7QT: Christmas Celebrations

The Christmas season is still going strong, and while we could have been more intentional this Advent, we are grateful for the blessings we’ve received. Some of our highlights have been:

1 // Lessons & Carols at St. Paul Seminary –  since our first Advent together in 2012 (woah!), we have attended a Lessons & Carols Concert during Advent. In Boston, we went to St. John’s Seminary – typically the second Sunday (or Saturday night) in Advent – and it was always done sooooo well. It has always been the way we really mark the Advent season. Last year we attended the concert at our parish in Duluth – a bit underwhelming compared to the Schola at the sem, but still a treat nonetheless! This year we ventured out to SPS (in terribly cold & snowy weather) and it was, as always, a joy for the Gearns family. The one difficult part was not really knowing anybody. We said hello to a couple of seminarians that we’re acquainted with, but it’s such a different experience when I lack the connections to the Catholic community that I have in other places. I’m sure it will come, it’s just a void that is very noticeable.

2 // I’ve briefly mentioned how much I love our apartment, and it really shined this Advent. It’s not that it’s super large or fancy, but it’s got a cozy feeling to it (so much more so than our previous residences). We’ve really come into our own with decor and such – so just adding minor touches of a Boxwood wreath with a purple piece of fabric, an Advent wreath on a cake stand with beeswax candles, the a small nativity setup on our prayer shelf, and finally our purple cloth over our tv (a Gearns tradition) – it really lifted our spirits.

3 // We traveled to PA to spend Christmas with my family for the long weekend, and it was a good time. Different, since the older siblings/spouses/nieces were absent, but still a really great time with the rest of them. Sometimes it’s nice being home without every nook & cranny of the house crowded with people. I love it when we all get to be together, for sure, but the slower pace is also welcome. And like most holidays, my family hosts all the extended family the day of. So we still got to share the day with most of the cousins/aunts/uncles and had a delightful time!

4 // We saw the Nutcracker in Philly Friday night, which we looooved. Kevin and I saw it in Boston together when we were dating and have been longing to see it again. I also just love getting dressed up and going downtown for an occasion like that. So yay!

5 // I got some good quality time walking around my favorite spots back home. Kevin and I went for neighborhood walks – admiring all the beautiful colonial architecture (something that is sorely lacking out here in the Midwest, but I get it). Then I got to meet up with my best friends from high school at our favorite breakfast spot. The four of us have not all been together in a very long time – partly because one of them lives in Abu Dhabi now (world traveler, she is). So we had an absolutely lovely time and probably overstayed our welcome at the small restaurant.

6 // Christmas morning, Kevin and I went over to the perpetual adoration chapel at my family’s parish (it’s such a gem) and prayed for a bit. I absolutely love being able to do things like this – it really helps us to shift our focus as we ought for this wonderful celebration. After leaving the chapel, we prayed morning prayer on a bench outside and an elderly woman came up to us go give us a special prayer card for the precious blood of Jesus. She said it looked like we were praying for a special intention (which we were, and have been for quite some time) and that this prayer is incredibly powerful. So she gave it to us and then let us be. It was so beautiful!

7 // Now I know Christmas is not all about gifts (obviously), but I do want to mention a couple of things that I was SO SO SO excited to receive. My fabulous husband, who knows me so well, bought me this amazing lunchbox. Given that I eat practically an AIP diet (autoimmune paleo), my lunches are typically one container with spinach/kale, some protein, and then a variety of vegetables. And I’m not complaining about that because we eat well and I usually enjoy it very much. But sometimes it’s nice to have a little variety and separate the foods for a different experience. This lunchbox, eco-friendly, safe from all toxins, & cute! has multiple spots for all your fixin’s – vegetables, nuts, fruit, meat, two sealed containers (one for a dressing of sorts and the other for more liquid type foods). I am newly rejuvenated to eat lunch in 2017. So thank you, Kevin. You have won this round of gift giving. Other honorable mentions – this dress, these boots, and the annual matching sportswear that my dad gets everyone in the family (I’m being serious, he really knows how to pick this stuff). As always, I’m too spoiled, and my family is overly generous. But I’m super grateful as most of the gifts are quality investments that really help us out. So praise God for all that we have been provided for – we really do live super well.

Merry Christmas to you & yours!

Christmas & New Years // Pennsylvania & Minnesota

The holidays were a real whirlwind for us, Gearnses. It was a bummer to have Kevin working most days when my work kind of slowed down, but the solemnities, weekends, and evenings were quite beautiful.

dinner & a movie on Christmas Eve
dinner & a movie on Christmas Eve

We kicked off the Christmas season with a lovely Vigil Mass at our parish. Following Mass, we had a couple friends over for dinner & It’s a Wonderful Life. My family has watched this film every Christmas Eve for as long as I can remember, so it’s a tradition I plan on keeping. We unfortunately didn’t finish the movie that night, though, as we had to get up for a 4am drive to the twin cities on Christmas day (eek!).

Kevin & Deacon Paul at the airport way to early Christmas Day

We made the drive that morning, met Deacon Paul at the seminary who would be looking after our car for the weekend, arrived at the airport, had a bit of an issue with our tickets (we owe many thanks to the generosity of others for that day!), but eventually made it to Philly early afternoon. When we got to my house (oh how I love our town), the festivities were already in full swing it seemed. We have quite a big family, and my parents always love to host. One of the big activities of the afternoon was, of course, family football across the street. Not to brag or anything, but my dad did name me MVP (I said it’s all those yoga poses stretches I’ve been doing…).

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Christmas evening continued as usual, with all the people in every corner of the house. One of the great joys of the weekend was simply being with my whole immediate family (which unfortunately doesn’t happen that often!) and getting to see the babies! Millie is almost 4 months now, and Evie is just about 2 months. Kevin and I stayed home from the annual Eagles game on Saturday night to spend time with the little ones, and I miss it so much! My nieces are absolutely the cutest.

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I look just a wee bit tired from the travels that day…but look at those babies in their matching dresses!

After a short weekend, we came back to Minnesota (it was a looong drive back to Duluth that Sunday night). Our nights have been spent watching Christmas movies together (Home Alone, Love Actually, the Holiday), and eating [paleo] Christmas cookies. We had a lovely evening with Kevin’s mom and uncle to celebrate & exchange gifts as well.

dinner at Duluth Grill New Years Eve
our grainy photo of dinner at Duluth Grill New Years Eve

New Years Eve (rather the Vigil for the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God) we went out to dinner with a few friends to Duluth Grill. I had heard so much hype about this place, and I don’t know if I’d say it lived up to it (there was a lot!), but it was still very good! We had a grand time in good company. And Kevin and I spent the next day at Mass and doing date-like things together (which for us means going to Barnes & Noble or Target and hanging out 🙂 #marriedlife).

It’s been a full couple of weeks, and we have our Epiphany party to look forward to this weekend! Yes, it’s a bit late as we celebrated the Epiphany this past Sunday, but it’s a rich feast that deserves good attention. After that, the Christmas season shall officially be over and it’s back to ordinary time for a bit. Enjoy it while it lasts!

Advent: the second half

Here we are quickly approaching the high feast of Christmas and I’m so excited. While our travel plans are not ideal (driving to the twin cities at 4am to catch a flight on Christmas Day to PA, flying back 2 days later), we are very much looking forward to being with my family for the holiday, even if for a brief time. The last couple weeks around here have been busy, but good busy.

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On Gaudete Sunday, we cut down our own Christmas tree with some friends. It was my first experience of actually cutting it down, though, I actually didn’t do it – Kevin did. It was a bit anti-climactic, but it was also cheaper than buying one pre-cut. So win-win.

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Afterwards, we went to our respective homes to setup the trees and ended up at Fr. Michael’s rectory for some dinner & Marvel entertainment. The Avengers is just that good.

We got some snow shortly after the tree cutting extravaganza. And I’m still not sure what to do with our driveway. So for now – we shovel. And we shovel. And we shovel some more.

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This past weekend was pretty awesome. Fr. Seth, another one of the Priests that con-celebrated our wedding, was in town (he is assigned at parishes way up north), so we went out for dinner Friday night. It was a truly wonderful time. Good conversation, lots of laughter, and delicious food. We went to Tycoon’s, which is on Lake Ave in downtown Duluth and it was a lovely restaurant: a nice interior, classy holiday decor, live music that wasn’t overpowering – an all around good time. After dinner, we met up with another friend all together at Olive Garden for some coffee & dessert. A rejuvenating night if ever there was one.

We also had a visitor on Saturday evening – none other than Deacon Paul, one of Kevin’s best friends currently down at the major seminary in St. Paul. He was up for a wedding and stayed with us that night. He is such a great presence to have around – a man of wisdom & peace. So Kevin was quite excited to have some time with him.

We also saw…STAR WARS. Oh my goodness. No words. I wasn’t really hyped up for this one, but I grew up loving the original trilogy, and am one of very few people who can appreciate the most recent trilogy ;). But for some reason, I just wasn’t excited to see The Force Awakens. We want to see it anyway, of course, and I was caught off-guard at how good it was. And I am loving the main character, Rey. She’s not an overpowering man-hating feminist, but she is a very strong leading woman and it was awesome. If you haven’t seen it – GO SEE IT.

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On Monday, I was able to go down to St. Paul with a friend here just for a little day out in the city. We had such a lovely time going ice skating, looking at beautiful homes on Summit Ave, eating lunch by St. Thomas, visiting the Cathedral, and obviously going to Trader Joe’s. I can’t not go to TJ when it’s nearby. Success!

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Finally, last night we attended Lessons & Carols at our parish. Very different from the version that the seminary in Boston would put on, but still a nice evening. Plus one big bonus: livestock. Yes, our parish had a donkey, a sheep, and two goats. It was great. So many happy things.

Now off to finish a bunch of things before the Christmas season begins!

Our Christmas Letter!

We sent this letter our to friends & family with our Christmas card this year. But the blog version has links!

A blessed Advent & a merry Christmas to you all! It is from our new home near Lake Superior that we write this letter to you. When reflecting on this past year, this particular verse comes to mind:

“Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” [James 1:2-4]

It has been quite the year for us, and there has been excitement, doubt, frustration, and gratitude. But in it all, we knew God has been calling us to a deeper surrender.  When we reflect on the way God has blessed us this past year through everything, it absolutely amazes us.

Since last Christmas, we have survived Boston’s worst winter on record (woohoo!), Katie wrapped up her part-time work with the Brotherhood of Hope, Kevin finished his time at the Academy of Realist Art as both student and instructor, we made a fruitful pilgrimage to St. Joseph’s Oratory & St. Anne de Beaupre, we celebrated a beautiful first anniversary the same week we found out we were expecting, and we suffered the loss of that same child (Giovanna Raphael).

We had been discerning moving for a while and were granted some clarity. We ended our time in Boston with a wonderful Krouchick family vacation in Plymouth, MA, said hard goodbyes to the dearest of friends, and began our cross country move. We were blessed with time to see loved ones along the way, and arrived at our new home in mid-September. We’ve since also welcomed our first two beautiful nieces, Millie & Evie!

Through the recent months of transition, we have been continually called to trust in God’s goodness & mercy. While we sometimes ache for the familiarity of life out East, God has granted us immense peace that surpasses understanding. And a whole lot of joy!

We have received great welcome here in Minnesota, and our hearts are humbled by how good life is. The community has been warm & charitable, Kevin has found good work, Katie is continuing her Boston work (remotely, obviously), and despite living in the woods (according to Katie), there have been no sightings of bears/wolves/bobcats (praise God!). Just bunnies, deer, & partridges. 🙂

Only the Lord knows what this next year will bring, but we have faith and are content with today. We consider it all joy because through it all we are more united in Christ. A good year, indeed! We are praying for all of you this Christmas season (and this new year of mercy!!!)! May peace & joy reign in your lives.

In Jesus & Mary,

Katie & Kevin

7 shops for unique gifts

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving! I’m linking up with Kelly today 🙂

I love gift giving. You could even say it’s my love language…which it is. Through and through. I put a lot of thought into the gifts I choose for people, and it’s often the way I express my love and gratitude. I especially love giving more personalized gifts, or things that don’t necessarily say “I cost $15” but rather are appreciated for the thought.

Now some of the shops below may seem a bit more expensive (while others are not!), but take it as general inspiration. I’ve often handmade gifts myself based on something I’ve seen online.

[ 1 ] Artifact Uprising

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I looooove this place. It’s my new favorite shop for photo-related gifts. I got something for myself the first time around and I can’t tell you how good the quality is. You upload your own photos and can make your own projects. And when you first signup, you get 25 prints free (5×5)! The paper is nice card stock and the pictures came out wonderfully.

[ 2 ] Brim Papery

What an adorable little shop, amiright?! Jolie makes the most beautiful products all herself and I love it all. She has stationary, mugs, calendars, prints, organization sheets, and more! Do yourself a favor and get over to her shop for some beauty.

[ 3 ] Uncommon Goods

This is an oldie, but a goodie for me. I haven’t bought anything from there in a while because I went through my favorite products a couple years back in gift giving. But I love their state/regional line of goods. I have friends/family that live all over and I’ve bought dish towels (which I’ve also received as a gift and love!), coasters, and other fun little trinkets.

[ 4 ] Hatch Prints

Who doesn’t love gorgeous hand lettered prints? And the quotes used often have a Catholic tone to them. If I was made of money, I’d buy all of these and then frame them for all over my home. Once, again – just gorgeous products from a small business owner.

[ 5 ] Young Living Essential Oils

I had to put this on here. I love these oils and they are definitely going to make it into some gifts this year. A gift of wellness & care! And they have some great seasonal products out right now, so go check it out. Check out my essential oils page for more info!

[ 6 ] Personalization Mall

This one is almost a joke at how well-priced it is. There are always so many coupons available. This one’s great for weddings, anniversaries, parents, and pretty much any occasion. You can get almost anything personalized for super cheap. I used this at least a couple times a year.

[ 7 ] Other favorites that aren’t a specific shop:

  • Instagram Coasters – I’ve had great luck with these for friends (I still see the coasters used when I go to their homes!).
  • Homemade Coasters – a bit more work, but my siblings have loved these coasters and my mom just requested I make her some as well. I get marble floor samples from Home Depot (4×4), and do a little bit of hodgepodge magic with some gloss finishing and voila!
  • Framed Map Prints – you can find these all over Etsy, but you can see an example here. I’ve mentioned many of my friends and family live all over, and some of them move frequently for the military or are away from their home town/state. A framed print can be a really sweet gift!

That’s all for now. Enjoy the weekend! 🙂

Merry Christmas from Duluth!

A most merry Christmas to you all! Currently, I’m resting in our lovely hotel room right on the edge of Lake Superior (spectacular views). Last night, we attended Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary. Kevin introduced me to Bishop Sirba, a real delightful man! And so our solemnity began!

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This is my first Christmas away from Pennsylvania and away from my family (who I miss very much!), but we’re making the most of it and it’s beautiful being here in Kevin’s homeland. I’m really enjoying myself. And my family was blessed with this past weekend together in DC for our annual Philadelphia Eagles game!

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I hope you’re all having a joyous Christmas and that it continues throughout the entire season! I’m sure I’ll be back later with a plethora of pics and updates!