Masthead header

Scot Sturzebecker Headstone at Arlington National Cemetary

Wishing everyone a blessed Christmas and Epiphany Season!  As Christmastide quietly rolls on by, and while most people have moved on from celebrating the mysteries of Christmas, another quiet tradition that still continues is the laying of wreathes at Arlington National Cemetery as part of the Wreaths Across America initiative every year.

It’s a beautiful way of remembering all those who served so that we may have our freedoms, particularly our religious freedoms that we enjoy, especially this time of year.  A most sincere, thank you, to all those who have served and gone before us.

May we all do our part to help honor their lives by preserving what was given to us at such great cost.

Wishing you all a happy and blessed New Year and remainder of the Christmas and Epiphany feast days!

For those that want to participate in the 2015 clean up at Arlington, it’s January 24th at 8am.

(Edit: To participate in 2016 clean up, the proposed date is January 23 2016.  Check back on the Arlington News page for updates .)

[This image was taken Jan 2014.  Scot was a friend of my husband’s.  May he rest in peace.]

  • Tom - January 6, 2015 - 5:38 pm

    This is a great tradition! Thanks for remembering Scot and all of our men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.

The Northwest Center Christmas Card 2014

The Northwest Center Christmas Card 2014

During this time of joyous Christmas celebrations, let’s help support struggling families, especially single mothers, with no where to turn to.  An organization I support, and do pro bono shoots for to help promote their much needed services, is The Northwest Center  in Washington DC.

Consider making a year end gift to support life if you can, as they do a lot of work on a shoestring budget running both a crisis pregnancy center and maternity home.

Visit to make an online donation.

Also, like their Facebook page to keep up with the work they do.

Abundant blessings to you all during this Christmas season!



  • Payal - December 31, 2014 - 8:08 am

    you are doing great job of supporting this org. which is working for struggling families, especially single mothers. Even I have one of my relative who is single mother of two.. And sometime I feel pity for her and want to do something for her… Its a great cause to support! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Tom - January 6, 2015 - 5:56 pm

    Definitely a great cause! It was great visiting the center and maternity home. They do great work!

01-Getting Ready

Irene & Howard

On a perfect fall day, Irene and Howard said their I Do’s.  It was simple and elegant with fabulous details.  (Be sure to see the vendor information at the end!)  It was a beautiful early evening Nuptial Mass at the historic Baltimore Basilica, immediately followed by a reception a few blocks away at the charming Chase Court.  The evening was flowing with great music, food and drinks, facilitating lots of socializing in the intimate Gothic inspired reception areas.

I’m so glad Irene and Howard squeezed in a “First Look” since we were able to get some really natural and joyful portraits of the bride and groom in the early evening light.  (In case anyone doesn’t know, a First Look is where the bride and groom arrange to see each other privately before the wedding and have a quite moment together before the events of the wedding carry them away.  The photographer documents the moment from a small distance and then, in the afterglow of that moment, the official portraits are taken.  It allows for an experience that would otherwise be missed and makes for some of the best images of the day!)

Let’s congratulate these happy newlyweds and wish them well!

02-Bridal Toast 03-Bridal Bouquet and Hair 04-Maid of Honor and Mother of the Bride 05-Groom First Look 06-Brides First Look 07-Bridal Portrait 08-Waiting Groom 09-Walking down the Aisle 10-Wedding Homily 11-Vows 12-Vows 13-Nuptial Blessing 14-Communion 15-Final Blessing 16-Grooms Daughters 17-Grooms Brothers 18-Lagan Family Portrait 19-Kiss 20-Baltimore Basilica 21-Table Flowers 22-Favors and Guestbook 23-Cocktail Hour and Guestbook 24-Welcome and Blessing 25-First Dance 26-Toasts 27-Cocktails 28-Guests 29-Dinner 30-Tent 31-Table 32-Siblings 33-Band 34-Dancing 35-Dancing 36-Cupcakes

Dress: Claire Pettibone

Church:  Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Florist:  Radebagh’s and for the church:  Essex Florist

Reception:  Chase Court

Make up:  Shannon at Charm City Skin

Hair:  Melissa and Mia at  NV Salon collective

Cupcakes:  Midnite Confection

Catering:  The Pantry

Music:  The Swingin’ Swamis

Macaroon Favors:  Jinji chocolate

  • Tom - November 26, 2014 - 11:51 am

    Amazing pictures! Congratulations to Irene and Howard!!

  • Zoe - November 26, 2014 - 7:12 pm

    Beautiful photos, R!

    Heavens, what’s happening to my neck?? Old age? (Had to say SOMETHING negative about my pictures or you’d think it was a different Zoe! 🙂

  • Renata - November 26, 2014 - 8:07 pm

    Oh Zoe… Just made Tom look with me too and we can’t figure out what you’re taking about…again! 😉 What’s wrong with your neck and in which photo?

  • Jackie Cruz - November 26, 2014 - 8:19 pm

    Renata, absolutely stunning pictures. You have captured well the joy and sacredness of this marital celebration. Thank you for sharing it with all of us. I am so happy for Irene and Howard.

  • irene - November 27, 2014 - 10:01 pm

    Hey R, These are great photos! Thank you once again! We’ve had a great time looking at these with family today, and we’re really grateful. you really captured so many beautiful moments and memories.

  • Christina Liebertz - December 1, 2014 - 4:11 pm

    Gorgeous photos, Renata! What a beautiful wedding: sacred ceremony and fabulous party. These pictures capture it so well. Congratulations Irene and Howard!

  • Carrie Lagan - December 1, 2014 - 5:15 pm

    Absolutely beautiful photos. Congratulations and wish i could have been there. Xx

  • Julia - December 1, 2014 - 9:54 pm

    Lovely work, Renata – obviously a lovely couple and celebration. You captured the detail and sentiment so well. Always a treat seeing your pictures and artwork. xo

  • Margaret - December 5, 2014 - 1:30 pm

    Just now seeing these, and I love them all. Beautiful job, Renata! Hooray Howard and Irene!

A Night with the Saints

If you’ve ever wondered what else there is to do on Halloween, and if getting dressed up in costumes or passing out candy isn’t your thing, then perhaps revisiting the meaning behind the holy day and attending a Vigil of All Saints might be just for you.

For years I’ve gone to the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC for their annual (and standing room only!) All Saints Day vigil on Halloween.  This year I thought I’d visit another vigil service that began a few years ago, also hosted by the Dominicans, but in Baltimore instead at the Ss. Philip and James University Parish.

The format was the same, reflections from selected saints, chanted Night Prayer, a candlelight procession, and veneration of relics, ending with a party including hot cider, food, and of course candy.

It was a very beautiful night of prayer and celebration.  If you’d like to see more photos, there are more images from this Vigil of All Saints at my photo gallery.

Happy Halloween!

All Saints Vigil Baltimore at Ss Philip and James University Parish_001 All Saints Vigil Baltimore at Ss Philip and James University Parish_002 All Saints Vigil Baltimore at Ss Philip and James University Parish_003 All Saints Vigil Baltimore at Ss Philip and James University Parish_003 All Saints Vigil Baltimore at Ss Philip and James University Parish_004 All Saints Vigil Baltimore at Ss Philip and James University Parish_005 All Saints Vigil Baltimore at Ss Philip and James University Parish_006 All Saints Vigil Baltimore at Ss Philip and James University Parish_007 All Saints Vigil Baltimore at Ss Philip and James University Parish_008 All Saints Vigil Baltimore at Ss Philip and James University Parish_009

  • Tom - November 24, 2014 - 12:58 pm

    Great pictures! This was a very nice event in Baltimore!

 Lessons in the Desert – Healing through Suffering

We have made it to the last of my desert Lenten reflections as we are now in the home stretch, and the traditional beginning of Passiontide.

The prickly pear, as pictured above, has always been a fascinating dichotomy to me.  It’s both so painfully prickly looking, yet it is also good for food and medicinal purposes.  The spikes immediately remind me of Christ’s crown of thorns.  If we can just get past the pain part, there are healing properties within, such as in the flesh of the prickly pear.

The challenge in the spiritual life is to learn how to look at a situation and see past the superficial pains or sacrifices, in order to receive the balm of grace that normally lies hidden beneath the pain for those who persevere.

It’s the saints who seem to be most at peace, and even joyful, in the face of extreme suffering.  I remember hearing a quote [I believe attributed to St (Padre) Pio] that if we knew the worth of suffering, we would beg for more.  *Big Sigh*   I’m no where near ready to beg yet.  I’m still trying just to accept trials without complaining, but I am always trying to remind myself that there is healing past the thorns of any given situation if we just allow God in.

For this last week’s mediation with the desert prickly pear, let’s try and see if we can identify the thorns in our life as we prepare for Christ’s passion.  What spiritual weakness would we much rather get rid of than learn how to deal with?

In the spirit of St Dominic’s Nine Ways of Prayer, let’s try to wear a scratchy scapular or put a pebble in our shoe to connect for ourselves some physical irritant to our spiritual weakness or particular sin.  Then, each time we feel our thorns, let us join in prayer with St Paul, and place those spiritual thorns in God’s hands, inviting Him to make them be a means of healing, grace, and strength.

“Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.  Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

[2 Cor 12:7-10]


F a c e b o o k