Ten Ways to Get The Most Out of Lent

(repost)

As you know this week is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. I *LOVE* Lent. I do. Really! Lots of us cradle Catholics find the fasting and sacrifices of Lent a drudgery. Others ignore Lent altogether. Not me. I see Lent as a mini New Year. A new beginning and another chance to re-charge the batteries in my relationship with the Lord.

10 Ways to Get the Most out of Lent

Here are some ideas for you to spend your time this Lent. (Btw, if you read my “Making Advent Meaningful” post, you’ll notice some of the suggestions are the same. That’s because there are some things – like the Mass and rosary – that are worth being reminded of again. 🙂 )

1. Daily Mass. Since the Eucharist the the “source and summit of our faith”, it stands to reason that daily mass should be on top of our Lenten “to-do” list!

2. Adoration. Next to the mass, adoration is the next best thing – especially if you are unable to make it daily mass for whatever reason. More and more parishes are offering at least monthly or weekly exposition and adoration (and some have perpetual adoration) of the Blessed Sacrament, so try and snag a half hour each week if you can!

3. Stations of the cross. The Stations of the Cross is a beautiful way to remember the passion of the Lord. Again, most parishes have Stations of the Cross once or twice each Friday of Lent. If you can’t make it to church, you can get some beautiful pamphlets for next to nothing and pray they them at home with your family.

4. Forgive. Through Jesus, our sins are forgiven and so that we may receive mercy. One of the best (and hardest!) ways to show gratitude for the Lord’s goodness is to forgive those who have hurt us – especially if the transgression was grievous. Just as hard, if  not even harder, is forgiving ourselves. Or sometimes we hold on to grudges and anger, even when we can’t remember how a particular person has hurt us! If you see yourself in any of these scenarios, maybe you can pray the Lord opens your heart to forgiving someone who has hurt you, or praying that He will help you forgive yourself? Even the prayer that He helps you to WANT to forgive would be a great start…

5. Pray the Liturgy of the Hours. The morning and evening prayers of the Liturgy of the hours are always beautiful, but especially during the Lenten season.  It is the official prayer of the church, and when you pray the Liturgy of the Hours, you are united will all the faithful around the world who are praying it with you!

6. Go to confession. It’s called the Sacrament of Reconciliation now, but whatever you call it, there’s no better way (besides the mass!) to prepare for Easter. There will be (or should be) many Penance services around your diocese, so you should be able to find one that fits in your schedule.

7. Watch the Passion of the Christ. Yes, watching the Passion of the Christ is painful. It’s in your face. It renders us speechless. And it should. What Jesus endured for our sake wasn’t “touchy feely” or a walk in the park. It was ugly, but our sin in even uglier, and sometimes we (I) need something like this movie to remind us (me) just how much Jesus loves us and was willing to endure for us.

8. Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Who says you have to wait for the Divine Mercy Sunday Novena to pray the chaplet? It’s a short but perfect prayer for Lent. I also try and read parts, if not most, of Saint Faustina’s diary during Lent, too.

9. Pray the the Scriptures. Next to participating in the Sacraments, there is no better way to deepen our relationship with the Lord than Scripture.  Spending as little as five minutes a day with His Word can transform your life. (New to reading the Bible? Read this guide on how to pray the Scriptures.)

10. Fast. All through Lent we will be hearing about fasting. It’s good for the soul. It opens our eyes to the needs of others. it cleanses us of our base passions. But, fasting isn’t just giving up food, or even television (both of which are excellent). This year, why don’t we fast from anger, sloth or any of the other “capital sins” and try to feast on its opposing virtue? (I know my diet has been terribly deprived of patience lately! 😉 )

Now, don’t feel pressured to do all of these activities. Remember, the focus is to deepen our relationship with Christ not add on more to-dos! Start out small. Pick one to three activities and focus on those. Lent is not a competition or race to see how much you can do. It is about focusing on a few things and doing them well so that you can focus on growing deeper in your relationship with the Lord, not exhaust yourself.

So tell us, what are your suggestions for making Lent special for you this year?

P.S. For a printable version of this list go here to subscribe. Subscribers, go to your private page to download the list.

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Tweetable: Ten Ways to Get the Most Out of Lent

Ten Places to buy Modest Swimsuits

swimming-pool-504780_1280WM

(Note: This is a repost of one of my most popular post with an updated image and printable download.)

We are quickly approaching Summer and the hot weather that comes with it. Unfortunately, that often means a lot of people walking around wearing almost nothing – especially at the beach or pool. It often amazes me how people wear swimsuits that cover less then their underwear does!

It particularly bothers me to see little girls (4, 5, 6 and 7 year-olds) wearing bikinis. Little girls should be taught the virtue of modesty and respect for their bodies as temples of God, rather than flaunting their bodies as if it was the most natural thing in the world. {sigh}

Off the soap box now. This post is for us grown-up women who are looking to wear beautiful, modest swimsuits. If you are in the market for a new swimsuit, here are some great places to get modest, attractive looking swimsuits (keep in mind that some of these sites are operated by women with different faith traditions and beliefs other than Christian and the price range for some of these suits can run a bit high):

1. Simply-Modest.com.

2. Solartex.com.

3. Stitchintimes.com.

4. Swimmodest.com.

5. Wholesomewear.com.

6. Dressingforhisglory.com.

7. Blair.com. (Some suits are more modest than others, so beware before you click over…)

8. Modestswimwear4u.com.

9. Biblicalgarden.com.

10. Modestswimwearsolutions.com.

If you have a favorite retailer that promotes modest swimsuit, do share! What are your thoughts on the lack of modesty with bathing suits? Or am I alone in my distaste for the whole bikini wearing thing?

You can print out this list, no opt-in required, here:  10+ Places to Find Modest Swimsuits

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(Image in public domain)

E-Book Review and Giveaway: That Works for Me!

I have been participating in “Works for me Wednesday” for a long while now. You probably have noticed the link at the bottom of many of my posts. Even when I don’t have a tip to share, I head over to Kristen’s blog We are that Family to browse the list of tips gathered there. I *always* leave learning something new or find an idea or I’d find a new recipe to try.

So when I heard that Kristen and freelance writer Jennifer De Root were compiling the many tips linked up at Works for me Wednesday into an e-book, I was thrilled! I couldn’t wait for the book to come out because I knew it would be a great way to have easy access to all those great tips that have been shared over the last five years. (And, I was also excited to discover that a couple of my tips made its way into the e-book. How cool is that?)

My Review

The e-book did not disappoint. As a matter of fact, it’s fantastic “That Works for Me!” is a whopping, 180 page, interactive e-book chock full of “tried and true tips from Works for me Wednesday.” It is brilliantly organized into 24 categories ranging from baby, to cleaning to recipes to travel and everything in between. You can see a sample page here.

One of the great things about this e-book is that a part of the proceeds will be going to Mercy House, an organization that helps pregnant girls in Kenya, Africa.

More about “That Works for Me!”

The Giveaway

I am happy to be giving away TWO copies of the “That Works for Me!” e-book! To enter, all you have to do is leave your name and email address in the comments.

There are also lots of other ways to get extra entries, too. You can

1. “like” the “That Works For Me!” Facebook page and then leaving a comment here letting me know you have.

2. Follow @works4mebook and leave a comment here letting me know you have.

3. Sign up for blog updates here at Simple Catholic Living (on the side bar) and letting me know once you’ve clicked on the confirmation link.

4. “Like” the Simple Catholic Living Facebook Page and letting me know that you have.

5. Follow me @simple_catholic and letting me know you have.

I will be picking two winners on Tuesday afternoon, April 24th. I’ll be doing this the old-fashioned way and having my son pick the names out of a hat. 🙂

(This post contains affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy for details.)

How to Make Homemade Deodorant

I’ve wanted to make homemade deodorant a long time now. My main motivation comes from that fact that I have sensitive skin, and over the last couple of years, my pits have become particularly sensitive to regular deodorants, even those without antiperspirants. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Did you ever read the labels of your deodorant? I have tried the “all-natural” deodorants before, but they were too expensive for my taste and to be honest, they weren’t much better than the regular deodorants.

In my search for homemade deodorant, I read that baking soda works well as a deodorant, but I found it too abrasive for me. Then I found a bunch of websites who had a variation of this simple recipe:

Deodorant Ingredients

Ingredients:

How to:

The basic recipe calls for equal parts baking soda and cornstarch and a few tablespoons solid coconut oil depending on the consistency you want. I did a medium size batch.

  • I mixed 1/4 cup each of the baking soda and cornstarch in a bowl.
  • Once combined, I started mixing in the coconut oil starting with two tablespoons than adding a tablespoon at a time until it reached the consistency of regular deodorant. For me, it took 6 tablespoons of the oil to get a good consistency.
  • Then I put the mixture into a small, cleaned-out container I had found until ready to use.

This isn’t the best picture, but it gives you an idea of what the finished product looks like:

Completed Deodorant

 To Use:

It’s very simple. Just use your fingers to apply the deodorant under your arms. Or, you can put the finished mixture in an old deodorant container and put it on as you would regular deodorant.

My experience:

I have been using the homemade deodorant for almost two weeks and love it. It has a nice, light scent from the coconut and my armpits are almost completely healed. Most importantly, it works well. I am one of those who perspire A LOT and so far the homemade deodorant has done a good job keeping the wetness out of my pits. It also has done a good job in preventing me from smelling bad, which is always a good thing! LOL! The real test, of course, will come summertime, but I really think it will do the job.

 Notes:

  • In my research, there were some comments that the cornstarch was a problem for some people. If it is a problem for you, you may want to consider using arrowroot powder in place of the cornstarch.
  • I also read that since coconut oil has a low boiling-point, it melts easily when it gets warm. You may want to keep the coconut oil and/or deodorant in the refrigerator is the summer/warmer months. (I’ll update this when it get warm to let you know my experience.)
  • Some people commented that this homemade deodorant would stain their clothes, especially if they didn’t give the deodorant time to dry before getting dressed. I haven’t had that experience so far, but the test will come when the weather gets warm.

Is it frugal?

I think so. From what I read, a medium-sized batch should last about two months. The 16 oz jar of coconut oil $6.89 (I had free shipping). The baking soda was .89 cents, the cornstarch was .99 cents. With only using 6 tablespoons of the oil at a time, I shouldn’t have to buy more for about a year or so. Overall, we are talking about less than a dollar a batch. Not bad. 🙂

Update July 11, 2012: I’m about to make my second batch of this deodorant, which means my first batch lasted four months. That’s longer than the deodorants I used to buy. At this rate, making a batch every four months, I won’t have to replace the coconut oil much longer than a year – maybe not till two years.

I also want to mention that the deodorant worked fantastic during the recent heat wave, even on the two days we had 105 degree weather!

Have you tried making homemade deodorant? What was your experience like?

(Linked to WFMW.)

 

 

My 10 Favorite Uses for Vinegar

Did you know that vinegar is awesome? It’s cheap and yet very versatile. There are tons of uses for vinegar, but here are just 10 of them:

For Cleaning:

1. Keeps your tub clean and shiny. Follow the simple steps outlined in my post here.

2. Keeps the soap scum in your dishwasher at bay. Regularly run an empty dishwasher through a complete washing cycle with one cup of distilled white vinegar.

3. Keeps you clothes bright and fresh. All you have to do is add a 1/2 cup of vinegar in the rinse cycle.

4. Keeps your windows clean. Fill a spray bottle with half water and half vinegar. Works just as well or even better than the leading name brand cleaners.

For Beauty and Health:

5. Keeps your hair clean. ‘Becca over at The Earthlings Handbook has a great tutorial on how to wash you hair with vinegar here.

6. Keeps your skin clear. Vinegar works as a great astringent. Just wash your face with a solution of half water and half vinegar.

7. Keeps those hiccups at bay. Drink one cup of water with a teaspoon of vinegar added. Bye bye hiccups!

For Food:

7. Keeps your eggs together. Add a tablespoon of vinegar to simmering water when making poached eggs.

8. Keeps your meat tenderized. Marinate your meats with vinegar for a few hours to overnight before cooking as usual. No need to rinse off vinegar before cooking.

For Fun:

9. Make homemade bubbles. Find the recipes for homemade bubbles and homemade bubble bombs here!

10. Blow up a balloon. Use vinegar to make carbon dioxide and blow up a balloon. Get the recipes on the Families with Purpose website here.

What are your favorite uses for vinegar?

(Linked to Top Ten Tuesday and WFMW.)

An Easy Way to Clean Your Bathtub

bathtubI have to start out by saying that I’m not a big fan of the Doctor Oz television show. There’s something a little too “pop-medicine” about it that I don’t like. (Plus most of the “games” he plays with the audience to get his point across are kinda corny!)

However, a couple of weeks ago there was an episode that caught my mother-in-law’s eye so she taped it. During the course of the show there was a segment dealing with germs and how to properly clean your surfaces to keep germs at bay. He offered this tip for cleaning and disinfecting your bathtub:

Fill your tub with water and 1 cup vinegar. Let soak overnight. In the morning drain the tub.

That’s it. The vinegar is more abrasive than other cleaners to get rid of the germs and leaves the tub with a nice shine.

Guess what? It works!

And it’s easy. No scrubbing or hurting your knees to get the tub clean. That so works for me!

Crescent Beef Stroganoff

This recipe comes from my very dear friend Emily:

Recipe: Crescent Beef Stroganoff

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (8 oz) refrigerator crescent rolls
  • 1 pound ground beef, lean
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion 8 oz sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 1/2 to 1 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese

Instructions:

  1. Unroll crescent roll dough; press into the bottom of an uncreased 9×13 baking pan to form a thin crust.
  2. In a skillet, brown beef with onion and mushrooms, season with salt, pepper and paprika.
  3. Stir sour cream into cooked beef mixture, and spoon all of it into baking pan on top of crescent crust.
  4. Sprinkle evenly with the shredded cheese.
  5. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, or until crust is baked.
  6. Cut into squares and serve with a tossed salad.

Number of servings (yield): 6

(Linked to RecipeRoundtable and WFMW.)

Other recipes you may enjoy:

Lentil Soup

Cheese Cake

Strawberry-Pineapple Jello Mold

 

10 Book Suggestions for Lent

I didn’t plan on doing a top ten Lenten series, but it is kind of ending up that way. 🙂 You can check out the other top ten suggestions  for Lent here, here and here. Anyway, for this week I’d like to share some book suggestions that would be worth reading if you have any time  over the  next few weeks.

1. The King Crucified and Risen by Father Benedict Groeschel.

2. In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez. (Beautiful book of meditations.)

3. Divine Mercy in my Soul, the Diary of Saint Faustina.

4. Imitation of Christ by Thomas a’ Kempis

5. Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.

6. Journey to Easter by Pope Benedict XVI

7. On Retreat with Saint Josemaria Escriva by John O’Dogherty.

8. Abandonment to Divine Providence by Rev. Father Jean-Pierre de Caussade.

9. The Cross and the Beatitudes – Lessons on Love and Forgiveness by Bishop Fulton J. Sheen.

10. The Wonders of the Holy Name by Fr. Paul O’Sullivan.

What book suggestions do you have? I’d love to hear your ideas!

(Linked to Top Ten Tuesday and WFMW.)

Marie’s Macaroni and Cheese

This is my sister-in-law’s recipe. I know there are a lot of mac & cheese recipes floating around, but I like this one because it is relatively quick, it’s easy and very tasty.

Recipe: Marie’s Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb box of medium shell pasta
  • 1 lb freshly sliced yellow American cheese from the deli counter (Using the packaged or Velveeta cheese won’t work at all)
  • 4 cups whole milk (Don’t go lower than 2% for this)

Instructions:

  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, Whisk the cheese a little at a time into the milk over medium-low heat until all the cheese is melted and thoroughly combined with the milk.
  3. Dump the cooked pasta into a 9×13 dish that was prepared with cooking spray (to help prevent sticking).
  4. Pour the melted cheese mixture over the pasta and mix to coat the pasta.
  5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until golden.
  6. Let sit for a few minutes before serving.

Quick Notes:

  • We like the top of our macaroni and cheese extra crunchy; so, after the 30 minutes are up, I will put it under the broiler for a couple minutes (watching carefully!) until its a deep golden color and a few of the macaroni are “burnt” looking. 🙂
  • You can put the pasta and cheese mixture together earlier in the day, cover and refrigerate or let sit until you are ready to bake it off.
  • For a meaty variation, add a pound of cubed ham or cooked sausage before baking.

(Linked to Recipe Roundtable.)

Other recipes you may enjoy:

Dump Cake

Ham and Cabbage

Fruit Tarts

 

My Top Ten Favorite Recipes

As I was linking up my weekly recipe post yesterday, I thought it might be a good idea to organize some of our favorite recipes that I use on a regular basis so I can keep them all in one place. As I was doing that, I realized ten of those would make a great “Top Ten Tuesday” post. 😉 Some of these are my own recipes and some are from other bloggers or websites. So here they are (In no particular order), ten of my all-time favorite recipes:

1. Baked Chili Cheese Dip. Oh, so good and not just good for Super Bowl parties!! I can almost eat the whole thing myself. (But I do share it, promise. 😉 ) Thanks, Sarah!

2. My Slow-Cooker Chili. Okay, obviously I’m partial to this one. However, It is ALWAYS a hit when I make it – even with those who aren’t big fans of chili.

3. Corn Pone. I am forever indebted to my friend Rita for this recipe. (Btw, it’s a great complement to the chili recipe above!)

4. No-Knead Crusty White Bread. If you are intimidated with the idea of making yeast bread, but have always wanted to try it, this is the perfect recipe to start with. This bread recipe is complements of King Arthur Flour.

5. Basic Brine for Chicken. This isn’t a recipe per se, but since I tried brining my chicken using this brine recipe that I found on the Bargains to Bounty, I’ve been hooked. I don’t grill much, but I have been using this recipe to brine my chicken (and cornish hens!) before roasting and it has made a huge difference in my poultry! I can now have the crispy skin that I love while keeping the inside moist and delicious.

6. Sausage, Peppers and Potatoes. I owe this fabulous dish to my mother-in-law. It is a staple (practically weekly) recipe in our home. Both my husband and son get excited when I make this, which is crazy, because it is one of the most simplest dish anyone could make!

7. Apple Butternut Squash Soup. This delicious soup is courtesy of Sandra Lee from the Food Network. My son doesn’t like butternut squash at all, but will eat this soup, thanks to the sweetness of the applesauce.

8. Caramelized baked chicken. The only thing I can say about this allrecipes.com chicken is YUM. 😉

9. My mother-in-law’s Cheese Cake. I can’t NOT include my mother-in-law’s cheese cake recipe in this list -even if I only make this once or twice a year. It is “da bomb”!

10. Homemade Pizza. My husband isn’t a big fan of homemade pizza, but I make this when he is working late and it’s just my son and me, because we love it. We use Money Saving Mom’s pizza dough because it is quick, easy and delicious. (Our favorite topping is cheese and pineapple – which drives my Italian hubby crazy! It’s just not authentic Italian pizza to him. 😮 )

Have a favorite recipe or recipes? Do share a link to it in the comments!

(Linked to Top Ten Tuesday and WFMW.)