Meal Planning in the Real World

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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,


Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Full-On, Full-Time Adventures

Beginning today, it’s all adventure, all the time. Add up two part-time adventures and you get a full-time adventure!

cm_logo_final_vertical At, I’m staying busy as usual. We have about 125 authors writing here, and my job includes keeping track of the schedule and getting all the content published on time. (There’s other stuff to do too, but most of it revolves around that main task.)

HCFM logoLater this week I’ll be traveling to Massachusetts to “meet the family” at Holy Cross Family Ministries and work on the details of bringing under their umbrella. There have been lots of emails and phone calls, and everyone has been very welcoming. I’ve already received a rough agenda for my 3-day trip. Each day’s schedule includes Rosary and Mass. That’s the kind of work schedule I can get behind. That kind of work schedule helps give me the support I need to do the work I do!

TCT_FALL16And I officially start tomorrow, but I’ve been easing in to this a bit: I’m the new managing editor/digital content manager at Today’s Catholic Teacher magazine. I did this work on an interim basis for a month last summer, so I’ve had a taste of what I’ll be doing, but I’ve never worked through the whole process for an entire issue of the magazine. There’s plenty of support as I get to know the ins and outs of the job.

Old desk
My tiny desk in my tiny office. I need more space in my workspace!

All of this means that my tiny desk in my tiny office isn’t enough anymore. I need room to spread out with notebooks and clipboards and bullet journal and laptop. For my birthday, my family took me to Ikea for a new desk. Before I can break out the Allen wrench and assemble my new furniture, though, we have to get an old twin bed out of the room. It’s taking up most of the space, and I’ve only got 9×10 to start with.

when the timer dingsThis also means that I’m going to need to get serious about time management. I’ve begun working through the exercises in Katharine Grubb’s When the Timer Dings, because she has a realistic view of what it’s like to work from home and care for a family at the same time.

For me, working from home is the only way I’d be able to work right now. I need the flexibility to be able to take care of TheKid when diabetes gets . . . interesting, even if that just means I’m working in the next room while keeping an eye on blood-sugar levels and delivering juice or sugar-free Gatorade, depending. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s never predictable, so availability is key.

busy lives restless soulsOn Saturday I received a review copy of Busy Lives & Restless Souls, new from Ignatius Press. Today is the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola; what better time to begin reading a book whose back cover promises, “Elderidge interprets principles of Ignatian spirituality in a fresh way to equip us with prayer tools that are accessible and practical within the relentless realities of our daily routines.” Yes–this book is for me.

It’s time to get started on my new full-time adventure!

"My plate is full. My cup runneth over." by Barb Szyszkiewicz (

My plate is full. My cup runneth over.

It’s been a big week at work. First, the announcement that Holy Cross Family Ministries is welcoming as part of the family. I’m beyond grateful for the job I’ve had since March of 2015–I love the work that I get to do, and that it offers me the flexibility that my family circumstances require.

I’m equally grateful that Holy Cross Family Ministries will be keeping me on to do this work.

On the outside, things shouldn’t look too different. There may be some extra logos and links around as the various HCFM sites cross-promote each other. But nobody wants to change what makes special.

It’s so special, in fact, that founder Lisa Hendey and I won an award this weekend; for the second year in a row, placed second in the “Best group blog” category of the Catholic Press Association awards! Our names are on the award, but without the 125+ contributing writers, wouldn’t be what it is today.

closeup of blue ribbon

On the inside, things will be different. That’s the part you can’t see. It’s not a bad thing; it’s just a different thing. There’s a whole team at HCFM that I’ll be working with. I’ve had a few emails from them and everyone is friendly and helpful and I think it will be easy to work with them. Eventually there will be someone who will be trained to do what I do, so there’s a backup plan in case of emergency or vacation.

I’ll have to get used to people who like to conduct business via phone instead of email, Evernote or Slack. I’ve never talked so much on my cell phone since I’ve had it than I have in the past week or so!

There are lots of people I need to meet and lots of details on lots of lists that we need to get figured out. It’s going to be a busy summer. I want to make sure that the transition is as seamless as possible for the many writers whose work I edit and for the readers who see it once it goes live on the website.

Right now, I’m overwhelmed. I’m happy and apprehensive at the same time. Once I have those boxes checked off on all those lists, I know I’ll feel better. I’ll feel even better when I finally get to meet everyone in person–that’s tentatively scheduled for August. (Not that I’m not used to working for and with people I haven’t yet met; I worked for for more than four months without ever meeting Lisa or even talking with her on the phone!)

In the meantime, if you need me, I’m probably hiding holed up in my office. And there’s a good chance that I’ve put M&Ms on the grocery list. For medicinal purposes.

my plate is full my cup runneth over -sq
Image created at Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

A Big Announcement #WorthRevisit

Just over 5 years ago, my first article was published at Since that first “Tech Talk” June 12, 2012, I’ve written well over 500 articles for the website: mainly book reviews, Tech Talks, and recipes for the year-round Meatless Friday feature.

In March of 2015, that volunteer opportunity turned into my dream job.

It’s exciting to be able to work for one of my very favorite websites, and to be working WITH a veritable army of amazing contributing writers.

I’ll still be doing a little writing for CatholicMom, but most of my work is behind-the-scenes. I’m like Stage Crew, but for the Internet: checking props, hauling scenery and signaling the director to bring up the lights and start the music.

Best of all, I’m working from home, which means I can be available for Mom Duty at any time, I can get to daily Mass, and I don’t have to wear uncomfortable shoes. That’s a vocational WIN right there.

I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be a stagehand for a website that’s been a big influence on my life for quite a few years.

CM joins HCFM -f

Yesterday, there was a big announcement at it’s been welcomed into a big family at Holy Cross Family Ministries. Translation: more power for the website, a larger and possibly multilingual international audience, and the opportunity for me to continue doing what I do (within my own time zone, even–I’ve been living in Eastern Time and working in Pacific for over two years)!

I’m grateful for the opportunity to write and work at, and I look forward to what the future will bring.

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

On the (Nativity) Scene

The figures in my Nativity made a special appearance for today’s Nativity Scene Linkup at

It was always the custom in my husband’s family that one of the children would put the Baby Jesus into the manger, last thing on Christmas Eve. When our children were little, we took it one step further, gradually adding figures into the scene to build anticipation and correspond with liturgical celebrations. All the figures are kept behind the manger (backstage) to await their appearance.


Right around now, we’d put the animals into the manger (except the donkey, who was on a journey with Mary and Joseph.)

Early on Christmas Eve, Mary and Joseph and the donkey would make their appearance. Baby Jesus would be placed in the manger, last thing on Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Day, the shepherds would arrive; the kings wait until Epiphany. And the whole scene stays in place at least until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord–sometimes until Candlemas.

I always wanted a set of figures that had Baby Jesus separate from the manger, so he could be placed in it ceremoniously on Christmas Eve, but these are the figures that came with the stable we could afford 25 years ago when we bought our first Christmas decorations together. I’ve added in a table runner that my mom made for me (which doesn’t fit my table but is perfect here), and four different handmade Christmas trees, all made by special people in our lives.


I’m joining in at for the first-ever Nativity Scene linkup! Join the fun; share a photo of your Nativity scene on your blog or on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter (use hashtag #CMnativity on social media).

Small Success: Summer of Life Skills

Thursdays at begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

As of this morning, I’m happy to announce that my weight has finally dropped below a certain number that I hope never to see on the scale again. (Now to keep it that way!)

And in the Department of So Far, So Good, my Evil Plan™ seems to be working.

I’ve been holding TheKid’s internet access hostage until he has completed his chores, including Duties As Assigned, and read for 30 minutes.

He’s not getting just any old chores, either. In addition to the things he does every week, like dragging the trash cans to the curb and vacuuming his room and the family room, I’m giving him the kind of chores that I could complete in no time at all, but which he needs to learn to do on his road to becoming a self-sufficient young man. He’s also being assigned cleanup chores when he’s the one responsible for the mess.

So yesterday he had to Drano the bathroom sink to unclog the drain (I suspect the hair putty he uses, and he’s the only one who does his hair in that bathroom). This included remembering to come back in 30 minutes and run water for a minute to finish clearing the drain. It’s a life skill–and a consequence.

He also learned, yesterday, what happens when you vacuum before making sure the floor is clear of wires for electronics. Fortunately I was nearby to remind him to unplug both the electronic item and the vacuum before trying to disentangle the partially-vacuumed wire.

“This is hard work,” he commented. Well, yes. Yes, it is. And maybe he’s learned, without my needing to tell him, that it’s a good idea to patrol the area a bit before running the vacuum.

Today my resident microwave-popcorn-eater will learn how to clean that appliance inside and out. He’ll discover just how much gunk spews out of those popcorn bags as they spin around for two minutes.

One of my summer goals is to begin teaching him to cook simple meals, but I’ve put that on hold until my extra editorial job is complete.

Slowly but surely, he’ll get a handle on how to do some small but necessary household chores.

If only he’d start noticing that the trash can is full and empty it without being asked. A mom can dream…

Small Success dark blue outline 800x800
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Small Success: A Better than Average Day

Thursdays at begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

Yesterday, one of the writers from CatholicMom concluded an email, “I hope you’re having a better than average Wednesday.”

And thinking about it, I was! It was a pretty good day and I’d gotten quite a bit done.

–I found our copy of Veritatis Splendor that a friend mentioned she was hoping to read and remembered to bring it to Mass to pass along to her.

–My trip to the thrift shop to search for costume pieces for TheKid for his upcoming show (he’s Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast) was a success! He needed brown dress pants and I also picked up a belt, because he can’t take his regular belt and leave it at the theatre for 3 weeks in his costume box. If he does, he’ll be out of uniform at school. I found both those items, and the pants had the Half-Price Tag Color of the Day, so for $5.50 I got two like-new items. And after the show, I’ll donate those pants back to Goodwill, since it’s not too likely that he’ll want to wear brown dress pants anywhere.

–I remembered to pick up the book TheKid had on reserve at the library before that hold expired.

–I fixed my guitar tuner (I think) after I didn’t put it away in the right place and a piece of the mount broke off. Hot-glue gun for the win–and plenty of motivation to put it back where it belongs next time.

–And on Monday, when I was booted offline thanks to a Comcast nationwide internet outage, I cleaned out a closet where we keep games no one plays. Some are trash, some will be donated to school and some (new in their shrink wrap) will be saved for Toys for Tots next Christmas. What did I do with the closet space? I put all the diabetes stuff in one place. We get 3 months of supplies at a time, and that takes up a lot of space. It’s good to have it all together and sorted out so that we use things in the correct order and don’t wind up with expired test strips.

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Small Success: Still Winter

Has anybody else had enough of winter by now? Show of hands? Because, yeah, me? I’m done with it…as I sit here typing with fingerless gloves on. The heat’s on in the house but it’s 64 degrees here in my “corner office.” And my nose is cold.

The good news? Winter has less than 6 weeks to go in the round. We can do it!

Thursdays at begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

I amazed my kid.

He tries to take over the radio, and sometimes I let him. But the other day it was playing something awful that was supposedly masquerading as music, and I told him to change the station.

“But Mom! This guy was born in Paterson, NJ! You have to like him!”

“I don’t like Fetty Wap. Turn it off.”

“How did you know that was Fetty Wap????????”

I know lots of stuff, including that I don’t like Fetty Wap, thankyouverymuch.

I was released from sneaker prison.

Yes, that’s right: I am allowed to wear Real Shoes now. I survived 6 weeks in a boot and 4 weeks wearing sneakers only (except for that one time when I sang at a funeral. I didn’t think sneakers, even black ones, were appropriate at funerals. But I wore the sneakers to church and changed there.)

My foot is mostly pain-free and I have invested in stepstools for the kitchen and my bedroom closet, because I’m not allowed, among other things, to reach. That’s a hard row to hoe when you’re vertically challenged. I am also not allowed to jump, climb ladders, walk on a treadmill, sprint or run.


I made the mandatory appointments (well, half of them.)

This morning I have my mammogram scheduled. Next week, it’s the gynecologist (though why, as a hysterectomy patient, I have to be checked is beyond me.)

Still on the list of Dreaded Things to Schedule: that colonoscopy I’ve been putting off since my birthday (in July) and the dentist. There’s only so long I can milk the “I have to be continuously available for my diabetic teenager in case something goes wrong at school so I can’t sit in a dentist’s chair or do colonoscopy prep” excuse…

Share your Small Successes at by joining the linkup in the bottom of today’s post. No blog? List yours in the comments box!

Small Success: Pray First

Thursdays at begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

ONE: I figured out part of what went wrong on Tuesday, when things were falling apart and I was falling apart along with them.

I hadn’t prayed first.

I’ve gotten into a bad habit of peeking at email before settling down to morning prayers.

Don’t try this at home.

On Tuesday, I let that email time get away from me, and then I had to shepherd TheKid through 2 insulin-pump-site changes and make his lunch and cook the bacon and and and…

“No worries,” I thought. “I’ll just bring my iPad to church, and leave a little early, and I can pray the Liturgy of the Hours there.”

Well, I did that, but the day had already gotten off to a bad start, and my response to everything that happened tells me, looking back at it, that I hadn’t started my day in the right place.

TWO: Tuesday’s fun continued that evening when I went to take TheKid to rehearsal–and found I had a flat tire. Hubs wasn’t home yet, but my friend who lives right behind us was, and she graciously drove to the theatre. Yes, I had to ask for help, which I hate to do.

Yesterday morning Hubs went to change my flat tire and spent half an hour getting the spare tire from its mount underneath the back end of the car. We’ve had that van 10 years and never knew the spare was on the outside. Then he was all set to change the tire and the jack that came with the van just collapsed. We are grateful for the free Roadside Assistance that our auto insurance provides. That guy brought a jack and had the tire changed in 3 minutes or less.

(It would have been nice if Roadside Assistance Guy had put the damaged tire into the back of the van. I didn’t notice that he’d just left it sitting in the driveway until he had gone. For the record, van tires are HEAVY.)

I steeled myself for a runaround at the tire shop, because they are notorious for that sort of thing, and then settled in with my laptop to do some editing work with “The Price is Right” blaring on the big TV in front of me.

The view from my office at the tire center, while I waited for my flat tire to be repaired.
The view from my office at the tire center, while I waited for my flat tire to be repaired.

Fortunately they were able to repair the tire; we’re planning on replacing that van soon and we didn’t want to have to invest a lot of money in fixing anything. $22 and I was on my way.

THREE: I stuck to my guns and got a refund from an Amazon third-party seller who sent me a knockoff product that was unbelievably bad. If I’d read the reviews, I’d have known not to buy this item. The seller wanted to refund only $1, but Amazon has an A-to-Z guarantee and as the item description clearly mentioned the name brand (and even said “check that the product is not fake”) I figured I had two legs to stand on, and it’s easier for me to be assertive via email and online forms than in person. Within an hour I was credited with the full purchase price.

FOUR: I gave this site a new look!

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Small Success: Spiffy

Small Success dark blue outline 800x800Thursdays at begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

This morning’s mad scramble went down without inordinate yelling on my part. There was a little, but it was deserved. TheKid told me Monday while we were in the car that he needed 2 baby pictures to bring to school for a bulletin-board display. He did not specify the due date, just saying it was “soon.” And then he didn’t mention it again, so we both forgot about it until he woke up THIS morning.

May I just say that it’s hard to scrape up baby pictures for a child born squarely in the digital-camera age? After tearing a closet apart, I finally found 10 for him to choose from.


I still stand by the part where I yelled at him for not telling me about this when we were at home, before the assignment was due; if I’d even known yesterday afternoon I could have sent the exact photo he wanted (shown above) to CVS to be printed.

Also, looking at photos of a certain cute but mischievous toddler does tend to reduce the irritation at his teenage self…just a bit. But WHY do they think that telling you that they need stuff when you’re nowhere near the point of delivery will go anywhere toward making sure they get said stuff?

I finally got the Christmas decorations down. All but one last thing that I just noticed as I looked toward the dining room. Now I have to figure out where my daughter put the box for that; she’s the one who put the decorations up this year.

I also have to put all the stuff back in the closet that I took out when I was looking for baby pictures. Lucky me.

Cook and Count logoAnd I spiffed up the look of my cooking blog. I definitely like it better this way, and it’s much easier to find the recipes you want.

Finally, a note from my morning. I’ve been baking a few slices of bacon each day for TheKid’s breakfast, with an extra slice or two for me and TheDad. But TheKid is always trying to poach TheDad’s bacon.

TheKid: “Dad, did you eat the bacon?”
TheDad: “Yes! Thanks!”
Me: “Don’t thank him for not eating bacon that wasn’t his to eat…”

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© 2016 Barb Szyszkiewicz