Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday Inspiration

Lately I most definitely have started to feel that my to-do list was trying to out-do me. A line from Deacon's homily this morning at Mass really touched me. He was talking how each of us, no matter our vocation, must speak out for Christ, not just the leaders. He gave examples for different people (of the priesthood, of teenagers, the elderly, and married couples). Perhaps his words will touch you too. I am paraphrasing a little. After all, no perfect memory here!

[To married couples]

"Each day when we wake up we have a choice. Ask yourself this, 'Do I want to work my butt off to get my spouse into Heaven, or do I want to be selfish and do only what I want to do?"

Saturday, October 29, 2011

All Saints Day Party

Our parish has not, in my history there, held an All Saints Day children's party. Last year I really wanted to do something with this, but it never happened. This year, however, I said, "I'll do it!" Thanks to two other really great volunteers, we pulled it off this year. The party happened earlier today, based on our parish's schedule. It would have been great to have had it on All Saints Day but it just was not possible. We set it up carnival style which helps minimize the need for volunteers, which were hard to find.

The crowd was small. Basically it was our regular First Friday lot plus another family. That still came to around 20 kids, which actually ended up being a good number for our first time out. I think the kids all had fun. I know mine did anyway! And now, what we did and lots of pictures!

"Admission" (St. Francis de Sales)

A canned good donation was optional as "admission" for the party. The amount gathered was supposed to head to our local People in Need (PIN) charity. But of all the "stations," this one was a quiet, forgotten one at the entrance.

Heaven Awaits All Ye Saints

This entryway was as lot of fun to work on, and in general, "easy" to do, once I figured out what I wanted to do! We really needed more streamers but ran out. I wanted the background to be so full of blue you could not see into the party. Oh well, next year... The banner is held up by two trumpeting angels and each star has a letter, saying, "Heaven Awaits All Ye Saints." Near the end of the party, either the tape or some playful boys brought it down. Only heaven knows. ;)

Treat Bag Table

The kids decorated a simple brown lunch bag to collect their prizes in by coloring a saint picture (pages from Waltzing Matilda) and attaching with saint stickers from Autom, star stickers, and/or Bible stickers. Plus everyone could pick a rosary "prize" to start their bag off with.

St. Anthony's Lost and Found

We had two "mystery" containers for St. Anthony's Lost and Found - one that had shredded paper in it and the other had a wet, almost slimy feel (but it did not stick) using some plant accessories. The kids searched for something lost, aka saint medals, for a prize.

St. Martha's Bakery

This was definitely a favorite. Who doesn't like cookies, especially when you can decorate your own? Some moms generously baked some cookies to bring in (I provided gluten/allergen free cookies and icing) and the kids decorated with sprinkles and/or colored sugar. Some piled on the sugar while others used the paper stencils I made up - a cross, a star, a shamrock, and a fish. We also provided some drinks: "Life-Giving Waters" and "Blood of the Martyrs" (otherwise known as Hawaiian punch). You can download labels here (will wrap around a pitcher).

All American Saints Bowling

I used a kid bowling set and glued on pictures of American Saints. Prize: candy corn.

Queen of All Saints Halo Toss

Another volunteer spray painted a wooden circle and 5 wooden crosses (all found at craft store) and attached the crosses to the circle. The halos were circles of white pipe cleaners big enough to fit over the crosses. Prize: Hershey kisses.

St. Therese Rose Toss

Prize: smarties candy.

Fishing with St. Peter

Download fish templates. I printed mine on multi-colored card stock and cut out. Prize: Swedish fish and holy card.

St. Cecilia's Musical Chairs

Download saint images and call cards. Prize: glow stick necklaces.
A Procession of Saints & St. George Pinata

The pinata was made using a store-bought dinosaur pinata and adding wings and fire coming out of the mouth. The "sword" was a stick covered in foil. This was tough to break! All the kids had a few whacks and eventually the parents got in on the action to make the final break.


We brought our saint-o-lantern and another family brought theirs as well to help "decorate." They had a 3-sided pumpkin! One side had an angel with a silhouette of Jesus inside. Another side read, "I AM." And the final side had the Eucharist (shown above).

Download saint images, prayers/quotes, and other writings used to make a saint poster like this one:

And don't forget to check out all the great ideas at Catholic Icing through the All Saints Day Link-Up!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Solar System Fun

Skipper wrapped up his first lesson from Exploring Creation with Astronomy. What fun we had! When we changed up his science, I made a promise to myself not to rush it, and to have fun with it. I planned on average, to give two weeks for each lesson to finish with the reading, lapbook work, experiments, and fun stuff to go along with it. The first lesson was all about astronomy in general (solar system, planets, what is astronomy, etc.).

Make a Model Scale of the Solar System

With all the chilly, rainy weather we have been having I had planned on the kids making a solar system out of clay. However, we had a short Indian Summer spell, and we took advantage! I thought the kids could gather similar-sized objects to the list below and we could measure the distance from the sun, but then we came up with the idea to use our sidewalk chalk. Perfect! Then we could color the planets the color they were in the book. Here are the sizes and distance from the sun to make your very own scale:
  • Sun (27-inch, put at the head of the line)
  • Mercury (pea size, 1.75 inches)
  • Venus (pea size, 3.25 inches)
  • Earth (pea size, 4.5 inches)
  • Mars (pea size, 7 inches)
  • Jupiter (orange size 2 feet)
  • Saturn (tangerine size, 3 feet 7 inches)
  • Uranus (walnut size, 7 feet 3 inches)
  • Neptune (walnut size, 11 feet 4 inches)
  • Pluto (pea size, 14 feet 10 inches) - Officially not a planet but we included it because people still debate this.
A fruit/vegetable model of the solar system would be fun too. Or use the classic styrofoam balls and paint to make a model for the bedroom.

Cookie Fun

Inspired by some cookie fun at Shower of Roses, we baked up this delicious, sweet "snack" to wrap up lesson 1. I probably would have skipped this except that I was already baking some cookies for our parish's All Saints party. The kids sure loved it!

Cut-Out Cookie Dough
  • 2 c. gluten-free flour mix (just flours, nothing else added)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4. tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. Spectrum shortening
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Ener-G egg replacer whisked with 2 Tbsp. warm water
  • 2-3 Tbsp. rice milk
Preheat the oven to 375. Line baking sheet with parchment paper (I've long since invested in a silpat baking liner like this one).

Cream together the shortening and sugar until fluffy. While it creams, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl. To the shortening/sugar bowl, add the vanilla and "egg" and mix for 2-3 minutes. Add the flour mix in two batches, alternating with 1 Tbsp. rice milk. Add an additional Tbsp. of rice milk if needed at the end to make a nice, non-sticky cookie dough.

Dump ball out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll to about 1/4-inch and cut-out in desired shapes. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool in pan for 2 minutes before removing to cooling rack. Continue until all the dough is gone.

**To decorate for the planets, I colored some sugar earlier in the day (just sugar and drops of food coloring) and let dry. After the kids cut out the cookies, they rubbed on the desired colored sugar before baking.

And tonight we had an extra-special treat of lighting a fire, seeing (the few) stars and Jupiter in the night sky, along with a warm marshmallow. It is definitely a night for a cup of something warm in your hands as I went in after a short bout outside shivering and shaking from cold.

Pumpkin Carving

We finally worked our way around to carving those pumpkins we "picked" last weekend. To include the younger ones in on the fun, we also painted little pumpkins. Skipper made a face. Critter started out making one but ended up in a fall patchwork. And Miss Bear just had fun dabbling and mixing. Hey, it's modern art. I brought out the acrylics and once it dries, I will spray with a seal coating to help protect against the elements.

Critter on the left, Miss Bear on the right.

Skipper - whose orange face blends in a little too well.

For the carving, Skipper was old enough this year to try his hand. All the kids helped us scoop and clear out the innards. While I separated the seeds for roasting, Skipper, with the help of dad, drew on a face, and cut it out. He opted for a traditional pumpkin face. I think he looks friendly.

The saint-o-lantern was my project this year. I was drawn to the mother and child image. The kids saw the face right away but my husband still has a difficult time seeing it. What do you think?

If you do a saint-o-lantern, submit your picture at Catholic Cuisine's Saint-O-Lantern Link-Up. It is so fun to see what others come up with!

And do not forget to keep those seeds to roast for a healthy, tasty snack! Do a quick clean. Toss some seeds, canola oil, and seasonings (we like sugar/cinnamon and simple salt versions) in a bowl. Spread in one layer on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Slow roast them at 200 degrees for 2 hours, or more if needed, stirring now and then, until seeds start to dry and get a crunch to them. Allow to cool and store in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Keeping It Real

I have seen/heard a few women lately telling how frustrated they have become, or out-of-focus with their family's needs, or cannot look at one more blog post as it undermines their own efforts within their own families by supporting feelings that they cannot keep up, or do what that person does, or be as perfect as that person seems to be. And that's key... seems to be. We all know blogs are just a peek into the life of one person, and just as most of us rush around to do a crazy clean run before company arrives, so too do we keep our blogs nice and neat. Usually. Sometimes I see a "keep it real" post and it is comforting. It helps to see that I am not the only one struggling, the only one going through something similar. So in that spirit, here's to "keeping it real," with a few ramblings.

Do you ever have mornings like this? (I am a bit embarrassed about this video, pjs and more but keeping it real here.) And, I do sound a little mean, I think - yikes, sorry kids! Motion sickness warning! This video was taken by Skipper and it most definitely is all over the place.


I have definitely been feeling pregnant this last week or so. I am praying that this 3rd trimester passes without too much physical difficulty and that I can keep my energy up, but these last few days are showing that, perhaps, that might not be the case. On top of that, Miss Bear is hanging onto her crankiness (how much of this is normal in a 2 year old?), Critter is a tad defiant - testing those boundaries - so it is a constant struggle to be consistent when sometimes I just want to give in, and Skipper is overly emotional. He is definitely my emotional child anyway, but lately? Whew, let's just say he can tone it down a bit. Apparently, all my tired faces are "mean faces" to him and he thinks I am mad at him. Makes me feel horrible and I try to put on a bright face but sometimes that is difficult to do, especially when one just wakes up in the morning!


The other night, my husband and I were taking a "spice" index questionare to use while I learn the Creighton model of NFP. We ended up laughing because the first question asks how our communication is. My reply? Great, when we actually have time to do it! And I discovered my husband thinks I do not show enough intimacy (little touches throughout the day kind of thing) so I am making an effort at doing that more. How quickly I have forgotten how much touch means to him. He is definitely more physical than I. But it has been nice since we have made time each evening to sit, chat a bit, and watch a show together before we go our own ways (he's a night owl) so I get a little communication and he gets a little closeness. Before this, we might watch a show but I would be on the laptop trying to get something done at the same time. I guess, sometimes we need to stop multi-tasking!


As for dirty dishes piling up, my bedroom looking like it spit-up clothing, baskets of stuff to go elsewwhere, and the continual battle with toys? Let's not go there. We all know what that's about!


Finally, I think this time of year is always a time of shaking it up. I have never been so busy in the fall as I have this year, and yet, I still feel the restless urge. The urge to change, to go somewhere, to do something different, and the urge to look at myself - to see the failures. Instead, I need to see not the failures as failures but as a chance to improve myself, and to also look at the positives. This is a chance to give thanks for my blessings, to look ahead to the holidays with joy - and not just as a to-do list (though naturally that will be there as well), and to feel blessed with each day I have here on earth to show God's love to my family and to others.

"Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them - every day begin the task anew." -- St. Francis de Sales


God bless you all!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

a little humor

A little translation:

Daddy: Now you know how mommy feels.
Critter: Take a picture and you can show mommy...

I'm like a fat... like fat as a roast chicken...

Daddy, this can carry stuff inside it...

Daddy, inside here... Daddy, I [don't put it] in my underwear. That's disgusting.

You just put stuffed animals in there actually.


[and we have no idea what he said for the last line] My husband thinks he said, "and I just fell on my butt" but I have no clue.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pumpkin Recipes

When you think of fall and the kitchen, what do you think of? Apples? Fresh loaves of bread from the oven? Soup simmering on the stove? Squash? Comfort foods? Pumpkin? I think about all of these, but this year pumpkin is winning out as being the favorite item to cook/bake with. Here a few hits of these past weeks. Hope you enjoy! All of these recipes are gluten/dairy/soy/egg-free.

Pumpkin Chili

I loved how this chili tasted using the pumpkin. Usually chili has a tomatoey kind of taste but this was full of fall flavor. Paired beautifully with my corn muffins.
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 pepper (I prefer red)
  • 2 jalapenos (optional - I omitted)
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, with juice (I had none so I substituted 3/4 pumpkin can of water + 2 Tbsp. ketchup - I think I prefer this over the tomatoes)
  • 1 (15 oz) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • sour cream (optional, as garnish)
  • cilantro, fresh or dried (optional, as garnish)
In a food processor chop up the garlic through the jalapenos. If you like chunkier pieces, cut it the old-fashioned way. Heat oil in a large pot and saute the vegetables, stirring often, until soft and tender. Add turkey and cook until browned. Add spices, water, pumpkin, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; add beans. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally for at least 30 minutes. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and/or cilantro, if desired.

Pumpkin Pancakes

For the complete recipe, see The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen (she also has a much nicer picture than mine). Here are my notes for this recipe:
  • If you follow this recipe exactly, it makes 4 very large pancakes that all fell apart, but that did not change the taste!
  • Instead, slowly pour the batter to make smaller pancakes. Skipper prefers the bigger one, all messed up, but Critter likes dollar-sized ones.
Frosted Pumpkin Bars

This recipe was one of the first I tried when the boys were initially diagnosed two years ago, and it is still an absolute fall must. My husband, heavy gluten-eater that he is, scarfs this down in no time flat. The full recipe is here, but I have adapted it to make it egg-free as well. Here are my notes:
  • My favorite flour blend for this recipe is: 4 c. superfine brown rice flour, 1 1/3 c. potato starch, 2/3 c. tapioca starch but really, I've made it with others, and it has never failed to delight.
  • To make it egg-free, replace the 3 eggs with 4 1/2 tsp. Ener-G egg replacer whisked with 6 Tbsp. warm water.
  • I cool in the pan for 10 minutes before flipping out to cool on a wire rack.
  • Do not frost until it is cool!
Pumpkin Pie Milkshake
No picture - they were sucked down too fast!
  • 2 c. vanilla ice-cream
  • 1 c. milk
  • 2/3 c. pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or mix of cinnamon and nutmeg)
  • cool whip as garnish (optional)
  • pumpkin pie spice as garnish (optional)
Combine ice-cream through the pumpkin pie spice in a blender and blend until milkshake consistency. Pour in glasses and top with cool whip or spice, as desired.

We skipped out on the toppings but that did not bother anyone. I tried a few sips to see what it tasted like - though I try to stay away from dairy - and it was very yummy. This would work well with alternative milks as well, though I suspect rice ice-cream and milk would be the best base.

American Costume Party

This week, the kids took a break from their AEP American class, but we all still came together for a fun American costume party. The kids loved it!

The Costumes

Miss Bear as the Immaculate Conception.

Critter is a baseball player holding "Teddy."

Skipper as St. John Neumann.

The Games

American Bingo - can you believe both boys were the first to win, and at the same time?

Guess Your Saint using clues read for a prize.

The Food

The kids went nuts over snacks. We brought our candied walnuts, but a personal favorite was the kettle corn.

The Craft

A patriotic mobile. This will be fun to hang for the 4th of July (if it makes it that long!).

Monday, October 24, 2011

All Souls Novena

Pray for your dead, and for all those in Purgatory, by starting this novena today and ending on the eve of the Feast of All Souls (November 1st).

O God, the Creator and Redeemer of all the faithful, grant to the souls of thy servants and handmaids departed, the remission of all their sins; that through pious supplications they may obtain the pardon they have always desired. Who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

For daily meditations to go along with the prayer, check out this site: All Souls Novena.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pumpkin Picking Fun

I don't know about you, but the area I live in is a pumpkin-picking boomtown. There are at least five choices within a twenty minute drive, two of which are mere minutes from my house. These patches are as simple as pick a pumpkin and pay all the way to elaborate, with admission prices, zip lines, corn mazes, hay rides, etc. In years past we have gone to a neighboring farm for a free hayride and pumpkin picking right in the field. This year, however, we choose to try a new farm just a few miles down the road.

The farm was nicely kept and the activities kid-friendly and fun. What we did not expect was that it was cash only. Thankfully we had enough for the day, which really was not that much considering our past pumpkin purchases. Two large and three small pumpkins plus the cost of activities ended up less than $20 for the three kids.

Friendly goats greeted us and enjoyed the "free" food found on the ground.

A mini tractor ride that was both bumpy and fast. Naturally the kids loved it!

The bounce house - yay! The boys loved this and spent quite a bit of time here.

Miss Bear did not care so much for the bounce house as you can see.

A free hayride, one that I opted out on. After, daddy and the kids promptly "lost" themselves in the 8-acre corn maze.

Choosing pumpkins. We have some great helpers.

With all this pumpkin-mania going around, I will post a few of my favorite pumpkin recipes here shortly. They are too good to keep to myself.