The Feast of St. Joan of Arc, the easy way

We wanted to have a French party for the feast of St. Joan of Arc, since she is Rebecca’s confirmation saint. So we did, kinda. Since we are getting ready to move, for most of the day my kitchen looked like this:20160530_152536.jpg

And like this:



Basically, like this:


It’s French. Says so right there on the box.

So, we had “French” pot roast.  It’s a lot like any other pot roast, but I added wine. We also had croissants from a can, and, um, salad.  With French cafe music in the background.

And, eclair for dessert.  The sort made from graham crackers, generic French (!) vanilla pudding, and Cool Whip.  And canned frosting. Haven’t had it? It’s luscious. Look for Eclair Cake on Pinterest and you’ll find your way.

It was definitely low labor, but it was fun and the kiddos loved it. 🙂


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5 Minute Pot Roast

Pot roast 1Okay, so the 5 minutes is prep time, guys.  You do have to cook it, I’m afraid. I mean, you don’t, if that’s your thing, but then it’s not really a pot roast, then, is it?

(Incidentally, the picture is not of my pot roast.  I take terrible food pics.  But mine looks kinda like that.)

This makes enough for a crowd, especially if you serve it with egg noodles.

5 Minute Pot Roast

  • Difficulty: easy
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A tomatoey, fall-apart pot roast

Credit –

  • 4 lbs chuck roast
  • 1 onion
  • 1 12 oz can tomato paste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Trimmed vegetables (carrots, potatoes, radishes) as desired
  1. Roughly chop onion and place in the bottom of crock pot.
  2. Add beef roast. I do not usually brown it, but if you want to brown it first it does add a nice touch. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Spread tomato paste on top of the roast. Toss in any veggies you want in there.
  4. Cover and turn to high; cook about 8 hours. Before serving, use a fork to pull the meat apart into big pieces, so the gravy can go all through. Serve.

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The New Catholic Bookshelf – vol. 2

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BookshelfHere are some more books that have been helpful to me along the way as we have journeyed from Geneva to Rome. I have linked these to Amazon, but if you want them, please consider saving a tree – and a buck – by borrowing or buying used.

1. The Catholic Controversy – St. Francis de Sales’ Defense of the Faith
This is a collection of pamphlets written by St. Francis de Sales on a mission to reach a community of French Calvinists in the late 1500’s. The pamphlets were written to be posted on walls and slid under the doors of folks who wouldn’t give him an ear. After four years, nearly the entire region had been brought back to the Catholic church, about 72,000 people!

This is a really good volume for anyone from a Presbyterian/Calvinist/Reformed background, whether looking at conversion oneself or just trying to understand the issues involved. His writing is incisive and to the point, and he explores issues of deep concern to this branch of the Protestant churches.

2. Catholicism For Dummies, by Rev. John Trigilio, Jr. 
In the early-early days of visiting our parish, I saw this on the shelf in the library. I was silly enough to be too embarrassed to check it out on the spot, but I went and got it from the public library. Now I can giggle at myself and recommend it to you. I like the Dummies books if I can get past being rankled at being called a dummy! This book really lays it all out and is super helpful for navigating both the doctrinal distinctions of the Church, including some very deep and significant issues, and also a lot of the practical details that are so dizzying to newcomers. Even otherwise very knowledgeable and savvy newcomers. 😉

3. Catechism of the Catholic ChurchIf you want to the know the church’s teaching on something, it really doesn’t get any more definitive than this. This volume is way more accessible than it looks, and it’s really lovely to read from cover to cover, if you’re the type, which I’m not exactly. For me, it’s a super reference if I have a quick question about something.

Previously: Bookshelf, vol. 1

Breakfast for 10: Simple Tips to Feed a Crowd without Losing Your Mind

I love to cook. It’s really one of my favorite things to do.

And it seems a little ironic that now that I have so many people to cook for, I have so little time to do it. I’ve got 10 people eating most of their meals at home; I have to simplify.

Especially when you consider that Timothy is grumpy at all mealtimes. I don’t know if he hates the confinement of his chair, or wishes he could just live on ketchup. But that kid yells a lot at meals. Around here we call that “ambience.” 

So, while I have a killer whole wheat pancake recipe, and we love muffins and scones, these days breakfast is a little more slapdash than that. Sometimes I make a more involved meal, but…not real often.

Method 1: You’re on your own

What’s for breakfast?  Whatever you can find or fix yourself, that is healthy enough to count as a meal. Unless you are too little for that – which is under 4ish. If you are 4, you can get yourself cereal or talk a sibling into making you toast. Bigger kids know how to fry and scramble eggs, get themselves bagels, smoothies, etc. This strategy means that I am only feeding 2 kids breakfast – the littlest – instead of a mob. And it teaches them good skills. They can care for themselves, contribute, make choices, plan, and appreciate that food involves work. They are also anxious to learn how to make new things so they can increase their options for these days. Unless things (or people) are totally crazy, I’m happy to teach new skills upon request. If I try to plan a time to do that, it never happens.

Method 2: Have one big batch of something simple

Um, oatmeal. That is what that means. Or possibly overnight pancakes, where the batter was in the fridge and the griddle is out and ready to go. Or maybe eggs, but eggs is pushing it because if you give a kid eggs, he’s gonna want some toast. And bacon. And cheese. And more eggs. So we do that sometimes, but not if we want to keep it simple.

Method 3: The hybrid of methods 1 & 2

This is my favorite, and I do it often. I like to throw a skillet full of sausages on the stove first thing when I get up, and then I just leave them on a plate on the counter. As sleepy, p.j.-clad kids stumble in asking for breakfast, I tell them that there’s sausage. They get some, and fix themselves whatever else sounds good to complete things.

I also might do this with yogurt, or boiled eggs, etc. Anything that is easy to leave out for people to help themselves. I prefer to make it protein, because that is what they don’t tend to get for themselves as easily.

Bam. Done. Go play. 🙂

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This Is How We Roll Thursday Party

The first goodbye

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Today, the chickens and ducks had to go.


They were supposed to go last week, but I couldn’t bring myself to make the call and set the time.


I always wanted chickens, and a few years ago, we finally got them. The eggs are gorgeous, and the chicken noises coming from the backyard are homey. And, my kids do most of the work they bring, so what’s not to love?

Molly.  Or Meg.  One of them.

I’m a pretty soft touch when it comes to animals. Erin – the oldest – has getting me to say “yes” to new animals or animal related projects down to a science. She puts on her “pretty please” face and we all know it’s over. Which is probably why we’re not just taking 10 people to North Carolina this summer.

Lily, my fave, and the two reds, Molly and Meg

We’re also taking 7 animals. Seven!  I must be crazy. If I’m not, I will be. Two cats, two rats, two rabbits, and one parakeet.

(A mom has to draw the line somewhere.)

Even if dragging 8 poultry across the nation in high summer sounded like a good idea, we won’t be ready to house them when we get there. So the chickens, which we raised from itty bitty chicks and know by name, had to find a new home.

Bye gals.


Basil the Great, KonMari, and the Great Eastbound Adventure

Desert caravan LCCN2001705578 (This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission from purchases made through affiliate links. My opinions are entirely my own. Thanks bunches.)

In a few months, we move east.

All ten of us.

We’re paying for the move by the cubic foot.  On a worn-out shoestring that’s been ready to snap for a couple of years.  So naturally, I took to Facebook to ask for advice. The advice I came out with all boiled down to what I already knew: get rid of stuff. Lots of stuff.

All. The. Stuff.

I read this post, and it’s been the foundation of my efforts.  Haley helped me realize that life does go on even if you don’t hoard your baby items.  Tight finances turn me into a hoarder – too scared to let anything go for fear I will need it. But I came across this quote from Basil the Great:

“The bread you store up belongs to the hungry; the cloak that lies in your chest belongs to the naked; the gold you have hidden in the ground belongs to the poor.”

It doesn’t make any sense to hang onto all the hand-me-downs and spare jackets and spare parts, at the cost of moving them across the nation.  There are people who need these things, and they are good things that should be used, not left to moulder in my garage for years on end. I’m not paring down, folks. I’m renovating. If I wouldn’t buy it for what it will cost me to move it, out it goes. And if I don’t need it, or use it, or love it, it isn’t even really mine. It really belongs to the person who needs it.

I’ve been going through the whole house, and selling/donating tons of toys, clothes, baby things, you name it.  The goal is half our stuff – except books.  (Any books gone is a good thing, but one must not expect too much.)

I also read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up – you know, the crazy Japanese decluttering book. It’s a little weird, (and in a family of 10 who even folds socks? We’re proud of ourselves if they match, guys.) but I like it overall and it’s also helped as I have had to decide what to keep and what not to. Honestly I am not convinced the KonMari system really can work for a family (this is a gal who got rid of her vacuum because it didn’t make her happy, until she got tired of cleaning her floors by hand and got a new one. If she can think for one second that she might be happier without a vacuum, we do not inhabit the same universe) but I do love a minimalist approach, and I always want everything as simple as possible.  I found the book to be very encouraging for developing a freer, more generous attitude towards our stuff. Also,  I don’t like a mess, but I’m not good at keeping up with things. Less stuff=less work AND less mess. Win.

My mother always used to tell me, “If you can’t take care of your things, you don’t deserve to have them.” I hated that, but the truth is, she was right.

It’s only lately I have decided that maybe the answer isn’t to wave my wand and somehow make myself into a person who is better at taking care of stuff.

Maybe I just need less stuff.  

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Sweet Little Ones

The New Catholic Bookshelf – vol. 1

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There have been a number of books and articles that have been important to me along the road to Rome. My intention is to post periodically about books I either have read, or am reading, that have been helpful along the way. Recommended reading is also welcome! Also, I have linked these to Amazon, but if you want them, please consider saving a tree – and a buck – by borrowing or buying used! 🙂

One of the first books I read when we started thinking about this was Surprised by Truth, edited by Patrick Madrid.  It’s a compilation of 11 stories by converts from a wide variety of backgrounds, including Reformed, which was my own.  It was helpful for me to read about others grappling with the same issues I was, both the doctrinal questions and also the personal struggles and joys that come with such a major life change.  There are two sequels with more stories, which I have not read.  I plan to, eventually.

Another important book was Rome Sweet Home by Scott and Kimberly Hahn. Another Presbyterian expat, Hahn’s books are engrossing. This one is doubly fascinating because it tells the Hahns’ story from the perspective of both husband and wife. They had a rough road for a while. The book made me realize how incredibly blessed we are that our whole family came into the church together.

One more for now, another Hahn book: Hail Holy Queen.  This is a favorite of mine, and I’m so happy that our parish library has it! The Marian doctrines tend to be some of the toughest for Protestants to even understand, let alone accept. I read a few books about Mary as I struggled with the topic, but this one was hands down the most helpful. All of my worries about Mary were skillfully addressed, and I was able to not just acquiesce to but joyfully embrace the Catholic view here.

Running: Day 5

20160520_134039.jpgFive days into my little running project: so far, so good.  I’ve run/walked three times and I did still get in kettlebell once, and that’s with plenty of crazy going on.  It’ll just take time before I know if I like it, or if I just like the shiny newness of it.  It is nicely refreshing to get out of the house!  I forget to leave the house for days at a time if nobody makes me.  It’s not like I’m gonna get bored in here.  (I’m looking at you, laundry piles. Not to mention the packing which I have only technically started.)  

Anyway, I like the 2 minute walk/1 minute run format, it’s not excruciating the way I expect running to be. I’m a little scared though because on the beginner program I’m following, tomorrow is the last day of that, and then we run more.  By next Friday, I’m supposed to be running 4 minutes, and walking 1.

I kinda don’t feel ready for that, but we’ll see.  I’ll give it a go.  I have this vague idea that maybe a mud run with the kids would be fun someday, but I probably would need to be able to run more than 1 minute in a row, first.

Here’s some shots I took during my walking portions this morning of my prettier stretch.  The uglier stretch looks like a huge busy 4-lanes with a construction project across the road, and who wants a picture of that?  But I want to share these, because I just discovered the filters on Instagram.  Don’t tell me how long they’ve been there, I don’t want to know. People talk about filters, I thought they meant an actual, physical filter on a camera.


I get there in the end.


The Gift of Final Perseverance: A Calvinist turned Catholic

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The gift of final perseverance.

While I know that the Catholic view of this is objectively quite different than the Reformed, it wasn’t too much of a hurdle for me during my conversion.  In my own thinking, I don’t think I have actually had a substantive change here, and I think it’s maybe because I was closer to the Catholic view than I realized in the first place.

When I was a Protestant, I held to the Perseverance of the Saints.  That meant that anyone who was truly regenerate was going to persevere to the end.  But, it didn’t mean that anyone who thought they were regenerate, acted like they were regenerate, believed they were regenerate, or what have you, were guaranteed to be right about that.  The possibility of self-deception on my own part, or outward deception on the part of others, was there.  It didn’t keep me up at night – usually – but it was there.  After all, I have a good number of friends who have left the faith after making very credible professions and living very credible lives.  So, I figured they never really believed, never had true faith, though they may themselves have thought they did.

How do you know the difference?  You have to persevere to the end.  You have to read your Bible, pray, and go to church, because God requires these things and neglecting them can lead you astray. You can’t live in unrepentant sin, on an ongoing basis, because a real Christian won’t do that.

Now, as a Catholic, I hold that not all who are given the gift of faith are also given the gift of final perseverance.  So you might have true faith, but it might be the kind which “fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots.”  (Matthew 13:5, NAB)

How can you tell the difference?  Well, you have to persevere to the end.  You have to trust God and nurture, not neglect, your faith. You can’t live in mortal sin, but you have to renounce your sins and confess them when you don’t.

See what I mean?  In my own head, there’s not a big difference there.

I have heard Protestants say that the Catholic view is no longer “good news;” my reaction is that I feel like the Catholic way is better news.  Many Protestants, whether they believe in the perseverance of the saints or not, struggle with wondering if they are really saved.  Did they really mean their profession? Do they have true faith?  For sure? “But I sin, sometimes.  And I forget to pray.  And I am still SO MAD at so-and-so who ripped my heart out 10 years ago!  Is that compatible with true faith?  Yes, Christ’s sacrifice covers all, but it’s not applied to everyone.  Do I really believe?”

The sacraments in the Catholic church simplify this problem.  We are given reliable, outward signs, which God granted to the church, and those sacraments do things.  You have regular, tangible, concrete ways to express your faith, belief, and repentance, to receive real and strengthening graces, and to hear and see and taste that you really are part of the Body of Christ. I love that.

Of course the sacraments can be abused and taken lightly.  And you could say, “Well, how do I know that the faith with which I participate in Confession, or Confirmation, etc, is ‘good enough.'” But I would say that it’s more accessible to know within yourself that you are receiving a particular sacrament in faith with good intent, not to deceive or carelessly, than it is to take a full internal inventory.  At least, it is for me.

And, you can ask for the grace of final perseverance.  A couple of quotes from New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia:

“From our incapacity to certainly know and to strictly merit the great gift, we should not infer that nothing can be done towards it. Theologians unite in saying that final perseverance comes under the impetrative power of prayer and St. Liguori (Prayer, the great means of Salvation) would make it the dominant note and burden of our daily petitions.”


“Nor should the timorousness of the saints, graphically described by Newman, be so construed as to contradict the admonition of the Council of Trent, that “all should place the firmest hope in the succour of God“. Singularly comforting is the teaching of such saints as St. Francis de Sales(Camus, “The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales”, III, xiii) and St. Catherine of Genoa (Treatise of Purgatory, iv). They dwell on God’s great mercy in granting final perseverance, and even in the case of notorious sinners they do not lose hope: God suffuses the sinners’ dying hour with an extraordinary light and, showing them the hideousness of sin contrasting with His own infinite beauty, He makes a final appeal to them. For those only who, even then, obstinately cling to their sin does the saying of Sirach 5:7, assume a sombre meaning “mercy and wrath quickly come from him, and his wrath looketh upon sinners”.”

Spaghetti Sauce – with THM S option

spaghetti sauce with thm option.jpg

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This recipe makes a ginormous batch of traditional meat sauce.  I use a 6 qt pot and it fills it to the tip top (unless, as in the picture above, I forgot to buy mushrooms and wine.  Then there’s less sauce, and also a little less happiness.)

I make this sauce at the beginning of a really busy week; our family of 10 can usually get three meals out of it, plus some random lunch servings, remembering that some are little and 3 don’t like sauce and are allowed to eat plain pasta and carrot sticks.  Everyone else loves it enough to eat it multiple times, so I just leave the sauce in the enameled pot (I have this one ~affiliate link~) in the fridge and stick it back on the stove to reheat another day.  The flavor just gets better with age.

Within a certain limit, of course.
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