Sunday, October 31, 2010

Soul Cakes: The Original Halloween "Treat"

During the Middle Ages in England, on the night before All Saints Day, or Hallowmas, pesants and children called "soulers" would go about town singing and praying for the souls of the dead. They would stop at homes and beg for a "soul cake" and promise in return to pray for the household's deceased family members to be released from purgatory. If homeowners did not give out cakes it was believed their home would be cursed. And this my friends is thought to be the origination of trick or treating.

There are many recipes for soul cakes from a small round cake to a doughnut shaped treat. Some variations include cutting a cross on the top or adding rasins. It seems that the recipes developed over time and region. 

Because my children need more sugar from October 31st to November 2nd, we made our own soul cakes today. I'm hoping someone comes by singing the traditional song:

Soul, Soul, a soul cake!
I pray thee, good missus, a soul cake!
One for Peter, two for Paul,
three for Him what made us all!
Soul Cake, soul cake, please good missus, a soul cake.
An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry, any good thing to make us all merry.
One for Peter, two for Paul, & three for Him who made us all.

Chances are if I try to hand one out people will quietly usher their children to the next house and later report me to the police, so perhaps I'll just stick with taking them to our churches All Souls Day party on Tuesday night.

If you are looking for a festive treat to make on all Souls Day these are a delicious little treat. They are a bit like a spiced shortbread cookie, not really fluffy cake like.

I decided to go with a more traditional recipe from, but I'll still post the full instructions with pictures for you below, as I made a few changes as I went.


1. Using a pastry blender cut 1 c. of butter into 3 3/4 cups of flour. I bought my first pastry blender just for this occasion.

2. Blend in the sugar, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon and allspice. Allspice smells like Christmas.

3. In a separate bowl beat eggs, vinegar and milk together. I would like to add a little shout out here to my amazing mother-in-law, who is always gifting me with amazing things for my kitchen, like these awesome Pyrex measuring cups, Thanks!

4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix.

5. Kneed thoroughly to form a stiff dough. You really have to work this dough, I thought there was no way it was moist enough, but once I mashed it all up it was just right.

6. Roll out to a 1/4 inch thickness and cut out 3 inch circles with a cookie cutter or glass.

7. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

8. Sprinkle with powdered sugar while still warm. I use a slotted spoon for this.

9. Eat, yummy.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Rosary and Kids - Part 4

October is almost over, which means it's time for the 4th and final "The Rosary and Kids" post.  This time I've come up with a list of some of our favorite rosary products that have helped make the rosary a part of our home. I am so thankful for the wonderful people who take their time to make holy products!

1. Baby Rosary (0-12 monts). These sturdy non-toxic, wooden rosaries are a favorite teething toy. We love giving them as gifts to our expecting friends and family. You can find them at most Catholic Book stores.

2. Holy Baby DVD (1-2 years). We don't watch much TV in our home, but we wouldn't have survived the Cotter family vacation to Lake Michigan without this DVD. Bean was 13 months at the time and we drove somewhere around 12 hours straight to get home. Watching Holy Baby kept her happy when the drive got long. The DVD recites the rosary in 7 languages while a montage of very simple objects are shown. Many of them are religious, like statues of saints and Noah's Ark toys.

3. A Child's Guide to the Rosary By Elizabeth Ficocelli (3-8 years). This is a delightful little book about a class of children who are learning about the rosary. They present each of the 20 mysteries in a way that is easy for kids to understand. Complete with kid friendly pictures and points of meditation, this book is a great tool for introducing the mysteries in a practical way.

4. Speak, Lord, I am Listening: A Rosary Book By: Christine Haapala (7-12 years). We recently received this as a gift from one of our mission partners and it is a wonderfully crafted book. Each mystery is presented with thought provoking watercolor images and relevant scripture verses to accompany each bead. It is a great way to help keep focused on the mystery you are meditating on.

5.  The New Rosary in Scripture: Biblical Insights for Praying the 20 Mysteries By: Edward Sri (13+, maybe? I'll let you know when we get there). This book walks you through a biblical explanation of each of the mysteries. It also includes frequently asked questions about Mary and the Rosary, as well as explanations on John Paul II's reflections on the meaning of the rosary.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How to Cut your Grocery Bill in Half

No, this is not an advertisement. It's a way of saving money often called "the coupon game" and I love it! About a year ago I was introduced to this fun and exciting (well, I think it is) world of saving major bucks on your grocery bill. To keep your attention I have included a few recent receipts.

Full Price: $148.43, Paid: $59.20, Saved: $89.23

Full Price: $118.90, Saved: $59.99, Paid: $58.91

I'm guessing many of you have heard about the coupon game, but may be skeptical of this unconventional way of shopping. I wasn't a believer until I tried it myself and it works. How you save so much is by only buying things that are on a good sale and then adding a coupon to the sale item whenever possible. By stocking up when things are cheap you create a mini grocery store in your basement and thus rarely pay full price for food and household supplies.

Part of the basement grocery store

It takes some getting used to because you don't really have to plan out meals for each night of the week. I probably have food for 30 dinners in my house right now and each afternoon I just think... "What do I feel like tonight?". After I have decided what strikes my fancy I go "shopping" downstairs. So are you in? If yes, here is the rundown: Warning, it does take some prep time.

1. Know your stores. You can only get great deals if you know what your stores offer. Give them a call and ask them the following:
A. Do you double coupons? Most stores will double up to $1.00; $0.30 becomes $0.60 and $0.75 becomes $1.
B. Do you accept other store's coupons? For example, accepting a Walgreens "only" coupon at X grocery store.
C. Do you offer scan guarantee? This is if an item rings up wrong you get if for free... I've gotten free cheese and pizza this way. Either they will give you one item free (even if you bought 5) or they will give you all the items free.
D. Do you match competitors prices? Target does this "as is" and Walmart will do it, but not if it is a buy one get one free or 50% off deal.
E. Can I get $0.05 back for each reusable bag that I bring in?
F. If I bring in a store coupon (target specific) and a manufacture coupon (general mills cereal) will you take both for the same product?
G. Will you take expired coupons... if so, 
how expired?

2. Make a master list of frequently used items. I have on my computer a list of things I frequently buy (canned soup, chocolate chips, pasta, dried fruit, cleaning supplies...). I review the list every so often to make sure I have a stock of the things I need. If I am running low on a product I start watching the ads to see when it goes on sale so I can stock up (last week I bought 20 boxes of pasta and 20 jars of sauce... they won't expire until 2013, I think I'm good).

3. Collect your coupons. There are several places to get coupons, save them all until they expire. You might think I would never buy that! BUT, you might buy it if it is free! I "bought" 6 bags of nature valley granola clusters for free... I wouldn't buy them at their typical $4.00, but I'll take them for free!
A. Subscribe 
to your local paper. Save the coupon booklets in a 3 ring binder until they expire, just because you won't use a coupon this week, doesn't mean you might not need it next week or in a month.
B. Check for printable online coupons. has it ALL. Just make your way through each of the groups (A, B, C and singles) to see them all. You will need to install something to print, but after that it is a breeze. You can print 2 of each coupon (you need a coupon for each item you are buying... 5 bags of chips needs 5 coupons). New coupons come out at the beginning of the month, so this is the best time to get them. There is a limited number of coupons that can be printed across the nation, so once that number has been hit, the coupon disappears.
C. Gather coupons from products you buy. Backs of cereal boxes, inside oatmeal boxes and inside muffins boxes are just a few places I have found coupons.
D. Check 
your local grocery store website for coupons you can download right on to your saver card. These coupons will not double.
E. Check 
your stores for printable coupons. Target has a ton of Target specific printable coupons on their website.

F. You can even buy coupons online at sites like for a small handling fee.

Look through those ads! Ads come to my mailbox on Tuesday, so when the kids go down for their nap I start circling all the items that I might want to buy and crossing off items that are on sale for a cheaper price than another stores advertised price. I've seen weeks where potatoes are on "sale" for $3.99, $2.99 and $1.99, depending on the store... obviously you want to get them at the $1.99 store.

Match your coupons with sales. This is where it gets really fun. I pull out my coupons and check the web to match up products. I have gotten TONS of free things from granola bars to deodorant to frozen veggies to chicken broth to chex mix... I could go on. Once I got PAID $1.00 to buy five tubs of icing... that was really cool.

Make your lists. I then write a list of specific things to buy from each store and make a pile of coupons to put with each list. I also add to the list where to buy things I don't have coupons for. Someone usually has bread, milk and bananas on sale, so I buy them according to the cheapest store. I also write a list of things that I need that I will have to pay full price for. This list is a sad list, but must be done.

Have fun shopping! I get really excited watching the total drop and drop. At first I would point out my free items to cashiers, but they didn't appreciate it, so now I call my husband or text a local friend, so they can join in on the fun!

So yes, you do have 
to put a little money into buying the newspaper and ink for the printer, but I used $35 in coupons last week alone, which paid for the newspaper for the year. And yes, it does take time, but I like to think of it as giving myself a $100 paycheck for saving a $100.

The final awesome part about all of this is you don't have 
to stock shop every week! When things are busy I take a week or three off and just go to one store to buy about $20 of perishable necessities and I am set because I have so much at home on reserve. And with so much at home I don't find myself running to the store for that one ingredient I need to finish a recipe, because I have more in the basement!

Now I know what some of you are thinking... Lisa, you are expecting me to go to multiple stores... it's difficult enough to make it to just one with the kids! Well, here is my secret, on Wednesday morning (when the new sales begin in my area) I wake up at 5:30, hit three stores and return home by 7:30 with my loot. I know 5:30 is early so some fellow thrifty mom's will make the rounds in one night after the kids go down or brave it with the kids. Remember, once you are stocked, you don't have to do it every week!

Happy shopping!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

From Napkins to Vestments

All right procrastinators, this one's for you. Homemade vestments for All Saints Day in less than an hour. 
Isn't he cute!

Two cloth napkins in green, red, white or purple, depending on what liturgical season you are going for
2 1/2 yards of 1 1/2 to 2 inch gold ribbon
Hot glue gun and/or sewing machine

Step 1: Sew or hot glue 1 1/2 to 2 inch gold ribbon onto both sides of the napkins. Pictured is the back side.

Step 2: Sew the tops of the napkins together leaving a 7 inch gap in the middle.

That's it folks! Enjoy!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

From Pants to St. Francis Tunic

Over the years I have made many of my kids Halloween/All Saint's Day costumes. First, there was the infant of Prague costume for when our kids are infants.

Then came St. Anne.

Next Our Lady of Lourdes.

Last year after we moved I didn't have it in me to pull off elaborate (this is a relative term) costumes for my kids. Fortunately my daughter wanted to be a guardian angel ($10.00 at Walmart- yes please), but my one year old son didn't have an opinion. I wasn't going to put a costume on him, "We just moved in (is 3 month ago "just"?), it's been too crazy, he'll understand when he's older". On about October 29th, I started feeling guilty. I ran to Walmart and bought some green cloth napkins from the clearance aisle and gold ribbion and here's the result...

He was an ordinary time priest.

This year I wasn't feeling particularly creative again, but fortunately my girl wanted to be a guardian angel again... good thing I bought last years $10.00 costume a little big. My son, now 2, still didn't have an opinion, so he was just going to be a cloth napkin priest again... until my husband brought me a pair of worn out brown pants that he declared destitute.

Notice the lovely ink marks (he's a writer, he can't help it) and the worn pockets

After a long string of children's books about pioneer women who saved all their scraps of fabric for quilting I began feeling uneasy about just throwing them in the trash. The pants sat on my dresser for a while until I had the crazy idea of turning them into a St. Francis of Assis tunic.

It doesn't have a hood, but I was working with a pair of pants. It also could be a great Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha or St. Padre Pio base. My plan is to go buy some rope to put around the waist and call it good.

Below is the best I can do to explain what I did, for anyone else who is having "quilt story guilt".

Here they are, the pants that I will magically turn into a tunic.

First cut the pants on the inside inseam to open them all the way up. Cut away the waist band, zipper and pockets, keeping as much of the fabric as possible. What you see above: The seat of the pants are in the middle and the holes on each side are where the pockets where. The waist band would have been all along the top. The middle is lower because I had to remove the back pockets. The pumpkin is to add a splash of festiveness.

Cut off the bottom portion of the pants (from what would be about just below the knee down) for the sleeves. This really depends on how tall your child is and how long the sleeves need to be.

Take out the hems to make the sleeves longer, if needed. Each leg will be one sleeve.

Fold over the excess fabric in the seat area to form a straight line. It's the extra at the top of the pants near the middle "V" where the neck will go.

Cut off the extra fabric.

Sew together the two sides of the fabric, essentially joining the legs. You will not need a glue stick (near the sewing box) for this project, my daughter must have put that there.

Fold the other half of the legs in to create a vest, then remove the excess fabric like you did on the other side. Sew the two side of the fabric together , like you did on the other side. 

Sew the tops of the vest together for where the vest will rest on the shoulders. This would have been the top of the pants where the waist was cut up earlier. 
Measure the pant legs to make sure they will fit into the former pockets, now arm holes. You may need to cut the arm holes a little bigger. Cut the sleeves to a proper width so they will fit into the arm holes and sew them into a tube.

Sew the sleeves into the arm holes.

Turn everything inside out and you have a tunic! I didn't hem the bottom or the neck because I feel like the more worn looking it is, the more St. Francis like it will be... and to do that would be more work.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Rosary and Kids - Part 3

A few years ago Magnificat began selling rosary greeting cards with 20 different images depicting each mystery of the rosary. While I wasn't too interested in using them as greeting cards I was interested in the fact that they were each a perfect 5 x 7, which means they could be framed.

At the time we were just beginning our first year as FOCUS missionaries, so the "decorating the new home" budget line was minimal. In our cozy cinderblock dorm suite, where I was a hall director, there was a large empty wall that I wanted to fill with some kind of religious art, but let's face it, religious art is not cheap. So when I saw these beauties I knew I had a solution to my problem. To frame the pictures I purchased clip frames for less than $2.00 each, including the shipping charges. If you buy them in bulk you end up buying 24, so the extra 4 are a bonus.

When we pray a family rosary we grab the picture(s) of the mystery we are meditating on from the wall for  a visual during the prayer. Pointing out the details of the images has been a great way to help explain the mysteries and to introduce our children to beautiful art. We also love them because they are a constant reminder in our home of the significant events in the lives of Jesus and Mary.

Cost rundown:
Rosary Greeting Cards: $20.00 (after shipping)
Frames: $37.50 (after shipping)
Total Project: $57.50

We hung them with a 1/2 inch spacing around each side of the frame.
Pal picking out a mystery... or 3.

Also, I keep forgetting... for more awesome ideas check out the Catholic Icing link up party. Bloggers have posted their ideas for the rosary here in one place.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Handwriting Without Tears

She did it, my poor daughter who was given 9 letters in her double name legibly wrote them in the right order.

I'll never forget her buddy Sam coming over one day when they were three and saying to her "S-A-M that's how you spell my name, how do you spell yours?" Blank stare.

No one warned me about the perils of trying to get a preschooler to remember the order of 9 letters when we picked a double name, which was kind of an accident in itself. Originally we were going to just call her by her middle name, Clare. After she was born we kept using both and it just stuck, so we have a Mary Clare.

As to the legibility of her name I give credit to a fabulous program called "Handwriting Without Tears". We just finished the Pre-K book and as the title promised, no one cried throughout the entire process. Unless you count my toddlers whining over his desire to scribble all over the beloved, special workbook that was reserved only for Mary Clare's pink crayon.

"Mat Man". He had feet, but they are slightly erased. 
The program begins with the assumption that your preschooler has never picked up a crayon before and by the end they are able to write all of their capitol letters, numbers and shapes. It also teaches colors and how to draw a person. Everything is very hands on and fun.

There are an overwhelming amount of things you can purchase with the program, so it can seem overwhelming at first. Did I really just type that? If you have a little one who is ready to start writing, and you think things like teaching your kid to write are fun, I would suggest buying the following:

Get Set for School Workbook
Pre-K Teachers Guide
Wood Pieces Set for Capitol Letters
Stamp and See Screen
Get Set for School Sing Along CD

Everything else you need you can just improvise or find cheaper at Target.

Happy Handwriting!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Chick Flicks and Chastity

That was not taken at
UNC, but you get the idea.
In high school I was voted "Most Likely to become a Motivational Speaker", well, I guess they kind of got it right. Last year at the FOCUS national conference in Orlando I gave a breakout session titled "What Chick Flicks and Love Songs have to do with Chastity", it was for men only.

Perhaps I am crazy. What female willingly agrees to addresses a group of solely college men on chastity and women's emotions?

The weeks before the talk I spent a lot of time praying and blessed be God, the Holy Spirit showed up. From that talk I have received a number of requests to give versions of it for other events and one such event was just this week.

The FOCUS team at UNC- Greeley invited me to speak at their women's night about this topic often called "emotional chastity". It was so great to spend some time on a FOCUS campus doing hands on ministry. As my only experience on a FOUCS campus is Benedictine, which is a Catholic bubble, I was so exciting to witness a thriving program at a public university. The love that existed between the missionaries and students was apparent and you could tell that they really had a great community of faith.

The basic concept behind emotional chastity is that men and women are different in the way they were made, so they are different in the way they are tempted, specifically when it comes to purity. Men, being more physical and visual in nature, struggle with the physical side of purity. They are tempted to have unchaste thoughts and actions. Women on the other hand are more emotional and relational, so they are tempted to do things like "mentally stalk" men (almost obsessively daydream about men who they aren't even in a relationship with) and use men to try and fill an emotional void. Emotional purity and physical chastity are so interconnected because for women, where our hearts go, our bodies tend to follow.

The interconnectedness of sensual (physical) and sentimental (emotional) love is all within the wisdom of the Catholic Church from writers such as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, also known as Edith Stein, and Pope John Paul II and the more I learn about it the more I understand myself as a woman, as well as the struggles that I continue to see reoccurring in the the young adults I am blessed to present to. So as long as God wants me to put myself in potentially awkward situations (for example, two of my upcoming talks will be given in bars), I'm going to continue to read up on all things related to relationships, emotions and women.

"The strength of a woman lies in the emotional life." St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Rosary and Kids - Part 2

This summer I attended a round table discussion at a Catholic conference on the topic of integrating the Faith into your home. Realizing that there were many older, wiser mom's in the room I posed the question "How do you get your kids to sit still during the rosary?", to which they all quickly retorted "Oh honey, you don't!". Shocking news to me. I always thought prayer time should look like this:

That's the Martin family, the parents are Blessed and the little one kneeling on her mom's lap, Therese, is a saint. It's a beautiful depiction of a holy family, but you know what Bl. Zelie, Therese's mom, had to say about her little Therese? "As for the little ferret, I do not know what she will turn out to be; she is so little, so thoughtless, she has an intelligence superior to Celine's, but she is less gentle and has an almost invincible stubbornness." Guess that means there's hope for all children. 

The wise mom's went on to tell me about some various tactile ways that the keep their kids engaged in the family rosary. Below is a combination of their ideas and a few of my own which have transformed family rosary from "I don't want to" to, "do we get to". They also each provide a bonus education moment.

Beads and pipe cleaners: We give the kids a pipe cleaner and 10 beads, after each Hail Mary they add one bead to the pipe cleaner until we have completed a decade. I have found pipe cleaner are better than sting because the fuzz hold the beads in place. My two year old particularly loves this, even though he ends up with varying bead amounts after we finish a decade. This is great for fine motor skills.

Chalkboard beads: For this manipulative we draw 10 circles, or beads, on a chalkboard, after each Hail Mary the kids take a wet cotton ball and trace the bead to erase it until all of the beads are gone. This helps with learning how make a circular motion. You could also do this on a dry erase board.

Number paste: This one takes a minute of prep. I draw a grid on a half sheet of paper with 10 places then write numbers 1-10 on the other half and cut the numbers out. After each Hail Mary the kids paste a number on, in order from 1-10 with a glue stick. For kids who are starting to learn number order you could write the numbers on the grid and have the kids match them. This provides practice with spacing, number order and pasting.

Shape sorter: Grab your shape sorter and give your kid 10 shapes. After each Hail Mary they can drop in one shape until they are all back in the sorter. Sorters are great for cause and effect and fine motor skills.

Dry erase numbers: We have a set of dry erase flash cards from Kumon that I will give to my 4 year old and after each Hail Mary she writes a number until she reaches ten. Sometimes we will give her 11-20 or 21-30. Prayer,  handwriting and numbers, not bad.

Magnetic letters: Our chalk board is magnetic, so I will write on the board a ten letter word that has to do with our mystery and have my kids match a letter after each Hail Mary. Visitation, Assumption, Holy Spirit, Coronation and Mother Mary are some words we have used. Letter recognition is your bonus here.