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Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Feast of the Presentation or Candlemas - Feb 2

The Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple, or Candlemas, is this week, February 2nd.

It is one of the twelve Great Feasts of the Eastern Orthodox church and a Principal Feast day in the Anglican church.

The feast is a remembrance of the event recorded in Luke 2:22-40 when, after having completed the required ritual cleansing and seclusion from public worship, Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple to make their offerings.

The tradition of calling the day "Candlemas" comes from a practice of blessing candles to be used in the church for the year.  A further tradition of bringing candles to be used in the home for blessing developed, and I think is a lovely custom.  It is a very ancient feast - with evidence of its celebration back to the 300s.

Interestingly, Candlemas in the UK shares a custom with Groundhog Day in the US (and is the basis for our Groundhog Day tradition):

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,
Winter shall have another flight.

But if it be dark with clouds and rain, 
Winter is gone not to come again.
- Old English verse

Foods and Meals

:-:  Traditional foods:  In France, crepes are eaten after 8pm (and if the cook can flip them while holding a coin in the other hand, the family is assured prosperity in the coming year).  Don't want to make them?  Check your grocery story, they might carry them at the bakery or frozen section.   Tamales are another traditional food in Mexico.  (Maybe because they look somewhat like candles?)  Perhaps tortilla wrap sandwiches might be fun, too.

:-: Of course, it would be lovely to eat by candlelight.

:-:  Try your hand and fancy napkin folding (to look like candles)!

Crafts and Activities

:-:  Consider making beeswax candles, or or these candles or crayon candles,  to be used in the home or on the family altar.  Or purchase some fresh candles for the coming year (to be used on special days, or at the family altar or during family prayer time.)

:-:  Let each family member carry a candle (lit if your children are old enough) on a procession through the house.

:-: This idea for making rolled coins into a candle craft is cute and easy.  A fun way to let the kids give money to a charity or in the offering plate.

St. Brigid - February 1

Monday is  St Brigid's Day.   

Below are some links to stories, ideas, recipes, crafts. Enjoy!

:-:  Here's a wonderful children's story of St. Brigid (or Bridgit) and the King's Wolf from The Baldwin Project.  (Do you know The Baldwin Project?  Loads of classic children's literature online.)

:-:  Liturgical Year for Little Ones has a wonderfully thorough post for St Brigid's Day celebrations.

:-:  A new to me blog: The Daily Weaving has a link to a YouTube video showing how to make St. Brigid's crosses and some other celebrations ideas.

:-:  Enjoy a tour of St. Brigid's Cathedral in Kildare, Ireland.  This website has some other photos from around modern Kildare and some historical information, too.

:-: Plan an Irish feast.  (I'm thinking about Colcannon and sausages, bread, and for dessert: Apple Shortbread Pie.)

:-: Make a lovely bread in the shape of a cross, or Brigid's cross.  Or try Barm Brack, an Irish fruit bread - wouldn't make a perfect breakfast or afternoon snack?

Blessed St. Brigid's Day!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Peter Piper's Picks: Jan 30th - Daughter's Birthday Edition

Today is my dear middle daughter's 8th birthday.  Last year her birthday was a bit overshadowed by our impending departure to Ghana and my own baby shower for Baby L.  This year it seems a winter storm is going to keep us from some of our celebration plans.  So, I'm doing my best to make her day as special as possible.

So, this Peter Piper's Picks is dedicated to my sweet, creative, blanket-loving daughter!

Because Little E (hubby is Big E) is lovely, I'm sharing a Living Lives of Loveliness Fair at Among Lovely Things.  You'll enjoy some ideas for infusing the blah days of winter with a bit of loveliness.

She loves to take photos (got a camera for Christmas so she would stop hogging mine!). Some amazing photos to enjoy today from National Geographic's annual contest.  (you can download some for wallpapers, too!)

Little E (and the rest of my family) loves to chide me about my addiction to "Starschmucks", as my hubby calls it.

Since she's been homeschooled since birth (my only one so far who has not been in an institutional school setting), I'm including a link to a new-to-me page of great homeschooling inspiration and information: Best Homeschool.  (It is so good, I'm adding it to my Homeschool links in my sidebar!)

Ok, and she is really hard to say "no" to.  She's got a really good "aren't I too cute to say no to?" face.  But this post titled "8 Ways to say NO" is really gonna help me!

Happy Birthday, Lady Bug!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Daybook - Monday, January 25th

outside my window . . . the ground is entirely soaked and squidgey from last night's terrific rain.

in the kitchen . . . making chicken stock today for cabbage soup tonight.

around the house . . . my dining room table is finally cleared from all the laundry!  For now, anyway.

from our studies . . . this week we move onto MesoAmerica and volcanoes.  We are finishing a children's version of Canterbury Tales (the kids loved it) and will start Secret of the Andes.  Artist: Durer, Composer: still Edvard Grieg.  Still reading, but coming to the end of, Wind in the Willows.  This week's Latin phrase: "Dum spiro, spero", which means "While I breathe, I hope."

thinking about . . .  how to celebrate my middle daughter's 8th birthday.  We don't do big parties for every year...only the big years.  But she needs a bit of a fuss made over her this year.

listening to. . . it is very quiet this morning despite almost the whole family being up.  Right now I only hear the newspaper shuffling (eldest son reading) and middle son playing with Baby L.

thankful for. . . My sweet middle daughter and her amazing creativity.

reading . . . just finished Lost to the West. If you are a history buff and have any curiosity about the Byzantine Empire and the roots of the Renaissance, I highly recommend it.  What's up next . . . I think the Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer.  Still reading Divine Comedy (well I say that, but I haven't picked it up in a while), Flannery O'Connor and Dorothy Sayers.

creating . . . continuing to create what I like to call an  "interim mess" while sorting out the house (giveaways and trash).

remembering . . . what we were doing this time a year ago - packing for Ghana.

~ ~ ~

to foster rhythm and beauty . . . this week I need to purchase daffodil bulbs to force for St. David's Day (Mar 1)

to live the liturgy . . . making some Lenten plans, right now collecting good fasting meal ideas for the whole family.  This year we are going to give up some things together!

to educate faithfully . . . stopping to ponder the ideas.

~ ~ ~

one of my favorite things . . . the Dollar Store mug my middle son gave me for Christmas.  (I know it was Dollar Store because I took them there to shop!)

a few plans for the upcoming week . . .
Monday: working at the store in the evening for a bit.
Tuesday: evening phone meeting (at home)
Wednesday: bible study and meeting in the evening.
Thursday: haircut for eldest son
Friday: coffee shop meeting and movie night
Saturday: Birthday for middle daughter!

Enjoy more Daybooks at Peggy’s!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

7 Quick Takes - One Year of Adoption

One year ago this week (the 20th), we became the legal parents of our dear Baby L.  She was almost 5 months at the time. The past few days I've been rereading our adoption travel posts and remembering the excitement and nervousness of the weeks just before we traveled to get her.

 It has now been nearly a year since we met her and nearly 10 months since she's been home.  I'm amazed at her progress.  When we first met her, she was not really fond of  any kind of feeding (having been cup-fed by coercion in the foster home).  We celebrated getting her to take more than 2 oz at a she downs 8oz in  seconds!  And she loves to eat, but still likes to eat on Her Terms only.  I'm ok with that, most of the time.

Learning how to take care of her skin and hair (both tending to be very dry and needing lots of moisture and gentle care) has been a wonderful thing.  It gives me great confidence when I manage a cute style or see the results of good moisturizing.  One thing I've realized is that white people don't use enough moisture on our skin and hair - especially curly-haired white people like me.

There is such a thing as reverse discrimination and it can be very damaging to other family members.  I don't fault people for doting over our Baby L - she is darn cute, and I realize that it is unusual to see a white mama with a black baby.  However,  we've gotten preferential treatment due to this.  Treatment I know other white babies or black babies don't get.  I guess I should just enjoy it while it lasts...but I have another daughter who sometimes is very hurt by the excessive attention her baby sister gets.  It is hard to watch a stranger or friend make a fuss over Baby L (saying how pretty she looks, etc), while my older daughter stands by waiting to be noticed.  And let me just clarify this goes WAY beyond the attention my other babies got and their older siblings had to endure.

Part of this attention involves physical attention that isn't comfortable for Baby L.  Nothing really inappropriate - often curious touching of her hair.  But she isn't really comfortable with people getting in her space.  It is hard to set the boundary when what they are doing isn't really abnormal - just a bit too much for her.

Loving an adopted child is the same and somewhat different than a biological child.  There is that familiar physicality to it (I love the smell of my kids and the nuzzle their little cheeks).  But I'm often struck by how blessed we are to have her in our family.  Her presence with us seems such a clear gift of God.  Not that biological kids aren't, but due to the biology of isn't surprising we end up with kids, right?  But adoption is outside that.  We had to really seek and work to have her join our family - and it really (obviously) required God's hand. I'm shocked by how well our family fits her.  It is like our family was designed to for her...and of course it was.

I wonder what the future has in store for us.  Sometimes I find myself worrying about how we'll handle the racial differences, her adoption story, etc, but then I remember what  good friend often says, "Just do the next thing."  Don't get too hung up on worrying about the future...just do what comes next.  Right now that is getting her to be more comfortable with new people and new situations.  So, we'll just work on that for now.

Have a lovely weekend and check out more 7 Quick Takes at Jen's blog.

Peter Piper's Picks - January 23rd

Reading for your morning coffee....

An amazing map, drawn by Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit priest who traveled and lived in China in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, on exhibit at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.

Newbery Awards for 2010 are announced.

This story of three Swedes who have started a line of blue jeans made in North Korea fascinated me.  In Sweden some are buying and others are boycotting.   I think I'd buy them.  What would you do?

Twitter, meet Cicero.

Homeschool book reviews - a new blog.  This looks like it might be a great resource!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Daybook - Monday, January 18th

outside my window . . . puddles still on the ground here and there, but the sky is clear and just starting to turn golden around the edges (a nice evening is cooking up).

in the kitchen . . .  a couple batches of 5-Minute Artisan bread for sure.  Starting to think ahead to Lent and gathering recipes.  We are fasting as a family this year from meat and all animal-products (however, the kids will probably have some cheese and milk here and there).

around the house . . .  cleaning up from last night's "DaddyTime" (movies and camping out in the den).  Loads and Loads of laundry.  Does the stuff breed, or what?

on my iPod . . . loading it up with my favorite podcasts right now.  In particular, I'm looking forward to enjoying catching up on some archives of Frederica Matthewes-Green.

from our studies . . . Early explorers in Africa, geography of Egypt, creation of mountains and the world's highest mountains, Fra Angelico, Edvard Grieg (composer)

thinking about . . .  evangelism through living faith

listening to. . . hubby reading out the notes we've written on various saved corks.

thankful for. . . a good youth retreat weekend for my eldest son.

pondering the words . . . "Moreover, nothing in creation had erred from the path of God's purpose for it, save only man.  Sun, moon, heaven, stars, water, air, none of these had swerved from their order, but, knowing the Word as their Master and their King, remained as they were made."  St. Athanasius, from On the Incarnation

to foster rhythm and beauty . . . having celebrated the Baptism of Christ, it seems a nice time to set out the children's Baptismal candles.  I think this will be a yearly tradition. 

one of my favorite things . . .  rice pudding...I've got some cooking away in the crockpot right now.  I'm feeling a little puny, but I hope to enjoy a nibble on it tonight.

milestones in the past week . . . Baby L went into the nursery at church again this week and did really well!  

a few plans for the upcoming week . . . Somehow this week turned busy.  Tonight: an hour or so of training at the store.  Tuesday: middle son's best friend's birthday party (all the kids are invited).  Wednesday: CC and a playdate for middle daughter, also we are celebrating the anniversary of our adoption.  Thursday: getting tires changed in the am and middle daughter has a sleepover.  No idea for the weekend!

Enjoy more Daybooks at Peggy’s!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Daybook - Monday, January 11th

outside my window . . . another frigid, icy day.

in the kitchen . . . I've not yet made my meal plan for the week, so I don't know!  Pizza tonight, though.

around the house . . . we are starting our household purge in order to get ready to put the house on the market.  This weekend I went through my bathroom drawers and cabinets and found enough junk to fill a large kitchen trash bag. Now we are on to the books.  Oh my, we have so many.

from our studies . . . this week we are continuing our history and geography studies on Africa.  I made a PowerPoint presentation to take to CC this week to share our photos from Ghana.  I think the two middle kids will do a presentation on adinkra symbols.

thinking about . . . Liberty and how the Great Books give the mind liberty to think clearly without centuries of muddling.


listening to. . . Bably L starting to make some "come get me up" noises.

thankful for. . . Auntie Beth in the nursery at church yesterday.  Baby L was able to go in with her (she knows Auntie Beth) and was pretty happy.  I got to go to church and sit through the WHOLE service...I even got to listen to the sermon!

pondering the words . . . "People are not won by arguments, but by the fire of our faith" - awkwardly paraphrased from Fr. George Calciu via Fredericka Matthews-Green.

reading . . . Started "On the Incarnation" by St. Athanasius.  It is, as you might expect, fantastic...but not nearly as hard to read as you might think.  If you have access to some of the Church Fathers' writings (see Christian Classics Ethereal Library for lots of them online), you shouldn't be daunted by their age!

creating . . . more space (through our household purge).  It is so freeing!


to foster rhythm and beauty . . . Christmas is now put away.  This week we are going to starting forcing daffodil bulbs for St. David's day (March 1).

to live the liturgy . . .  today we are going to talk about Baptism (after yesterday's sermon and readings on Jesus' Baptism).  We'll pull out and light the kids' Baptism candles.

to educate faithfully . . .  some days (like today) we get a late start, the trick is not letting that late start entirely derail our day.  There is a balance between allowing the kids to sleep in when they need it and have a slow start and working hard to stay on top of our work.


one of my favorite things . . . watching Baby L "bump" down the stairs with her siblings.  It is her favorite way to get down the stairs (and is the only way she can).

milestones in the past week . . . Baby L went into the church nursery and did pretty well.  Even though I forgot her pacifier!

a few plans for the upcoming week . . . Monday - school and a bit of work for me;  Wednesday - I have an informational meeting about "Daughters of the Holy Cross", a lay service ministry; Thursday - middle son has a best friends' birthday party; Friday - eldest son goes off to YouthQuake (a youth retreat).

Enjoy more Daybooks at Peggy’s!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Peter Piper's Picks: Jan 9th - Home Education

A new year causes me to start thinking about changes we need to make in our school.   How about you?

 Here are some links I'm contemplating:

:-: Teaching Reading with Bob Books - do you know about Bob Books? Simple little books that teach reading in small chunks for little kids. They can feel so accomplished so quickly! Brandy has a great website that offers lesson plans to coordinate with the Bob Books. Wonderful!

:-: Are learning styles really all that important? Researchers are now thinking, "No."

:-: Don't forgo Nature Studies (or even just enjoyment) in winter.  HarmonyArtMom has some great suggestions in her Squidoo lens: Winter Nature Walks

:-: CiRCE has announced this year's conference: A Contemplation of Liberty:   "... our United States are nowhere near as free as we have allowed ourselves to pretend. The reason we think we are still 'the leaders of the free world' is because we have tried valiantly to redefine freedom.  I also believe that we hold our remaining freedoms tenuously (and not tenaciously) for one simple reason: our rights are distributed at the will of the state. Consequently they can be removed by the will of the state."

Monday, January 4, 2010

How to end the Christmas Season in style!

Don't let the Christmas season just fizzle away into the Super Bowl or Valentine's hysteria. End it in style with an Epiphany celebration!

Wednesday is the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of the season of Epiphany. This Feast and Season commemorates the visit of the Wise Men or Magi to the Christ Child. Contrary to popular imagery, they most likely arrived in Bethlehem when Jesus was a toddler. Whatever the case, we recognize this also as a season that looks forward to the Gospel being shared with the whole world.

Crafts and Activities
:-: If you have kids who like to color here are some coloring pages to print.

:-: You might also make some paper crowns and let the kids decorate them with glitter and such.

:-: Make tin can lanterns (clean and remove labels from tin cans, fill with water and freeze, when hard use a hammer and nail to make a punched-tin design, let water melt, put in a candle and you've got a lantern!)

:-: The website Catholic Culture has some wonderful information, too. Be sure not to miss the items (recipes, prayers, activities) in the drop-down menus in the top bar.

:-: Have an "undecorating" party and take down all your Christmas decorations.

:-: Perhaps a small gift for the kids (a leftover one from Christmas or that one item they wanted but didn't get or a new calendar - they are cheap this time of year). In many cultures, it is traditional to give gifts on Epiphany rather than Christmas.

Home Blessing
This is a simple service for families. Start with Chalking the Door. Gather your family at the front door with a piece of chalk and say the following prayer together (or your own):

God bless this house,
From door to door,
From wall to wall,
From room to room,
From basement to roof,
From beginning to end.

God bless this house
and who enter here,
All who eat here,
All who work here,
All who play here,
All who sleep here,
All who visit here,
All who abide here.

(from a wonderful little book: The Anglican Family Prayer Book by Anne E. Kitch)

Then make the marks on your front door: 20+C+M+B+10. Each person can write a small part of that, or you can let an adult write the whole thing with the kids each making their own small cross somewhere on the door. (We find this easiest with little kids.) The C,M,B traditionally stands for the legendary names of the Magi (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazaar); however, I like the alternate: Christus Mansionem Benedicat which means "May Christ bless this dwelling." The numbers are for the year (2010).

Now, you can walk through the house with lighted candles (or just the adults) and Holy Water, if you wish, saying prayers for each room's occupants and activities. My kids like to make little crosses on all the interior doors, too. Perhaps end your "tour" in the kitchen or dining room with a candlelight dinner, tea or dessert.

There aren't a lot of different foods associated with Epiphany. Most are variations on the Three Kings' Cake (for example this King Cake recipe). No time for a cake, how about star-shaped cookies or treats?

What is your favorite way to celebrate Epiphany?

Daybook - Monday, January 4th

outside my window . . . chunks of ice are scattered about my back porch, a reminder of the boys' "ice-breaking" activities yesterday. It is quite frigid. The trees even look like they are hunching up their shoulders trying to stay warm.

in the kitchen . . . I've had a request for peanut butter cookies. I'm also making a totally un-traditional Kings' Cake this week: Orange cake with homemade chocolate frosting.

around the house . . . Christmas decorations are still up! I've just about had my fill, though. I'll be ready to pack them away this week.

from our studies . . . back to our studies! This week we move onto African history and geography, parts of the Earth (core, mantle, etc.), returning to Canterbury Tales and Wind in the Willows, and quite a few other books.

thinking about . . . what the next month or two are going to look like. Trusting the Lord to provide what we need in the areas of finances and schedule.

listening to. . . hubby preparing our morning coffee in our little Italian espresso maker. A rediscovered gem.

thankful for. . . a good, if short, night's sleep.

pondering the words . . . "The man who agrees with us that some question, little regarded by others, is of great importance can be our friend. He need not agree with us about the answer." CS Lewis, The Four Loves


to foster rhythm and beauty . . . this week I am re-instituting "Read or Rest" time. I've had a hard time scheduling it this fall due to changing baby nap schedules and my eldest boy's school work. But it is a necessary routine for all of us.

to live the liturgy . . . I have emptied out a number of tin cans, peeled the labels, filled with water and frozen them. We will make these into little lanterns to line our front walk for Epiphany.

to educate faithfully . . . a return to our regular schedule. I'm excited about our morning time, what I'm calling "Copia", meaning an abundance.


one of my favorite things . . . my new coffee cozy. My mother-in-law made the cutest little coffee pot warmer for me: a quilted cover for my french press. It does a fantastic job, too!

milestones in the past week . . . last night we had our first family meeting (beyond the normal gathering the kids to discuss something). We discussed the upcoming month, pros/cons of a move, each child's desires for the move, individual and family resolutions for the new year, and started our bible study on the Fruit of the Spirit.

a few plans for the upcoming week . . .
Today is the first day back to school after Christmas break.

Wednesday is Epiphany! CC starts back up, interview at a potential private high school for next year, church potluck and Epiphany service.

Somewhere in this week I've got to start one of the many projects for getting the house ready to sell, take down Christmas decorations, and get a couple of hours in at work.

a picture thought I'm sharing . . .

This is my cooking island while making pizza. I am taking notes from my reading while the dough cooks.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

My Hopeful Book List for 2010

A New Year - all shiny and crystalline like zamboni-smoothed ice - just waiting for us to strap on our skates and give it a go. I'm still lacing up my skates and making resolutions. . . how about you? One of my resolutions (the only one I've decided on so far) is to read more, thus my book list for Twenty-Ten.

It is a modest list, but a reasonable one for me, especially considering I have a habit of adding books to my "To Be Read" list like a preschooler picking up shiny pennies. In fact while making this list I added a few!

Books to finish:
Lost to the West
Divine Comedy

The Art of Racing the Rain
Home: A Novel (sequel to Gilead)
Olive Kittridge
Gulliver's Travels
That Hideous Strength
Collected Stories of Dorothy Sayers
Collected Stories of Flannery O'Connor

Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, Paul Theroux
Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans, Dan Baum
Surprised by Hope, NT Wright
Rallying the Really Human Things, Vigen Guroian
Ten Philosophical Mistakes, Mortimer Adler
The Hidden Art of Homemaking, Edith Schaeffer
Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman
On the Incarnation, St. Athansias
Ascending the Heights, Father John Mack
Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, Phillip Schaff - or at least as much as I'm able to get through

Of course this does not include the read-alouds we read in our homeschool or family reading.

Got any ideas for books to add to my list?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Peter Piper's Picks - New Year's Edition

Happy New Year to you! Here are some articles that have been good reading as I contemplate a new calendar year.

:-: The first one isn't really a year-related one, but certainly points to come critical questions the Church needs to be asking itself in the near future: What a typical Christian is like today.

:-: Dave Berry is always good for a chuckle and a chortle and sometimes a good guffaw. Enjoy his 2009 Year in Review.

:-: An essay from a new edition of Winston Churchill's Thoughts and Adventures, "Fifty Years Hence". From First Principles: More than seventy-five years after it was written, “Fifty Years Hence” has now come due, and the reader is drawn to it as a kind of acid test of Churchill’s relevance. The essay is prescient, but his real wisdom lies not in the foreknowledge of accidents but in the knowledge of natures. In the course of his predictions, Churchill offers something more impressive: a diagnosis of the predicament of modern man.

:-: Top Food Stories of 2009 from NPR. The one that interested me the most is the Honorable Mention: Pimento Cheese, It's a Southern Thing. Oh, yes it is!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Scholar's Year in Review: 2009

I pray that this new year brings each of you peace, hope, joy and love in abundance!

I enjoying looking back over my year as I plan ahead for the new one and in doing that I really enjoy reviewing my blog. Here are some of my favorite posts from the past year:

A Family Epiphany Celebration
Our chalking the door tradition has become a favorite for our family.

Hello from Accra, Ghana!
My only post from February, but I don't think I could have improved on this one anyway.

An Unexpected Lent
My extended stay in Africa becomes an unexpected, but appropriate Lent.

Pacifier Giggly-Girl
But this laugh made it ALL worth it.

7 Books for Prospective Homeschoolers
Considering homeschooling (or know someone who is?) - here is my list of great books to help you as you get started.

Quiverfull Questions
Some thoughts on the Quiverfull movement.

Pentecost: Reignite your Fire!
My thoughts on Pentecost and the Church this year.

Summer is Here!
Typical for me...deciding the start summer break on a whim - and some photos!

Ideas for memory work
Sharing some of what we do for memory work.

Baby L says Daddy and Doggie
She's just so cute.

Life and Land
Read The Good Earth by Pearl S Buck. Read Life is a Miracle by Wendell Berry. Loved both. Wrote about them.

First Day of Homeschooling
with photos!

Obama Meets Wordle
I love Wordle.

Embracing All Hallow's Eve

Anglican Advent Carnival

On Year Ago Today
Baby L - the first photo and today

In the Early Morning Light