate him is really well done.
I finally visited Yosemite National Park in October for a hike with friends. Lucky for us it had rained a ton the weekend before so we were able to see Yosemite Falls. I am definitely planning to visit again before graduating.
The last image, though the size makes it difficult to see, is from my house's retreat in early December. We traveled up to Fort Bragg to see Glass Beach and spent the day exploring and climbing. This particular picture involved setting up my tripod and seeing how fast my housemate could make it up the rocks to join the group photo. We took some nicer ones too, but the funny one is by far my favorite.

And that's it. 15 wonderful memories forever saved in 15 beautiful photos. It was a lot of fun sorting through the thousands of photos from the year (...I wish I was joking). I would definitely suggest going through yours and doing the same!

Side Note: This is my 100th post on Simply Sarah! It's been so much fun sharing pieces of my life with you all and I can't wait to see how we grow in the new year! Thanks so much for reading, it means the world!


** Linking up with New Wife-Style for #15by15in15

Monday, December 28, 2015

5 Weekly Graces Vol. 10

Joy to the world friends!

Christmas this year has been extra merry and filled with love. In fact, last week was so joyful that I had a tough time choosing only 5 moments of grace - what a great problem to have! As the Christmas celebration continues, I am very excited for more time with loved ones and relaxation.

1) Christmas

Our Christmas traditions pretty basic, but I always look forward to the time with family. On Christmas Eve we gather at my grandma's house for a light dinner and share gifts with the extended family. Then on Christmas day I go to mass with my grandma and then we head to dinner at my aunt and uncle's house (basically a second Thanksgiving). Nothing fancy, but now that I live so far from home, Christmas is the only time of year I get to see everyone so I really treasure this time spent together.

For those who celebrate, I hope your Christmas has been just as full of life and joy.

2) Time Spent with Friends

On the eve of Christmas Eve (aka Wednesday) I was blessed with a day full of friendship. It started with some laser tag followed by a delicious lunch at Cornerstone Brewing Co. in Berea. Then after picking up the last of my Christmas gifts (#procrastinationwins) I went and watched the Cavs beat the Knicks in a great game at the Q. And to top it off, we walked through PlayHouse Square on our way back to the car to see all of the Christmas lights and decorations. Such a great day, but gosh did it make me miss Cleveland!

3) Always, Always, Always a Bridesmaid

(Name that movie!)

My cousin and her high school sweetheart got engaged this summer and on Christmas she presented me with an adorable gift box filled with chocolate and wine (she knows me well) asking me to be one of her bridesmaids. I am so honored to be a part of her special day. This will be my 6th time as a bridesmaid (7th if you count being a flower girl) and every time I am asked I am just so humbled and grateful that these beautiful women want to spend their day with me by their side. Such an honor.

4) Star Wars

I'm a huge Star Wars nerd (#noshame) so obviously I had to see The Force Awakens while I was home. Lucky for me, my sister also loves the movies so we made it a sister date. I was very skeptical when I heard they would be making more movies, but have to admit that I was more than pleasantly surprised with how much I liked this new one. If you haven't seen it, I would definitely recommend it.

There's a point in the movie where a character dramatically says, "May the force be with you," to which I immediately leaned over to my sister and said, "And with your spirit." Gotta love Catholic jokes :P

5) Run.

This past semester was one of the most academically challenging I have had. Between the astronomical amounts of reading on top of work, I had very little time for anything else which meant I didn't run and I really missed it. For me, running is not only a great source of exercise, but also a huge stress reliever. I am by no means good at it, but I always enjoy the sense of accomplishment I feel after a run. So last week I hopped on the treadmill (thanks for the rain Ohio...) and have slowly been getting back into my rhythm and boy does it feel good.

Where did you find joy in life last week?


**Linking Up with Ember Grey

Sunday, December 27, 2015

December Budget

I'm a few days late, but for those who celebrate Christmas, I hope you had a very merry one!

I intentionally took a few days off from blogging to be more present to family and friends and boy was it lovely. Being home has been so much fun and other than the lack of snow (get it together Ohio!) this Christmas break has been top-notch -- more on that and a few other new projects I'm working on later this week.

Today I am linking up with Fran over at Franish in December's Monthly Budget Review.

1. Old Navy Black Sueded Dressy Ankle Booties - $42.94 (40% off + 10% off) $23.19...
...but, I had $25 in rewards, so I added a pair of fuzzy fox socks and paid $0.97 for the two!
They're sold out in black and have very few in burgundy, but you can find similar ones here and here.

2. Old Navy Black Jersey Leggings - $24.94 on sale for $10

3. Old Navy Metallic Scrunch Ballet Flats - $24.94 on sale for $10 

 And an Ohio State Winter Hat from Marshalls (similar) - $9.95

Total - $30.92

All-in-all, not bad. Like many of you, my budget this time of year is dedicated to Christmas gifts for loved ones. I  had hoped not to spend anything on myself, but I am very happy with what I did buy. 

The booties were exactly the style I have been searching for and I was in need of another pair of nice, thick leggings since I wear my other pair all the time. The flats were definitely more of a want than a need, but with the amount off times I have already worn them (for example), they were well worth the $10. 

The OSU hat speaks for itself ;) Let's go Bucks!

I was also very blessed with some wonderful Christmas gifts that I am sure will make an appearance here in some way or another. 

Were you able to stay on track with your budget this month? What was your favorite deal?

Thanks for reading!


** Linking up with Fran.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

How To Make A Latte - At Home!

Y'all I spend way to much on coffee at Starbucks, Peet's, and just about every other coffee shop out there #caffeinaddict. And apart from the seasonal fancy-drink (I'm looking at you PSL), I typically just order a plain latte which is really just espresso and milk. Cheaper than many options, yes, but still overpriced and those cups add up!

I was talking about this to a friend of mine and she told me a secret that has since blown my mind and saved me money. You can make a latte at home - without a fancy machine! And it is incredibly easy!

Begin by brewing your espresso - or really strong coffee if you're like me and don't have an espresso maker (though then it's technically a cafe au lait with a lot of foam...)

To make the hot milk and foam, you will need a tall, microwaveable container with a lid. This could be a mason jar (you'll remove the cap) or even a plastic Tupperware.

Pour the desired amount of milk into the container, but be sure to leave a good amount of room for the foam to expand. Put on the lid and shake until you notice it's becoming foamy - roughly a minute. Then remove the lid and microwave the milk for about 45 seconds. Once it's done you will have a good amount of foam and some nice hot milk.

Next, fill your mug with the desired amount of espresso/coffee. Hold back the foam with a spoon as you add the amount of hot milk you would like. Then use the spoon to add your desired amount of foam and voila!

(If you want to get fancy, you can also sprinkle on a topping like cinnamon or cocoa. Yum.)

And there you have it. A quick, simple way to drink your coffee at home and save some extra cash.

Are there any other caffein addicts out there who've tried this method or know of any others?


**Linking up with #RecipeoftheWeek, Two Cup Tuesday, Whimsy Wednesdays and Create-Link-Inspire

Sunday, December 20, 2015

5 Weekly Graces Vol. 9

Hello friends! I hope you all had incredible weekends and that this week is already looking amazing.

(Before I forget, today is the last day to enter the Rooney and Renee Disney T-Shirt Giveaway, so if you're interested in winning a great, Disney inspired T-shirt, be sure to enter!)

Last week was a whirlwind of preparations for the end of the semester and the holidays. It was fairly stressful, but everything fell into place and now I am peacefully writing this post at my grandma's house, enjoying tiny bits of snow and lots of Christmas lights and decorations.

And now that I've had a moment to sit down, relax, and reflect on the week, I am so incredibly grateful for all of the wonderful things that happened and the amazing people I have in my life!

So, here they are, 5 wonderful moments in my life last week.

1. I'm home!

I arrived in Ohio on Wednesday evening and am thrilled to be back in town. I haven't been home since August, so it's been a while! I would definitely prefer more snow, but even just the crisp, winter air feels great. Plans for my visit seem to be a nice balance of fun and relaxation with some great friends and family, which has proven to be the case even in the 4 full days that I've been here.

 2. Finals are finished!

I wasn't officially done with everything when I flew home which means my first few days were devoted to writing. My carryon bag was literally filled with books which was a real treat to carry... But I am done! That's right, I am one semester closer to graduating and boy am I excited. Only one more semester and comprehensive exams. Bring. It. On.

3. Sister Time

My little sister was in NYC the first few days I was in town so I didn't see her until Saturday. As a souvenir, she thoughtfully went to St Patrick's Cathedral and to bring me some holy water - super sweet and kind. However, she did not realize that the bottle did not already have water inside and that she needed to fill it. So, when she handed me the empty bottle and I explained it to her that it was in fact empty, we spent a solid 20 minutes laughing. I'm still laughing a little as I type this. It's the thought that counts, right?

4. Google Hangouts 

My friends from college and I have a monthly Google Hangout where about 10 of us video chat for an hour or so about life and how we are doing. Modern technology is AMAZING! I've missed the past couple of months due to prior commitments, so it was a treat to get to join in on this month's. It will be even more of a treat on New Year's Eve when I get to see a lot of them face-to-face!

5. Joyous Reunions

Last, but certainly not least, on Saturday one of my best friends and mentors from undergrad hosted a party for his 35th birthday. The evening began with mass in the school chapel (my absolute favorite) and continued into one of the conference rooms for dinner and out for after-dinner drinks at our usual spot.

My heart was so full the entire night. Not only was I able to visit my alma mater (which was decorated for Christmas and covered in snow!!), but I also got to spend the evening surrounded by so many good friends and mentors who were all joined together to celebrate the life of one of the best people I know. I'm beaming with joy just thinking about it!

Such a beautiful start to Christmas vacation. I cannot wait to see what else the next two weeks have in store!

Where did you find grace last week?


**Linking up with Ember Grey for Grateful Heart Monday

Saturday, December 19, 2015

A Meaningful Holiday Gift Guide

Can you believe there are only 6 days until Christmas?! That's right, 6. Less than a week! And if you're anything like me, you probably still have a lot that needs to get done.

A few of my friends from college organized a challenge through The Living Person inviting everyone to have all of their shopping and wrapping done 10 days before Christmas in order to be present during the holiday. But between traveling home to Ohio and finals week, there was no way I was going to have it done. Plus, the majority of my gifts are cards with IOU's (the classiest of course) until I get back from my trip to the Holy Land - only just over 2 weeks until we leave!!! - and that just seemed like cheating.

So now it's my second day home and I am searching the web for those last few presents as I attempt to recover from almost pulling an all-nighter to finish a research paper (#youwinagainprocrastination #imtoooldforthis). There are so many beautifully put-together posts out there: what to get for him, what to get for the book-lover, what to get your in-laws, etc. and they all have really great options that I would never have thought of (and some that are pretty obvious). But I haven't really seen a meaningful gift guide.

We get so wrapped up (pun intended) in the glitz and glam of the season that we can forget that it's not about the biggest or best present, but about those we spend time with.

Giving gifts to those we love can be very meaningful and a ton of fun. I absolutely love carefully selecting presents that I know someone will enjoy. So rather than be unrealistic by scrapping the whole gift-giving thing entirely, why not try to make your gifts more meaningful this year with gifts that give back?

Here are just a few suggestions.

1. FEED - Voyager Tote - With the purchase of this stylish tote, you provide 35 school meals for children around the world. Each item purchased through FEED is a fight against world hunger and every item includes just how many people you are helping to feed.

2. Ornaments for Orphans - Stuffed Elephant - There are over 150 million orphans worldwide and the purchase of these handcrafted, Fair Trade ornaments helps to employ local artisans and provide them with fair wages.

3. Mata Traders - Afternoon Allure Dress - This is one of my favorite Fair Trade clothing lines. I almost bought this exact dress on Small Business Saturday, but they did not have my size. Mata Traders and their beautiful goods ared geared toward empowering women, and "merge uncommonly vibrant style with fair trade practices to make an impact on global poverty - bringing living wages to artisans in India and Nepal."

4. St. Jude Children's Research Hospital - Black Plaid Scarf - St. Jude's is an organization near and dear to my family's heart so every year we try to give back by direct donation, purchasing from their gift shop, or both. They have beautiful gifts - especially around Christmas time where you can find ornaments and other items decorated with the artwork of some of their patients

5. Ten Thousand Villages - Peace Lotus Candleholder - Ten Thousand Villages is a Fair Trade store that can be found across the country and their products can also be found in other stores as well. They always have beautiful, unique items for any time of year and shopping fair trade is an easy way to ensure your gifts are providing fair wages to those who make them.

6. Unlock Hope - Human Kind Be Both Long Sleeve Tee- Unlock Hope is an organization dedicated to giving girls in Uganda the same opportunities as boys. Partnered with Think Humanity, they provide health care, good food, and a safe place to live as they earn better education. When you purchase one of their products, you are directly providing funds for housing, food, educators, etc.

There are SO many organizations trying to make a difference in the world and many receive a lot of the funding they need from products like these. If you want an even more direct option of giving, Catholic Relief Services offers the Gift of Hope through your purchase of on-the-ground needs, like a sewing machine for young entrepreneurs, or uniforms and tuition for students to receive an education.

Another great option would be for you and your loved one to spend an evening working at a local shelter or perhaps visiting those in a nursing home without family to spend the holidays with.

The options are limitless. What are your favorite ways to give back this season?


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Don't Just Fly, Soar! - And a Give Away!!

Like many of you, I am a Disney fanatic. I have used precious memory space on way to many quotes and songs from countless Disney films and always find joy and laughter while watching them. I've also found an appreciation for some of the references to pop culture or other jokes that were completely over my head as a child. There's always something new to catch and I love it!

So, when I was presented with the chance to try out one of Rooney and Renee's new Disney themed tees, I was thrilled to say yes!

Rooney and Renee's store has lots of cute tops for both him and her! I selected the "Don't Just Fly" tee in light grey mainly because I absolutely love Dumbo, but also because the script on the shirt was so pretty.

It's a classier, simple take on a graphic tee that allows you to still embrace your inner child while dressing like an adult.

The shirt was a bit larger than I anticipated - the woman's cut is closer to the typical men's in sizing fyi - but I was able to work with it. And the material is so incredibly soft that I didn't want to change out of the top at the end of the day!

Tee: c/o Rooney & Renee (exact)
Jean Jacket: Hand-Me-Down (similar)
Skirt: Gap (similar)
Shoes: Old Navy (exact)
Purse: Thrifted (similar)
Spoon Ring: Gifted (another option)
Necklace: Old Navy (similar)

Rooney and Renee has graciously offered to gift one of my readers with their very own t-shirt! Be sure to enter below!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

 **This post was sponsored by Rooney and Renee. All opinions are entirely my own.

** Linking up with Sydney Fashion Hunter, Pumps and Pushups, The Pleated Poppy, Curly Crafty Mom, Mix&Match Fashion and Style Elixir

Monday, December 14, 2015

5 Weekly Graces Vol. 8

Yesterday marked the half-way point in the Advent Season, Gaudete Sunday (one of my favorites). This is a day where we are called to pause for a moment in our Advent waiting and penance and be joyful, remembering the love of God and all that God has done and continues to do for us.

As I wrote this post and reflected on the good in my life last week, I made sure to search for the joy. There is so much negative in the world that could put us in a slump of despair, but there's also so much joy to be found! And though sometimes it is hard to seek out that joy, when it is found it helps create a whole new outlook and positive perspective.

Gaudete Sunday has once again come and gone, but I hope that you all continue to seek joy, friends.

1) Joy

Keeping in theme, the first grace I want to focus on is joy. This week there have been so many moments of laughter with friends and so many memories made. On retreat last weekend I mentioned to my housemates that I am not very good at remembering the specifics of our times together, but I always remember feeling joy and that is such a gift.

2) Spiritual Direction

A few posts back I mentioned that I was searching for a new spiritual director and was able to get an appointment with a women that many in my school rave about. Well, on Tuesday I had my first meeting with her and it was so beautiful. I went in thinking we might focus on a particular prayer experience last month, but instead she drew me deeper into an experience I hadn't even paid much attention to. I left our meeting exhausted in the most beautiful way. After years of searching for a director I work well with, I think I have found one!

3) Hockey

I went to my first hockey game with a great group of friends on Saturday. One of my roommates is a student from Germany and has wanted to see a hockey game for years. The excitement on her face alone made the whole trip worth it. Surprisingly, I didn't mind the game either and am extremely impressed with the players' coordination and ability to skate so well.

4) Immersions Under Way

After months of planning, this weekend we sent off our winter cycle of immersion participants on their trips. It is always a huge relief once they are on their way and leaves our office with a sense of accomplishment. Many prayers for the students and those they encounter on their journeys.

And now we begin preparation for the Spring Break trips...

5) Finals

Ok ok, finals week is not the most exciting and I don't feel completely prepared (yet), however as I was going through my syllabi (which is just a fun word in general) I noticed that two of the papers I have due are significantly easier shorter than I thought. Super exciting and such a stress reliever!

I fly home on Wednesday and hope to take as little home to finish as possible. Time to get stuff done!

What were you graced with this week?


** Linking up with Ember Grey and Faith and Fellowship

Friday, December 11, 2015

Product Review: Oz Naturals Matrix 6 Bright Eye-Gel

I naturally have really dark circles under my eyes. I inherited them from my grandfather, and even if I am very well rested, I still look like I'm running on low sleep. Throw in an actual lack of sleep and a bit of aging, and well, it's not a pretty sight.

At first, I thought the solution to my problem would be a good concealer. I only just recently began really wearing makeup and still keep it pretty minimal, so I decided to ask a cosmetologist about the dark circles and what could be done. Her immediate question was if I used an eye cream.

Eye cream?

"My mom wears eye cream..." I thought to myself. Surely I am too young to wear eye cream!

But knowing that I should leave anything beauty product related to the professionals, I made a note that, yes, I needed to start trying an eye cream. Not only to lighten my dark circles, but to protect that sensitive area of skin from all of the damage from the sun and computer screen.

Lucky for me, only days after this realization I was presented with an opportunity to try out the OZ Naturals Matrix 6 Mega Bright Eye Gel in exchange for an honest review of the product. It was perfect timing.

And I have to admit, I was pretty excited to try a new type of beauty product and see how it would work out.

And so, here is my review of the OZ Naturals Matrix 6 Mega Bright Eye Gel:


The product was very easy to apply and you didn't need a lot of it which meant the bottle would last a while.

It's under $20. While many other similar products cost upwards of $40, this is much more reasonable for my graduate student budget and lifestyle.

It didn't really have a scent which I loved because I'm particular about smells (especially around my face).

It can be used on more parts of your skin including your forehead and cheeks. Not areas of interest to me yet, but definitely a benefit.


There was a bit of effort involved in figuring out how to get the bottle to pump out the gel the first time. Once it was working, it was easy-peasy though.

After application my eyes felt a bit sticky. And as it dried, the skin around my eyes felt a bit tight and uncomfortable. I don't know if the tightness is meant to occur, but I was not a fan.

It also left a weird sort of residue on my skin that almost looked like a thin face-mask you were meant to peal off. Not cute.

All in all, I don't know that I really saw results. If I didn't have such an aversion to the way it makes my skin feel (I have a weird thing with textures...) I would probably continue to use it and look more closely at progressing results.

But for now, I am back to the eye cream drawing board. Does anyone have a good, budget-friendly suggestion of one to try?


**This post was sponsored by Oz Naturals. All opinions are entirely my own.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Peace Be With You

Peace I leave you, my peace I give you...

I need peace.

We need peace.

Our world needs peace.

This week's prompt for the #BISSisterhood is, you guessed it, peace.

Normally to prepare for these posts, I look up the prompt about before the post date and spend about a week praying about what to write. There have been prompts where I've know immediately what I will share, and others where I've worried nothing will come in time. But it always does.

Yet on this topic of peace, I remain speechless.

It's not that I have no thoughts about the subject. I've written, reflected, and given talks about it numerous times. I have notes on inspiring workers for peace, marked scriptures illuminating the peace of God, and reflective songs that continue the conversation of creating peace.

But today, as I reflect on our world - a world thirsting so desperately for peace - all I can do is sit and be still.

I cannot formulate the words to adequately express that desire for peace - that deep longing.

So rather than write to you about peace, in this moment I pray - and if you feel called, I invite you, too, to share in a prayer for peace.

Peace in our world.
Peace in our hearts.


*** Linking up with Blessed Is She and #BISsisterhood

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

From That To This: Christmas Cookies

Wow, it has been a long time since I posted a recipe here on the blog! I have still been working on my culinary skills, I promise. I just apparently haven't taken the time to document any of them.

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, last Wednesday I was graced with a bit of free time and decided to bake some cookies to share with my students. I may or may not have watched a cheesy Christmas movie via Netflix while doing so...

When I was growing up, one of my favorite things to do around Christmas time was bake cookies with my grandma. Each year she made trays upon trays of different, delicious cookies ranging from mini pecan tarts to "snowballs". Now that she's a bit older she doesn't bake as much, but she has me to carry on the tradition.

Of the many types of cookies she taught me to make, my favorites have always been the classic peanut butter cookies with a chocolate kiss in the middle. It's not the fanciest, or even the most original, but gee are they good!

And chances are, other than the Hershey kisses, you probably have all of the ingredients in your pantry already!

Creamy Peanut Butter
Brown Sugar
Baking Soda
Hershey Kisses

Begin by preheating your oven to 350 F.

Blend 1/2 cup peanut butter, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2cup brown sugar, and 1/2 cup butter until creamy. (You may want to make sure your butter is soft, especially if you do all of your mixing by hand.) Once smooth, mix in one egg and 1tsp vanilla.

In a separate bowl, sift together 1 1/3 cup flour, 1 tsp baking soda and 1/2 tsp salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until smooth.

Roll the cookie dough into about 1 inch balls and place them on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Be sure to leave a few inches of space between each ball because the cookies spread a good amount. You should get about 2 dozen from each batch.

Bake for about 10-13 minutes. Be sure to keep an eye out so your bottoms don't burn!

While the cookies are baking, unwrap enough Hershey kisses for each cookie to have 1 placed in the middle. Once cookies are out of the oven, gently place a Hershey kiss in each center.

What's your favorite Christmas cookie to bake? (Or eat!)

As always, feel free to message me with any questions.


ps Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception!!!

** I'm linking up with The Great Christmas Cookie Recipe Swap, Tasty Tuesday#RecipeoftheWeekDelicious Dish Tuesday, CraftyCurlyMom and the 12 Days of Blogmas. Be sure to check out the other awesome recipes shared!

Monday, December 7, 2015

5 Weekly Graces Vol. 7

Happy second week of Advent friends! My week was full of joy and friendship. We even had some cool weather that was perfect for sweaters, scarves and boots - my favorite!

I had a few presentations to prep for this week, which is why this post is up a little late. Gotta love grad school, am I right? But one of them is done (I literally just presented) and the other will be done by tomorrow night. So. Close.

Like usual, Monday means a recap of some awesome moments of goodness I've been reflecting on from last week. There's an added bonus (cough* cough *giveaway!) at the end of this post so make sure you read (or at least scroll) to the end.

1.) Good Conversation and Friendship

Staying in contact with friends can be a real challenge, particularly when you live on the other side of the country. Between living in Alaska for my JV year and now in California for school, I've definitely felt the struggle of scheduling catch-ups and phone dates - especially with the time zones. Every now in then, I have weeks where I am able to have genuine conversation with multiple friends from home and it is such a treat! I definitely felt that blessing of friendship this week and found myself super thankful for the wonders of modern technology that allows us to talk, text, and even see each other across the globe.

2.) The Joy of Baking Christmas Cookies

Wednesday morning I found myself with a bit of free time and decided to make my grandma's delicious peanut butter cookies with the Hershey kiss in the center for my student leader group meeting that night. (Ok, so the recipes for these classics probably don't vary much, but I will still stick to grandma's.)

I love to bake and this was a great excuse to do so. I will definitely be sharing this super easy recipe for the Christmas cookies everyone loves, so stay tuned!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

And So, We Hope.

I worry that I'm becoming jaded.

Okay, I worry about a lot of things, but lately this one has been at the front of my mind.

There's so much injustice in our world. So much violence. So much poverty. So much hatred. There's just so much. And sometimes it feels like it's too much. Too much to handle. Too much to fix. Too much to ever actually change.

Oh how I miss the days when I was bright-eyed,  and overly optimistic - ready and willing to go out into the world and make a difference. But as I grow older and witness more tragedy, more pain, more injustice, I sometimes feel that optimism shrinking...

And yet (thankfully) every time I think I've reached that point of no return, there is always something or someone who shines a light of hope - who inspires me with their optimism, with their care, with their talent - and lets me know that there is still good in the world. And that there is enough of it to make a change.

I work with students to address social justice issues and cultivate a deeper empathy and understanding of how we all fit together in our world. Learning about and witnessing heavy issues of hardship day in and day out certainly takes its toll on positivity and yet my students are constantly filled with a fire to be the change.

I often tease my them that they are the only reason I haven't given up on the world and retreated into a cave somewhere. They're still young. They still have that optimism. They are filled with passion and great ideas.

They give me hope.

And with that hope, I can feel my own optimism and passion begin to rejuvenate.

Hope and the rejuvenation that comes with it are key parts of this season of Advent. As Christians, we wait in hope for the coming of our Savior - in the celebration of his birth on Christmas, but also in anticipation for the coming of his Kingdom - on earth as it is in heaven.

We live in this tension of the already, but not yet. We know Christ has come and we faithfully hope and wait for the next arrival. In that tension, hope inspires action.

Advent is a time of active preparation. Yes, we wait, but we also work. We are called to prepare the way for the Lord. And so, we must ask ourselves: how can I help to bring about the Kingdom of God? How can I prepare our world to enter into Christ's peace? How can I show others the presence of God among us?

During this blessed season of Advent, let us not only prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus, but let us also focus on preparing our world. The troubles may seem endless and overwhelming, but I have hope and faith that with open hearts and the help of our Creator, we can create the way.

We can make a difference.

And so, we prepare and we hope.


***Linking up with Blessed is She and #BISsisterhood and Faith and Fellowship

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

5 Weekly Graces Vol. 6

Happy December!

Normally I post my round-up of blessings on Mondays, but because Fran's budget link-up was on Monday this month, I shifted this to Tuesday. Hooray for not having to adhere to a strict blogging schedule ;)

As I have been writing these weekly posts I am definitely noticing more consciously just how fortunate and blessed I am. Yes, I sometimes have to think a little harder for that 4th or 5th grace, but that forces me to take another few minutes of prayer and contemplation which always reveals more beautiful moments from my week.

Do you have any routines of reflecting on the good in your day?

1. Let's start with the obvious from this week: my mom's visit.

It was such a gift to have a piece of home with me on Thanksgiving this year, especially having it be my mom. I loved showing her my school, introducing her to my friends and roommates, and taking her to some of my favorite spots around town. She didn't really want to do any sight-seeing so we stayed in the East Bay and had a really chill, beautiful visit together.

2. Thanksgiving Day!

Thanksgiving itself was also full of grace. We began our day with mass at my school and a nice reception afterwards. Then we headed home to bake some rolls (a recipe I hope to share later) and relaxed until it was time to go to my friend's home for dinner. It was a small, potluck style meal full of beautiful dishes and colors. There was great conversation, lots of laughter, and lots of gratitude.

3. Rest.

Because I am still in school, I had Wednesday and Friday off as well as most of Tuesday! Not only did this break give me some quality time with my mom, but I was also able to just rest- a gift I used to take for granted. Could I have been working ahead on assignments and other projects? Sure. (And I probably should have.) But sometimes you just need to step back, lounge on the couch and breath.

4.  Babysitting.

With the last few packed weekends and then Thanksgiving week there was a pretty big gap in my babysitting routine. After a few weeks apart, Sunday I was able to reconnect with them for my usual 3 hour gig. Not only is it nice to get aways from campus and earn a little extra cash, but they are the absolute sweetest people and are like a second family to me out here.

5. Flying.

Lastly, I finally booked my flight home for Christmas. I've flown countless times (especially this year) but for whatever reason, as I booked my ticket this time, I felt a strong sense of gratitude for 1) being able to afford a ticket home 2) having access to such quick transportation cross-country and 3) the concept of flying itself. I mean, how cool is it that we (ok the planes) can fly?! It's amazing!

I'm also SUPER jazzed that Advent has begun, but will spare you repetitive rambling as I have already posted on this.

I hope you all have the space to stop, take a moment, and reflect on the many blessings in your days.


*** Linking up with The Awesome Link-upA Grateful Heart and #Keeping the Good

Monday, November 30, 2015

November Budget

Happy Monday friends! I hope your weeks are off to a stellar start! 

Can you believe that November is basically over? My roommate made the comment that it seems like we just blinked and the month was gone! And it's so true! What is it that always makes November fly by so quickly?

With the end of the month comes Fran's Budget Link-Up which is always a ton of fun. I made a few more purchases this month than in the past few and I'm pretty happy with the pieces. 

1) Old Navy Light Weight V-Neck Sweater -  ($26.94) $7.54

Very comfortable, but also cut very large. Definitely consider going down a size.

2) Gap Factory Always Skinny Jeans - ($59.99) $17.99

Love the color and cut of these jeans. They have a lot of stretch as you wear them, so you may need a size smaller than you think.

3) Old Navy Fleece Cowl Neck Tunic - ($36.94) $26.23

This is the most comfortable sweatshirt ever! Okay, maybe not ever, but it's definitely top 10. I was drawn to it because it is such a unique take on a typical sweatshirt with the cowl neck and zippers and as soon as I tried it on I knew it was coming home with me. I've already worn it too many times to count.

4) Vince Camuto Off the Shoulder High-Low Blouse (Marshalls) - available in blue here, petite here, and plus size here - ($79) $10

I purchased this top in an olive green from the sales rack at Marshalls. The color is fantastic and the sleeves can be worn off-the-shoulder or not which allows it to be more versatile. I paired it with my brown Express motto jacket this weekend for a day of exploring with my mom and got so many compliments. If you run by it in stores, give it a try!

5) Rent the Runway - ($375) $35

I shared a bit about my experience with RtR earlier this month in this post. Technically, with shipping it cost more, but because I also shared a dress with a friend, I thought I could let that slide.

Caslon Sweater (Nordstrom Rack) - very similar here  - ($68) $10.48

Another great sales rack find! Plus, it combines my love for oversized sweaters, decorative zippers, and mustard yellow! I have a strong feeling I'll be sharing an outfit post with this guy at some point.

Earrings bought at local Tibetan boutique in Berkeley - $5 each x2 = $10
While shopping local this Saturday, I came across some beautiful earrings outside of a little shop on College Ave in Berkeley. I was only going to get the diamond-shaped ones for $8, but when they told me about the 2 for $10 deal, I obviously had to pick out another pair.

Not Pictured:

Gap Factory Favorite Cami - ($16.99) $5.99

Standard cami. Great sale. Enough said.

Total: ($ 332.86***) $123.23 
*** I kept the RtR dress as $35 in both tallies, had I added the actual cost of the dress, the totals would show an even bigger difference between what the items cost and what I spent on them!

All in all, not too bad. I'm very happy with this month's purchases and even more happy about the Christmas gifts I bought for friends and family this weekend. I would post them, but that would ruin some surprises ;)


My mom graciously purchased a few items for me while she was in town for Thanksgiving and I wanted to share them here because they're technically part of my style intake this month.

Plus they're adorable!

Old Yak Bazaar Tunic #fairtrade!

I'm obsessed with this monogram necklace. It's very simple and dainty which is just my style. I now have the "S" :)

I'm not a huge fan of Black Friday shopping - though I'm loving Small Business Saturday - so the majority of my items were actually bought prior to Thanksgiving weekend. For those of you who did brave the lines, did you get any good deals??

Thanks for reading!


*** Linking up with Fran over at Franish

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Let the Advent-ures Begin!

Happy first day of Advent, friends! I hope you all had a restful Thanksgiving weekend filled with joy!

For those of you who haven't heard of Advent, in the Catholic Church it marks a season of waiting - waiting for Christ to come. (It is also celebrated in other Christian traditions, but I am not sure if all of the symbolism matches across the board, so I will only directly be speaking to the Catholic tradition. I'd love to learn more if any of y'all care to share!)

Advent begins on the Sunday closest to the Feast of St. Andrew (Nov. 30) and lasts for four Sundays. During Advent, we prepare ourselves for the arrival of our Savior on Christmas.  

As I mentioned in my recent post about Thankfulness, I am hoping to be more intentional about my personal preparation during this liturgical season this year. And in case any of you are interested in different ways to embrace a more intentional Advent this time around, I wanted to share some of the methods I am partaking in.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Small Business Saturday

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are some of the most known shopping days of the year, but there is another Thanksgiving weekend holiday that you may not have heard of:

Small Business Saturday.

There are so many reasons why it is a good idea to support small businesses in your neighborhood - and it can go beyond just buying food locally (though I do love me a good farmer's market)!

Here are just a few I can think of off the top of my head:

1) It boosts your local economy.

2) You often have a better idea of exactly where the money you are spending is going - especially if the store carries fair trade items.

3) It's a great way to build community. You'll often meet the owner of the establishment who may share with you the idea behind the store and why they began their journey in entrepreneurship.

4) Local stores can have more unique pieces that you won't have to worry about duplicating gifts.

This holiday season, why not make it an effort to shop locally where you can?

And just like any other shopping holiday around this time, many of your local businesses are offering great sales today!

For my Ohio/Cleveland friends, one of my favorite Fair Trade Stores, Revive, is offering 15% off of any purchase with the code:SHOPSMALL from now until Monday! I already have these beautiful earrings in my cart and this stunning dress might just have to come too.
If you're in the Berkeley area, there are tons of adorable boutiques and shops. My mom and I picked up a delicious smelling candle from The Old Yak Bazaar (another Fair Trade store!) on our walk around town yesterday. I'm already considering wandering back down the hill to snag this ring and this scarf.

Fourth Street in Berkeley is an adorable part of town with lots of local shops nestled amongst the bigger names. Mom treated me to a new calligraphy pen and ink from Castle in the Air. It's a shop you should venture into simply because of the marvelous decorations and amazing stationary pieces!

Not sure where to find a local business in your area? Try Yelp and Shift Your Shopping. And, as always, Google is a great help!

Think big. Shop Small.


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing you and all of your loved ones a very Happy Thanksgiving. I hope your days are filled with love and gratitude. (And lots of delicious food!)

Today I am grateful for family and friends - for the grace of God and endless mercy - for laughter, for joy, for lessons and for time. I'm grateful for the beauty of creation and the warmth of a kind hello - for all of those working for justice in our world and for the gift of inspiration.

I have been blessed with so many moments of love this year and it's such a treasure to be able to gather with those I hold dear and reflect on how we have grown this year and where we've noticed the unending love of God.

May we hold on to this grace of gratitude and share it as the year goes on.


**Linking up with Nikki on Thankful Thursday :)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year. There is something incredibly beautiful about gathering as friends and family to share moments of gratitude, big and small.

This year I am grateful to have my mom visiting me in California. I haven't celebrated a Thanksgiving with family since 2011, so her presence will be such a blessing. Our plans aren't completely sorted out yet (thank you giant research paper), but there will definitely be mass and dinner with friends.

If you read my blog somewhat regularly, you know that I like to start each week with a thankful heart by recording 5 Weekly Graces. Remembering to be grateful helps me to stay focused on the beauty in my life that might otherwise get pushed to the side with the hustle and bustle and stress of the everyday norm.

My new friend Nina (from Hugs and Lattes) has challenged me to be mindful of what I am grateful for this year by sharing a post with a #Thankful Heart. And since I have seen countless blogs that I follow participate in the Circle Link-Up of gratitude for November, I thought I would light two candles with one flame and link up with both!

Time - It is super easy to get bogged down and stressed in not having enough time to get from a-z or to do a certain task. I am definitely guilty of focusing on the time that I don't have to get something done instead of thinking about the time I do have and the wonderful ways that I use it. So, this year, I am thankful for time. Time with friends, time to learn, time to live.

Hospitality - This year I have been blessed with more opportunity to travel than I could ever dream! I am beyond grateful to visited incredible places like South Korea, Spain, Ecuador, Poland and Italy, but mostly I am thankful for the people who I visited and met along the way. The hospitality I have received not only from friends, but from perfect strangers gives me hope in our world and hope for the future.

Advent(ures) - The liturgical season of Advent is one of my favorites and it begins on Sunday! This year, I am aiming to be more intentional in my preparation and prayer as we await the coming of Jesus. (There might be a post or two regarding this. I haven't decided yet :P )

Nature - Ever since I was little, I have always found the presence of God most easily while surrounded by nature. And though Berkeley doesn't really have a fall (and certainly has not winter), I still really enjoy walking around the neighborhood and admiring the ever-present flowers and other neat foliage (hello succulents!) that we do have.

Kairos - Woah, she's throwing in some Latin. Truth be told, I have never gone on a Kairos retreat (#publicschool) but I love the notion of there being a moment in which you choose to act. I am very grateful for all of those kairos moments in my life that have led me to a deeper relationship with God. It's beautiful to look back on those moments and see which choices of action led me to where I am and to witness how God was involved in all of those moments - whether I recognized it at the time or not.

Faith - As my faith grew in undergrad, so did my understanding of social justice and the connection between the two. This fusion of faith and social justice is intrinsic in my being. I cannot separate the two and I cannot separate myself from them. I'm incredibly grateful for a strong sense of faith and commitment to working for justice. It has filled me with joy and purpose and I cannot wait to see how the Creator uses me to help the world.

University - I am thankful for the privilege to have attended two beautiful universities. With only 1% of the world given the opportunity to go to college, I try to remind myself of this privilege regularly so that I don't take it for granted. Both undergrad and graduate school have surrounded me with incredible professors, role models and friends that have helped shape me into the woman I am today. I can't even begin to articulate the gratitude I hold for JCU and JST.

Liturgy - There's no E in Thankful, so I am going to tie in my love for the Eucharist in liturgy, which makes sense. Both the Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist bring peace and comfort to my soul. I'm extremely grateful to have the constant opportunity to be filled with Christ and to be held by grace. For, "I can endure anything between two Eucharists." - Dorothy Day

And of course, I am incredibly thankful for YOU! Thanks so much for taking time out of your day to share in my life and ramblings. It means the world.


*** Also linking up with Simple Moments Stick for the Faith and Fellowship Blog Hop :)

Monday, November 23, 2015

5 Weekly Graces Vol. 5

Happy Thanksgiving week, everyone!

I hope all of your weeks and weekends were filled with joy and love. Below are a few highlights from mine.

But before that, can we just talk about the gnome shoes that Facebook suggested I might like? While I am thoroughly amused by them (I mean they're hilarious), I am mildly concerned that these are what search engines think I will buy... Too funny.

Here are my graces from this past week (other than the smile brought by the shoe recommendation).

1) Beauty.

I'm fairly certain I won't stay in California after graduating, but sunsets like these definitely cause me to think otherwise... (#nofilter)

2) Laughter.

The main focus of my job is to prepare our student leaders to guide their groups of peers on the different immersion trips that our office runs throughout the school year. We have weekly meetings to help cultivate their ability to lead and talk about specific issues of social justice and how it applies to our immersions.

Normally, at the end of each quarter we take the group out for a dinner to promote group bonding. This time, my boss asked us to look into something a little more fun. And so, my coworker and I decided we would take the students to an indoor trampoline park! It was a ton of fun and the students loved it. There's nothing quite like a group of young adults playing a competitive game of trampoline dodge ball, or diving into a giant foam pit. If there is a trampoline park near you, go! You won't regret it.

Also, those foam blocks are the hardest thing to get out of. I think the majority of our workout that night came from the laughter while we watched one another struggle to clime out of the pit. Hilarious.

3) Song.

My roommate's birthday was on Thursday, so on Friday night we had dinner and another karaoke party at our apartment. I love the joy and friendship that shamelessly singing to songs can bring about. At one point in the night, Whitney Houston's Dance With Somebody came on and the whole room got up and danced together. So much fun.

4) Food and Friends.

Apparently I have a lot of friends with November birthdays, because after the birthday party for my roommate on Friday, Saturday I went to a birthday dinner for another friend. There was great food, meaningful conversation and lots of love poured out that night.

I'm just so grateful for the beautiful community I have found during my time in California. It's hard to believe that my time in grad school is coming to an end.

5) Prayer.

And last on my list of graces for the week is that I have found a new spiritual director who I will start meeting with next month. In the interest of continuing to grow in my faith and spirituality, I have found a desire to seek out a new director and am very excited that the woman I was interested in directing me has some availability this year- she's normally booked solid and much sought after. Spiritual direction is something that I am still trying to get more comfortable with and I greatly look forward to growing toward Christ with a little extra love and guidance.

How were you graced this past week?


***PS This week I am linking up with Emily from Ember Grey in her Grateful Heart series.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Review: Rent the Runway

On Friday I was given the opportunity to help table at a young alumni fundraiser for the office of the university that I work for. The theme was Great Gatsby, which I love, but I knew right off the bat that there wasn't really anything in my closet that fit the bill.

So, I began searching the internet... Google, Polyvore, Shopstyle, basically any search engine that I thought might lead me to a 20's-ish dress at a low price number. You know the drill.

When I told my roommate about the party, she instantly mentioned Rent the Runway. Why didn't I think of that?! I've known about the site and their beautiful selection of designer dresses for a while now, but have never had any occasion to try them out. Until now!

I ended up finding this great gold, Erin Fetherston sequin dress that even had review photos of other women wearing it at Gatsby themed weddings and parties.

My only hesitation was in the sizing. In dresses I range from wearing anything from a 0 to a 10 (I wish I was joking) so it's very hard for me to guess what size I should rent. Luckily, Rent the Runway sends you two sizes of the dress you want! And so I guestimated what sizing I would need in the gold dress and ordered.

Unfortunately for me, one of the sizes of the dress wasn't returned on time and RtR had to send me another dress for one of the sizes. They chose a silver sequin dress by Milly which was very beautiful, but even from the photos I knew it was not something I would have selected for my body type.

The dresses arrived and the gold was at least a size to big causing a bit of fabric bulging in the back and sides, but it was far better than the silver, which fit, but as I suspected, was not flattering on my hourglass figure. Such a bummer.

I ended up wearing the gold because at that point I really didn't have another option, but it also wasn't super noticeable that it was too big. I could feel it based on how the fabric hung and where the waist fell, but the sequins definitely helped to hide the issues.

Overall, I am pleased with my RtR experience. I do wish that they would have let me choose an alternative dress rather than just guessing what I might like, but I am thankful that they sent an alternative. A friend of mine who was going to the event ended up wearing the silver, so it all worked out.

If you ever have a need for a fancy dress and don't want to spend hundreds of dollars, they are a great option with quick and easy shipping and returns.


**linking up with PumpsandPushups, StyleElixir, ThePleatedPoppy, SydneyFashionHunter, CraftyCurlyMom, Mix&Match Fashion