Follow our family's journey as we seek to nourish our souls with music and literature, good company, great cooking, time spent in nature, and always, the love of Christ especially through the sacraments of His Church.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Season of Preparation

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Ours was noisy and fun, just surrounded with beautiful, simple food and beloved family. I was so tired that we spent the next 2 days doing n-o-t-h-i-n-g! Literally. Therefore I am a little behind getting ready for the St. Nicholas party here on Dec. 1st. Grocery shopping was haphazard and I have no idea what we will be eating this week. But I did get lots of sleep!

I did manage to put a little thought into our Advent plans. It's just a beautiful time to me, and I am really enjoying sharing it with the kids as they get a little older. Here is our Advent wreath with lovely candles recycled from last  year...

We read the prayers together and the first candle burned during our Sunday night dinner.

I decided to make little cards with one-word inspirations on them as a focus for our good deeds. These are areas that we all need to improve on within the family, and we will each draw one randomly on each Sunday of Advent to inspire us for the week ahead. It was uncanny how perfectly matched each word was to the one who drew it this week!! God knows what we all need.

As always, for each good deed in the next 4 weeks, we will be adding straw to a little basket representing Baby Jesus' bed, making it as deep and soft as possible before His birthday. It's delightful to see how earnestly the kids are trying to please Him, at least so far! It's a great reminder to me of how important it is for all of  us to have a focus and motivation for our good works, and of how wise the Church is to give us these seasons and challenges to reach higher in our efforts to love and serve.

So granted, none of the above takes any time to actually do, so this year I am finally implementing a Jesse Tree devotional for each day. I've never done one in the past, either because I didn't get myself together in time, or the kids weren't really old enough to participate. I searched online and found there are dozens of versions out there, kind of overwhelming! Basically, this is a way of learning salvation history through well-loved bible stories. Each story has an accompanying symbol which is made into an ornament and hung on a tree. I settled on something that seemed very simple and sweet even for small children, with printable symbols to make it easy for me. Our tree is just a little Christmas tree I happened to have, although I would have liked a real branch if I'd had more time.  Here is our first ornament, the shoot from the "root of Jesse" (Isaiah 11: 1-2)

It's been fun putting the materials together and the kids seem to be into it. What kid doesn't love a story, especially a bible story filled with drama? I hope this will help us all to see the big picture of why Jesus' birth is so important and that there really is more to Christmas than shopping and opening gifts. We love everything about Christmas here, so it is a joy to deepen our understanding and discover greater meaning to our beloved traditions.

There will be lots of fun celebrations along the way, too. Advent is really such a joyful time! St. Nicholas day is big, and as I mentioned, the party for our homeschool group will be here, on Wednesday. It is a big party! I'm also planning a peppermint day, something yet-to-be-determined for December 8, (the feast of Mary's Immaculate Conception), and a Mexican feast for Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12. I am sure there are more celebrations to follow, they're just not on my radar yet! We always drive around to look at Christmas lights around Christmas day, but I recently heard of someone who had a tradition of doing it for St. Lucy's day, December 13. I'll have to look into that.

One thing I still need to do is get together our Advent/Christmas book basket. That will be another post. For now, Advent blessings to all my readers! I hope this is a special time for all of your families. 

PS: Oh, and it's Catholic Cyber Monday at Lacy's - look at all these deals she has rounded up!! You could shop all day right there.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Prep!

Is this what you're doing today? Well, even if you're not outdoors stirring a cauldron, times haven't changed too much - we're all still busy preparing for the feast. I think my baked sweet potatoes, ready for mashing, look exactly like the Pilgrim mothers' probably did!

On the menu at our house: traditional roasted turkey, sausage stuffing with apples and cranberries, red-skinned mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, cranberry salad, green vegetables, rolls, and promises of dessert brought by guests: pumpkin trifle and cranberry apple pie! I am making a maple syrup pie, which is traditional in my family, and a pumpkin pie will undoubtedly materialize as well. Such abundance - we have so much to thank God for.

Wherever you are this holiday week, I wish you and yours every blessing, and especially the gift of gratitude on this Thanksgiving Day. Enjoy your turkey and all the traditions your family loves! I'll be back after the big day.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cozy At Home Daybook

(It's about time for one, don't you think?)

I am hearing... Kids playing on the computer, dishwasher humming

Outside my window... gray and drizzly - real November weather!

Around the house... we are hunkered down in cozy indoor mode - crafting, reading, creating. The house is warm and glowing with fall decor. I am sorting clothes and trying to get everything put away for this season.

In the yard... Everything has been cleaned up and put to bed for the winter. A few flowers are still hanging on in a pot by the back door - I just can't pull them out when they are still blooming optimistically!

From the kitchen... Fall foods - apples, pumpkin, squash... and big plans for the big Thanksgiving feast next week. It's always fairly traditional here. Jeff and I adopted a stuffing recipe as our own a few years back - sausage stuffing dressed up with apples and craisins - so good and pretty too! 

Living the liturgy... We have focused on learning new saint stories this month, as well as praying for the Holy Souls. Earlier in the month we created some saint paper dolls using the templates here. Now I am trying to make a plan for Advent because it always sneaks up on me and I want to be prepared this year. We usually keep it simple - straws in a basket represent good deeds done for Baby Jesus, an Advent calendar hangs on the fridge, and our Advent wreath is lit at least on Sundays.

Learning notes... We have a simple routine now that involves a little table time every day and we have made decent progress in acquiring some helpful skills like telling time, counting money, writing numbers, etc. Lots of our time is used creating art and pictures, which I like to use as reading time since little hands are occupied and busy little bodies are (more or less) stationary. We have read stacks of fall-themed picture books, along with the kids' picks from the library - books on topics like space travel, electronics, and weather, which may or may not be way above their levels, but fun to look at none-the-less. I have been much more consistent with keeping notes each week on what we have explored, both formally and informally, and find it a good and encouraging habit for myself personally.

The kids this week... seem to have imaginations in overdrive. The complexity of their play is mind-boggling - I'm just getting used to having older kids, I think. Benjamin turns 6 on Friday and he's sooo excited. Birthdays are big fun here!

Last weekend... We did all of our activities, including Mass and confession, on Saturday. Sunday and most of Monday (before Jeff left for work) were total down-time - no commitments or appointments, just go ole' hang-out-at-home-time! It was much needed after a busy fall and with the holiday season rapidly approaching. Nice recharge - I recommend it!

Some plans for the week... It's a busy birthday week here. Mine is Thursday and Benjamin's is Friday! I will be hanging with my sis on Thursday and hopefully doing some last minute errands for Benj's birthday, and Friday we will have a small family celebration for him. We will probably take him to do something fun on Saturday when Jeff isn't working. I am also busily planning our Thanksgiving festivities next week, as well as the homeschool St. Nicholas party to be held here only 5 days later. I am looking forward to a low-key December focused on Advent!

Pondering in my heart... How to balance the excessive busy-ness of the upcoming season with the goal of turning inward and fostering thankfulness, peace and joy. And how to bring joy to those not feeling as celebratory this time of year...

I am thankful for... Online shopping. Did we ever really have to go out to compare prices and look for everything? Thanks, Mom, for ever getting me what I actually wanted for Christmas!! 

I am praying... for someone dear struggling with depression.

A picture to share... Benjamin's tomato project. These were started outside before the cold weather arrived - we are going to see if they survive indoors. Note 5-year-old's inability to make a normal face :)


Monday, November 15, 2010

November Ponderings

Well, I never had any visions of discussing weighty topics here, but November does make me pause to reflect on eternity and the hereafter. Not only do we begin the month with the feast of All Saints - a joyful celebration - but we (as Catholics) spend All Souls' Day and the entire month remembering the souls still awaiting their reward.

Lately, I have heard of the passing of several acquaintances, including Mr. Berquist, one of the founders of my Alma Mater. And this is also a time that I commemorate the pregnancy or infant losses of some dear mommy friends... always a hard reality to understand. Combine these with nature's movement toward cold and darkness, well - it's easy to ponder eternal realities!

Interestingly, it's also a time when the hint of celebrations soon to come bring some excitement and anticipation to the gray days. In fact, the very season we anticipate promises the antidote to death - death and sin give way to Light and Life! Recently, I read a passage in a booklet that captures the hope that Christians have:

"Death is now a supernatural event, a highway to Heaven. For Christ has given death new meaning... 'Thou hast made death glorious and triumphant, for through its portals we enter into the presence of the living God.' "

It's sometimes difficult for me not to let the material world and its present sorrows weigh on me. I internalize the troubles of others easily - and with the access to the world enabled by the internet - well, there are many, many sorrows. We need to feed our souls with hope and joy! Scripture reading is second to none for keeping us grounded in the eternal. There is a wealth of other reading available to encourage our hearts on this journey. One book I read a few years ago was a logical study of heaven - immensely captivating and one I would recommend: A Travel Guide To Heaven.

While pondering many endings at this time of year, how blessed we are to have the the comforts offered by our Faith - a new Church year beginning soon with the hopeful seasons of Advent and Christmas, the consolation of the communion of saints united in praising God in heaven and on earth, and the expectation of our bodily resurrection on the last day. Like the natural world around us, we rest in the winter of our existence, knowing that the coming of springtime is only a matter of time.

Read more about the Catholic belief in the resurrection of the body at the Knights of Columbus website here. Scroll down to Lesson 9.

(photo credit)

Monday, November 8, 2010

And The Winner Is...

Elizabeth! Congratulations! Send me an email to the address in my sidebar, and let me know what you want (3 snowmen?) and where I should send them.
I used and generated a number between 1 and 9 (knocked off the last 3 comments as they were a discussion between me and my sis :P) I got a 6, which corresponds to Elizabeth's comment.

Thank you everyone for coming over and playing! We'll be doing this again soon with something different. If you want me to leave you a comment on your blog the next time I do a giveaway, let me know here. Otherwise, just keep checking back. Thanks again!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

It's Cold!

Wishing you hot cocoa and leaf cookies and a warm jar candle on a chilly night. Love this time of year!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Lil' Giveaway

Update: I am extending my deadline to 11 pm Sunday, Nov. 7, since I had no internet for a couple of days and could not get in touch with some people. Thanks for all the comments so far! Keep 'em coming!

I've been wanting to do a giveaway for a while and I have plans to do more in the future! But I'm going to start with a little pre-holiday fun. If you read my Hickory Nut Harvest post, you'll know I'm on a holiday ornament kick.

So I am giving away a trio of hickory nut ornaments - your choice! These are handmade by me, at this table in this room seen in this post. All you have to do is leave me a comment on at the end of this post by 11:00 PM on Friday, November 5th, telling me which you like best: angel, snowman or woodland critter. I'm planning to use a random number generator to choose a comment. I'll pack up your 3 ornaments and send them right out. You can have three of the same, or one of each, or whatever combination you choose. Presto, a holiday gift for you or someone else, in the bag!! Looking forward to your comments!