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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Picture of the Day

Happy Sunday, dear readers!

All throughout church today, the baby was quite lively. We had to sit in the kiddie ghetto upstairs because she was quite rambunctious as we entered the church and once we were safely ensconced up there with a number of families with children under age five, we could relax a bit and let her gab. I don't want to let her think its ok to make noise in church or run around with the other kiddos while Mass is going on, but the fact is babies and toddlers are physically incapable of sitting still and paying attention to something for more than a few minutes at a time when they're awake.

While she can stand up with assistance and has begun pulling herself up on us as well as the furniture, the baby still hasn't figured out walking. I do like to let her practice "walking" for short periods of time by holding onto her arms or holding her up under her armpits and encouraging her to put one foot in front of the other. Thank goodness we acquired a walker (and the baby jail seen in the photo) from a friend who was doing some therapeutic housecleaning so that my back can get a break from all the activity. In terms of real mobility, the baby can crawl, though its more of an Army crawl on the stomach than a proper crawl on all fours. The pediatrician was most pleased with her development at our last appointment, and I'm proud of how well she has surpassed her milestones too. As she becomes more mobile, I too can become more physically active. I hate exercise, but it's different when its in play as opposed to being in a gym.

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Saturday, February 27, 2016

A Short Review of Beer: Fat Tire Amber Ale

It's time once again, dear readers, for another beer review!

Fat Tire, the beer supposedly inspired by a trip to Europe

Today's review covers a brew from the Colorado-based New Belgium Brewing Company, Fat Tire amber ale. Fat Tire came first to my attention about five or six years ago when a blogging buddy of mine recommended them as one of his favorite beers. Since then, I'd seen them in the grocery store, but never thought to try them until recently. Thank goodness I finally got a tax return of substance and actually have a little money to spend (just sayin', it pays to have kids...).

I've mentioned before that I'm generally not a fan of ales because I find them to be too bitter for my taste. Fat Tire, however, was more mild than I anticipated. It's definitely malty, which I like because malt is not bitter. However, the hops are there but don't overpower the beer. The aftertaste is quite pleasant too, like a good loaf of bread. I'm not crazy about ales, but this one is a keeper. My palette has been expanded significantly.

As for what foods pair well with Fat Tire, I found it went well with the catfish and homemade Cajun fries we had for dinner last night. The fish and Zatarain-seasoned potatoes balanced out the malty taste of the beer. I also had Fat Tire with my beef and broccoli stir fry, baked beans, as well as beefaroni throughout this week for experimental purposes and while I wouldn't recommend the beans and beer pairing (not unless you want to fart like a cartoon in a Monty Python sketch all night!), the Fat Tire wasn't so bad with the beefaroni. It's a mostly decent all-purpose beer, and at 5.2% ABV, you won't get sloshed on it either.

Overall, I was generally pleased with Fat Tire. I will definitely be buying it again, and I will also be trying New Belgium's other varieties of brews. After a disappointing miss from Stella Artois, Belgian-style brewing has made a successful hit with my palette!

For more on the New Belgium brewing company, check out their website here.

As always, please drink responsibly.

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Friday, February 26, 2016

Culinary Deceit

Greetings dear readers!

Today a most unexpected package arrived for us in the mail. My mom recently messaged that she was sending us a package with some baby stuff. However, there was an epic screwup from UPS and the package arrived at her doorstep in Illinois instead of our home here in Arizona. She then resent the package, but yesterday when UPS arrived for the delivery, we received some kind of industrial machine parts which totally confused the hell out of my husband and I because the package had a shipping label from my mom with her writing and address. He called my mom and she confirmed that the parts were not something my dad ordered for his office, thus ruling out what our initial guess of the items were. We assumed that a factory somewhere in America was receiving a shipment of baby clothes instead of these parts and were prepared to call it a loss and file a claim. However, when we got back this afternoon from a trip to my husband's clinic to get his methadone, there was a package sitting on the other side of the fence for us. Sure enough, it was the baby clothes and some extra goodies like coupons for baby food and diapers, a sippy cup, and some mushy food pouches.

I'd seen ads on Facebook for the mushy food pouches which were made by this company called Plum Organics, but I never bothered buying them because the baby eats what we eat and genuinely likes our food. I have an aversion to buying baby food because they are expensive and I feel they are limited in flavor range and condition the palate to consume only sugary, processed, fake crap that is mass produced and of no nutritional value. There were four pouches in the box: one broccoli apple, one with purple carrots and pear, one strawberry banana apricot flavor, and one apple carrot flavor. I was bewildered by the fruit and vegetable combinations, and my husband was positively appalled. With the exception of the all fruit one, he considers combining fruit and vegetables to be a culinary crime.

Spoiler alert: it tastes as gross as it sounds

Since lunchtime was approaching, I decided to test out one of the pouches with the baby. I decided to get the most disgusting one out of the way first, and that was the apple broccoli pouch. Before I let the baby have some, I took a taste. It was applesauce cut with some broccoli puree which gave it a radioactive green mush color. There was no mistaking the bitter green taste of broccoli once the apple taste quickly wore away and I thought it was positively gross. Against my better judgement, I let the baby have some. She ate about half the pouch and surprisingly didn't spit it out from disgust, but she let me know she had enough by shoving the pouch away from her. Not wanting to save this monstrosity, I finished it off and let her have some titty milk to chase the flavor away.

This little encounter with the baby industrial complex served to reinforce two important beliefs I hold about food and feeding children. The first being if I won't eat it, my kid won't either. The other is that food should not be hidden. This apple broccoli monstrosity was an attempt at hiding a vegetable that kids are known to despise (broccoli) by mixing it in with something they did like (applesauce). If you go hiding vegetables in food in an attempt to get your kid to eat them, you're deceiving your kid. This can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food and cause problems with personal relationships because kids are smart and can tell when someone's BSing them.

Whenever we feed the baby, we always make it a point to include vegetables that are as minimally altered as possible so that we can all tell what we're eating! For example, in my recent beef and broccoli stir fry, I cut up some broccoli florets and asparagus to add to the stir fry. Sure enough, the baby ate the broccoli because it contributed to the overall taste of the stir fry in a beneficial way and the floret was small enough for her to pick up and put in her mouth by herself. There's a big difference between eating vegetables as part of a dish and mixing them in with something as a means of sneaking it past their lips.

Do you have any particular beliefs when it comes to feeding children?

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Preview

Good evening, dear readers.

A much closer representation of what we're looking to buy. Just imagine it covered in leaves and more weather-beaten. Pic found here

Today was the day I got to see the car. After contacting the owner of the car and getting a time window of when she'd be home, we put the baby in her stroller and walked around the block to the house so I could see the car.

After the owner came out to unlock the gate and let us in, I finally got a good look at the car. It had been sitting outside in the front yard for a while, as there were leaves and branches pooled up all around the windows. There was also some rust on the hood, but it wasn't in overall bad shape like many a true Arizona car. A peek under the hood revealed a motor that was not weathered or leaky, but it needed a battery and there were cobwebs that needed to be brushed out. The car itself was straight steel and had both a towing hitch on the bumper and a grate in the front for pushing cars. This thing was a workhorse, and the owner described how her late husband used to tow a trailer with it in the summer.

As for the interior of the car, it was in desperate need of vacuuming and dusting, but everything else looked alright except for a missing instrument panel. The upholstery showed no signs of rodent infestation or rot. Sure enough, it was manual transmission as I saw the clutch pedal next to the brake and long gas pedals. It took me a second to see what was where because the floor and interior needed to be vacuumed. The side panels were beat up and kinda rusty, but it didn't bother me too much because that can all be painted over or covered. I didn't even care that the windows were crank operated since I was so used to having a window that works only half the time anyway. The only problems I noticed was that the back door didn't catch when we closed it and the front door was a little tough to close because the hinges were dry. The tires were also in need of some fix-a-flat, but it wasn't a big deal.

It will take a few more visits to the owner's property with the battery and some starter fluid to see if the car will start first, and then get it cleaned up to a bare minimum of suitability for driving. Now we work on gathering the funds. I was pleased with the car and I hope we can acquire it soon.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Car

Greetings, dear readers!

I have an update regarding our car situation. As you might recall, we were rear-ended by a careless driver a few weeks ago. The impact bent the frame and cracked the rear axle, but in a testament to true old-school engineering and the laws of physics (we were slowing down for the light and were still in motion at the time of collision), the car was still driveable after the impact.

An unintentional lowrider

Well, last week, the other driver's insurance company sent out an assessor to have a look at our car and the assessor declared the car totaled. We would get several hundred dollars for the car and we could keep it. Since we can't afford a new car, we agreed to the deal. After all, in spite of the inconvenience, I can get used to prying open the back door with a crowbar when I need to get the stroller out.

Case in point: how to open a car door when the frame is bent.

Well, in what may have been a sign from God, a home in the neighborhood has a restored 1960s Mercury Comet that the owner is willing to sell to us for $1500. My husband, upon hearing the offer, nearly shit himself with joy because he's been wanting to get rid of our 1988 Oldsmobile and get an old car from before 1972 when cars started getting too "modern" for his taste. My husband made it known to me for a long time that it was his dream to own an older vehicle because they were not full of computer parts and were far easier to maintain than modern vehicles.

As for how and why we were driving a car from the hated 1980s, it was because we bought it off of a neighbor who was selling it for cheap (she wanted $1K for it) and we needed a car because of my work schedule. In other words, we got it because we needed it and it was there. My husband only grudgingly accepted the Oldsmobile because it was built using a highly successful and well-documented X-frame and a tight 2.5L motor. The car never gave us any trouble (the only time it didn't start was because my hubby left the dome light inside running one night and it drained the battery), required minimal maintenance, and in spite of a leaky gas tank and front-end wear, got us from point A to point B without a problem.

The car we're looking to buy looks something like this. This pic is of a 1964 Mercury Comet. Pic found here
I was not with my husband when the offer was made, but he'll be taking me to see the car tomorrow. The money we get for our totaled Oldsmobile can go towards the purchase of this other car. As for the difference, well, we'll see. I hope my family would be able to help out with the purchase of the car because it would be a much safer vehicle for our family. In addition to a rebuilt motor and steel body, the Comet has a manual transmission, something I've been wanting to learn how to drive for a while.

This is a developing story, but I'll keep you updated as things progress. I do hope this deal works out. It would be nice to have a car that's not bent, leaky, and has manual transmission.

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Monday, February 22, 2016

Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry

Hello dear readers! Welcome back.

In our household, normally it's my husband who does the cooking. However, Sundays are usually reserved as my day to cook so that I can practice making edible food with minimal guidance and supervision. I wasn't entirely sure what to make, but it occurred to me to do a stir fry because we had some beef, broccoli, asparagus, and green onions that needed to be eaten.

In a fortuitous twist of fate, I told my husband to thaw the remaining flap meat so that I could finish it off in the stir fry, but he pulled out the tamale meat instead by mistake because he could barely see the grain of the meat through the ice. It was only after the meat was thawed that the mistake was realized, but I didn't mind because I could still use it.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of the stir fry. However, I will find a similar-looking picture online because what is a recipe without a picture of the finished product?

Not quite the same, but it was the closest I could find to what I made. Pic found here

Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry

1-1 1/2 lbs of flap meat or tamale meat (beef chuck roast)
2 large heads of broccoli
1 bunch of asparagus
1 bunch of green onions
1 medium white onion
3 cloves of garlic
1 large chunk of ginger
2 large handfuls of spinach
3 stalks of celery, leaves included
1/2 tsp of Kitchen Bouquet flavor enhancer
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp molasses
canola oil
rice for serving

Slice the onion, mince the garlic, ginger, and chop the green onions, taking care to remove the roots and other wilted parts. Chop the celery into small pieces. Cut the asparagus, leaving about 3" from the tip and chopping the remaining stalks into 1/2" thick pieces. Cut the broccoli florets down to about 1" in height and chop the remaining stalks into smaller pieces. Place the asparagus and broccoli into a large microwave-safe bowl with about an inch of water at the bottom and microwave for six minutes to blanch the vegetables.

While the broccoli is blanching, chop the meat. If possible, try and cut against the grain of the meat and slice them into slivers no more than 2" long and 1/4" thick. Once finished, set a large nonstick skillet on the stove and pour a small amount of canola oil into the pan, swirling it around to cover the bottom.

Over medium heat, add the onions, garlic, ginger, and meat. Let simmer for a bit and once the meat is slightly browned, add in the Kitchen Bouquet, the soy sauce, and the molasses. Let simmer and stir for a bit longer until the meat is browned. Add the celery and after five minutes, add the spinach so that it covers the meat in a layer. Let sit for a few minutes until the spinach wilts and then add the broccoli and asparagus. Stir occasionally for a few minutes, then cover the skillet and turn the heat down to low to let it simmer for the next 20 minutes. Serve on top of a bed of rice and enjoy!


  • To save time, use broccoli and asparagus that have already been cooked. Same goes for the rice
  • Use frozen ginger. It's easier to peel and chop if there is still ice in it
  • Any kind of boneless beef works for this stir fry. Use what you have available, even ground beef works as an acceptable substitute
  • If you don't feel like chopping the vegetables, you can use a grater. I don't recommend doing this, however, because a grater is a pain in the ass to clean thoroughly.
  • Mushrooms are a great addition to this stir fry. Add them in at the same time as the celery so that they absorb the flavor of the sauce.
I was quite pleased with how this stir fry turned out. It tasted just like the beef and broccoli I would order from Chinese restaurants. Give it a try. You may even find yourself going back for seconds!

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Sunday, February 21, 2016

Sunday Glamour

Happy Sunday, dear readers!

Today was our week to go to the other church. We couldn't stay long afterward to mingle like we normally do because my hubby forgot his wallet and we had to get home ASAP.

As is my custom when I do makeup, I try and match the priest's vestments when the occasion calls for it. This being the season of Lent, I decided matching the priest's vestments was the thing to do. It's my little way of expressing devotion since I don't have the mental discipline to do much in the way of prayer (that remains a work in progress...). I had an idea for what I wanted to do for my Lent look, and the images below are what I came up with.

Just closed my eyes so you can see my eyeshadow design better

Looking over the results, there are some definite changes I'd make for the next time I do this look. I'm definitely using my darker lipstick/lip liner combo. The pink glittery Sephora lipstick I used in this look was one I had for a while but never opened. When I did, I saw the heat had melted and deformed the wedge so the lipstick was softer than I anticipated. I also should probably narrow the gold spot on my lid and maybe add some darker colors to the outer corner of my eyes. I don't think I have good definition in my eyes with this look. I had the right idea with mixing the gold and purple, but it didn't come out exactly the way I wanted it to. Fortunately, I have the next few weeks of Lent to refine and improve on this look so that it's at least closer to what I have in mind.

It should also be noted that this "snowglobe" look is one I very seldom wear. I'm more of a classic dark outer corner and crease with a highlight inner corner of the eye, largely because my eyes are set kind of close together and the lack of highlight makes them look small.

One thing I am proud of is my contouring. Since I don't have a formal contouring set, I used my bronzer and blush to give my face some definition. I didn't have the time to try contouring my nose because we were running late for church, but next time I do full-face makeup I will attempt the nose contour. I have a wide Slavic nose, so contouring would help slim it down some.

And that was how I spent my Sunday morning.

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Saturday, February 20, 2016

Picture of the Day

Hi everyone!

Here is a cuteness picture I caught yesterday at the fish fry!

She ate a lemon, in addition to some of my enchiladas.

Yes, she ate a lemon and didn't freak out over it. I didn't expect she would because I drank alot of lemon-flavored drinks while I was pregnant with her.

My child is not like other children. She eats the same things we big people eat with with minimal modifications. Cabbage and taters, tomatoes, turnip and mustard greens, chili, beans n rice, jambalaya, etc. she eats it all! In fact, the only time she didn't like something we fed her was some commercially produced baby food that was supposed to be garden vegetables but looked like a radioactive green mush that tasted as terrible as it looked. It helps having a toothless old man for a husband who knows how to cook good food to expand her palette, but render the food in an edible format.

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The Fish Fry

Greetings and a happy Friday, dear readers!

As is customary during our Fridays of Lent, my hubby and I went to our other church. Every Friday of Lent, there are Stations of the Cross devotions and a fish fry hosted by the church's chapter of the Knights of Columbus. I had known about the KoC's fish fry at the other church since I was in college, happening to notice its description printed on a bulletin board in the student union. In fact, I went to the fish fry but did not stick around after eating. I was not yet a Catholic, and despite the fact that nobody approached me or said anything about my lack of Catholicism, I felt very out of place.

Fast forward a few years. Hubby and I have already been married, but we don't (and still don't) have much money. We start coming to the Stations of the Cross devotion hosted by our other church because it's at a convenient hour. Since I was working at the time, my shift let out at 4PM and with the traffic, we would be there by 5 or so to get settled in for the Stations of the Cross. When we had the cash on us, we would occasionally go to the KoC fish fry. Sometimes it would be before the Stations if we were early, sometimes it would be after the devotions were finished. We did what we could to support our parish and its endeavors. Even to this day, we still try and support our parish any way we can

When we go to the Friday fish fry, we have our certain preferred menu items. My husband usually gets a few pieces of fish while I get the Lenten special. I'm not much of a fish eater, but the alternatives are usually pretty good. Today's special was cheese enchiladas, Sonora style.

Cheese enchiladas with beans and rice, estilo sonorense (Sonoran style)

What makes Sonora style enchiladas unique is that the masa (dough made from corn flour) is shaped into thick flat discs and then fried before being covered in red chili sauce and toppings. This is different from the casserole type dish we typically think of enchiladas as being (for most Americans, enchiladas are like a Mexican casserole made from rolled corn tortillas stuffed with meat, then doused with chili sauce (which is what "enchilada" actually refers to in Mexican Spanish) before being stuck in the oven to bake and further drowned in cheese). It's a small example of the diversity of Mexico's cuisine and how blessed my family is to be living only a few hours away from the border.

After dinner, we finally went to Stations of the Cross. One of the Eucharistic Ministers actually led the devotion instead of the priests as they had been called out for business and wouldn't be making it back in time for Stations of the Cross. It would have been more reverent if the baby hadn't decided to start making a racket in church. But, that's parenthood. The more time my child spends in church, the sooner she'll learn how to behave there.

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Thursday, February 18, 2016

My Lenten Sacrifices

Hello dear readers.

I realize I'm a little late in posting this, but I was busy with the 21 day blogging challenge when Lent began.

Growing up, I was not terribly observant of Lent. The Eastern Orthodox church of which I was born into and raised has a notably stiff fast for Lent whereby all animal products are forbidden for the 40 day fasting period. My dad tried to keep the fast but usually wound up slipping and eating meat, largely because my mom totally disregarded it except for the occasional time she'd have to contribute something to the after church coffee hour and bake her famous Lenten chocolate cake. My grandparents were lukewarm about it too, with my grandma usually cooking posno (Serbian for "Lenten") foods for parties when her friends would come over. Naturally, with no good role models to emulate in this austerity, I too lacked any observance of Lent and the sacrifices required of the penitential period.

Me in 2010, the first year I took Lent seriously. This was taken during Spring Break, which fell during Lent that year

It wasn't until I discovered Catholicism in my late teens/early twenties that the idea of fasting for Lent would even cross my mind. The first time I gave up meat for Lent was in my sophomore year of college. By that point, although I was not going to church, I began to identify more and more with Catholicism and its practices. I used that Lent as a Catholic litmus test-if the Catholic life was in my future, I would successfully be able to avoid meat for the duration of the entire fast. It wasn't always easy because I'm a die-hard carnivore, and since I didn't tell anyone I was fasting and for what purpose, it added an entirely new wrinkle. As God would have it, I managed to successfully complete the Lenten fast.

After that successful endeavor, I made it a custom to go vegetarian during Lent. Sometimes, I would even give up pop, which actually turned out to be harder because I relied on pop for the caffeine and fizzy mouth feeling. As hard as it was to give up something I ate and loved, the hardest thing to give up for Lent was actually a behavioral habit. Last year, because I was pregnant and couldn't give up food, I gave up cursing. I can go 40 days without eating meat or drinking pop, but it's hard as hell for my foul mouth to give up cursing! I was not entirely successful, but I did manage to stop using the Lord's Name in vain which was a significant personal improvement.

A yummy cheese enchilada meal from the Knights of Columbus fish fry at our other church. I didn't even mind the olives, even though I don't like them.

This year, my Lenten sacrifice will not be culinary. In addition to trying to limit my use of foul language (notice I said trying...), I'm giving up watching Ghost Adventures and worrying. I love watching Ghost Adventures, but the Three Stooges of ghost hunting (which is what my husband calls the program's main host Zak Bagans and his two co-hosts, Aaron Goodwin and Nick Groff) have a bad habit of transmitting alot of dangerous and heretical ideas with regards to the spirit world (according to Catholic demonology, if a spirit makes noise and/or makes you feel weird, IT'S A DEMON AND YOU SHOULDN'T BE TALKING TO IT!!!). Lent would be a good time to take a break from being schadenfreude and watching these fools get the shit kicked out of them by the various devils they stir up.

As for the worrying bit, I'm not particularly a worrier, but I got the idea to give up worrying and submit more to God's will from a fellow Catholic blogger who I befriended and follow on Facebook. I do want to submit to God's will. It's liberating to be able to let go of my fears and worries by placing them in His hands! I admit that I'm not always successful at doing so in light of my low socioeconomic status and the penalties imposed on people like me by this Calvinist pigpen government. But, Lent is a time to focus on the spiritual life and making your relationship with God a better one. When I can, I will try and go to Mass more often than just on Sundays and take part in devotionals like Stations of the Cross on Fridays. There are graces that come from those two practices which will help me in this life as well as the next.

What will you be giving up for Lent? What aspect of your spiritual life will you be focusing on?

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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Doctor Visit

Greetings, dear readers!

Today was a highly anticipated doctor's visit. The baby hadn't been sick, but it was time for her regularly scheduled 9 month check up and booster. Our pediatrician always is thrilled to see us because every time he does, he is amazed by how much the baby is growing and how rapidly her development is progressing.

Look at mah teefies!

This visit was no exception. The pediatrician's nurse admired the baby's beauty and took her measurements. She weighs in at 21 lbs, but I was surprised it was that much as she had outgrown her size 3 diapers and her size 4 diapers are a bit small on her too. She looks and feels much heavier. The pediatrician finally saw her and was thrilled with her progress. He exclaimed that if he didn't have her as a patient, he would have guessed she was at least a year old based on how far she'd blown past her milestones. The pediatrician was also happy because we were his last patients of the day and just about every kid he'd seen today had some kind of flu or cold, so he got to end his day with a healthy baby. He gave us some pointers on keeping her emerging teeth clean by using a bit of baking soda and a gum massager twice a week as well as when to start seeing a dentist for regular checkups. He advised waiting until her top teeth came in so that there would actually be something for the dentist to look at.

We also received some surprising news. Since the baby is progressing well on eating solid foods, the pediatrician gave us the all-clear to start feeding her fish. I was a bit surprised on this bit of news because I always thought seafood, like dairy, should be off limits until the child is at least a year old. However, the general consensus is moving towards introducing foods early as a means of warding off food allergies, which are skyrocketing among America's children. As for the dairy products, he recommended giving the baby limited amounts of yogurt and cheese, but no liquid cows milk. It wasn't so much allergies as much as her digestive system not yet being able to digest the lactose. Alternatives to cows milk, like goat milk, were encouraged.

Our pediatrician also was relieved to hear that when feeding the baby, she eats what we eat (sometimes with limited modification) and anything we give her is not full of added sugar or high fructose corn syrup. He then proceeded to tell us about another child he'd seen earlier today who was due to start eating solid foods, and the father inquired about whether it was ok to give the child candy (he inquired specifically about Jolly Rancher candies), much to the dismay of the pediatrician. Needless to say, the pediatrician had to correct the father on what sort of foods are appropriate for children.

After giving her the all-clear, we got our discharge papers, a final flu shot dose, and left to go home. Hubby had to work tonight and needed to change into his work clothes.

And that was how I spent my Tuesday. Time to go finish my taxes and get my refund!

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The Braid Binge

Greetings dear readers! How are you doing today?

While waiting for my husband to come home from work last night, I walked down into the Youtube wormhole of hair tutorials. I specifically was binge watching Afro hair tutorials concerning cornrows and Ghana braids, a modified form of cornrows where braiding hair extensions are gradually added in to create fuller braids. In the past, I've attempted to do cornrows on myself with little success, however this recent binge has given me the motivation to try attempting them again.

Me wearing Senegalese twists with yarn, 2014

Given the highly charged politics that characterize modern American race relations, why is a white woman like me walking into a potential minefield and running the risk of being tarred with the "cultural appropriation" brush for wearing a hairstyle more commonly seen among people of color? Well, for one, braids as a hairstyle have been around forever, existing in one form or another in cultures around the world. Also, more practically, it's beginning to get hot here in Arizona. A previous experiment in protective styling led to the discovery that when my hair is sectioned out in parts for twists and braids, I feel cooler because more of my scalp is exposed to the air and it allows the sweat to evaporate from my head faster. Finally, braids are conducive to deep conditioning because they hold the products in. I could use an extra conditioning boost.

My desire to attempt cornrows again also brings up a question which I have not been able to adequately answer. I'm familiar with Ghana braids and would like to try making them, but my question is whether yarn can be substituted for the braiding hair that's typically used. I'm also curious as to whether flat twists can be boosted with yarn like Ghana braids, but as twists. Despite searching all over Youtube for a tutorial utilizing yarn instead of braiding hair, I was unsuccessful. This is an experiment I'm looking forward to trying out. My results will look either amazing, acceptable, or atrocious. I may even make a video of it.

Hair goals. Pic found here

It should be noted that I very seldom wear my hair in any styles other than my ponytail. As cool as I think cornrows are, I rarely wear them because cultural appropriation accusations aside, they take forever to install and I don't feel that my hair is the right texture for the style. Caucasian hair, like mine, is smooth and straight so it's not optimal for holding together in a twist or braid without rubber bands. Also, cornrows by nature are a hairstyle that requires alot of pulling so it could result in hair loss. Given that my hair is naturally weak, I baby the hell out of it with lots of conditioning, no chemical dyes, no tight hairstyles, twice-weekly washes, no heat styling and minimal trims. It's paid off, and my hair is much stronger now. It's safe for me to change up my style for a little bit now.

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Sunday, February 14, 2016

Some Thoughts on the Death of Tony Scalia

Happy Sunday, dear readers! I hope you and your loved ones had a wonderful Valentine's Day.

The infamous justice. Pic found here

As I'm sure you're all well aware by now, at least if you live here in the US, the illustrious Supreme Court justice Antonin "Tony" Scalia died yesterday at the age of 79. Widely revered as a conservative icon, his death from natural causes (or a heart attack, depending on which news source you're reading) at a hunting resort in rural west Texas could not come at a more polarizing time. This being an election year, the Republicans are gonna stall and fuck around with anyone Obama nominates to succeed the late justice until after the elections are done, at which point a successor may or may not be appointed at all.

I admit, I was a little surprised to hear of Scalia's passing. Growing up in a very Republican family, Scalia was my favorite Supreme Court justice. I admired his judicial ability to interpret the Constitution in an "originalist" fashion, his old-school Catholicism which he wore proudly on his sleeve, and his defense of conservative principles. As I got older, I moved away from the conservative political sphere because it became too consuming and was beginning to take a toll on my sanity. Meeting my husband had a lot to do with this shift in worldview, as my husband's pious Catholicism put him at odds with much of the protestant-based conservative positions. As such, my admiration of Scalia waned. I didn't hate the man, but I didn't care for his fascist politics or the government he served. I didn't appreciate his rulings against Obamacare because it was only through Obamacare that my husband and I were able to afford quality health insurance or on issues of civil rights. I strongly disagreed with his view of the death penalty because I believe one cannot call themselves "pro life" and be in support of the death penalty which takes the lives of others, as well as his many refusals to recuse himself from cases where he had a personal connection to one of the parties or other conflicts of interest. I agreed with his rulings against abortion and gay marriage because I myself happen to agree with those views, but agreeing with this asshole on two issues does not make us allies. It didn't matter if he called himself a "traditional" Catholic and went to daily Mass every morning at a TLM church or that his son became a Latin Mass priest. That's all fine and dandy, but the fact that he so ardently adhered to the Constitution, a document rooted in European freemasonry, made him an insincere believer at best and a hypocrite at worst. Numerous popes, Pope Leo XIII in particular, have condemned freemasonry and Americanism for being the heresies that they are. It's amazing how many so-called "traditional" Catholics neglect to notice this little inconvenient detail as they stumble over themselves to lick the shoes of the Republican Party...

A similarly-styled hat doeth not a martyr make, Your Honor. Pic found here

Against my better judgment, I cruised through the comment sections of a number of Catholic websites I follow on Facebook. Many of these websites I'm sad to say, given the unholy alliance between the Republican Party and no small number of influential Catholics, are quite right wing. Thousands of commentators were posting their messages of mourning for the death of Tony Scalia and calling for the mercy of God on his departed soul, as well as prophesying the impending doom of America that will happen in the wake of his death. Some people were even calling for the canonization of Tony Scalia as though he were a latter-day St. Thomas More! Needless to say, a comment I left on one of those sites reminding people that Antonin Scalia has a lot to answer for in the next life did not go over well. Don't forget, St. Thomas More served as prime minister to a government headed by a duly-appointed monarch and was put to death for refusing to recognize his king as his pope. Unlike Tony Scalia, St. Thomas More did not serve and defend a government of freemasons, for doing so would have made him anathema.

Despite the many disagreements I had with Tony Scalia and his politics and the justified temptation I feel to do so, I won't dance on his grave. To be put in a position of power and influence is a heavy cross to bear because your example can either lead people to salvation or straight down the road to hell. I really do hope in those last moments of life that the Last Rites given to Tony Scalia at least washed him enough to get him to Purgatory. Also, in spite of myself, I did say a few prayers for the fool during church today. God does not will the death of sinners, no matter how rotten they may be. It's not a bad idea to pray for him because we all will have alot to answer for at the end of our earthly lives, him included.

Giving God conniptions on the Heavenly Twitter feed. Pic found here

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What To Do When Your Kid Won't Eat Their Food

Greetings, dear readers!

This is the end! Despite the many delays caused by technical difficulties, my health, and life just generally getting in the way, I HAVE FINALLY FINISHED THE 21 DAY BLOG CHALLENGE!!! I will share my thoughts and reflections on the challenge at the end of this post, but onward to the prompt for day 21.

Carrots are for rabbits, not people!

Since I write a family and lifestyle blog, I had to do a bit of thinking to narrow down a list of topics that would work well with the prompt. I realize that getting a nine month old child to eat vegetables isn't the same as getting a three year old to do it (or even a grown adult, for that matter), but for parents starting out with solid feeding, here are some things I observed that help make feeding her nutritious food easier.
  • Stay away from the prepackaged baby food!
    • It may come as a surprise, given the huge industry that has sprung up around babies and raising them, but don't buy premade baby food. While the jars may have the right proportion of food or texture appropriate for the age of the baby, they are expensive and limited in flavors. What you can make at home is far cheaper and more nutritious.
      • Note: if you do buy baby food, get limited amounts and save the jars. Even though my husband and I avoid the baby aisle like the plague, there have been times where we needed to get something quick for the baby to eat. We saved the jars because they were glass and reusable for future feeds.
    • Expense aside, my big gripe about baby food is that the end result is unrecognizable from the ingredients that made it! A jar of garden vegetables has pictures of peas, carrots, and potatoes on the label, but what is in the jar looks like a radioactive green mush that tastes as terrible as it looks. Kids are smarter than we give them credit for. If you won't eat something, they wouldn't either.
  • Note the taste, temperature, and texture of the food
    • A baby pushing away a spoonful of squash may frustrate parents and look like an act of willful defiance, but this isn't necessarily so. Check the temperature of the vegetables-are they too hot or too cold? Take a quick taste to make sure the cabbage has the right level of salt and vinegar. Are the beans too spicy? Might the carrot slices be too tough for the child to chew or the vegetable soup too runny for her liking?
    • A tremendous amount of patience and empathy are required when getting children to eat vegetables. Due to their age, their nerves and taste buds are far more sensitive to taste and texture than our adult bodies are. It takes time to train them.
    • I admit, I am an adult who detests vegetables. I would never eat them unless I absolutely positively had to. One thing that has helped me to maintain a healthy diet is to have the vegetables incorporated into whatever the main meal is. My husband, also a vegetable hater, will combine the vegetables with meat so that the flavors will combine and balance each other out, thus avoiding overwhelming the dish or our palettes with something gross like carrots. Instead of feeding children the vegetables straight, try mixing them in with something else like casseroles or stews. As a general rule, kids have similar tastes to that of their parents; if you won't eat something, neither will they.
  • Get them involved with meal preparation
    • A kid won't know what a stalk of broccoli is unless he sees it. By getting the kids involved with meal prep, even if it's just strapping them into a papoose and carrying them around while you make dinner, they begin to associate what different kinds of vegetables are, what they taste like, and how they play a part overall in what makes up the main meal
  • It may be hard, but don't make special food for them
    • If all else fails and the baby will not eat her mashed sweet potatoes, even though she was eating them without complaint just last week and there is nothing wrong with them taste or texture wise, don't make a special food for her instead. 
    • As they get older, children love to push on the boundaries set for them because they don't understand moderation and need to learn it. It may be exhausting trying to convince your child to eat the beef and vegetable stew you made for dinner, but don't cave. I would recommend telling the child he doesn't have to eat the stew, but that you're not making anything special for him. Take it or leave it, to put it bluntly. There may be a tantrum thrown in response which may or may not involve food winding up on the floor (at which point, apply appropriate disciplinary measures), but the neural connections in the child's brain are beginning to form the association that when it's mealtime, the child needs to eat what is put in front of him or else he will go hungry.
  • Check your child's health
    • If your child is sick (has a cold, a headache, or just generally isn't feeling well), this could definitely impact whether or not they will want to eat their vegetables. Their condition might leave them with little to no appetite, or might make certain foods taste strange.
Mealtime is a family affair. Use this opportunity to expand not just your child's palette, but your own as well. You may be surprised what kinds of foods your child likes that you don't or wouldn't have thought of.
Can you think of anything else I missed? What helped your children eat their vegetables? Let me know in the comments below.

Before I sign off for the night, I would like to take this moment to share some final thoughts on this whole 21 day blogging challenge I undertook. Before my health and later my botched computer update issues derailed my progress, my regular posting of entries did lead to a spike in traffic, though it didn't stay that way because my posting regimen got sporadic for a while. Still, I did enjoy taking part in the challenge. I challenged myself in many ways, coming up with topics for the different prompts. It made me refine what I really wanted my blog to be about. I also became more familiar with the more technical aspects of blogging, like meta tags.

If I had to do a blog challenge again, I would definitely do it. I wouldn't do one in the immediate future since I need some time now to decompress and digest the whole experience, but I am definitely up to doing another blog challenge if one should come to my attention. For one, it was refreshing to have something of a structure to follow instead of letting my prose meander all over the place. Some discipline goes a long way towards making a quality product.

For anyone who is interested, here is the link to Alana Le's 21 day blog challenge. Sign up, take the challenge, and let me know how it goes for you.

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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Why You Should Keep Plastic Bottles

Good evening, dear readers! I hope your day is well and that you're looking forward to enjoying the upcoming Valentine's Day holiday with your loved ones.

I am thankfully almost done with this 21 day blog challenge! This is the second to last prompt at day 20. Like a number of prompts over the course of this challenge, it was a bit tough to think of something from my impoverished lifestyle that would fit with what the prompt was asking. As someone who is poor, there are lots of things I can think of which qualify as "should keep" such as clothes, shoes, tools and hardware, electronics, whatever money you can keep in the bank account so as to maintain a roof over one's head, etc. With so many items classified as "should keep", it's easy to become a hoarder if you're poor. It was challenging to narrow these various possessions down to one specific item. After some deliberation, I've come to the conclusion that plastic bottles are probably the most useful item you can keep and here's why.

Plastic, as we all know, is very common. Almost everything we use has plastic in it in one form or another, from clothes to cups and cars. But the kind of plastic I had in mind which should be kept is the ordinary 2L plastic pop (or soda, depending on your dialect preference) bottle. Smaller or other sizes are acceptable, but I specifically had 2L bottles in mind because they are so commonplace and cheap (depending on where you go, a 2L bottle of pop can sell for as little as $0.79 USD).

Isn't this a cute way to upcycle! Pic found here

2L plastic bottles can be put to use in a number of ways. They can be refilled with water or another desired beverage for drinking. They can also be filled with water and frozen to make ice packs to put in a cooler. Premixed plant food can be conveniently stored in 2L pop bottles for easy deployment when plants need a nutritional boost. Bottles can also be cut and utilized as planters, funnels, storage containers for kids crafts, and art projects. There are lots of things you can do with a 2L pop bottle!

When the bottle is no longer of use, you can recycle it. Plastic pop bottles are recyclable and if your trash removal company doesn't offer recycling as part of their services, have a look on Google and see if there are recycling centers in your area that accept plastic. The price per pound of plastics vary but it generally isn't very high, so reach out and see who is offering the most money for your plastic bottles. You might be lucky to get a few dollars worth out of your bags of plastic pop bottles and break even on gas money.

What do you do with plastic bottles? Let me know in the comments below.

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Ghetto Guide to Cloth Diapers

Good evening, dear readers!

Day 19's prompt of the 21 day blog challenge actually fell right in line with a subject I had already written about back when I first resumed blogging. Some months back, I wrote a guide with the low income individual in mind regarding the use, acquisition, and care of cloth diapers in a cost effective manner. It was based on my own experience as a low income mother who needed an affordable and responsible way to diaper her child.

I got these Fuzzibunz diapers secondhand from a family at church. They've proved to be a huge blessing for me

Since I had something like this already written, I figured I would repost the original entries to answer the prompt from the challenge. I haven't quite been able to figure out how to do a proper repost of a previously written blog entry, but I don't have the time right now to sit down and edit the cloth diaper posts so as to condense it down to one entry.

As I mentioned above, I wrote the guide over the course of three posts. To save you the agony, I won't text-bomb your eyes by copy/pasting the entire contents into this one entry. Instead, I will link to them below for your convenience.

The Ghetto Guide to Cloth Diapers, Part I
The Ghetto Guide to Cloth Diapers, Part II
The Ghetto Guide to Cloth Diapers, Part III

I'm considering turning this particular series of cloth diaper posts into a free e-book to download and share. I'll need to do a bit of editing to pare down the length and maybe change around a few things, but it is something I've considered doing for a while. What do you think?

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Be A Better Grocery Shopper With This Surprising Tip

Hello dear readers!

Before I resume with the 21 day blog challenge, I would like to share an update with you. On Friday, we were rear-ended by a careless driver and I sustained a mild whiplash from the impact. Today, I am pleased to report that the pain in my neck is about 90% gone. I have slight discomfort when I move my head quickly, but since my neck was recovering so nicely on its own, I decided to forgo any physical therapy on it for the foreseeable future. Plenty of rest and relaxation with Ghost Adventures streaming on my computer to keep me entertained has done much to heal my neck. However, being sore and having a VERY active baby climbing all over you are not terribly conducive to writing a blog, though we recently were given a baby jail and a walker by a friend who was cleaning out her home. Those have helped somewhat with giving me a break from parenthood for a short stretch of time.

It is also Ash Wednesday, so I hope y'all remembered to go to church today!

Anyway, back to day 18 of the challenge. This prompt was a bit of a challenge because I really couldn't think of what to write which fit! The subject will be skewed a bit towards my Arizona perspective, but I do think there is something worth considering regardless of where you live here in the US.

Since we receive food stamps, and I am extremely blessed to have a husband who cooks, we do lots of grocery shopping during the month. Sure we shop at Walmart and the local versions of the national chains like Kroger (Fry's in Arizona), Safeway, Albertsons, but we also shop at several local grocery stores that have limited markets outside of Arizona (Basha's/Food City and El Super). With our alotted amount, we actually can make it to the end of the month and still have food to eat!

What is the secret to our success?

Mexican grocery stores.

Here in Arizona, we have a high Mexican population. Others may be uncomfortable with this reality, but I honestly don't mind it because there are benefits that come from living among others who are very different from you. Food stores are one of them. It never fails-here in town the cheapest vegetables and fruits can be found in Mexican grocery stores like El Super and Food City. The national stores try to compete and sometimes have decent deals, but it's almost always consistently the Mexican stores with cheap, quality produce.

One of my regular haunts, El Super. This is from one of their stores in California. Pic found here

In addition to produce, the Mexican stores usually have good deals on pop and meat, though they aren't always consistent about effecting them. Many times, we have gone to Food City to buy vegetables and found the 2L bottles of pop to be selling for more than $1/bottle and beef flap meat selling for more than $3.99/lb. It's annoying sometimes, but that's life.

Of course, like anywhere else, there are things you avoid buying at Mexican grocery stores. They tend to be bad about selling cereal and baby foods (both horribly overpriced), frozen foods, dairy products (unless they're Mexican cheeses, then they're ok), alcohols, and most juices. Canned foods can be hit or miss, depending on what is being sold. I've bought cans of vegetables for $0.50/can when there's a sale, but would stay away from soups or canned spaghetti like Chef Boyardee because they were vending for FAR over the $1/can max price I'd be willing to pay for the product.

You may wonder if people look at my husband and I with strange looks when we go shopping in these stores since we are clearly not Mexican and speak Spanish poorly. The answer is no because NOBODY CARES! We're all too busy maneuvering around carts left in aisles as we try to get to the tomatoes and celery at El Super and inching our way past the meat counter traffic jam at Food City, just like everyone else and nobody looks twice at us. Unlike the adherents of the Republican Party, I'm just as comfortable in a Mexican grocery store as I am in an American one.

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Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Accident

Hello dear readers, and happy Saturday! Tomorrow is the Super Bowl, which my family and I will be sure to watch, even though none of us care much for the sport of football.

I'm sorry for not writing much these past few days. The baby has been keeping me busy, and yesterday we were involved in a fender bender.

We were driving home from running errands when a woman in an SUV slammed into us from behind. It was sudden and I was completely unprepared for the impact. Thank God and the laws of physics that we had been in motion and slowing down to stop at the light when the collision happened. The damage and resulting injuries would have been alot worse if we had been totally stopped. As we lurched forward, hubby's reflexes were fortunately still quick and he was able to hit the brakes to stop us from colliding with the car in front of us, averting a domino effect accident. My husband figured the woman who hit us had been speeding, based on how hard she hit us.

It was kinda like this, only with an SUV in place of the blue car and both cars were still whole. Pic found here

In addition to knocking the seat back a few inches, the whiplash caused by the impact sent my head snapping back into the headrest and my glasses flying off of my face. I felt dazed, but I was aware that we had been rear-ended. While my hubby called the cops to file a report, he saw the other car trying to drive off and he sent me out to stop her. I remember fumbling for the seat belt, but I don't remember pulling it off as I threw open the passenger side door and stumbled out of the car. I had to walk towards the SUV behind us holding onto the car because my balance had been thrown off and my legs were shaking. The other driver came out and apologized, claiming she hadn't see us and that she wanted to move off the road and into a dirt lot next to us to get out of traffic. Despite my dazed and blinded condition thanks to my glasses being somewhere in the car, I talked her into staying put. I vaguely recalled learning in Drivers Ed in high school that when you're in an accident, you have to stay where you are, even if its in traffic, until the cops come and deal with the situation. I wanted to believe her when she said she was just gonna pull off to the lot, but I didn't want to take a chance on letting her run off on us; especially since my husband caught her moving away from our car already. So we stayed put until the cops and an ambulance came to check us out.

Despite the adrenaline and daze, there were no injuries. My left arm was slightly numb from my elbow hitting the back of the seat and my neck was starting to hurt. The baby was in the backseat and was crying, but her carseat saved her from being hurled through the back window and she did not appear to be injured. The loud bang caused by the impact seemed to have scared her more than anything else. The EMTs checked us all out and pronounced us good to go. The police made their report, gave us a copy, and on Monday we will be dealing with the insurance companies. The car is driveable, but it's totaled. The frame is significantly bent and the doors can't open or close without significant force being levied on them. There is also a broken rear axle near the passenger side tire and the trunk is pretty much sitting on the ground, low-rider style. The force of the collision made the rear fold down like an accordion.
Depending on how I feel, I may be wearing one of these soon. Pic found here

As for today, the day after the accident, my neck hurts and I have some back pain. The back pain is not nearly as bad as the neck pain, and even then the neck pain isn't severe. I can turn my head, uncomfortable as it may be, but the real pain is when I look up or down. I spent most of the day resting and binge watching "Ghost Adventures" on my computer. My side of the car seemed to have gotten most of the impact because neither my husband nor the baby are hurting like I am. If I am still in pain by Monday, I will see a chiropractor.

I did manage to recover my glasses. They survived intact as they had landed on the hood of the stroller in the backseat. I am grateful for that bit of luck because my vision is poor and I can't afford to get new glasses if my up-to-date-script glasses are broken.

I will continue with the 21 day blog challenge tomorrow. I'm too sore to think of a subject to go with the prompt right now. I will finish this damn thing once and for all, even though it has been longer than 21 days since I started the challenge.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

What My Husband Taught Me About Love

Good evening, dear readers!

Despite its many delays due to both my health and my many technological mishaps (my number pad and function keys on the keyboard aren't working...again. My hubby swears he didn't do anything to bugger them when he worked on it earlier...), the 21 day blogging challenge is nearing its end! Day 17's prompt is a rather personal one, but also appropriate in light of the upcoming Valentine's Day holiday.

Before I met my husband, I was a sheltered and isolated young woman. I had been forcefully denied the privileges of dating and navigating my way around the pitfalls that come with it lest I be distracted from my rigidly enforced educational goals. In spite of this suppression, I did experience crushes on fellow students, though I knew they were in vain. As someone who was naturally emotional, it was hard to suffer these feelings in secret because my environment was not conducive to such an expression. I had to force myself to become asexual, lest I run afoul of my family's rules.

His birthday, before we were married. 2012

Meeting my husband was in many ways a godsend. Here was a man who in spite of his substantial baggage, was more of a parent to me than my biological progenitors! He gave me the space I needed to mature emotionally and establish confidence in myself by helping guide me through the more difficult moments of life. I had not intended to fall in love with him, but the more time I spent with him learning about computers and playing with his cats, the more attached I became to him.

It was the cats who really helped me come out of my shell. Before I met my husband, I was terrified of animals and the germs they carried. After I met him, he would invite me over to his tent in the hoarded private junkyard he called home to play with the kittens his mommy cats were always having since they were still young and impressionable. He would teach me about the different breeds, how to pet the kittens, how to hold, feed and play with them. From the kittens, I would gradually work my way up to the adult cats. Most of them never cared for me, with the exception of two of the mommy cats. But playing with the cats was my first lesson on the unconditional love that animals give their humans, and the emotional cues I learned from the cats would eventually spread towards their human caretaker and he returned the feeling. At last, I was free from the oppression I had been subjected to and could acknowledge that love was a healthy emotion conducive to living a healthy life.

At our church wedding in 2013, we had selected St. Paul's letter to the Corinthians as our second reading (note: "charity" has also been rendered into the more familiar "love" that we know lines 4-7 to be). I wanted this particular reading because it illustrated that true love comes from God. It we do not love God, then we cannot love each other because it is only from God that love and the life that stems from it comes. This lesson was continually reinforced by my husband living his Catholic faith all the time because that life gave him the graces he needed to love me as his wife and his animals as God's creatures. This love also helped our marriage stay together in the face of some pretty stiff odds. It will also solidify the foundation on which we will raise our children.

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