Monday, March 31, 2008

A Blessed Evening

This past week in her blog, Jen was discussing about how ancient civilizations had a common well that the women gathered around with the children to perform daily tasks and socialize at the same time. She was lamenting that our current society does not have anything akin to that. There have been a lot of great comments about how people are trying to recreate this type of social place in their own lives. I have to agree that, in the world we live in, with the busy lives we have, it is sad to say that people don't spend a lot of casual, unstructured time together. It seems as if there always has to be a purpose to the time we spend together, otherwise we feel that we are wasting precious time. Every year we have a barn party in the fall and I think it is such a success precisely because there is no purpose to it -there is no schedule or time frame at all. Everyone seems to have a great time doing nothing but talking, eating and listening to music. Imagine that! Unfortunately, it is one of the few times during the year that we do something like that.

I was also reminded of this topic last night when we went over to a neighbor's house for a somewhat impromptu pot-luck dinner. Thankfully the hostess, even though she was exhausted from the day, agreed to have us all over. Even if it is not at my house, thinking of food to bring to a pot-luck and then making enough for everyone can be enough to deter me from participating. I mean, who needs all the extra work?? Not to mention the stress of having all those kids run around the house and the pressure of making sure your little ones act civilized during prayers :) (There were five families represented for a total of about 30 people.) The evening was simple as it consisted of dinner and the rosary. It was after that, however, that I realized how grateful I was that we all came together, even if it meant more work and stress than just staying home. One of the ladies wasn't feeling well, so we all gathered around her and put our hands on her, or on someone else, so that we all formed a big circular chain. Then one of the men prayed over her and asked God to bring healing to her. It was very beautiful, and I got a sense that the Blessed Mother and Our Lord were both above us with their hands extended over us while we prayed. We closed the evening with another one of the mom's singing us a beautiful song she wrote about Divine Mercy.

So, even though it took more effort and even though we were all exhausted from the pace we have been keeping, I have to say that the blessings that flow from this type of evening end up being well worth it. We all walk around saying that we really need to do this more often, that it needs to be more of a priority in our lives. What we really should do is stop talking about it and just do it, no matter how much work and grumbling is involved. God has proven time and time again that He will bless us for our efforts.

God Bless!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Fudge Nut Bars

YEAH! It is the Easter season and so I can give you dessert recipes, my favorite! Here is a good one, and of course, it is sweet and chocolatey.

Fudge Nut Bars

1 c plus 2 tbls butter, softened
2 c brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 c quick-cooking rolled oats
1 12oz pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c sweetened condensed milk
1 c nuts, chopped

In the large bowl of a mixer, combine 1 c butter and brown sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add 1 tsp vanilla. Combine flour, soda and 1 tsp salt. Stir into creamed mixture. Stir in oats. Spread about 2/3 of oat mixture in bottom of a 9x13 pan. Set aside. Combine chocolate chips, milk, 2 tbls butter, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring until mixture is smooth. Remove from heat, add nuts and remaining vanilla. Spread over layer in pan. Dot with remaining oat mixture, spreading as evenly as possible. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool and cut into bars. Yield 24 bars.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Cloud over the Tabernacle part II

Well after I was done with yesterday's blog post, I went on my usual rounds of the few blogs that I read. When I went to Mark Mallet's blog I read something that spoke to me. God usually does that to me...I write of the woes of not being able to speak to God directly or know His will and then, bam, He sends me something (usually in writing) that says "Ha, and you thought I wasn't listening!"

If you have never checked out Mark's blog I would suggest that you do so. He has some incredibly spiritual and, some might say, prophetic-like insights. Yesterday's post was all about how God is preparing us for a coming storm and how Mary is also here preparing the remnant for this coming "Great Storm" between good and evil. After reading his post I thought to myself...Wow, these past five months have not been one of trial but of preparation. Through all of the many situations that we have found ourselves in since Novemeber of last year, God has shown us how to detach and let go of so many things (I am sure that He is not done yet, either). I decided yesterday that I had to either transform this weight on my shoulders by looking at these situations as a blessing - God preparing our family a little at a time for this coming "Great Storm", or I would continue to transmit them. We have learned many lessons during this time, most especially how to trust God in EVERYthing: In our financial situation, in our relationships with others and in the day to day situations in our own home. We have been brought to the point (again) of being in situations that have no apparent solution. All we have left is to trust that God will show us the way out. I thank God for His wisdom in guiding my mouse to that blog post so that I could then choose to turn my complaining into thankfulness.

God Bless!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Cloud over the Tabernacle

I was reading a passage from the book of Numbers this morning when I began to get envious again of the ease at which the people of the Old Testament could communicate with God. In Numbers 9: 22-23 it says, "Whether it was two days, or a month, or a longer time, that the cloud continued over the tabernacle, abiding there, the sons of Israel remained in camp and did not set out; but when it was taken up they set out. At the command of the Lord they encamped, and at the command of the Lord they set out; they kept the charge of the Lord at the command of the Lord by Moses."

I've often thought how nice it would be to have such a clear-cut sign about what to do. For instance, we are trying to decide if we should put our house up for sale. Well, if there was a big cloud over our house and all of a sudden it was moving away, we would know what to do. Or what about the men in Numbers 9:7? The Israelites were commanded by the Lord to keep the Passover, but there were two men who were unclean because they had touched a dead body, so they went to Moses and asked him what they should do. Verse 8, "And Moses said to them, 'Wait, that I may hear what the Lord will command concerning you.'" How cool would that be to have someone you could go to and get a direct answer from the Lord. I know you can go to a priest and ask him his advice, but then you could go to three other priests, ask the same question and get three different answers. What are you supposed to do then, average them out and go the middle ground? It all seemed so much more clear cut back then. But, alas, even though things were laid out so much more clearly for the Israelites, they still managed to mess it up pretty good at times. Maybe we're better off when we mess up being able to plead a certain degree of ignorance as to what it was the Lord really wanted. I just know that I get pretty frustrated when I really want to do the Lord's will in a certain situation and I can't because I can't seem to figure out exactly what the Lord's will is. Where is Moses when you need him?

God Bless!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament

March 25, 2007 is a day that will always mean a lot to my family. It was on this day one year ago that we stepped foot in one of the most peaceful and beautiful places we have ever seen. Through a divinely inspired series of events we ended up down at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama where Mother Angelica lives. We attended Sunday morning mass at the Shrine and from the first moment we stepped foot into the chapel we were stunned. We were amazed at how a chapel full of kids could be so incredibly quiet. It was like a spell came over all of us. We went back that evening for Benediction and the priest who gave the homily was incredible. The next morning it was up early again for the investiture ceremony of the now Sister Mary Cecilia of Jeus, Crown of Virgins. Wow, what a name. I have never seen a ceremony so lovely. It was a short visit, but we were hooked. It took us six months to get back down there again, but it was worth the wait. We got to meet a number of families that have moved down there to be near the Shrine. It is a strange phenomenon. Large, homeschooling families from around the country are leaving their homes, families, and in some cases their jobs, to move down to be near the Shrine. Most of them had never even dreamed of living in Alabama before. We have felt the same call, but as of yet, have not been able to bring it to fruition. So, for the time being, we are forced to visit and to long to be back there again. Why am I talking about this? Because if you have never been there before and have some spare time on your hands, I highly recommend a pilgrimage to the Shrine. You will not regret everything you might have to go through to get there. It may even be one of those life changing events.

In keeping with this religious theme, it was brought to my attention that the "Institute for Religious Life" is having their FREE session (for the youth ages 13-30) on Saturday, March 29th at Mundelein Seminary, in Libertyville, IL. Cardinal George is saying Mass at 4pm. It's a lovely day with male and female religious in habits from all over the country. For more information, check out the link here.

God Bless!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Transforming Suffering

On both Palm Sunday and Good Friday, our priest mentioned a quote he had read from somewhere (I hate the fact that I can never remember the important information!!). The quote is as follows, "If you cannot transform your suffering, you will transmit it." I tossed that around in my brain a few times and realized how profound that really is. The fact that it has stuck with me intact for that many days means that I must really need to live it. Well, lo and behold, this morning's reading of "In Conversation with God" was all about transforming our suffering into joy. There is so much here, I will try to be brief.

"We must always foster joy and optimism and reject sadness, which is sterile and leaves the soul at the mercy of many temptations. When one is happy, one is a stimulus and an encouragement for others; sadness, on the other hand, obscures and causes damage." (vol 2, pg. 302)

How true is that. But once again, easy to read, hard to live. On a day like today where the weight of the world seems to be resting on my shoulders, how easy it is to fall into sadness, which then so easily falls into grumpiness and yelling. It is the much easier road to choose, but one that leaves me feeling even more down. How often do I see the effects of my sadness in my children, or more importantly, in their behavior? How often does it "obscure and cause damage" to them?

So then, what about this: "To be happy is a form of giving thanks to God for the innumerable gifts He gives us. Joy is the first tribute we owe him, the simplest, most sincere way of showing that we are aware of the gifts of nature and grace He showers upon us, and which we thank him for. God the Father is pleased with us when he sees us happy and joyful with true gladness." (pg. 302) So why is it that it is so hard to crawl out from under the weight of the world? I have much to be thankful for and be happy about, why is it so hard to remember that when I have a day that drags me down? "God wants the home where we live to be a bright and cheerful home, never a dark unhappy place, full of tension due to egocentricity and lack of mutual comprehension." (pg. 303) Ahhh, there it is again, ever so quietly sneaking into that sentence...egocentricity, or in other words...selfishness. So, I guess in order to transform my suffering rather than transmit it, I need to look beyond myself to Jesus and to others. Isn't that the acronym for JOY - Jesus, Others, Yourself. Walking that road is not as easy. It requires work on our part in the form of prayer, perseverance, participation in the Sacraments, and a lot of grace from God. So on this first day of the octave of Easter, let us rejoice and be glad, for Our Lord has risen from the dead as He said. Shouldn't that be enough?

In an effort to transmit joy instead of suffering, I would like to share a joke that Father told us during his homily on Sunday. I hope you get a good laugh out of it like we all did.

There are two men on a plane en route to a business meeting. In the seat in front of them is a nun. Noticing the nun, the 1st man says to the 2nd, "You know, I had a trip all planned to Mexico but I cancelled it because there are just too many Catholics there." Picking up on it, the 2nd man said, "Yeah, I know what you mean. We had a trip planned to Poland, but that place is crawling with Catholics, so we didn't go." The 1st man replied, "Can you believe the Philippines? That place is about 95% Catholic, we can't go there either." The 2nd man said, "I know. We really want to go to Rome, but with the Pope there and all..." Finally the nun could stand it no longer. She stood up, turned to the two men and calmly said, "Why don't the two of you go to hell? I hear there are no Catholics there" and then sat back down.

God Bless!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Alleluia! He is Risen

The Sabbath

Now there was a man named Joseph from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, who had not consented to their purpose and deed and he was looking for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud,

and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb, where no one had ever yet been laid.

It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid; then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment. Luke 23:50-56

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Crucifixion

So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha. John 19:17

And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene who was coming in from the country and laid on him the cross to carry it behind Jesus. Luke 23:26

And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching; but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, "He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Crhist of GOd his Chosen One!" The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him vinegar, and saying, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself:" There was also an inscription over him "This is the King of the Jews." Luke 23:33-38

It was now about the sixth hour, and ther was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun's light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice said, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit:" And having said this he breathed his last. Luke 23:44-46

And he was taken down from the cross and placed in the arms of his sorrowing mother.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Flashback to The Last Supper

When it was evening, he sat at table with the twelve disciples;

and as they were eating, he said, "Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me." And they were very sorrowful, and began to say to him one after another, "Is it I Lord?" He answered, "He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me, will betray me. The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born." Judas, who betrayed him, said, "Is it I, Master?" He said to him, "You have said so." Matthew 26:20-25

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is my body."

And he took a chalice, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." Matthew 26:26-28

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Judas, Pilate and The Crowning with Thorns

While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the Twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, "The one I shall kiss is the man; seize him." And he came up to Jesus at once and said, "Hail, Master!" And he kissed him. Matthew 26:47-49
And when those who were about him saw what would follow, they said, "Lord, shall we strike with the sword?" And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, "No more of this!" And he touched his ear and healed him. Luke 22:49-51

Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus said to him, "You have said so." But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders he made no answer. Then Pilate said to him, "Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?" But he gave him no answer not even to a single charge; so that the governor wondered greatly. Matthew 27:11-14
So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this righteous man's blood; see to it yourselves." Matthew 27:24-25

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the praetorium and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe upon him, and plaiting a crown of thorns they put it on his head, and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him they mocked him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" And they spat upon him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe, and put his own clothes on him, and led him away to crucify him. Matthew 27:27-31

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Agony in the Garden

And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place he said to them, "Pray that you may not enter into temptation." Luke 22:39-40

And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, "Father, if you are willing, remove this chalice from me; nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done." Luke 22:41-42

And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. Luke 22:43

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Santa Fe Chicken Salad Wrap

St. Joseph,
Pray for Us!
This is a great cold chicken recipe. If you want to make a bigger quantity, make sure to at least double the ranch dressing and salsa.
Santa Fe Grilled Chicken Salad Wrap
4 C torn romaine lettuce
1-2 C grilled chicken breasts cut in strips
1 lagre tomato chopped
1 can (11 oz) corn, drained
1/2 C mexican style shredded cheese
1/4 c Ranch dressing
1/4 c salsa
8 flour tortillas
Toss romaine, chicken breast strips, tomato and corn in a large bowl. Sprinkle with cheese. Combine dressing and salsa in a small bowl. Pour over romaine mixture and toss to coat. Spoon evenly onto tortillas and roll up.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Plague of Today

My mom was telling me today about a report she heard on the news that they (whoever "they" is) have found a name for a problem that plagues mothers of this century. She told me they were saying something about moms now-a-days who can't seem to remember things. Remember things? Really? Why is that, I wonder? Could it possibly be because people are always interupting them, or asking them questions when they are trying to type their blog or think about important things like what they need at the grocery store? Or could it happen because we are constantly being put into the situation of having to multi-task, like when we are talking on the phone and trying to listen to the important information being told to us but, hey, it is snack time, one of those life or death situations that must be handled immediately, so we have five children making weird contortions with their bodies trying to get us to make eye contact with them to ask if they can have their snack before they die of hunger? I bet it has somtheing to do with the fact that we are forever in the middle of scenarios where we are trying to teach something meaningful to our older children while at the same time trying to reprimand the toddler for hitting his sister with a spoon, while our husband is asking a question about a work related issue, and the phone is ringing! Well, you know what I think???? It's about time! I finally feel validated! I am not going crazy! The scientific community has given a name to something that has plagued me for at least the last two children (which, in non-mommy time is about four years). The name of this disease: Momnesia! There it is; profess it proudly. "Hi, my name is Laura, and I suffer from Momnesia. Please forgive me if I suddenly forget my name, or what it was I was saying to you!"

God Bless!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Spiritual Side

So why spend all this time talking about the kitchen? Well, I have found that the more organized I am in a certain area, the less I have to think about it and so therefore, I have more time to think about other things. The last thing I want to spend my entire day thinking about is what to have for dinner. I also don't want to spend more time in the grocery store than I absolutely have to. By making my life easier in this area, I can spend my precious brain power trying to keep up with everything else in my life.

Of course we know that there is a spiritual side to keeping an orderly and neat kitchen. As F. Fernandez states in "In Conversation with God", "There are no jobs that have nothing to do with the doctrine of Jesus Christ: even for very technical problems within a firm, or in the way a mother runs her house, a variety of solutions will offer themselves." And then later he states, "With God's help, the Christian will endeavour to turn each ordinary thing into something noble and of great value: he will try to turn everything he touches, not into gold, as in the legend of King Midas, but rather into grace and glory." So let us strive to turn our kitchens into portals of grace and glory. Doesn't that sound wonderful!!!

As an aside, I got to wondering if there was a title for Our Lady that had to do with kitchens so I Googled "Our Lady of the Kitchen" and I actually came up with this post from 2006 from a blog entitled "Our Lady of the Kitchen Sink". It was quite good, so I would recommend checking it out.

God Bless!

P.S. We are off to the final dress rehearsal for a performance of "The Seven Last Words of Christ" that our local Girls Club and Choir are performing. Please say a prayer for the success of the performances on Saturday and Tuesday. If you are interested in attending, check out this website for the location and information.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Meal Planning and Grocery Shopping

How about some ideas for streamlining your grocery shopping and meal planning? I don't want you to think that I think I have all the answers! I just know from experience that I learned a lot from seeing the way that other people do things. I'm the kind of person who learns visually. Don't spend a lot of time telling my the WHY of something, I like to know the HOW. For example, don't spend much time telling me WHY my body can't tolerate wheat, just tell me HOW to live my life without it!! Anyhow, that is why I would like to show you my method of shopping and planning. It is probably just one way in a hundred of how to do it, but maybe it will help you streamline your own method.

I began this whole process by taking a pen and paper with me to my favorite grocery store and writing down, in the order in which they appear in the store, the items that our family uses most often. For example, the first aisle I come to is the bread aisle, so in that section I have things like: bread, bagels, peanut butter, jelly, coffee. I did this for every aisle, as well as the dairy, produce and frozen food sections. The unfortunate thing is that I shop at Wal-Mart and they are FOREVER moving things around the store. Oh well, my list gives me a general idea of where everything is. I then took my notes home and typed all of this into an Excel spreadsheet. I print off a bunch of copies at once and put them into my binder on my desk. This way, throughout the week, whenever we realize we need something from the store, everyone knows to flip to the current grocery list and either circle or write in the necessary item.

I usually go to the grocery store on the same night each week. So, that afternoon, I sit down with my current grocery list and the copy of my calendar for the month that I keep hanging on the refridgerator. I then decide what dinners I will be making for the following week. I write each dinner on the corresponding day of the calendar and then enter any items I may need to make it onto my grocery list. After I do that for all of the dinners, I take a walk around the kitchen to see what type of breakfast, lunch or staple items I may need to add to my list. This does a pretty good job of making sure that I do not forget anything - although not a foolproof job. I can only imagine the number of things I would forget if I didn't have this system in place!

When I am really on a roll, I am able to plan an entire month's worth of meals at one time. More often than not, however, I work on a week by week basis. And, just because I can't stand spending half an hour arguing about what is for breakfast and lunch, we have implemented a set breakfast and lunch schedule for each day of the week (although our lunches have been off this Lent since we gave up wheat and, as you know, there is basically NOTHING to eat for lunch that doesn't have wheat in it. So, each day of Lent, lunch time has been true penance!). For example, on Monday's for breakfast we have muffins and yogurt, Tuesday is waffles, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday are cereal, Thursday is oatmeal and Saturday is baked oatmeal.

Hopefully all this talk of food has not made you hungry, but eager to get in there and streamline your own system. Or, maybe it has made you sit back with a smile on your face knowing that you already have a system that works well for you!

God Bless!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Keeping the kitchen clean

Like I mentioned yesterday, the kitchen is probably the most frequented room in our house. That fact has its good points and its bad points. We can all gather together and enjoy the fragrant aromas that are wafting out of the oven (except during Lent, when I can't bake). We can learn new things together, like how to cook and what makes a healthy meal. We can explore cookbooks together and ooh and aahh over all of the delicious looking desserts. However, I have also noticed that we can all walk through the kitchen and set down our school books, our keys and purses, our jackets, our shoes, our socks, other various items of clothing, our papers, our colored pencils, the latest novel that we are reading, our birthday cards.......So, how have I come to grips with the kitchen being a dumping ground? A friend of mine told me that she had a small bin in her kitchen for each one of her kids so that they could put their small miscellaneous items in there. Since there are nine of us, I decided to go with those medium-sized, three drawer stackable bins. This way everyone has a drawer to put a bunch of their papers or books into and it doesn't really take up that much counter space. If it doesn't fit in your bin, then it is not allowed to stay in the kitchen. The person who is assigned to straightening up the kitchen has the job of distributing all of the rest of the stuff to the correct person's room.

Another thing that I try hard not to let pile up is the mail. I make a point of dealing with it as soon as it comes in, or, at the latest, by the very next day. I file my bills in the order in which they will be coming due, I throw away any sort of junk mail immediately, and most of the time I throw away any catalogs that come in. This way I'm not tempted to buy things I probably don't need and then my counter is not cluttered with catalogs I hope to get around to looking at. If there is a catalog that I think I might need, I have another spot on a shelf in the den that I put it on.

A big morale buster is letting the dishes pile up. Nothing brings me down faster than walking into the kitchen and seeing a pile of dirty dishes staring back at me. About two years ago our dishwasher broke. At the time we didn't have the money to get a new one, so we started assigning people to dishwashing, drying and putting away duties. Do you know what I discovered? I discovered that my kitchen stays much neater now that I don't have a dishwasher. Before I used to have to wait all day before someone would remember to empty the clean dishes. That meant that the breakfast and lunch dishes would be piling up. Here is how it works now: I am in charge of washing the breakfast dishes since I would rather have everyone else finish getting ready to start school. One of the girls is then assigned as lunch and dinner dishwasher for the month. One girl is assigned to clearing the table, one is assigned to drying the dishes and another is assigned to putting them away. My son sets the table for dinner, and the final girl sweeps the floors. Of course, a set up like this only works if you have older children. If you don't, then try to enlist the help of your younger children as much as you can. Start them young and make it seem like fun and you'll raise willing helpers that can take over in a few years.

Don't you just love the outfit?
God Bless!

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Heart of the Home

I would like to spend some time writing about what I think is the heart of the home - the kitchen. I don't know about you, but some days we spend so much time in our kitchen that I wonder why we have other rooms in our house. When people come over, there are many times that we never even leave the kitchen. By the time we prepare, eat and clean up three meals I would have to guess that almost half the day has been spent there. Now add in those times when it is too cold in the basement to do school so we do it in the kitchen, it is no wonder that I become disoriented when I walk into other parts of the house.

I firmly maintain that my kitchen is the window into the state of my mind. If you want to know how I am doing, don't ask me, just come and look at my kitchen. If I am uptight or anxious, then my kitchen tends to be super organized and clean. If I have not been home much or my mind is a-whirl with too many things, then you will notice that my kitchen is very cluttered and disorganized. If I seem to be functioning on a fairly normal level then my kitchen is neat and tidy, but you will notice a few things out of place here or there.

I remember when we moved into our first home, my mother asked me how I was going to organize my kitchen. I looked at her as if she had spoken to me in French. I had no children, so I did not concern myself with such trivial things as being efficient and organized. I think my mother organized the first two kitchens I ever had. By the third one, I think I had it figured out and she left me on my own. Now my kitchen is one of my favorite rooms to reorganize. I'm always on the lookout for ways to make it more efficient and more pleasant to be in.

What about your kitchen? Do you enjoy spending a lot of time in it? Hopefully over the next few days I will be able to share some ideas and tips that will help make spending time there much more enjoyable.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Bruschetta 'n Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts

This is a good tasting and easy chicken recipe that our family enjoys. Hope yours does, too!

1 can (14 1/2 oz) italian style diced tomatoes, undrained
1 1/4 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese - divided
1/4 c chopped fresh basil
1 pkg (6oz) stuffing mix for chicken
8 small boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1/3 c Roasted red pepper italian w/ parmesan dressing

Preheat oven to 350. To prepare stuffing, combine tomatoes and their liquid, 1/2 c shredded mozzarella cheese, basil and dry stuffing mix, stirring until just moistened.

Put 2 chicken breast halves in a large resealable bag. Pound the chicken with the side of a heavy can, rolling pin or meat mallet until chicken is 1/4 in. thick. Repeat process in the same bag with remaining chicken breasts.

Place pounded chicken breast, smooth side down, on a cutting board. Spread with 1/8 of stuffing mixture.

Roll chicken breast, starting at the narrow end, as tightly as possible around the stuffing mixture.

Place in a 9 x 13 baking dish with seam side down, as this allows the chicken to hold together nicely. Pour dressing evenly over chicken and bake for 40 min.

Sprinkle with remaining 3/4 c cheese and bake 5 min. longer, or until cheese is melted and chicken is cooked through.

Makes 8 servings of 1 chicken breast each.

God Bless and have a peaceful, restful Sunday!

Friday, March 7, 2008

More on Reading

One of my favorite relaxing activities is to read. I love a good book (yes, and also the Good Book!) and I am not shy about telling people when I have read a good book. I'm sure the reason why most of my relatives won't talk to me about religion is because they are afraid I'm going to hand them a book. Over the years, I have handed out many a copy of my new "favorite" book. I wonder how many of them were actually ever read??? I wonder how many of them managed to stay out of someone's trash??? Oh well, since I love to read a good book and I love to tell people about a good book that I might stumble upon, I thought I would put up a section in the sidebar of my blog that would list the book I am currently reading and therefore recommending. You should be able to glance to your left and see the title "The Pain Of Christ and the Sorrow of God" by Gerald Vann, OP. This is a book of Lenten Meditations following the Passion. For example, the first chapter is entitled "The Agony in the Garden". The author talks about what the Agony was and what it can teach us. He presents the reader with the following - Omnia in manu Dei sunt = all things are in the hands of God. He then later goes on to say,

"No, all things are in the hands of God. You must do your planning for the morrow, you must make the efforts required of you, you must think out your problems and act as you think best; but then leave God to accomplish His will in you; make the moment as it comes and passes a love-gift to the unsleeping love of God. He has care of you all, your Father who is in Heaven. Small things and big things, the sorrows and joys, take them from Him and give them back into His hands with thanksgiving: Not my will but thine be done."

Wow. This message goes along quite well with the other book I have talked about "Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence". While I know that there are only two weeks left of Lent, I still thought it worthwhile to mention this book. It is packed full of wonderful insights in its 97 pages. If you can't get a hold of a copy of it now, try to get it so that you are ready for next Lent (although I imagine you will benefit from it no matter what time of the year you read it!)

God Bless!

Thursday, March 6, 2008


I remember a few years ago one day after mass a lady that I know approached me and began to tell me about a new group they were trying to start at the parish. The group was going to be aimed at moms with small children and they would get together a few times a month. "You know," she said, "its for moms who might feel isolated. We just wanted you to know about it." (At the time I had a few small children and some that were older.) "Isolated?", I responded, "Oh I would LOVE to be isolated right about now!" I don't think that was the response she expected. She smiled politely and walked away. Sometimes, in the midst of all of the craziness of life, isolation sure does sound good!!

This thought then led me to think about why people wonder if homeschoolers socialize. For instance, today I left my house with my seven children at 7:15 a.m. We drove a few miles and picked up three girls from our friend's house. We drove a while more and picked up another girl. We drove a while more, dropped five girls off to spend some time before girls club with four other girls and picked up two new girls. We drove some more and dropped six girls off at their girls' club so that they could spend the morning with 21 other girls (in case you were keeping track, that left me with my two boys). So in the span of just under two hours, we "socialized" with five other families. Not bad for a few hours (and about 50 miles) work! Yes, we might have to try harder, but I really don't see that socialization is a problem for most homeschooling families. In fact, for this family, sometimes our big problem is too much socialization!

God Bless!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Unasked for Graces

I realized that I have been spending a bit of time thinking about bad days and cabin fever so I started to ponder what would make a good day. Well, if it was up to me it would look something like this: I get up on time and actually feel rested, the kids get up and are ready for school on time, we actually accomplish some schoolwork without any tears, we have something that most of us like for lunch, we accomplish some needed chores in the afternoon, dinner gets done on time, the rosary is not a brawling match, the kids go to bed somewhat peacefully and I am not totally exhausted by 8:30. Sounds good, doesn't it? It was at this point when the lightbulb went on. I was looking at all this from the wrong perspective. Now, from God's point of view, a good day for me might look like the following: I get up tired, the toddler is crabby because he has a cold, we get our schoolwork done but not without a lot of grumbling, there isn't much to choose from for lunch, we discover that most of our hens have been eaten by some larger animal, our income taxes haven't been filed yet and the rosary is less than prayerful. However the thing that would make this a good day for me in God's eyes is that I managed to keep my cool throughout the whole day and accept everything He sends me with a peaceful countenance. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen as often as it should.

About a month or so ago, we went to hear Ivan, one of the visionaries from Medjugore, speak at a local parish. It was a beautiful mass and he gave an interesting talk. He mentioned something that I had never heard before, and it is something I have been trying to remember to do so that maybe I can increase the odds of responding with a peaceful countenance. He said that the Blessed Virgin told him that there are many graces that are to be given to people throughout the day to help them but that they neglect to ask for them. He suggested that we remember to ask for all of the graces that we had forgotten to ask for during that day and they will be given to us. Furthermore, he said we should ask that all of the other unasked for graces in the world be poured out all over mankind. I know that Medjugore is not an approved apparition and of course I stand by the final decision of the church. That having been said, it stands to reason that we do, indeed, pass up opportunities for grace throughout the day and isn't cool to think that we can still receive these graces from our Loving Mother and our Merciful Lord, even if we ask after the fact?

God Bless!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Being Overjoyed in our Affliction

As I mentioned last week, we are in the midst of a severe bout of cabin fever. The other morning, however, I came upon a quote from Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:24-27 that I would like to share with you to help put some perspective on what a bad time really is.

"Five times have I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure."

Now, we have had some bad days lately, and by the end of them I might feel as if I had been beaten with a rod, however I am very grateful that I have never come close to anything that Paul had to suffer. He then says, "I am filled with comfort. With all our affliction, I am overjoyed." Well, I guess that is something that we should all strive for, being overjoyed in our affliction.

To round out this thought, I will close with a quote from Blessed Escriva from my "In Conversation with God" book. "This is how we must travel along the way of self-giving: the Cross on our shoulders, a smile on our lips and light in our hearts." Another good one for the kitchen wall!

God Bless!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Teaching Them Not To Judge

When I was deciding which recipe to choose for this past Saturday's post, I looked at the ham and noodle one and hesitated. This recipe is loaded with dairy, no one is going to want to try this recipe! (You have to understand that most of the people I associate with on a regular basis have at least one person in their family that is lactose intolerant.) However, on the hopes that there are people outside of my homeschooling group that are reading this blog, I posted the recipe anyhow; because it really is a good one (even though I can only eat a small amount of it because I am lactose intolerant). Then, lo and behold, a homeschooling mom from Hawaii actually said that she wanted to try this recipe. You mean there really are homeschoolers who eat dairy??? Our group tends to be very health food conscious: organic when possible, no dyes, no msg, no artificial get the picture. So I tend to forget that other people actually do eat all that "other stuff". I remember once we went to a gathering at the home of a devout catholic family and they actually served diet pop. My first reaction was one of horror - I thought these people were good Catholics? What are they doing serving diet pop????? Then, this past Christmas at our mom's cookie exchange, one mom brought cookies with red frosting on it. My first thought again was, "Alright, who on earth brought cookies with red 40 in it? Doesn't she know no one is going to take any of them????" (I am constantly amazed at the young age at which members of our group learn to spot red 40 in something!)

So what is my point? It is certainly NOT to judge anyone - not those who consume diet pop and red 40, nor those that don't. My point is that I find that when I spend a large amount of time with people who think the same way I do (call it sheltering myself), I have to make sure that I remeber that the whole world does not think the same way that I do and that that is okay. At moments like the ones above, I have to stop and laugh at myself and remember to adjust my thinking so as not to judge others. I then need to be careful to teach my children not to judge others, especially when it comes to people who do things differently than we do. It is so important to maintain a sense of balance, both in my own mind and in the mind of my children. While we are good friends with a lot of people who think the same way we do, I have to make sure that my children do not grow up judging people by what they eat, drink or wear. Teaching them to look at each person as a child of God, first before anything else, is one of the most important things, and probably one of the hardest, that I can teach my children.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Garden Ham N Noodles

Here's an easy meal that we really enjoy. Again, it is easy to adjust for your size family. This recipe serves 6.

Garden Ham N Noodles
4 qts water
2 medium carrots, diced
8 c uncooked egg noodles
1 medium zucchini, halved and thinly sliced
1 c heavy whipping cream
1 c milk
1 tsp salt
1/2 - 1 lb fully cooked ham, cubed
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1 c Parmesan cheese
In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, bring water to a boil. Add carrots; cook for 1 minute. Add noodles; cook for 2 minutes. Add zucchini; cook 4-5 minutes longer or until noodles and vegetables are tender.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, bring the cream, milk and salt to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered for 5 minutes. Stir in ham and corn; heat through. Drain noodle mixture; stir into ham mixture. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and toss to coat.
God Bless and have a joy filled Joyful Sunday!
P. S. If you would like a good laugh, check out this link.