Advent at our House

Advent WOLF

Hi!  I’m Melina, homeschooling mother of 11 and Grandmelina to 2 1/2!

Advent – the anticipation of the “coming” of Jesus, Our Lord and Saviour, born as a baby is a stable in Bethlehem.  We celebrate this birth on Christmas.

Of course, lots of us have traditions in our families for Christmas, but we can make the season of Advent just as special.  Take a look at some of the traditions at our house:

  • Advent Wreath – our Advent wreath is a simple affair with some tinsel garland wrapped around a wire form to hold our 4 candles – 3 purple and one pink.  Each evening at supper we light a candle (the pink is for week 3) and sing our Advent song.  A statue of an expecting mother is place in the center of our wreath to signify Mary’s and our expectation of Jesus’ birth.
  • Jesse Tree – our Jesse Tree was designed by my oldest daughter and myself over a dozen years ago.  Ours is an 8 1/2 by 11 inch wall hanging with doors that open revealing a picture and a scripture for each day.  It starts with Jesse (the father of King David and ancestor of Jesus) and brings us through the stories of Jesus’ ancestors who were all awaiting His birth and brought honour to His family through the years until the birth of Jesus on December 25th.
  • Kris Kindle – or KK’s as we loving refer to it, is a tradition of choosing a family member’s name out of a hat and secretly doing small acts of love for them – such as making their bed, doing their chores, leaving a treat under their pillow, praying for them – during the holiday season.  Then on Christmas Eve we reveal who our KK was and give a small ($5 or less) gift to them.  Usually everyone has guessed who had their name by this time!  Kris Kindle means Christ Child and helps us to give Him a gift at Christmas too.
  • The Feast of St. Nicholas – this feast is celebrated on December 6th.  The evening before we lay out a shoe to be filled by St. Nick (my husband and I, no secrets there) with a small gift and a small treat.  We watch a movie – Nicholas the Boy who Became Santa – in honour of the day.  Besides being fun, it helps us to remember the tradition behind Santa Claus.
  • Operation Christmas Child – or “shoebox gifts” are small gifts purchased and put in a shoebox to be sent to a child in a third world country by Samaritan’s Purse.  Our kids get to choose the age and sex of the child they would like to fill a shoebox for and they get to choose the gifts from the dollar store.  This is done a little before Advent but still in the same spirit with a good lesson in giving also.
  • Helping a Family – often we will choose a family to help by buying them food and gifts for Christmas.  This lets us make a difference in someone’s Christmas as well as remembering those who have helped us on past Christmases.
  • Service – finding ways to serve during the Christmas season helps us to count our blessings and share them with others.  This year our goal is to help with filling Christmas hampers, to help a local group set up for a free community Christmas Day meal for the lonely, and to join that Christmas Day meal ourselves and visit and help out on that day. 

What are your favourite Advent traditions?

 

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11 Tips for Creative Budgeting – from a Mom of 11

11 Tips for Creative Budgeting (yellow)

Hi!  I’m Melina, homeschooling mother of 11 and Grandmelina to 2!

My husband and I have been married for 26 years and are now living debt free.  We haven’t always.  We were like most young families, buying a house and paying off a mortgage, paying off a car loan, carrying a balance on our line of credit to pay for house renovations and repairs, car repairs, and other unexpected and unbudgeted expenses.

We knew right from the beginning that we wanted me to be able to stay home to raise our kids and to homeschool them.  This meant we would be living on one income.  After the really big decision to live on one income, there were many other big decisions that had to be made along the way.

Faith is at the center of our lives and the center of our decisions.  We trust that God will provide.  We have seen often enough our needs being met in unexpected ways.  That is God at work in our family and in our finances.  Everything works so much better when our decisions are made after much prayer.

God doesn’t want us to worry about money.  Sometimes debt can’t be avoided, but steps can be taken so that the debts don’t grow unnecessarily.  It might take time, but debts will shrink and disappear with proper money management.

A couple of years ago we had to redo our roof, and we knew it was a debt that we wanted to eliminate as quickly as possible.  We enjoyed living debt free!  I wasn’t sure where the extra money was going to come from, but I trusted God would provide.  I thought we were just going to have to tighten our belts.  But God had a different plan.   He provided an unexpected monthly increase in our income EXACTLY when our first payment was due.  A year later the roof was paid off!

It was only in later years that I heard some advice that helped us to finally eliminate our last lingering debt:  our line of credit.  I will tell you all about that advice in a future blog.

If we can do it, so can you!

#1 BUDGET, BUDGET, BUDGET – You need to keep track of your income and expenses.  Without a budget you are never sure where your money is going.  Make a list of all your expenses, and if it exceeds your income, decide what you can eliminate and where you can cut back.  We have 2 pays a month, and I allocate certain expenses to each one as well as gas, groceries and tithing which of course are budgeted on each.  I know our limits and try very hard to stay within them.  We work hard to keep an amount in our savings account for unexpected expenses.  We have a set amount automatically go into a savings account for us.  Those expenses that are not monthly, like water, property tax and sports, are broken down into monthly amounts that get transferred into a separate account until needed.  We have also seen the benefit time after time of tithing.  Tithing means we give 10% of our net income to our church.  When we do this, we always seem to have enough money to pay our bills.  When we don’t, there never seems to be enough money.  Seems backwards, but it has always been the way for us.  God is good!

#2  AFFORDABLE HOUSING – Our first decision was to move to where housing was affordable.  This meant moving to a small town, which is where we preferred to raise our family anyways.  Our down payment came from a back pay after a job evaluation.  Our mortgage payments were smaller than rent would have been in the city.  Back when our property taxes were paid with our mortgage, our tax account would accumulate extra money that we would ask to be paid out to us every couple of years.  A review of our house insurance with our adjuster helped us to find a way to lower our monthly payments.

 #3 AFFORDABLE DRIVING –  My husband owned a car before we got married that was financed.  The monthly payments were hard to budget and that helped us to decide to buy used vehicles after that and eliminate a monthly bill.  Our yearly tax return would help us to pay for our vehicles when they needed to be replaced.  Shopping around for the cheapest car insurance helped to lower another monthly payment.  My husband works in the city, and we live about 70 km away from his work.  Gas is our biggest expense after food, but when we weighed the pros and cons of moving to our small town, small town living still won.

#4 SAVING ON GROCERIES – Cooking homemade meals and eating at home is an easy way to save money.  Baking your own desserts is much cheaper than buying ready made.  Eating out is expensive and should be reserved for special occasions and date nights.  When home life is especially busy, I revert to cooking simple meals like chicken legs and rice, or I make a big pot of spaghetti sauce and we have pasta. With a only a few additions, the next night it changes to chili, with chili dogs being served the third night.  There are ways to cut down on money and also cut down on time.  Take time to study flyers and use coupons.  Build your menu according to the sales for the week.  Stock up on regularly used items when they come on sale.  I don’t use coupons often enough, but I have friends who save a lot of money this way.  I have a couple of stores where I like to buy my groceries because they have the lowest prices for what we buy.  Even though we don’t have a large garden, we do grow our favourites,  including tomatoes and cucumbers.

#5 BIRTHDAYS AND CHRISTMAS AND EASTER – These are very special events that also need to be budgeted for.  Birthday presents have a limit of $50, and Christmas presents max out at $100 for the “big” gift.  The kids also receive a new outfit on birthdays, Christmas and Easter.  Christmas outfits are bought at the end of the previous winter from discounted racks, and Easter outfits are bought at the end of the previous summer.  Christmas also has stockings, and Easter has baskets full of goodies.  Money is saved, but there is still lots to enjoy.  And of course the best part is just getting everyone together to celebrate anyways.

#6 THRIFT STORES AND HAND ME DOWNS – A bonus with having a house full of children is that people are very generous.  We would often find a bag of clothes anonymously dropped off in our vestibule.  Even if we kept only a few items from the bag, they were much appreciated.  People also gave us larger things, like bicycles and furniture, and even vehicles.  Those things that weren’t donated to us that we needed we bought in thrift stores and at garage sales if possible, or bought on sale.  It’s important to decide if what you want is really something you need.  Sometimes you just need to put off a purchase for a little while to save up for it.  And try to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

#7 RENOVATIONS AND REPAIRS – Doing the work yourself on your home or your vehicle is so much cheaper, and you have the added benefit of learning a new skill.  You can build and assemble furniture. There is pride in knowing that you can repair and build.  But don’t stop there!  You can also mend and sew your own clothes, knit, crochet, craft and create.  The possibilities are endless.  It’s true.  Sometimes one person’s junk is another person’s treasure.  Just fix them up and use them.  So many items in our home have been given to us.  Resist the urge to buy unnecessary items.  Not only do they add an extra expense, but they will also clutter your home.

#8 INEXPENSIVE AND FREE – Get creative and have fun as a family without it costing a fortune.  We like to drive down to the water, feed the ducks and watch the ships sail by.  You can borrow passes from the library to tour museums.  Make popcorn and watch a movie at home.  Take time to play a board game as a family or go to the park.  We even host a week in the summer at a camp that provides affordable vacations for needy families.  In exchange for organizing and running activities, we get a free vacation.  We go camping.  We tend to play sports that are same night, same time that have family rates.  It might be because we live in a small town, but our kids play soccer, broomball and take karate this way.  Make it a challenge to spend as little as possible and you will come up with some great ideas.

#9 HOME BASED BUSINESS – At different times I have contributed to our finances too.  I began a home based chocolate business back when I had only 5 kids.  It seems like a lifetime ago!  Part of my vision was to work with my kids, another part was to give them a business education.  Education is about so much more than books!  However, as our family continued to grow, we decided it was no longer feasible to grow our business.  Later, I babysat my niece.  This was a mutually beneficial arrangement that lasted over a year.  Next, we re-opened our chocolate business, but with a new twist.  Now we sold mostly fudge.  It was a great adventure for a few years!  All of my kids worked in the business to varying degrees, and it grew.  The kids made money and I managed the business.  We sold at fairs, farmers’ markets, craft sales and even at a local store.  The kids learned a lot, but eventually it was time to close this business too.  These businesses gave us extra income.  Even though the businesses remained small, they could have become a main source of income.

#10 RAISES MEAN EXTRA MORTGAGE PAYMENTS – Every time we got a raise, we would use that money to increase our monthly mortgage payments.  Extra payments meant that the length of our mortgage decreased from 25 years to under 16 years.  Resist the urge to refinance your mortgage to pay off your bills.  Instead, find a way to live within your means and eliminate that need.  The freedom found in having no mortgage is priceless.  I thought that when we no longer had to pay a mortgage, that all of our other debt would magically disappear.  But it didn’t.  Instead, we just spent more money.  It took decisions and determination to finally eliminate our debts.

#11 BEING COMMITTED TO PAYING OFF DEBT – The unpaid balances on our credit cards were always moved to our line of credit which kept all our credit in one place and had a lower interest rate.  While this seemed like a good idea, the reality was that the amount on our line of credit seemed to remain constant no matter how much money we paid down on it. When we decided to get rid of the balance on our line of credit, we had to be very, very strict.  We were committed to paying down a certain amount every month, and also committed to NOT adding to our credit each month.  This worked most months.  We had to be very cautious and very serious.  It also meant that sometimes there was hardly any money left for groceries.  But don’t worry, because we never went hungry.  No groceries didn’t mean we had no food, only that we got creative with the food that was still in our cupboards.  We weren’t so committed to eliminating our line of credit that we would have allowed our family to go hungry.  However, we were able to stick to this plan until our line of credit was paid off, without once going hungry.  I’ll tell you more about it in a future blog!

Final result?  We now have the freedom of living debt free!

God is good!

 

 

 

NO BAKE CHEESECAKE

cheesecake WOLF

Hi!  My name is Melina, homeschooling mother of 11 and Grandmelina to 2!

Such a quick dessert – and never any complaints.  Yesterday was my daughter’s birthday and this is the dessert she requested.  During the Christmas season, we serve this dessert as a special treat, but really, you could make this dessert anytime.  Like today!

An easy light dessert.  Top it with your favourite topping…mine is cherry pie filling.

Enjoy!

NO BAKE CHEESECAKE

  • One 9 inch graham crumb crust
  • One envelope of DREAM WHIP dessert topping mix
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1 package of (250 g) PHILADELPHIA BRAND cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup of sugar

Make sure the cream cheese is soft before starting.  In a medium sized bowl, prepare dessert topping mix according to the package directions with the milk.  In a separate bowl, beat the cream cheese with the sugar until creamy.  Blend the topping into the cream cheese mixture at low speed.  Pour the cream cheese mixture into the crumb crust.  Chill at least one hour.  Serve with your favourite pie filling.

If you want to make it in a 9×13 pan, double or triple the recipe and find a recipe for a graham crust. It is usually on the box of graham crumbs or crackers.

RAW CAULIFLOWER TABOULEH RECIPE

tabouleh

photo source

Hi!  I’m Melina, homeschooling mother of 11 and Grandmelina to 2!

I made this salad today with fresh parsley from my garden.  The last produce from my garden…and it was delicious!

This is my husband’s favourite.  When I make a huge bowl (double recipe) of tabouleh, it’s gone in  a couple of days – and that’s mostly because of my husband and I.  Even though I adapted a recipe I had, I found one at Healthy Blender Recipes that matches mine, except I leave the mint leaves out of mine and add crushed garlic.   Make sure to wash your veggies well.

GRAIN FREE CAULIFLOWER TABOULEH

  • 1/2 head of cauliflower, riced (I hold the head over the bowl and thinly slice the outer layers until I reach the middle core.  Discard core.)
  • 1-2 medium tomatoes, finely diced (I include the whole tomato – minus stem)
  • 1 bunch of green onions, thinly sliced (both green and white parts, both ends discarded)
  • 1 bunch of parsley, thinly sliced (discard tough stem ends)
  • 1 English cucumber, diced
  • 1/3 cup of lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed (add to the dressing)
  • 1 tsp. salt

Follow the directions at Healthy Blender Recipes.

You can also find it at Musings by Melina.

 

 

 

 

SPICED DOUGHNUT RECIPE

doughnutHi!  My name is Melina, homeschooling mother of 11 and Grandmelina to 2!

Deep fried food – the ultimate comfort food as the cold weather creeps in.  Fall has definitely arrived!

It was quite chilly today as I took my rosary walk, but the trees with their colourful leaves were beautiful, and the dried leaves on the ground were crunching underfoot.  I have to admit, I take WAY too much pleasure in crunching leaves!

This recipe was passed on to me by my mother-in-law, a favourite of my husband’s while he was growing up.  The nutmeg adds just the right amount of flavour, and a coating of cinnamon and sugar top them off nicely.

We usually make these in the traditional doughnut shape, but one Easter I used a bunny cookie cutter and made rabbit doughnuts that were very popular…so use your imagination and create something unique!

DOUGHNUT RECIPE  (375°F oil)

  • 3 cups flour
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cups milk

Measure flour and add baking powder, salt and nutmeg; stir well to blend.  Cream sugar, butter and vanilla thoroughly.  Beat in an egg one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Add dry ingredients and milk alternately.  Chill dough 2 hours.

Roll out 1/2 inch thick.  Dough is very sticky, flour generously.  Cut into doughnut shapes using a doughnut cutter (you can alternately use 2 different sizes of cups).  Fry in 375°F oil (I usually use Canola oil, but any vegetable oil will work).  I use a wok, but my mother-in-law used a cast iron pan.  Just make sure the oil is deep enough for the doughnuts to float.  The dough should rise to the top right away.  Make sure to flip the doughnuts in the oil to cook both sides.  It doesn’t take too long.  Cook in batches, removing the doughnuts and placing on paper towels or paper bags for oil absorption.

OPTIONAL COATING

Mix granulated sugar and cinnamon to taste in a bag.  Add hot doughnuts and shake to coat.  Remove and cool before eating.

 

10 Back to School Lunch Websites

Hi!  I’m Melina, homeschooling mother of 11, and Grandmelina to 2!

Back to school with delicious lunches!  It won’t be long before lunch becomes routine, but we can start the year off in style.

I had the privilege of helping out at Summer Camp with the Salesian Sisters this year. One thing I noticed was the great variety of lunches kids bring with them.  Moms are so clever!  I homeschool my kids, and they grab their own lunch, but I love these ideas and hope to use some of them when we go to camp again next year and head out on our field trips.

school lunch 1

Vicky Barone has some great kid and mom friendly lunches.  Check them out.

Also check out more great lunch ideas here, and be inspired!  Your kids will thank you:

Kids Activities Blog

Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom

Belly Full

Happy Money Saver

Spend with Pennies

Ditch the Carbs

Keeley McGuire – Allergy Friendly Fun Lunch Boxes

The Krazy Coupon Lady

Landeelu

And why not top it off with some fun lunchbox jokes?  Free printable here from the Crafted Sparrow.

Or some inspirational lunch box notes.  Free printable here from Happy Home Fairy.

 

Matthew 16 – A Time to Celebrate!

Mercy and love will heal our country

JOIN THE PRAYER REVOLUTION TODAY!  SIGN UP TO PRAY A DAILY ROSARY FOR CANADA: YOUTH AND FAMILIES ON FACEBOOK:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/116884362210034/

Time to celebrate!  Parades, games, water fun and fireworks.  Family, neighbours and strangers together to celebrate.  Red and white everywhere.

And food!  Everything of the red and white variety, everything of the barbecued variety, everything of the Canadian variety – maple, Nanaimo, butter tart and poutine…

This celebration came just in time for me to be reminded of everything good in my country.  Facebook was filled with 150 reasons to celebrate our great country.  So much to be thankful for!

Happy 150th birthday, Canada!

It came just in time, because lately I’ve been looking at my country and getting discouraged by what I see.  I turn on the news and learn something new about my country that makes my heart sad.

Matthew 16 is both a rebuke and a reminder.

‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.  Mt 16:3

I see the signs and I’m filled with sadness, but Jesus rebukes me and reminds me that I’m forgetting something.

Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Mt 16:9

Looking at history and all the miraculous things that have happened in our beauty filled country remind me that God has been present along the way, and is still at work today. From the first missionary who set foot in our land and erected that first cross, to the present day Bishops, so many care about the people of this land.

On this day, the 150th birthday of Canada, from sea to shining sea, our Bishops stepped up to altars in every diocese in our country and consecrated our land and our people to the loving heart of Mary.  They also see the pain and suffering of our people, and they are seeking a solution from Heaven.  A miracle just like the five loaves for the five thousand.  It happened then and it will happen now, with Mary bringing people to the loving heart of her Son Jesus.

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”  Mt 16:15

The solution comes down to individuals like you and me.  Each heart that is turned to Jesus, the Son of God, will be filled with mercy and love.  And mercy and love will heal our country.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  Mt 16:24

Action.  Jesus is asking us to reach out to our neighbours.  Share His mercy and love, and speak of Him, so that He can bring them also to His loving Heart.

Jesus’ love for us is so great that it is limitless.  His Heart is so big that it has room for every person.  We can turn to Jesus and find the love and the healing that we need in our lives.  His mercy and love flow from His Heart and cover our whole land.

Can you picture it?  I can.  Healing rays coming from the Heart of Jesus and covering our whole land.

If each person in this great country of ours is touched by the Heart of Jesus and guided by His mother Mary, we will not only be healed, but we will be strong and whole and a witness to the power of prayer.

So fall to your knees and join the Bishops and faithful of our country, and pray, just as I am.  Pray for love and mercy and healing, and ask how YOU can make a difference.  For His sake tell your neighbours the good things that God has done for you.  For Jesus will win the battle for our country, and He will do it one heart at a time.

It is, and will be, a time to celebrate!

For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.  Mt 16:27

YOUR TURN:  Read Matthew 16.  Take out your Bible and read it or read it online here. Read the scripture and listen with your heart to what God’s Spirit is saying to you.  Then write it down in your journal.  You will enjoy being able to see God at work in your life.

ABC BIBLE SHARING:  A great way to read your scriptures.  Follow the ABC Bible Sharing Method here.

PRAY:  Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.  This prayer is short but powerful.  Repeat it to yourself over and over, asking Jesus to reveal His Heart to you.