Friday, February 27, 2009

Using Coupons to Bake Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies

When I stumbled upon this recipe, my mouth began to water. It looked delicious! It also seemed to be really convenient. However, it appeared to be very pricey – it calls for a box of brownie mix, pouch of cookie mix, and a container of frosting. If I paid full price for these items at my grocery store, the total would be $7.07! However, these products frequently go on sale, and coupons are nearly always available here.

Here is what I paid to make this recipe:

2 boxes Betty Crocker Original Supreme brownie mix – Buy 1 for $2.99, get 1 free sale
(Used one “$.50 off two boxes” coupon)
Paid $.99 per box

2 pouches Betty Crocker chocolate chip cookie mix – Buy 1 for $2.19, get 1 free sale
(Used two “$.50 off one pouch” coupons)
Paid $.09 per pouch

1 container Betty Crocker Rich & Creamy chocolate frosting – On sale for $.99 cents
(Used one “$.55 off one container” coupon)
Paid $.44 per container

So, I paid $1.52 to make one batch of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies. (The rest of the ingredients I already had on hand.) That might not be as cheap as baking from scratch, but it is a lot cheaper that $7.07!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ash Wednesday Reflections

{"The Expulsion" by Janice Williams Whiting}

I won’t be surprised if I always remember last night. As I mentioned earlier, it was my first time attending an Ash Wednesday service. I had read the Ash Wednesday liturgy the morning before, but there was something entirely different about participating in it. The words of the liturgy weighed heavily upon me and sank deeply in.

“I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word.”

In the name of the Church. That phrase struck me. By observing a holy Lent, I am uniting myself with the Church – past, present, and future. Some might say, “But Lent isn’t prescribed in Scripture.” No, but the Church, in her wisdom, call us into it. Furthermore, the acts self-examination, repentance, prayer, fasting, self-denial, and meditating certainly are prescribed in Scripture.

“To make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.”

The right beginning of repentance always takes place on our knees.

“…Grant that these ashes may be a sign of our mortality and penitence, that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life, through Jesus Christ our Savior.”

The ashes signify two things – our mortality and our penitence. Our frailty and our failures. That we are dust, and that we are penitent just like those who would mourn in sackcloth and ashes.

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Lent Begins With Ash Wednesday

My husband and I joined the Anglican Church last year in the middle of the season of Lent, so we have never attended an Ash Wednesday service. Perhaps that’s why I identify so much with the following passage from Ancient Future Time. Robert Webber’s explanation of Ash Wednesday especially addresses those who are new to liturgical worship. He writes:

“Unfortunately some Christians live as though the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ never happened. Our lives become absorbed in the day-to-day experiences of life. We focus on name-brand clothing, the color of our houses, the size of our bank account...We too easily forget our Maker and Redeemer, replacing God with things and ambition. Lent is the season that does something about this situation. It calls us back to God, back to basics, back to the spiritual realities of life. It calls on us to put to death the sin and the indifference we have in our hearts toward God and our fellow persons. And it beckons us to enter once again into the joy of the Lord--the joy of a new life born out of a death to the old life. This is what Ash Wednesday is all about--the fundamental change of life required of those who would die with Jesus and be raised to a new life in him.

For most people coming from my background, an Ash Wednesday service and Lent are quite foreign and somewhat threatening. The Christmas and Advent cycle are much less threatening because Christmas themes are so prevalent in our culture...But Lent is another matter. Lent appears to be dark and foreboding. It reminds Protestants of their worst fears of Roman Catholic practices--ritualism, works, fasting, vigils, and the like. Haven't we been saved from all that (we ask)? Didn't the Reformers free us from having to do works and pilgrimages and such things?

…Perhaps we laughed inside and thought to ourselves, just another mark of an external, ritualistic religion. Perhaps yes, perhaps no. Only God can judge the heart. Aside from that, dare we ask: Does something lie behind that symbol that has the potential to make our journey into Easter more meaningful? After all, what do we do for Easter? Most Protestants don't make any spiritual preparation for the annual celebration of the death and resurrection. For example, when I was growing up the only preparation for Easter made in my home--a deeply committed Christian home at that--was the planning and purchasing of new clothing. Easter was a weekend event. Preparing for Easter for seven weeks was unthinkable, ludicrous, even pagan.

But now I am constrained to ask: Who is the pagan? Yes, it is wrong to go through the motions of Ash Wednesday and Lent in a mechanical, uninvolved way. But it is also wrong to ignore any kind of preparation for the Easter event…We can begin the journey of Lent by the life-changing content of the Ash Wednesday service.”

Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality through the Christian Year, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004) 99-100.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Pendant Light Transformation on a Budget

For only $20.99, we transformed our outdated entryway light into a stylish, vintage-looking chandelier. (I thought I had a picture of the original light fixture, but I don't. The light looked a lot like the one shown in the “before” picture.)

Step 1: For $17.00, we purchased this pendant from IKEA. This IKEA light is actually only a “shade” (i.e., the light fixture is not included). So when we removed our old light fixture, we retained the base, electric cord, socket, and chain. I spray painted the base and chain with silver spray paint. Then we slipped on the new shade and attached the base back to the ceiling. I am very pleased with the results.

Step 2: For an additional $3.99, I purchased this light bulb. I learned about these bulbs here on Apartment Therapy, and I found them at my local grocery store. The bulb reflects a lovely light pattern on the ceiling and adds such a nice touch!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Spring Vegetable Garden

Those of use who live in the south are already thinking about our gardens. My spring vegetable garden will include broccoli, red peppers, scallions, and various spices. I’ve found that rosemary and thyme grow really well here. I have never grown broccoli before, but I am hoping that we can eat lots of fresh broccoli this spring. Last spring I grew red peppers, and they continued producing through early fall!

Last weekend I leveled my garden bed and covered it with compost. I started my seeds a little later than I should have, but I still hope to transplant my vegetables into my garden by the second week of March. That might be wishful thinking.


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