Thursday, February 26, 2015

Lenten Reads-- My Five Favs

Well, it has been a week since Ash Wednesday. How is your Lent going?  Mine is going too quickly. This first week has flown by, but I am trying not to get discouraged. Lent is a journey, so I keep plodding on and plan to do better each day.  Here is my list of my five favorite reads from Lents past.

Rediscover Catholicism by Matthew Kelly is an awesome book. It will explain some parts of Catholicism that you have misunderstood, forgotten, or taken for granted. All in all it will inspire you to live your faith ever deeper. Best of all, you only need to pay shipping and handling. You can get your copy here.

A Minute in the Church is an apologetics book that is concise and easy to read, however there is a lot to be learned in those short pages. References for the Bible and catechism are provided for deeper study. This Lent, I am reading the sequel.  You can find both here and here.

Scott Hahn is one of my favorite evangelists. I really cannot think of a single work of his that I don't recommend. However, if you are looking for an easy read with a lot of depth, I suggest Rome, Sweet Rome.  It is mostly his conversion story, I guarantee that you will learn more about the Mass in that small book than you probably ever have.  You can get a copy here.

The Confession of St Patrick began my devotion to this beloved saint.  Unlike some other confessions of saints---I've tried three times to read St Augustine's--it is fairly easy to read.  This man did so much more than drive out snakes and pick shamrock.  The e-version is available here.

Five Habits from Carmelite Saints that will Change Your Life is another must read. Connie Rossini blogs at Contemplative Homeschool. She is a lover of all things Carmelite and it shows.  This book will change your life. I think I need to read it again. You can download the e-version here.

Do you have any books to recommend?  Have a blessed week.

Linking up with Call Her Happy.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Pretty-Happy-Funny-Real: St Valentine's Day Edition


We had a very pretty annual tea on St Valentine's Day.  It was a very low key tea this year because we had so much going on that day, but it was enjoyable. I managed to make it pineapple, tomato, tree nut, food coloring, peanut, and (mostly) gluten free!


I was happy to receive such sweet gifts from my husband and the two oldest children.  Buddy bought me some red hot candies and Cowgirl some fruit slices.  They used their own money and had Daddy advise them on the best nut free, gluten free candies in the dollar store. (Just a note, these were some of my favored candies as a child.  I still like them a bit, but really have outgrown them, but my husband still thinks I'm 15;)


Buddy had a basketball game in the morning and it was our turn to bring snacks. I wanted to do something cute for Valentine's Day but not super sugary.  My Godmother posted a robot treat on her Facebook page and I decided to adapt it.  We used a juice box for the body, vanilla pudding for the head, Sixlets (small candy coated chocolate balls that are made in a nut free facility), the feet were miniature boxes of raisins, and then I added a foam heart that said, "Go Georgia!" (the team name.)  Buddy was so excited to bring these to the game, he nearly burst!


The children are growing up so quickly, but they will always be my funny valentines.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Heavenbound Letter to my Mom

Today would have been my mother's 63rd birthday.  We miss her so much, but she is at the great Heavenly banquet--what a way to spend a birthday!

Dear Mommy,
Today is your first Heaven birthday. I wish that you were here. I wish you'd bake your own cake and cook a low fat meal. I wish that you could grow old and then"remember when." I wish you could see my kids sprout up and start to spread their wings. I wish we could go shopping, then stop for a treat and sip and chat about the deals we got, the lovelies we couldn't buy, and all the gifts we still need but don't remember why. I wish that you could set up "Camp Grandma" as you always dreamed, take all the kids cook and bake, craft and swim, sing and dance the day away. I wish that you could arm yourself with every cleaning tool and scrub 76 Sammis ceiling to floor until every inch gleamed, instead of strangers tromping through, and furniture taking leave. I wish that we could have a holiday, crammed in that dining room, kids screaming, endless plates of food, bigger piles of dishes, carols sung too loudly and clearly out of tune, teasing, joking, hugging, laughing, a little bickering, and talk of "Griswold Christmas" past. I wish that you could call me and have so much to say. I wish I knew how I'd miss you when you were still the person I thought you'd always be. I wish you could beam with pride as the children finish their studies to become what they are meant to be, walk down the aisle, then happily become a family of three. I wish that you could tell us about all the things we've found, I know they were your treasures but we don't know why or how. I have so many wishes, but they all are just for ME. How could I begrudge you what you have, where the weather is "picture perfect" and the view "Phen-nom-en-nal!" I miss you and wish so much to have you back, that our Christmas gift could have been a second chance with you but know deep in my heart, you have the best there is, you rest safely in His arms, with Daddy by your side and have a gift I could never give--everlasting peace!
Love Always,

At my sister's wedding, our last big family event with both my parents alive and well!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Preparing for Lent: Giving it up to the LORD

I can't believe how long it has taken me to write this post, nor how soon it is until Ash Wednesday. We all know that it is customary to give something up for Lent, but before we choose what that is this year, I wanted to share some different perspectives on "giving up" that will bring us closer to the LORD. Here they are in seven quick takes.

Look beyond chocolate and soda. Give up those bad habits. We all have them. Lent is the perfect time to refocus our lives off of our selves and onto God. Nail biting and chewing on pen caps aren't sins, but they are bad habits that are controlling you instead of the other way around.  Practicing self denial not only reigns in your impulses and ground you in more conscious behavior. While it may seem woeful to live without ice cream for forty days, finally kicking that habit will be harder but more fulfilling. Being conscious of your every behavior affords the ability to put God first in all things because you die to self and look to Him.

Once you have that bothersome habit on your list of self improvement projects, choose a virtue to grow in. We all have one that is hardest to practice.  Choose one to practice this Lent.  If you do not know where to start, I recommend "Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Lively Virtues" by Father Robert Barron. It is available for less than $5 from Lighthouse Catholic Media.  We are currently doing the group study with our Teams of Our Lady group and it is excellent!

Give of yourself. Find a charity to serve in someway, go out of your way to be kind to a difficult person in your life, or take the time to do your least favorite chore for someone who is unable to do it for themselves.  In short, love like Christ did. Love with your whole heart and whole body. Do onto others who cannot do for you.

Make up a reading list.  Take out and dust off those books that you have been meaning to read, the ones that fuel the soul.  Lent is not just about emptying yourself and mortification, it is about filling yourself up with beauty and truth.This is your chance for some "extreme make-over: the soul edition"  Set your sights high and overland. Shut off the TV, close down Facebook, hang up the phone, stop surfing the web.  Carve out even just ten minutes a day to nourish your mind,heart, and soul.

Choose a new devotion to test drive.  Every year I try to choose anew prayer habit or other devotion to add into my life.  Try to keep it simple. Planning to pray twenty decades of the Rosary each day when you pray none presently is putting a lot of undue pressure on yourself.  The purpose is to find a new way to get closer to God, it should lead to joy not resentment. Weekly adoration, a decade a day, saying the Angelis at noon, reading scripture for fifteen minutes a day, these are all possibilities.  Another choice is to do something that you feel God has been calling you to, but you have resisted. Many women experiment with veiling during Lent. Commit to do whatever you choose, just until Easter. You may decide to keep the devotion permanently, or keep it only as a Lenten observance.  Either way, you will walk away richer and more at peace.

Offer up all that goes wrong and bothers you.  It is a fallen world, nothing is perfect.  It is easy to become discouraged, aggravated, and impatient.  Instead of gritting your teeth or complaining(even in your head) give the uncomfortable, the unpleasant, the interruptions, the aggravations to God as penance and bear them quietly.

Give away all that you can and be satisfied with what's left. Purge your home not just of garbage but of excess. Then take it a step further, and give away something that it hurts you to give.  Not only will your home be more organized and orderly, your heart will be less burdened by thoughts of all you don't have. Looking the bonds of stuff is liberating and a true exercise in following the narrow road in a consumer society.  I highly suggest The program 40 bags in 40 days that has been posted on several blogs. I completed in a few years ago and it has become a way of life, not just a 40 day organization program. Having less, really is more!   Try it and see!

What plans do you have for Lent? No matter how simple or elaborate they are, see them through and your Easter will be most joyous!  Please come back for my list of favorite Lenten reading and resources. God bless.
I'm linking up with Kelly for Seven Quick Takes Friday.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Easter Baskets: A Practical Catholic's Guide

I am still working on my post about "giving up" for Lent.  (I can't believe how long it is taking me!)  However, Ash Wednesday is just over a week away, and since I try very hard not to shop during Lent, I have been collecting small items for the children's baskets.  I thought I would share how we do Easter baskets at our home.

Now, I am not one for chocolate and candy--dark chocolate, yes--sweet, Easter candies, no.  What I usually do is come up with a theme and then fill the baskets with items I have to buy for the children anyway.  You know, those ordinary items that cost a pretty penny, but are also pretty ho-hum! But, put them in an Easter basket, and now they are exciting.

Here are some themes from the past:

A Day At The Spa
Shampoo and conditioner
Nail file
Shower cap
New face cloth
A hair brush
Lip balm
Hand cream

A Day At The Beach
Bathing suit
Lip balm
Blow-up tube (small)
Flip flops

First Communion Days (Cowgirl)
Bracelet with chalice charm
Small white pocketbook
White Rosary
Rosary case
Banner kit

As you can see, this baskets are not cheap to fill. Even the shampoo was expensive because my children have skin allergies and at the time could only handle the most expensive stuff out there.  However, let's be honest, I'd have to buy these things anyway. Why spend $40+ on a bathing suit, then another $10 on little random items for the basket?

Their baskets always include at least one book because being book-lovers, we need little excuse to buy more!  If you are looking for ideas for books, Jessica always finds the best books!

Here is what the children are getting this year, my theme is "Faith, Fragrance, and Fun"

Soap case
Paper chalk (She needs it for portfolio work.)

Soap case

Little Man

The baskets started with the soap this year.  Around Christmas, I won an assortment of handmade soaps from Blossoming Joy. I used most as little gifts for family and friends.  The older two, claimed the samples that Soul Sanctified Soaps had set along. They also used some as tiny gifts for friends, and kept a couple to try themselves. Let's just say the soaps were a big hit for them. Those tiny samples are almost gone, so I know they will be happy to get more.

I then found a faith-based book for each of them and considered if there was anything needed for school time/assignments.  For Little Man, that meant snacks and a new book, because feeding him and having a pile of picture books is the only way we make it through morning meeting each day!

My last consideration was something just for fun with some educational value. Cowgirl had requested that I keep an eye out for Narnia audiobooks, so when I found one on sale, I picked it up.  Lego building helps keep Buddy's hands busy so he can sit still during read aloud.  Little Man wants to be so independent, but somehow most of our toddler silverware has gone missing recently....hmmmm. I decided, a set of his own would make him happy and give me a little break from constantly washing his spoon. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

On the Feast of St Blaise--Living the Liturgical Year

Thank you all for being patient as I inconsistently blog. I have been so busy cleaning out my childhood home. It has left me exhausted both physically and emotionally.

Today is the Feast of St Blaise. As happens many years, icy roads and sniffly children has kept us from attending our parish' s blessing of the throats.  This feast is very special to our family, though. Not only is it the first traditional feast day that I introduced to my husband when he decided to convert, but it is also a namesake day of one of our children.

To make up for missing the blessing, again, I tied a red cord around two of the candles that my children made last Candlemas. I am going to have my husband bless each of our throats with the traditional blessing.

Through the intercession of Saint Blase, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness:
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit.
Each person responds: Amen.

Since this is a name day for our family, I try to make a special dinner.  Here is a list of some feast related recipes:
This Double Raisin Bread Pudding  from Family Plus Food Equals Love is delicious!
Catholic Cuisine has a cute tutorial for candle inspired cookies, no baking required.
This Bubenshenkel (fried dough) sounds delightful!
None of these recipes work for our family, though, due to various food allergies. So, we are trying something different.  We will be having homemade, baked, gluten-free penne and white cheddar cheese. The penne represent the candles.  
I also read that it is common to have chicken soup, since what is better for a sore throat than chicken soup?  So, I will make a simple chicken and rice soup--organic chicken stock, frozen mixed vegetables, and brown rice. This will really help everyone with scratchy throats and runny noses. (Myself included)  I usually cook a chicken and make my own stock to turn into soup with fresh vegetables, but I'm not feeling that ambitious. ;)
For dessert, I am making Christine at Memories of a Catholic Mother's pumpkin bake. I am substituting a half cup of rice flour and a teaspoon of cornstarch for the flour, so that it is gluten free. I am going to also add some raisins, a traditional food for St Blaise, it will be our gluten-free version of bread pudding.  The pumpkin is roasting away in my crock pot, and I will use my new Ninja (a Christmas gift from my sister) to whip up the batter.  If you have never made your own pumpkin filling, you must! Simply buy a pumpkin small enough to fit in a slow cooker, the smaller ones are better for baking anyway.  Then, wash off the pumpkin, making sure to rinse very well, and place in crock pot without drying.  Cook on low until skin can easily be pierced by a table fork, usually about 6-8 hours. Once pumpkin is cooked, it is easy to split and the insides separate readily from the flesh.  Puree for extra smoothness. I often skip this step, it tastes just as good just a little stringier. An average sized sugar pumpkin yields enough to substitute for one can of pumpkin.
However you celebrate today, I hope that you are warm, safe, and well. God bless!