Meal Planning in the Real World

Courtesy of CatholicMom.com. All rights reserved.

What a surprise to wake up this morning and find that I got a mention on the latest episode of the Catholic Momcast! Thanks, Danielle and Allison!

If you’re visiting from there and are looking for the recipes, you’ll find them at my cooking website, CookAndCount.

My recipes are not “just for diabetics” but I include nutrition information with each one, so that families like mine who have someone with special nutritional needs can find out what they need to know before they cook. These are simply recipes that my family enjoys. I hope you find some new favorites among them.

Here’s a little info on how I do meal planning:

I divide a sheet of paper or page in my planner into 3 columns: type of recipe (easy, meatless, takes all day) / name of recipe (and source, if it’s not mine) / groceries needed.

Then I go through my recipes and sometimes take a peek into the recipes I’ve recently printed out from other websites (I have a whole crate of these, with folders … I may have a problem).

I ask family members if they have any requests.

Then I fill in the “name of recipe” column with the meals I want to make for the next week or two. (Sometimes I get really organized and go for a whole month, but it’s been a while.)

I categorize the recipes, so I know what I have to work from – that makes it easy to choose in the morning (or the night before) based on what the day is going to bring. If I have 3 meetings for work, I’m not going to be picking a labor-intensive “takes all day” recipe. That’s when I want to go for something quick and easy, which gets its own category on my recipe site!

Finally, I look at each recipe and take note of any ingredients I’ll need in order to make those. That becomes my shopping list.

Minus the description column, here’s my menu plan from earlier this year.

Thanks for visiting – let me know which recipes you plan to try!

Peace and all good,

Barb


Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz

On Barb’s (Prayer) Book Shelf: 3 Books of Prayers for All Seasons

I love to read books about prayer, but sometimes what you really need is a book of prayer: a collection of prayers for various situations. So far this year, Ave Maria Press has published three prayer collections designed to help you, your family, and your parish find just the right prayer for just about any occasion. All of these books are excellent prayer resources for liturgical living.

Bless Us, O Lord: A Family Treasure of Mealtime Prayers by Robert M. Hamma is a wonderful collection of prayers before meals. For many families, grace before meals and bedtime are the prime times for family prayer — but I’d venture to guess that most of us don’t venture too far beyond the familiar “Bless us, O Lord …” that became the title of this book. If you and your family would like to incorporate the liturgical year into your mealtime prayers, this is a wonderful resource.

Inside this book, you’ll find a robust selection of prayers based on the liturgical year: days of the week, liturgical seasons, and feasts throughout the year. The author has included not only meal blessings particular to those days and seasons, but introductory material to help your family understand why these saints and seasons we celebrate are important.

There are many ways to use this book: I suggest keeping it handy at mealtimes and letting school-age children take turns checking whether there’s a saint to celebrate today, or selecting one of the many traditional options and prayers for special occasions. Bless Us, O Lord has special mealtime prayers for birthdays, Baptisms, school milestones, visitors, and even “when we’ve had a bad day.”

Justin McClain’s Alleluia to Amen: The Prayer Book for Catholic Parishes is probably not the kind of book you’d expect a family to want to use. While it was designed for parishes, many of the prayers in this book are appropriate for family use as well as use by small church groups such as prayer circles or book clubs.

Alleluia to Amen includes morning, noontime, and evening prayers for each day of the week (perfect for students and working adults). You’ll also find a section dedicated to the liturgical year, connecting prayers for the parish and those who serve in it to various feast days and seasons. If you feel insecure with the idea of spontaneous prayer to begin a meeting, this book contains many options. A handy index will help you find the right prayer for just about any special intention you can think of, including these:

  • for an end to gossip within the community
  • for the return of loved ones to the Church
  • for a couple before a wedding
  • for healing and recovery after a natural disaster
  • for parents transitioning their child to college
  • for students before exams
  • for parishioners battling addiction
  • for people within a wide range of occupations and ministries in the parish

Alleluia to Amen is a comprehensive and easy-to-use tool to find the perfect prayers for various occasions within parish life, ministry work, and even family life.

Prayers are beautiful in any language, but if you have an interest in exploring the beauty and poetry of the Latin prayers that have been part of the fabric of the prayer life of the Church for many centuries, Oremus: A Treasury of Latin Prayers brings it all together in a small-format book that’s easy to carry to Mass or Adoration or keep on a side table.

All the prayers and litanies in this book are presented with the English translation side by side with the Latin, on facing pages. This will help you follow along with the prayers as you learn them. The index includes both English and Latin titles for the prayers so you can find exactly the ones you want. Sections of this book include:

  • Morning Prayers
  • Prayers at Meals
  • Evening Prayers
  • Prayers for Adoration and Holy Communion
  • The Rosary
  • Consecration to Mary
  • Stations of the Cross
  • Divine Mercy Chaplet
  • Marian Prayers
  • other prayers, Gospel sequences, and a selection of psalms

In the Introduction, the book’s editors explain that “when you pray in Latin, you are making the unity of the Church more visible” and “praying in Latin also gives us a way of separating our everyday speech from the words we use to speak to God.” A pronunciation guide at the beginning of the book provides clues about how to say (or sing) the words of the prayers in Latin. Oremus is a lovely book; the word “treasury” in its title is absolutely accurate: these prayers of the Church are indeed historical and spiritual treasures.


Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz
I received review copies of Oremus and Bless Us, O Lord from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. 

Think Like a Writer

When I was a college student, a series called The Paper Chase was in reruns on some cable channel or other, and my mom and I enjoyed watching it together. It chronicled the lives of several Harvard Law students (and was much less glamorous than Legally Blonde makes law school out to be). The famously strict, buttoned-up Professor Kingsfield was known to tell his students on the first day of class, “You come in here with a skull full of mush … you leave thinking like a lawyer.”

I don’t know if Katharine Grubb had that line of dialogue in mind when she titled her newest work, and she’s certainly not the strict-professor type, but she and Professor Kingsfield have one thing in common: they know how to give people the thinking skills they need to do the work they want to do.

Katharine knows how to teach, and she knows how to teach writers. Here’s her cred: she’s a homeschooling mom of 5 (1 college grad, 2 college students, 2 current high-schoolers), a novelist, and author of three books for writers:

I’ve read, and would recommend, all of these — and I’m not even a novelist! (There was plenty of helpful information in Write a Novel for any writer, regardless of genre).

Today Katherine’s newest book for writers releases, and it’s packed with that same wise, funny, (sometimes) strict, “I get it” kind of advice that characterizes her other books. It was a privilege to get to read an advance copy of Think Like a Writer

TWEET: Set yourself up for success as an author by learning how to think like one – in 10 minutes a day: new book from @10MinNovelist

From the introduction to Think Like a Writer:

All successful authors, back in the beginning of their careers, to a mental leap and first saw themselves as writers. They set up their lives, physically and emotionally to achieve their writing goals. They all, for lack of a better term, had a writer mode in their settings, either analytical or emotional (or a combination of both) and tuned into it as they worked on their projects. 

How do you get into this “writer mode” Katherine speaks about? There’s definitely a lot of self-discipline involved — even if you only get 10 minutes at a time to work. She notes,

We can be better equipped to manage our lives around our art. I believe that time, tools, and habits can be organized in such a way that interruptions are minimized. Note that I did not say eliminated. I said minimized.

Massive success does not require massive action. What will make a difference, in the long run, is little work on a regular basis.

If you want to learn the power of small, manageable habits in your success as a writer (or your professional success in any sphere), Think Like a Writer is for you.

 


Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Images courtesy of Katharine Grubb. All rights reserved.
I was provided a free advance review copy of this book, but no other compensation, for this review. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.
Purchase links in this article are Amazon affiliate links. Your purchase through these links benefits my work.

On Barb’s Bookshelf: Prompt Me to Pray

Chapter 18 of the Gospel of Luke opens with Jesus telling His disciples a parable about “the necessity of praying always without becoming weary.”

Constant prayer doesn’t come easy. Maybe we think we’re too busy to pray like that. Maybe we know we’re too distracted. Maybe we just don’t know where to start.

Monica McConkey has compiled practical tips for prayer in a new combination guidebook/journal/prayer resource, Prompt Me to PrayThis 115-page book encourages the reader to create “reminders and cues to acknowledge God’s Presence and to prompt us to pray more often, throughout daily life” (4). Inspired by the spiritual classic The Practice of the Presence of God, Monica has spent years seeking ways to reinforce her prayer life, and she shares what she’s learned in this new book.

Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

Here are some of the many prayer helps you’ll find inside Prompt Me to Pray:

  • Short, simple prayers for guidance in learning to pray
  • Tips on praying a daily Rosary
  • Encouragement to use visual cues as prayer reminders (I do this: it definitely works!)
  • Journal pages to help you set up a prayer plan that works with your schedule and life circumstances
  • Worksheets to guide you through praying in times of temptation, annoyance, suffering, and impatience
  • Advice on making personal prayer a sustainable habit
  • Reproducible Pocket Prayer cards to carry with you, keep in the car, hang on the fridge, or even use as bookmarks so you can pray anywhere and everywhere
  • Reproducible prayer intention page
  • Reproducible prayer starters

This book is sprinkled with Monica’s artistic touches, which add to its accessible, friendly feel. That same artistic touch adorned the envelope in which my copy of the book was mailed! Check out the stamp pictured here: “St Anthony, guide my mail.” Find this stamp and more at Monica’s Arma Dei Prayer Impressions Shop.

Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

“He Said the Name.”

One recent weekday, the Mass intention was for the repose of the soul of a parishioner who passed away earlier this summer.

The daily Mass crew is pretty consistent (and had been, even before the pandemic), so it wasn’t exactly a surprise that the group of ladies sitting together in a pew that’s normally unoccupied were family members or friends of the deceased. I found that out because, after Mass, I couldn’t get out the door while they were standing around in the vestibule – probably looking for Father.

“Nice Mass,” one of them commented.

Another agreed. “He said the name.”

Maybe it’s not standard procedure to announce the names of those for whom Masses are offered. At our parish, it is done during the general intercessions.

At first, I didn’t see what the big deal was. I remembered back about 10 years when, during Lent and Advent, the pastor at the time required the choirs to chant the general intercessions, and people complained that they couldn’t hear their loved one’s name mentioned. (We tried. Really, we did. But it was extraordinarily difficult to chant those intentions and include the names. Fortunately that practice died in the water pretty quickly.) At the time, I thought it was shallow that people were making a big deal about the mention of a name.

But it is a big deal, to be prayed for by name. It’s a comfort. We want to be seen, and we want our loved ones to be seen – and that mention of a name in prayer is the Church’s way to express that someone has not been forgotten, that we do remember them and pray for them.

It is never shallow to want to have a loved one remembered in prayer. And it’s not shallow to need to hear that it’s happening.

Next time you’re at Mass, listen for the name. Pray for the deceased for whom that Mass is offered – that’s not just the priest’s job. And pray for the family that person left behind.

Pexels (2017)

Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Image: Pexels (2017)

On Barb’s Bookshelf: The Lazy Genius Way

I love the term “Lazy Genius.” As author Kendra Adachi uses it here, “lazy” is not an uncomplimentary adjective meaning “doesn’t do any work” or “doesn’t get anything done.” Instead, “lazy” refers to someone who prefers to work smarter, not harder.

In that respect, I am all about being lazy. I’ve been known to say that laziness is the mother of invention, and I read Cheaper by the Dozen dozens of times, partly because I was fascinated that the parents worked in the efficiency field. If there’s a way to do something faster or with less effort, bring it on. I’m always looking for those.

But Kendra Adachi emphasizes in The Lazy Genius Way that being a Lazy Genius is not simply about getting your chores done so you can sit around and eat ice cream and read novels or binge-watch Netflix. It’s about getting stuff done so you can do the things that matter. And it’s about getting rid of what doesn’t matter. It’s not just simplifying — it’s making smart choices.
Lazy Genius Way cover

Be a genius about the things that matter and lazy about the things that don’t … to you.

Listen to the full introduction to The Lazy Genius Way on Kendra’s podcast.

There’s a lot in this book about being real, and that isn’t only the kind of “real” where someone on Instagram shows you what a disaster their life is because they forgot to put the carafe into the coffeepot before they hit the “brew” button, or their kids run around naked, strewing dirty, clean, and in-between laundry in their wake. It’s also the kind of “real” where you celebrate the good stuff and don’t feel ashamed of bragging (Small Success, anyone?).

In The Lazy Genius Way, you’ll be encouraged use the lazy tricks to help you save time so you can turn around and spend that time the way you want to spend that time: with family, with friends, deepening your spiritual life, taking better care of yourself.

The chapters in this book are packed with tips, strategies, and ideas – so bring your pencil and planner and prepare to think about how and why you do the things you do. The habits, how-tos, and routines that end each chapter will inspire you to make changes and celebrate what you’re already doing well.

What’s my own best Lazy Genius tip? Wear a lab coat when you cook. It covers even more than an apron, so if you make a mess cook with enthusiasm, you won’t regret it later when it’s time to do the laundry.

Kendra Adachi is a Christian author, podcaster, and Instagram personality, so the spiritual is a big part of this book. She talks about church, about biting off more than you can chew when you decide on a devotional practice, about living up to those Proverbs 31 expectations … and about changing the way we think about ourselves and others. Being a Lazy Genius, it turns out, is more than just saving time. It’s about using your mental, physical, and spiritual resources in ways that nourish you and those around you.

The Lazy Genius on Instagram

The Lazy Genius Podcast

The Lazy Genius website

This book is available for preorder now and releases August 11, 2020.

 


 

Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

New Graphic Novel Tells the Story of a Favorite Saint

Calling young readers who are fans of graphic novels: an exciting new saint biography tells the story of St. Maximilian Kolbe, who’s best known for volunteering to die at a concentration camp in the place of a total stranger, and whose feast we celebrate on August 14.

Maximilian Kolbe: The Saint of Auschwitz doesn’t just tell the story of Kolbe’s death, however: it celebrates the sacrifices he made throughout his life as he sought to serve God.

Kolbe-cover-c

World War II novels are popular summer-reading assignments for schools. While many of these center on fictional characters who make heroic sacrifices, Maximilian Kolbe tells how a Polish Franciscan priest faced persecution in Europe as he protected refugees of all faiths before his arrest in 1941.

Parents and teachers need not fear that the graphic-novel format dumbs down the story or reduces its impact. I found that this book was more challenging than many middle-grade novels and biographies, with sophisticated vocabulary and plenty of visual interest. Readers can’t skim a graphic novel and expect to understand its message: it’s a very concentrated format that demands a deep level of reader attention.

The graphic novel by Jean-François Vivier, illustrated by Denoël, depicts a man who from an early age was dedicated to the Blessed Mother and entered religious life before his 17th birthday, and spent the next 30 years establishing a religious group (The Militia Immaculata), a radio station, a wartime hospital, two monasteries (one in Japan), and a religious newspaper.

Celebrate the upcoming feast day of a devoted, tireless saint with the action-packed story of his life.


Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Links in this article are affiliate links; your purchase benefits the author.

‘Though War Be Waged Upon Me’: Praying to St. Michael the Archangel

After the second wave of Church scandals two summers ago, my pastor requested and received permission from our bishop to lead the assembly in praying the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel after each Mass.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl around the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.

It struck me, those first weeks as we all prayed together, that there is power in this prayer.

I did not know that there is so much more to the story of St. Michael and devotion to him until I read Carol Puschaver’s Though War Be Waged Upon Me: A Saint Michael Treasury of Prayer and Reflection.

though war be waged

This booklet, only 68 pages long, details interesting saintly connections with St. Michael the Archangel as well as encouraging the faithful to make frequent recourse to him in prayer.

Ask his help!
How wonderful it is when someone turns to you with complete confidence and asks your help! They know you are capable, they entrust their need to you, and they give you a chance to shine with your God-given talents!
Recite the Prayer to St. Michael often, and seek his intercession, especially in time of danger, trial and temptation.
Ask him for the gifts of spiritual, moral and civic courage.
Ask his help to know and discern right from wrong and act accordingly. (57)

I love how this brings home the truth that we don’t need to wait for the big stuff to happen to call upon the saints for their intercession. Indeed, we shouldn’t wait. We should keep them close. We wouldn’t want our loved ones to wait for situations to get completely out of hand before asking for our help, after all.

Learn to pray the Litany to St. Michael, the St. Michael Chaplet, and other prayers listed in Though War Be Waged Upon Me, and find the best way to keep this powerful intercessor close to you.


Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

On Barb’s Bookshelf: “Shadow in the Dark”

You’ll rarely hear me say that a book would make a terrific movie, but I’d say that about Shadow in the Dark, Antony Barone Kolenc’s novel for young readers. Tweens and teens who enjoy a medieval setting, plenty of action, and a good scare won’t be able to put this book down.

Synopsis: In twelfth century England, an attack by bandits in the middle of the night leaves a young boy with no memory of who he is or where he is from. Nursed back to health by the devoted monks in a Benedictine abbey, he takes the name Alexander, or Xan for short. Aided by the kindly Brother Andrew, and his best friend, Lucy, Xan commits himself to finding out who he really is. Is his family still alive? Why has God allowed so much suffering into his life? And who — or what — is the shadowy figure creeping around the abbey in the dead of night? 

The virtue of integrity is central to the story, as Xan and his friends discover which of the people around them are who they say they are and who can be trusted. This mystery story provides a fascinating glimpse inside the feudal world and the monastic life during the Middle Ages.

shadow in the dark

Shadow in the Dark is the first book in The Harwood Mysteries series by Antony Barone Kolenc and is published by Loyola Press. The author has completely revised and updated this novel from an earlier release.

Enjoy an excerpt from Shadow in the Dark:

Xan cracked open the door. Brother Oscar was nowhere in sight, but snores spilled out from his nearby cell. He slid past the monk’s door and down the steps.

Outside, the mist was getting thicker. His breath rose like wispy fog in the faint moonlight. Even with his shoes on, his feet in the wet grass felt as if they’d been frozen in a block of ice.
 
This couldn’t possibly turn out well. If the Shadow were one of the monks, he might get in trouble, perhaps even a paddling. If the Shadow were an intruder, he might get attacked. And if it were the angel of death — still a possibility — he might lose his life. After all, two times the Shadow had been seen, and both times someone had died.
 
All right, God, this may have been a bad idea. Can You help me out of this?
 
His heart was beating almost loud enough for him to hear it. Yet, in the library beneath that painting, Brother Andrew had told him not to fear death.
 
“Get your senses about you,” he said aloud, forcing himself to move through the mist.
 
He took cover at the corner of the hedge — the last place he’d seen the Shadow. Even though the wind was cutting like icicles, sweat clung to the inside of his tunic.
 
Just then, a branch cracked. A figure moved from the other end of the hedge, but it was not creeping near the trail to Lord Godfrey’s estate. It was heading up the hill toward the abbey!
 
This was the closest he’d ever been to the shadowy figure but, in all this mist, he could barely make out more detail than from the window.
 
It was dressed in a robe of dark, woolen material, the same as the monks wore. Its cowl hung so low over its head that it was impossible to tell from this distance if there was even a face beneath the hood.
 
The angel of death in his nightmare had reached with bony, skeletal hands. This figure didn’t seem to have any hands at all, unless they were tucked inside its robe.
 
Yet an object was at its side, so it must have had a hand of some sort to grasp with. Its body was blocking the object, but it appeared to be long and narrow, round and thin — a staff or reed of some kind, like the one he had seen on Brother Leo’s bed that day he’d first met the monk.
 
Xan’s paralyzed legs wouldn’t move to follow it. John was right: he must be a dotie fool to do this. What if this were that bandit, Rummy? The young boys might find his dead body crumpled in a heap on the meadow in the morning. Then they’d have nightmares for all their days.
 
Except if he went back without discovering the truth, they’d have nightmares anyway.
 
The hooded figure reached the top of the grassy hill—limping slightly, as though in pain — and headed into the granges.
 
There was no use debating anymore. Xan couldn’t go back to the dorm now without completing his mission. A crowd of young boys probably were pressed around the window slits, watching his every move. They were counting on him.
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About the author: Antony Barone Kolenc (“Tony”) retired as a Lieutenant Colonel from the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps after 21 years of military service. He is a law professor who teaches courses on constitutional and military law and has been published in numerous journals and magazines, and he speaks at legal, writing, and homeschooling events. Tony and his family live in Jacksonville, and are the proud parents of five children and three grandchildren. His book, Shadow in the Dark, Book One in The Harwood Mysteries, is available in paperback, as an ebook, and on audible from Loyola Press.

Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Beyond the Reach of Virtual Mass and Virtual Bulletins

In my part of the world, the churches have been open (at very limited capacity) for a little more than two weeks. And as in just about every other place, we’re wearing masks, the hymnals have been removed, there’s no holy water in the stoups, and “holy hand sanitizer” awaits you at the entrance where you check in with the ushers of a Sunday, for low-tech contact tracing.

And there are no bulletins.

Sure, you can read them online — and I do — but when a good number of parishioners are not comfortable with technology (if they even have access to a computer or smartphone at all), those parishioners are cut off from the life of the Church in yet another important way.

Yes. Bulletins are important. If the parish leaders think it’s important enough to create a bulletin (whether or not it’s offered in printed form, and during this pandemic, it’s digital only) then there needs to be a way to get them to the people who, I’d argue, miss them the most.

I wouldn’t even have thought of this, were it not for one of my friends, a fellow Secular Franciscan, who lives alone and does not have access to technology. While she is in good health, praise God, she is the ultimate people person and has definitely suffered during this time of isolation. I haven’t seen her at Mass yet because I have been singing at a different time than normal, but our first Sunday back she saw our music director after Mass and mentioned that she really missed reading the bulletin.

The music director immediately reached out to me after that conversation to see if I had a mailing address for this friend and ask if I’d take care of sending her a bulletin. Since I have a computer and a printer and envelopes and stamps, how could I say no? So I’ve been printing the bulletin and mailing it out on Monday morning, with a little note to say hello.

Yesterday my friend showed up at my front door with a little gift and a thank-you note. It has meant a lot to her to receive those bulletins in the mail. It’s no big deal for me to do this, but it’s a big deal for her to get them. She thanked me several times — for the love. And that’s what it really is, just a small gift of love.

(Boy, that was a tough visit. I could see her holding herself back. She just wanted to give me a hug. Her arms would start to move toward me, and then she’d catch herself. As I said, she’s the ultimate people person and an incurable hugger. It was heartbreaking.)

Here’s my challenge to you: Can you bless someone who’s not a digital native? Can you print a bulletin for someone in your parish who has no access to technology, but would love to read the parish news? If you don’t know someone, ask at the parish office if there is a homebound parishioner who would like to receive a bulletin with a note and a promise of prayer. Who knows: you may foster a friendship that lasts longer than the painter’s tape marking social distance in the church pews.

view from pew 06092020
Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

 


Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz