Thursday, March 31, 2016

March Budget

My goal for Lent this year was to focus on being in solidarity with the poor and marginalized in our world and one of the few ways I did so was by being more intentional about my spending. My aim was to refrain from purchasing any clothing, jewelry, shoes, etc unless I knew the product was ethically traded. While I know that not all of my future purchases will be Fair Trade, after these 40 days, I am definitely more committed to intentionality and awareness when it comes to my shopping patterns and how they affect the world.

The only thing that I purchased prior to Easter this past Sunday was this gorgeous pair of beaded earrings that I picked up while on immersion with students in Los Angeles. I bought them from a market stand where the owner travels down to Puebla, Mexico to bring beautiful, handcrafted products back to Boyle Heights to share with buyers. If you're ever in the neighborhood, head over to Mariachi Plaza and check out her stand and some other awesome venders! (I also bought a beautiful mug from her, but that didn't really apply to my budget posts :P )

Post Easter, I did pop in to Anthropologie while waiting for an appointment and pick up my new favorite tunic. I bought it in blush, but also really love the light blue (still available) and according to the reviews there is a black version which I might have to track down. It's incredibly soft and super comfortable. I would say it runs a little large. The small fit well, but I decided to go with a medium for extra length and the ability to pair it with leggings.

Earrings: $6
Total: $38

I also finally got my Maps by A. Jaffe necklace in the mail after the original had been lost/ never delivered! I won it back in December from Jessica's lovely giveaway and have been anxiously awaiting it's arrival. I've been wearing it non-stop since.

 (Side note: A. Jaffe was so helpful and supportive in solving the problem and getting the necklace to me asap. Couldn't have asked for more consideration or professionalism.)

Coming from a small, country town with very few roads, I decided to zoom my map out and place the diamond in a spot that not only covers where I grew up, but also Cleveland which also holds a piece of my heart.

And that's all for my March Budget. Short and sweet :)

 How did yours go? Any great finds? I'd love to hear!


***linking up with Fran over at Franish The Blog

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter

To those who celebrate, wishing you a very blessed Easter! May all of your days be filled with joy, laughter and lots of love.

Christ is risen, hallelujah!


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Product Review: Royal Rose Hydrating Serum

When I was presented with the opportunity to review the Valentia Royal Rose Hydrating Serum, I honestly wasn't sure what to expect. I've used moisturizers and eye creams, but have never tried a hydrating serum and honestly was not even sure what that meant.

Basically, this is a product that is meant to increase moisture in your skin while calming it at the same time. It is made to moisturize, nourish dry skin, smooth skin and also boost radiance.

I've only been using the hydrating serum for about a week now and I honestly notice a significant difference in the softness of my face - and my skin is soft to begin with! I want to say there is an increase in smoothness as well, but think I need to continue use before stating that with confidence.

I do think I would like it more if they had a non-scented version. The rose smells lovely, but I prefer typically face products without scents.

Overall, I am very satisfied with the Valentia Royal Rose Hydrating Serum and would definitely recommend it if you're looking for a great, all natural product to help restore and cleanse your skin.

Have any of you used any of Valentia's other products? I'm considering getting True Glow Eye Cream their after having such a great experience with the hydrating serum.

How do you take care of your skin?


**A big thanks to Valentia for sponsoring this post. While products were supplied in exchange for a review, all opinions are entirely my own.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

5 Weekly Graces Vol. 21

I'm going to keep this short and sweet because I am currently on an immersion with students for the week and have limited internet access and only my phone to use it.

1. My mom

No particular reason. We had a lovely phone call this past week and I've been noticing a deep sense of gratitude for my mom coming about a lot in prayer lately. She's pretty rad. 

2. Roommates

I had to share some difficult news with my roommates and was honestly quite nervous to do so. Long story short, what I shared was very well received and I'm incredibly grateful for that. 

3. Immersion Time!


I'm currently in East LA spending the week with 11 college students as they immerse themselves into the beautiful community of Boyle Heights. We are only on day 2 and I'm already so incredibly touched by the depth and compassion that they are showing in reflection and discussion. It's going to be a good week. 

4. Flowers


There have been so many beautiful blooms all over California this month and they're even more vibrant and present now as we really get into spring. There are just so many different types and colors and scents. I love it.
5. Pan Dulce

No explanation needed. 

I hope you are all have incredible starts to your week. For those who are Christian, I hope you have an incredibly prayerful Holy Week. 


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

5 Weekly Graces Vol. 20

Not gonna lie friends, I am stressed to the max currently and just holding my breath hoping things calm down and I can relax. We shall see.

But despite all of the anxiety (and the fact that I am 3/4 days late posting this) I still wanted to share some grace found in last week - especially because turning my focus to the positive in my life usually helps calm me down.

1 - Support of Friends

Last week I found out that my contact who was responsible for creating the agenda for my students' immersion trip this coming week did not have much on the schedule which meant I had about a week and a half to pull together nearly an entire week's worth of organizations to work with and things to do. Lucky for me, many of my friends and coworkers have various connections and were so incredibly supportive and helpful in helping me put something together. My boss was beyond understanding and assured me he knew this was not due to a lack of proactivity on my part. Everything is set and ready to go now, but boy was that a stressful experience. I would not have been able to pull through without so many wonderful, giving, loving people by my side supporting me. I have been truly blessed with some amazing people in my life.

2 - Tai Food

I found out about the glitch in scheduling when I arrived home from work on Tuesday, so on Wednesday I was in the office until after 10pm with a day of meetings and researching sites, etc. One of my coworkers was also working fairly late and treated me to pad tai (my favorite) because she knew how much work I had going on. It was so kind and such a nice treat. Also, delicious.

3 - Preaching

One of my requirements for graduation is to take a lay-led liturgy course. The course has definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone because not only did the professor get me to cantor (aka sing solo in public which I haven't done since I was 8) but I also had to preach for our Reconciliation Service, something I had never done before (you can read my reflection here). Right after the service I had class, so I rushed out, but the next day I had so many professors and students express gratitude for my reflection. I even had friends who didn't go say how people were commenting on it and one friend said that I inspired him with something to use for a service he was preparing. Now mind you, I go to a school full of ministers and they would support me even if I had been awful, but it was just so touching to have so many kind words shared.

4 - Retreat

Saturday afternoon all of the MDiv students who will graduate in may had a short retreat to look back at our time at school. I have to admit that I was not super excited to go. It's not that I didn't want to be with these friends, I just had(have) SO much to do and thought I could have used that time for different preparations. All-in-all, it was a beautiful time and I am very grateful to have shared it with those students I have been walking through this grad school journey with. They're pretty amazing and I can't wait to see what they accomplish in the future.

5 - Karaoke

And finally, on Saturday we had another karaoke party at my house. Lots of singing. Lots of laughs. Lots of fun.

Thanks for reading and understanding about my lateness in posting this, friends. I hope all of your weeks are going amazingly and that you are able to continuously point out joy.


Friday, March 11, 2016

Reflections on Reconciliation

I had the privilege of offering a reflection during our Reconciliation Service yesterday and thought I would share it with you all. For a little context, this service was prepared as part of a Lay Presiding course in which we learn how to prepare, plan and facilitate different types of liturgies ranging from Evening Prayer, Taize Prayer, and Liturgy of the Word. The readings we chose to use for this particular service were 2 Corinthians 5:17-20 and Luke 7:36-50.

When I told my mom that I would be preaching at a reconciliation service she laughed and told me a story of how when she and her cousin Michelle were younger, they loved going to confession. In fact, they loved it so much that they would make up sins just so that they could go again!

Apparently I did not inherit that confession-loving gene, because I am often the complete opposite of my mother in this story. I tend to avoid going to confession like it’s the plague. The idea of reviewing the number of times I have sinned and reciting them to someone is not exactly the most appealing thing to me and causes way more anxiety than it probably should – especially when I usually know all too well those places in my life where I have failed.

I know when I could have been a better friend, a better daughter, a better roommate, colleague, Christian, you name it. And that awareness, that lovely Catholic guilt, often becomes the focal point of my confession when I do go.

But what if the focus was shifted?

What if rather than placing all of the concentration on listing failures, a greater attention was paid to the abounding love and forgiveness shown by God in this beautiful sacrament of Reconciliation? Even just using the word “reconciliation” rather than “confession” completely shifts the tone. In the sacrament we are not just reciting our faults and waiting for our penance. We are doing more than just confessing, we are reconciling. We are looking to restore right relationship with the Divine, to continue striving to know God better and to love the world as God loves.

Today in the Gospel we hear Jesus say “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love.” Because this woman - unnamed and labeled only by the fact that she, like all of us, is a sinner - because she has shown
 great love, she is forgiven. It did not matter that she had “sins which were many” or even what those sins were. 


She loved and she actively sought to serve God – to get as close to the Beloved as she possibly could. And it is because of that outpouring of courageous love that Jesus said to her, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

“In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.” 
 This is the ministry of reconciliation. It is not intended to be a counting of trespasses, a recitation of sins and a sentencing of penance. Reconciliation is an outpouring of grace in which we recognize the infinite love of God and allow that love to take hold of our hearts as we go out into the world as “ambassadors for Christ”.

So this evening, as you prepare to celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation, rather than focusing primarily on failures, perhaps pray for openness and receptivity to the endless love of God and a deeper understanding of how we are called not only to recognize that brilliant love, but to share it with our world.

How are you called to bring the infinite love and goodness of God with the world?


**Linking up with BlessedisShe and #BISLent

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

#28 Go to Disneyland

I have lived in California for the past 3 years and still hadn't been to Disneyland. To be fair, it's about a 6 hour car ride so I haven't exactly had countless opportunity to go. So, when you are in Anaheim for a conference and your hotel is literally right behind Disneyland, you have to visit. Right?!

After a lot of back and forth of whether or not to go, I finally decided last minute that the conference would be a great opportunity to cross Disneyland off of my 101 in 1001. RE Congress is literally next door to the parks and I probably won't be in California after graduation, so I knew I had to go at least once. Ticket prices are a little ridiculous, but the conference ran a special for those registered and there was a half-day option which also helped cut the cost.

Y'all, it was so. much. fun. At about 4:30/5pm I met up with a friend who had been at the park with family all day and another friend caught up with us around 7. Even with only half a day, I was able to try all of the rides I was told were "must-sees", watched an adorable comedy about Tangled, and even got to meet Mickey!

Fun Fact: If it's your birthday or you are visiting the park for the first time, stop at City Hall and you can get a free button! Did I proudly wear my "first visit" badge the whole time? You know it! We even had strangers come up and give us a set of fast-passes because it was my friend's birthday and my first visit! So kind!

My 5 favorite rides were:

Hyperspace Mountain
Indiana Jones Adventure
Pirates of the Caribbean
Star Tours
Peter Pan's Flight

Obviously there was so much more that I could have seen had there been more time, but I could not be happier with the time I had and the beautiful friends I was with.

Have you ever been to Disneyland? What's your favorite part?


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

5 Weekly Graces Vol. 19

As the month of March begins, I am flooded by lists of projects, papers, applications and things that need to be done. I'm in the home stretch of my degree and pushing with all of my might to cross that finish line so that I can finally be out in the real world working and doing what I love - not that I don't love school and learning.

Amidst the list of 1,000 things that need to be done, there were so many moments of pure joy this last week that my heart is still beaming.

1) Life-Size Hungry Hungry Hippos

You read that correctly friends. For our student leader meeting last week we hosted an hour of friendly competition between the winter and spring coordinators. For our final game we played a life-size version of Hungry Hungry Hippos that used a long board, bucket, and lots of play pen balls. I wish I had photos to share, but I was too busy dying of laughter. Friends in ministry, this game is a must! Let me know if you want more information.

2) I Got A Raise!

After babysitting on Saturday the mom asked if I was still charging the same price as I have been the past 2-3 years. I said yes, she said I should be making more, and tada! It was a rather hilarious interaction that ended very much in my favor. Super grateful for such generosity.

3) Dinner Party

On Friday I hosted my first dinner party for the four other women in my graduate cohort. Because we are earning our MDiv degrees, the party was appropriately coined as the "MDiva Dinner".  It was a blast! We had a great meal and just sat around the table drinking wine and chatting for hours after we were done eating. I am so thankful to have had these beautiful examples of amazing women accompanying me on my graduate school journey.

4) Game Night

Saturday night I was invited to play board games at a friend's apartment. One of the games we played was straight out of the 80s and basically Pictionary but with sculpting instead of drawing (sort of like one of the Cranium parts). And while I have no artistic bone in my body, I learned that I am pretty good at getting Playdough to resemble what I need it to.

5) Journaling

While I did not get nearly enough work done this weekend as I should have, I did take some time to just quietly journal, doodle, and pray. Time well spent if you ask me ;)

How did you spend your time last week? What moments stood out to you in gratitude?


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

March Goals

Towards the end of February, I attended a blogging workshop in San Francisco. In preparation for the workshop we were asked to bring a list of goals we had for our sites. As I brainstormed about what I hoped to get from the weekend and what I hoped for my blog, I felt a sense of accomplishment even in just naming my desires. I had my list and I was ready to cross the heck out of it!

The excitement and joy that I found in simply writing down my objectives pushed me to begin setting monthly goals for myself and I decided to share them with you all here! And lucky for me, there are lots of other bloggers who've already set examples of how fun and creative these posts can be.

I see this new series as a way to not only share my goals with you, but to hold myself accountable to complete them, and to cross them off - aka the best part!

Here are my goals for the month of March:

Better Blogging:
Build Content - Post 10 times this month including one new recipe.
Build Community - Read and comment on a minimum of 3 posts per day.
Create Art - Practice/Try new photo skills (Pinterest is a great tool!)

Better Learning:
Manage Time - Get back in the habit of having readings done a day or so early - it's a nice cushion.
Manage Studies - Engage more in comprehensive exam preparations - at least 10 flashcards per week.
Look to the Future - Turn in 5 more job applications.

Better Me:
Be Hospitable - Host a dinner party.
Be Strong - Start running again after stitches are removed.
Embrace the Good - Set aside an extra hour of prayer each week devoted to gratitude.

Have you set any goals for yourself this month? I'd love to hear about them!


**Linking with The Monthly Goals, #MonthlyGold, #CleartheList, The Road to A Better Me, Grit and Grace

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

5 Weekly Graces Vol. 18

Last week was the first week since I began the 5 Weekly Graces series that I did not post. It wasn't that I didn't find good moments, but I was SWAMPED with work and school and other commitments. 

For reference, I began the week getting stitches on Monday which alone was exhausting, but then I had 2 long meetings and it was my night to cook - Tuesday felt nauseated all day and had a hard time getting anything done - Wednesday I had class and work -Thursday had 2 significant class presentations - and Friday I had 2 papers and was leading a group study session that needed prepped. I was also leaving Friday afternoon to drive down to LA with a friend for a conference.

 Oh, and on the way his car broke down about 3 hours from where we needed to be so what should have been a 6 hour trip turned into a 14 hour trip ending when I made it to the hotel at 5:12am. 

It was quite the week, let me tell you. 

But even through all of that mayhem, there were still so many moments of grace. For example, the car broke down as we were exiting to grab dinner so we weren't stranded on the side of the road. I was also able to finish an assignment while we waited, so the car trouble forced me to be productive. And because of a change of schedule for the ride home I made two new friends, was able to pick my roommate up at the airport, and made it to community dinner which was not supposed to happen. 

All-in-all, there was beauty in the chaos and to answer T-Swift's question: yes. We are out of the woods.

Below are 5 more beautiful moments found amidst the confusion last week.

Blessed Is She

On Tuesday, I was scrolling through Facebook and saw that one of my favorite devotional groups/blogs/websites, Blessed Is She, shared my recent post on Lent via their page! I was shocked when I saw and just so deeply humbled. Seeing the link definitely helped improve my spirits last week :)

Understanding Friends

Sometimes I have way more on my plate then I can handle. You're all shocked, I know. I have been intentionally trying to listen more to my heart and body to know my limits and when I just have too much going on. On Thursday I recognized that the only way I would have everything done before leaving for LA would be to pull an all-nighter - y'all, I am way too old for that now. So rather than stress myself out and exhaust myself even more, I carefully discerned what needed to be postponed and reached out to the friends affected by it. They were so graceful and understanding that I was nearly in tears - though that could have been the exhaustion. I seriously can't express enough how much their genuine understanding eased my anxiety. People are good.

RE Congress

This weekend was the annual Religious Education Congress in Anaheim, CA. It's basically a giant gathering of Catholics who come to learn more about their faith, ministerial practices, etc. There are tons of talks to go to by a lot of different speakers on a variety of topics. Some of the big name speakers this year included James Martin, Greg Boyle, Bishop Barron, and Sr. Helen Prejean. This was my second year at Congress and it was just as fun (and crowded) as I remember - even if I didn't get to spend much time there.


Once I was done working at RE Congress on Saturday I met up with friends for my first trip to Disneyland! (I even got a "first visit" button to celebrate the occasion!) Even though it was only half a day at the park, we were able to ride tons of rides, see some great shows and even meet Mickey! And the newly added Star Wars parts were amazing! I guess you could say it was a magical time ;)


After a very full week and weekend with minimal sleep, yesterday I was able to take an afternoon nap and boy was is amazing. Napping is good for the soul my friends.

Where did you find good last week?


** linking up with Stay Gold Autumn, and Love the Here and Now