Sep 18, 2017

Alabama Bento

How many of ya have an Ollie's close by? Well, we have one up the road from my mama's house and I love that place. It reminds me of home, aka Schuylkill Co. PA. (Lived there only 5 years, 3 of them rebelling against the cold and the north in general, so of course, just when I start thinking of it as home, I move. Now I want to go back. *insert eyeroll* Must be a military brat thing, I dunno.) Aaaaanyway, while I was at Ollie's I found bento boxes, legit bento, not plastic tubs, not chambered little trays with snap on lids. I'm talking the actual bento boxes like they have in Japan. They were under $5 each. HECK YEAH! I grabbed one each for each of us except David. (Last time I did something similar he rolled his eyes and never used his so ppppttttthhhhhhhtttttt party pooper! No, I didn't forget him, he just got something else.) I, however, am in love with them. As you know I love trying out new things in the kitchen and I've been itching for a time to use these. One more thing off the bucket list Japan edition! YAY! (Now if I could just actually ever get there....sigh)

2 pink ones, 1 gray (chopsticks I had already)

So now I'm here......... in AL........... with bento boxes........(crickets).

I start thinking.

I made some pork nuggets from leftover pork chops and froze them awhile ago to use just for this, and I have more rice than I know what to do with. So that part is taken care of. 

What next? I mean bento is all about variety and being cute. Right?

Well, I have zero time for cute right now. Functional it is! I really need to use up the last of that fresh okra, and those sweet potatoes. Those apples are starting to look sketchy too. Can I really use leftover french style canned green beans?  Hhhhhmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Welp! We're about to find out!

So after doing a quick internet search on okra and sweet potatoes to make sure I wasn't completely insane I made Alabama bento y'all! 

I must say I was surprised at how well it turned out and the kids loved it. My attempt at apple bunnies was merely passing, I know, but the kids liked it imperfections n' all. The green beans I simply sprinkled some sesame seeds over the top to perk them up a bit. The rice was cooked in my rice cooker with a 2 to 1 ratio of water to rice. The pork nuggets I just warmed up in the skillet. (Forgive the few that got a little too warmed up.) 

My biggest shock was the okra and sweet potatoes. I thought there was no way on earth I would like it and was facing possibly wasting food. I crossed my fingers and dove in. With the okra not being overcooked and the sweet potatoes being fork tender I am a fan and will be making this again. My kiddos agree, so much so that they went for seconds and even thirds in one case. While not unheard of, it is certainly not the norm for my kids to want more vegetables!

Sweet Potatoes and Okra

1 tbsp. vegetable oil 
1 large sweet potato cubed
1/4 c. water
1 cup sliced fresh okra
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 or 2 good shakes of minced dried onion
1 good shake of garlic powder
2 tsp honey
pinch of salt

Add the vegetable oil to a hot dutch oven, add the sweet potato and cook until it starts to get caramelized. Add water and cook until almost tender. Add the okra, cinnamon, dried onion, garlic powder, honey, and salt. Cook until fork tender. The okra will give it a bit of a slime factor, but not too badly if you don't overcook it. I just told my kids if they saw any stickiness it was from the honey, because yeah, I'm that mom. ;) 

Aug 11, 2017

My 5 Favorite Catholic Sites

By Resolver-Aphelion - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Sometimes there is a spiritual itch that just has to be scratched and for those of us that live in predominantly protestant areas, it can be challenging to scratch it. My own library was once impressive, but after the move is sorely lacking. I don't always have access to the parish library. As a convert living in the Bible Belt the internet has been huge in helping me find what I need. My journey to the Catholic Church really was a time of discovery for me, and a time of not really knowing where or who to turn to. This was during the era of dial up, AOL, and as long as you could handle ads 100% free providers. (Thank you NetZero!) The resources available online were and are invaluable to me, and appreciated is an understatement. The sites I have included here have been huge on my journey to and being a part of the Roman Catholic Church. I hope you enjoy them also.

Sacred Space
Who: Irish Jesuits and Loyola Press
What: prayer site, an exercise in spiritual meditation
When: It's pretty much a go at your own pace prayer space.
How: Click the begin prayer button, the date, there is an option to print the prayer, to move on, or click Guide for deeper spiritual prayer. Adjustable setting help to create a personalized peaceful space. There is an app for smart phone users.
Why: Hands down the most peaceful place I've found on the internet to help me reconnect with God.
Where: Sacred Space

Come, Pray the Rosary
Who: Fr. Dave Heney and parishioners of the St. Paschal Baylon Church in Thousand Oaks, CA
What: Online rosary
When: When you have about 15-20 minutes to spare
How: Click Enter, choose language, chose worldwide or individual, and back ground, you can add intentions
Why: The Rosary is my favorite prayer. Knowing I can pray in communion with the faithful from all over the world helps to cement the truth that we are truly a Catholic church.
Where: Come, Pray the Rosary

EWTN Libraries
What: Online site for the EWTN this area has all kinds of historical documents and current reading
When: This site needs a little time. I tend to get lost reading and can spend hours here if not careful.
How: click the libraries link then search under whatever topic you are looking for
Why: There is so much here that I get lost routinely. It was one of the chief places I turned to for answers during my conversion.
Where: EWTN Libraries

Who: Bud MacFarlane and The Mary Foundation
What: Site dedicated to getting free materials out to teach the Catholic faith
When: Whenever you're looking for materials to encourage your faith journey topics from prayer to catechism
How: The first page is pretty self-explanatory, just click on what you are looking for (there is a shipping fee for the free materials)
Why: Very informative, and easy to navigate. The CD's are recorded in a way that makes you feel like you are there with them.
Where: Catholicity

Catholic Home Study
Who: Missouri Knights of Columbus and the Vincentians
What: free Catholic enrichment courses
When: it is work at your own pace, ordering the courses is fairly quick, then taking the online quizzes goes fairly quickly once you've studied the material
How: Enroll, they send you the materials, take the quizzes online when ready
Why: The go to source for me as I went through RCIA to supplement what I was learning in class
Where: Catholic Homestudy

Aug 7, 2017

New Testament Women - The Gospel of Matthew Genealogy

By Phillip Medhurst -, FAL,
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know some of you are raising an eyebrow because these women's stories are told in the Old Testament. However, lineage passages are usually all about the men so when a woman makes the list, pay attention 'cause somethin happened. They are listed for a reason. So I'm looking into the why? What is it about them that made the cut into the 'begat' list? To do that first I have to figure out what is this particular genealogy trying to tell me.  Once that is established, we can begin to look at their stories and find out just what makes them special. Then comes the fun of gleaning the wheat from their lives to help make the spiritual bread that hopefully you will share with me. They are there for a reason, and I want to find out everything I can about it and them.

 Gospel of Matthew Chapter 1 Genealogy

According to The Catholic Study Bible, this genealogy is written to point out two things, Jesus as King, and the virgin birth. We know the royalty factor is being stressed because David is mentioned before Abraham. Abraham starts the genealogy because he is the father of the Israelites as a whole. This proves Jesus is an Israelite and therefore the Messiah foretold by their prophets. The St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology says the placement of the genealogy is telling us who Jesus is in relation to the old testament. That in fact, Jesus fulfills the promise of God to restore the kingdom of David. However, for Him to do so, prophecies have to be fulfilled. The royal connection is pretty straight forward. What else is being said here? Cue the women. The women mentioned in the genealogy are Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, the wife of Uriah (Bathsheba), and Mary. Tamar tricked Judah, Rahab was an enemy prostitute, Ruth a foreign widow, Bathsheba was lusted after by a king, and Mary was a virgin mother. There isn't much common ground here. They all had very different lifestyles and backgrounds. Look a little deeper though and you will find they all had their sons in unlikely circumstances. The ones prior to Christ's birth all lead to the most unlikely birth to have ever been recorded, that of a virgin, giving birth to the Messiah....... in a barn.

So now we know what the genealogy is trying to convey we can get to the real meat of what I want to learn. What is it about these women that made them special enough for the author of the Gospel of Matthew to include them and what can I learn from them? The next post in this series will be about Tamar. What did she do? Why did she do it? What can we learn from it? 'Till then. Be Sweet Y'all!

Aug 3, 2017

Product Review: Tiesta Tea, Immunity, Maui Mango

I make no claims one way or the other about the health benefits of this product.

Opening Scene: Sick, pathetic looking 18-year-old son, and mom in the kitchen

Son: Do we have tea?

Mom: Yeah, we always have tea.

Son: *irritated* Nooooo, not ice tea, hot tea.

Mom: Yeeeaaaahhhh, we always have both. You know this.

Son: *-.-* cough, cough, uuuuggghhhhhh, I don't feel good! *insert whiney sad face here while looking right at the tea and NOT seeing it*

Mom: *goes to cupboard* Here, we have Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Weight loss tea, Blueberry, Oh! I forgot I had this. I have some tea that says immunity on it. Same ones that make the weight loss one I like.

Son: -.-, *sniff* Earl Grey sounds good.

Mom: *still reading the Immunity tea package* This has pineapple in it.

Son: *perks up a tad* pineapple? ......... waaait, how does dried tea have pineapple in it?

Mom: .............Yeah, you're sick. The fruit is dried, not fresh. 

Son: *almost blushing* hush..... I don't feel good.

Mom: Go rest. I'll make it. (There might have been an eye roll involved on the parents part, but you know, I can't recall for sure. The ol' memory ain't what she used to be.*cough, cough*)

Son: *pathetic* Ooookaaaayyyy

*fast forward to mother and son sipping the hot immunity tea (still in kitchen because he can't follow directions.....sigh)*

Son: *looks up and attempts eye contact, carefully though, the effort might kill him* You can get this again.

Mom: Gasp! The horror! It's not Earl Grey and I didn't add sugar! Can I pass out! *grinning and giving a side eye*

Son: *genuinely impressed* No honey?

Mom: Nope

Son: Yeah, *cough, cough, cough* @#^&$! *cough, SNORT, HACK* Uuuuggghhhhhh!  soon.

Mom: *looong sigh* Watch your mouth, drink your tea, and go back to bed

Son: *attempts a genuine grin, giving side eye* I love you too mom.

Mom: *smiles and reaches up to his 6ft plus head to gently ruffle his hair* Turkeyhead

(The above is not an act. This is my life.)

So this tea has passed the pathetic sick teen boy test. It tasted good, it made his throat feel better, and he could drink it without adding sweeteners. It has this mom's seal of approval.

Now for the nitty gritty.

It isn't organic, but to be fair, not many readily available teas around here are. I didn't expect this one to be. It does have the  'All natural ingredients inside' stamp, take from it what you will. I do not have the stamina to attempt that hornet nest!

It is caffeine free. That is a blessing and a curse around here. David, the 18-year-old, likes caffeine first thing in the morning, it helps him with his ADHD. More importantly, it helps me when it helps his ADHD! (When your kid is called the poster child for something like that, your gray hair is a badge, rock it!)

Now for the ingredients, if I can't say it I don't want to eat it. If it takes longer to get through than a Stephen King novel, it ain't happenin'. (Unless I don't have the kids with me, then I will take all the time in the world to read that bad boy. I won't buy it, but I'll read it.) If it has both, no,....just no, ....not gonna happen. This is when the 'Oh hell no!' face appears, and I put it back like I'm handling poison. 

Ingredient list:(front)
pineapple pieces 
orange slices
mango bits
natural flavors
strawberry fruit granules
white hibiscus
marigold petals

rooibos tea
fruit tea

Articles related to the health benefits of the ingredients:
(This list is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully, will help give an idea of the properties of the ingredients. Take from it what you will.) 

Fruit tea - Fruit Tea

31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. - 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NASB)

Aug 2, 2017


Yesterday was TOUGH! I did NOT want to exercise. I was a baby about it. I even joked with my life coach "buuuuuttt mmmmoooommmm!!" when she asked about me. When my oldest son called to see if one of his brothers was joining him at the gym I joked with David (ds#2) asking if he wanted me to work out.  He said, "I wouldn't mind it." His eyes were sad. Uuuuggghhhhhhhh! Talk about feeling like crap! I wasn't thinking about the fact that all of my older kiddos (bio and heart babies alike) have mentioned they worry about my weight. Seeing his eyes and thinking about my youngest, who is already big for her age made me put on my workout clothes. I don't want this to be her life. I want her to live, and to live a strong and healthy life. I want that for all my kids. So I got up off my butt and I found a YouTube video. Today when I woke up early I went back to YouTube and found another one. God willing I will keep it going with YouTube until I can get the external DVD and use my old videos again.

This all started snowballing again with me taking a walk with my daughter two days ago. I'd done the water challenge I'd blogged about before and was still doing well. My nutrition was better too. My exercise was the pits though. My back to health journey actually began when I found Beachbody about a year and a half or so ago and did the 21 DayFix. I LOVED it. I love Shakeology. However, in my current situation, I can't afford it. (I still have some left so don't be surprised if you see me drinking it.) I want to. I'd love to be able to do the OnDemand videos and rock them like I did this time last year. I went from 365 to 322. I could do all but the burpees without modification. Then around January of this year, I stopped. I wasn't even in survival mode for part of it. I was simply frozen in fear of what was happening in my life, and in my relationships. I felt more alone than ever despite living with other adults. As a result, I gained every bit and then some back. I got to 368. Seeing that number crushed me. I won't lie and say I'm great. I'm not. I'm just not as bad as I was and I'm getting better. I am "okay". The biggest thing I noticed though was the less I moved the worse I felt. I did need a break from things, but exercising wasn't one of them. I need that to help keep my mind clear, and my iron pills to keep my anemia at bay. (One of the side effects of low iron is fatigue and that does nothing to help memory or motivation.) Will I get off my butt tomorrow? I don't know. I hope so. I do know that the more I exercise the more likely I am to keep exercising. One step at a time is all I'm worried about for now. As the good book says, "So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34 or one step at a time.

Jun 28, 2017

Why Plan a Menu?

Photo by Andy Chilton on Unsplash

Food, glorious, food! I love the smells and tastes coming out of European pastry shops, the smells of burgers and wings during football season, and bread cooking in my mama's oven. I crave the sweet, cool, juicy bites of the summer's first cold watermelon, and the pizza from my favorite small town pizzeria back in PA! (Shout out to Roma in Pottsville!) Fancy, humble, homemade, or bought, none of that matters to me as long as it tastes good. What I don't like is how much it costs. Which brings me to the point of this post, menu planning. I've found it to be a huge help in keeping costs down, even if only so I can make sure all those wonderful leftovers and bags of produce actually get used. Tossing containers I'm afraid to open is not my idea of fun. One, I don't like wasting good food. Two, wasted food equals wasted money. Three, I'm broke. Menu planning has allowed me to add foods I otherwise couldn't afford. I can purchase things like almond flour, try a new veggie, or an inexpensive bottle of wine. Your list will be different than mine, and that's okay. To help you get started I'm including a sample week of meals and my menu planner page as we "set a spell" and get to making a menu.

Now, how to do it? I don't tend to follow conventional wisdom here. Most advice seems to be the plan first shop later variety. I tend to go overboard looking for recipes with waaaaay to many ingredients I don't have on hand, or I get there and they are out of something I need. Needless to say, my meals can be banging, but I'm broker than ever. Worse, I get tired of so much cooking and things go bad before I use them. To keep this from being a problem I look for loss leaders and coupons . Check out those grocery fliers! Now, if you are starting out or starting over, don't rush out and buy a bunch of things you can't afford. Set aside a portion of your grocery money (even if it's just 5 dollars) and slowly build up. You want a good foundation to cook with. Now, while I shop, I literally keep a little pad of paper and subtract the cost of each thing I buy from the amount I'm budgeted. (Don't forget tax.) Then I look at how much I have left, and decide if I really want it or not. It's amazing what you can leave behind when you only have $60 to feed a family of 5. My personal opinion, don't take the kids if you are stressed about money. It just makes things worse. They either see things they want or you see things you want for them. Who needs the added stress and temptation? Personally, I enjoy having them with me most of the time. It's like a mini drive with singing in the car, conversations, and even homeschool lessons like mileage, nutrition, advertising, and the 's' word..... socialization! Whatever you do, don't get in a hurry, don't go hungry, and don't be afraid to change your mind once you get there. It's inevitable you will find better deals, or have new ideas based on what's available. Just go with it.

Photo by Andrei Bocan on Unsplash

Now that you're home and the groceries are put away and it's quiet. Take it! Grab it! Hold onto it for a few precious moments and don't let go! Enjoy a cup of coffee and small snack. Once ready get your receipts and go over what you bought. Write down on scratch paper the meals you want to cook. Don't get caught up here like I used to. You know your family. Do the meals that work for you and your schedule. Boredom hits hard very easily during meal times and it can be tempting to write down recipes you just realistically won't make, but seem amazing at the time. Menu planning allows us to get creative not just with our food, but also with our time. Time is my favorite perk, it allows me to include the kids in the cooking process. (I have a budding ramen expert, a baker in training, and a tea maker (because even though I taught him how, he makes it better...sigh.)  You can also have certain nights set aside for different types of meals. As a Catholic I still try to eat fish on Friday. The only other things I hold fast to is 3 vegetarian meals through the week (one each of breakfast, lunch, and dinner), and to have something a little extra on Sunday so my kids can look forward to it the way I did. Lots of people add a taco, soup, or slow cooker night as well. It just depends on how organized and detailed you want to be. I sometimes prep as I put away groceries by separating main ingredients (think value sized meats) into the amounts that will be used in a meal. Other times I know I'll have to do some more detailed prep for example, a huge ham cooked, separated into slices, cubes, and the bone set aside for beans or greens. I take all that into account. Getting the heat required prep out of the way as soon as possible during the summer heat and in the winter I bake more so I do those during the day to help warm the house. If you don't want to plan for a full week, start by planning a couple of days, or even just a few meals. Anything you do today that you weren't doing yesterday is a step in the right direction. Keep it sane. Keep it simple. Stressing about it doesn't help, so play with it until you get the hang of it and bask in the delight of good food making your home smell amazing, your family healthier, and your budget happier.

Download my menu planning page here.

Sample Menu
  1. Sausage biscuits, fruit
  2. grits, fruit
  3. biscuits n' gravy
  4. pancakes
  5. oatmeal
  6. sausage biscuits
  7. (Sunday fast)
  1. baked potatoes
  2. sandwiches, carrot sticks
  3. left overs
  4. BLT's, celery
  5. fried rice
  6. Grilled cheese
  7. bean burritos
  1. pasta Alfredo with ham, green beans
  2. potato soup, salad
  3. greens, beans, cornbread
  4. leftovers
  5. baked tilapia, peas, corn on the cob
  6. pancakes, bacon, fruit
  7. stew, rice. salad
  1. carrot sticks and ranch 
  2. celery and peanut butter 
  3. fruit 
  4. brownies
  1. milk
  2. hot tea
  3. sweet tea
  4. coffee
  5. water
  6. juice