Epic Roadtrip Part 2 & 7QT at the Catholic Marketing Network

Last we spoke (read? wrote?) my husband and I had just arrived back from leg one of our Epic Late Summer Road Trip. That was our anniversary trip to West Virginia. I mentioned at the end of that post that I was actually writing while on leg two of said Epicness. Here’s how it went down:

When we arrived back home on Sunday night, we made a horrible discovery: our air conditioning had gone out at some point during the weekend. It was probably a toasty 86 degrees on the lower level of our townhouse and who knows how much hotter upstairs. Not fun, but thankfully it was a pretty nice night outside so we managed with fans and enjoyed the rest of our evening while frantically unpacking/re-packing into a larger suitcase so we could set off the very next afternoon immediately after work (and reporting the broken ac to our leasing office bright and early) for leg 2…New Jersey!

Why were we so excitedly venturing to New Jersey? To attend the wonderful and oh so glamorous Catholic Marketing Network trade show. I’ve mentioned before that I run a Catholic bookstore/giftshop and that it’s pretty much the best job in the world. I get to do a million things a day including filling the store with all kinds of magnificently solid Catholic goodies. And it’s so amazing and fulfilling to know that every decision I make is focused on what will help the people who come to our shop to grown closer to Our Lord. Seriously, best job ever.

A picture from last year’s show. The woman in the red shirt is actually my sales rep from Ignatius Press whose name is also Therese. She’s really thrilled that this picture of her butt has been on the CMN website for the last year.

So try to imagine how much fun I was having in a conference center in New Jersey packed to the gills with beautiful statues and pictures, handmade rosaries, books, books, books galore, and hundreds of amazing new kids stuff just waiting to be scooped up and placed on our shelves. I have a very serious suspicion that Heaven might look like this for about an hour at a time (unless, of course you can’t get sick of good things in Heaven…at which point in the theological debate I’ll pass you over to Jen.)

I feel like I could probably go on ad nauseum about all of the amazing stuff I found there and what a fun time I had on day one (when I actually got to explore and browse instead of running around like a maniac skipping lunch trying to get all of my orders placed before the show floor closed and I had to drive back home right away.) I’ll try to keep it to just a couple of fun things, ok? Feel free to skip past if you’re soulless and don’t like totally awesome shiny new stuff from fun new companies that will make beautifully organized new displays in the children’s area of our store.

LIGHTBULB! Since it’s that time of the week, let’s do this 7 Quick Takes style and cheat a little. Deal? (Sorry, there’s probably no scrolling past this now.)

–1–

Father Juan Pablo Vocations Doll

If you are Catholic and have small children, I absolutely encourage you to check out this new company called Wee Believers. They have dozens of adorable products that are great for even really small children including these vocations dolls. Fr Juan Pablo wears a full cassock (or as I call them, Priestly super hero outfits) and Sr. Mary Clara is just plain adorable. They’re plush and come with great books to encourage children to become comfortable with the idea of vocations to the religious life. Plus they remind US (not just kids) that priests and nuns (and brothers and sisters) are fun!

–2–

I’m cheating here because this is from the same company, but it deserves it’s own number and I don’t think you’ll blame me.

Plush MASS KIT. Seriously.

Yeah, that’s an entire Mass kit made out of soft materials for children to play Mass with at home. When I was a kid, all we had to use as a “host” was an Oreo. Seriously. This set has candles, a crucifix, and a thurible for crying out loud! It’s a thing of beauty. I wish I had a four year old boy to play with this with right now. Their website is here, but I wholeheartedly recommend that you use their search function to find a local Catholic bookstore near you to order this stuff from. Help out the little guys so you’ll still have a place to pop in and grab a couple of holy cards or a new miraculous medal from at the last minute.

P.S. I would LOVE to hear some great funny and/or adorable stories about kids playing Mass. There might even be a prize in it for the person with the best story.

–3–

Who needs a Cootie Catcher when you can have a kid’s Catechism Catcher?

This was probably my favorite new booth of the year: Arma Dei. I made fast friends (well, I thought so) with Monica and fell in love with just about every single one of her products. I didn’t even realize she ran a blog, I swear! All of her products are fun, color-able, inexpensive to make, and most importantly full of great Catholic “meat.” She has tons of great books and craft ideas that I spent a solid half-hour drooling over. A board member who came with me had to drag me away. I bought a bunch for the store including a set of playing cards that teach fundamentals of the faith (everything from 2=the two natures of Christ to 9=the nine precepts of the Church.) Amazing, right?

–4–

Battle Saints bracelets kick tush

You know those great saints bracelets that everyone wears? Well, this company was called Battle Saints and they make saints bracelets just like those, except the saints on them are specifically chosen because they’re the patrons of each of the branches of the military and of warriors in general. The idea is that a) you can purchase them and send them to a service man/woman that you know to give them some extra protection and b) you can purchase them for yourself and anyone else you can talk into wearing it to remember to pray for the service members through the intercession of the saints on the bracelet. Each bracelet comes with a folded up paper explaining the different patrons found on them and the mission of the organization. An especially wonderful part of what they do is to make a donation from each sale to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund which helps wounded warriors when they return with physical rehabilitation, TBI, and post-traumatic stress.

–5–

Our Lady of Guadalupe from the Shining Light Dolls Collection

This company is brand-spankin’ new and is making the most wonderful new line of hard vinyl dolls. Right now all of the subjects are different apparitions of Our Lady, but she’ll also be making a line of favorite saints! (We ordered the Our Lady of Guadalupe, Fatima, Knock, Czestochowa, Lourdes, & Kibeho for starters.) Since the dolls are a single piece and made of tough, durable plastic, they’re perfect toys for any age–even infants! I think they’d make great tub toys (there is a tiny air hole in the bottom that could potentially trap water in there…but you never know until you try,) and should be very easy to clean mud and/or drool off of. They also come with a great booklet and prayer card to teach your family more about the subject and come in really attractive packaging. Apparently they’ve become a collector’s item for lots of people. And they’re just so sweet! (P.S. I know they’re called Shining Light Dolls, but they do NOT light up. Don’t be confused!)

–6–

One of my favorite Catholic movies!

If you haven’t heard about Navis Pictures yet, you’re in for a treat. We already carried their movies, but this is just such a great apostolate that I had to share. Navis Pictures is an apostolate for young people that basically developed because one father in a homeschool group in CT had a professional background in film and a desire to get his kids actively involved in learning their faith. This is a production company that ONLY uses children 18 and under as actors to film amazingly solid Catholic films. The one I pictured above is one of my favorites because it really makes the beautiful faith of the martyrs of the French Revolution (that I–and most people–had never heard of) come alive. You’ll spend the first ten minutes of each film figuring out how old each of the characters is supposed to be, but you actually forget that you’re watching a group of relatively untrained homeschool kids and just become enraptured with the stories. There are a number of truly moving scenes in there too that words just won’t do justice. (i.e. the scene on the cover where they’re offering Mass on the field before battle and during the moment of consecration one of the older main characters looks so reverently at the Host and says, “My Lord and my God!” and if you watch carefully for the small children behind him who are probably barely old enough to totally grasp that their friend playing the priest is not, in fact, a priest and that this is only a pretend Mass, you’ll see the sheer love on their faces as they look upon Our Lord.) Sorry for the run-on sentence there. Just so you know, it hurts me too.

–7–

Our first batch of Glory Stories CDs and books!

Another one that you probably already know about: Glory Stories CDs by Holy Heroes. You might notice a trend here that most of these favorite picks are children’s products made by family-run apostolates. This is another started by a convert and her family. All of the kids help with the voices on the audio CDs and the stories are really top-notch. They gave me a demo of the Blessed Imelda Lambertini and Juan Diego CD to listen to and I was actually in tears on the drive home, it was so beautiful. Every family that I know that’s started a collection of these CDs has fallen madly in love with them. I actually had a group of nine year olds jumping up and down in the store with excitement (one almost knocked over some statues) when I told them we would be carrying them from now on! They also have lots of neat weekly Mass prep resources and activities. Enjoy!

Two other points of personal interest: While at the CMN show I was surrounded by Catholic celebrities (Fr. Michael Gaitley, Fr. Don Calloway, and Mother Dolores Hart for starters.) Among about 3 dozen other authors that I met, I got Teresa Tomeo to sign one of her books for me. I’ve never read her books and I’m not sure that I’m particularly dying to, but I do love to listen to her radio show on my way into work in the mornings. It puts me in the right mindset after schlupping through the Today show to get my weather report and Al Roker fix. It was pretty great to get to see her. Even if she was super busy and could only even look at me for a few seconds. I get it, Teresa. We’re cool.

Also, Dale Ahlquist held the door for me. Be jealous.

Coming…soonish: Part 3 in which my husband almost punches a DJ and we’re still really sweaty.

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7 Belated Not-So-Quick Takes

First ever 7 Quick Takes!

— 1 —

Sooo the weekend of friends visiting and helping people move got away from me and these “Friday Seven Quick Takes” have turned into “As long as it’s done by Sunday that’ll be good enough, right?” Takes. Sorry for the delay of this exciting post that you did not know you were expecting. 🙂
I’m pretty psyched to do my first 7QT. So psyched, in fact, that I’m not even paralyzingly self-conscious that they might be lame. Because everyone knows that you can’t make random lists on the internet without being held accountable for the level of awesome that you add to people’s day. And let’s be clear about that too: My draw to this lovely method of sharing a little bit with other lovely bloggers is based almost entirely on the fact that I get to make a big list. I’ll do my best to refrain from creating sub-lists.

— 2 —

MY BEST FRIEND IN THE WHOLE WORLD IS COMING TODAY! I’m more obnoxiously excited than caps-lock can convey. She’ll only be here long enough for dinner as she passes through on a road trip to Philadelphia, but I’m over the moon. I haven’t seen her since our wedding nearly a year ago! We met in third grade through sharing crayons in what was supposed to be a gifted class, but was really just about doing those little brain teaser puzzles all day and were…friendly. Not best friends ever yet, but friendly all the same. And then, one horrible day during an assembly on the first day of fourth grade, she sat behind me and must have made a face at something entirely random, but which I thought was directed at me, which caused me to make a face in return, which caused us both to mistakenly think the other one hated us for the remainder of the year. That, folks, is exhibit A of why it’s important to make our assumptions with charity about one another. Because when you don’t, you miss out on a whole year of life-altering best friendship.

Not to fear though, on day one of fifth grade we both quickly looked around the room, realized we knew no one else in our class, and literally simultaneously ran to one another calling each others’ name in great big bear hugs. That’s when our best friendship started. It was magic and I will probably never know what gave each of us the sudden confidence to act like we’d been besties all along. Other than God, of course. Clearly, this was a friendship made in Heaven. We’ve been so blessed over the years to stay close even when we’ve had to go months (or in a few cases, years) without seeing each other or even speaking much over the phone. So tonight we’re gonna party like it’s elementary school!

— 3 —

Thursday was mine and hubby’s 11th “mensaversary” (mens=month…yes, we’re that quirky.) We made a promise when we got married that we would make sure that we gave ourselves a date night at least once a month. To hold ourselves accountable, we decided that we’d set date night on (or as close to when it doesn’t work out) the 4th of the month to line up with the date of our anniversary. So far it’s been working REALLY well. We missed one month entirely back in March because I had just had major surgery, he was starting a new job, and–quite frankly–we had both lost track of what day of the month it was. Our days just blurred together. We made up for it later in the month though when we realized what had happened.

Do you do something like that for date nights?

That said, the fourth of July was date night. We had it all planned to go out for a nice dinner (in our world, that’s Red Lobster) and just spend some time together. What we wound up doing was SO MUCH BETTER. We stayed inside. All day. Just us. It was amazing. It’s only recently since he started the new job that we started getting weekends and holidays off together, so having a whole day to ourselves is still a real treat. We slept in, cooked, watched our favorite tv shows, played on our computers side-by-side a little while, ordered in Chinese food, and basked in the joy of each other’s company. We only walked out the front door in the evening to watch the multitude of fireworks being set off in our neighborhood. These, by the way, included the most awesomely huge and close illegal industrial-type fireworks ever being shot off from the backyard of the house across the street. They were over our heads and HUGE. And AMAZING. They would do them in small batches every twenty minutes or so, but they’d be over quickly, so every time we heard one going off, we’d drop everything, sprint for the door, and run outside to watch what we could. It was a great day.

— 4 —

I was all set to give you a great post about what I decided to do with these bananas:

Sad, spoiling bananas

Sad, spoiling bananas

I actually have a plan and what I think is a pretty great idea. I was all set to do the whole “experiment and take pictures because that’s what blog people do” thing, and very excitedly and proudly told my husband all about my yummy plans. He was super pumped–until he remembered that he had to crush my spirit by informing me that he had been a good and thoughtful husband (and reasonable) and had thrown those smelly suckers in the trash since, apparently, they had attracted a “cloud of tiny flies.” I swear our house is not that nasty. But nevertheless, because I have a helpful husband, you have no banana experimentation. His solution was to buy the ripest bananas from the store, wait a few more days and just pretend I’d gotten busy. He wanted me to lie. :p Which I maybe would have done if I didn’t need to use it as fodder for 7 Quick Takes. But rest assured, there will be new bananas and I WILL make a delicious experiment with them and share the results–for better or for worse.

— 5 —

We helped two of our best friends move into their very first house yesterday! (One more reason for this delayed post.) It’s a beautiful little house for two beautiful people who will, God willing, fill it up with beautiful little people! The whole day was somehow very thrilling. I know most people would rather die a fiery death than move or unpack or help someone else do those things, but I think I get some kind of weird jollies from it. I’ve moved what feels like countless times over my life, most of them over the past 6-8 years of my adult life, and while the moving OUT part is terrible, I really enjoy the unpacking, the settling in, the methodically going through boxes one at a time with a glass of wine and a favorite tv show or cd on. And my favorite room in the world to unpack, the one that I always, always, always unpack first that instantly makes me feel like a billion-pound anvil has been lifted off of my chest is the kitchen. Once my plates, pots and pans are accessible and I can cook, it’s officially a home. Not a moment before. Am I alone in this?

— 6 —

Update on those mushroom burgers that were marinating in their super-photogenic Ziplock bag in the freezer here:

Waiting to become Mushroom burgers

Waiting to become Mushroom burgers

They were delicious. So delicious that we forgot to take any pictures. Sorry. I’m going to have to learn how to grow an extra set of hands so I can take pictures of things while I do them instead of doing a thousand other things and then remembering after we’ve already devoured the food and have nothing left to take a picture of. I’ll do better next time. But for the record, they were incredible.

We stemmed and cleaned out our Portabello Mushrooms and soaked them in the fridge for 2+ hours in a marinade of about 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, a little salt and a little more pepper. Then we grilled them up on the stove until they looked mouth-watering, melted some provolone on top, and stacked it on a toasted Italian bread bun. The only extra that I forgot to do and will try next time is to add some caramelized onions to the burger. I think it’ll be meatless Friday HEAVEN.

— 7 —

It’s harder to come up with 7 of these things than it looks. I almost chickened out and used my “Oops now these are belated” blurb at the beginning as a number one. But that wouldn’t have been fair. So instead, I leave you with this make-believe take while I run off to start some laundry, sun tea, cleaning, and if I’m really on the ball, at least two meals for the week. Enjoy reading all of those other great Quick Takes!

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