Saturday, February 28, 2015

Early Spring Gardening in South Florida

By the time you read this, it will be March 1st, and as I sit here and look out the window at the rain, I am reminded that our intense summer rains and scorching heat are just around the corner.  March is the time to fertilize!!!  March is the time to get out there and do heavy gardening, preparing your yard and gardens for the summer.  This will include raking, fertilizing, and sanding the grass, trimming hedges back by about a third, and fixing all your garden beds.  You should probably also look into saving money for a company to come out in May or June to trim your trees for hurricane season.

For the lawn ...

We have three large live oaks on the property and they drop all their leaves twice a year.  I've been raking for the past couple of months!  All those leaves will completely destroy your lawn.  They are too heavy and dense for the sun and rain to reach the grass, so you will need to get out there and rake those off your lawn.  As soon as you rake, hit your grass with a Southern weed & feed.  This will kill the weeds that have crept in during the holidays.

After raking and weed & feed, look for bare patches in your grass and fill them in with play sand.  Yes, you read that right.  Go get a few bags of play sand from Home Depot and pour it on the bare spots.  Rake it smooth and within a few weeks, your grass will shoot runners all over the top of the sand filling it in nicely.  It's so easy for our lawn to have its soil depleted down here with all the rain and the electric blowers.  Those blowers are great for getting debris off your lawn, but they're also great at blowing away your soil.  Our Florida grass grows best in sand, so don't be shy with it!  This year, we are going to have to order a dump truck of sand to be delivered to our property - yes, the oaks have done that much damage!

Now that you've taken care of your lawn, walk your property and take a good look at your garden beds.  Is the soil depleted?  Is there any mulch left?  What do your plants look like?  My garden beds are in dire shape.  The oak leaves have really wreaked havoc this past year, so my garden beds look dingy and tired and my lawn is in bad need of sanding.  Just last week, I completely overhauled a corner garden bed of ours and would like to share with you the process I used & always use when fixing my beds.

Here is a step-by-step for a garden bed ...

Rake out all the leaves and pull any weeds or old/dead plants.  Assess the size plot you have and map out how many plants you would like to put back in (you might want to make a drawing & bring it with you to the garden center).  In my case, I bought three different colors/types of flowers - blue, red, and lavender.  You also want to consider the color of greenery - there are dark greens, sage greens, and yellow-greens.  Consider the colors with the color of your house and driveway/walkway.

Dig holes where you want the new plants to go - wider than the plant and as deep as the plant is.  You may want to water the soil before digging to loosen it up a bit.  Digging in South Florida can be difficult as you will encounter rock, shells, and roots of neighboring plants or trees.  If you're having a lot of trouble, you may have to step back a minute, take a look at your garden, and rethink you map of plants.  Keep in mind that if you are planting plants in a row, you can dig a trench and place the plants in.  Either way, back fill after you plant them and push the soil down around the plant so that there are no air pockets.  Once all the plants are in the ground and planted, shake some fertilizer pellets around the base of all the plants.  I used Miracle-Gro for flowering plants.  Water the plants to moisten the ground and the fertilizer.

Next, grab those heavy bags of mulch and begin adding the mulch an inch or two thick around all the plants.  I like to use cypress mulch as it is natural to our area and has a pretty color and nice smell.  I don't like the "colored" mulches as they lose their color and that color ends up in our soil, canals, and water.  Try to find something natural.  Another nice one is eucalyptus.  Don't completely smother the base of the plant - you want it to breathe a bit.  Once the mulching is done.  Step back and admire your new garden!  Finally, you can add in the fun touches like statues, garden flags, a potted plant, stepping stones, small garden gates, bird baths, etc.

If you're a Catholic family like me, you will have small children at home who will want to be in on the project.  I suggest doing the bulk of the work on your own, but plan something they can do to help.  My four year old daughter dug holes and put the flowers in.  She had an absolute ball!!!  Remember to add in small garden features that will be fun for children such as a walking path, a fairy house, a frog home, etc.  This will promote a love of gardening with your children that will last a lifetime.

Here are my befores and afters:

BEFORE #1:  Looking from my house's walkway down onto the corner garden.
It's looking tired, lacks color, and does absolutely nothing to enhance my home.

BEFORE #2: Looking towards the house onto the garden.
I had a lot of leaves to remove - as well as the old red flowers (their time had sadly come).
The red flowers were vinca - or periwinkle.  They thrive anywhere - great for So.FL!

The new side entrance to the garden.  Mostly used by the kids :)
The new red flowers are begonias and the blue ones are lobelia.

Looking down on the garden from the house's walkway.
I made this small area of stone set in sand because of water run-off
from the house during our heavy rains.  If I mulch here, the mulch just
runs all down into the bottom of the garden as it's a slight decline down the yard.

Another view from above - a new garden flag adds color to any garden!
The green grassy plant is liriope, which is VERY hardy.  If you fertilize it, it will
bloom in July with little purple flowers.

Up close shot of the stones in sand.  The plants in pots are old - had them for years!
They are society garlic and I still need to give them a bit of attention!  They will also bloom  light purple.

A child's view of the garden entrance … a charming stepping stone to greet them,
as well as flowers of varying colors and a bunny await their arrival!

Along the front of the garden, you can see solar lights, the new walking path
for the children, the new garden gate, and some touches of purple.
What do you think?  I would love to hear your comments either here or on the Facebook page!!!

Don't let gardening intimidate you no matter where you live.  Do your research on native plants to your area, assess your yard and garden, and make a game plan!  Some things will fail, that's okay … but you will have fun in the process and you will learn.  Go spend some time in the dirt and you will spend time with God.  He is there in all His marvelous creation!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Roast Chicken with Potatoes 'n Onions

Hey there!  How are you all doing with your Lenten journey?  On a previous blog, I wrote about keeping yourself healthy - mind, body, and soul.  It all goes together.  You can't leave one of those components out.  Here is a delicious, filling, and nutritious recipe for your family.  It is earthy and real and you will have so much satisfaction knowing you made it all yourself.  It has the winning combination - meat and potatoes but without the fat from red meat.

I have been making this roast chicken recipe now for years and it is definitely a favorite of my family's, as well as being a favorite of guests.  You just can't beat that earthy flavor of roasted meat and potatoes.  Soooooooo comforting and oh so yummy!!!  Since I am learning how to add recipes to my blog, please bear with me as I do not yet have a "print"button with the recipes. I guess y'all will just have to copy it down by hand!  *gasp*  No, I promise I will learn how to get that pesky feature on the blog for easy printing.  Without further ado…

Roast Chicken with Potatoes 'n Onions

Ingredients:
4 lb (approx) roasting chicken
Spice mix (salt, pepper, sage, thyme)
Olive oil
Yukon gold potatoes (about 5 good size potatoes)
1 large white onion ( I like sweet onions )
1 lemon
1 cup white wine (can use cooking wine)

Buy a roasting chicken that is somewhere around 4 lbs.  I have bought larger, but it's difficult to find them too much larger when you're buying free range ones organic ones.

These spices are all you need for this bird!!!

Prepare your spice mix in a small bowl and set aside:
2 T kosher salt
1/2 - 1 t pepper (however much pepper you like)
1 t dry sage (I usually just eyeball it - you could use more here too)
1 t dry thyme (same as sage)

Here is the spice mixture all mixed together.

On a cutting board, cut a lemon and a large onion into wedges.

I did not have a large enough onion on hand - you can add another small onion.
I just went with this as I was in a hurry!

You will use about half the lemon and about half the onion.  The other half of the lemon you can use for a tall glass of cold iced tea, and the other half of the onion will be thrown together with the potatoes to roast.

You will need to pull the onion segments apart for roasting.

Wash your potatoes and set them on paper towels to dry them off.  I usually use half a bag of yukon gold potatoes.  Cut the potatoes into about 1-1 1/2 inch wedges/chunks.  They shouldn't be perfect - this is a rustic meal!

Aren't these gorgeous???!!!
I usually use yukon gold potatoes - which roast so beautifully,
but these little beauties were at the store and I couldn't resist!

Throw the potatoes into a large bowl.  Take the remaining onion and pull the segments apart and throw them into the bowl.
Liberally coat them all with olive oil and some of the spice mixture.  Now get your hands in there and mix them all around.

Here are these gorgeous taters all oiled up and spiced up!!!

Rinse the chicken under cold water, remove any innards, and set breast down on a bed of paper towels. Dry it all over.

Spray your pan with some non-stick cooking spray.  I use a 10 x 13 pan.
Rub the side of the chicken that's facing up with olive oil - be generous.  Liberally sprinkle with your spice mix.
This is the bottom side of the bird before flipping over and spicing up the top!

Liberally sprinkle spice mix to the inside cavity of the chicken and place breast side up in your pan.
Stuff the chicken with your lemon and onion chunks - about three or four pieces each.

All stuffed and ready to infuse the meat with lemon and onion goodness!
Oil the top (breast side) of the chicken and liberally sprinkle the chicken.  Give her a pat just for good measure!  :)
Pour the potatoes and onions all around the sides of the chicken.
Pour about a cup of white wine (yes, you can use white cooking wine) into the bottom of the pan without washing off the spices from the potatoes.  Oh yes!  White wine and chicken and potatoes and onions and sage and thyme will fill your home with the aroma of the best home cooked meal - EVER!!!

Oh my goodness, can you stand it???!!!
Roast this bird at 350 degrees Fahrneheit for 20 minutes/pound.  So, if you bought a 4 lb chicken, you will roast it for 1hr and 20 minutes.  When it's done, take out of the oven and let it rest for about ten minutes.  Remove the potatoes from the sides of the pan and place in a separate serving dish.  Keep them warm by gently tenting them with foil.
Remove the lemons and onions from the inside of the chicken and discard.

Roasted and caramelized potatoes and onions - mmmmmmm!!!
Place the chicken on a large cutting board.  Carve the breasts out first and set aside.  Carve out the thighs and legs and set aside.  Flip the bird over and remove any meat from the underside.  Throw away the carcass (I'm not "foodie" enough to save the carcass to make homemade chicken stock - lol!)
Cut the breasts into slices and remove all meat from the legs and thighs.  Place all the meat on a serving plate and drizzle pan drippings over all.  (You could strain the drippings into a separator first if you're really watching the fat.)

All that hard work really payed off!!!  Look how beautiful that chicken is?
Can't you just taste it now???

All you have to do is serve this with something green - a salad is usually the easiest as the chicken is taking up the entire oven.  Here is the simple salad I whipped up … (butter lettuce, tomato, cucumber, feta, and homemade salad dressing)




Although, you could roast asparagus in the oven while the chicken is resting.  Whatever green you like - serve it up and you have a complete meal!!!  I will blog about my super easy homemade salad dressing in a future blog - so look for that!

I hope this recipe finds you and your family well.  Please drop me a note here or on my Facebook page and let me know if you made it and how it turned out.  If you roast chickens regularly too, how do you make yours?  We would all love to hear!!!

May God continue to bless you and guide you during this Lenten season.  Stay healthy - mind, body, and soul!  ~+  Katherine



Thursday, February 12, 2015

Mind, Body, and Soul Lenten Program!



Are you tired?  Do you feel like your body is "out of whack"?  Or maybe it's just your mind … or your prayer life.  We are just so darn busy these days that it is really easy to forget to lead a balanced life.  I was reading an excellent article recently about how our body and soul are one.  Christians often forget this.  Our soul is not this type of ghost running around inside our shell of a body.  The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.  They are one.  Our spirituality and what we do with/to our bodies are woven together from the same thread.  You can read the article here.  It is much more in-depth and a very beautiful article.

Pharmakeia, Contraception, and the Interior Life

Having read that, my mind wandered to the upcoming Lenten season.  It begins next week on Ash Wednesday.  I realize that I have a very difficult time keeping my mind, body, and soul balanced as a busy mom of four.  I know I'm not the only one out there!  It's easy to forget to exercise, eat right, and pray daily.  Each day that passes - each night I lay my head down on my pillow - I remember something I had wanted to do during the day and had forgotten or my day was just too full.

This Lent, I would like to change that.  I'm proposing that this Lent, we pay close attention to our minds, bodies, and souls with activities that we can easily accomplish.  When we close our eyes at night during the forty days of Lent, we should feel content as our minds have been stretched, our bodies were well-fed and exercised, and our soul was fed with the Lord.

For the mind:
Set aside thirty minutes each day to read, write, journal, or complete a crossword/sudoku puzzle.  Believe it or not, when you look at your day, you will find some time to stretch your mind.  It might mean you will be turning off the television.  Horrors!!!  Television may be good for zoning out, but reading and daydreaming are better.  Start now seeking out what book you will be reading during Lent.  I recommend anything by Saint John Paul the Great, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, any of the saints' works, or something more contemporary from Dr. Scott Hahn, Patrick Madrid, Matthew Leonard, Johnnette Benkovic, Jennifer Fulwiler, or Teresa Tomeo.  Start now doing your research and pick that book!

I'll be ordering this book - I hear it's great!


For the body:
Since you've turned off the television and carved out thirty minutes for reading, why not carve out another thirty minutes for exercise?!  I understand this might be a difficult one, especially for those of you who work full-time away from the home, but it's one you should really try to accomplish.  When I exercise, my day goes so much better.  I would recommend exercising in the morning when your energy level is at its highest.  Take a good look at your days and see when you can squeeze in some exercise.  You may have to get up earlier before the kids wake - but you won't believe how good you'll feel if you do that.  Exercise doesn't have to mean a rigorous run or exercise class or weight training at the gym.  Although all those are awesome, you may not have the time or ability to do those.  Try walking around the neighborhood.  Drive the neighborhood first and find a good route and exactly how  far your route is.  Try to walk at least a mile a day.  If you are unable to walk, gentle stretching, sit-ups, and push-ups right in your own family room are just fine.  The point is to not be sedentary all day every day.  Get up and breathe some life into those bones and muscles of yours!!!

Get to steppin'!


Along with exercising, goes eating healthy.  I would have to say, my number one rule for my family is to try to stay as far away from boxed/packaged food as possible.  If it comes from the earth, it's likely that it does not have additives and preservatives.  The boxed foods are killers - filled with all kinds of things that are not naturally from this earth.  If you are interested in losing weight, I would suggest the "Lose It" app.  It is wonderful for keeping track of the calories you're actually ingesting.

Lose It tracks your daily caloric intake - you can even scan the barcode on food items!


Overall, stick with:
whole grains, lower carbs (than you're probably used to), fruit as snacks, organic granola bars and cereal bars (my family likes the Cascadian Farms chocolate chip, as well as the blackberry graham), real cheeses (and not a lot of them), lean meats (without steroids and nitrites), fish, salads with homemade dressing (the bottled dressings have all kinds of unnatural ingredients), roasted vegetables, soups (preferably homemade), etc.

If you're a snacker, look for:
Veggies and hummus, fruits (strawberries are low in calorie), pretzels, natural popcorn, rice cakes, peanut butter (again, look at the ingredients), mixed nuts (although high in calorie), dry cereals (go for all natural ones), raisins and dried fruits, yogurt (frozen too), applesauce, and hardboiled eggs.

Look how all that healthy food looks so delicious!  All natural, all from the Earth,  all from God!!!


For the soul:
I think each of us is guilty of not praying enough and definitely not doing enough acts of charity.  This Lent, I propose you pray before getting out of bed in the morning, as well as in bed at night before you fall asleep.  One wonderful way to start your day is by reading Fr. Robert Barron's Lenten reflections sent right to your phone.  Fr. Barron, in case you are not familiar with him, is singularly converting the world to Catholicism by evangelizing through the truth and the beauty of the Catholic Church.  I have signed up for the daily lenten reflections and can't wait for my first one!
Sign up here!!! FREE Daily Lenten Reflections from Fr. Barron



Along with praying morning and night (which could be a short prayer or as long as praying the rosary), I propose visiting the Lord in adoration at least one time a week.  I have written many times regarding the benefits from attending adoration.  Find out when your parish has adoration hours, and make it a point to go!  If you've never gone, or not in the habit of going, I will tell you that going there for the first time is intimidating and definitely feels outside your comfort zone.  I have even gone and said, "Lord, I don't know why I'm here, but I'm here.  I feel you calling me."  I think that's what Jesus wants.  He wants us to be there with him - communicating with him.  Sometimes I have nothing to say at all and just sit in silence … and listen.  Sometimes, I hear him and sometimes I hear nothing.  However, I hear Him later.  He will make Himself known to you.  It may not be on your timetable, but He will.  One last thought on adoration - if your parish's hours are not convenient for you, find a parish's that are.  Some parishes have 24 hour adoration!!!  That's convenient for everybody.

Our Lord is waiting for you...

Along with adoration, I propose daily mass.  If this is not possible for you, how about a weekday mass one time a week?  You won't believe how much better your day will go!  Again, find a parish with hours that are compatible with your schedule.  There is a great website for United States mass times as well!  I think it is also an app.  Their website is here:  Mass Times

You'll be surprised you won't be the only one at daily mass!

Along with praying, adoration, and daily mass, comes confession at least once during Lent. That's right.  I said it!  Get yourself over to a confessional and confess those sins!  Come on, those sins are weighing you down like weights around your ankles.  Slough it off and start out right.  Think of how much better your Lent will go if you visit a priest and confess right at the beginning of Lent.  Don't wait until Good Friday!  Here is a wonderful printable brochure entitled, How to Make a Good Confession.

For those who don't understand the sacrament of confession, this picture says it all!


Acts of charity might be the toughest to squeeze into our busy schedules.  If you have time, visit a hospital and see about their volunteering policies.  You can also visit you local Respect Life center, a nursing home, soup kitchen, St. Vincent de Paul Society, etc.  If you can't find something, ask your priest.  Prison ministry may also be available and a calling for you.

Defend life from conception to natural death!

Lastly, don't forget that you are obliged to fast and abstain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  You are also obliged to abstain every Friday during Lent.  How about fasting every Friday as well?  You will align yourself with the sufferings of Christ … and who knows, it might help with the waistline as well?  Fasting is very biblical.  It can be found mentioned in the Bible several times and for several different reasons: in secret, for humility, for God's intervention, and to overcome addictions, for example.

For humility

I have written a lot here, but we Catholics have a responsibility to take care of ourselves as a temple of the Holy Spirit.  Lent is a wonderful time to begin good habits for your mind, body, and soul.  Take advantage of the remaining days before Ash Wednesday and write down a "do-able" attack plan.  What will your strategy be?  How can you incorporate these good habits into your daily lives within the Lenten 40 days?  Plan now so that Ash Wednesday will be the start of great lifelong habits!  Please leave me a comment and let me know your plan, as we can all learn from each other.  What book will you be reading?  How much exercise and what type will you be doing?  How will you alter your eating habits?  How will you be spiritually growing closer to our Lord???  I am challenging you to the Mind, Body, Soul Lenten Program.  Our Lord is challenging you to treat yourself as the temple of the Holy Spirit that you are!


Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Real Presence

Do you believe in transubstantiation? Do you believe that upon consecration, the host and wine are turned into the body and blood of Jesus himself?  Right there on the altar?  Every day of the week in every Catholic Church around the world?  Many Catholics sadly do not believe this - the most important aspect of daily mass.

In today's world, where we tend to be so removed from our spiritual nature, and God himself, it may be difficult to believe in this daily miracle.  Let me ask you another question.  Do you believe God can work miracles?  If so, could he not do the aforementioned without batting an eye (not that God has eyes, per se)?



Let me quote Jesus himself on this matter:
(John 6:48-58)
"I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.  This is the bread whih comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." 

The jews then disputed among themselves, saying. "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"  So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.  For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.  He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.  As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.  This is the bread which came from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever."

I would say that Jesus was very clear here.  He is not speaking figuratively.  He emphatically states we must actually eat his flesh and drink his blood in order to have eternal life and for Him to live within us.  He was speaking so literally, in fact, that his audience could not believe him and were shocked.  If he were speaking figuratively, they would not have reacted the way they did.  As Jesus compared the bread which he was giving them to the manna which fed the Jews daily for forty years, he tells them He (as the bread) must be eaten daily.  We even say this in The Lord's Prayer!

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread …



Jesus is very explicit in what he wants his followers to do.  He does not ask his people to drink something else or eat something else, and only do it occasionally.  Eating His flesh and drinking His blood through the consecration of the bread and wine by the priest on the altar has ALWAYS been the teaching of the Catholic Church ~ I'm talking since the beginning.  The actually beginning.  You know ... since Christ himself.

The Council of Trent, which was held from 1545-1563, in response to the Reformation that was occurring throughout Europe, stated:
"Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood.  This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation."

I will leave you with a quote from St. John Chrysostom:
"Let us in everything believe God, and gainsay him in nothing, though what is said be contrary to our thoughts and senses…Let us act likewise in respect to the Eucharistic mysteries, not looking at the things set before us, but keeping in mind his words.  For his word cannot deceive."

St. John Chrysostom was telling us that it is difficult for our earthbound minds to understand Jesus' words, but to not question it for they are Christ's words.  He "cannot deceive".
God bless you all and may you love Christ even more through the eucharist He freely gives us every single day of every year in every Catholic church all around the world!  ~+ Katherine

John Chrysostom (349-407 AD) Preaching in Constantinople



Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Preschooler's Spring Birthday Party!

My three year old turned four this week, and every time one of my children's birthdays draws closer I begin to get a bit of anxiety over what "kind" of birthday we're going to give.  I don't know about you, but I honestly think the whole kids' birthday industry has gotten WAY out of control.  When my oldest was little, a very expensive party - at a place with helpers, cake, goodie bags, etc. - cost about $200.  Now a party like that costs $400-500!!!  Seriously, we parents need to examine our heads.

If you have a preschooler and the time of year is right, you can always have a park playdate birthday party with some preschool friends.  The great thing about this, is you won't have to pay to reserve a park pavilion if you do it on a weekday.  Since most preschoolers are only in school a few days of the week, choose to have the party on the day they are all out of school.  Moms might really thank you as it gives the kids something to do to burn up all that extra energy on their day off!  Remember that archaic and always now overlooked rule of only inviting the same number of kids that your child is turning?  (For example, a three year old should invite three or four children.)  This helps them not get over-stimulated, over-tired, and then start to cry or fight.

BURNING THAT ENERGY!
And what about those darn "goodie bags"?  I swear those have stressed me out a few times over the years!  What to give?  Will it be meaningful?  Will the kids actually like it?  Will it just be candy from a piƱata?  Will it, please God, not cost another small fortune on top of what I'm already spending for the party?  I swear, some years, it has felt like adding insult to injury!  Well, this year, I headed to my local dollar store determined to not spend a fortune on them, but make them really cute.

I walked past all the Valentine's decorations and St. Patrick's Day decorations and made my way to a new shipment of some early summer toys.  I spotted some purple sparkly beach buckets with pink shovels attached.  Hmmmm…..

PURPLE! PINK! SPARKLY! BINGO!!!

I immediately imagined the girls' names painted on the front and remembered I had some paint pens I had saved from my son's party two years ago.  Yeehawwww!!!

Then I spotted a purple and pink pinwheel… and … purple butterfly wand glow sticks!  Aha! I was on to something.

PURPLE, PINK, AND SPINNY!!! YES, YES, YES!

OKAY, PURPLE, BUTTERFLIES, AND GLOWS!  OOOOOOOOOOOHHH

Digging around some more, I found bubbles that came in purple butterfly shaped containers, preschool-friendly candy, and party whistles (with a butterfly decoration on them).

SERIOUSLY, HOW CUTE ARE THESE???

I got lucky, but honestly, just look around for things you think kids will actually play with.  Here are all the items all laid out:

LOOKS LIKE BUCKETS OF FUN!

Additional ideas for a summer or spring beach bucket?  You could add sidewalk chalk, cheap jewelry, Hot Wheels cars, green ARMY men, a small puzzle, crayons, inflatable beach ball, seeds for planting in the spring, gardening gloves, etc.  So what did each completed bucket cost me?  Only about $5 for all of that!  It looks like I spent more, the girls were out of their minds excited when they received them, and they are practical for future playtime adventures at home!  I do wish your children many many happy birthdays to come, and may they be easy on the budget but high on the fun factor!!!  Drop me a line in the comment section and let me know how you've thought outside the box for a birthday party.  I'd love to hear your ideas too!   ~+ Katherine

YOU SHOULD HAVE SEEN THESE BABIES TWIRLING IN THE WIND AT THE PARK!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Super-Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies

Okay! Are you ready to eat the most delicious and soft sugar cookies … ever???  If you like those soft frosted cookies from the grocery store but feel a little guilty wondering what the heck is in them (preservatives, lard, food coloring), then you never have to worry again!  This recipe is not only SUPER EASY, but the cookies are YUMMY!!!



INGREDIENTS:

2 cups all-purpose flour (I use unbleached - I think it's supposed to be healthier for you)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened (I buy gigantoid packs at Costco)
3/4 cup sugar (I use organic cane sugar - Costco has a great deal on this)
1 egg (I used organic free-range)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (Again, Costco's deal on vanilla cannot be beat!)

Frosting:

1 1/2 -2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk (maybe a dash more)

Mix together well.  You want the frosting to be tight enough not to slip off the cookie but not so tight that it doesn't spread.  You can fool with sugar/milk ratio a bit.

*Add-ons:  sprinkles, colored sugar, flavored extract (lemon, orange, strawberry), or you could add a dash of coloring to the frosting for a special event like a drop or two of red will yield pink just in time for Valentine's Day!

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit (180C).
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder - set aside.
In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, cream the butter & sugar for about 1 minute.
Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined.
Add the flour mixture slowly and beat together, scraping down sides of bowl.
Using a small ice-cream scoop, scoop out balls of cookie dough and place on cookie sheet.
Slightly press them down.
Bake 8-10 minutes ( I think I only needed 8 or 9).
Remove from oven and let rest a couple minutes or so.
Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack carefully - they will be soft.
Allow the cookies to completely cool before frosting them.


If you are transferring them to a party or as a gift, why not place them in festive cupcake wrappers?  The cookies won't stick to one another, they're easy to hold with out sticky fingers, and they're just so darn cute like that!


READY FOR TRANSPORT!!!  And to be gobbled up!!!!


Let me know how yours come out!
~+  Katherine


"The Catholic Life"

Well, my goodness, I'm a bit late at saying "Happy New Year!"  I am certainly hoping you all are having a good start to the new year.  Never forget that every day is a chance to start over - whether it's in your prayer life, your relationships, your diet, or your exercise regime (or lack thereof).  You can begin again at any time.  God wants us to grow - never stagnate.

Speaking of new beginnings… I'm so excited to let you know that I've started a new Facebook page called "The Catholic Life".  It is a beautiful page for you to briefly connect throughout the day with our faith. Whether you are a cradle Catholic, re-vert, convert, or fallen-away Catholic this is a page where you can feel at home. As I've said so many times before, I am a twenty year convert, but I still have SO MUCH to learn. My hope is that this page serves as a break in the day when you can read a quick prayer, view a beautiful photograph, or share in daily Catholic life.

Aaaaaand… In case you're new to my blog, welcome!!!  I'm a wife of twenty-five years and mother of four, ages 18 down to 4.  This new Facebook page will also include recipes, household tips, gardening tips, and parenting info as well. I've started this page to share the beauty of the Catholic Church and living a life of faith. PLEASE feel free to comment on the page and share a bit of your personal journeys as we go along this together.

God bless you all! ~ Katherine

THE CATHOLIC LIFE - FACEBOOK PAGE


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Being Compassionate

This is hopefully going to be a short posting.  I really have only one thought, and that is "Be kind." I think it's an appropriate message given the time of year, but that message just continues to resonate with me lately.  It's really more than being kind; it's "be compassionate".  I don't know if it's because I'm getting older, or our society is getting sicker, or it's just weird timing or luck, or whatever, but it is probably a combination of all those factors.  I personally know many people who are suffering.  Within this past year, I have known people who have lost their spouses, their great life-long friend, their co-worker, their cousin, their father, their mother, their grandmother, their brother…as well as others who have been diagnosed with various cancers or MS …and yet another whose child was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.  Yes, each of us is suffering through our own daily mundane trials and sacrifices, and then there are those who are suffering more than others can even imagine.

When you go about your day, try to make eye contact with everyone you meet and share a smile or a kind greeting.  It might be the only bright spot in that person's day.  You just do not know what is behind anyone's smile.  We all are hiding something.  We go about our days trying to hide what ails us, but it is always bubbling within our psyche.  For some, the pain is immense.  It can be a physical pain, an emotional scar, or financial troubles.  In being kind to one another, we Christians have the opportunity to minister to others about Christ's life…simply through our actions.

We, Americans will be celebrating Thanksgiving this week.  I do hope each of us takes more than a moment to truly thank God for ALL the blessings in our lives.  I do hope that each of carries that gratefulness within our hearts into the Advent season. We must be like Christ and tend to the poor, the widowed, the weak, the sick, the elderly, the abandoned, and the lonely.  When we think of Christ tending to those people, do we see ourselves in those stories?  It is us he is tending to. Don't you see?  WE are the poor, the widowed, the weak, the sick, the elderly, the abandoned, and the lonely.  It is each of us.  Each of us has a broken heart for one reason or another.  Christ is telling us we must tend to EACH OTHER.  This Advent season, be compassionate.  Be like Christ.  He is the light of the world, so go light up your corner of the world with compassion and love for others.

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest." ~ Matthew 11:28

Etching by Rembrandt: "Christ Healing the Sick"
"The print depicts multiple events from Matthew 19, including Christ healing the sick, debating with scholars and calling on children to come to him. The rich young man mentioned in the chapter is leaving through the gateway on the right"



Monday, November 3, 2014

Dignity: The State or Quality of Being Worthy of Honor or Respect

That title is the definition of "dignity".  It is a word that is being used now in conjunction with suicide.  I had promised myself I would not write about the Brittany Maynard case because I figured everyone and their brother would, but I cannot help but put a few thoughts down here regarding this.  I am not writing this for the ardent Catholic who knows euthanasia is wrong or for the pro-euthanasia person who feels Brittany's decision was a "brave" one, but for the Christian who is sitting on the fence regarding Brittany's decision.

It wasn't that long ago that I was "pro-choice", "pro-euthanasia", and "pro-capital punishment".  It still seems a little strange to hear myself saying that I am no longer any of these.  Is this a radical viewpoint? Am I radical for thinking that humans were made in God's image, that He knew our names before we were born, that He knows every hair on our heads, that we are His children, and thus because of all this, we are supposed to stand for LIFE from conception to natural death?  Okay, if society deems saving human lives a radical concept, then I am a radical by today's standards.

In suffering, we are given lessons interwoven into the threads of pain.  In death, we learn to succumb to God's will and not our own.  We learn to let our loved ones pass back into God's eternal resting place.  For those who are dying, they come very close to heaven or hell - staring death down in the face.  Some even have the grace given to them to survive death and be cured of their sufferings.  Through others' end-of-life experiences, we take a glimpse into God's exponentially wide arms of mercy and His ability to work miracles in our lives.  Those of  us who have bounced back from the brink of death know what it is like to be held in the palm of His hand and given a second chance.  Our lives are not for naught.  Each of us has a mission and a God-given purpose to use the gifts He gave us at conception.

Between January of 2013 and May of 2014, I lost three babies all at different stages of life.  Each of them was precious, but they were brought back to heaven for reasons beyond my earthly understanding.  I suffered immensely, not only emotionally, but physically.  The second one landed me close to death passed out on my bedroom floor after hours of pain and blood loss that are beyond description.  When the paramedics arrived and revived me, my heart rate was very low and my body was numb.  It was a very calm and ethereal few moments as they prepped me for the stretcher.  I really couldn't care less about what they were doing.  My eyes were on God and thanking Him for my life, my husband, and my four beautiful healthy children.  Laying in the hospital for two days with no visitors (outside my immediate family at the onset of my admission), gave me so much time to pray and think.  Briefly touching death's door allowed me a very intimate time with God.  In a way, I wouldn't take that time back.  There were so many lessons of thankfulness, forgiveness, and healing that were learned there.

I would imagine all who suffer, and all who are near death, experience God in this intimate way and feel His love and grace if they allow Him in.  As painful as death is, it is a part of our lives and it is a step to life-everlasting with our Creator.  We don't know how each of us will go.  We don't know if we will suffer.  We do know that God has a plan for us and that our pains and struggles here on earth are temporary.  We know that through our sufferings, we are united to Christ on the cross and His sufferings.  We get a glimpse of God's immense love for us through the pain on the cross and through our own crosses.

Brittany and her family do not know what graces would have been given to them through her death from cancer.  They will never know that nor will they know if a miracle would have occurred.  Miracles can and do happen; they are not fairy tales.  What I do know is that we are not allowed to play God.  It is not our role here to determine who gets to live, who doesn't, and for how long.  Our society tells us that it is merciful to kill and calls it "death with dignity", yet God tells us in no uncertain terms that murder is a sin and "thou shalt not".  We must pray for our world that we see murder in all its forms and reject it.  Suicide is never the "brave" option.  It is far braver to stare down your death sentence and grow through it moving ever nearer to God.  It is far braver to teach those around you about death, suffering, strength, forgiveness, healing, prayer, God's graces, and God's miracles.

Simply, each life in its entirety has meaning and should be cherished and protected from conception to natural death.  We must trust in God's plan for our lives ...and not plan our lives and deaths and play God.



Here are three pro-life messages from a very brave teenager, a a very brave thirty year old seminarian, and a very brave middle aged woman all diagnosed with terminal brain cancer…

A letter from Philip Johnson, a North Carolina seminarian, who has terminal brain cancer:
Letter to Brittany

…and a story about Lauren Hill, the nineteen year old college freshman basketball player, diagnosed with terminal brain cancer:
ESPN reports Lauren Hill Fulfills Dreams

…and a video message from Maggie Karner, a Connecticut woman, also diagnosed with glioblastoma like Brittany was:




Monday, October 6, 2014

Four Visions During Mass Today: An Angel, the Infant Jesus, A Suffering Jesus, and A Crucified Jesus

Recently, I have been praying to my guardian angel and asking him to help guide my thoughts and actions.  I have been trying to "reach out" to him, if you will, like how one gets to know a new acquaintance and hopes it turns into friendship.  Only, I already know my guardian angel is my friend, so it's more about me reaching out to him.

During mass today, my pastor was telling a story during the homily and I was trying with all my might to follow him, but finding it very difficult.  I, oftentimes, will close my eyes during the homily and various times during mass so that I can listen intently without the distractions of what's going on around me in church.  Today was one of those days.  I closed my eyes to better hear my pastor, and I instantly saw a pair of massive wings bowing before me.  I was so focused on the massiveness and power of the wings that I failed to see the figure attached to them in the middle for quite some time.  All of a sudden, my focus shifted to the wings' owner….and I gasped just a bit.  He was an angel…bare chested and very mighty in his muscular stature.  He was bowing but looking straight ahead.  His face was rugged and even though human looking, somehow otherworldly.  His stare was peaceful, yet mighty all at the same time.  He wore a rugged short beard and his hair was light reddish brown, wavy, almost unkempt looking - like he could go to battle at any moment.  I thought, "Am I seeing my guardian angel? Am I seeing him or another angel?"  And at that moment I opened my eyes … and felt an overwhelming sense of joy and gratefulness to God.

I immediately thanked God for this gift of prophecy He has given me and promised Him I would continue to be open to this gift. I promised, as I often do, that I would give any message He wants me to give.  Not long after that, my pastor began the part in the mass that is the Liturgy of the Eucharist and I closed my eyes to better focus on what was happening on the altar.  In that moment, I was standing amongst people in a field.  It was night, the air was cool, and I was having trouble seeing beyond the heads of the people in front of me.  Just then, a bright light appeared about 20 feet in front of me and I was looking at a baby in a wooden trough.  It was the baby Jesus laying in the manger just before me …and I was one in the crowd who came to pay Him homage.  The people were absolutely silent.  The silence was almost deafening as they came in awe and joy to see the Savior before them.  Love, respect, reverence, and submission abounded that night. I was focused, however, on the wood of the manger for some reason.  It seemed so rustic - dirty even - and yet there He lie.  

Immediately, I was standing in another crowd.  This time, I was on a stone street.  It was daytime and hot.  All of a sudden I was five feet from Jesus as he passed before me carrying his cross. He was severely struggling.  Again, I focused on the wood of the cross beam of the cross.  The massiveness of the cross.  The wood piece was enormous and I wondered how any human being could ever lift that. I could see the roughness of the wood.  It was not only heavy and awkward, but painful to touch.  I looked into Jesus' face and saw the pain.  There was extraordinary physical pain, yet also frustration - like how could His Father in heaven create him to be human and feel this torture? I saw Jesus turn slightly to his left and appear to look up.  He fell before me.  The crowd did nothing. People were yelling.  Women screamed.  The crowd was not there to pay him homage. God's people had ordered the brutal killing of God's son and they were there to see it happen.

All of a sudden, I was two feet from Jesus' face and the massive cross beam.  That wood that he was birthed into, he was now nailed to.  I watched the agony in his blood-stained face as they lifted the cross from the ground.  I was right there with him - loving Him and feeling His agony.  Why was He wanting me to see this I thought?  The cross, as they lifted it, slightly and quickly fell to his right side, and he closed his eyes, his head fell to his right shoulder, and he let out a guttural sound from the excruciating pain.  They straightened the cross and then slowly raised it into position.  The crowd behind me was calling out at him.  The air was thick, His pain was unbearable and punishing, and the people were relentless in their mocking of Him.

I opened my eyes.  My pastor had just finished consecrating the host and wine into the body and blood of Christ.  The crowds of people that I saw and stood amongst had all drastically changed from one vision to another.  God had shown me my Guardian angel, and then brought me into the birth, suffering, and death of our Lord today.  As He was born into a wooden manger, he died upon a wooden cross.  He entered and left this world upon a mighty tree.  The people who came to pay him homage when he was born were there out of love, respect, and knowing the babe in the manger was their Savior they had always prayed for.  The people in the street, as Jesus slowly passed through, were not there to pay him homage.  The people beneath the cross were the worst as they jeered and yelled.  How odd that Jesus would be born to a crowd who loved and revered him and would die to a crowd who hated and mocked him.  

I can tell you that when I looked into the face of Christ, I saw a human being with a heavenly understanding of His Father.  He knew this was to be and submitted, yet felt the pain the same as you or I would feel it.  My words can never do justice to the pain he felt in His death.  

Later today, I looked up and read about today's readings because I really didn't hear them or the homily.    I learned today's Gospel reading was the parable that Jesus taught about the landowner of a vineyard and his tenants who killed his son.  (Mt 21:33-43)

'This is the heir.
Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’ 
When Jesus was asked what the vineyard owner would do, he replied…

"Therefore, I say to you,
the kingdom of God will be taken away from you
and given to a people that will produce its fruit."

The kingdom of God was taken from the Jewish people and given to the Gentiles.  Many of the people who came to pay homage to the infant Jesus in the manger would have been Gentiles.  The people who ordered His crucifixion were the Jews.  This is what God was showing me today.  Perhaps my guardian angel had a hand in helping me see the aloneness of Jesus, His beautiful birth, His horrific death, the people who praised him in his birth, and the people who rejected him and crucified him.  I saw the wood that cradled him as an infant and the wood that he was nailed to in his death,   the difference in the crowd who welcomed him to this earth and the crowd that sent him from it.

As Msgr. Pope so aptly stated in this week's homily, "Either we accept the offer of the Kingdom and thereby yield to the Lord’s work and bring forth a harvest, or we face judgment for the fact that we have chosen to reject the offer of the Kingdom. God will not force us to accept His Kingship or His Kingdom. We have a choice to make and that choice will be at the heart of the judgment we will face."

These were only my personal visions.  I share them as I promised God I would.  I pray I do my visions justice and send forth the images correctly.  God bless you all ~+