Week 29 and a Look Back at Easter

While everything seems to be turning upside down this week, our food budget journey was pretty clear-cut.  With a budget of $150 and a self-imposed goal of $100, I spent $91 on groceries.  We missed the church meal this week due to having our Jeep towed, so we had to grab a quick meal out.  We spent just under $20.  That’s $111.  Not bad.

F got his report card on Monday.  To celebrate, he was able to choose our dinner.  He picked breakfast, so we had pancakes, eggs, sausage, and honeydew.  On Tuesday we had pasta with meat sauce and salad.  On Wednesday, we had our meal at the mall food court while we waited for the tow truck.  I had Subway.  Everyone else (excluding Charlotte) chose pizza.  Tonight we are having a chicken and biscuit casserole that I discovered in my new casserole cookbook (Thanks, Mom & Dad).  Friday will be meat loaf, macaroni & cheese, and broccoli.  Saturday is homemade fish sandwiches and mixed vegetables.  Sunday will be a leftover buffet!

Please visit the other food budgeters, but don’t forget to check out my Easter pictures below!

I’ve been meaning to share some pictures of our Easter visit with my husband’s parents.  We had a wonderful time!  Of course, it was sad to not be able to spend the holiday with the whole family, but what a joy to share Resurrection Day with Grandma & Papa.

Here is a look at our weekend:

Grandma and Charlotte enjoying the local botanical garden.
Papa and the boys at the garden.
The boys feeding some enourmous (scary!) fish.
My trio.

My favorite part of hosting a meal: setting the table.
Roses in teacups -- a simple and inexpensive centerpiece.
Simple Lemon Cake from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food

 

Shrove Tuesday

I didn’t even know what Shrove Tuesday was until we joined a church seven years ago that acknowledges the day with a pancake supper.  Now I can’t imagine missing it!  The church uses Shrove Tuesday (a.k.a. Mardi Gras) as a wonderful tool for teaching children (and adults!) about Lent and how we prepare to experience the resurrection of Christ at Easter.  Being far away from the annual supper and “pancake fling” (such fun!), we decided to have our own Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper in our new home.

The following link does a nice job explaining Shrove Tuesday:  http://www.faithclipart.com/guide/Christian-Holidays/origins_of_shrove_tuesday.html.  In our version of the celebration, we enjoyed pancakes, sausage, little doughnuts, strawberries, and iced tea.  We played with Mardi Gras beads.  We talked about the different ways that people acknowledge Lent, and we decided as a family to continue our Lenten tree tradition and add some acts of charity this year.  I find Lent to be a particularly exciting time for teaching children about our faith.  It’s bursting with potential lessons!

 

 

Getting it right…

My giving of Christmas cards was a bit haphazard this year.  I am claiming the “big move and new baby” excuse while I can get away with it!  But I want everyone to see our Christmas picture and some of the “out takes” on the way to getting it right.

Christmas 2011

I was finally satisfied with the picture above.  Whew…that’s a workout.  After our “photo shoot” was over and the rest of the gang was changing clothes and moving on to other things, Cory snapped a photograph of J in the window.  Somehow, this seems to truly capture Christmas.  The wonder, the waiting, looking out for what’s to come.

Epiphany

Every year, I wish we did more with the celebration of Epiphany.  We always wait to take down our decorations until the full 12 days of Christmas have passed, but I felt like we were missing an opportunity to look at the story of Jesus from a different angle.  Since we didn’t spend Christmas in our new house, it felt good to do more celebrating and more telling of that beautiful story on 12th Night and Epiphany.

Because the little guy fell asleep on the actual 12th Night, we merged all of our activities into the day of Epiphany.  (Maybe we’ll get it right next year!)  During the day, J and I baked a Three Kings Cake.

We had dinner (spaghetti and salad), and after clean-up, we all headed to the livingroom for our “undecorating party.”  We put on the Christmas music for the last time.  The boys didn’t hang around for all of the undecorating, but we gave them some specific tasks to complete.  They removed the ornaments from the tree and carefully placed them in a box for me to wrap and store.

All the lights, bulbs, greenery, and other goodies were removed, but our nativity scene stayed in the big front window.

We talked about the wisemen following the light to find the Messiah, and we went out to the driveway to make our own journey to the manger.

We carried our ceramic wisemen and their camels along the lighted driveway to their proper place next to the stable.

Talked about how Jesus was a surpise –an “epiphany”– in many ways.  He was a tiny baby, not a warrior.  He was in a manger, not a palace.  I loved, loved hearing the boys’ thoughts on these great mysteries.

We closed the evening by putting out straw for the camels in the childrens’ shoes.  (An idea borrowed from Emily.)  Charlotte doesn’t actually have any shoes, so we put out her teddy bear slipper.  The boys thought this fact was hilarious.   We awoke the next morning to a tangerine and a Matchbox car for each boy.  Charlotte received a hair bow.  Lots of fun!

Ah…Clean Slate

Do you feel that clean, fresh breeze blowing by, clearing off the dust of old ways?  For some of you, that “breeze” might feel like an icy gale, but for my family, the movement is crisp and pleasant.  It promises a fresh start, a new beginning.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:  I love beginnings!  In my first Warm as Pie post ever, I wrote briefly about how much I love a new start, no matter what time of year.  The beginning of 2012 is exciting.  We started the year on the road as we made the long drive from North to South.  (Having watched Gone With the Wind over the holiday, I was particularly aware of the Mason Dixon line and Charleston, SC.)  Oh, I was so sad to leave Home to go home, but as we made our way southward, I felt the excitement growing.  We left our new house in a bit of a scramble, and now I get to truly be a “homemaker” as I empty boxes, hang pictures, and set up new routines.  How I’ve missed our routines!  I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I could do parenthood without them.

I have several goals for the new year.  I prefer the word “goals” to “resolutions” because, to me, a resolution is a promise and a goal is a process.  I cannot promise that will have my new ways set in stone on January 1.  No way.  Instead, I will be working all year to make positive changes for me and my family.

My very most important goal is to make our house open to guests at all times.  I want to practice hospitality in its truest form, ready to share the joy of friendship at any moment.

Secondly, I want to treat our bedroom as a sanctuary for me and my husband.  Our bedroom is always the place where I mindlessly toss things.  I usually avoid going there for any reason other than sleep, but with a brand new bedroom to design, decorate, and enjoy, I figure this is the time to commit to making a little refuge for us.

I hope you are refreshed and ready to write something beautiful on that clean slate before you.

 

Welcome home!

Have a look at some of the warm scenes from my parents’ home.  So happy to be here!

My grandma made the little Christmas village more than 20 years ago.  My sister and I loved it when we were small, and now my boys enjoy looking at the tiny skaters on the pond and  the miniature nativity in front of the church.  They tell little stories about the people, and for some reason, they like to hide little crackers throughout the village.  Not sure what that’s about!  My mom decorates so carefully, and home just feels so…well, homey.

Project: Food Budget (Week 11) & a gift idea

Another week of zero food organization.  No meal plan.  Only a fuzzy sense of the numbers, but I’m here.  I’m here because taking charge of our food budget and meal planning is important.  It’s important because the less money I spend on food, the more I can slip into savings for unexpected things like unexpected car repairs.  That means less stress!  It’s important because having a menu for the week allows us to eat healthier, and have…guess what…LESS STRESS!  I’m seeing a pattern here.  I’ll write more about my new year’s goals later, but for now let me say that I’m choosing “peace” as my theme for 2012.  Being smart and thoughtful about what we eat and what we spend is part of bringing about the peace that I crave for my family right now.

Here is an estimate of what we spent this week:  Groceries $125; Eating out $20.  Despite not having a firm meal plan this week, I made some yummy things.  We had creamy chicken tacos one night (very much a family favorite), and we had a nice chicken casserole.  I was excited to find a fairly simple casserole that didn’t begin with canned soup.  Everyone enjoyed it.  Success!  The “Eating Out” was well worth the little splurge.  Hubby and I had a breakfast date while the boys were in school.  Charlotte was with us, of course, but she just hangs out.  I have no idea what next week will bring.  We will be with family much of the time.  I’m sure we will do some dining out, and there are always treats at holiday time.  I’m not worrying about the totals for December because it’s been a wacky month, but I’ll be a bugeting queen in January!

Here is the list of my food budget peers, but keep reading below!

The Week 11 Participating Blogs:

On to teacher gifts…

We are a family of teachers.  Hubby is a teacher.  I’m a teacher at heart, if not in practice at the moment.  My sister is a teacher.  My brother-in-law is a teacher.  I have one uncle and one aunt who are teachers.  My cousin is studying to be a teacher.  Another cousin teaches in dear little Catholic school.  I have many teacher friends.  My mom has been a Sunday School teacher forever.  You get the idea.  I have a HUGE respect for educators, and I have a soft spot in my heart for all things school related.  Anyway, I’m always looking for something different, special, and simple to give to teachers at Christmas or the end of the school year.

This year’s homemade ymminess:  Pecan-Molasses Granola.  I found the recipe in Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food  magazine, and it seemed like it would make a nice gift in a pretty little jar.  So my three-year-old and I made two batches of the crunchy granola.  This is a very kid-friendly recipe.  Lots of measuring and stirring.

I bought one cup Ball jars.  I’ve been saving Christmas cards for years, always looking for just the right craft opportunity.  I found it!  We traced a circle with the jar’s ring on to a Christmas card.  Cut out the festive circle, and taped it to the jar lid.  We used another rectangle from the card to make a matching gift tag.

J chose a gingerbread house (quite emphatically!) for his Musikgarten teacher.  We had fun making these little gifts for the special teachers in our lives.

A Different Kind of Advent

Advent is the beautiful season of getting ready.  Every year at this time the preparations begin. Lists and trips and evening obligations fill the days leading up to Christmas.  Growing up in a Christian home, I’ve always known that Chistmas means more than the stuff of the secular celebration, but I still hurry around checking off a to-do list like the rest of the world.  I know that when we “get ready” during Advent we are preparing in a way that is far more significant than finding the right gift, the perfect poinsettia, or an unforgettable dessert recipe for the big day, but I get caught up in the hunt!  The Advent, this waiting, is even bigger than the best Advent calendar, the most stirring devotional booklet, and the sweetest rendition of “Silent Night.”  These are good things, meaningful things, but I often see Advent and Christmas pass without the encounter that I want and need.

This year is different.  Yes, we’re getting ready in practical ways for the upcoming celebrations.  Gifts are being planned and purchased, eventually wrapped.  Travel plans are being made, maps selected, reservations obtained.  Our celebration of Advent–a season that I love for its opportunity to tell and retell the most glorious story of all–is necessarily pared down.  We are just starting to unearth cookie sheets, special ornaments, and other pieces of our Christmas stash from dusty boxes.  There won’t be much time for baking and gift-making as we stumble through new routines in a brand-new-to-us house.

But this sense of difference is more than the fact that so many of our belongings will stay in boxes until well into the winter months.  This year, more than ever before, I have a sense of expectancy, a readiness to encounter the living Christ in a profound, yet quiet way.  My soul is in need of the deep Peace that He represents.  My insides have been tossed like a little ship on a stormy sea, and I am so longing to return to familiar waters where I can settle my heart and mind in the assurance of God’s love and His promises.  Aside from the fact that we have to drive about 1000 miles to celebrate with our families, this Christmas season is going to be exactly what I need it to be: simple.  I don’t have time to be engrossed in many of the traditional activities, and this year, that’s just fine.

Thinking of Thanksgiving

It felt strange to celebrate our first major holiday without our families.  We received a generous invitation to dine with new friends.  What a sweet offer!  But having just closed on our new house, we wanted to give thanks in our very own diningroom.

(Please pardon Miss Drooly.)

After dinner, we went back to the rental home for apple pie and some Skype time with family.  My sister-in-law took this picture of her younger son “Skyping” with my boys.  Celebrating Thanksgiving in our new town and new house was joyful, but what I would have given to jump through the computer screen into the arms of the people I love!