Tea and Crafts Feed

Two Crafts and a Cake for Today's Feast

This morning, on the Feast of the Holy Cross, the boys awoke to a new and shining symbol of our faith:

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This started out as an entirely different and more complicated craft, lol. I had thought the boys could make stained glass panels to place in each pane of glass, forming a cross shape as shown above. This would be done by sandwiching (many) bits of torn tissue paper between (several) sheets of clear contact paper, cut to fit this multi-paned door. But then, early this morning, as I was guestimating just how long it would take to make enough panels, I discovered that we were completely out of contact paper!

So that changed everything. Instead, I surprised the boys by taping full sheets of tissue in each pane (in a few autumn shades) and as they woke up the morning sun was just flooding through ...

What day is it? Crackerjack asked, sensing something was afoot.

I sprung it upon them that today was the Feast of the Holy Cross and then they knew one thing for sure: there would be cake. ;)

But next, we worked on a new family handprint cross. We made one last year on this day, but I thought it would be nice to update it with fresh paper and current hand sizes.

Last year we chose construction paper in signature colors; this year I chose scrapbooking paper in shades and themes that fit personalities:

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From left to right: white posterboard for the cross base, an evergreen print for Bill, yellow gingham for me, a science theme for Bookworm, navy blue stars for Earlybird and a "cool" tie-dye pattern for Crackerjack (he chose this over fireworks).

Next I cut out a new cross base, and taped it together:

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And then each of us had our hands traced on our select papers. Here the prints are all cut out and ready to apply to the cross:

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You might notice EB found it hard to keep his hands still.

And here is our family handprint cross for the new year!

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I like how it looks with all the patterns and, for good measure, I added a red gingham heart to the center. I also like the overall message: all hands to heaven or perhaps, many hands, one heart!

So naturally, there had to be cake. Here is the cross-shaped cake pan and the variety of sprinkles all ready to go:

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And finally, here we have, freshly baked and cooled, our frosted and decorated cake. (Duncan Hines cake mix, homemade buttercream frosting, India tree sprinkles):

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(That's supposed to be a heart in the center!)

Well, I hope you all have a happy weekend! Enjoy the September weather wherever you are, and hold those dear little hands (and hearts) closely!


Gingerbread & Cider: A Back-to-School Tea

Yesterday afternoon the boys and I had a little teatime in celebration of our first week back to "school." After our summer-send off last week, I wanted to serve something that just said fall - in spite of the soaring temperatures outside, lol - so first on the menu, in place of hot tea, was fresh-pressed apple cider. (It's back in the markets again - have you seen?!) I offered to warm it up but it was unanimously decided that cold crisp cider was just the ticket for such a warm September day.

Now for the snack ... I was thinking of an alphabet theme, especially for Earlybird who's beginning kindergarten at home this year. He just loves letters! Well, paging through one of my old journals the other day, I came across a clipping I'd saved from Family Fun magazine. According to the article, in Colonial America, when children learned the alphabet, their families celebrated by making gingerbread letters.

Well that sounded good to me! Any excuse to make gingerbread, right? :) And to use these lovely cookie cutters I've had for years and hardly used at all:

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I bought our set at Williams-Sonoma years ago. They now come in a smaller tin which you can see here. These are great for cookies, obviously, as well as play dough (though I have a separate plastic set for playtime). A nice idea at the holidays is to give a beautifully wrapped box of iced cookies, spelling out a warm greeting such as PEACE or NOEL. (That is a Martha tip, as you probably know.)   

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All the boys helped with the dough, which I made from a recipe that came with the tin. (I wasn't all that pleased with it, to be honest. No eggs and no molasses, rather stiff ... but it was ok for today!)

Above you see Bookworm helping with the rolling out of the dough. He really loves to cook and asked me if this year "cooking" could be one of his subjects. Hmmm, I thought, that fits in nicely with our chemistry study! (And then I envisioned biographies of famous chefs, a field trip to a bakery ... oh, the rabbit trail I could make out of this!)

Initially, our idea is to compile a binder for Bookworm filled with kid-friendly recipes that he can learn to make on his own through the year. In a future post I'll be soliciting such recipes from you all! ;)

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The younger two got in on the action too, of course. Actually this was taken near the end of baking when the scraps were left to be played with.

Earlybird enjoyed shaping letters himself and then finding those cookies in the baked batch! His favorites were E, H and Z. :)

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This is the smile of a boy who is thrilled it's apple cider season again, a culinary delight second only to the appearance of eggnog in late October.

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I shooed the boys off to play and set up the table - the platter is a wooden pineapple tray that belonged to my grandmother years ago. The pineapple was a traditional symbol of welcome in Colonial America.

The cookies looked (and smelled) good, but it was the brightly wrapped package that caught the boys' attention first.

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What could it be?

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A back-to-school gift from mum and dad: The Dangerous Book for Boys! The boys were intrigued by the title ...

"Dangerous? What's so dangerous about a book?" asked Crackerjack.

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They dug right in to find out. ;)

And so our new year was officially kicked off, and as if on cue, the mail arrived just as we finished up tea - bringing with it our approval letter from the town. What great timing!

That letter will be stored securely in our files, but the memories of today will be filed away too - slipped inside the yearbook of our hearts, a book I hope will grow fat with experiences all year long.

It is my job to envision and prepare for such experiences - to lay the groundwork and then to step back and watch. I am, after all, headmistress of a rather dandy (and not too dangerous) school for young boys ...

I seriously doubt I will ever lack for material. :)


Sweet and Simple

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We had our weekly sit-down-to-tea yesterday (Wednesday) since today (Thursday) will be a busy one for us. This might remain a permanent change as Wednesday afternoons look to be the quietest of the week this fall. I like to have our tea when we've got the whole afternoon at home. This way I have time to prepare, and they have time to digest. :)

I didn't have a craft planned, or a picture book picked out, but I printed out the weekly coloring page at Catholic Mom.com, and we read aloud Sunday's Gospel (Luke 14: 1, 7-14) from our Magnifikid. The boys colored as I read and we all nibbled on the fruity snack I laid out.

It was quite warm here yesterday, and I had planned to serve this, our last "summertime" tea on the deck - but the lure of the AC was too great! Not shown is the refreshing "Zingerade" punch, the recipe for which I found in Parents magazine, a lovely last hurrah for the summer:

Bring 4 cups water to a boil. Add 4 lemon-zinger herbal tea bags and brew for 10 minutes. Discard tea bags. In a large pitcher, combine 1 can (6 oz.) frozen lemonade concentrate, 1 liter plain seltzer and tea. Serve with orange, lemon and lime slices.

As you can see in the photo above I served watermelon "sticks" and apple slices along with strawberry yogurt for dipping. (It was just too hot to bake!) I explained that these fruits formed a bridge between the seasons - juicy melon from summer and crisp apples for fall. Beginning next week, our table will adopt a distinctly more autumn feel.

In fact, the windows have already begun the transformation:

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I picked up these garlands at Michaels along with the clip-on silk "fall" butterfly. I only got enough to do one set of windows, so I'll wait for the next store coupon to buy more. ;) I'd like to have Bill weave a strand of tiny white lights in with the garland. I think fall's dark afternoons will be much enhanced by soft lights twinkling above our workspace.

Well, I hope you enjoy these last few (unofficial) summertime days! So far the morning here is bright and breezy, a welcome foretaste of fall ...

Before it gets too warm (as it's bound to do), I'm going to get some banana breads in the oven. And, later this morning I'll place some calls to local farms to inquire about the availability of green tomatoes.

Labor Day means picalilli, of course! :)


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.


Cookies and Cockles on St. James's Day

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For me, one of the key things to remember when celebrating the liturgical year, is to keep things as simple as possible. Certainly some weeks - especially those around Christmas and Easter - the projects will be more involved: Advent calendars, O Antiphon houses, Lenten charts and Paschal candles. But for the most part, on most weeks, I like to keep our plans really easy - because if they're easy to do and prepare for, then they are easy (or easier) to fit into an already busy week.

Today, the Feast of St. James, was a good example of keeping things simple. On the one hand I had lots of ideas. (Which tends to happen when you know so many wonderful resources and own as many idea books as I do.) And, if all I had on my plate this week was to plan a feast day celebration, it might have made sense to tackle some of the more involved projects. Then again, maybe not. I do find that the weeks things are kept simple and understated are the ones that my boys enjoy the most.

For today, I planned a little after-lunch treat, some nice madeleine cookies I found at the store. These are plain butter cookies baked in the shape of a shell. (The scallop shell is the symbol of St. James, and you can read more about why further down in my post.)

Now, in my orginal notes I mentioned some crazy idea about purchasing a madeleine cookie pan and whipping up these cookies from scratch. Then reality set in and I realized the pan was a bit expensive, and the recipe too time-intenseive. Thankfully it is quite easy to find madeleines at the store; these were from my regular supermarket and by golly, they were good. (More like little pound cakes than cookies.)

Next we set about making a small, easy St. James Grotto. Again, lots of ideas swum in my head - most involved holy cards, cardboard boxes, seashells and a piping hot glue gun. Now, I do have all these things on hand, but I decided to go with something much easier to prepare:

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A small glass candle holder set upon a white china plate. I placed a tealight inside and let the boys "embellish" the inside and outside with craft shells. The tiny size filled in right around the candle, while the small white shells fit perfectly around the edge of the plate. This was a particularly nice project for Earlybird, who often finds the crafts we do beyond his attention span. But spilling and sorting shells? Right up his alley.

I'd like to share with you this passage about the tradition of making small shell-and-candle grottos on this day:

"Why grottoes? St. James, like all the other Apostles except for St. John, was eventually martyred for his faith. He met his death in the year 42 in Jerusalem at the hands of Herod Agrippa. His body was later brought to Spain and buried there. The journey was a difficult one by sea and so the symbol of the saint became a scallop shell. The place of his burial  - Compostella in Spain - rapidly became a great centre of pilgrimage. Today the great shrine still stands and still attracts thousands of pilgrims every year. In the middle ages, many pilgrims went there from England. To raise money to help the poorer pilgrims, it became a tradition to build small grottoes of scallop shels - people would pay a penny, light the candle in the grotto, and say a prayer for the pilgrim." (Source: A Book of Feasts and Seasons)

Now, I don't allow my children to light candles just yet, but for fun, I had them rustle up some change and "pay" for the privelage of blowing out the flame, which they actually enjoy even more than the lighting. We set up a large shell and one by one the boys plunked down their coins, said a quiet prayer for the poor, and then blew out the flame. I acknowledged each generous gesture and promptly re-lit the candle for the next "pilgrim." This was great fun and a memorable way to honor the day. On Sunday, the boys will drop their "shell money" in the poor box at church.

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Another quick and easy centerpiece for the day would have been our red novena candle (the liturgical color for today) similarly surrounded by shells. We bought ours at the same grocery store where I found the cookies. They're nice to have on hand - look for them in the ethnic foods aisle.

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There are plenty more St. James Day ideas and information at my friend Jenn's, and do check out her food blog for recipe ideas. I know this feast day is associated with eating oysters, but I was glad to read that any shellfish is appropriate for today (not a big fan of oysters, myself). So Bill is bringing home scallops from a local take-out place for supper, along with corn from the farmstand and a batch of crispy fries. It will make a tasty, fun meal. :)

If you wanted to tie today's feast into the natural world (something I enjoy doing), you could plan a picnic by the sea. Spend the morning collecting shells and then dig into a pasta salad (shell-shaped of course!) for lunch. Or if it's raining, you could stay home and spend an hour or so making shell candles (we did back in January, as shown in this post).

Now with all this talk about seashells, I want to take a moment to mention the upcoming Loveliness Fair, celebrating the joys of the seashore at A Wink and a Smile. (Such a lovely blog ~ I could sit and listen to that music all day! Love Harry Connick.)

All told, this week's liturgical "tea and a craft" took about half an hour. Time well spent, I think, and some nice memories made.

Well, have a lovely evening, my friends. See you sometime tomorrow ... :)


Happy Summer!

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If you notice, my Countdown Widget reads 0-0-0-0! It's time to update that to a Countdown-to-Autumn (my favorite season of all). But before I get ahead of myself, a bit about summer, which technically, begins at 2:06 this afternoon.

First off, how's the weather where you are today? (I'd love to know - leave a comment if you can!) Does it feel like summer yet? It is absolutey gorgeous here in my corner of New England today. Nice and warm - 78 degrees on the dot. And breezy - so breezy! We have every single window open and it's the most refreshing thing. I told the boys that we're changing the air today ~ we're letting out the spring and welcoming in the summer. It's like a wind tunnel in here, lol, but it's nice to air out the whole house in one fell swoop. I'm cleaning the windows too, to catch all that extra daylight. ;)

Secondly, did you see the space-station/shuttle flyover last night? So very, very cool. The viewing was even better last night than the night before. We also spotted a planet or two, some bats and fireflies, as well. Summer nights are the best.

Oh, also, this is short notice, but today at 1:55 p.m. the shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to return to earth.* I would guess most of the major news channels will show it live. We have the NASA channel here so that's where we'll tune in (I believe you can see it online; check their site). In fact we've set both our kitchen timers - one for the shuttle and one for the solstice. An exciting day all around. :)

So what will you do with all this extra sunlight today? Technically, today is the day the sun gives up it's reign and starts making more room for the night. Yes, from here on out, the days will actually be getting shorter. Maybe that's why summer seems to fly by?

We'll be having our Thursday tea this afternoon. I bought half-moon cookies (also called black-and-white cookies in some places) because they seemed to complement the light/darkness theme. Technically they'd probably suit an equinox better than a solstice, but I'm sure I won't hear any complaints. ;)

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The white part also happens to mirror tonight's crescent moon!

We'll be reading ahead for Sunday ~ for Mass and the Nativity of St. John. St. John's Day is also celebrated as Midsummer all over the world with bonfires, special foods and stories. I have a nice book of Shakespeare for kids which recounts, in just a few pages, the well known tale of A Midsummer Night's Dream. I think I will read that aloud as we eat - maybe tomorrow, depending on time and attention spans. I also have a simple sun craft for the boys to work on, too, one I found in All Year Round. I'll try to post pictures when we're done.

Well, however you celebrate this most summery of all days, enjoy!

*Update: The shuttle landing has postponed till 3:30 p.m. due to cloud cover. Make that Friday. Thanks, Nancy!

*PS: Just to clarify - that top picture is not mine; it came with my computer as a sample. Lovely though, isn't it? :)


Cake and a Craft for St. Anthony

It is a very autumnal day here - rather chilly and gray. Strange, but not unheard of for June in New England. The seasons are fickle in these parts - and this week it seems spring is giving us one last cool parting shot before allowing summer to take over. Raw as it is, it's a perfect day for baking and, as I type this post, I have just popped a cake in the oven. Its fragrant spices - cinnamon, clove and nutmeg - are filling the kitchen with what can only be considered a cozy homey mood. St_anthony2

But it's not the fragrance or flavor for which I chose this cake today but the name of the recipe itself ~ Poor Man's Cake. Because yesterday was the Feast of St. Anthony, the patron of the poor, and I thought this would be a fitting snack for our teatime this week.

It's an old-fashioned cake, one my grandpa loved and my grandma baked quite often. I haven't had it in years, but I remember it fondly from childhood visits to their house. I have just learned (thank you, Google) that Poor Man's Cake was also called Depression Cake and was quite popular in the 1930s.

It is so called because it uses no butter or eggs (expensive staples at that time), but relies on strong flavors and simple ingredients for its wholesome goodness. Poor it might be in terms of ingredients, but in taste it is rich and delicious. Our particular version today would have to be called the Even Poorer Still Man's Cake because I used no raisins or coffee. ;)

Poor Man's Cake

  • 1/2 box seedless raisins
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups water or strong instant coffee
  • 3 cups flour, sifted

In a large saucepan add 2 cups cold water (or coffee) with raisins, sugar and shortening. Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium and let cook slowly for five minutes. Set aside and let cool.

Add remaining ingredients to cooled liquid; mix well. Pour into a tube pan (I used a Bundt pan) that has been greased and floured (I used canola spray). Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean.

As the cake baked, we looked at this week's Magnifikid to familiarize ourselves with Sunday's Gospel. I next talked with the boys about the St. Vincent de Paul Society which works so tirelessly for the needy in our community. This week our church is having a special collection for the Society; I showed the boys the envelope and read from our Parish Handbook about the ways the group helps those in need. As I read aloud, the boys made their own special collection envelopes, pictured below.

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A simple afternoon activity and a tasty, teatime treat. :)

Well, thanks for stopping by my little corner ... I wish you a peaceful evening!


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!


Cupcakes and a Craft for Pentecost

Well, it was just too hot for tea today! Almost 90 degrees, with barely a breeze or a cloud in the sky. It was almost too hot to bake and craft, too - but we found a little energy late in the afternoon to prepare ourselves for this weekend's great feast ~ Pentecost Sunday!

I had seen an idea to make a Pentecost kite in The Big Book of Catholic Customs and Traditions, but I altered the plan a bit to make a windsock with the boys. We've been studying atmosphere and wind in our science studies, so this was timed very well.

Here are the few materials we needed:

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  • Red, orange and white construction paper
  • A dove-shaped template (this is a cookie cutter)
  • Ribbon (or you could use streamers)
  • (Not shown: glue stick, crayons and stapler)

This is a very simple craft! We cut a dove shape out of the white paper and pasted it onto the red. It's hard to see in the pictures but we adorned the dove with golden rays all around. Next we stapled the short ends of the red paper together to form a cylinder shape. Then we cut seven flame shapes out of the orange paper and on each one we wrote a Gift of the Holy Spirit. We attached these to the dove topper with orange ribbons, and voila - a Pentecost windsock!

We hung it off our deck where we will have our cookout this weekend.

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While the older boys played, and EB crashed for his nap, I set to work on our teatime snack. Since this feast is known as the birthday of our Church, I had it in mind to make cupcakes. (When do I not have it in mind to make cupcakes, lol?) And in reminiscense of the Pentecost story, I displayed thirteen cupcakes on our stand, one for each Apostle and one for Our Lady (hers is the blue one at top). I maneuvered the table a bit so the display would sit directly below our descending dove.

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I also set out our reading for teatime - our children's Bible, the weekly Magnifikid and our new religion read-aloud, The First Christians: The Acts of the Apostles for Children. We actually ended up reading from the chapter book as it described most fully and delightfully the Pentecost story. We liked this explanation of Our Lady's presence at this great moment in time:

"I am sure the whole baby Church was as much in our Lady's care as her own Baby had been and that for the twelve years or so she continued to live in Jerusalem, she spent nearly all her time between praying at home and praying in the Temple, and that only when the Apostles got to Heaven did they realize how much her prayers had had to do with their wonderful success."

So, next on the list was to set the candles aflame ...

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think of our wish for the Church ...

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and, like a mighty wind, blow them all out. :)

Well, friends, as always, thanks for stopping by and sharing in our day. I hope you all enjoy a most blessed, safe and beautiful holiday weekend!


Thursday Tea: Peace be with You!

This afternoon, as the gales blew outside and the rain lashed the windows, we sat down for our Thursday tea. This is the day we read and discuss the coming Sunday's Gospel and, very often we have a little hands-on activity to go with it. And we never forget the refreshments! It's not always tea (though when it is, it's usually Irish decaf.); sometimes it's cocoa or hot cider ... or as in the case today, warmed vanilla milk. Our snack is usually something baked, a yummy treat for the boys (and me!).

Today's snack - almond sugar cookies. We cut them out in dove shapes to go along with Sunday's message of peace. Because I had no cutter, I made a template from cardboard. You know, the kind like Martha makes, only she makes it looks easy, but it's not? So we stopped after a few dove shapes and made the rest into crosses. :)

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Notice the chicken? That was going to be pressed into service as a dove, before I made the cardboard template. Crackerjack, looking over my shoulder at the cutters, asked if Jesus ever told any stories about chickens. I told him I didn't think so, but we could check.

Below you see the learning table all laid out with our peace banners, books and crayons. I also keep a notebook open to record any thoughtful or memorable things the kids say as we work - like the chicken comment above. :)

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I think I've mentioned them before, but I use a few regular resources to help me prepare the talk and activities each week:

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The recipe we used was delicious, and new to us: almond sugar cookies. That's not the actual title of the recipe (it's Sugar Cookie Recipe #2), but because it had almond extract in the ingredients, it appealed to me as something a bit different.

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We each got a mug filled with "vanilla cocoa," as I sold called it. It was just warmed milk with a little vanilla and a spoonful of vanilla sugar, but it tasted like pure comfort. The boys gave it big thumbs up.

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Crackerjack, hard at work again ... (he drank two mugs full!).

As we read the Gospel story, we brainstormed ways to show the peace of Jesus to others: pray, love, share, go to Mass, teach, show kindness.

We added these words to our display board:

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Along with our banners, they make a nice focal point for Sunday.

Peace to you all, and see you in the morning ~ Field Day will be up by mid-day!


Donuts and Crafts for St. Joseph

March 19th is a glorious day on the Catholic calendar ~ the Feast of St. Joseph, a most beloved saint, spouse of Our Blessed Mother, and most importantly, the foster-father of our Lord, Jesus Christ!

We've had much fun celebrating Good St. Joseph in little ways throughout the day. To begin with, we made donuts, a traditional feast food, for breakfast. They were oh-so-easy to make - no hot oil, no deep fryer - we just baked them in a special donut pan, which by the way, is currently on sale at The Baker's Catalogue. (Have I mentioned before how much I love this company?). This morning we made plain cake donuts; they were not too sweet, but soft and spongy and rather biscuit-like in taste - with just a bit of nutmeg and cinnamon for kick.

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While the donuts were still warm from the oven, I made a simple icing from confectioner's sugar and milk. These would be nice with a maple or chocolate glaze, and quite festive at Easter with white chocolate and pastel sprinkles. Next time (probably Sunday after Mass) I will finish them with a light cinnamon-sugar dusting. Yum!

We shared some with Nana, too, when she came over to watch Crackerjack and Bookworm while I took Earlybird to speech. Normally I take all the kids with me, but CJ was sick overnight, so Mum popped over to babysit. Just before she arrived, I pulled the pan from the oven and pressed "grind" on the Cuisinart. The coffee was just right with the donuts!

(Btw, CJ, still feeling poorly, passed on the donuts, but was well enough by lunch to eat not one, but two pb&j sandwiches, lol!)

After noontime, the boys got to work on their crafts ...

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Thanks to some terrific liturgical resources, we had plenty of fun easy crafts to choose from today. We decided to make St. Joseph's stained glass windows (Seton Art 1 for Young Catholics), do a coloring page (St. Joseph Virtual Altar) along with the words to "Dear St. Joseph" (a song from We Sing and Listen), and turn a shoebox into a rather humble St. Joseph altar (a variation on a theme discussed at 4Real).

As you can see our "classroom" windows were well-adorned by the end of the day. :)   

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CJ decorated his coloring page with carpentry stickers, in honor of St. Joseph's trade. Bookworm wrote out the words to "Dear St. Joseph" in his newly acquired cursive penmanship. EB's coloring page is on the lower left. He got overly busy with peeling the crayons, so his picture is only half-finished. The stained glass - to be perfectly honest - was mostly me. Cutting those tiny holes in the black paper (and first the template) proved a bit too fussy for the boys. CJ did the picture of St. Joseph in the middle, though.

At the bottom you see a few of the books we are reading this week. I am very upset with myself because I waited way too long to order The Song of the Swallows by Leo Politi, and I had so wanted to read it to the boys today. This lovely old book is this week's Catholic Mosaic selection, and a perfect read aloud for St. Joseph's Day (more on the legend here). I did place an order, and it should be here by the end of the week, so we will just have to content ourselves with a new and similarly lovely book about swallows ~ The Easter Swallows (pictured above). I picked this up at our local Catholic gift shop, after a quick read through told me it was a beautiful story for this special time of year - especially for Holy Week. Have you seen this book yet? I believe it is new this year. Pretty illustrations, and a sweet, meaningful story.

(And would you know, I found the dearest little swallow bird at Amazon ... yes, he found his way into my cart ... I can't wait to hear what he sounds like!)

Finally, we made up our St. Joseph's Altar, a very simple take on a beautiful tradition. We started with a shoebox, some stickers and a photocopied prayer from A Year with God. I covered the box in white construction paper and let the boys decorate it. The fruit stickers symbolize the foods that would adorn a traditional altar, the lily stickers represent one of the familiar symbols of St. Joseph. (Do you know the legend of the lilies?) Finally, we pasted the prayer on the front of the box, and I placed our Holy Family set at the top.

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This is the song we used for copywork today:

"Dear St. Joseph, kind and true, I have lessons I must do.

They are for your Foster Son. Help me till the work is done.

You who taught our Lord a trade, Showed Him how a chair is made,

Do not fail to answer me, Dearest Saint, my helper-be."

A lovely prayer for my home-learning boys! :)

And speaking of lovely, stay tuned for The Loveliness of St. Joseph Altars, hosted by my friend Jenn this Thursday, March 22nd. In the meantime, I wish you a good week and a blessed good night!


Our Afternoon with Abe

We had fun this afternoon celebrating Abraham Lincoln's birthday! First of all, it was just a great February day - cold and windy, with brilliant sunshine. We wrote out some Valentine cards this morning and mailed them on the way home from speech. Then, after lunchtime, just after EB went down for a nap (he's still recovering from that cold), we broke out the Swiss Rolls - I mean, Lincoln Logs - and poured cups of creamy hot cocoa. While the wind whipped around outside our learning room windows we listened to the tales of Abe Lincoln's childhood ...

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As we read, this particular quote caught our attention:

"That winter was long, but at last spring was there. Then the distant neighbors came to help them build a real cabin. It had four walls, but no windows or door. They had to climb through a hole in the wall to get in and out."

Bookworm exclaimed, "Hey, just look at the hole in the wall of our birdhouse!"

Why, we mused, this could be the very replica of that cabin from so long ago! I don't think we will ever consider this birdhouse without remembering the good laugh we had envisioning the Lincoln family crawling in and out of that hole! The boys were amazed at the hardships the Lincolns faced, and how at one time they lived in a three-sided house!

"What about the wild animals," Crackerjack asked?

Yes, the dangers were many back then. We felt all the more fortunate for our secure and toasty warm home where the wildest animal we encountered today was the neighbor's cat we chased out of the sandbox!

After our snack, we began work on our log cabin bird house. This craft would be fun for any family studying pioneer days. I bought the unfinished wooden bird house at Michael's Arts & Crafts for $4.99. I would assume similar varieties are available in other craft supply stores nationwide.

Here are some pictures from our project:

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The boys each chose a side and got to work painting the roof.

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The sides were painted in log cabin red.

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Bookworm gave the door a coat of green paint.

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After a bit of blue for the porch, we were done!

While I applied a few finishing touches (i.e. smoothed out a few globs here and there), the boys spent a while building with their Lincoln logs by the fire.

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Bookworm took his time with the engineering aspects ...

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... and Crackerjack just had a good time!

So, we will continue reading our book through the week, and Bookworm is also reading this biography. We never did get around to the pretzel log cabin I so wanted to try, but we may save that for Wednesday as a Nor'easter is moving in. A perfect day to work on such a project, while the world turns white all around us.


Tea and Crafts on St. Brigid's Day

In stark contrast to yesterday, we accomplished very little seat work today. And, atStbrigid_1 5:29 p.m., as I type these very words, I am really behind on supper and tidying up. Thursdays are supposed to be for cleaning the learning and living rooms and for starting next week's plans. Usually, we are home all day and these tasks are very easy (or at least not difficult) to incorporate into our day - but today we had afternoon plans that threw a serious (albeit fun) wrench in the works! All in all, though, we had a good day. As usual, I have some photos to share!

First let me tell you about our morning. Crackerjack needed to finish Mr. Popper's Penguins for our Book Group meeting at 1:00. So we all pulled together to help him do just that. Because I was called to household and Earlybird matters, Bookworm took over the read-aloud and the two brothers spent most of the morning in the reading room (as BW now calls the living room). Once that last chapter was finished, we gathered around the learning table and read this week's Catholic Mosaic title, Brigid's Cloak: An Ancient Irish Story. (As you probably guessed from my post title, if you did not know already, today is her feast day!)

After we read this beautifully illustrated, gives-you-goosebumps kind of story, we made a page for our family faith notebook:

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This is an image of St. Brigid I printed out from the internet, taped to a piece of bright blue paper and embellished with star stickers (in remembrance of Brigid's beautiful cloak). We added shamrocks in each corner and a quote from the book.

(Here I will tell you, we tried - valiantly so - to make St. Brigid's crosses. Not for lack of excellent directions, did we fail. We used the beige pipe cleaners I had on hand, and after several attempts, I turned the whole thing over to Bookworm. He's so good (and patient) with directions, but he too was confounded, so we put the craft aside. Maybe until next year, lol!)

Then it was all hands on deck, grabbing a quick lunch and readying ourselves for the trip to the library. I had filled the returns bag and printed out pick-up sheets. My mum came over to stay with EB and the older boys and I headed out.

Book Group, as usual, was great fun. Each boy sat with his age group and discussed this month's selection. I got to chat with some mother friends and fill up that library bag to bursting! We brought home lots of great books on the Crusades and a train video for EB. (I'll update our sidebar book lists this weekend!)

By the time we got home it was 2:30 and I was beat (I don't know how those on-the-go mums do it!), but I really wanted to get to our Thursday tea. Thanks to my liturgical books and the ladies at 4Real, there were so many neat ideas to consider. I had found a simple recipe for Brigid's Bread in Catholic Traditions for the Home and Classroom, but once we got home, I was just not up to scratch baking. So we set out yesterday's cookies, sliced Irish cheddar and crackers, and we also brewed (decaffeinated) Irish tea.

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The cheese fit the theme, actually, as Brigid is the patroness of dairy farmers! We used my Irish china, and the boys were very careful with the cups. Bookworm, who really loves tea, was pleased to hear about my grandfather (his Pa) who loved Irish tea and drank it daily.

I picked up the blue glass candle at the grocery store last weekend - the shade immediately made me think of this book. You can't see it here but there is a beveled cross on the front. The candle is set on a bright shamrock doiley which I have on hand for St. Patrick's next month!

As we ate, we went over the CM vocabulary and discussion questions, and then we began our Mass preparation time. 

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I read Sunday's Gospel from Magnifikid (Luke 5:1-11) while the boys worked on CatholicMom.com's weekly coloring page. We also read the corresponding story in our Children's Bible.

As a follow up activity, I had the boys brainstorm the ways they would have helped Jesus by being "catchers of men." What would they have done as disciples, I asked? The boys wrote their answers on paper fish shapes which we then hung from a branch tacked up over our window.

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Their ideas: Believe in Jesus, Pray with people, Be kind to everyone, and Talk about Jesus. :)

One of the (many) lovely things about following Cay's Catholic Mosaic Book Study is that we are in such pleasant company! Please stop by Mary Ellen's (who made delicious Brigid Bread) and Mary G's (who made gorgeous Brigid's crosses) today!

As always, thank you so much for stopping by and Fa bhrat Bhrighde, or ...

~ May God keep you safe under St. Brigid's cloak ~


A Wee Tea

Except, hold the tea ~ cold milk washed down the cookies much better. :)

Shortbread

Today, or rather, tonight, is Burns Night in Scotland, when that nation celebrates the birthday of the beloved poet, Robert Burns. This was a perfect excuse to make delicous shortbread for Thursday tea! Plus, I'm part Scottish so it's my ancestral obligation.

"O, my luve is like a red, red rose,

That's newly sprung in June.

O, my luve is like a melodie,

That's sweetly play'd in tune."

I also sang a bit of Auld Lang Syne, fully expecting the boys to recognize that song. They just stared at me blankly. (Of course, it could have been my singing.)

And to be perfectly frank, the shortbread was a bit of a miss - I'm the only one who truly enjoyed it, lol! I put too much butter in the ridiculously easy recipe (three ingredients, how could I have gone wrong?) and it never really baked all the way through. It may have been too moist to be authentic, but it was delicious. Here's a link to the recipe, which I will try again sometime soon.

I set the table with our beeswax Celtic cross candle (which I never burn - it's too lovely!), our Waterford votive (which my folks brought home from Ireland) and my "homegrown" thistle (Scotland's national flower) in a vase. This was a last minute idea - just lavender tissue paper folded and snipped into a thistle shape (more or less) and wrapped with green tissue which I snipped into spear shapes (for leaves). A rubber band held the whole thing together atop a pipe cleaner stem. Very humble, but kind of fun!

We read aloud from Magnifikid while we munched on our cookies. OK, I muched on the cookies - the boys pecked at the cotton candy leftover from yet another failed experiment - edible owl pellets.

Yep, you read that right. Edible owl pellets.

Well, this warrants some explaining. It was going to be a really neat edible craft project to tie into our owl study (I couldn't wait to tell Meredith) but it was, well, not so neat. Happily, though, it was edible.

I found the idea in Small Wonders: Nature Education for Young Children (an otherwise terrific book). It sounded so clever on paper - just wrap small pretzel sticks with cotton candy and shape them to look like owl pellets. According to the instructions ...

"When you serve the "pellets" to the children, be sure to tell them to pull the "fur" apart and look for "bones" before eating the whole thing."

Now who says I don't serve boy-friendly tea? ;)

Anyhoo - it just didn't work out for us. The cotton candy just wouldn't stay wrapped around the pretzel bits, try as we might. It didn't bother the boys much - they were just tickled they were getting cotton candy at all!

Well, I spent the rest of the afternoon taking pictures of our learning room and my lesson planning in action. I will try to post about all that sometime tomorrow. :)

For now, Good night and God Bless!


Little Flowers for Grammie

Today, we enjoyed our tea for St. Agnes, and remembered our beloved Grammie, who passed away last year. We could not be at her anniversary Mass this weekend, so we planned to remember Grammie in our own way at home. This morning we got to church early so we could light a candle of prayer in her name, and yesterday, we prepared a spiritual bouquet in her honor. You can see it there below, tucked into the real bouquet of "little flowers." (The tiny pale pink carnations, January's flower, smelled so spicy and sweet.) Grammie was greatly devoted to St. Therese, The Little Flower, so today we celebrated three beautiful, saintly women.

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Over tea we talked about Grammie, and delighted in old memories. She was 101 when she died and lived a long, interesting and joyful life. I'm so glad my boys got to know her and that they remember her still. I am certain they always will.

I thought I might share with you how we made the spiritual bouquet - although I am sure many of my readers are familiar with the concept. Each one of us made a promise of prayers - prayers we would gather together in a bouquet of love and remembrance of Grammie. We chose to assemble these prayers in a tangible and memorable way - as a simple flower craft. This is something you could do for anyone in need of prayers or perhaps just cheering up. It would also make a thoughtful Valentine or Mother's Day gift.

At first I thought of using a straw as the base, but I found a wooden heart stick from last Valentines Day and repainted it to suit the flower project: 

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Each one of us chose an identifying color and cut out little construction paper petals, one each for our promised prayers. Even Earlybird will say those little prayers he is learning - "Amen," "Jesus," and "Mary."

Here is the flower all arranged:

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The last step was to write our prayers on the petals and glue them all around. We pasted a picture of Grammie to the center of the flower as well.

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If your children were making this as a gift for a grandmother or aunt, you could paste a picture of him or her there instead.

I hope you all had a nice weekend, and until tomorrow, Good Night and God Bless!


Tea & a Craft for St. Agnes

Tomorrow is the feast of Saint Agnes of Rome, who died a martyr at 13 in the early fourth century. She is the patron of purity and is usually pictured holding a lamb. We spent some time this afternoon reading about her and preparing a little craft in her honor ... but the tea will have to wait for tomorrow. :)

Thanks to Kathryn and Gwen at 4Real, I learned these flowers are called St. Agnes's Snowflakes, and that they are closely related to the Snowdrop, one of my favorite garden flowers. (Not that I have any growing in my garden at present - though I hope to very soon.) And thanks to this book, I learned that snowflakes (as in frozen water!) were once called St. Agnes's flowers! Well, this was too lovely a connection to pass up, even though - or maybe especially since - we've had so little snow this year. I wanted to plan a craft around snowflakes for this feast, and found just the right one in, of all places, my grocery store flyer!

It was just what I was looking for - easy, quick, and, happily for me, very glittery. :)

Here are the materials, all things I had on hand:

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A white paper plate, white glue, glitter, red ribbon, a paint brush and a photocopy of her holy card. (You can find an image of St. Agnes online here.) Also shown is the page I tore from the flyer - who knew there would be crafts tucked in amongst the coupons?

Following the instructions, we cut out the snowflake template and placed it on the center of the paper plate. With a paintbrush (the sponge brush shown above was not firm enough, we found) we spread glue all over the template and plate, brushing the glue out towards the edges from the center.

Once the glue was spread all over, we peeled off the template and threw it away (it came off in pieces) and then came the glitter! We chose blue because it is so wintery.

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After the glue and glitter had dried, we cut the picture of St. Agnes down to a small oval and applied it (with more glue) to the center of the plate. Finally we punched a hole at the top and threaded a red ribbon through it.

Here it is hanging up in our windows, at a distance ...

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And close up, so you can see the sparkles. :)

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Tomorrow for tea we will enjoy vanilla pizzelle cookies ~ dusted with confectioner's sugar they will look just like real snowflakes, I think! We will also serve vanilla "tea" - yet another treasure of an idea I am gleaning from Alice. (The tea is actually warmed milk with vanilla and sugar.) I buried a vanilla bean in a tub of sugar over a week ago, so I hope it's ready!

I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend ... and speaking of snow, a storm is predicted for us later this week!

Oh, how I long to see St. Agnes's flowers floating by our windows ...


A Gift of Gracias: Tea & a Craft

As I mentioned earlier, Thursday is a quiet, homey kind of day for us, so I like to plan any craft or liturgical projects for Thursday afternoons. Sometimes a simple tea seems a perfect complement to our activity, so that gets planned into the day, as well.

Now, this is not to say we don't drink tea or do crafts on other days of the week, lol, just that I try to plan for this one at least. I particularly like to revolve our activities around an upcoming feast day, holiday, a loved one's birthday or a special event.

But sometimes, it's all about the book we are reading. Case in point - any one of the titles suggested in Elizabeth's Real Learning lists or Cay's Catholic Mosaic book study.

Books such as these are so treasured and meaningful they just cry out to be celebrated with a tea and a craft. This week's selection was a perfect example - A Gift of Gracias, one of our lovely Catholic Mosaic titles.

In this glorious tale, oranges figure prominently. Well, this is so perfect ~ citrus is at its peak in midwinter! I would love to make marmalade sometime, if only I could find an easy recipe. I may just have to order a jar of this instead - oh, my. Marmalade on toast and a cup of strong Irish tea? I can hardly imagine a more delectable winter breakfast.

But for today's tea, well I had something else in mind. I decided to serve Constant Comment tea (decaffeinated of course) and I baked up a fresh batch of ... not lemon like I made before ... but orange snowballs! I simply replaced the lemon extract and Kool-aid with orange on both counts. The results were equally delicious I am happy to report. :)

Below you see our small table setting - and as you can see, with three boys, I keep it pretty simple. No lace, no finery - not even a tablecloth! - just some child-friendly dishes, a glowing candle and good things to eat. The cookies and tea were a hit, as was the story of little Maria and Our Lady of Altagracia. Each and every title Cay chose for her book study is wonderful, but I think this is my favorite so far. The illustrations are gorgeous - colorful and warm - and the story is so very sweet.

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After we ate I showed the boys the Our Lady of Altagracia image I found online. I thought it would be nice to have something to remind us of this lovely story, a quick craft to hang up, and later to store in our family faith notebook. So I printed out the image and found one of our golden doilies ...

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We just cut out the image and glued it to the center of the doily which made a frame both simple and ornate.

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We hung it in our window and there it will hang through Our Lady's feast day this Sunday.

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Thank you for stopping by our little tea today! I hope you had a nice day as well. Do come back tomorrow - we have another simple craft planned and I might just be pursuaded to bake again! :)


A Little Craft for the Baptism of the Lord

I love to find little ways to weave our Catholic faith, so rich in tradition and rhythm, into our everyday life. There's just so much to explore and embrace, the mind boggles to think of all we could do between January and December.

But there is no need to over-extend. Just the daily prayers and devotions, the real learning and time spent together at home, the recognition of the beautiful feasts here and there ... this is all we need.

Certainly some days warrant a bit more merriment than usual - a Mass to attend, a party to throw, an elaborate craft to create. But our Church has prepared a whole calendar's worth of days to celebrate our Lord. Blessed are we, to find so many reasons to show and share our praise.

I truly believe these little actions - humble, certainly, but nourishing all the same - are weaving a strong, beautiful fabric in our life - a mantle to wrap around my children's hearts. Someday these precious hearts will be bared to the ways of the world. How fervently I pray they will be well prepared to meet those ways - to go forth and show the world their own ways first and foremost, to always be in the world and not of it. So while they are in my charge, I will do my best to prepare them - to help them always know the love of their family, their faith and their God.

(This is my bumbling introduction to a post of small projects from our day. Please see my dear friend Alice's beautiful post for a much more eloquent message - one that inspired me to take a step back and consider why it is I do what I do here at home with my boys.)

So let me get on with my post, then. As you already know (or guessed from my title) today is the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. I had nothing big planned as of last evening and then slowly a few things came together. Not the least of which was my generous friend Katherine's lovely coloring page - which I quickly printed out for today. It was so much nicer than the picture I had planned to use from Art 1 for Young Catholics.

Over breakfast we read today's Gospel ... and directly afterward we read a chapter from Crackerjack's CCD book. Last week CJ's class read about the sacrament of baptism and they even held a pretend baptism at the holy water font! Everyone was assigned a name tag - cousins, aunts, godparents, priest - our very own Crackerjack got to be the father and hold the baby doll (the "mother" wanted no part of it, lol).  When asked what name he gave the child, how my heart swelled when he said with a shy smile, "Dawn." So this experience was fresh in his mind as we began our talk today on baptism.

I thought it was neat when I asked the boys "How is water important to us?" and Bookworm responded, "We need it for life. Life begins with water." We immediately connected this to how, with the water of baptism, we begin our life with God.

Next thing the boys knew I was at the stove, and had begun making a candle. You can imagine how quickly they joined me! In our faith, one of the symbols of baptism is the seashell, so when I came across a walnut shell candle idea in All Year Round (looking forward to Candlemas) I immediately thought of this variation. It's not really candlemaking - but it comes as close as I ever have!

I gathered up a few tea light stubs and placed them in a can, which then sat in simmering water. Once the candle wax had melted, I poured it into the waiting (clean, dry) scallop shell. Just a few minutes later, while the wax was still quite soft, I pushed a white birthday candle into the center. There the candle stood, while the wax solidified around it.

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And here is the finished product:

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I think a few of these would make a nice summertime birthday gift! We floated our lighted candle in a small dish of water while we set about our morning work. Here you see the boys coloring in Katherine's beautiful pictures ...

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In the background of the picture is the Tomie de Paola Book of Bible Stories, one of our favorite resources, from which I read aloud as they worked.

For an afternoon treat we had shell-shaped cookies with tea. These are eggnog clamshells, a local specialty, and Pepperidge Farm Rialto's - chocolate cookie sandwiches filled with raspberry jam and dusted with powdered sugar. (Y-U-M.) After we ate, we worked on maps of the Bible lands (from Uncle Josh's Outine Map Book), locating and drawing in the Jordan River.

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Earlybird and I stopped at the grocer on the way home from speech and I was inspired to pick up some seafood for supper - scallops, cocktail shrimp, and Annie's Shells-and-Cheese. Easy but memorable.

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Finally, if I may, please let me share with you my boys' narrations from today (also seen attached to the pictures above). I found a neat exercise in Saints And Feast Days; the instructions were to describe an eye-witness account of the Baptism of our Lord. The boys pretended they were passers-by taking in the scene that unfolded on that day:

Bookworm:

"Something strange happened this day although at first it seemed like nothing could have possibly been so peculiar. As I was walking by the River Jordan, I noticed someone in the river doing strange activities with other people. Upon closer investigation, it appeared to be that he was baptizing them. I had found out about this by overhearing some people talking about it earlier today in town. Well, anyways, now they were asking him if he was the Christ, and he said, “No.” Then when another man came towards the river, he began talking about how he was not worthy to tie the thongs on this man’s sandals. Pretty soon I caught on to the idea that this was the Christ that everyone was talking about and that he was asking the man who was baptizing the others to baptize him. Then in the middle of all this activity the sky opened up and a dove came own to him and then, as I learned afterward, he had the Holy spirit inside of him. After I saw this I immediately headed back to the village and told everyone what had happened. They said they didn’t believe me and I told them that maybe they should go and ask John the Baptist. I’m not sure if they did but I am sure of one thing - the Son of God now has the Holy Spirit within him. I felt amazed."

Crackerjack:

"I was walking along the river Jordan with my brother when all of a sudden I saw tons of people watching someone in the water with another person. I thought they were playing a game in the water and then I realized he was pouring water over that person. The others were all watching. I noticed on the hill there was a group of more people coming and I wondered why. I thought to myself, is this some sort of magic trick or something? Then I realized someone was being baptized but I didn’t know what it really meant. I heard my mom say it before but I never knew what it really meant. I wanted to go ask my mom but it was a long ways back since I’d been walking with my brother for a long, long time. I asked somebody and they said that he was being baptized because he wanted to, but the baptist said at first he didn’t need to be baptized. I knew that he was being baptized for a reason but I didn’t know what reason. And then I saw a dove coming down and I wondered why a dove would be here. It is sort of a rainy day today ... But then I realized the dove was not using the wind it was using golden fire. It flew right into him and I wondered was this some sort of magic trick they’re doing? But then I looked all around and realized it wasn’t magic - it was really going right into his body! I felt like I was trying to make my mind up if it was a magic trick or if it was a celebration and I finally decided it was a celebration."

Well, that was our day in a nut, er, seashell!

Thanks for bearing with another long post. :) Until tomorrow, Good Night and God Bless!      


The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Continuing with our Advent unit study, today we celebrated this beautiful feast with a few simple projects.

First we read the Tomie de Paola book, The Lady of Guadalupe. I love this story about Juan Diego and his vision of Mary - who was later honored as the Patroness of the Americas.

And since the boys noticed in The Legend of the Poinsettia that Lucida's family had a lovely shrine set up with candles for the Blessed Mother, we set about making one of our own. It is extremely humble, but it was easy to make and is just the right size for our prayer corner:

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Starting with a miniature disposable loaf pan, I bent and molded it into the shape (more or less) of a shrine. On the back wall I taped a holy card showing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Just below the card I placed one of our favorite "starry" candles. (Note: Bill warned me this might melt the plastic card, so I'm keeping a close eye on it.) To the right and left are two more candles for good measure - one can never light too many candles! Actually the aluminum backdrop illuminates the vision quite nicely!

Next we made a poster of Our Lady in the image as seen by Juan Diego:

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I had some extra cake boards, and a bunch of burlap leftover from a Lenten craft. We wrapped the cardboard circle with the burlap and then stapled it all around the edges, trimming off the excess. Bookworm colored an image from the coloring book, Mother of God, and we taped it to the center of the board. Lastly we attached some rose stickers. The burlap is reminicent of Juan Diego's rough tilma, the image represents how he saw Our Lady, and the roses recall those that fell from his open arms before the Bishop:

"Suddenly he realized that no one was looking at the beautiful roses on the carpet. They were all looking at his tilma.

"Juan Diego looked down. His rough cactus-fiber tilma had been changed into a painting of the Lady just as he had last seen her at the foot of Tepeyac."

We added our poster to our Mexican corner, just above the stained glass poinsettia and our God's Eyes from yesterday.

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I was hoping later today to enjoy a cup of Mexican hot chocolate for tea, but with Crackerjack's CCD in a few hours and a cookie swap later this evening, there's no time today, I'm afraid! Perhaps we'll try again tomorrow. :)

I wish you a Blessed Feast and a Happy Evening!


My Craft Basket this Week

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Now, please bear in mind, this thoughtfully composed basket in no way accurately represents the state of affairs in my "general" craft bins, the ones I allude to quite often in my posts. Those bins I shall leave to your imagination (for now), but I thought you might like a peek into this week's craft basket!

I like to assemble the materials for the week in this way - it's a bit silly, but I find it helpful (and inspiring) to have all these goodies in one place throughout the week.

So, what do we see here? Well, here's the list, more or less going clockwise from the lower left corner:

  • mini loaf pan, holy card and candle
  • flesh colored pipe cleaners
  • golden felt
  • rose stickers
  • silk poinsettia flowers
  • multicolored tissue paper
  • black construction paper
  • cardboard cake boards
  • coloring page of Our Lady of Guadalupe
  • cardboard letters
  • brown burlap fabric
  • clear contact paper
  • wooden clothespin doll kit
  • multicolored yarn
  • q-tips
  • various shades of acrylic paint
  • glitter
  • sand dollar
  • green ribbon

So now the trick will be turning all these items into fun and meaningful crafts for, and with, the children. Stay tuned ~ I will post as we go!