Monday, August 25, 2014

Little Happies -- It's Good to be Catholic

Hey there, friends! And welcome back to Little Happies, the happiest little link-up on the planet. Proven* to be happier than an antelope with night-vision goggles. So sit back, relax, maybe write a Little Happies post of your own, link-up, and enjoy!

*But not actually proven.

So, I'm currently in Johnson City visiting in-laws with the husband. But that didn't stop me from prepping this a few days ago. I reflected a bit on some of the little joys of the faith and came up with this special list for ya. So, this week's Happies are brought to you by Catholicism. What's not to love?


This song.

Have you heard of PJ Anderson yet? He's relatively new to the scene, Catholic, living in Nashville, and totally rocking at writing beautiful, holy music. This one's a favorite of mine, especially for Adoration. The often repeated line, "It is you, it is you, it is you that my heart wants," is exactly what I need to say more often to Jesus.


It's only in the past few years that I've come to know and love Venerable Fulton J. Sheen. 

You've heard of him right? 

He was an American Archbishop known for his very relatable preaching and his work on radio and television. If you've never seen him in action, I'd recommend heading over to youtube right now and just watching a few of his old recordings. Prepare to be sucked in.

Recently, I was reading this article that popped up in my facebook newsfeed, "The Curse of Broadmindedness" and was finding myself nodding in agreement through the whole dang thing. What a perfect reflection on our need to stop all this "to be intolerant is to be un-loving" nonsense, on our need to be "tolerant of people but intolerant of ideas," on our need to escape the "curse of broadmindedness" in our world today. I was thrilled to see a Catholic author -- who I assumed was just some young, spry thing, maybe writing this for a grad school class or something -- really attack these modern-day issues. So I honestly had a pretty good laugh when I discovered, after having read/skimmed the whole thing, that the author was actually Ven. Fulton J. Sheen. BOOM. The Sheenanator strikes again. (And don't ask me how his picture and name at the top of the article didn't catch my attention before I read it. I somehow just missed the obvious on that one.) How did he write something way back in 1932 that is still so relevant today? I suppose it's because broadmindedness is not a new issue, but I was still shocked by how his reflections still resonate with us in the present day. He truly was a great man.

That was a big buildup for the actual Little Happy here. While I pretty much love everything the man ever said, my favorite Ven. Fulton J. Sheen quote is:

"Hearing nuns' confessions is like being stoned to death with popcorn." 



Then there was this kinda weird but definitely fun BuzzFeed quiz:

I got St. Juliana of Nicodemia, who was secretly Christian and when her parents tried to force her to marry a pagan man, she said no and they killed her. But before they did, she spat at Satan and poured molten lead on her torturers. Then her fiance got eaten by a lion. Ummm... WHAT?!? This is supposed to be my patron saint? What does that even mean? Ha!

Alright, now it's your turn! Take the quiz and tell me who you get! Hopefully their story will be a little cray like St. Juliana's and we can all laugh at who our patron saints should actually be, according to BuzzFeed anyway. 


The Catholic faith also gives us C. S. Lewis, who wrote the above quote and made me feel a bit better about some of my suffering. Thanks, C. S.!


And finally, you know what else is really neat about our faith? It's universal.

No, literally, the word "Catholic" means "universal"!

While I realize that's no Little thing, there are just a few Little Happy things that spring from it:

The fact that I can enter a Catholic Church anywhere in the world and still feel at home.

The fact that all I have to say is "I'm Catholic" and with that comes my whole beautiful belief system.

And the fact that I have Catholic sisters across the country who support me and understand me better than most simply because we share the faith.

Yes, my friends, it's good to be Catholic!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Little Happies -- Arsty Fartsy

Howdy, neighbors! And welcome back to Little Happies, the happiest little link-up on the planet, in which we all share the small joyful blessings currently in our lives. And if the thought of such a link- up doesn't make you happy as a clam, you're probably furry and green with a heart two sizes too small and trying to ruin Christmas, ya Grinch.


Actually, I'm probably the Grinchiest of them all right now. Still in a funk, probably due to a combo of progesterone and Femara now. Plus, I wasn't able to do the hysteroscopy and ultrasound with our NaPro doc this cycle since he's on vacation. Plus plus, as excited as I am for so many good friends announcing pregnancy and adoption news, I can't help but feel a little like the last kid picked in gym class. Cue: sad trombone. Womp womp wommmmmmp. 

The good news is I still found some little blessings this past week. They may not be much, but they're keeping me afloat.


I picked up my newly fired and glazed jewelry plate thing last week and I love how it turned out. I don't have much artsy skill, but as it turns out, a little bit of masking tape and an eye for fun color combos can go a long way! 


Get your party hats ready because someone is celebrating a birthday this week!! 

I seriously can't believe it's almost been a year since John's surprise, superhero-themed 30th birthday party

Anyway, we're having a handful of friends over later this week to celebrate. And by a handful I mean 20. Yayyyy! But also, YIKES! I know that doesn't sound like a lot, but for a two bedroom apartment... it's about to get hottt in herrrrre. Still, I'm very much looking forward to celebrating my sweet John in style and surrounded by all his local friends. 

To get the apartment ready for the festivities, we decorated our new chalkboard with an artsy fartsy birthday message. Bunting flags FTW! 


Speaking of John's birthday, in typical Stephanie fashion, I could not hold off 'til his actual birthday to give him one of his gifts... an Elite Mega Magnus Blaster Nerf gun. Boom.

For probably a year now, every time we go to Target he just has to walk by the Nerf gun aisle so he can be tempted by all of them and look for a sale, yet he's never bought one. Or, errr, has never pulled the trigger, so to speak (pun so intended).

So, mayyyybe I had a bit of a selfish motive when I bought the Nerf gun. It would be nice if he'd stop dragging me by the Nerf aisle allll the way at the back of the store every single time we shopped there. 

But, let's be real, his new Mega Magnus Blaster is really freakin' awesome. It can fire up to 85 feet and its darts whistle in the air!!!! 

We're kids at heart, I tell ya. 

Oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh.

Do you know why this Saturday is going to be so completely awesome?

Do you do you do you do you do you?


Doctor Who, you ask?



Johnson City, here we come! 

John and I both have 1.5 weeks off starting this Friday night, so we're headed to East Tennessee for some quality time with his family. I could not be more excited!

Mountains and relaxing and possibly another Chopped challenge and my awesome in-laws? Yes please!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Date Night at Salud!: A Whole Foods Cooking Class

Looking for a new date night idea? Or a fun and structured activity in which there's potential to meet new people and make new friends? Or maybe you're just in search of some kitchenly inspiration? 

Enter: Whole Foods' Salud! Cooking School

The Whole Foods near us just recently reopened after a huge renovation, and as part of their renovation, they added a little cooking school to the mix. We visited said Whole Foods soon after it reopened and a brochure for Salud! caught our eyes. We'd always talked about going to a cooking class together, but never found one that was both affordable and easy to make happen. That is, not until we crossed paths with that Salud! brochure. We looked at each other, both said, "Why not?" and soon logged onto their website to find a tasty sounding class.

And classes they have!

From knife skill classes, to sushi making, Indian cuisine, French pastries, hands-on or demonstration style, date nights, kids classes, and ladies' nights, plus many, many more, they've pretty much got it all covered. And with prices ranging from $25 to $60 per person, it's well worth it, especially considering most classes come with a full, gourmet meal at the end.

While it took us a while to sort through the many awesome options, we eventually agreed that the hands-on Taste of Morocco class was perfect for us. It was really the menu that sold us...

Moroccan Flat Bread with Roasted Red Pepper Spread
Cous Cous Salad
Tagine Chicken with Cracked Olives & Preserved Lemons
Zalabia with Honey Glaze
Moroccan Mint Tea

My mouth was watering for weeks leading up to it. And I'm happy to say, for the most part, the class and food did not disappoint.

We were the first to arrive and don the hyper fashionable white aprons and red-bordered name tags. The instructor told us to hang out at the dining table, but not to get too comfy, as we'd be on our feet prepping and cooking in no time.

She wasn't lying! Soon after the bell tolled 5, we were up and learning', given a few tips on how to properly cut onions and peppers (seriously, my mind was blown!), and then sent off to prepare all the ingredients for recipe number 1: Tagine Chicken.

John was put on lemon rind and juicing duty, while our other classmates chopped all the other things.

And an aerial lemon shaving shot...

After the ingredients were prepped, we walked over to the cooking area and got cookin'! I volunteered to sear the pre-marinated chicken thighs in the pan.

 And after a few minutes, John took over to get some practice too.

The instructor taught us to sear at a high heat and let the chicken sit in the pan until it releases easily. No tugging at it to flip it. The longer it sears (without burning, of course), the easier it'll be to lift from the pan and flip. I never knew!

After searing most of the chicken, John handed over the tongs and let our classmates continue the hard work.

Once all the chicken had a golden brown sear...

... it all went back into the dutch oven and our prepped ingredients were thrown on top.

(Side note -- I pushed the instructor aside to get the picture below. I probably annoyed her a bit, but I just had to get a picture of all this yum!)

The chicken needed to continue cooking for at least an hour, so we quickly moved on to our next recipe: Moroccan Flat Bread.

Our instructor showed us how to make the dough, kneaded it using a Kitchen Aid mixer, and then we got our hands super messy by forming the dough into rectangular flat breads. I wasn't able to get a picture of the messy fun because... messy. But here's a picture of what our station looked like right before the mess began.

We set those aside for grilling a bit later and moved on to recipe number 3: Cous Cous Salad.

Our instructor gave us a short lesson in how extremely easy it is to make Cous Cous, then we chopped more ingredients, I made the dressing, and...

... a classmate mixed it all together.

Then we tasted it to make sure we had the flavors right and... oh my word. Let's just say it was my favorite part of the meal.

My second favorite part was probably the Moroccan Mint Tea, though we didn't actually make it that night. Instead, the instructor prepared it before we arrived, since she knew we'd spent all our time on the way more complicated recipes. Lucky for us, she sent us home with the recipe. Look at this golden liquid beauty.

I barely had a minute to take a few sips before we were back in action. 

One of our classmates grilled the Flat Bread while our instructor plated the Tagine Chicken and Cous Cous.

And then, the moment we had all worked and waited for...


Perhaps it was because we had spent over two hours prepping and cooking, but I was HUNGRY.
So hungry, in fact, that I couldn't wait for it to stop steaming to get a better picture.

I snapped pictures as quickly as I could, and then devoured this beauty.


You want to eat it through the screen, dontcha?

And as we ate, the instructor fried up dessert for us: Zalabia with Honey Glaze.


Zalabia is a Moroccan fried dough dessert. We had actually made the dough at the beginning of the class so that it had plenty of time to rise, I just forgot to snap pictures. I think the finished product is much prettier than the raw dough anyway, right?

The class ended around 8pm, and with full bellies and new favorite recipes in hand, we headed home.

A lovely date night if I do say so myself! And we're already talking about signing up for another class.

While I loved the food and the experience, I would be lying if I said it was perfection. One big thing rubbed me the wrong way, and that was the advertised menu not entirely matching the menu we cooked that evening. Three things stood out:

1.) The Tagine Chicken was not cooked in a tagine. I can excuse them for that one since the dutch oven was a great substitute, and buying tagines just to teach this one class would have been silly of them. But, it was a bit of false advertisement.

2.) The full name of the chicken dish was Tagine Chicken with Cracked Olives & Preserved Lemons. "But where were the preserved lemons?" you may wonder. Well, since the Memphis Whole Foods doesn't carry preserved lemons, we just used regular lemons in the recipe. While the dish was wonderful with regular lemons, one of the reasons we chose the Moroccan class was because cooking with preserved lemons intrigued me, so I was sad it didn't happen.

And 3.) This one bummed me out the most. The preserved lemons were one thing that drew me to the class, but the Roasted Red Pepper Spread even more so. In fact, that spread was the recipe I was most excited about. So, you can imagine how bummed I was to notice when we first arrived that the recipe wasn't in our recipe packet. And soon after our instructor announced that she didn't get a copy of the recipe from Salud! headquarters, so we just weren't going to make it. Enter: sad panda Stephi.

Alright, enough whining from me. Clearly, none of these nitpicky things were enough of an issue to scare us off. At the end of the day, the food was great, we learned a bunch, and had fun in the process, so all-in-all, despite the missing tagine and preserved lemons and recipe, it was worth it. We're not signed up for another class just yet, but will definitely do so in the near-ish future.

Also, I think it'd make a great birthday or wedding gift for friends! Or even a great Christmas gift for loved ones who like to cook. Just throwing that out there.

I should also mention that the class was taught at a beginner level, so even if you are scared of the kitchen, these classes would work for you too!

Unfortunately, there's one big snag for probably most of you. So far, Whole Foods only offers these cooking classes in Memphis and Nashville, TN; Charlotte, NC; and two locations outside of Atlanta, GA. Wohoooo if you live near these cities!! Though, if you don't, there's no need to pout. I suggest doing a little research and finding a cooking school near you, as I'm sure there are other great options out there! You could also always write to your local Whole Foods and tell them how they just need to start offering cooking classes because your social life and belly demand it.

Finally, for those of you who've made it this far, I give you a treat! Here's the recipe for my favorite dish of the night, the Cous Cous Salad.

Moroccan Cous Cous Salad

1 cup + 2 tbsp water
1/2 tsp olive oil
1 pinch course sea salt
1 cup instant whole wheat cous cous
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
1 orange, zested and juiced
1 tbsp good balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp good red wine vinegar

Combine water, olive oil, and salt in saucepan and bring to a boil. Place cous cous in a large bowl and pour hot water mixture over the cous cous. Stir to completely combine. Immediately cover with plastic wrap and let set for 5 minutes.

Remove plastic wrap and fluff cous cous with fork to make sure it is not stuck together. Stir in tomatoes, almonds, cranberries, 2 tbsp of mint leaves, and orange zest.

Combine the orange juice, balsamic and red wine vinegars and stir in the cous cous. Sprinkle the remaining mint on top of the salad.

Can be served immediately or refrigerated until ready for service.

Bon app├ętit!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Little Happies -- Chalk Talk

Hi, friends! And welcome back to Little Happies... the happiest little link-up on the planet, in which we all share the joyful minor cool things going on in our lives currently. Now, what could be happier than that?

I've gotta preface this week's Happies by saying John and I have been in a funky funk lately. He's had a really rough go at work these past few weeks and my new progesterone prescription is making me tired, cranky, and blaaah. And then CD1 happened and... you get the picture. Basically, we've been a double hot mess lately. BUT, none of that nonsense has stopped us from counting our blessings and embracing the good. So, despite all the crud we've been working through lately, we still have lots to be thankful for...


'Scuse the selfie.

And sorry I kept you all in suspense on this one. I kept the chevron top! (Just call me Chevron Weasley.) And then I rocked it on Monday and felt like a million bucks. It always feels good to wear newly purchased clothing, no? It brings about a special kind of confidence.

Then, the day was made even better by a trip to our favorite fried chicken restaurant. I may have gone off the anti-inflammatory diet quite a bit (sweet tea and mac n' cheese and fried chicken), but it made the CD1 blues go away reeeeal quick. Worth it.


Upon arriving at work on Tuesday, a coworker approached me and one other female coworker and said she was sick of seeing poop accidentally left behind in the toilet and was pretty sure it was one of our male coworkers. Ha! I did all I could to not giggle through the whole conversation. In the end, our plan of action was to put up a sign for a week to see if it made a difference. And since my lady coworkers consider me the "tech savvy" one (they're both more than double my age), they put me in charge of making the sign. I tried to keep it playful and goofy, but still make the point.

How'd I do? :)


When someone tells me to go to my happy place, I drive to Teavana.

First, just look at how pretty it is! Color color color! 

Second, they let you SMELL ALL THE FLAVORS. Free smells!

Third, if you pick one of the cheaper teas, you can have them brew you a cup for just $2.99. It's my favorite way to try new teas.

And in case you were curious, my current two favorite summer flaves are Blackberry Mojito Green Tea and Passion Tango, iced... obvi! 


We took a cooking class at Whole Foods! The theme was "A Night in Morocco" and it was deliciously fun! A great date night, indeed. I plan on posting a more detailed review with pics and recipes later this week, so look out for that. 


Actually, it was a bit of an action packed weekend. Friends over on Friday night, cooking class date night on Saturday, and pottery painting with the youth group on Sunday. Whew!

I decided to paint a plate for my jewelry. Right now, my earrings and bracelets and watches are just a hodge podge mess in a cupboard in our bedroom. But not after this comes home! It should be ready for pick up later this week.


Ah, our little project for the week!

For a while now, John and I have wanted to buy a chalkboard for our apartment, but never found one we both liked. That is, until this past week. We found this one at Hobby Lobby and fell in love pretty instantly. However, once we got it home, we realized the blackboard part of it was just a piece of smooth black plastic. And it was horrible for writing on with chalk. LAME.

So, instead of doing what a normal person would do and just returning it to the store, John decided to take matters into his own hands and FORCE the lame black plastic to become an actual chalkboard. How, you wonder? Well, with chalkboard paint, of course! 4 coats and 3 days of drying later, we are proud to say we have a fully functional and fashionable chalkboard on our wall now. LOVE.

Pretty sure the best part of the whole ordeal was having a fun project to work on together.

Have a lovely week, friends! Can't wait to read to read your Happies!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Little Happies -- a Few Lessons I've Learned as a Youth Minister

Welcome back to the happiest little link-up on the planet!

Why, yes! Thanks for noticing. That is a new banner! I went a little crazy on picmonkey this weekend and designed a new banner to match my blog's new color scheme. How'd I do? 

Why, yes! You're absolutely welcome to use the spiffy new banner on your Little Happies posts. Thanks for asking.

Or, if you're more into horizontal things, you could use this version...

"Woah! She made two?!"

Yes. I made two. Let's just say I had a little too much free time on my hands the past few days.

Alright, now that that's out of the way, let's get to the good stuff.

This week's Little Happies are brought to you by my job as a youth minister. And the lessons these precious teens have taught me.


We had our Graduation Celebration last night to honor all our youth group teens heading off to college. There were only 4 graduates at our little party, but that's no matter. I sure will miss these young buddies. Each one is headed to a different school lots of hours away from Memphis, so the next time I'll see their cute faces will likely be December. Wahhh!

So, with that in mind...

Lesson #1: Savor each moment. 

Because, as cliche as it is to say it... time really does fly!


Lesson #2: It's cool to be yourself. 

Even if that means wearing a headband AND a party hat at the same time while making a weird face and demanding that the whole group take a (blurry) selfie with you. 

Even if that means being the random kid who brings a hammock to the party.

Even if that means screaming a loud, girly scream every time the other team throws the ball in ladder ball.

Even if that means eating only candy and cupcakes for dinner.

As teens, it's sometimes hard to accept what everyone around you is doing. But somehow, I've been blessed with this amazingly loving group of teens, and pretty much no one's weirdness bothers anyone. Beautiful stuff right there.


Lesson #3: Teens are the NOW of our Church.

Have you heard this line before?... "Teens are the future of our Church." While I kinda get where they're going with that (these kids will be our future priests and deacons and sisters and married couples and lay persons), I pretty much wanna squash it all together. Because it implies that they're not an important part of our Church now. Except, they absolutely are. And they're not all lazy. They don't all make dumb decisions. They don't all have a lot of growing up to do.

Let me tell you something. So many of the teens I work with are doing amazing things. Ah-maz-ing. A handful actually know far more about the Catholic faith than I do. I'm inspired to be a better Christian because of them. It's wonderful to witness. And it makes me proud to call them the NOW of our Church. You should be too!


(Don't) Let It Go
Last but not least, a less serious lesson...

Lesson #4: There is a limit to the number of times you can watch Frozen.

It's true. I don't know the exact number, but we've all watched it a few too many times in the past several months. Actually, all of my male teens refuse to watch it now. They get mad at the mention of any of the characters. And especially Hulk-like if we start to sing the songs. The gals, on the other hand, still mostly like it and especially like driving the boys bonkers by singing the songs. I usually sing along too. :)

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Oops, I Did It Again: Fashion

Well, well, well.

Here we go again.

I'm ready to admit it out loud, I'm officially an Itch Nix addict. It's gotten real. How am I so sure? Well, I'm signed up for monthly boxes now.

Don't judge.

I realized last month that I usually only keep one or two items from each box. If I keep doing that, I'll be adding just one or two new items to my wardrobe each month and I think that's perfectly normal. So monthly we will go!

Though, let's be honest, I wouldn't mind if Itch Nix sent me a home run box one of these days, with 5 must-have, totally-gonna-keep, love-at-first-sight items. It hasn't happened yet, which bums me out just a little. Surely they should have my style and fit figured out by now, right?

Ok, enough with the whining.

On to the clothing.

This time I asked for tons of patterned stuff and a summery necklace, and they certainly met my requests!! Check it.

(Psst -- Please excuse my lack of make-up.)

Now one at a time...

Blue Polka Dot Blouse - $58

This blouse is a probably maybe. It's made of a very comfy material with a nice, flowy, but not-overly-baggy fit. I'm liking the polka dots, mostly liking the blue color, and definitely liking the cute criss-cross detail on the back. I can see myself wearing this a fair bit during our Memphis fall. I'm not sure I could dress it up much, but it'll be great for when I'm in a lazy, hanging out mood. It's probably even passable for work. Hrmmm. Definitely probably maybe.

Pink Chevron Blouse - $44

They finally sent me a chevron pattern I like!! WAHOOOO! And the color is lovely too!! From the front, it's my absolute favorite top everrrrr. And if my decision was based solely on how it looks from the front, I'd be sold. However, when I turn to the side, I feel like it gets all blimpy. Perhaps a better, more positive describing word would be flowy. But is it overly flowy? My mom says KEEP IT! Perhaps I should trust that mother knows best. But yet, I'm still undecided. Another definitely probably maybe.

Floral Blouse - $68



Ok, I know. That's mean. Someone designed this shirt and was proud of it. And then someone else said it was beautiful and agreed to have it made and sold. But then someone else tried it on (me) and felt like she belonged on a spaceship or something with those wingy armholes. What the WHAT?!!

I do love the floral pattern though. At least it has that going for it. Poor thing.

This girly space shirt is a no. Done deal.

Black Polka Dot Dress - $98

Pretty dress! Pretty pretty. And gosh, these pics are making it look good. But you all are going to have to trust me on this one. It's just not meant to be. I know it by how it feels when I put it on. The top part feels too bulgy/baggy. I don't want to feel like a heffalump on the top, so I'm going to just put my red-shoed foot down and say no. Sorry, cute dress. Oh, plus... too expensive, don't you think?

Statement Necklace - $38

I tried to like this necklace. I tried it on with two different tops AND a dress. This is actually the best it looked. It's just an awkward length (yes, I've tried it at several different lengths and it was still awkward) and it kind of looks like a bib. See what I mean? Easy peasy decision. You're going back to Itch Nix Land, necklace.

And that's a wrap!!

I've made it easy on ya. It's basically down to the polka dot blouse and the chevron blouse. The options are keep both or keep one or the other.


Oh, PS: John wanted me to share this picture with you. He said he was proud of his fashion photography and it made him want to do a power pose! HA! He's weird.

Oh, PPS: I have $75 in referral credits toward my box this time!! WOW! Friends are just using my referral link left and right. THANK YOU! It's making this even more affordable!! There's no pressure to do this at all, but if you're interested in getting a box of your own, feel free to use my referral link. When your box ships, I get $25 toward my next one. 

Oh, PPPS: Be honest. Are you getting sick of these fashion posts?

I decided to keep the chevron blouse! Weee!

Even though it was a bit baggy from the side, it was the most comfortable and my favorite pattern by far. I've already rocked it once AND just bought a pair of super light blue skinny jeans to wear with it. The blue polka dot blouse was hard to part with, but ultimately the right decision, as it didn't blow me away. Thanks for the input! It helped me say YES to the chevron!
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