Friday, September 30, 2011

My BFF {5 minute Friday}

Joining Gypsymama today for a five minute un-edited freewrite on the topic of her choice:

On Friends...

Twenty years ago I went off to a college where I only knew one other person from my high school would be there.  We were placed in different dorms, thus different social circles and rarely saw each other.

Thank goodness that on that first day of orientation, my mother recognized a former classmate of hers across that sea of frightened freshmen faces and their parents.  Thanks to that moment of recognition, I was introduced to Jenn, a stunning brunette with dark chocolate brown eyes and a welcoming smile.  

She lived in the same dorm up on the third floor.  Many all-nighters were spent together while sipping Mountain Dew and sort of studying.  By our senior year we were off-campus roommates racing together to Shakespeare class where it was my job to keep her awake. 

Our long-distance friendship began that winter when she left for a semester of study in France.  Across the lines of this new thing called the Internet, we were able to stay connected.  Then she moved away for work and we have never lived in the same state since.

Sometimes I marvel at how it is that despite nearly 15 years of separation, we have remained bffs.  Then I realize, she taught me how to be a friend.  She never let go of my hand.  No matter how inconvenient, she made the road trip to see me, (even at seven months pregnant on a 19 hour Amtrak train to Chicago!).  When I got lazy, she persisted, when I had my first baby, she flew in to hold him to her own loving heart, when I returned to my hometown for Christmas, she drove through blizzards to stop by for a few hours before having to make the return trip home.  She showed me that friendship takes work, time and commitment.  

And committed to her I am.  

My friend made me a better friend.

Jenn, I've got you by the hand, and I will never let it go.  H2U!


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real {Women of Faith 2011}

My mother.  Isn't she pretty?  We went out for breakfast yesterday and found a delightful restaurant on the boardwalk.  The sound of the waves crashing while we sipped coffee and chatted was so special.  We will be back next week!

I've been away from the blog for a few days.  My mother, sister and I spent a fabulous girls only weekend in Charlotte.  We attended the Women of Faith Imagine conference.   Last fall we had attended WOF (Over the Top) in Greensboro, NC and had such a moving experience we signed up again for this year.  Sheila Walsh was a the main headliner along with Dr. Henry Cloud, Luci Swindoll, Lisa Parker, author Karen Kingsbury and dramatist Nicole Johnson.  One of the best parts of women of faith is always the music.  We were treated to two concerts, one by Mary, Mary and one with Natalie Grant.  She sang Peace Like a River and my tears flowed like one too!  I dare you to listen to her sing it and not get chills!

Dr. Cloud spoke all about happiness.  
He talked about having a few good "monkeys" in our lives.  Monkeys are the people with whom you can feel safe and be yourself freely.  He said,
Match your level of vulnerability to the capacity of the people in your life.
In other words, be careful who you let into your innermost circle of friends for they will have the most power to hurt you or to encourage you.  He reminded us that real happiness is a result of giving in relationship rather than taking.  However,  he cautioned that we are not obligated to give and give and give to relationships that simply suck the life away from us.  For the rest of the weekend we joked "Who's your monkey?"  and "Choose your monkeys wisely!"


We are three silly monkeys with all our birthdays in one week.  We had fun opening presents in our jammies while wearing blinking flowers in our hair.   Those flowers make an appearance whenever the three of us are together.
This is reaaallly real!  I guess I am not used to those late nights with the girls because by Tuesday afternoon I was whipped.  I fell asleep trying to put my toddler down for a nap and he stayed awake and took this photo on my phone while I was snoozing!

Please visit:

round button chicken


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pretty,Happy, Funny, Real {Signs of Fall}

Look at this peachy-pink September sunrise!  What a breathtaking way to begin my day.  Thank you God!
The holiday Coffee-mate creamers are slowly appearing in stores and therefore, in my morning (and afternoon) coffee. Yum!  Gets me thinking ahead to a the chilly, cozy evenings ahead. 

Halloween costumes have already been purchased and now begins the please wait 'til Halloween to wear them battle.  This year all three boys will be characters from Super Mario.  This is KC as Toad, wearing the mushroom hat.

Fall brings lots of rainy days and soccer games.  Unfortunately, it also brings rainy soccer games!

Grama Bebby is here!  My mother has arrived from far away and will be staying and playing with us for the next month.  She is a former music teacher which comes in handy when the boys need help with recorder practice.  Thank you Mom!  We are so blessed to have you here with us. xo

round button chicken


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Beginning of Fall Daybook

A photo thought... 
My gardenia bush is suddenly in full bloom again and I am delighted.
Outside my window...
I don't quite know yet.  It is so early that all is dark and I hear crickets chirping.  I believe it is going to be a cloudy day in the 70s with a chance of rain tonight.   Another cozy day.

I am wearing... 
Pjs and slippers and glasses.   Lately I have been wondering about my aging eyesight so I found the pair I got 15 years ago for an astigmatism and they seem to be helping.  I've noticed it harder to see my son's face clearly while he is singing in the choir at Mass.  :(

I am thinking...
a billion things at once.  So much to do and not enough time to do it!

I am hearing...
The flicker of my candlewick candle.  It is supposed to sound like a crackling fireplace but it sounds more like a spluttering flame.  I am also hearing RW who got up early to finish his homework since he was too tired after soccer practice last night.

I am thankful for...
rain, birds, trees, cooler temperatures, my loving children and husband, our home, our boys' school and wonderful teachers, friends, family, bloggers, I could go on!

Around the house...
The kind of cleaning and organizing you only undertake the day before your mother is coming to stay with you for a month!  What was I thinking yesterday?  Let's just say my bathroom floor is covered with the contents of every drawer and shelf and I decided I may as well add contact paper.  Did I mention my mother arrives today?

I am praying for...
Claudia, Mrs. N and her whole family, Gitzengirl,  safe travel for my mother and my husband tonight.

I am reading...
Once a Day, Every Day for Women [Book]
Once a Day Every Day For Women  Copyright 2009 Freeman-Smith, LLC
It's a daily devotional I found at Wal Mart.  (Have you ever noticed how many good Christian books Wal Mart sells?)  Each day has a short reflection to read and suggests  readings from the Old Testament and the New Testament.  If you follow along you will read through the entire (Protestant) Bible in one year.  I have always wanted to accomplish that goal and so far it has been manageable.

The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything by James Martin: Audio Book Cover
The Jesuit Guide To {Almost} Everything by James Martin, SJ
I have recently become intrigued with Jesuit spirituality and this book jumped out at me at the bookstore.  I bought it impulsively and am really enjoying the simple, conversational tone the author uses.  I know many Catholics find the Jesuit way too Liberal but I love the Examen and want to know more about it.  I'll keep you posted.

I am creating...
Order in the closets, cupboards and drawers of my home.  (See above.) 

God is leading me...
To praise Him with singing and dancing.   My mother, sister and I are going to Women of Faith in Charlotte this weekend and I can hardly wait.  Their music is outstanding and we will have such a good girly time together.  I will be tweeting the whole time so follow me there for a virtual WOF experience.

In the kitchen...
Banana bread, apple crisp muffins(promise to share this soon), pork tenderloin, and lots of coffee.

In the garden...
I brought home two flats of rusty red mums a week ago and they must be planted today!

One of my favorite things... 
I love you honey!

Sharing with 
The Simple Woman's September Daybook 



Monday, September 19, 2011

Creating My Personal Space

It rained all weekend.  A beautiful, gentle rain that seemed to wash away the last remnant of summer heat.  We broke out the boys' long pants, my slippers, and lots of fall-scented candles to glimmer in the dim daylight.

Along with the rain came the first round of back to school sniffles and sore throats.  The weather was great timing, cancelling soccer practice and allowing us to slow down and stay inside where rest could be found.  

There is a windowed corner of my bedroom that looks out over the backyard and the tall craggy trees that separate us from our neighbors.  With everyone inside all day, I found myself in need of a quieter space where I could plan the week's meals, errands, and general schedule.  I thought of that empty corner and how I had often longed to sit there and enjoy its view.

Inspired, I dug out the old card table, brought up a dining table chair that will not be missed, grabbed an old, unused desk lamp and created my personal space.   With the rain falling away from the windows, I was able to open them up and let chilly breezes blow over me, ruffling the papers at my desk but lifting my spirits immensely.  

With such peace and quiet I was able to get more thinking done in one hour than I can accomplish in three hours in the midst of family life downstairs.  When my plans were done, I brought in a few treasured books and journals and had another hour of quiet reflection and reading.  I told my husband that I think my mini-retreat upstairs had been more productive to my organizing and spiritual refueling than any mom's day 0ut had ever been.

I believe I have found a new haven ~ a quiet place to call my own ~ one mom's calming corner of a cozy home.

Do you have a personal space to call your own?


Friday, September 16, 2011

5 Minute Friday { J. O. Y. }

Joining with The Gypsy Mama for a five minute un-edited free write 
about the topic of her choice:  JOY...


Not long ago, our surfer-cool priest gave a homily about joy.  He said something I haven't forgotten.  He said,   J.O.Y. stands for:

If we live life in that order we will find an everlasting joy.

It's a simple acronym for ordering our priorities.  The truth is, I usually live my life like this:

Y(me). O. J.

While I am often joyful, I think living joy backwards is a short-lived, shallow-depth kind of joy. It is more of a temporary happiness, an instant-gratification joy that is in constant need of refilling.

When I do manage to turn my YOJ around, I experience a deeper peace of mind and soul.  It feels good to begin my day with the word of God, to serve my family a great breakfast, to see them into uniforms and off to school smoothly and unselfishly.  Sitting at the computer, calling out to them to wait one more minute while I finish this post (ahem!) doesn't feel like everlasting joy.

So I am off to do those things today, to re-order my disorder, and to sink deeply into the joy that only J.O.Y can bring.




Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real

At the end of Spring I planted several herbs: oregano, mint, chives, basil, parsley, rosemary and thyme.  This is my lemon thyme plant.  I have loved having them to snip and use in my cooking. They are so easy to grow and give color and scent to the deck.  Often my boys will run their fingers up the rosemary as they walk by, carrying the piney fragrance with them on their way. 

This tiny toad made several boys quite happy recently.  They wanted to bring him into the house and keep him as a pet!  I assured them he would have a much happier life living in the great outdoors.  :)

Little KC wanted to ride his scooter so I asked him to please go put on his helmet first.  This is the helmet he chose!  I guess he is a knight on a shiny scooter.

Why is this the book he wants to read before falling asleep?

A bit too real!  This is me at the dreaded gym. I really do not enjoy exercise.  At. All.  I have always been this way(unfortunately).  But, I am trying to change that by actually going to the gym regularly and building up some endurance.  It has been more fun lately since I got an iPhone and can listen to all my favorite podcasts while I run   walk on the treadmill.  I am firmly believing in the idea that emotions follow action, not the other way around.

round button chicken


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

School Morning Prayer

A small book of prayers to pray over your children.
I like this little book.  It is full of very specific prayers to pray for your children from conception to adulthood.  As many of us are getting back into the swing of school days, I thought I would share this here. My son just came and looked over my shoulder and said, "Looks like a good book."  I smiled and replied, "It is."

by Julie Cragon

Lord, as I wake my child for school
may I help him to face a new day of exciting possibilities.
May he be grateful for the chance to learn and 
open to the teaching he receives.
Help him to love his school, 
to embrace the challenges set before him,
to enjoy his teachers and his classmates.
Keep them all in your care and
bring us back together safely at the end of this day.


Monday, September 12, 2011

What Does Your Home Say About You?

Years ago, in a Bible study group I attended,
someone asked a thought-provoking question:

Would guests visiting your home
 know you were a Christian
 without you telling them with words?

Once in a while, an e-mail makes the rounds
at the end of which 
the reader is "dared" to forward it to others.
Dared because forwarding it
reveals that the reader is a believer.

I don't care for those e-mails.
I don't feel the need
 to forward my beliefs 
to anyone's inbox.
But, I can hang a cross 
in my own home.

My own living space can be
 my silent witness 
for my guests
and a 
for myself.

What does your home say about you?


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunday Soup Night {Tomato Rice Soup}

This soup is surprisingly addictive despite its humble (and inexpensive) ingredients. The recipe comes from "Grandma Ann" who often made it for her four children many years ago.  My whole family loves it and it makes enough for leftovers to go to school in lunch-boxes the next day.  It is a fall-weather cozy classic!


3/4 cups brown rice
1/2 to 1 pound ground beef
4 stalks celery, diced
1/2 large red onion, diced
3 14. oz cans tomato sauce
2 T. beef base
salt and pepper to taste

1.  In a large soup pot boil rice in 4 cups of water for 20 minutes.  
2.  Meanwhile, season ground beef with salt and pepper and brown in a skillet.  Set aside.
3.  After rice has boiled for 20 minutes, add 6 more cups of water, tomato sauce, celery, onion and beef base.  Bring to a boil. 
4.  Reduce heat to simmer and add browned beef.  Simmer for 30 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper if necessary.
*May need to add more water the second day as soup thickens.

Family Friendly Food at Serenity Now

Friday, September 9, 2011

This Moment {sky}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real {lots of links}

See that lovely tray beneath the Arnold Palmer makings?  Well, that tray was a freebie from Dayspring thanks to my blogging buddy Mary Jo.  A while back she offered a giveaway on her beautiful blog and I won and I never win anything!  Anyhow, I think of her every time I use it and have had many compliments on it as well.  Here's the link if you want to get one or give one to someone you love.  Thanks MJ!

The weather cooled a bit last week and the boys took advantage of it to get dirty!  I just love the all-boyness of my guys (and a dear little friend, too).  Boys, shovels, sticks, trees, and dirt just go together and make us all happy.

Phone Bling!  I admit to being a bit of a glitter-gal and when I found these I was hooked.  I have one on my camera, car key and I had one on my cell phone until I got a new case. I even cut some out and sent them in some letters I wrote to friends to share the bling!  Check out this site to see all the options available.

Yesterday I posted about how I create my cleaning schedule.  I have life-organizing on the brain these days and this simple four part magnetic tablet has been so helpful I had to share it here.  I got it at Target (of course) and even though it is not on this link, many other Organizher products are.  They are all great ideas and may help you find a new way to keep organized this fall.  I have this one on the side of my fridge.  When I am heading to Target, I only have to rip off that list and leave the rest safely at home.  Very handy indeed.

round button chicken


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Creating An Autumn Rhythm {four steps to a cleaning schedule}

September requires a new rhythm.  After the carefree days of summer, September brings about a need for more structured mornings, menus, and time management.  I have spent too much  quite some time evaluating what I need to do differently for the fall season to maintain the house while being more on the go.  These four steps may help you find your rhythm too.

Start by plotting out the obligations for each day of the week.  Being very visual, I like to plug these things into a chart.  

My weekly obligations include:
Weekend Mass
School Mass
Soccer practices
Soccer games
Exercise classes

Here are some printables I used to help me write all this out.  
Write down everything you think needs cleaning each week.  Now go through and cut some chores out! For example, I no longer have mopping on my weekly cleaning schedule.  It just never gets done and I am always feeling guilty about it.  Instead, I pencil it in on one day a month and feel great when I accomplish that task.  I have certain tasks I leave for once a month or even once a season to clean.  Here is a list of those kinds of jobs. 

Also, think of ways you can delegate some of your chores to your children which will allow you a chance to get around to the more detailed cleaning jobs.  This fall I am offering allowance to my "cleaning laddies" at $2.00 a job to take the vacuuming and dusting off my mind.  We'll see if they take the opportunity to earn some spending cash.

I organize my weekly chore list very simply:
Scour Bathrooms
Scour Kitchen
Yard work/Houseplants
Meal planning
Schedule planning
Correspondence (a time for making appointments and dealing with paperwork/bills/mail)

Everything else goes on the more detailed monthly or seasonal lists such as:
Self-clean oven
Light fixtures
Moving furniture to vacuum
Flipping mattresses etc...

Here are some printable lists to get you thinking about chores.
Now jot out a list of the creative/personal pursuits that you wish you had time for each week but rarely get around to doing.  Write it all down.  Leave nothing out.  These are the things you are most passionate about and also the things you probably put at the bottom of your to do list.  Even if you only pick one item from this list to put on your weekly calendar you will feel more fulfilled.

My creative outlets include:
Bible study
Reading blogs
Reading magazines
Reading books
Journaling (I am dabbling in art journaling)
Crafting (learning to draw, paint, sew, knit)
Baking (learning new techniques)
Cooking (new recipes from my many cookbooks)

These charts may get you brainstorming:
Mind Map
Time Management Quadrants

Print out this sheet and in each column write: Obligations, Chores, Creative, Other, Menu.
Now look over all the lists above and begin by writing in the obligations (mass, soccer etc...).  Once you have those in place, carefully place your chores and creative pursuits on days where you will have a real chance of getting them done.  Nothing is more defeating than never crossing an item off your list. Be realistic.  If you don't know where to put something, use the Other column.  Maybe you will find you can re-name it Exercise or some other term that fits better for you.  For now, leave the menu section blank.  That will come in a different post.

After you have it all written out, I highly recommend this app for your iPhone.  You can plug all of these items in and even sync it to your computer.  I has made a huge difference in my staying organized and on top of all my lists.  It's my favorite app! 
I hope you'll  find this helpful.   Please let me know!

In the future I'll post some of my meal planning ideas.

Sharing here:

Good Life Wednesdays


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

So Easy Strawberry Jam {back to school lunches}

Strawberry season is coming to an end but there is still time to make the most delicious jam for all those back to school lunches.

Run out and buy the most beautiful berries you can find - preferably at your local farmer's market.

Wash them, hull them, cut them and pour them into a big pot.

Blend them into strawberry soup with an immersion blender.

Add lots of sugar and see it glisten.

Fill four or five pints jars or seven or eight half-pints.  These are great gifts for teachers, neighbors and friends.

Make your first PB& homemade J.

Make extra for the kids who will want some too.

Send a strawberry hug to school with your sweeties.

So Easy Strawberry Jam adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

INGREDIENTS (makes about 8 half pints)
7-8 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
1 1-3/4 oz. powdered fruit pectin 
1 tsp. butter (to reduce foaming)
7 cups white sugar

1.  Put berries into dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot over medium heat.  
2.  Allow berries to warm and release some juices then begin pureeing with immersion blender.
3.  Turn heat to high and add pectin and butter.  Puree constantly until boiling.
4.  Add sugar and return to a boil and allow to boil one minute while pureeing to smooth.
5.  Take off the heat and skim foam as needed.
6.  Pour immediately into prepared jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  
7.  Wipe rims, top with lids and rims and immerse into boiling water for 10 minutes.
8.  Remove and cool.  Keeps for months in the pantry.

Miz Helen’s Country Cottage

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