Wednesday, June 6, 2012


I'm trying to move over to Wordpress.  You can find me at  I will try and double post as much as I can--but my goal is to write more and create less work! 

Thanks for reading!
I had the opportunity to speak at the Catholic Consortium of Lake County during a mini retreat.  What follows is the talk that I gave.  I 10 minute presentation--for those of you who know me I can't really give my address in 10 minutes--so trying to get all this information out was so hard for me.  I wanted to talk and talk but hopefully if the teachers really want to hear all that I have to say they will call me!  Thank you God for the gift of this opportunity to plant the seeds of adoring Jesus in the minds of 75 teachers and staff.  I will pray that each one of them will find joy, peace and grace in a way that serves them best!

I'm a newbie to Adoration.   I did not discover Adoration on my own but the Holy Spirit really had to patiently show me several times before I caught on.  It all began about 6 years ago and this is my journey.

The first time:  I found myself at the
Adoration Mass one day and had no idea why no one was leaving.  It was very awkward for me—so I did what I do best—I asked a question.  The Grandma next to me assured me that I could leave.

The second time:  Then a few months later I was at an evening Mass and they had the end of Adoration processional back to the tabernacle and I thought that was so beautiful--but again had no idea what was going on.  I was so in this moment of following Jesus—that I forgot to ask any questions.

The third time:  My son who was in 1st grade was paired with an 8th grade buddy and the Mom quickly became my mentor. She was an awesome spirit/faith filled knowledgeable catholic woman who I admired very much and felt like I hit the jackpot. She was not the “fancy mom” but rather the soft spoken and just seemed to be filled with grace and joy.  I knew that she would know about Adoration so I asked her--and she gave me the scoop. She said that she went each week and it gave her peace and grace to carry on with her busy life with 4 kids.

I am not a fancy mom nor am I soft spoken but I knew that I really wanted to be as joyful, and just as authentically happy as she was.  I had 4 kids technically under 5 I felt authentically tired.

Well, since I wanted to be like her I thought Adoration was the next logical step in my walk with the Lord. But I had no idea how it would change me.

I asked her if she would teach the kids and me about Adoration and she was so happy that she could bring a whole new family to Jesus in this way.  Ding Ding that bell went off in my head about the actual presence of Jesus. 

The fourth time:  The next week we met after school on Thursday and she explained to the kids how going into adoration was spending time with Jesus. Sort of like a playdate.  It was a special time.

So we went in and I didn't really know what to do and the kids didn't know what to do so we just sat silently and felt the presence of the Lord.

I didn't feel different. I didn't feel grace filled. I didn't feel overwhelming joy. I was hot and hungry and so was my baby.

The fifth time:  The next week I went in the morning again and the homily was about seeing Jesus in everyone we meet. I thought that I can't possibly do that--I'm too cynical, to see Jesus would mean that I would need to stop and look at people in the eye and actually care. I would need to stop imposing my approval system on them. 

So I started by looking at the people in the chapel. Really looking at the people in the chapel. Then one of the Grandmas whispered to me--"I'm praying for you" and I thought WOW--someone is praying for me! So I said "I'll pray for you too!" and I actually did it--and I felt Jesus in a new way.

Now I truly see Jesus in my kids their teachers, the clerk at Dominicks, and the lady who cuts me off in traffic.  I see how Jesus really is the branch and I’m really a vine of opportunity in the world to make a difference. 

During that first year of Adoration with my kids  5,  3 year old, 1 and newborn--I took my kids to Jesus. We knelt at the altar. Sometimes for 2 minutes sometimes for much longer. Each week I would explain that we were going to see Jesus. They drew pictures (I bought special coloring books), brought flowers, they wrote out notes to Jesus, I would let them draw pictures while we were there. I let them look at the children's bible, or play with a rosary or string beads to make a rosary. If they didn't want to go in--they had the option to sit on the steps outside the chapel. I never forced them to go.

Now we go to Adoration often without drama. We go on vacation and have visited some beautiful chapels. The kids are quiet and more often than not actually prayerful. Each one of my kids has their own way of being with Jesus.  Some sit, stand or just lay at the altar. 

I REMINDED them that Adoration was like a playdate with Jesus. How do you prepare to spend time with a friend?  Do you dress up?  Do you make a plan of things to talk about? Do you plan an activity?  How would we plan time with our own friends?

Adoration is a way for kids to experience and be part of the Eucharist long before their first communion.

This past week it was so beautiful to see Mrs. Marciniak be the Eucharist Minister and so mindfully give the body of Christ to the kids—the kids were looked like they were going to explode as they walked up the aisle and afterwards.  That excitement, yet reverence should be what it is like for us—however long ago we made our 1st communion.  I just wanted to tap into that moment and tell the kids that they can ALWAYS have that feeling.

I think of Adoration is like the biggest “Redo” that we can give ourselves.  When we have kids do the “redo” it is usually for just one thing—not a whole day of blunders.  I tell me kids to focus just on one thing if they struggle with an idea to take to Jesus before we go to Adoration. 

Jesus meets us where we are. He meets me in a different place than where he meets you.

We all have common threads through our lives--we are all children, we all have parents, we are all loved by Jesus, we have a God who has given us a purpose for our lives we all have so many Gifts, we are all invited to spend time with  Jesus.  We have all had joys and heartache.   We are all very much alike on different levels.

Jesus sees us for who we are.   He really sees the good the bad and the ugly stuff and wants to help us.  He wants to hear our joys, our troubles, so we can give thanks and praise for everything-- including the hard days.

As we become more honest with Jesus (and ourselves), more transparent, more authentic, more intentional, as we peel away the layers that cover our hearts, anger, heartache, disappointment, despair, cynicism, hatred, intolerance, as we clear away all that clutter   

Jesus will fill our hearts and minds with what we need at this moment and prepare us for the next.  Each time we come to him he has the opportunity to work in our lives. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012


We have one more day of school left! We are all looking forward to not rushing. In the homeschool community, when you pull a kid from school in the middle of the year or after a turbulent time there is a period of "not doing anything" and it's call Deschooling. I'm sure others have a different definition but I think that sums it up.
Deschooling is training your body not be in school. I think at the beginning of summer vacation parents and students alike need that time to deschool. A time not to think about packing lunches, clean clothes/uniforms, getting homework completed or anything related to school. I would think it would be easy to just stop but it isn't--it is hard to go slow.
So many camps, retreats, vacations and events to go to I wonder how slow the summer will really be? How slow does it need to be?
When we brought my son home to be homeschooled, we ended up "deschooling" for about 2 months. During that time we had a schedule and I still had babies so we had 2 nap times to work around but it was very unstructured time. Then one day my son decided that he wanted to go to the library and we were on our way to learning in a different way. We gradually moved from "deschooling" to "unschooling" then back to a more traditional "homeschool". The months that this took place the kids found true joy in learning and discovered a new found joy in being with each other. It was amazingly easy to teach.
So for our family we will have Monday at school for the morning, then celebrate Last Day of School with gifts for each child, Tuesday is Lego Discovery Center, the rest of the week will be the Waterpark, hanging out and getting the new Heartlake City built with Legos.
I'm looking forward to having some lazy days where I can start a knitting project, the kids can play for an entire day on whatever makes their hearts sing, listen to the basketball bounce and the soccer balls hitting the fence! We all need time to decompress and slow down. We all need time to just be.
We will plant our garden, can our food, bake lots of fresh bread, nap, take lots of field trips, go to the cabin, fish, camp out, build fires, harvest our crops, and have a great time TOGETHER.
The kids will be able to explore, build and read. I will be able to write and knit.
Thank you God for times of feast and times of famine. We learn to appreciate the seasons of our lives as you guide us, challenge us, and give us a purpose to do your will.

Friday, June 1, 2012

God's Toolbox

God's Gift

Children's Adoration May 2012

At our baptism God gave us a gift.  God is so generous that he gave us a "toolbox" so that no matter what comes up in life we will have the right tools to do His work and serve him.  God gave us ALL the SAME toolbox.  Remember, God knows us and he has planned our life and he knows how we will have times of greatness and times when we struggle (Psalm 139-again).  The tools that he gave us are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. 
  1. Wisdom
  2. Understanding
  3. Counsel
  4. Fortitude
  5. Knowledge
  6. Piety
  7. Fear of the Lord.
All of these gifts work through the power of Grace.  What is Grace again?  Grace is the God given power in your soul.  Grace is the spot in our soul this is filled by the Holy Spirit. 

A hammer looks easy enough to use--hammer, nail, WHACK, but it isn't that simple is it.  You can hit to hard and the nail bends or to soft and it takes forever or you can hit your hand--a hurtful reminder that we aren't using the tool correctly.  God's tool box is no different.

Wisdom is given so that we can look at all of our options and chose the ones that bring us closer to God.

Understanding our faith so that we can choices based on Godly ideas not worldly ideas.

Counsel or right judgment is given to us so that we might be able to tell if our chosen actions match up with God's honor. 

Fortitude is what God gives us to keep going, and going and going to serve him and do his work.

Knowledge of what is pleasing to God and to turn from what is not pleasing.

Piety means to come back to God whenever we find ourselves doing things that might not be quite the best choice. 

Fear of the Lord is to be in awe of God's work.  To see the beauty in flowers, your teachers smile, a beautiful singing voice, how eggs hatch and all the million things that need to happen perfectly--God made that.  God made you--different from everyone else--how incredibly amazing is that?  Stop and think about it--that is why you are here! 

God gave you this toolbox so that you would have what you need as life comes up.  At different times we may need to rely more on Wisdom or when summer is coming and we just want to be outside playing--Fortitude might be our tool.
June 2012 Children's Adoration Meditation

The Feast of Corpus Christi translates to “body of Christ”.  It is a feast of the Holy Eucharist.

 It seems sort of strange that we would have a feast day for an event that we are called to do each day.  Why would we have a special day set aside just for taking communion?  We do lots of things every day; brush our teeth, take a shower, eat our meals, and try to be gentle, loving and kind to those around us, yet we do not have a feast day for any of those events.

 Well the Holy Eucharist is very different isn’t it?  At the Last Supper, on Holy Thursday, Jesus took the bread, blessed it and broke it saying “Take this all of you and eat it.  For this is my body, which will be given up for you”.    In the consecrated Eucharist Jesus is there!  Jesus gave us the gift of himself. 

Well the Holy Eucharist is very different isn’t it? At the Last Supper Jesus took the bread, blessed it and broke it saying “Take this all of you and eat it. For this is my body, which will be given up for you”. In the consecrated Eucharist Jesus is there! Jesus gave us the gift of himself.

We have to opportunity to celebrate the Holy Eucharist on Holy Thursday (also known as Maudy Thursday) as Lent ends and during our Easter season on the Sunday after Holy Trinity Sunday. The Feast of Corpus Christi began because Jesus wanted another day for us to give loving attention this wonderful sacrament.

 When we go to communion—our walk up the aisle is our walk to meet Jesus.  We need to be mindful and focused on meeting this awesome friend who makes our lives so much better.  Sometimes it is hard to not be distracted during the Liturgy of the Eucharist but it is really important to get ourselves back on track when we find our eyes drifting or our minds wandering and thinking about what we might be doing after church . . .

 When we hear the words “the body of Christ” and we say “amen” we are saying “yes” to Jesus.  At that moment Jesus is in us.  Jesus lives in us!  Jesus becomes part of us!  Just like Mary said “yes” to God—we can say “yes” to Jesus.  (Next time you take communion think about it as the body of Christ—try not to just pop it in your mouth and keep moving—but for one moment—thank Jesus for this gift).

How long does Jesus stay?  Jesus will stay with us until WE give him a reason to leave.  Jesus has been very clear about what he expects from his disciples.   If we can follow in his ways he will be with us.  If we make a mistake his is with us to help us figure things out.  We can ask for forgiveness, go to confession and then go back to “the body of Christ” and begin new.

Adoration is another time that we can seek Jesus and he is physically with us.  Adoration is such a wonderful time to spend with Jesus to share with him our life at this time.  He helps us figure out what happened in the past, what we might do in the future but really he wants us to be with him—in this moment.  Just be.  Just be with Jesus and enjoy your time. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Mother (in-law)'s Gift

I was just given the best Mother's Day gift ever. I was able to spend a week with my Mother-In-Law. We had a staycation in my home. We cooked side by side, we knitted side by side, we folded clothes side by side and pondered the idea of whether I would actually get the vacuum run or the lawn mowed during her visit.
I only had a week to prepare for her visit--I knew that she was coming for a weekend but found out about the extended stay with just a week's notice. I started out in panic mode--with the normal crazy busy of our schedule I wondered how I was going to make everything perfect. The Mary/Martha struggle that I live with. Then I decided to proceed like Mary.
The highlight of the trip was my daughter's First Communion. I've helped her for months to prepare for this Sacrament and all of a sudden I shifted from spiritual preparedness to worrying about fingerprints and dust. I realized that I needed to focus on what was truly important. I stopped thinking about the cleaning schedule and gave myself permission to plan and be organized--then stop to enjoy this "First" moment.
For the first time I didn't make myself and those who love me crazy with the Martha level of perfection. I did the minimum and let the rest happen.
My MIL gave me the gift of time and I gave myself the gift of a humble pie, accepting a wonderful opportunity to enjoy time with her without the agenda of a perfectionist. I allowed myself to be imperfect, real, authentic and grateful. I felt genuine gratitude--really felt it--not just the Hallmark card or the Helen Stein watercolor variety of gratitude--but real, take a deep breath and EXHALE.

It was an awesome visit.  I feel renewed and refreshed--and that you can't buy in a store.  I learned that I have value independent of perfectionism.  I thought of my MIL as I vacuumed the house and mowed the lawn.  I hoped that she felt renewed, refreshed and loved. 
Thank you God for putting amazing women in my life! I am blessed to be inspired, encouraged and loved by so many of your daughters. I only hope that through your grace I will be able to encourage and inspire as I serve you.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Week 3/8 $tart $aving w/Coupons

This is exciting isn't it! I have had a few of you come and tell me how much you saved without too much planning! One Mom spent the $75 at Dominick's and was happy to get her $10 Catalina, another Mom was upset that it was a light week for paper coupons, and the best story was how a Mom and Dad had a free lunch out. Now just think of the savings if a little more time was spent planning each week!

This week's Assignment 3:

1. Where do you find your coupons? I do not go to extremes to get my coupons. I have my Dominick's card registered and they have coupons that I can load right onto my card. I also get the Sunday paper and I swap coupons with other friends. If I need granola bar coupons and I know that they came in the paper I will send out a email or text to my friends and ask them to save them for me--if they aren't using them. It helps to have friends that are in a different season of life . . . the Grandma next door may not need her coupons! I do go online see Week 2/8 Start Saving w/Coupons for coupons as well.

This week Dominick's online coupons has a Free Starbucks drink and the paper coupons has the same coupon--so by the end of it all I will see how many free Starbucks drinks I can get.

2. Catalina's. A Catalina is the paper coupon that comes printed out with your receipt. A Catalina can be a coupon like the $10 ones you get when you spend the $75 or if you buy a certain number of things you get a smaller denomination coupon amount. These are like cash--you can use them for anything that you buy in the store.  Catalina's also give you information on future deals--if you buy 4 Kraft cheeses you will get $3 in Catalina cash, 6 cheeses will yield a $4 Catalina cash--it gives the date of when these "deals" will be available.

A few weeks ago I bought bogof cheese and for each 4 packages of cheese that I bought I received $3 in Catalina cash. So I went through the self check and bought 4 packages of cheese for $7.98 and earned a save $3 off my next order. I used it immediately to buy 4 more packages of cheese at $7.98 (50% off) and then save another $3 on that order--4 bags of cheese for $4.98. The reason I went through self checkout is so that I'm not annoying the cashier and if I wanted to use my Catalina to buy more cheese right away, I find it easier that to try and explain what I'm doing to the cashier. Some friends are more understanding than others.

I found out by accident that it was on ALL Kraft items and there were a ton of Kraft products bogof that week. So I went home and found all my coupons and asked friends for their coupons and went back. This time I just went through the self check out a bunch of times and held on to all of the Catalina's like my own money and used them all at once on a bigger order. After all I was already saving 50% off on the cheese, cream cheese and milkbites!

IMPORTANT: When earning a Catalina--you must buy EXACTLY what it says or it won't work. If the deal is buy 4 of a certain item that is what needs to happen. No mixing and matching. Sometimes you only earn one per trip through the checkout. Using the example above, if I bought 8 cheese all at once I would get the 50% off but I may only get one Catalina printed. By separating my order I get $6 back and not just $3.

IMPORTANT AGAIN: Make sure the machine is working! If you have a deal that you are working hard to get make sure that the green light is going or ask the cashier if it is working.

Another Catalina deal is Hallmark cards. If you buy 3 cards you get $5 off your next shopping order. I rarely buy cards but if I do I try to buy them in 3's when this deal is going one.

3. When the cashier hands you Catalina always look at them. I have received several $20 coupons for Shutterfly. I simply open my Shutterfly account and put the code in and my account shows a credit. Now that I have a credit I need to find time to download my photos, print them off and then do something with them.

Target had it's own Catalina. Again, make sure that you look at them. I often have a Catalina coupon for a Gift Card if I fill a prescription at Target--Strep Throat x 4 kids and an ear infection or two and I have a nice little stockpile of Target gift cards. I often keep these and give them as teacher gifts.
Good Luck this week--here's hoping that you will get a surprise Catalina!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Menu Week 4/22/12

This week at Dominicks I can't make a menu!  So glad that I was able to write about stocking up a few weeks ago on meat/pasta and red sauce.  This week it is b2g2f of coke products and a free bag of cookies and bogof potatoes.  Not the best menu going.  The bogof bags of potatoes will come in handy with the ham that I recently bought--my Mom's scalloped potatoes and ham--I can taste it now.

I did however go to Target for one item and ended up buying lots of frozen fish that were 50% off and then another 5% off because I used my Target red card.  Of course Target had plenty of things that were 50% off but I only bought 1) food, 2) food I knew we would eat, 3) food I would never of had a coupon for. 

Some weeks are better than others for saving money at the grocery store!

Thank you God for all the opportunities that you put in my life to work in kitchens.  A kitchen is truly a place of service and offers a learning experience like no other, help me to make my own kitchen a welcoming place for all kinds of nourishment to all who enter.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Week 2/8 Getting Started Saving w/Coupons

Welcome Back!

Did you have time to write down your dinners on your menu plan?  I ran out of steam a couple of days and did not follow the menu and we went out to dinner once (a surprise from my husband).  I few months ago Once A Month Mom had a facebook page where you could share your weekly menus.  I was amazed at how varied our diets are and enjoyed a sense of foodie fellowship knowing that there are lots of women out there who start out with good intentions and by Tuesday are off the wagon, myself included.  I find that I can save money, time and loads of frustration by having a meal plan.  I also know that it won't always go as planned.

Let's get started on Assignment 2:

1.  Explore some coupon websites.  The has a lot of great ideas for not only saving money but some ideas for making it.  I had never heard of some of these options--there is a entire world out there . . . The Mashup Mom is also a book available at the library.  Also at the library is Jill Cataldo's DVD series about couponing and she also has a website.  If you have a particular food that you love but have never ever seen a coupon for--try going to the website and seeing if they offer coupons.  Organic milk is very expensive but Horizon and Stoneyfield have online coupons and with a sale or double coupons at Mariano's and it becomes manageable.  Our family typically only drinks a gallon of milk a week and that is affordable.   

I belong to a CSA, Tomato Mountain Farms, and they also have a website that is full of information.  Our CSA is coming in now so I am getting a huge amount of early greens that are forcing me to eat more healthy and be aware of my food choices.  Our family is slowly moving to a more whole foods diet.  I find it very time consuming to keep up with my Mom responsibilities and make huge changes to how we eat--because it isn't just about the food is it?  It is finding a CSA, covering the cost upfront, figuring out what to do with some of the wonderfully organic produce they send me and use it before it goes to waste.  If I can take it slow and change a few things at a time it will become easier.  

One of the biggest things we spend money on is meat.  The meat that I would love to buy rarely goes on sale but when it does I stockpile.  There is so much information about how animals are raised, fed and then end up in the grocery store, I feel like I need to do tons of research to be able to objectively make a decision about what my family eats.  I'm exploring buying a 1/2 of cow that is grass fed and free of--"whatever is bad", like I said I need to do more research--but if I buy a cow I need a freezer . . . life is a process isn't it.  

I mention these two ideas because they there are very economical ways to save money on food that has had the least amount of processing or have the least amount of impact on our environment.    

2.  Please save your receipts or sales flyers so that you can begin to see the how prices fluctuate between "good" and "best".  Most grocery stores are on a 12 week cycle.  That means that the lowest price will be once during that time frame.  This is approximate and not a true science but a general guideline.  An example would be pop/soda, the best price is buy 2 get 3 free.  Other pop deals are buy 2 get 2 free or buy 2 get 2 free and a free bag of chips.  I let the kids have soda at Sunday dinner--the little kids split one can so when I bought buy 2 get 3 free I bought 60 cans of soda and with only 52 weeks in a year--I'm covered.  

A buy one get one free is an automatic 50% savings and then add a coupon that can be even better but on some items this will be the best deal that you will get.  I am seeing more and more buy 2 get 2 free which is more money up front but still 50% off.  When deals like this happen I have to ask myself if they will come on sale again before I "need" them again.  Ziploc bags are a great example--they always have coupons and often go on sale buy 1 get 1 free--so I will plan ahead for school supplies or Christmas cookie exchanges or vacation.  Those seem to be the time where I use the most Ziploc bags.   

The kids love granola bars and those are really expensive!  So I wait for them to go on sale for $2.50 a box and then use a $1 off coupon or 50 cents and that makes it a manageable price for our budget.  4 kids x 1 granola bar/day x 5 days=20 bars or 4 boxes a week!  So when it works out with a sale and a handful of coupons I buy as many as I can! 

3.  This next idea seems so simple but it isn't, make a grocery list and stick to it.  I find this challenging--see my Target story below.

This list might include items to stockpile or items to cook for dinner over the next couple of weeks.  If you have a better idea of your menu and taco fixings go on sale and sour cream in is the dairy clearance case then you might want to move tacos up a week.  Try and find sales or buy one get one free for the items that you need.  

If you don't need it, don't buy it.  Unless, like today for instance, you go to Target and they have a ton of stuff for 50% off.  Do I need 4 gigantic bottles of seventh generation laundry soap?  not exactly but it rarely goes on sale and the coupons aren't for the big size and I love the smell of eucalyptus and lavender.  I also bought blocks of cheese (that will freeze but I think the kids will gobble it up pretty quickly) fresh ravioli and frozen wild caught fish!  With this week's shopping I will no doubt only buy milk next week.  I did go in with the intention of buying 1 item! 

I have had several people tell me what great savings they are getting by just being "sort of" mindful about their shopping.  I'm loving hearing about that.  To balance that out I have had a few folks share with me how it really doesn't work.  Bummer.  

Until next week--keep $aving!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Menu Week 2: 4/19/12

I thought that this little assignment that I gave myself of creating a menu and saving 50% off would be easy.  Last week Dominicks had a ton of meat bogofree and I did stock up on hamburger.  I made a huge pot of spaghetti sauce and taco meat--packaged it in my b1g1free Ziploc bags and froze it.  I love the site Once a Month Cooking for tips on planning freezer meals.

The grocery store cycle is 12 weeks long so if something is on sale--rock bottom price--than you won't see that again for 12 weeks.  I offer this information for planning purposes.  Dominick's is normally a Th-W sale cycle but this week they have two sales going on at the same time in addition to their mini sale of $5 Friday.

These menus will be close to 50% off without coupons.

Menu Week 2:

French Toast Bake
Clearance Bin eggs 50% off
Bread (several different brands and flavors) bogof
Strawberries bogof
Bacon bogof

Muffin breakfast
Dole pineapple bogof
Eggs 50% off
I have tinkered with  a recipe that is simple and can be made with
olive oil and lots of different variations

Eggs 50% off
Cheese bogof
Use leftover bacon
Salad bogof

Fish Dinner
Waterfront bistro bogof
Steam Fresh veggies b2g1f

Pasta w/Red Sauce
Ragu bogo1
Pasta bogof
Salad bogof
Keebler fudge strip cookies were more than 50% off!

Kashi has a special deal this week--30% off "selected" Kashi items this is a great deal. has online coupons to add to your savings.  Most Kashi products are on sale as well so this is an item that I would stock up on.

Dole pineapple is bogof--I use this in zucchini bread--stockpile for the summer.

Nature Valley has a sale on granola bars that is ok but with coupons it is close to 50% savings.  We go through A LOT of granola bars. 

Steamfresh has b2g1f veggies--normally I don't buy frozen veggies especially since our CSA (community sponsored agriculture) has begun and the bags are small for our family size but for a side dish mixed with pasta or rice will stretch the little bag! 

Thank you God for the ability to serve you as we plan and prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Week 1/8 Getting Started Saving w/Coupons

People as me lots of questions when they see me using coupons--most come from the people behind me in line.  

I've been saving money using coupons since 1988.  As life would change so would my "need" or "desire" to use coupons.  Until recently, I did not have a system in place and it was very hit or miss.  I saw the Coupon Mom on Oprah and that is when I started think about how I would make this work in my own life.

I had 4 kids under 5 and life sort of exploded on me.  I made small changes.  Very small changes.  I wanted to save more money by spending less, try being more green, and I lowered my expectations in the dining department.  I used my culinary training to run an extremely efficient kitchen and try and not waste a thing.  All of the changes that I have made have been part of a slow process because life is busy and I have allowed myself to be happy with the small accomplishments, over time all the small things have turned into a more organized approach to breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Fast forward to now.  My meals are extremely simple.  I have increased my "green-ness", increased my awareness on where my food comes from, strive for a whole foods approach to eating and still find joy in feeding 6 hungry people every night.  

Week 1 Assignment:

I will be using Dominicks as my example for the next 8 weeks.  It is the store nearest my home and most convenient for me.  If you don't shop at Dominicks than you can easily transfer the "concept/ideas" to your own store.   I will share three manageable ideas a week to help you get started with saving 45% and more each week.

1.  If you do not have a Dominicks card--please get one and register it online.  When you register it online you can then load coupons right onto your card!  When you shop regularly at the store they will offer you "personalized prices" which can include free items.  

2.  Develop a budget.  You will need to know how much money you can spend on what you "need" and what you can "stockpile".  

3.  Develop a Menu Plan.  If you don't know what you want to eat how can you shop the sales?  

If you create a month of menu ideas it makes it much easier to compare what you will eat to the items on sale.  I use Google Calendar to plan my meals--the advantages for me is that I can see what days I'm super busy and plan accordingly.  If my kids are in speech therapy, soccer, chess club and have a project due the next day . . . it will be a very simple dinner.  We do not eat out--if we do that is planned into the budget and the menu.  

I found that the easiest way to do this is make it a month long assignment.  I will add it to Week 2/8 of Getting Started Saving w/Coupons assignments.

This week at Dominicks if you spend $75 you will get a $10 coupon to use on your next order.  Please check the fine print--that does not include milk, juice and a few other things. Your will need to use your Dominicks card, so go back to #1 if you need to.

This is post 1/8 and I'm also writing a weekly menu list based on the sale items each week. At the end of this post you can subscribe by email if you would like to have them sent to you.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

50% off your Groceries Week 4/12/12

This past Wednesday I was blessed to be asked by my friend Kim to speak with her at the St. Marys’ Mom’s Group about “Saving Money on a Small Budget” and even though I was really nervous–it was a lot of fun. So for those of you who couldn’t make it to this meeting maybe you can make it to the “Saving on Sunday” meeting 1:00 on 4/22 at SMA.
In the meeting we talked about the planning that is involved before we even set foot in the grocery store–but for this week you won’t need any coupons to save 50% on your order! Here’s how you can do it.
1. Make sure you have a Dominicks card. You do not need to register it online to get the deals but you will save additionally if you do . . . but for this week–just have a active card.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

No Matter What--Divine Mercy

April Children’s Adoration
Divine Mercy
What is Divine Mercy?

It is God’s love for us—all of us—no matter what.  God wants us to know that his mercy is greater than our sins.  He loves us with kindness and compassion—no matter what we do, say or think.

Why do we need God’s Mercy?

If God loves me—no matter what—why can’t I stop there?   Matthew 5:7 says “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”  God’s love and compassion are never ending.  As humans we sometimes find it hard to be gentle, loving, kind, respectful and showing mercy can be difficult. 

In our culture we all want to be the best and often at the expense of making others feel less.  God loves us—no matter what—and to him it doesn’t matter if we have fancy boots, sparkly jewelry, a big house, if we are popular or not.  It doesn’t matter to him if we talk funny, walk funny or are just weird.  God made us perfect in his way (Psalm 139).  We need God’s mercy to love us and forgive us.
How do we practice being merciful?
A-ask for God’s loving mercy in prayer asking him for forgiveness of our sins and for him to fill our hearts with mercy.
B-be merciful.  When we ask God for his mercy in A, now we need to let the mercy come to us and use it with others.   God wants us to show kindness and forgiveness to everyone we meet.
C-completely trust in Jesus.  This is God math—the more we trust in Jesus the more we will receive.   When we trust in Jesus he gives us more grace than what we need and it flows to those around us.
Jesus asked a nun for Divine Mercy to have its own feast day—this will be coming up the Sunday after Easter.  This woman was St. Faustina.  She was a poor girl who lived in Poland and had very little education.  How can a poor girl with little education have conversations with Jesus?  Well, I think that she trusted in Jesus so much that he trusted that she would be bold enough to keep a diary of what he told her.  If we met St. Faustina today and she told you about how Jesus comes to her and asks her to write things down for him so that she can share his ideas . . . would you be gentle, loving, kind, and respectful?  Would you show her mercy?

Be Blessed as you spend your time with Jesus whether it is in adoration, the car or watching your baby sleep.  Take a moment to practice being merciful and know that God loves you—no matter what.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"Who do you say that I am?"

I inherited four really big pictures of Jesus--they are the 4 gospels of Jesus and the image of Jesus is created by the words of the gospels.  Word pointillism if you will.

These pictures have been moving through the house as I still try and figure out where to put things after our move.  One picture in particular I like and it says

"Who do you say that I am?"

I look at it as one of those conversation starters--Jesus asking me, really asking me--who do I say that he is and how do I express that.  Will my actions reflect that I had this conversation at all?

The other way that I read this is "who do I say that I am--now?"  Lately, I have been referring to myself in the past tense.  I used to play basketball, I used to run 1/2 marathons, I used to quilt, I used to have 3 dogs, I used to have my own business, and the list goes on and on.  If feels somewhat strange to look at my life as it was and even try to compare to where I am now.

I look at my life now and minimize the fact that I do breakfast, lunch and dinner, laundry--sorted, folded and put away (at least once a week), my house is clean for about 1 hour a week, and I spend the rest of the time with my kids.  That is a lot of stuff to keep up with and in my happy heart I know that it is enough. 

Then I see the skinny mom at the gym, the business mom making the deal, insert any mom doing anything that is NOT what I am doing--and then I hear those words "who do you say that I am?" and I wonder about so many things:  do they wish they were home?, wish they could run a 1/2 marathon, make awesome whoopie pies, do they spend as much time as I do thinking about what they were and where they are going? 

During this Lent I have been striving to live more intentionally.  I want to stop thinking about what I was and what I hope to be (by swimsuit season) and live in the NOW.  Enjoy the moment as it is not what it will be or should be or could have been. 

I find it difficult to have such a busy schedule and still live with intention.  It is all a work in progress with starting being the hardest step.

Thank you God for this season of Lent, a season to pause, a season to take a long hard look at what dying on the cross means for us individually.  Help me understand that where I have been, what I thought I was, or hoped to become has brought me to this moment.  Help me to live each day to the fullest and not define myself by what was, but what is yet to become.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Homemade AND Useful

I make a lot of homemade things.  I upcycle.  I recycle.  I create stuff out of other stuff.  My family and friends are the recipients of these wonderful creations and I can usually tell by the look on their faces if they like it or not.

I love to knit.  I love to buy yarn.  My yarn eyes are bigger than my project stomach.  So I have ended up with way too much yarn but luckily I buy really nice yarn, on sale, that is wool. 

A friend mentioned that she was going to buy felted yarn balls for the dryer to cut down on drying time and be a natural fabric softener--I was intrigued and had to do the research for myself.

I took my electric bill and figured out how much energy my dryer takes to run for an hour, multiplied it by the number of hours that I run it to find out my cost per week.  Then I made the dryer balls and used them.  The claim to cut down drying time by 25% was a bit high but I did find that my clothes were "fluffier" and dried in a shorter time. 

Unexpectedly, I found that the dryer balls were a toy for the kids.  A colorful, natural, soft ball that flies through the air, slides extremely far on a gym floor (perfect while we are waiting for indoor soccer practice to end).  They are also pretty to look at in this funky basket that I saved from a thrift shop. 

Dryer balls.  Why write about dryer balls?  They won't change the world or have much of an impact on much of anything--but they are pretty and fun.  When I catch a glimpse of this basket of whimsy it makes me smile.  So these bits of yarn wrapped tight and washed again and again until the fibers embrace and never let go of one another--won't change global warming or solve some big problem but they make me happy.  In my world.  On my journey.

Thank you God for giving us the ability to create.  I am constantly in awe of how you have put so many creative, inspiring, and thought provoking people in my life. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Meatloaf, in a Crockpot?

One of the best things about living here is that we are walking distance to the library--the main library not a branch.  As always I have to compare everything new here to my old in Michigan and  my old library that I could walk to did not have the best selection of books . . . but that has nothing to do with meatloaf.  This library has a incredible selection of "New" books--knitting, design, kids books, and cookbooks!  So I stock up almost every week. 

In my pursuit of crockpot recipes I went to the cooking section and found scads of books just for the crockpot.  I took as many as I could carry.  (I try not to carry a bag or stroller into the library because I find I check out way too many books--I find an armload is my natural limit).  I came home and looked through all of them and I found a meatloaf recipe.  Our family loves meatloaf so I was excited to try a new recipe.  I followed the recipe to the letter which required buying special ingredients and it was a FAIL.  So annoying.  Since it was just 1 lb of meat by the time everyone decided that they didn't like it the meatloaf had vanished. 

My second try I decided to make my own meatloaf recipe:
  • 2lbs of Tallgrass beef or other beef that isn't pumped full of chemicals
  • 1/2 cup caramelized onion
  • 1/4 cup minced carrot
  • 1/4 cup minced celery
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal, or 1/2 cup stove top stuffing with seasonings or 1/4 cup bread crumbs (this is the binder and you can use just about anything)
  • 1 egg or maybe 2
  • dry seasonings--whatever suits the mood
  • maybe a tablespoon of sauce of some kind to fit the mood
Mix that all up.  If it is too crumbly in your hands it won't stay together during cooking and if it is too wet then it won't stay together when you cut it. 

Make a cradle of foil for your crockpot.  I added the end bits of some celery and a slice of onion as a bed for the meatloaf to add some moisture.  Place the meatloaf in the crockpot.

I cooked on low for 6 hours and it stayed on warm for an hour longer and it tasted great.

Meatloaf #1

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Crockpot Macaroni and Cheese

I've been trying to find more and more crockpot recipes this year. My intention was to try a new recipe each week but . . . that isn't exactly happening. So my plan is to continue to research and try new crock pot recipes and to post when I do.   This recipe can easily be meatless and organic.
Crockpot Macaroni and Cheese (serves 6)
2 cups of dry elbow macaroni
4 cups of liquid (I used evaporated milk, chicken broth and Campbells cream of celery)
2 cups of cheese (I used colby and monteray blend)
Combine ingredients in a bowl and stir
Spray crockpot
Pour ingredients into crockpot
Cook on low for 4 hours.
My crockpot has 4, 6, 8, 10 hour options. I cooked the mac and cheese on the 8 hour setting for 4 hours and then unplugged the crockpot.   I used the round crockpot but if I doubled the recipe I would use the bigger oval crockpot.
I sprinkled some bacon bits on top and it was really good.
Next time I might add some celery, carrots, carmelized onions, ham, bacon, red pepper or some combination.  The liquid can be any combination of evaporated milk, broth, 1 egg, cream soup, or sour cream.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Psalm 51

In Mass today Father Ron's homily was centered around the first sentence of the first reading from the prophet Joel "Even now says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart".

The Psalm response was "create in me a clean heart oh God" as I enter Lent I want to let these two simple ideas to take hold of my heart.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
-- Psalm 51:10

Create in me a clean heart, open and receptive, so that I may embrace the many ways you choose to visit my life.

Create in me a clean heart, cleared of the refuse of old battles with others and deadly opposition with myself.

Create in me a clean heart, purified through the daily disruptions and the life encounters that take me beyond my grasping control and ego-centeredness.

Create in me a clean heart, freed from the clutter of cultural enticements, so that I can enjoy the beauty of life’s simple things and relish the gifts I so easily take for granted.

Create in me a clean heart, bathed from harsh thoughts, shame, and perfectionist tendencies, warmly welcoming with others with the embrace of nonjudgment.

Create in me a clean heart, brushed free of frantic busyness, so that I will have time to dwell with you in the listening space of solitude and silence.

Create in me a clean heart, rinsed of the residue of false messages about my identity, enabling my inner goodness and light to shine through all I am and do.

Create in me a clean heart, cleansed of anxiety and lack of trust, restoring in me an enduring faith in your abiding presence and unconditional love.

Create in me a clean heart, scrubbed of racism and prejudice, drawing me toward all as my sisters and brothers.

Create in me a clean heart, washed with your mercy and strengthened by your love, helping me to move beyond whatever keeps me from union with you.

Create a clean heart in me, God. Dust off the unmindful activity that constantly collects there. De-clutter my heart from harsh judgments and negativity. Wash away my resistance to working through difficult relationships. Rinse off my unloving so the beauty of my generous and kind heart can shine forth. Remove whatever keeps me from following in your compassionate footsteps. Amen.

From Out of the Ordinary: Prayers, Poems, and Reflections for Every Season by Joyce Rupp