Jan 27, 2017

Friday Feasting: Easy Black Bean Chili

**photo credit can be found HERE**

Easy Black Bean Chili
(Found on vegetariantimes.com)

*Serves 4-6

2 15oz cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 16oz jar of salsa
1 bunch scallions chopped (or half onion)
1 10oz pkg. Frozen corn (or 1 can)
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
salt to taste

1. Combine beans, salsa, and scallions in saucepan.  Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes.
2. Stir in corn, cilantro and salt to taste, and cook, stirring occasionally until heated through. Serve hot.

**This recipe is super simple and more than delicious.  For our family I always at least double the recipe.  We eat it as soup with crushed tortilla chips, sour cream, and shredded cheese on top.  We've also used it as dip with tortilla chips.  I often serve it with cheese quesadillas, too.

Jan 25, 2017

The Lie of Productivity

I am living in the world of Tiny Baby.

Oh, yeah, he's cute.

But he's gassy. And fussy. And babies like that need mama to hold him. And nurse him. And hold him when he's screaming. And nurse him till he falls asleep and then sit there with him for two hours.

I can remember my first baby being like that. I sat on the sofa for hours, devouring 1300 page Tom Clancy novels and knowing I needed to be cleaning or cooking, but he was my first. I felt entitled to just sit there and soak him in. I would feel terrible when my husband came home from work, and I would say to him, "If I moved, he would wake up! I tried to lay him down, but he just wakes up again!!" (This was before I learned about swaddling and in the hey day of "Back to Sleep". I've since learned swaddling is Heaven-sent and lots of babies don't die if you put them on their stomachs!)

I felt so bad because I felt as if I didn't have a "productive" day. I really couldn't get anything extra done on top of the minimal things I needed to get done. And it was TOUGH for me to deal with! My dear husband THRIVES on how much he gets done, and he is constantly thinking of the next thing or the next day and projects. He admires people like himself, too, so it was really difficult for me because I felt like I was letting him down.

Fast-forward fifteen years and seven more babies later: this #8 boy-child of mine is just like his big brother. I don't know what's going on in those guts, but it is NOT conducive to Mommy getting stuff done!!  I think because I was so active up until the end of this pregnancy, too, it made a huge difference. I was "getting it done", and then I wasn't.😩 Also, there are just a *few* more plates I'm spinning with 8 children, homeschooling, public high school, co-op, Sunday school, etc., etc., etc.!

Why do I place productivity so high? Do I place it TOO high? Am I so proud in the way I want my house to run, to look, to smell that I lose sight of what's most important??  I'm sure many of you know what it's like to hold that tiny baby in your arms not really wanting to put him down because you know he'll be so small for such a short time, BUT BUT BUT dinner needs to be made, laundry, kids are outside with no shoes and it's 52 degrees!!

Yin yang. It's such a difficult dichotomy to have to live. A house FULL of stuff to do, and trying to pretend it doesn't exist so you can enjoy your baby time or toddler games or painting nails with your tween or listening to a story from your teenager about the crazy people on his bus.

I want to give you pearls of wisdom here. I want to say this baby has made me realize XYZ and now I'm sharing it with you to make it all better. I will say I think that Satan is behind the idea that productivity is the most important goal (or acting like it is) for a mother.

I'm a tired mama. But I love it. Would do it again in a heartbeat. Not easy, no, no, no; but I love the journey of self denial. Over and over again. It's hard to do patiently, but it feels so good when you get it right.

Even just once.

Jan 23, 2017

Monday Meme: St Michael, Please Protect Us

We live in a wonderful country with freedoms never seen before the birth of this country.  We can speak freely, practice our faith openly, and vote for our government officials.  While we may not agree on our opinions, religion, or politics, we can hope for a better future.  With the new people now in office, we may face a brighter future.  Pray for these people as they legislate or sign in new policies.

Life in politics is difficult.  I grew up in it.  My dad was elected to city council, mayor, and county supervisor.  Everyone wants favors or has an agenda.  My dad was faced with bribes or “understandings” frequently.  He said he always carried a rosary in his pocket, which helped him make decisions.  Eventually, my dad left politics because of the corruption.  The toll on the family was great.  We were constantly subjected to media scrutiny as well as people just making rude comments.

Please keep these new officials in prayers, especially our president.  Politics is a thankless job.  May God guide them and bless them.

Jan 22, 2017

Sunday with the Saints: St Francis de Sales and St Paul

Image result for st francis de sales          Image result for the conversion of saint paul feast day
St Francis de Sales (1567-1622)                                              St Paul the Apostle (c 5-67)

We have two favorite "power house" saints with feast days this week...Saint Francis de Sales on 24 January and the Conversion of Saint Paul on 25 January.  I had a very difficult time trying to decide which saint to discuss, then through my studying, it occurred to me that the stories of Saint Francis de Sales and Saint Paul have similar elements.  

Both were very intelligent.  Both were dedicated to God and to doing his will, however misguided at first.  
St Francis de Sales followed his father's plan for him to be a lawyer and go into politics, while St Paul was a Jewish zealot in the time Christ who persecuted Christians.  

Both men had an intense conversion experience.  St Francis was cast from his horse three times in one day, and each time his sword and scabbard formed a cross on the ground.  (Sometimes the Holy Spirit speaks to us in "threes.")  In this case, St Francis heard the call and knew that he was not living his life according to God's plan.  He defied he earthly father and was ordained a priest.  For a time, he traveled from place to place in Calvinist territory, preaching the truths of the Catholic faith and writing and distributing tracts when no one would listen.  He is credited with converting 40,000 souls to the Catholic faith.  Sound familiar?  

St Paul also fell from his horse and had a dramatic conversion experience.  He changed his life and became a great apostle for Christ, converting people, starting churches, and writing letters.  

God will call us to himself...He may even use drastic measures to get our attention.  As we do His will and embrace the special cross He has for each of us, many great and wonderful things happen.  Christ shines in and through us.  We speak the truths of our rich and beautiful faith, and others are converted to Christ.

I'll leave you with several beautiful prayers written by Saint Francis de Sales.

The Prayer of Saint Francis de Sales

Be at Peace
Do not look forward in fear to the changes of life;
rather look to them with full hope as they arise.
God, whose very own you are,
will deliver you from out of them.
He has kept you hitherto,
and He will lead you safely through all things;
and when you cannot stand it,
God will bury you in his arms.

Do not fear what may happen tomorrow;
the same everlasting Father who cares for you today
will take care of you then and everyday.
He will either shield you from suffering,
or will give you unfailing strength to bear it.

Be at peace,
and put aside all anxious thoughts and imagination.

An Act of Abandonment
O my God, I thank you and I praise
you for accomplishing your holy
and all-lovable will without any regard for mine.
With my whole heart,
in spite of my heart,
do I receive this cross I feared so much!

It is the cross of Your choice,
the cross of Your love.
I venerate it;
nor for anything in the world
would I wish that it had not come,
since You willed it.

I keep it with gratitude and with joy,
as I do everything that comes from Your hand;
and I shall strive to carry it without letting it drag,
with all the respect
and all the affection which Your works deserve.

Direction of Intention
My God, I give you this day. 
I offer you, now, all of the good that I shall do 
and I promise to accept, for love of you, 
all of the difficulty that I shall meet. 
Help me to conduct myself during this day
in a manner pleasing to you. 

Jan 20, 2017

Friday Feasting: Ginger Root and Honey Salad Dressing

In our farmer's market I picked up ginger root.  I was feeling a bit adventurous and impulsively bought one to force myself to expand our culinary experience.  So now I'm home and have no clue what to do with it.  I knew there were many health benefits gained from ginger root, but it was now just staring at me... I stared back fiercely!! I CAN DO THIS, but WHAT I didn't have a clue.

I did some research and found several recipes that looked daunting and overwhelming.  I found a salad dressing and adapted it.  I used raw honey, apple cider vinegar instead of regular vinegar, and Braggs Liquid Amino All Purpose Seasoning to replace soy sauce.  I reduced the amount of soy sauce as that can be a very strong, overpowering flavor.  I added a little more honey to balance out the tartness of the vinegar.

My food critics loved it.  Considering my critics are teenage boys who have no problem refusing or regurgitating gross or weird food, they ate it and added the dressing generously to their salads, making this recipe a success. We have since used this dressing on vegetables, especially steamed broccoli and cauliflower.  My boys have also added it to steamed rice with ground beef.


    3-4 minced garlic cloves
    2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger root
    3/4 cup olive oil
    1/3 cup vinegar or apple cider vinegar
    1/3 cup soy sauce*
    3-4 tablespoons honey
    1/4 cup water


    In a 1 pint glass jar or larger, combine all the ingredients.  Screw on jar lid and shake thoroughly. Remove lid, and heat jar in the microwave for 1 minute to dissolve the honey.  Replace lid and shake gently, being careful to use oven mitt if necessary. Open jar to cool, especially before putting in refrigerator. Shake well before serving. Store covered in the refrigerator.

*For a gluten free version, use Bragg Liquid Aminos all purpose seasoning.  It is made from soy, but it has no wheat as a thickener or stabilizer.

Jan 18, 2017

Marriage Discernment Questionnaire

Marriage Discernment Questionnaire

Not long ago one of our daughters asked for a list of marriage discernment questions that she and her boyfriend could use as a springboard for further discussion. Her mom turned to our large group of Catholic homeschooling mamas for ideas, resulting in the following questionnaire.

  1. What do you love about him or her?
  2. What do you think defines a good wife? husband?
  3. What do you think defines a good mother? father?
  4. How do you handle poop on your hands? Vomit? Urine? Blood?
  5. What would you do if your favorite show was on, but his (or hers) was on at the same time?
  6. Do you like to do puzzles?
  7. Do you prefer fast food or home cooked?
  8. What's the purpose of marriage?
  9. What do you like to do in your free time?
  10. Does you drink? smoke?
  11. How do you handle stress?
  12. Are you a yell-er?
  13. Is he do as I say or do as I do?
  14. Do you like surprises? Spontaneity?
  15. How would you handle a catastrophe?
  16. What would you do if the other cheated?
  17. What would you do if you grew to have irreconcilable differences?

  1. Do you want children?
  2. If yes, how many?
  3. Is a tight budget a reason to avoid pregnancy?
  4. What if one of you is infertile?
  5. Where will babies be born...at a hospital, a birthing center, or at home?
  6. How do you plan to educate your children...public school, private school, homeschool?
  7. How  would he handle having a terminally sick child? or the death of a child?
  8. How would you approach the disciplining of children?
  9. How do you feel about breastfeeding babies?

  1. Do you want a big wedding or a small wedding?
  2. Where do you want to be married? And by whom?
  3. Are there any family expectations concerning the wedding?

  1. Where would you spend holidays?
  2. What are your favorite family traditions?
  3. What if a parent needed a place to live?
  4. What is your family like?
  5. Are you close to parents and siblings?
  6. Does you like to spend time with your family?

  1. How do you feel about household chores?
  2. Are you handy around the house?
  3. If you start a project, will you finish?
  4. Can you live with things in disarray indefinitely?
  5. What is your threshold for clutter? dishes piled in the sink? laundry piles?

  1. What's your reaction to an overdue bill?
  2. Do you have a savings account? investments? life insurance?
  3. Who do you think should be the breadwinner?
  4. How do you manage money?
  5. What are your financial goals and plans for retirement? kids' education?
  6. Do you have and stick to a budget?
  7. Would you rent or buy your home?
  8. Would you rather live in city, town, or on the farm?
  9. Would you move to a job or find a job where you want to live?
  10. How do you feel about mom not working outside the home?
  11. Are vacations important to you?
  12. How do you handle car and appliance breakdowns?
  13. Are you a saver or a spender?
  14. Do you have an emergency fund?
  15. Do you have credit cards? carry a balance?

  1. What is your faith background?
  2. Do you believe that the Church has authority over marriage?
  3. Do you pray together?
  4. Does you attend Sunday Mass? daily Mass? Adoration? Confession?
  5. Who is your patron saint?

  1. Get the saints involved...the St Therese Novena is a favorite.  
  2. Learn about the different personality types.
  3. Make a list of qualities that you look for in spouse.

**If you have any other ideas for questions...add them to the comments below!

Jan 13, 2017

Friday Feasting: Tuscan Chicken Stew in the Instant Pot

Serves 10


2 tablespoons Olive Oil
½ cups dice Onion
3 tsp chopped garlic
1 cup dice Celery
1 cup chopped Carrot
4 cups Chicken Broth/Stock
1 lb baby Potatoes, washed
6 Boneless Chicken Breasts
15 ounce can rinse and drain Garbanzo (Chickpeas) Beans
2 tsp salt
1 tsp Thyme, Dried
½ tsp Paprika
½ tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1 tsp Basil, Dried
1 tsp Oregano, Dried
15 ounce can Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes, drained


1.  Set IP on sauté.

2.  Once hot, add oil until heated then onions, celery and carrots. Sauté until translucent then add garlic. Stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.

3.  Add remainder of ingredients, except chicken. Stir to combine.

4.  Add chicken breasts, tucking into pot to cover as best you can.

5.  Cover and lock lid (sealing), and set on poultry to cook for 15 minutes. Natural release for 10 minutes, then quick release.

6.  Remove chicken, shred and add back to pot and stir.

7.  Adjust seasonings and serve. Can serve over rice, or as is.

Jan 11, 2017

A Clean Slate

This time of year is ripe with newness.  We just started a brand new calendar year.  It's like a freshly fallen snow or a clean black board.  Many of us have probably made New Year's resolutions or set goals that we want to achieve for 2017.  If you haven't had time or decided to write off any sort of change this year, don't ever think it's too late to change your mind.

Last year I took the advice of speaker I heard who suggested picking one word for 2016, something representative of what I need to work on in my spiritual/personal life.  So I chose the word content.  In the midst of a fast paced world, among friends who do this or have this and seem very happy, I knew that I was struggling with being happy where I was and with who I was at the time.  I'm so grateful that I decided to focus on being content – any time I found myself struggling I said a quick prayer for help.  I truly feel like I grew in the virtue of contentment.

This year I've chosen part of my favorite scripture passage to guide me through 2017.  Maybe you have a favorite Scripture verse or bit of sage wisdom that inspires you.  Or maybe there's a Saint who pushes you to be the best version of yourself.  Whatever or whoever it is, let it guide you through the ups and downs of 2017.  When life starts to suffocate you and responsibilities are piling up, stop and reflect on that tidbit or Saint, say a prayer for help.  I assure you that you won't go unaided.