Marian Feed

A Few Crafts for the Cross ...

But first, Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! Happy Sunday, too! I hope your weekend's going well ... :)

Today I'd like to share some of the pictures I have piling up on my phone, and the crafts we worked on last week. Each one was a suggestion from our purple cross countdown, a chance to spend some time each day doing a little something nice for someone else ...

On Thursday, I began the day with a quick, last-minute craft for Our Lady of Lourdes ...

OL Lourdes 1

A tiny paper baking pan + printed image + craft moss + a few rocks + a paper river + a candle = a little grotto of sorts! I kept it lit on the Lenten altar throughout the day.

(Note: Before lighting, I swapped the beeswax tealight for an LED candle since this whole situation was quite flammable!)

Later in the day we followed the suggestion of our daily post-it to create a donation box for the foyer. Here's how that went:

Donations box 1

I covered an old moving carton with plain white wrapping paper and added some sticker sentiments around the outside of the box (give, help, lift, love). Then I asked the boys to help me draw happy things ...

O project 2016 2-11 1

Since Little Bear's favorite things right now are volcanoes (complete with hot "la-blah") he requested I add a couple of those ...

O project 2016 2-11 2

It's certainly a colorful box!

Donations box 2

It now resides in our foyer where each week we'll add items for various collections in which we're participating.

 

On Friday, we continued our commitment to care for creation, by making some edible valentines for the birds ...

Valentine birds 4

After lunch I asked all the boys to pitch in with this very simple craft. We threaded cheerios onto pipe cleaners, bent them into heart shapes ...

Valentine birds 2

And then looped them all together ...

Valentine birds 5

Even the youngest could do it!

Valentine birds 3

(Well, the cheerios kept him busy anyway ...)

Finally, we hung our valentines outside for the hungry birds ...

Valentine birds 6

(Translated: Mama threw on her boots and her parka and braved the arctic wind to hang the valentines where we could see them from the windows. It really is SUPER cold these days in these parts!)

And finally, yesterday we worked on sharing our love, by making small hearts written out with the reasons why we love each other. I kind of did this secretly - making up the small red paper hearts early in the day and then passing a batch of five to each family member. (Well, except for the 2 yo and the 20 yo off at college.) As the hearts were completed and "turned in" I glued them onto pretty doilies and then - trucking outside in those boots once again - I snipped some magnolia branches for a vase.

Valentine branch 2 edited

And this was our Sunday breakfast centerpiece! I loved watching the boys faces as I read aloud the hearts. :)

Well my friends, I hope you enjoy the rest of your Sunday! We're quite hunkered in because it's all of 8 degrees at the moment (and only because the wind isn't blowing) ... but the sun is shining and the snow is sparkling and our home is warm and full of people I love ... so you'll hear no complaints from me! 

But as always, I thank you all for stopping by and taking the time to read ... take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I'll be back here again very soon!


Advent Tea Journal ~ Peace Be with Us

  Advent tea peace 15

Happy Monday, my friends! Welcome to another afternoon tea. :)

Today we begin the second week of Advent, and it is also the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, one of those lovely Marian feasts we enjoy celebrating at home in small, thoughtful ways. At this time of year, we are reminded of Mary's motherhood and her role in the life of her son, Jesus. I have four sons, and they're my whole world; together with my husband, and our home, my life revolves around them. So I often find myself in prayer, thinking of Mary, asking her to guide me in her gentle, peaceful ways. Goodness knows, I can use all the help I can get!

Now, whether we're talking about world peace or inner peace, it certainly means different things to different people. But right now I'm thinking about peace in the weeks before Christmas: how we can find it (create it?) in the midst of all the holiday bustle? Not just for ourselves, but our loved ones as well?

Here are a few of my thoughts - and I'd love to hear yours!

 * Keep the December calendar as low-key as possible. I know it's hard to say no to the myriad invitations and activities that take place throughout the holiday season, but there has to be a limit. Make room for peace in your life by setting a less-busy stage.

* Create cozy corners in your home that encourage folks to sit down a spell. Stock some lovely books on the table beside a favorite chair or couch corner (Christmas books would be perfect of course), and add a pretty coaster that will remind you to make yourself a hot cup of tea (or cocoa).

* Find yourself noticing nature. I purposefully filled our Advent calendar with "nature moments" - watching the moon rise, walking in the woods, feeding the birds, apprecating the beauty of a poinsettia. Cultivate a habit of observation - brainstorm simple activities that connect us with nature and remind us to slow down as the earth stills itself for the Winter. 

* Light up the darkness - with string lights and candles, real or electric. The days are so short and dark now, I find my home all the more peaceful when there are soft lights to welcome us, and comfort us, late in the day. This only enhances the feeling that our home is a haven from the outside world. Sitting in a quiet room illuminated only by tree lights is one of my favorite things about these short December days.

* Make time to sit quietly in thought or prayer each day - 10 minutes before the kids wake or 10 minutes after they go to bed? Try not to let your mind go right to your to-do list, but instead, keep your thoughts on spiritual matters. A quick "thank you" for the day's blessings, a simple prayer for a loved one, a fond memory, a favorite carol. (This can be done with a sleeping babe in your arms, too!)

* (But, speaking of to-do's) make your list and check it twice. A well-organized list and an internet connecton are great for keeping stress down. Because let's face it - we all have things to buy or make or do, and lots of people rely on us to make their Christmas merry. Peace is hard to cultivate when you're panicking, and if we didn't start early, then the to-do's are best addressed sooner rather than later. Nothing wrecks my Christmas spirit like last minute shopping, whereas feeling prepared gives me true peace of mind. Noble? Maybe not. But realistic.

**

Ok, here are a few peaceful moments from my day ...

Advent tea peace 10

Bill took this picture of Little Bear and me (without my knowledge!) and I just love it. This is quite early - if you can't tell by our "bed hair," lol - and we are starting our day as we usually do ... in the library, in "our" chair, with a few good books (and a cup of coffee for Mama). We're in this chair reading, many times throughout the day ... but there's something so special about that first snuggle of the day. :)

Advent tea peace 1

A little "sneak peek" at our Christmas card this year - it reads: "Peace on Earth." 

(I'll share the card in its entirety after we've mailed them all out!)

Advent tea peace 2

The absolute glee on my little boy's face when he noticed the nativity stickers I placed on the window behind our chair ...

Advent tea peace 12

Where's the baby, Little Bear?

Advent tea peace 6

Working on the Christmas mantel, here's a pretty corner: flowers and stars for the Mother of God.

Advent tea peace 8

Our Oliver, mid-scratch. :) It's impossible to see in this picture, but there's a cardinal at the feeder just beyond this window. Also, it is lightly snowing and this is what I'm looking at as I drink my tea ...  a little bit of domestic tranquility, with some serene nature thrown in.

And speaking of tranquil ...

Advent tea peace 11

Here's what else I am looking at as I enjoy my tea ... a sleeping Little Bear who opted not to stay in his crib for the entirety of his nap. He slept for a good hour here while I sipped and worked on this post.

A happy, sleeping baby = a happy, refreshed Mama.

Peace personified.

:)

~ Tea Journal

In the natural world ...

A cold day of clouds and flurries here, and a Nor'easter arriving tomorrow! High winds and heavy rain in our part of the region (if it was snow, we'd be buried!). Here's our front walkway as I stepped out to get the paper this morning:

Advent tea peace 4

What I'm drinking & eating ...

Oh my goodness!

Well.

I wanted to do something white in honor of today's feast, so I chose a London Fog Latte for my beverage. I had heard from friends that it was a simply delicious drink - and now I can happily agree - it is! Sweet and milky, with a nice citrus-y bergamot flavor. And as you can see in the picture at the top of my post, I once again used a pretty "vintage" tea cup, another from my grandmother's collection. It is called "Yuletide," and fittingly, it was made by Royal Albert of England. :)

Keeping with the "British Christmas" theme - and more stars for the Feast! - I made mini orange-mince pies for a lovely holiday treat!

Advent tea peace 13

I have always loved the look of these traditional English confections, and knew someday I would try making them! (Though admittedly, pastry intimidates me.) Well, my dear friend Shirley Ann inspired me to give them a try this week, after she shared a picture of her own on Facebook! I made these up Sunday afternoon while the baby slept - very easy to do - and goodness, did the house smell like Christmas!

And I must tell you - they are so very, very yummy. A tender crust with orange flavor and a spicy-sweet filling ... gah, so good. Bill had one on his way out this morning and he absolutely loved it! And this is a man who had never before tried mincemeat because "it frightened him" lol. I will definitely be making a large batch of these for Christmas day ... I wonder if I can freeze them ahead?

What I'm reading ...

Advent tea peace 7

I've just started reading back through my annual domestic journal pages, which are kept in this gigantic binder. (Only the current month is kept in my primary binder.) Also, lots of board books. (A post on LB's favorites to come soon!)

What I'm working on ...

Well, the big thing this week is setting up the tree ... we just brought it home yesterday. Also, still packing away all the fall decorations and finding all the Christmas books. Then there's lunch for Earlybird and Dad on Sunday ... and oh, getting the Christmas cards mailed out! 

 Words to ponder ...

Peace:

It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart.

~ Anonymous

I love this quote so much - I have the magnet, I have the mug! - it's kind of my personal mantra. And, it's a skill I'm working on all the time - because as nice as it is to slow down and "make room" for peace - life just doesn't always work that way. My life as a mum - a special needs mum, especially - is filled with all the things mentioned above. But I know how I want to be. I want to be a source of peace for my children, their beacon in any sea. It's important, especially as a mother, to carry peace with me, and keep it with me for when I - we - need it most.

(I plan to revisit the theme of peace next month. I'd love to hear your ideas on the subject.)

**

And now, my friends, I'm finally going to stop talking, lol. This really was a rather long journal entry! But I'm so pleased to share my dear friend Mary's contribution to our Advent Tea Journal this week. Here are her thoughts on keeping peace in the season ...


What a lovely theme for a tea - Peace - especially since slowing down to make and drink tea can definitely bring peace into one’s life during the hustle and bustle that leads up to the Christmas season.

As a family, things that help us to find peace during this season is the simple process of eating a family supper together at night and starting by saying grace before we eat. We do this all year long but during this season, in particular, our family meal continues to serve as a wonderful anchor to slow us down, light the advent candle, and talk with one and other remembering to focus on all that we are grateful for.

We also enjoy walking around different “trails of lights” hosted by different towns around the Texas Hill Country. (We avoid the Austin Trail of Lights because it is a zoo - and definitely doesn’t bring peace to our lives!) The cool nights, the lights, and sipping hot chocolates as we all walk together as a family is always so peaceful.  

And this may sound funny - but we also enjoy walking around an open air shopping mall looking at the lights - and watching the other people hustle and bustle to shop. Instead, we walk slow, look at the lights, and chat. It’s funny how peaceful it is for us. At Christmas we exchange very few gifts freeing us of the need to rush and shop. It is so liberating - and brings peace to our lives. 

Here is a picture of me with our teenage son, walking around a festive open air shopping mall.

Mary tea peace 1 

On our Tea menu...we are continuing to enjoy Celestial Season's Peppermint tea and also some decadently rich double chocolate hot chocolate. And for a real treat - we twirl both with a candy cane!

Mary's tea peace 2

 Thank you so much, Mary, for this wonderful reflection on how you bring peace to your family at this time of year. I love the picture of you with your son - those smiles are beautiful! Family togetherness is a gift he will remember all his life!

**

Thank you, all, for joining me here today. If you are so inclined, please leave a comment below with your thoughts on finding peace in the hoilday season. Also, what are you drinking for "tea" this week? Baking anything special?

Hope to hear from you, but until next time, take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... I'll see you here again very soon!


Advent: Moments of Peace & Joy

{Earlybird update at bottom of post.}

PEACE

Advent peace sunrise 

I've noticed my "peace" moments tend to happen in the morning ... I think this is when my day is still fairly simple and it's easier to be mindful of the blessings around me. As the day progresses, things get a bit noisier and more active ...

For instance, right now, it's 8:30 a.m. and Little Bear has just gone down for his morning nap. The middle boys are in the midst of their breakfast and the funny pages ... there are chores to get to, and lessons to lay out, but I'm taking this little break for myself. I'm sitting somewhere quiet and typing away, feeling creative and connected ... But wait - I hear footsteps ...

Shhh, you don't see me here!

;)

Sometimes, though, peace can be found late in the day, too ...

As the kettle boils and the sun sets, I find myself busy in the kitchen ... I take a moment to breathe a short prayer, light a candle in the window. A real, honest-to-goodness, wax-and-wick candle, one that burns slowly and softly. Not as brightly as those electric candles, perhaps - it requires more thought and attention - but it's real. I can't ignore it, my eyes return to it, the children ask about it ... the lighting of a flame - an ancient gesture in a modern life.

Advent peace blue candle

JOY

Advent joy book 1

A sweet, old-fashioned Christmas ABC book ... those illustrations remind us how beautiful a simpler life can be.

**

And a feast day craft - easy and rewarding:

Advent joy ornament 2 

A plain wooden ornament, painted with natural watercolors ... a precious picture printed out and cut to fit in the middle ... but no glitter to be found? How about a sprinkle of kosher salt?

Advent joy ornament 1

Looks so pretty in the lights of the tree ...

Advent joy o looking at tree

>>>Love<<<

**

Now, for a note on Earlybird ...

He is doing well. He is taking the medicine better and better each day. He gets a dose every 12 hours (by dropper) and so far, aside from a decreased appetite, it doesn't seem to be affecting him adversely. Most importantly he has not had a seizure since last Tuesday night.

So tomorrow he has his first test - an EEG. To prepare him for the procedure, we have to keep him up till midnight tonight, then let him sleep till 4 a.m. - wake him then, and keep him awake until the test at 10 a.m. Now - his blog name is not Earlybird for nothing - this is a child whose self-imposed bedtime is 7 p.m. Who sometimes begs to go to bed. So we really have our work cut out for us tonight ...

 My friends, my deepest thanks for your continued prayers ... I will post an update on his testing as soon as I am able, but please hold my boy in your thoughts and prayers. This will be difficult for him and I'm sure confusing, too. Bill and I are taking this one step at a time, just doing what needs to be done to the best we are able and keeping EB as comforted as we can. Your support, suggestions and encouragement mean the world to us!

Well, I hope you all have a lovely Tuesday ... relish the blessings in your life today and look for those little moments as you are able. Drop a note and share them here if you have the time ... and I'll be in touch just as soon as I can.


From My Advent Notebook (Week 2)

Vh advent angel{Notes for December 10th ~ the 16th}

        * At CCD and at home, read The Lady of Guadalupe in honor of Saint Juan Diego (feast day 12/9), and light our lovely OLoG candle.

* Wish our neighbors a Happy Hanukkah this week. :)

* Attend a homeschool field trip to see A Christmas Carol, a wonderful local musical. Enjoy a little "Dickens feast" for supper that night (roast beef, potatoes & roots, Yorkshire puddings, and mini mince pies). Listen to Inside Fezziwig's, a wonderful collection of merry olde Christmas music.

* Celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (12/12) with a poinsettia ornament project, cinnamon-sugar tortilla stars served with fresh pineapple salsa, and soft chicken tacos for supper. This is also National Poinsettia Day so we'll read The Legend of the Poinsettia today.

* The lovely feast of light, St. Lucia Day (12/13) is a favorite in our home. We always have a scented (and candle-lit) breakfast bread on this morning - something homemade with citrus and cranberries or simply some refrigerated orange-cinnamon rolls if the day is busy. A few special books are placed about (Lucia and the Light, Christmas in Noisy Village, The Tomten) while our wee star boys will be on display ... and for supper there will be Swedish meatballs over noodles and hot (child-friendly) glogg!

* Earlybird's 11th birthday arrives! How can this little boy be 11 already? We'll have Daddy's "flying flapjacks" for breakfast, and he'll get to choose supper (most likely, Dominos pizza, lol). There will be cupcakes with friends mid-week and a family party over the weekend. His birthday theme this year is "The Winter Woods" :)

* If we can swing it, schedule-wise, we'll be seeing The Hobbit at our earliest convenience. The boys (and I) are ridiculously excited to see one of our favorite novels brought to life!

* And there's Gaudete Sunday to close out the week ~ which means we light the pink candle! A little party for my CCD class. Las Posadas begin on this night ... another favorite book to read aloud!

***

Our Tree, stage one (lights only so far) ... :)

Tree lights 1

Looking forward to a quiet, mostly-homey week ... Are we halfway to Christmas already?

Have a lovely Sunday, my friends!

 **


Homemade Caramel Sauce

Caramel sauce
Because it's National Ice Cream Month after all, and to my mind, nothing tastes better on ice cream than caramel sauce. :) It also happens to be the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel so I thought "carmel sundaes" might be a fitting dessert ... and yes, I realize that caramel is not the same as carmel - in spelling or meaning or even pronunciation! - but for today, I'm calling it close enough. :)

{And truth be told, this is actually butterscotch sauce - my grandmother's recipe - but we'll keep that our little secret. ;)}

In continuing with today's "caramel" theme, I'm also caramelizing onions tonight to serve atop homemade pizzas. But I'll wait for Bill to get home to start that, because I just cannot cut onions without weeping like a fool ...

***

An update on my dad ...

Some of you might remember he was wearing a neck collar at our Father's Day cookout. Well, he had been having significant pain in his neck/shoulder/arm that he assumed was from an aggravated prior injury. A few doctor's visits later and he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis - cervical, not lumbar - and it was affecting the discs in his neck (C4-6, if I'm remembering correctly). So he was given some pain management guidance and told surgery would be warranted sooner rather than later. (Surgery is necessary, because if things deteriorate any futher, he risks paralyzation.)

In the meantime, my dad began having severe pain in his lower back - running down his leg to the top of his foot. When he met with the surgeon he was told the two issues were entirely unrelated so he needed further testing to determine the cause of pain in the lower portion of his back.

So he had the second MRI last Friday night and this morning he saw the surgeon's nurse for results. She explained to my folks that he has a badly herniated disc pressing on his sciatic nerve, and that this too, might require surgery. Sometimes a herniated disc can be treated with cortizone shots and physical therapy, but sometimes not ... it will be up to his surgeon to make that decision, so we're awaiting his call sometime tomorrow.

Whatever is determined in this case, the neck surgery will have to wait. It's just a very unfortunate thing that he has both painful issues flaring so agressively, at the same time.

So potentially, he may have surgery next week ... or not, depending on the surgeon's opinion. But I will definitely keep you all posted, and I thank you for your thoughts and prayers - I appreciate them so much. Please know I always remember my friends here in my daily prayers at home, and my weekly prayers at Mass. I appreciate you all so very much. You have always been so kind to me ... and my family.

So there's the news of the day ... and now I'll wrap up because Bill should be home any minute. We've got pizzas to cook and an evening routine to unfold ...

Good night to you all ... I will see you here again very soon ... :)


Fresh Flowers and Bright Candles for May

May altar 1

In setting up our May altar yesterday, Earlybird and I scoured our yard for the freshest blooms ~ lilacs, bleeding hearts, azaleas, one single tulip and a few handfuls of dandelions. I'm happy to say the cats have not bothered this shelf, and so far, the lilacs have not caused too much sneezing. (Bill is allergic!) I then lit our tiny star candles, against the growing dark of May eve ... today I'll move them aside and we'll start adding found "spring treasures" to our shelf. 

And though it's a rather gloomy May Day here, Bill did not fail in his annual "task" of "washing my face with May Day dew." He's done this every year we've been married! There is a legend that a maiden who cleanses her face with May Day morning dew will keep a youthful complexion all her life. Or something like that, lol. I'm not sure how well it's working, but to be honest that's kind of beside the point ... what's sweet is that my husband remembers to do this every year. ❤

So I wish you all a Happy May, and a Good Tuesday Morning as well. I'm off now to "face" the day - revitalized by morning dew - and a good, strong cup of coffee.

:)


Our Easter Monday Mantel

Monday mantel 10

Well, despite all my checklists and planning ahead, I just didn't have time to set up our "Alleluia" before Easter Sunday. Luckily though, we have a whole season to celebrate! So today I worked on this nice, quiet "day-after" activity ... it gave me time to think and refocus. :)

(And thanks to Mary Ellen for the inspiration!)

Monday mantel 5

This spot (our nature shelf on most days), was our Lenten altar, if you remember ... the plain grapevine cross is now bursting with life (flora and fauna) and the bare mantel is now covered in flowers ...

Monday mantel 7

(tulips from yesterday's dinner and forsythia from the yard) ...

... and candles ...

Monday mantel 4

(My parents brought this back from Ireland for us.)

... and our lovely statue of the Blessed Mother ...

Monday mantel 9

... with whom we REJOICE in the MIRACLE of EASTER!

Of course, I had much help putting this all together ...

Monday mantel 1

;)

I'm still working on my Easter Sunday Recap post ... trying to pare down my pictures, because I took a lot of them! (As in ... we uploaded 445 images last night!) I hope to have that post up later this evening ... and I promise it will contain far less than 400 photos!

Hope you've all had a nice day ...



Mexican on Monday

OLG1

Today's Advent scroll read:

To celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, we'll eat Mexican tonight!

Our favorite way to "eat Mexican" is by enjoying "taco potatoes" - which, plainly put, are just baked potatoes topped with taco filling. (Seasoned ground beef or turkey, diced bell peppers and tomatoes, shredded cheese and sour cream.)

I also made a special snack for the boys this afternoon, a recipe I've had in my files for a few years now, but had yet to try:

>> Pineapple Salsa with Cinnamon-Sugar Tortilla Chips <<

Super easy and ridiculously good!

OLG4

To make the salsa, I mixed a 20 oz. can of crushed pineapple (drained), with 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lime juice, 3 (ish) tablespoons of sugar and 2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh mint.

It was sweet and chunky and delicious!

Then I took flour tortillas, brushed them with melted butter and sprinkled them with cinnamon-sugar. Cut them into triangles and baked them on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes at 350.

OLG5

Done!

OLG3

(Earlybird said this looked just like the sun. :) Might make a nice Solstice day treat!)

Now, the boys all loved the tortilla crisps, but were not overly fond of the salsa. Bill, however, liked it so much, he had a few spoonfuls over his tacos tonight!

(Also, I should mention, I found both recipes on the internet, at myrecipes.com.)

And before I go, here's the craft EB and I worked on together today:

OLG2

(We also read The Legend of the Poinsettia, a lovely Mexican tale.)

We also observed the sunrise at 7:04 a.m. (with the mostly Full Cold Moon hovering in the opposite sky) ... as well as the sunset at 4:12 p.m.

Closer and closer we creep to that first day of Winter!

:)

Well, my friends ~ I hope your week's off to a good start. Thanks so much for stopping by today ... I will see you all again very soon!

**


Afternoon Peace (if not Quiet)

Immaculatecookies7

A neighborhood friend came over to play, and as usually happens on winter afternoons - when the light fades and the shadows grow - the boys get hungry early and come looking for a snack. Well, it just so happens to be a special feast day today, so I just so happened to have baked a tasty treat - some rather appropriately named cookies. (Thanks for the idea, Sue!)

The cookies were lightly frosted and dusted with golden sugar - just right for a feast day as lovely as this!

Immaculatecookies8

Not surprisingly, the boys thoroughly enjoyed those cookies ... while I thoroughly enjoyed those few minutes of quiet! ;)

Then they were off to play again, and I was off to start supper, but my eyes kept drifting to those pretty windows and the beautiful sky beyond ...

(I may not get a lot of quiet, but I do get my fair share of peace.)

:)

From a magnet on my refrigerator:

Peace.

It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work.

It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.

(Author unknown - but very wise.)

~****~

I hope you all have a wonderful evening ~ may it be filled with a little peace, a little quiet ... and maybe a few cookies, too! 


Happy May!

 Maryonmantle

Bring flow'rs of the fairest,
Bring flow'rs of the rarest,
From garden and woodland
And hillside and vale;
Our full hearts are swelling,
Our Glad voices telling
The praise of the loveliest
Rose of the vale.

~~

Isn't it lovely when May Day falls on a Sunday? I hope you all had a wonderful weekend ~ enjoying your family, your home, the newness of spring.

See you again very soon!


Friday Facts, Fun & a Few Photos

Happy Friday, my friends!

Blue-bouquet
Today marks a very special day on the Catholic calendar: The Feast of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel visited Mary and announced the Lord's plan for her. ("Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee ...") Her answer - her yes - became Mary's hymn of praise, the beautiful Magnificat ...

And nine months later we have Christmas!

:)

Our plans for today? Earlybird and I will paint and prepare a small pot for planting (some quick-growing radish seeds). We'll explore our yard and look for signs of new life growing ... and I'm baking an "angel" food cake to serve after supper with fresh blueberries and whipped cream.

It's also International Waffle Day! (As opposed to National Waffle Day which falls on August 24th.) This is a great day to have waffles for supper! We'll have ours at breakfast, though - Bill makes fantastic waffle dippers, but those are reserved for leisurely weekend mornings. Today we'll just have some Nutri-Grain toaster waffles, a favorite staple in our freezer. 

Well, I hope you all have a lovely day ... before I go, here are some random early spring photos from the past week or two ...

Fridayphoto3:1

Fridayphotos3:2

Fridayphoto3:3

Fridayphoto3:4

Fridayphoto3:5

Fridayphoto3:6

Fridayphoto3:7

Thank you so much for stopping by ~ see you all again very soon!


Bringing in the May ~

“The moon shines bright and stars give light,Lilyofthevalleyarrangement_3

A little before the day

So God bless you all, both great and small

And send you a joyful May.”

(From a traditional English May carol)

**************************************

I'm still working on that May Themes & Plans post, but since May Day (and Ascension Day!) is upon us, I thought I'd share a few of our plans for today. :)

In the backyard ...

Look for dandelion puffs to blow (if there are any left after last night's frost!). Blow bubbles up into the sky. (I'll be mixing up a homemade solution, using a lavender-scented dishwashing detergent as the base.) Climb the play "tower" and watch the clouds passing by. Look for the corners of our property - and beat the bounds* in old English tradition. *I believe willow was traditional, but we'll use pruned forsythia branches. ;) In the northwest corner, I'll spend a little time tidying up the Mary garden.

At the craft table ...

Earlybird will do some blue, purple and white finger painting. The older boys will work on a small map of our backyard; on it they will mark the boundaries and note where we've found neat things so far this spring (like big worms, buried acorns and a mysterious tunnel). I'll be making a tin can May basket to set on our nature table (wrapping it with spring-shaded yarn). Then we'll fill it with whatever is blooming including branches of the Ascension flower (lilacs).

For teatime ...

I'll whip up some little meringue "cloud" cookies, and serve them with a fruity "May Punch." We'll read our Magnifikid for this Sunday's Mass, and the boys will start learning a new Marian prayer. I'll move the statue of Our Lady to our mantel and place some (silk) flowering vines around it.

And there's our day in a nutshell! I'll be back soon with more themes and plans ... but for now, a very Happy May, and many Blessings to you!


Simple & Lovely ~ Spring-in-a-Pot

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Susan is this week's Fair hostess ~ her theme is Flower Pots. :)

Our gardening plans are still very much in the planning - rather than the planting - stage, and so I have no true pots (in the ceramic or cedar sense of the word) to show you just yet. I will eventually though, (fingers crossed), because we hope to do a good bit of container gardening on our deck this year ...

But for now, I would like to show you our very simple marigold seedlings. They perch cheerfully in the learning room windows, reaching for the sunlight, seemingly grateful for the dribbles of water they receive daily. Bookworm keeps a close eye on them, and in fact, just thinned the seedlings out yesterday. We planted these last month, on The Feast of the Annunciation, with plans to move the grown plants - aka Mary's Gold - to a simple Marian-themed garden in the spring. I have seen beautiful gardens done in large wooden containers, and this is what I first had in mind, a cedar barrel of some sort and size ...

Although ... a large terra cotta pot might do nicely, too. Especially if it is first embellished with the children's handiwork. And this brought to mind a craft we did over a year ago ...

I hope it's not considered cheating to link to a post from my past, but I think these fingerprint-ladyug pots would be darling for a Mary garden, one the children might tend to themselves. Here I show a small size pot holding a candle, but this could be done in the same way (without the ribbon) using a larger pot meant for holding plants out-of-doors. (I would think a protective shellac of some kind would be needed.)

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In light of our recent beetle adventures, this might be a fun way to remember Our Lady and our ladies, at the same time. :)

Stop by Susan's later today for a refreshing dose of spring-in-a-pot, and mark your calendars for the next Lovely Spring Fair ~ it will run on April 30th at Paula's, and the theme is Windows. (And you all know how I feel about windows!) :)

Also, please stay tuned for more about our container gardens ~ a few more weekends and we'll be ready to plant!

Have a great day, everyone!


Cake and a Craft for The Annunciation

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To be perfectly honest, I was a bit tired after yesterday's shindig, but I still wanted to do something special with the boys for today's Feast, The Annunciation of the Lord, (technically, a Solemnity, but a day to rejoice nonetheless). On this day last year we brought roses (and, ahem, rocks) to a nearby Marian statue, but this year I was determined to stay in. Between the rain and the snow, it was downright unhospitable for even a brief outing, so while the flakes fell fast and furious, and the boys finished their math, I got started on the cake.

Now, you're probaby saying to yourself, "She baked a cake? Didn't she say they had a whole bunch of desserts leftover from yesterday's party?"

(Well yes I did ... and we did (still do) ... but nothing Earlybird can eat, and I wanted him to have something fresh and festive for today. Besides, I love to bake.)

Anyhoo. I had wanted to try making homemade angel food cake, which is a traditional food for today, but at the last minute I realized I don't own a tube pan! (How can that be??) I wasn't sure if a bundt pan would cut it, so instead, I reached for a lemon cake mix I had on the shelf. So easy, and I kind of liked how golden it came out. :)

And with all the time I saved using a box mix, I made up some lemon whipped cream with EB:

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(Picture by Bookworm.)

Then, I turned a Ziploc bag into a makeshift piping tube ...

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And got fancy with the whipped cream ... :)

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(More photos by my Bookworm.)

And we fished blueberries out of the fruit salad to place all around ...

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All that was needed was a pretty centerpiece - so I plucked a few leftover tulips (aka "Mary's Prayers") and voila ~

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A fun, yummy feast day treat!

As the boys ate, we read about the Angelus, and I showed them this famous painting. I also showed them the Daily Missal you see below; it has just come into my happy possession. It was printed in 1959 and belonged to my grandfather. (Thank you so much, Mum and Uncle George!)

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Here's the lovely page for The Annunciation:

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And then it was time to get our hands dirty!

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I read a suggestion in this lovely book to plant marigold seeds on this feast. (Marigold = Mary's Gold.) The boys have been itching to plant something, so a few dixie cups and some potting soil later, and we were good to go! :)

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Note the variety of Marigold = Crackerjack! Which of course, made his day. ;)

First we scooped the potting soil into the cups carefully:

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Next we fished out the seeds:

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And each of my boys prepared his own special cup:

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Bookworm added the water:

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And now the cups will sit in a window full of spring sun. (Once it returns!)

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And there you have it, our day in a (rather large, chatty) nutshell. (Though I left out the part about the flock of wild turkeys that passed through ... that caused some excitement around here!) I hope your day was a good one, too. Good night for now ~ I'll see you all sometime tomorrow.


Tea and Crafts on the Assumption

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Happy Assumption Day to you!

I realized just now that the first Tea-and-Crafts day I ever organized for my children was exactly a year ago today! I even titled the two posts precisely the same. :) Last year's craft was a bit more involved, while the snack was relatively simple. This year, just the reverse was true!

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I knew we'd be a bit wiped after the long weekend away, so I wanted to make it easy. I began with the Magnifkid for today's Mass, and printed out some coloring pages from Women for Faith and Family.

In the top picture you can see how I have the prayer corner set up this week. Joining our statue of the Blessed Virgin is a collection of seashells, a prayer candle, a holy card and a vase of summer daisies.

Now, for the snack I decided to touch upon the traditional blessing of fruits and herbs on Assumption Day. For tea, I made up an herbal iced punch ...

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I got the idea for this from an episode of the Barefoot Contessa. On that particular show, Ina made an iced tea with Lemon Zinger and Red Zinger herbal teas, only she sweetened it with apple juice rather than sugar or honey.

For today's berry theme, I made up a pot of Wild Berry Zinger tea and served it over ice with a generous splash of strawberry juice. Very yummy, festive and fun - especially when seved with a ripe red berry on the side!

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These tiny fruit tarts were ridiculously easy to assemble - I simply filled mini graham cracker pie shells with vanilla pudding (you could use yogurt here too) and topped each one with diced berries and a generous dollop of whipped cream. So good and cool - just right for this August day. :)

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As the boys drank their punch, they worked on their coloring sheets and I read aloud from a favorite Tomie de Paola book, Mary: The Mother of Jesus.

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Earlybird surrounded his picture with the planets, of course. ;)

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Soon the boys were off to play and I was cleaning up cups and crayons. I hung up their work in our new learning corner:

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Yes, I will be posting more about the new learning room corner very soon! In the meantime, I hope you all had a lovely Assumption Day and I wish you all a very good night.


Thursday Tea: Crafts and Crumbcakes

Wow, is it Thursday already? This week is flying by!

I admit I was a bit unprepared for our lessons this week, including our weekly tea. This past weekend was so busy with the holiday and all, I didn't do my usual planning ahead. Throw in a short week and a doctor's appointment and I was really off! But, enough excuses ~ between today's feast (The Visitation) and Sunday's (Trinity Sunday), there was much to discuss and celebrate!

Right after lunchtime, I prepared the table for our special craft/snack time - otherwise known as Thursday Tea:

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I opened our Marian storybook to the pages about the Visitation, and I also opened Bookworm's Magnifikid for Sunday. I grabbed some supplies and showed the boys how to make construction paper shamrocks - symbols of the Holy Trinity.

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Silly me, I had only set out green paper for the shamrocks. Crackerjack wanted red and Bookworm thought purple was a neat choice. All three boys set about tracing, cutting and taping, as I read aloud.

And before long we were ready to hang our colorful creations:

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That's a branch I brought in from outside; I livened it up with a silk ivy vine.

We talked about the Visitation, and I asked the boys how it feels when we visit their Damee - more importantly, how they thought those visits make her feel? We thought maybe we could plan to do that more often, say once a month after Mass. We can plan ahead and make something nice to bring her, too - a craft or some goodies.

And speaking of visiting, we have our first house guest arriving this weekend! Bill's sister, fondly known as Aunt Ami around here, will arrive by suppertime tomorrow. The boys are quite excited - so excited they haven't even minded cleaning their room, which will serve as guest room for the weekend.

I was going to print out some of the neat activities I found here, but our printer is not working just now. That's all right, by this point we were ready for snacks:

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I read in one of my favorite liturgical idea books that coffee cake is a nice treat to enjoy on the Visitation. It so happened we had three small crumb cakes on hand - and placed together on an Irish plate they looked quite like a shamrock themselves. (Not for long, mind you.) Just behind them is the small vase of freshly picked clover from our yard.

As we finished up our crafts and snacks, I thought about the very kind post that Cindy wrote today at Homeschool Blogger's Community blog, in which she linked to my learning displays. I resolved right then to wipe and polish the table, and put it all back in place for the morning. As you can see we're beginning a dinosaur study just now.

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I'm trying to be better about keeping this table neat looking when not in use (and right after use) because lately we've had to take our meals around the kitchen island due to an overrun dining area. Plus I really like having it all arranged and (hopefully inspiring) with books and simple decorations that reflect the season or holiday hand. Above the dinosaur encyclopedia (a gift from Uncle Matt this past weekend) is our liturgical masterpiece for May (to be replaced tomorrow with June's selection). Off to the left and right along the windowsill stand the books we are using this week (as well as a few dinosaur toys - CJ's contribution). Also hanging up on the window at left are some newspaper clippings - I don't normally hang them up in this way, but they did get the boys attention.

For Sunday, I hope to make an upside-down pineapple cake, an idea I got from the book I mentioned above. I've never made one before, but I found an easy recipe here (we'll nix the cherries and use an organic vanilla cake mix). The three pineapple rings placed together will symbolize the Trinity - and the cake will serve as a delicious after-soccer treat. :)

Well, thanks for stopping by, my friends. I hope you had a wonderful Thursday!


Flowers for the Fairest

The Loveliness of Marian Devotion is up today at my friend Helen's blog, The Castle of theLoveliness_logo_2 Immaculate. A perfect hostess for this fair, Helen has gathered a loving bouquet of blossoms with which to crown Our Lady.

I am honored to be part of Helen's Fair and I just love the sunny daisies she picked on my behalf! :) Thank you Helen for a beautiful post!

What a lovely way to end the Marian month of May, and there are more Loveliness Fairs on the way. Please see this post at Elizabeth's for all the details.


The Loveliness of Gardens

My friend Jennifer will be hosting tomorrow's Loveliness of Gardens Fair, and naturally ILives_of_loveliness_logo_200612  hoped to take part - nature is so near and dear to my heart. But you see, I'm not really much of a gardener - not for lack of trying mind you, but perhaps for lack of time and experience? The lovely thing about gardening, though, is you get to try again every year. The warm damp soil beckons, the nursery doors open for business, and the seed catalogs sing their siren song. I buy myself a new pair of gardening gloves and dig in once again ...

My maternal grandfather was an amazing gardener and so I had the privelege of growing up knowing the joys of a home garden - the corn, rhubarb, strawberries, tomatoes, roses, dahlias and clematis ... and oh, the list could go on! One thing my grandpa taught me (one of the many) was that you could garden anywhere. My grandparents' home is on a lovely though small piece of land - certainly not country, and actually not far from a busy city.

That did not stop Grandpa - he gardened as if there were no tomorrow. And we all benefitted from his endeavor. I would like to adopt a similar spirit, and turn my own small suburban yard into a haven for flora, fauna and family alike.

Now, two things I'd like to do for Jennifer's fair - talk briefly about my gardening plans for this year and share with you all a post from last year's garden journal, Marigolds for Mama. I hope that's not cheating, but I don't have many garden photos to show just yet this year!

Do you know I have not been over to that blog in months? I made my last post on August 24th, when I talked about Late Summer Hues. According to the last line of that entry, I had hopes for posting more about the "turn of the seasons." Well, time got away from me, and I ended it there. It was fun to read back over the blog, remembering things that grew and things the children did.

The following group of pictures was posted on May 15, 2006; the post was entitled, A Peek in Mary's Garden. In a corner of our yard, nestled beside a small potting shed, beneath the bowers of the flowering cherry, we have a semi-shady flower garden. Last year we added an Our Lady of Grace birdfeeder, and I was inspired to find out more about Mary Gardens. I just love how many plant varieties are named for Our Lady, and I was even more pleased to discover we had several kinds in our yard!

Here's a little tour:

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*Lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) ~ Ascension Flower*

I grew up with lilacs (they grow bountifully on my parents' property). They always bloomed magnificently right on Mother's Day when vases full of them would adorn our family brunch. We have them all over our yard too, but I must admire them on the outside nowadays, as I married a man who is severely allergic to these beautiful blooms!

According to legend, lilacs are known as the Ascension flower, and that would be of course because they bloom right around the date of this feast (which this year is May 17th).

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*Our Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla mollis)*

I'm embarrassed to say I don't remember much about this plant, but I found some lovely information here.

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*English Daisy (Bellis perennis) ~ Mary-Loves*

I absolutely loved these tiny pert flowers, and of course, I love that the plant's English. I will be buying some more this year.

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*Spearmint (Mentha spicata) ~ Our Lady's Mint*

The spearmint grew well last year, and I will have to watch for its return, as it is a perennial. (Now where did we tuck it?) I would like to add more herbs to the garden this summer and do more with them too - perhaps learn how to dry them/preserve them and how to turn them into little gifts and things.

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*Our Red Azalea ~ just pretty in its own right!*

This bush right now has just the tiniest red buds on it. It is out front by our walkway and blooms beautifully each year. I forgot just how beautifully!

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*Ferns (Asplenium rutamer) ~ Our Lady's Hair*

I've never had much interest in ferns. I remember years ago Martha Stewart did a huge article on them, and still I couldn't see it. Then I discovered an expansive fern patch growing by our back fence, and realized just how lovely they are! Soft, woodsy, shady and kind of ethereal. I'm sure there must be fairies living here. :)

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*Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabalis) ~ Mary's Heart*

My grandfather had an enormous bleeding heart growing behind his house. Ours is still pretty small, but it already has some blossoms this year. I think of this plant as old-fashioned and sweet, but I will always love it for how it reminds me of my grandpa. To me, its branches are reaching out, laden with love.

Well, now that I've shared some photos of last year's garden, if I may keep your attention a shade longer, I will list some of my garden hopes this year (I will call them hopes and not plans and I think they will have more likeliness of coming to pass):

  • First I am going to re-read some of my favorite gardening books. By far the best of the bunch are by Sharon Lovejoy, and later today, I'm going to pore over Sunflower Houses, Hollyhock Days and Roots, Shoots, Bucket and Boots - take lots of notes and imagine.
  • Next weekend we will stop at the nursery for plants. Up here in New England we are nearing our last frost dates. My grandpa always waited for Memorial Day to set out his tomatoes and other summer plants. I shall do the same. (Fortunately our local farm, and favorite plant resource, opens that holiday weekend.)
  • We will be tending to the garden plots until then. Adding some compost and airing out the soil.
  • We garden organically, so it is time to brush up on our natural remedies. Actually we've found the birds and toads that inhabit our yard help immensely with the insects. Not to mention, the atmosphere. :)

This year I envision:

  • Containers for the deck which gets full day sun.
  • Vegetables: tomatoes (plum for sauce, cherry for snacking), Kentucky Wonder beans (for Dad), and, of course, zucchini!
  • More herbs (basil for sure) and some edible flowers like nasturtiums.
  • A rose bush or two ~ a variety that will bear lots of rose hips in the fall.
  • A clematis for the lattice on the potting shed.
  • Our raspberry bed is doing wonderfully! The plants are all growing and sprouting gorgeous green foliage. Last year we enjoyed gold and red raspberries by the hand-fulls after supper each evening. This year I'd love to grow enough to make jam!
  • Our lavender bed is also doing well. It's part of a small knot garden out front. The bed needs to be pruned and cleaned up a bit. I hope to harvest lots from this patch.
  • Sunflowers (giants!) and morning glories along the front fence.
  • This fall, I hope to plant LOTS of bulbs including snowdrops, crocus and daffodils.

And ... well, I"d better stop there, because this list is getting pretty big! I guess I'd better get cracking. Well, just writing this post has got my juices flowing ... I can hardly wait to read Jenn's Fair tomorrow! I have not yet decided if I will revive my garden blog, or stick with posting here and at The Nature Corner (I know, how many blogs can one woman keep, right? Three might be pushing it!)

I wish you a joyous Sunday and a beautiful growing season ... may there be a garden in your heart all summer long!