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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Whirlwinds - - -

Whew - - what a busy weekend, but it was a good one, too.  We several events with the kids various activities that kept us busy, but the icing on the cake was Geography Day!  We got to learn about Ireland and New Zealand, and eat lots of delicious food.  Check out the Field Trip tab to see pictures.  God Bless! 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Our Display Board

Today, we are working on our display board and starting on the presentation that we will give to our friends.  We have our lapbook, mini-books, on one side.  We used cards to make a "lift the flap" cards for the national symbols of India.  We included a map along with pins to show where some of the people we have interviewed are from. 

We also got to spend some time this morning after Mass interviewing Fr. James from our parish.  He is a priest from Kerala, India.  He has been with us for the past five years, and we are truly blessed to have him.  He grew up in a small village.  While we were there, he gave us some banana chips.  They were sweet and spicy - - coated in a brown sugar and ginger. Yummmm - - well, I liked them, though the kids thought they were a bit too spicy.  Not hot, though.  It was fun talking to him and learning a bit about what it is like.

One thing we have learned in much of our research about India is that it is changing rapidly.  Technology and education has pushed India forward into becoming a world leader politically and economically.
Our almost-finished display
board - just a little more to do!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Salt Dough Relief Map of India

We are making salt dough for a relief map of India.  To make the salt dough, you need equal parts flour and salt to which you would gradually add water to make a dough.  Be careful not to make it too sticky.

3 - 4 cups salt
3 - 4 cups flour
water as needed

*recipe and directions are from e-how

Our completed salt map

Map traced on lid

We traced our country onto the lid of a storage box - - any strong cardboard will do.  Then we shaped the country out of the dough using our outline.  We added some mountains in the north, the Deccan Plateau over much of the country and rivers.  I am going to put the whole thing in the oven on 200 degrees and let it go for a while.  Once it comes out and cools, we will paint it and the other features on the lid.
Completed Map

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Fieldtrip: India

 Along with some of our local homeschoolers, we are participating in a Geography Day.  What exactly is Geography Day?  Well, what we do here is participating families each choose a country to research and prepare a presentation for the other families, telling about what they have learned about that country.   The families also prepare a dish from their chosen country. 

Well, I chose India for our family.  I've never cooked traditional Indian food (or non-traditional for that matter).  My week will be spent trolling the web for a suitable recipe. 

I am also going to have the kids make a salt dough relief map of India, collect geographical information, as well the usual national symbols.  In addition, I will have each of the four older kids make a report on a saint either from or associated with India - - St. Thomas the Apostle, St. Francis Xavier, Bl. Mother Teresa, and St. Alphonsa (First Indian Saint) are ones that have popped up in my brief perusal of the web.  I am also thinking of painting wooden saints of each one - - won't that be fun!!  We will also be looking up agriculture, manufacturing, and industry - - though I think that perhaps the most abundant and best natural resource of India are the people. 

I will post photos of our week long "field trip to India" as we go and those of our Geography Day - - so stay tuned!!!  Oh - - and pray for us - St. Alphonsa - especially since baseball has started, and we still have the myriad of activities to interrupt our trip.

God Bless!

Note:  Look for daily postings on the "Fieldtrips" tab above.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

St. Joseph's Feast - -

Our St. Joseph's Altar
St. Joseph's Feast Day, 2011
St. Joseph
(Since we don't own a
larger statue of St. Joseph, I
made this for our altar.)
These are the yummy lemon
muffins - a treat for Dad's
Yesterday was my husband's birthday - - poor man, he had to work and then head over to the baseball field to watch our middle son, Alex, practice.  To make up for it, we celebrated it this morning - - sharing the morning with St. Joseph's feast.  While Dave tended the chickens, Jenna and I baked some lemon muffins first thing.  One thing Dave likes is lemon - - so that is always a good choice.  We put some of these on our St. Joseph's Altar.  I also started a batch of challah dough.  Then, we made pancakes and bacon (some with blueberry - - yummmmm!)  Dave helped to make them, as pancakes are his speciality.  We sat down to breakfast and afterwards, stuck a candle in one of the muffins and sung "Happy Birthday" to Dave.  He opened his presents:  a couple of shirts, a Steeler blanket made by Andrea and a wine plaque made by Jenna.  It was a pleasant morning. 

We have been trying to keep some goodies and breads on it every day since we had our friends over, this past Tuesday.  We have some cookies left still.  We also have our crown of thorns (though the one that was on the altar originally has been snacked on).  We have our St. Joseph's Staffs made from the spada dough.  I've added a loaf of challah bread and brownies - these are a favorite and will satisfy those who don't like lemon muffins. 
I am off to read Song of the Swallows with the kids.  I also downloaded some information on San Juan Capistrano mission in California.  The twins had been reading about the missions in California about a week ago, so this story will set right in.  Perhaps we will also get to play the BINGO game that I had downloaded from That Resource Site and printed out.  I wanted to do it for St. Patrick's Day, but we didn't get to it.  I have gummy worms (for snakes) as prizes.  The kids will like those, no matter the age. 

Looking back and reflecting on our Lenten journey, we have been enjoying our evening routine.  After dinner, we have been reading our story from the Children's Bible and putting the ornament on the Jesus tree.  After that we say a decade of the Rosary -- something that has been on my heart for a while and that we've never quite managed.  I am thinking perhaps we can increase to two decades during the 2nd week of Lent, working our way up to a full Rosary.  

God Bless & Happy St. Joseph's Feast Day!

Added today:  As requested by Jackie, here is the recipe for the Challah Bread.  It comes from the Joy of Cooking.  I will post the changes I made, which are not with the ingredients, but directions.  I am using what is leftover today for French Toast.  I will let you know how it comes out.

Challah Bread:
In a large bowl,  let stand until yeast is dissolved (about 5 min)
1 pkg yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/2 cup warm water (105 - 115 degrees F)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 egg yolk, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablepoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix by hand or on low speed until thoroughly blended.  Gradually stir in:
2 1/2 cup bread flour.
Knead for about 8 minutes by hand or with the dough hook on low to medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic and no longer sticks to your hand or the bowl.  Transfer dough to an oiled bowl, turning it over to coat.  Cover with plastic and allow to rise until doubled in volume (1 - 1 1/2 hours).  Punch dough down, knead briefly, and refrigerate covered until nearly doubled in volume again (4 - 12 hours).  The dough is now ready to be shaped.  Separate dough into three equal parts and braid dough, tucking ends under.  Brush with egg wash (1 egg and a pinch of salt) and allow to rise until not quite doubled in volume (about 45 minutes).  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Brush again with egg wash (you can also add sesame seeds or poppy seeds if desired here).  Bake until crust is golden and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

My variations are small:  first, I used King Arthur's Sir Galahad flour.  I buy a large 50 lb bag and use it for everything.  I don't worry about whether it is bread flour or all-purpose.  Secondly, I allowed the dough to rise for about 2 hours, punched it down, shaped it and allowed it to rise again.  I am sure there are probably some flavor differences by the 2nd rising in the refrigerator, but I didn't have the time for the refrigerator rise.  So, then I baked it.  The texture of the bread reminds me of streudel dough, and I am certain it would make yummy cinnamon rolls!  It did turn out yummy.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Feast Day!!!!

My gang at Cunningham Falls State Park
Thurmont, MD

I haven't really read a picture book to my gang in a while - - you can probably see why?  At ages 10 and up, I sometimes think they are too old for such things.  While trolling the web (isn't that an apt term for browsing?), I was looking more at Elizabeth Foss's "Alphabet Path" and some of the activities done there - - which included the oldest to the youngest!  Well, I got to thinking that perhaps they are not too old for a picture book, every now and then - - especially when it comes to saint feast days.  So, I have pulled out Tommy de Paola's Patrick:  Patron Saint of Ireland and my copy of Catholic Mosaic and have been browsing the web to see what else we can add to augment what we have done.  We still have some soda bread left.  I will come up with an activity or two and we will add St. Patrick's Breastplate to our morning prayers.  I also bought some oxalis (otherwise known as shamrocks) from the store the other day and so we will move them to the middle of our table, along with our painted St. Patrick. 

I've also printed out the St. Patrick's notebooking page and crossword puzzle from That Resource Site.  Once I am done, I will have the kids narrate the story. 

Unfortunately, it is a school day today - - we played hooky on Tuesday and didn't get much done yesterday, so we really have to do school today.  Well, I am off to get the kids moving. 

God Bless & once again, Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

St. Patrick's and St. Joseph's Feast Day

Our St. Joseph's Altar at home
In the spirit of St. Patrick and St. Joseph - - we had friends over today to celebrate the Feasts of St. Patrick and St. Joseph.  Yes, we are a bit early and we did combine the two feasts, but our schedules get overloaded and while Friday would have been nice since it is in the middle of the two days, it is Lent, which meant that today was the day!  As part of our activities, we set up a St. Joseph's Altar with all of our goodies that were offered.  We included on our altar cookies, cupcakes, Irish soda bread, Fig Newtons, some wine and grape juice, flowers, biscotti, clover rolls, goldfish, swedish fish, and I cannot remember what else.  
Fiona's Altar
In addition to all of the goodies on the altar, we also had mini reubens.  When we make reubens, I usually buy a corned beef brisket and make the brisket.  Then I slice the brisket thinly and use that instead of using corned beef from the deli.  For the mini reubens, I used cocktail rye, and built smaller sandwiches which I then grilled.  They were as tasty as their full-sized counterpart!  The great part is that corned beef brisket is on sale this time of year, so I always try to buy a few to throw in the freezer.  Thanks to our Irish brethren!

For crafts, I made some spada dough (recipe here) and the kids and my friend sculpted different shapes from them, including a monstrance, some St. Joseph's staffs, ladder, lillies and some sort of house thing, my older daughter made (Said that it was built by St. Joseph - go figure!).  We had the two younger girls make 3-D Virtual St. Joseph Altars (link here).  
Jenna's Altar
I asked my daughter, Jenna, why she put St. Joseph on the bottom, rather than the top, to which she replied that he was "humble, and wouldn't have wanted to be on top."  Okay, I will give her that he was humble =). 

We also created a crown of thorns from chocolate and pretzel sticks.  This idea also comes from the above site - - Thanks, Evann!  We have added it to our altar.  She suggests to save it for Easter, and you can put it on your Easter cake as a nest, rather than a crown of thorns - - I am not sure ours will last that long.  I guess that would be great if St. Joseph's feast day was a bit closer to Easter as it has been the past couple of years, but we still have over a month to go!  Perhaps I will put it away in either the refrigerator or freezer, wrapped up nice and tight? 

Crown of Thorns
Lastly, the older two kids made up a game of Catholic Jeopardy (this is an idea from CHC's A Year With God) and included the topics of St. Joseph, St. Patrick, Lent, Stations of the Cross and Mary, which they played with all of the kids.  After we were all done, we sent our friends home with goodies from the altar and a couple of bottles of homemade wine.

All-in-all, it was a fun day with our friends.  Please take time to visit Evann's site - the Virtual St. Joseph's Altar will only be open until March 19th. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

St. Joseph's Altar

For St Joseph's Feast day, why not make you own virtual altar?  I found this link while looking up information for celebrating St. Joseph's Feast Day on March 19th.  St Joseph's Altar includes a Virtual Altar,where you can offer prayers, find out the history of St. Joseph's Altar, and find coloring pages and a pdf file to make your own virtual altar.  I know what we are doing this week!  I will be sure to post pictures of our work.  I hadn't begun the Novena - - but I am going to jump in - - there are several people I know who can use the intercession of good St. Joseph - - they also have postings here for the Novena.

In Christ,

Friday, March 11, 2011

A few notes. . .

I started Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales last night. I was reading the first couple of pages when the message of outward vs. inward piety jumped off of the page, reminding me of Fr. Collin's words during the homily at Ash Wednesday's Mass.  His message was a bit different, but the two connected in my mind.  Fr. Collin was talking about the outward sign of the ashes meaning penance, and how we hope this Lenten season to bring about inward conversion as we turn our hearts towards God.  St. Francis was discussing the outward piety - - fasting, giving of alms, etc - - and how those do not matter if there is not inward piety --  how we cannot be truly devoted unless our hearts are turned to God.  The message of the outward and the inward.  We can go to Mass, give alms to the poor, fast, and all that, but if we hold grudges or speak unkindly, we cannot know true devotion.  Love of God inspires us to love others, to hope for the best in others, to perform acts of kindness.  This led me to think about confession and how that would also be a wonderful way to start Lent - - a clean heart to hopefully gain many graces from the devotions and prayers through Lent.

In Christ,

PS - - I've added a new page to the blog called "Sacred Play Places" where I hope to post pictures and ideas about building a home atrium.  Our parish doesn't offer Catechisis of the Good Shepherd and I have been intrigued by it, but with mostly older children, I've never really had a reason to explore it.  Now, I have reason to delve in - - Thanks be to God!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

From here to there . . .

And so our Lenten journey begins . . .  There is so much I want to accomplish this Lenten season, that I have to remind myself to slow down a little, or else I may come to the end and wonder where the time went.  I can get so busy, even with good intention, that I may forget to take time for my own edification.  I had placed several items in my cart on Amazon but never got around to ordering.  I know I have several works on my shelves that I can choose for spiritual growth.  It's just a matter of making a choice.  Perhaps I will try St Francis de Sales Intro to the Devout Life.  I've never finished it, so that could work.  I also have Kempis' On the Passion of Christ.  That should be good for Fridays.  That should at least get me started.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday

What a blessing Mass was this morning!  I love going to Mass, and would go daily, if it were possible.  We started out in the car with listening to a Stations of the Cross.  This particular CD, available at Quiet Waters Production, is one of my favorite ways of "praying" the Stations.  The music is just moving and beautiful.  At Mass, our pastor's homily was on the importance of inward conversion, that the ashes are only an outward sign, that would not have any meaning unless we turn our hearts towards God and strive ever closer to Him. 

After Mass, we stopped at JoAnn's - - I wanted to get a legnth of purple cloth for our table and then the grocery store, so that I would have the ingredients I need for tonight's supper.  The kids and I have decided that it would be great to explore some simple soups and breads for mealtimes.  I made some roasted vegetable stock - - the first time I've ever used turnips!  I will use the stock later to make some vegetable soup for dinner.  For the bread, I will probably just make the Italian Featherbread that I make that doesn't take much time.  I plan on making a batch of boule bread to keep in the refrigerator for Fridays.  You can find the recipe here.  The kids love this crusty bread!

As stated in a previous post, we are going to be doing a Jesus tree (thanks to Shower of Roses for the idea!).  In addition, I downloaded the Timeline of Christ from That Resource Site and laminated the cards.  I picked out the cards that correspond to our reading for the Jesus tree and put the one for today on a photo holder.  Not all readings have a card, but that's okay.  I also downloaded Lent for Children:  a Thought a Day, from Family Feast and Feria.  I figured this can be a lunchtime devotion for the kids and I.  The download takes a while, but worth it.  So our days will look like this: (Before Schooltime) Morning Offering, Holy Heroes . . . . (Lunch) Lent for Children, Angelus  . . . . (Dinner) Prayers, Jesus Tree, and Decade of the Rosary.   As a family, we have given up eating out in general and we are going to work on family prayer - - specifically, the Rosary.  The kids also have personal sacrifices and virtues that they are working on, as do I. 

Figures for the "Passion" playset

Another thing I am working on this Lent is to create an "Atrium" corner of sorts.  I know that this has gone round the loops, and at the time, I admit I was a bit overwhelmed with it all at that time.  If I only had the older kids, I would probably not even try, but having little Daniel in the house has inspired me to give him little "toys" for him to play with that help teach the faith.  We already have a little Mass kit, which I will introduce to him when he gets a little older.  I have painted several little wooden saint dolls.  Now, I am working on figures for the "Passion" play - - I have a few done and am working on the rest of the apostles.  I am using templates from Young Children and Worship by Sonja Stewart.  While not Catholic, the authors draw heavily on Sofia Cavalletti and Maria Montessori, and have scripted lessons.  I am not sure I will use those, but the templates are great and easy to use with a scroll saw.  I figure I would start with the season which we are in - - Lent, and go from there.  I would like to build a model "Jerusalem" but not sure what time will allow.  

Lastly, I have our Stations of the Cross to repair and rehang.  I had bulked at putting nails in the walls, but am going to relent.  I had used the sticky hooks and they haven't held up as well as nails would have.  Several of our Stations have fallen, causing little rocks to fall off and so forth.  I have seven remaining on the wall and seven to repair.  I absolutely love these stations. 

May God Bless you!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Crocheted Dolls

St. Therese, The Little Flower
Pattern by KnitTogether Designs

At Christmastime, my sister-in-law asked if I could crochet a St. Therese doll for one of my nieces.  She had purchased the pattern from Amy at Knit Together Designs.  I had completed the St. Therese doll and thought it would be great to make the St. Elizabeth and St. Margaret dolls that Amy has on her site.  
St. Elizabeth of Hungary
Pattern by KnitTogether Designs
Here you can see St. Elizabeth of Hungary - - complete with crown! My doll turned out a little wider than Amy's, but in talking with her, she said she crochets a bit more tightly - - which means that I would have had to reduce my hook size since I crochet a little more loosely. Amy has since added Fatima dolls and the Holy Family to her design line. Once I finish St. Margaret, I am eagerly looking forward to making the others. She also has St. Francis and St. Anthony.  Be sure to check out her site at Knit Together Designs.  I am sure these dolls will bless any child! 

God Bless! 

Monday, March 7, 2011


I have been busy trying to pull all of the resources I have found in the past onto this blog.  I will be adding more as I find them and check out to make sure the links still work.  Check out them under the Homeschool Resources tab.  It amazes me what is available out on the web - - so much for free! 


Friday, March 4, 2011

A Saint for Today - St. Casimir

St. Casimir
Today is the feast day of St. Casimir - patron saint of Poland and Lithuania.  When I was a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard, we had several members of the Lithuania armed forces come to train with us during our annual summer training.  They were a fun and jovial bunch of officers and upper enlisted men.  Upon leaving they presented us with little stick pins that had symbols of Lithuania on them - - one was of a hill with many crosses on it.  Called the "Hill of Crosses" it is in eastern Lithuania. 

Picture of Hill of Crosses from Wikipedia

Pope John Paul II visited this site as well.  You can find a lot of information on the web.  To celebrate St. Casimir's Feast Day, there are many traditions in Lithuania.  One tradition is baking honey heart-shaped cookies.  You can find a recipe here, as well as the story of St. Casimir here.  For a more child friendly story to read, you can find it here at the Holy Spirit Interactive website.  ST CASIMIR - Pray for us!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Defining Success

A magazine from my university Alma Mater came in the mail yesterday.  It's always interesting to peruse the magazine.  As I did so, I was immediately impressed with the growth of the school.  Once pretty much confined to a small bluff overlooking the city, the school has gone on to build or acquire several buildings in the surrounding neighborhood, greatly expanding its size.  I graduated 20 years ago this May (hard to believe), and it is amazing how much the school has changed in that amount of time.  I am sure, my grandfather, who graduated nearly 60 years ago, would also marvel.  He attended the university at a time when the esteemed fathers both taught and ran the school.  

The other thing that is always fun to read is the "where they are now" part.  I am not sure if all college alumni magazines do this, but this one does.  It lists the accomplishments and achievements of alumni.  Like so and so has been named CEO of this corporation or non-profit organization.  Or, this person has been appointed to this position . . . . I always look for people I might know, though usually I don't know anyone.  I don't think in the years we've received the magazine I have ever seen mentioned anything like this:

 Jennifer F. ('91), married to wonderful husband, Dave ('87), they are successfully homeschooling their five children in the Catholic tradition.  Dave, while holding down a full-time job, has been named principal and CEO of their home school, while Jennifer is the assistant principal and main teacher.  They are active members of their parish and strive to live their faith to the fullest every day.

I am sure that to many of my former classmates, I would not be considered successful.  I am  not advancing in the profession for which I trained (elementary education), nor have I made a career of the military (I was also in ROTC).  If anyone had told me 20 years ago, that I would be most successful as a stay at home mom with five children, I would have probably told them they were crazy.  I probably would have uttered words like, "Never in a million years!" or "I don't think so!"  I am sure I would have sent God into a fit of giggles over that one! 

Reflecting now on where I am at, I see the wisdom of God is far greater than I could have imagined.  Once success to me meant being happy in a career field that netted me an income that would pay the rent, keep the lights on and perhaps give me a jingle in my pocket.  I guess, it fits - - thanks to the hard work of my husband, we have a roof over our heads, the lights haven't gone out, and while I don't always carry money, occasionally I do have two nickels to rub together.  And though some days may prove a little more difficult than others, I realize that success cannot always be measured by the amount of money or accolades earned from the outside world.  That sometimes success comes in the form of a lesson well-learned, of virtues cultivated, and that "You are the best mommy in the whole wide world, mommy!" that occasionally comes at the end of the day.  What can be better than that?

Many blessings to you!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

That Resource Site

I want to put a plug in for That Resource Site.  I came across this website a few months ago and found lots of really helpful aids and printables.  I grabbed the feed and it is on the right side of the blog.  What is cool about this site is that it is 1) free and 2) a place to share ideas if you've come up with lessons or printables.   Oh, and 3) it's Catholic!  Which means that there are lessons for religious education.  They also have Montessori cards and stuff for those who like Charlotte Mason.  It definitely is a place to explore!

Have fun!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Getting Ready for Lent . . . .

It's that time of year when we start planning our activities for observing Lent.  We've done daily readings before, but with Daniel here now and inspired by Jessica at Shower of Roses, I made a Jesus "tree" banner with ornaments.  Ours is a bit different.  Instead of a tree, I did a vine and it is a long banner, rather than wide, fits perfectly on a short wall in the kitchen.  I also made circles and ironed the symbols on after cutting them from felt.  Though a bit different,  I am quite please with the way it turned out. I really love Heat 'n Bond!  Check out the original at Jessica's blog - she also has readings from the New Children's Picture Bible to correspond, along with links to coloring pages and some activity sheets.  It's sure a great resource!

Jesus "Tree" Banner with Ornaments
While you are at Shower of Roses, be sure to also check out her Alphabet of Saints.  We did some of these at Christmas time for Daniel - - I hope to add to his collection montly with a few of the saint feast days.  This month, I want to paint St. Patrick (Mar 17th) and St. Joseph (Mar 19th). 

I've asked the older kids to each choose and plan an activity to do during Lent and to think about what we as a family could "give up" and what virtue or virtues we would like to work on.  It's something that we try to do yearly, as well as our personal sacrafices. I thought that perhaps in addition to the ornaments, we could add leaves to our vine that would represent our sacrifices and deeds to grow in virtue.  We've done this in other ways in previous years, and I know that my oldest may be too old,  but I thought we would try it, anyways.  Even I sometimes find myself keeping track of my "sacrifices" on a set of sacrifice beads I keep on the kitchen windowsill.  Reminds me to offer up what I find tedious, boring, frustrating, nerve-wracking, and distasteful.  It sure beats complaining! 

Other things we like to do are to attend Stations of the Cross at least once or twice and our church's soup suppers.   The kids, through their various activities usually end up volunteering for one or two of them.  They also participate in "Living Stations" at our church. 

As I get going, I will try to post some of our Lenten resources and activities. 

God Bless,