Ash Wednesday is Practically Here

Ash Wednesday is in ONE. WEEK. One week! Can you believe it? I know I was just posting about it being “so far” away (see Seeking the Extraordinary in the Ordinary for more on that), but time has flown and here we are, at the threshold of my favorite liturgical season: Lent. Usually, people are shocked when I tell them that this is my favorite season (and from the comments on Monday’s posts, it seems some of you know that feeling all too well!). I hear the same shock when I tell them that I love the sacrament of Reconciliation. But like I wrote in a previous post Reconciliation: God’s Mercy Made Tangible, these stand out to me as favorites exactly because God’s mercy is shown so thoroughly in them.

On Ash Wednesday we begin this penitential season in humility, getting marked with ashes reminding us that we came from dust and will return to dust (check Genesis 3:19). It’s a wonderful reminder of the fact that our time on this earth is limited and we’re tasked with making that time count. For the one who gave it all up for us, that we may have life and have it to the full. That verse is also about perspective. It sets the tone for Lent. It reminds us that Adam was made from the ground (read: dust) and Eve was made from clay. Rachel likes to remind me of this verse when she’s marveling at creation, saying “I was made from nothing, yet God made me to do something wonderful and to live his perfect will. I am loved by God and he sacrificed his only Son to die a horrible death for my sins.” Perspective.

One of the hallmarks of the Lenten Season—especially as compared to the other liturgical seasons—is its simplicity. We are called to live more simply through abstaining from meat, sacrificing through fasting and almsgiving, and adopting the monastic simplicity of increasing our prayers. In our last post, we told you how we prepare our homes for the Lenten season. As of Ash Wednesday, it’s here. The big kickoff to the season of mercy.

How Ash Wednesday Looks in the Hail Marry Homes

Morning Prayer—if you’ve been with us for awhile, you know that we both have a morning offering prayer routine (you can read this post about Kristi’s morning and evening routine and listen to our podcast on Morning Offerings here). That’s also true on Ash Wednesday, but it’s different. On this day, we’ll still do our mornings as usual, but we add reverence to it. In both homes, we pray as a family. For Rachel, that looks like a prayer of thanksgiving with the Scientist, followed by candlelit, silent prayer for ten minutes. That’s then followed by praises for the blessings God has bestowed upon them. For our house, we’ll also light a candle, but Superman will read the readings from the Mass to us at the breakfast table before our simplistic breakfast.

Breakfast—I have food allergies, so my choices here are limited. I can’t do oatmeal, toast, granola or cereal, so I have to be creative. My standard breakfast each day is typically three eggs which are scrambled with herbs, green peas, and safe spices. This is served alongside home-brewed coffee with coconut milk and coconut sugar or honey. It’s pretty tasty. For Ash Wednesday, since we’re called to fast and abstain, I will trade in that deliciousness for one boiled egg and black coffee. We don’t keep bread in the house, so Little Miss and Superman can eat a smaller serving of oatmeal for breakfast. Rachel and the Scientist will also consume a small breakfast—oatmeal as described above or toast made from Rachel’s homemade bread.

Lunch & Dinner—When speaking of dinner, Rachel says, “Today we eat simply; we fast today. For dinner, I’ll roast a variety of vegetables and serve some of the bread.” When I hear her say that, so plainly and so matter-of-factly, it strikes me as beautiful. It also strikes me as familiar. The meal she’s just described sounds so much like what I imagine most daily meals were like on a regular basis from the Medieval period through the Industrial Revolution. They didn’t gorge the way we modern Americans (and I suspect most Westerners) tend to. Ash Wednesday is a good reminder of that. Other simple food options for Ash Wednesday are soups, salads, and baked potatoes.

Mass—this is a given. Last year, before Superman and I were engaged, we went to Ash Wednesday Mass together. It’s actually where he met my mother for the first time. We knew then, not even as an engaged couple, the importance of such a day. We were there as a family. That’s something that will continue for us now that we’re married, and it’s something that Rachel and the Scientist do as well. The family that goes to Mass together honors God together. The family that goes to Mass together prays together. It helps model proper Christian behavior to our children. Going to Mass with my spouse helps grow the spiritual bond that we cemented before God, our friends, and our family when we administered the sacrament of matrimony to one another.

Prayer—this is Day 1 of 40. Forty days to truly look inward and seek out that which is holding us back from God. From intimacy with him. From communion with him. From accepting his mercy. I’ll be at work on Ash Wednesday, but I can make time for God—especially during Lent. I can read the Bible, read a devotional, or write in my prayer journal on my lunch break. I can pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet in the car rider line at Little Miss’s school. Rachel spends all of Ash Wednesday in prayer and reflection. “I usually spend the day reflecting in my prayer space, reading God’s Word or my daily devotional. I love to use the quiet to reflect, pray, and journal.” That quiet she mentioned? Another Rachel Ash Wednesday Wisdom Tip: no electronics of any kind, (cell phones are for calling), no internet. Not today. In the quiet, we can hear God speak.

That’s what Ash Wednesday looks like in our homes. We know that emphasizing simplicity is easy for us as young families of two and three, respectively, but we also know that some of our readers are from clans much larger. We’d love to know how you keep the reverence for this day with your family—regardless of family size and “years established.” Leave us a comment here and join the conversation with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using #HowWeLent and #HowILent. Check out our Meatless Meals for Lent post here Also, check out our Pinterest boards Lent and Meals Sans Meat for some awesome Lentspiration!

 

Kristi & Rachel

Can We Get Some Love for Lent?!

We absolutely love Lent and are so excited to share how we prepare for this somber and reflective season! Why do we love the season in which we deny ourselves caffeine and chocolate? Short answer? Because it’s so much more than that. What’s more is that today, this post is part of the CWBN Sienna Sisters Blog Hop and we’re all talking about Lent! You can check out the other posts in the series here. We’re all about sharing the love for Lent today!

Kristi: I have love for Lent because…

It’s a renewal of sorts. We’re knee-deep in the throes of the Winter Blues, wanting the spring that’s around the corner to be made manifest and things have become sloppy since we made our New Year’s Resolutions. Patience is running thinner, our domestic church tends to flounder a little bit here, and my prayer life is losing its luster. Lent is the ideal time to pause, assess, and fix those things. It’s the season of forgiveness and mercy. Plus, I’m a sucker for the chanting and reflection that accompanies the Stations of the Cross. Lent is a BIG deal in our house.

Rachel: I have love for Lent because…

Lent is my favorite season for reflecting and having quiet moments with God. Preparing for Lent is really life changing in our home. The Scientist and I want our home to reflect that we are a Catholic home and we are not afraid to spread the word of God. We read in article a couple of years ago, that our domestic church should reflect the teachings of the church. We looked around and realized that we had cute sayings, and knick knacks but they didn’t mean or remind us of our daily walk with God. That really hit us. During Lent, we intentionally design our home to reflect our longing and desire to be in good standing with the Lord. We decided to start decorating every liturgical season. How we prepare for our favorite the Lenten Season is simple and easy.

The Goal: Kristi

Every year, I want to make sure that I am modeling the pillars to Little Miss: prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and abstinence. I know that at age seven, she’s not bound by quite the same practices that I am; however, in our home…she is. She’s at the mercy of Superman and me as to our abstaining from meat, since we’re the cooks. She is allowed to plan out her own fasting, as we do, and her own almsgiving. While we encourage prayer as a family, we also encourage individual prayer. We have a beautiful tool that we’ve used for five years to help us keep things on track—and it’s lovely.

The Goal: Rachel

We feel that we should prepare our home, domestic church, hearts, and everyday thinking for the Death and Resurrection of Christ. We may not do it perfectly, but we put our hearts in it. We know that we can never come close to the Sacrifice of God. By preparing praying spaces, reminders of the sacrifice, and sacrificing ourselves we find that we have a deeper bond with God.

How Kristi & Superman Prepare Their Home

This is our first married Lent together, but we did spend a great deal of time with one another last year as we celebrated our only engaged Lent together. Outside of Advent and Christmas, we tend to be minimalistic in décor, but we do occasionally allow the dishes to pile up, or the laundry to defy gravity and attempt to reach the ceiling. Sometimes our mail overtakes the entryway and there’s the sporadic pile of shoes near our doorway, too.

For us, our first step is to remember that we like organization in our home (see this post on The War Zone). The next step is to actually get there. The shoes stop being dropped at the door and picked up. The mail is organized and dealt with as it is delivered. The laundry and dishes are done frequently, as is the dusting, sweeping, Sharking (like a mop, but it’s steam and so much cooler!), and vacuuming. The canvas that is the backdrop for our Lenten practices (i.e. our home) becomes clean and inviting.

From there, as we lead up to Lent, we have conversations about what we’re going to “give up” for Lent. We write these goals on the back of a poster board (as well as that which we’re going to take on, which usually ties in to prayer). On the front of this poster board, we make our Lenten Tree. This is our accountability tool. It’s a trunk with many branches, drawn by one of the adults and colored by Little Miss. On the top, it says Lenten Tree. On the sides are Bible verses dealing with sacrifice, fasting, abstinence, almsgiving, and/or prayer. Note: next week we’re going to share what exactly our Lenten journey for this year will be, and there will be more specifics on how this works there.

How Rachel & the Scientist Prepare Their Home for Lent

We like to do our Spring Cleaning before we put anything up. This always takes place the week before Ash Wednesday (so this week!). We love to deep clean our home, and get rid of the grime. We wash everything from the windows, to out back, to the shed. We put away all clothes that we deem in wonderful shape but no longer loved and get them ready to donate.

We organize the house so we can have space to have our at-home Stations of the Cross up. We also buy some white candles at a discount store. We like to put them on our home altar and around our house. We fill some of our candle holders with sand and we put little toothpicks in them to remind us of Jesus’ impending crucifixion. Like Kristi and Superman, we like to have our home minimally decorated—especially this season.

This season is about focusing and preparing for the death—and ultimately the resurrection—of Jesus. We do this by using additional candles in our prayer space (and home), praying the Stations of the Cross, fully utilizing our home altar, and also having a Lenten Tree. We have multiple copies of the Bible around to read and we have different books out for guests to look over  as well as a deck of cards and conversation cards for family game time on nights when there is no TV (similar to our set-up at Advent, which you can read here). This year, we’re also adding a Bean Jar. Note: as mentioned above, there will be more on this in our post detailing how we’re “Lenting” in 2017.

How do you prepare your home and domestic church for the penitential season of Lent? Let us know in the comments below. We love getting ideas from you on how to spruce up our routines and deepen our faith journey during this season. Need ideas for Fridays during Lent? Check out last week’s post on Meals Sans Meat here. Don’t forget to join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram using #HowWeLent and #HowILent and check out our Lent board on Pinterest!

 

Rachel & Kristi

Fiat: Faith in All Things Faithfully Frugal

Hello, friends! We’re so sorry for the delay in posting today’s podcast! It’s been quite the week. We’ve been dealing with sickness and a death in the family, so please pardon this! Today, we’re piggy-backing on last week’s Frugal February mini-series (posts available here and here) to bring you a Fiat based on being faithfully frugal.

We invite you to grab a cup of tea (or a glass!) and enjoy this week’s podcast!

Please click here if the media player doesn’t load to listen to today’s Fiat podcast. Enjoy today’s conversation!

 

Kristi & Rachel

Meals Sans Meat

Today we’re talking about our experiences growing up being sans meat on Fridays in Lent and how we’ve made it our own now that we’re married.

Rachel

The first thing that comes to mind when I hear Lent is Meatless Fridays. Growing up I had my share of tuna briquette, tuna casseroles, and if we were extremely good that week, fish fries!!! I adore my momma but something I didn’t want to eat as an adult was tuna. Tuna is great, cheap, and can feed a large family in a hurry.

I totally understand why she chose sometimes to feed her family with the chicken of the sea. She also fed us wonderful meals of catfish, salmon, and tons of veggie dinners. My mom was one to make things simple but a variety of meals so her little angels would eat. I still remember my favorite of all-time: grilled cheese and tomato soup.

I want to bring back those fond memories that I had growing up for my family, but of course, put a twist on them. I am a firm believer in Pinterest. There are thousands and thousands of recipes on that website, for all different food allergies and for a variety of meals. I have a ton of resources at my fingertips (more than my mother did) and I take advantage of that all the time. I still cook with her voice in the back of my mind though; I make it simple and make sure it looks at least a little appealing.

In my home during Lent, we always abstain from meat on Wednesdays and Fridays. We like to do both, even though the church doesn’t require Wednesdays. It tends to help with our budget and we put that money towards alms-giving during Lent.

We want to have firm traditions that are founded in our Faith. So while we are growing our family, I am trying some simple meatless meals that hardly include tuna. We like to go to at least one fish fry during lent to support our Knights of Columbus and also to have fellowship with our church community.

Kristi

For us growing up, it was canned salmon in the forms of salmon stew and salmon patties. I didn’t even realize that salmon was sold out of the can. I’d eaten smoked salmon as a fourth grader at Epcot in Norway, but I didn’t connect the dots. I don’t think I realized what salmon looked like out of the can until…well…college, I’m pretty sure. We also greatly loved Tuna Helper. This was actually my middle school and high school specialty.

Sometimes, we’d go out for our seafood. When we lived in Georgia, we’d get some popcorn shrimp and salad from the buffet at Shoney’s. Back in Texas, we frequented Cracker Barrel to take advantage of their Friday Fish Fry catfish special. If on the road, traveling, we’d grab a Fish Fillet from McDonald’s.

When I “grew up,” I began incorporating foods from other cultures into the Lenten rotation with cheese quesadillas and enchiladas, meatless spaghetti or eggplant parmesan, tabouli and falafel…except now, I can’t eat any of that due to my allergies, so I find myself back in the realm of my momma—seafood!

At our parish, as Rachel mentioned, we have a very active Knights of Columbus who do weekly Lenten fish fries. Last year, they got experimental and had fish tacos as well! They also sell huge cookies and do kids meals. There’s talk this year of changing it up to include a soup bar one Friday, a fish fry on another, a potato bar on another…I think that the variety offered will be nice, but (like Rachel), I really love the community aspect of this.

In both our households, we’ve got go-to meatless meals that we love. They’re simple (which is kind of a great thing to have during the solemn time of Lent) and while they may be less filling than a typical meal, we find that they help us keep our heads in the right place for the attitude of Lent. Here’s how we do our top meals:

1. Breakfast for Dinner

Kristi—this one is a nice choice for variety and my allergies alike! I love eggs, so I’m always excited for that. I like to put peas and savory seasonings in them to make them a little more nutrient dense, adding extra fiber and protein. We also enjoy grain-free (coconut flour, almond flour, or a combination of them) homemade pancakes. I put almond butter and syrup on mine and Little Miss prefers peanut butter. Superman likes to use apple butter.

Rachel—we love making pancakes, bread pudding, and cinnamon rolls. Who says it has to be a savory meal? We love making Eggs Benedict without the ham (we use spinach or asparagus instead, yummy!!). Use your imagination. The possibilities are endless. Anything that you usually have meat in like bacon can be replaced by veggies. We like to grill asparagus and drizzle them with balsamic vinegar.

2. Pretend You’re a Vegetarian

Rachel—we love to grill; our favorites are portabella mushrooms or eggplant burgers. We clean the mushrooms and cover them with olive oil, salt, and pepper. On the grill it only takes 5-10 minutes for each side. We usually place our buns (we like onion buns) and we brush them with olive oil or butter and place them on the grill. For the eggplant burgers, we usually use the onion buns also. I take the eggplant and I peel it, then slice it in thick slices. I poke holes in the slices with a fork and put them in olive oil with salt and pepper. Place them on the grill for 10-20 minutes on each side. We use all the regular burger toppings! We also make cheese and veggie pizza at home. We just use a basic recipe for the pizza crusts, add the sauce, cheese, veggies and bake!! This is really simple; I mean who doesn’t like pizza?! Yum!!

Kristi—I love pizza and burgers, but they’re on my no-food list, so I turn to soups. I’m working hard to find a recipe for AIP-friendly bread so we can have sandwiches or toast to accompany these soups, but until then, soups are standalone dishes in our home. I usually make all of my soups using my homemade broth as a base (no tomato or dairy for me) and adding a plethora of vegetables. I can’t eat beans, so if we’re eating chili, it tends to have a sweet potato/butternut squash/beet base for thickening. We eat a few bowls of soup on these days to fill us up, and we’re generally light on the protein with these meals.  Salads also help these meals stretch out.

3. Stick with What You Know

Kristi—we’re now back where we started with seafood. Sometimes we bake fish fillets (usually in aluminum foil packets and usually with lemon, garlic, and onion) and prepare some nice veggies with it. Sometimes we make salmon patties (Superman’s are far superior to my own). Sometimes, when I’m feeling super fancy, we make zucchini noodle pasta and shrimp with a garlic-butter wine sauce. That’s pretty delicious, too.

Rachel—our final tried and true dinner is either catfish or salmon with a salad and grilled veggies. We love to either grill or roast our veggies with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. The fish depending on how we want to eat it that night could be fried or grilled. Salmon we always grill or we put it in a foil pack with butter and lemon in the oven to bake.

We know that you’re probably like us—you have a favorite recipe but are always on the lookout for more meatless inspiration. Please share your recipe with us or leave us a comment about how you abstain from meat in Lent. Also, check out our Pinterest board Meals sans Meat for inspiration!

 

We’re going to use the hashtags #HowWeLent and #HowILent on social media the entire Lenten season to spread the word in a searchable way about everything that we’re doing to celebrate this season. We invite you to join us!

 

Happy cooking!

 

Kristi & Rachel

Valentine’s Day from the Heart

It’s so easy to get caught up in the commercialism of Valentine’s Day. As young marrieds, we try to conserve resources as we save up for things like buying our own home, buying a second car, expanding our family, etc. yet still fall prey to the temptation of the sales and marketing people that tell us we need to shower our husbands with things rather than affection. We’re here to tell you that you can have a Valentine’s Day from the heart that is easier on your budget and worth so much more.

Both Rachel and the Scientist and Kristi and Superman tend to value quality over quantity. The main thing that we both want in our marriages at all times is investment in the relationship. The more you invest in your relationship the stronger it is. Both of us agree that we’d rather spend our money on things that will be lasting memories. Who really wants that 10′ tall Teddy bear who “loves you beary much!” or $100.00 worth of beautiful-but-dying roses?

Rachel & the Scientist | Kristi & Superman

Those are our adorable valentines!

Here are our tips on how to do Valentine’s Day in a simple, memorable, and reasonable way.

  1. Get Creative. Rachel and the Scientist love to make cards for each other. It’s a big thing in their household, to outdo each other with homemade cards. They use things around their house to create these masterpieces: file folders, crayons, markers, newspaper clippings, quotes printed off the computer, etc. They schedule time in the evening to make our cards and turn it into a fun date night. This is a big thing to both of them, as they love to receive love letters from one another. Kristi and Superman have made cards as well (Superman is a fabulous sketch artist and Kristi likes to think she has a way with words). They save them to look back on as reminders for those days when marriage is hard and reminders are needed.
  2. The Stomach is the Way to the Heart. Both of us are foodie couples. We love to eat, love to cook, and love to do it with our spouses. We plan, shop, and cook our big Valentine’s dinner together. Honestly, that’s all that Kristi really wants for Valentine’s Day this year: a home-cooked meal that she and Superman prepared together. Rachel has a degree in culinary arts, so she and the Scientist love to make elaborate fancy meals for special occasions at home. We both feel that we can have a more meaningful and intimate time in our own home. Rachel and the Scientist usually start planning a couple weeks in advance what they would want for that night, then make a timeline for cooking and decorating our table. A couple of days or a week before, they buy the ingredients (usually things that are on sale and with coupons). Kristi and Superman like to have a basic outline (i.e., chicken and vegetables) and then be spontaneous in the kitchen that night. Sometimes they use a cookbook, but mostly, they wing it. Whichever way you choose to do it, cooking together brings us so close. We have great, quality time filled with laughter and conversation.
  3. Make it special. Rachel is also a master crafter, so they make their own decorations for our dinner table! She finds the more they invest in the nigh, the better it becomes. They usually do themes (“because they are dorky”) and save about $15.00 in our budget to buy things at the Dollar Tree to finish out our night because they truly love to make the night special. So it’s not like any other night, she tries to design the night so it will be a memory maker. Kristi is a decent crafter, too, but the way she interprets this is to add candles and Winking Owl, with music playing in the background.

But…what about presents?! Well…that depends on you and your husband.

Rachel—We have rings that reminds us of our covenant with God, so what we like to do is either save up money to go on a picnic or an experience later on. If we are in a no spend month, we like to make our own gifts. It could be a cute coupon books with things like massages, draw a nice relaxing bath, your turn to pick out the show on Netflix, etc. The Scientist’s hobby is actually making clay jewelry. I have gotten some amazing pieces over the years. I sometimes make him decorations for his work or for his office; something cute and fun.

Kristi—We actually decided against gifts for one another this year. I’ve gotten a lot of flack for it from those close to me, but I want to just enjoy the evening with my husband. We did, however, decide to give a small gift to Little Miss. We’ve arranged for a sitter and then we’ll eat our homemade meal, slow dance in our living room, and then enjoy some Netflix or Hulu magic.  Last year, I made a book filled with reasons why I love him. He sometimes draws me pictures. Those were sweet, too…just not what we’re picturing for us for this year.

We would love to hear from you, what are your ideas for a meaningful Valentines Day?