Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Holy House

I first heard about the Holy House of Loreto at a the CHAPLET homeschool conference years ago. Fr. Ronan Murphy spoke about "The Family" - the Holy Family being the example of Holiness for all families. He also told of one of his greatest gifts as a priest was when he offered Holy Mass at the Holy House of Loreto. This year I put together a little Holy House for our House - I hope it's little light will help remind us to make our home more like that little home where our Lord grew up.

I found this Christmas tea light lantern pattern - a little glitter - some tissue paper for the windows - and a small cut out of Our Lady and Child from an old Christmas card and I had our the little house
Then I took some very simple wool angels and a bit of silver ribbon and hung everything from a wooden arch that I saved from an old mobile. You could also use a small wreath on the horizontal and add two more angels (one for each corner) - which I might do for a future house.
I used a hot glue gun to attach the ribbon to the house and to the arch to make sure it was secure.

I would enlarge the lantern pattern next time - I managed to make it a little bigger on the computer but I really needed to get to a copy machine.

Here are a couple of posts I've enjoyed related to the day from....

Cottage Blessings


Under Her Starry Mantle

Anyone else? Please leave a link in the comments section!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Getting the boys to Mass on a Monday after Sunday was a feat. "What!!?? Mass again?" But we made it and Aidan enjoyed showing our DRE and Fr Wayne his Sunday Sticker Book.
After Mass we zipped up to our favorite florist shop and bought a single white rose for our Advent Garden.

Later in the evening we gathered for the lighting of the garden. We began with this verse by Christiana Rossetti:

Herself a rose, who bore the Rose,
She bore the Rose and felt its thorn.
All Loveliness new-born
Took on her bosom its repose,
And slept and woke there night and morn.

When the candles were lit we sang....

Immaculate Mary
Maria Walks Amid The Thorn
(the tune to this song is in on our Christmas Star cd under the title "Maria Wandered Through A Wood")
Joseph and Mary (selection 13)
A Virgin Most Pure (selection 14)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Dressing up....

......a dress. I was very thankful when a friend passed on a lovely black merino wool dress to my daughter. She will be helping Dad with the annual Senior Citizen Prom at the high school where he works. Plain black didn't quite seem in the holiday spirit so I took some thin red and silver ribbon and careful woven it through the knit of the dress.

Dressing up....

......cookies. Katie made chocolate chip cookies with something a little extra for the reception today after the Youth Orchestra's holiday concert. She added a cup of chopped dried cranberries. They are so good!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Kind Old Man St. Nicholas Dear....

...Come to my house this year! Aidan was anxious to get started shining Papa's shoes last evening. The rest of the children joined in later.

For years now this first full weekend in December has been a very busy one - this year is no exception. It is always the date of our youth orchestra's winter concert and Ed facilitates a student group at the local high school that puts on a prom for the senior citizens. Today there are rehearsals and auditions for state honor choir, oh, and a garden pickup too... and Mass! Whew!

Today will be busy but once again St. Nicholas has brought us something special that will certainly help keep a smile on our faces. To get us through we'll have dried cranberries, figs, and cherries. We'll be sure to take a few pieces of the candied ginger with us too. And to start us off Papa awoke in the wee hours to get some St. Nicholas boots ready for us to go with the usual citrus fruit and mixed nuts the good Saint brings for breakfast.

To help keep Mama sane today as we drive around from here to there and all around I will enjoy this CD I purchased with some other music for the Advent season. It is beautiful! And finally when all is done we will snuggle up with the book with which I first fell in love with St. Nicholas - St. Nicholas' Travels by Hertha Pauli. I first found this book in our local library but I finally bought a used copy of my own. After all is said and done today we'll snuggle in bed and hear the story of when St. Nicholas met Constantine the Great, and of their attendance at the Council of Nicaea.

In this story we hear how this good Saint, who is so associated with the Feast of Christmas never had a Christmas - the bishops at the council were in doubt as to when the observance of the Nativity should take place - it had happened "in the days of Herod" - but could it have been a spring day? the shortest day of the year? the day when the Magi visited Bethlehem?

"The Bishop Nicholas of Myra did not live to see the question settled. He never saw a Christmas. He died as he lived, a faithful servant of God. He prayed on his deathbed as he had prayed in the cell at Nicaea, and here, too, the light of Heaven was suddenly round him and the three angels descended again, to receive his soul."

Is it any wonder then that the good Bishop comes each year to teach us something about keeping Christmas!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

The gathering of tasty morsels begins well before the Thanksgiving Holiday - this year we purchased our turkey from Country Ark Farm - a nice 29 lb. bird - not our biggest but we will certainly have lots of leftovers.

The last pick up for our summer share at our CSA always comes right before Thanksgiving and we look forward to the brussel sprouts and cheese pumpkins especially.
I still remember the first year we joined the CSA (13 years ago!) and how amazed I was at the huge stalks of brussel sprouts - I realized my children have never known brussel sprouts in any other way! By the way, this year the boys discovered that the stalks make excellent swords after the sprouts are removed.
We had our pick of an assortment of root vegetables - these we will continue to see throughout the winter but Thanksgiving just wouldn't be the same without sweet potatoes from the garden.
We serve them baked - simply baked - it would be a high crime in this house to let anything even resembling a marchmellow anywhere near these lovelies!

The menu this year featured favorite simple foods in all their goodness

Roast turkey
Mashed potatoes
Sweet potatoes
Brussel Sprouts
Cranberry-apple conserve
Small rosemary sourdough loaves
Corn pudding (made by Grandma!)
Sparkling cider

There were actually two kinds of stuffing - a big batch of apple-celery- onion stuffing and a smaller batch of oyster stuffing that my dear hubby made just for me!

The table was set and ready, we like the napkin holders from the Toymaker.
And new on our festival table this year were two Native American dolls that joined our pilgrims that I made years ago. These really aren't hard to make - the directions for basic heads can be found in The Nature Corner. A little wool for hair, some embroidery floss braided for the headband and there you go -

And last but not least, dessert!

We always have Pumpkin Whoopie pies - they are so good - another great recipe from the International Cookie Cookbook. I also tried a new, untried recipe but I figured how could anything with chocolate and pumpkin turn out bad? A little daring turned into a hit -
Pumpkin Chocolate Tart .

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Christ the King

Today is the Solemnity of Christ the King which marks the end of the liturgical year. Last year at this time, I remember I was at a concert that my girls were in ...I remember tsk, tsking the singing of Christmas carols before Advent had even begun!

But then they started to sing Joy to the World and as I listened to the lyrics I realized how wonderful this carol is for this day -

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders of His love.

I found this wonderful image from this blog - what a wonderful collection of Holy cards! This image will have a special place during our evening meal. As this Church year comes to an end we can reflect on how we have made room for Christ in our family life and in our own lives. As we look forward to a new season of advent and another joy-filled Christmas we can decide in what ways we will let our hearts prepare Him room! I will tuck this image and this carol away for advent to reappear Christmas morning when we will again sing...


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Leaf Fort

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Our newest addition!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Lanterns for St. Martin's Day

We haven't painted as a family in quite a while and I knew I wanted t0 make some lanterns for St. Martin's Day so we combined the two activities.

We started out by laying red and yellow paint down next to each other and then placing red on some of the yellow and yellow on some of the red - this brings out different shades and showed me what the children could do with their colors (we have some work to do). The tree is made by bringing blue in with a smaller brush and then going over the blue tree with more red and yellow. The tree would probably be a bit much for a younger child - Aidan wanted a tree so I put one down for him and then he went over it with his brush.
After the painting had dried (the next day) we drew in little lanterns that would decorate our tree. The girls and I carefully cut out the shapes with an exacto knife as below
Another option is to enhance the picture with coloring - Aidan wanted a St. Martin figure which I do admit to "massaging" into a more recognizable figure - I always ask permission before I "help" with a drawing.
When the cutting and coloring is finished, the edges and glued together - our smaller lanterns were made with one painting - the larger ones are two paintings glued together. We used good old Elmer's glue and just held it in place for a bit to dry. The smaller lanterns were fit around a metal lid from a ball mason jar. A handle can be added to the smaller lanterns by threading some florist wire through the top. The bigger lanterns we will keep on a table top and just enjoy the glow.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Happy Halloween

We stopped off to visit Nana before our fun evening with friends.
I actually really cheated this year and simply raided the costume box we keep in the attic. We already had the Robin Hood costume and Little Red Riding Hood's cloak - my oldest daughter took an old bridesmaid dress of mine and printed out a butterfly Mardi Gras mask we found online. The only thing I had to do was take the large mouse years off the 3T sweatsuit and stitch them onto to Despereaux's 5T sweatshirt. What! You don't know who Despereaux is?? Well if you don't recognize him now maybe you will this December - we are all very excited to see the movie - a rare treat in our house. (But read the book first!)

After a hearty healthy dinner of chili, cornbread, and butternut squash soup everyone was ready for some serious trick or treating.
Among the girls we had Laura Ingalls Wilder, Ann of Green Gables, Little Red Riding Hood, a Masquerade Butterfly, Mother Theresa, and a princess. The boys? As you can see they were all boy - Robin Hood, a Ninja (who managed to jump out at members of our group a time or two much to his delight!) and our very unusual mouse.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A First Holy Communion

We have been busy but I wanted to share a bit of a very special day. Our son Christian, age 8, received his First Holy Communion on Saturday morning, May 4th. We had another commitment later that afternoon so his party was held the next day. All that week I fretted over impending weather reports - we have a small house and we were counting on an outdoor barbecue. Saturday was a bit drizzly and cool but the by the next afternoon the clouds opened and the sun was shining!

We covered the picnic table with a light blue table covering and added a beautiful bouquet of flowers in blue and white and our Mary statue - we had completed a Novena of our own to Mary under her title "Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament" to help Christian prepare for his First Holy Communion. (I really think she had something to do with our beautiful day!) I also put out some of the books and resources we used for our First Holy Communion preparation.

I had spied a lovely cross shape cake in a bakery that we like but the price was a bit more than what we felt would be appropriate. So we made our own. We didn't have a cross shaped pan or time to order one so we simply took our cake recipe and baked it in a 9x13 Pyrex baking dish - it was a little tricky to remove but - that's what frosting is for after all! To make the cross we simply cut off a section lengthwise and cut that into two pieces to add onto each side of the larger center piece - there was a little extra left over for snacking. Alternately, you could also make a template out of wax paper. we trimmed all the edges square. Then we just covered the whole pieced together cake with frosting.

Christian helped big sister Katie bake the cake the night before which is from one of my favorite books for old fashioned desserts, The Country Mothers Cookbook

Daisy's Nutmeg Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, grease and lightly flour two round 9" layer cake pans (we used a 9"x13" Pyrex baking dish)

2 cups sifted cake flour (we used unbleached white)
2 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (we used ground)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Sift these ingredients together into a medium sized bowl, set aside

1/2 cup butter, softened at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs, well beaten
1 cup buttermilk

In a large bowl cream butter and vanilla together until light. Add sugar gradually, creaming until fluffy after each addition. Add beaten eggs, one-third at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition.

Then alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk by thirds to the creamed mixture - beating only til smooth after each addition - don't overdo.

Turn batter into prepared pans (or dish) - bake until cake is light brown and tests done when pressed lightly with fingertips - about 30 minutes. Turn out on a wire pan to cool. If using the Pyrex baking dish - loosen the sides with a knife and use an offset spatula to loosen the bottom.

Ice when cool - this recipe makes plenty -

6 oz cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp grated lemon peel
4 cups sifted powered sugar

In a medium bowl, blend cream cheese, lemon juice, and peel. Gradually blend in powered sugar. If frosting is too stiff, blend in 1 tsp cold water at a time until desired consistency.
Katie collected and rinsed the fresh violets that adorned the cake - they are edible. The pan was dusted with powered sugar.

My mom found a little something for the center of the cake -
The rest of the menu included-
grilled hamburgers and hot dogs
fresh green salad with grated beet and carrot
walnut lentil salad
potato salad

Really very easy - we had some family and a few of Christian's friends - a bunch of boys running around the lake catching newts. fish, frogs - they loved it! Christian had a very special weekend - can you tell?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Our Morning Walk

What are little boys made of? Today they are made of pond water and muck,

Squirmy tadpoles....
Slippery newts and
Frog eggs!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Our Morning Walk
The mystery daffodil patch. Our walk was cut a little short today due to bugs! Everything is waking up and we were swarmed! Time to stock up on our natural bug repellents.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Our Morning Walk
This flower is a bit of a mystery - Hannah found a whole a patch of daffodils and jonquils off in the woods near another section of stream. They are not anywhere near a house - how did they get there?

The weather has warmed up quite a bit this week - buds and greenery are peeking through all over - finally! We made our way to The Court again for a couple of rounds of "Mother may I" - Hannah opted to continue adding some plants to her flower press for an ongoing Botany project.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Maple Sugaring - Evaporating

If you remember those old Dunkin' Donuts commercials where the very tired donut maker wearily keeps repeating to himself...."Gotta make the donuts" then you have a bit of an idea what this phase of maple sugaring is all about - except the ongoing phrase in your head is more like "Gotta feed the fire".

Once you have your sap then you've got to bring it to a boil..and then you let boil..and boil...and boil some more. You have to keep the fire going hot if you want to make progress and when you still have 50 gallons of sap waiting plus another gather looming in the afternoon - you want to make progress.

We started with large pots last year but we knew we were going to have improve on that for this year. At the beginning of the season we started with two stainless steel steam tables - like the ones you might see at a hot buffet.
This worked so much better than the pots...but we could do better. Ed was able to find a piece of stainless steel metal and a coworker was able to fashion a larger pan for us - he will be getting free syrup and other maple goodies for life! The best part about having a custom made pan is that we know it is absolutly lead free. Isn't it beautiful?

But believe me - this same pan looks a little different now at the end of the season. The larger shallower pan means more sap fits in the pan and more of pan being in contact with the flames makes for a more efficient boil. The picture below shows one of the smaller pans now acting as a warmer for the sap.

The basic routine Hannah followed was to strain the sap through cheesecloth and add that to the warming pan on top. Whenever the big pan started getting low - the sap from the warming pan was added to the large pan. We kept the large pan going until it was getting close to syrup - the sap obviously starts to slightly thicken and gets a more golden color, oh...and it smells wonderful! Once the syrup was getting close to finish, that is, when the temperature got to about 216 F degrees,the syrup would be moved to a large pot to finish inside on the stove.

Inside the syrup was finished at 219 degrees F. Once we had syrup we would let the "sugar sand" settle - next step - bottling!
An Unexpected Guest

I was in the kitchen when I heard something knock over our recycling can. We had a visitor alright - this must be a cub from last year. I looked over into the woods behind our neighbors house and saw 0ne...two...three...wait a minute...yes...four more young bears following one behind the other up through the woods. Five bears in a single sighting that is a record for us! This one just sort of sat there looking at us as we scrambled to get the camera and our bear measures ready - whistles and an assortment of pots and pans.
I took another pic and then we started our banging, our whooping, and our hollering...uh don't go up that tree just go join your brothers and sisters! He scrambled about 4ft up and then came back down and ran off up the hill.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Our Morning Walk

If nothing else - this little project with the goal of posting a picture a day has shown me how busy and blessed our life is on a daily basis.

This past Thursday our morning walk was to the car to go see the Golden Dragon Acrobats- what an amazing show.

Friday our walk didn't happen - we were catching up from being out Thursday - besides the camera was already packed away in Papa's car ready for his trip to Raritan Bay where it was busy taking pictures like this one below on Saturday. He enjoyed his first Nantucket Sleigh Ride! What! You don't know what a Nantucket Sleigh Ride is? Well neither did I until my husband took up fishing. Just picture a kayak (small craft, no anchor), a very large fish, a fishing pole, and a grown man grinning from ear to ear.
Papa was back Saturday night and up on Sunday to get ready for the Senior Citizens' Prom that one of his student groups at the high school where he works puts together each year. The girls went to help out dressed in their Easter best and afterward I joined them to see the high school's production of Damn Yankees - they did a great job!

Which brings us to Monday - whew!
Sketch books in hand, the girls and I checked on the plants we have chosen to sketch through Spring. The day was beautiful - so our walk ended at "The Court" - it's an old cement basketball court where we jump rope, play hopscotch, sing, play get the idea. Aidan, above, is playing a favorite variation of jump rope where you try to hop over the slithering snake and not get bit!

And here it is Tuesday - violin lesson day - in my vision of a perfect Tuesday morning we are all up and out to take our morning walk - the boys stay presentable and do not get covered in mud - and we all calmly and happily get in the car and on our way! Hmm...we'll just call it a work in progress and leave it at that.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Our Morning Walk

Today we took turn down towards the stream. We crossed the area that the children have named "The Treacherous Bog". I thought the name just a bit dramatic...until I missed a bog and came away with a boot covered in muck. We crossed the stream and walked along the other side. I can't say I have ever seen a fairy but if I ever do, surely it will be somewhere along this stream. Doesn't the above look like prime fairy territory to you?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Our Morning Walk

Another picture from yesterday - this morning it was enough to get to violin lesson on time. I love all those little birches that are surrounding Katie - they hold their old leaves until the new ones come out. This year I am watching to see just when those old leaves fall off.