Wednesday, December 11, 2013

White Blueberry Cake for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Monday was a busy day (as usual) around here; we usually aren't home until 8 p.m. because of swim team practice. Although I just served leftovers for dinner, I wanted to do something special for the feast of the Immaculate Conception.  So I made this white blueberry cake in my Ninja cooker!   It was the first time I attempted to bake in the Ninja.  The cake turned out delicious -- so moist!  I used Betty Crocker's wild blueberry muffin mix, but steam cooking it in the Ninja gave it more of a moist cake texture.   Then I drizzled a bit of white icing on the top.  It was a hit with my husband and kids.  They are asking me to make more cakes in the Ninja!

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St Nicholas Day Breakfast

Wanted to quickly share some photos from our surprise breakfast on the feast of St. Nicholas (December 6). The kids woke up to shoes filled with an orange, candy cane, Christmas-themed book, and chocolate coins. But what really made them jump up from bed was the smell of cinnamon caramel rolls baking in the oven! 

I set the table with a red cloth and red charger plates, then added our white everyday plates. Breakfast consisted of fresh caramel rolls, fresh chocolate chip muffins, watermelon chunks, clementines, milk, juice or coffee.

Also pictured is the "St. Nicholas workshop" puzzle that St. Nicholas left for the kids.  It's a secular puzzle, but thought the kids would enjoy tackling it during the holiday season.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What We're Doing This Advent (2013)

"Advent's here...Advent's here...light one candle, Advent's here!"

My 11-year-old daughter is singing this cheerful little tune she learned in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium when she was six years old. Yikes!  Even though Advent started later this year, I am still behind with my plans. Are you?  Between the usual soccer, swimming, basketball and ballet sessions, we're researching and visiting high schools for my son, and helping him prepare for his confirmation in January.  I wonder -- how can I squeeze in any other activities?

Because there is so much going on, I've vowed to keep it simple this year.  Here are the things we will be doing:

Advent Spiral - for the first year in many, I've opted not to use our Advent Wreath.  However, we will be counting down the days to Christmas with our Advent spiral, a tradition we started in 2010.

Decorations - I usually like to add touches of pink and purple around the house to remind the kids that it is Advent. Instead, I'm borrowing my parish's tradition of keeping the decor to a sparse minimum until a few days before Christmas, when we will "deck the halls" with red and green, and our "Marian" inspired Christmas tree (more on that in a little bit.)

Feast Day celebrations during Advent - I usually like to "go all out" when celebrating Advent saint days like St. Nicholas Day and St. Lucia's Day and feast days like the Immaculate Conception.  But my plate feels so full, that I will be keeping it simple this year!  Perhaps some special breakfast treats before everyone heads off to school (or work), or maybe a special dessert at night.  I'll post some photos later about these celebrations.

Jesse Tree Celebrations - We have a little tree that we usually use to display the wooden Jesse Tree ornaments I made a few years ago.  But this year, I participated in Michelle's (Liturgical Time: Walking the Seasons) Jesse Tree ornament exchange.   We're excited to give these creative ornaments a place on our Christmas tree this year!  We're slowly reading the various Biblical passages that match each ornament, and then adding the corresponding ornament to our tree.   I may attempt to do another Jesse tree inspired meal  like I did last year a couple of days before Christmas, when the kids are off school.  It's a bit of work but hey, we gotta' eat, right?

O Antiphons - We will again be celebrating the O Antiphons from December 17 to December 23.  We will use the O Antiphons magnetic board I created in 2011, and enjoy a special little treat or surprise each night at dinner.

A Marian-inspired Christmas tree - Our Christmas tree is usually filled with a loveable mish-mash of ornaments collected throughout the years. Nothing designer here, but rather 'lots of memories of our favorite things and people.  However, this year I wanted to do something a bit different.  Believe it or not, a bottle of Ameritech's "Midnight Blue" acrylic paint inspired me to create a "Midnight Blue" tree in honor of Our Blessed Mother.   I purchased the paint to use on the Jesse tree ornaments I made for Michelle's swap.  Fell in love with the deep, rich color!  Decided to use the leftover paint and wooden plaques, plus some beautiful reprints of Mary and Jesus, to create ornaments for our tree.   They are almost done, and I can't wait to share them with you!  (Hopefully my camera will cooperate and take some nice photos!)

Reading - Although I'm not homeschooling this year, reading is still an important part of our lives.  So we'll be reading our favorite Advent picture books each evening.  Hopefully I can share some of them with you.  For my own spiritual enrichment, I'm reading The Nativity Story: Contemplating Mary's Journey of Faith by Rose Pacatte, FSP.   I hope to share some tidbits of inspiration from the book on this blog.

Keeping the Faith - Can't forget the most important ways that we can prepare for Christmas!  Of course, there's Sunday Mass, which is especially meaningful to me during Advent. Our area is blessed with some beautiful old churches, so we try to attend at least one Mass during the holiday season at one of those fine old churches. We'll also go to Confession as a family.  I'll spend some extra time in our parish's Adoration Chapel.  I also hope to participate in the Advent Vespers that our church holds each Friday and perhaps attend a Latin Mass on Christmas Eve.

Crafts and Projects - Two years ago, I purchased a bunch of Christmas fabric at a deep discount after the holidays.  I'm finally getting a chance to turn that fabric into gift bags!  It's been one of my goals (for years!) to eliminate some of the paper waste by slowly transitioning to fabric gift bags.  We'll see how it goes!  In the meantime, my sewing machine is again humming, after many years of sitting idle in a cabinet!

I'll also be sewing some pajamas that I cut out last year and never made!  Gee, I hope they still fit the kids! 

I'm also making the Marian ornaments for our Christmas tree, plus a few small gifts for the stockings.

Those are my paired-down plans for this year.   Realistically, they will undoubtedly change as we progress through the month!  (Nothing is ever set in stone around here with two busy kids!) But at least it's a framework that will ensure that we enjoy some of our favorite Advent activities. 

Happy Advent to all of you!  What are you doing to prepare?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

An update

Hi everyone,

Sorry I've been a bit quiet!  Haven't had much time for blogging since May, especially since my husband was out of town on a field assignment all summer and part of the fall.  (I have so much respect for single parents after having to play that role for 10 months!)

I plan to post soon about our Advent plans, a cool Marian inspired Christmas tree I'm working on, and a few other stuff!  "Talk" to you soon...!


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Pentecost Supper

It was another hectic weekend but I managed to pull together a special meal on Sunday to celebrate Pentecost. I incorporated the colors of red, yellow, orange and the symbols of flames/tongues of fire and wind into the meal. Then we played a little dinner time game, with the kids guessing why I used these elements in the meal.

Thought I'd share some photos.

Red, yellow and orange sweet peppers cut into flame shapes and served with hummus.

Pinwheels made with Sara Lee puff pastry. I used these with the catalina chicken I whipped up in the crockpot earlier in the week.

(Have you ever made Catalina chicken? It is so easy and delicious! Simply put chicken breast in a crockpot, top with Catalina salad dressing to cover chicken, then let simmer throughout the day until done.)

The finished chicken has a reddish/orangish tinge to it; perfect to match our theme colors! I served the chicken on top of the pinwheels like this:

For dessert, a tart with strawberry and peach flames. Another easy peasy recipe with Sara Lee puff pastry (baked at the same time as the pinwheels!), instant vanilla pudding and sliced peaches and strawberries. Here it is:

This was definitely one of my easiest celebration meals and I think we will make it a Pentecost tradition.

Did you do anything special for Pentecost? Please share in the combox.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Good Shepherd Sunday

I planned to have a special meal yesterday for Good Shepherd Sunday but last Thursday's flooding in our area threw off my schedule. Between cleaning up our basement and dealing with a shoulder injury I didn't have the time or energy to make the shepherd pie and other special treats I planned to make. However I finished decorating the lamb cake, which we enjoyed last night. Here it is:

I also set up a Good Shepherd display on our sideboard:

I will be giving the CGS Good Shepherd presentation to my daughter this week. Or perhaps she will be giving it to me? She has heard it many times and practically knows it by heart. It is a presentation that touches my soul in a new way each time I share it.
We will also be reading Gennady Spirin's book "The Lord is my Shepherd". I found it in the bargain bin of a discount store last summer and can't wait to ponder the beautiful artwork while we ponder the Twenty Third Psalm.

Hopefully we will still enjoy shepherd pie later in the week.
Did you do anything special to celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday? Please share in the combox.

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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Divine Mercy Sunday Brunch

I thought it would be fun to do something new to celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday:  a "red and blue" brunch:

We had:

1) Baked French Toast with red "rays" made of strawberries and blue "rays" made of blueberries:

2) Skewers of red strawberries and blueberries

3) White grape juice tinted red with grenadine:

During the meal, I talked with the kids about St. Faustina and the Divine Mercy promise.  You can find out more about it here and here.

Later on today we will be attending reconciliation and praying the Divine Mercy chaplet at a nearby parish.  I'm hoping this little celebration will eliminate a bit of the anxiety that comes with going to confession while helping the kids better understand God's infinite mercy.  Who knows, maybe it will become a looked-toward tradition in our home!

Looking for some good reading?  Check out these link-ups?

Check it out here!

Sunday Snippets: A Catholic Carnival

A few photos of our Eastertide

Wanted to post a few photos of the Easter decorations around our house:

Our gold "Alleluia" letters, embellished with dogwood blossoms.  

My bi-fold "Saints Day" frame, with Easter themed pictures (I used drawings from Catholic Artworks). 
Our Easter candle, encircled with a grapevine wreath embellished with dogwood blossoms and a butterfly
Our tomb, embellished with butterfly, birds and a bit of greenery

He is risen!

Do you see a "dogwood blossom" theme?  The kids received this book in the family Easter basket this year:

I explains the "legend" of the dogwood blossom.  I'm not sure if it is true, but it is a beautiful story!  I decided it would be fun to decorate the house with dogwood blossom garlands to carry out the theme throughout Eastertide.  We may do some crafts based on the dogwood blossom legend too; there are some easy ones at Catholic IcingCatholic Inspired and at JDaniel4's Mom.

Wishing you a beautiful Eastertide!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Organizing my "liturgical" baking supplies

As part of my Lenten cleaning and purging, I decided to go through my cookie cutters, cookie stamps, jello molds, candy molds, cake decorating items and other tools I inherited from my mom. I was blessed to receive so many wonderful items, including candy molds shaped like little Bibles, cookie cutters shaped like churches and Nativity figures, and many other items that could give normal food a liturgical touch.
I live in a small house with limited cupboard space in the kitchen, so I've been storing these treasures in two large Rubbermaid bins in the basement. It really wasn't the best solution because the items were disorganized and jumbled together. The mess discouraged me from using them.  I didn't want the hassle of digging around in the box until I found the chalice cookie cutter, the lamb shaped candy mold or whatever other item I needed.

So I spent a Saturday going through the boxes.  I sorted them first into two broad categories: "secular" and "liturgical" items. I divided the secular pile into seasons and holidays, depending on how many items I had.  I kept the "liturgical items" together.

For example, my "fall" pile has items that I probably wouldn't use for most liturgical holidays, like an acorn shaped cookie cutter or a leaf shaped muffin molds. My "liturgical" pile has cross shaped cookie cutters, my lamb butter mold and other items I might use for holidays like Easter, a Jesse advent tea, etc.

I purchased some smaller stackable boxes which would fit on top of my refrigerator, and created labels for each box.  I listed the items in each box so I can quickly access what I need without digging through different boxes.

So far, the system has worked well. I find that I'm using the various tools more often because I can quickly locate them.

Have you figured out a way to organize your cookie cutters and similar tools? I'd love to hear about it; please share in the combox.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Dinner to celebrate our new pope

After watching Pope Francis' Inauguration Mass on EWTN, I thought it would be fun to celebrate this special day with a  themed dinner.

I decided to go with a gold, red, yellow and white theme to represent the colors of the papal flag. So my daughter set the table with our gold tablecloth accented with white and red napkin "runners". She also used red napkins and a picture of Pope Francis.

For dinner, I served Argentinian gaucho steak sandwiches with chimichurri sauce. I used thin flank steak, so the meat grilled quickly on my panini press. They were delicious; even my picky eater teen son liked them! You can find the recipe here.

I also served two "red, yellow and gold" salads: a fruit one made with strawberries, peaches and crushed pineapple; and a veggie salad made with red and yellow grape tomatoes.

For dessert, I served vanilla ice cream with strawberry and butterscotch toppings.

It was a fun little meal to commemorate this special day!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Habemus Papam!

MJ and I couldn't believe it when we looked at the computer screen (live feed) and saw this:

Habemus Papam!  We have a pope!

Waiting and Praying...

We are watching this:

And we are praying this:

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, through Christ Our Lord,

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Saints Day frame

Wanted to share an easy way to add a liturgical touch to your home decorating. 

I quickly put this framed artwork together for St. David's Day, but  we will be using it in the future to highlight other saint days and liturgical holidays.

Basically, I purchased a plain white hinged frame. Mine holds 3.5" x 5.5" photos, but you could purchase any size that meets your needs.  Mine was just a few dollars purchased from Michael's with a coupon.

I may eventually decorate the frame with paint pens or saint symbols, but for right now I'm keeping it simply white.

When a saint's feast day rolls around, I insert a printed image of the saint in frame on the right side. If I don't have a print, I'll search the internet for appropriate images.  

On the left side of the frame, I'll write a short message like "Today's saint is..."  I use a dry erase marker to write directly on the clear glass; it can be easily wiped off with a damp paper towel whenever I want to change the message.

Here are some of the Lent printables I'll be using in the frame in the next month.  Most of these are images from a Catholic Artworks CD that I purchased, but you could use holy card or other images, too.

I'll be using this for St. Patrick's Day in a couple of weeks; I think I will print part of the "breastplate" prayer on the left side, or perhaps something about how St. Patrick used a shamrock to teach about the Trinity.

I will also add special images throughout Holy Week, especially for Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and of course, Easter! 

Do you have any simple items you use to give your home a "liturgical" touch?  If so, what are they?  Please share in the combox!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

What are you reading this Lent?

Just curious--what books is everyone reading right now to  help them on their Lenten spiritual journey?

I'm absorbing this book:

Father Longenecker writes on of my favorite faith blogs, Standing on My Head.  So I decided to purchase his book The Gargoyle Code and download it into my Kindle to read while I'm waiting at sports practices and dance classes.  It is subtitled "Lenten Letters between a Master Tempter and his diabolical Trainee."

Needless to say, it isn't your typical Lenten meditation book.  It reminds me a bit of C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters.  Both books are based on a series of letters between a young tempter and his senior mentor.

Although the book is a satire, it makes one ponder about the many subtle influences of evil in our world today.  It also proves that it is possible to laugh and cry at the same time.  (Yes, I've shed a couple of tears over the sad state of our world and how easily the devil can tempt us away from our loving Father.)

So, if you have finished your heavier Lenten reading and want something that will make you think while you laugh, check out The Gargoyle Code.

What are you reading this Lent?  Please share in the combox!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Celebrating St. David's Day

It's been a while since the kids and I learned about a new saint.  So when I discovered that we were free of all outside commitments last Sunday (February 24), I decided it would be fun to learn more about St. David, whose feast day is celebrated on March 1.

We started by reading a book about St. David. There aren't too many of them in the marketplace but we found this one:

It's a nice little book, just 22 pages long, which includes legends about David and a prayer inspired by him.  St. David is the patron saint of Wales, so the book also includes a two page spread on how the feast day is celebrated in Wales. (Incidentally, I picked up a copy inexpensively on eBay; the prices listed on Amazon are rather crazy!)

We also checked out a few websites about St. David, including this short biography of him on American, this page on New Advent, this page on, this page from the National Museum of Wales website and this page from the Visit Wales tourism website.

I thought it would be fun to watch a movie about the country of Wales. Unfortunately, our library didn't have anything.  My Amazon Prime membership came in handy, however!  Amazon Prime has quite a few free travel videos for streaming, including at least five on Wales.   We picked the 26 minute Passport to Adventure: The Magical Country of Wales.

Through our research, we learned that the national emblem of  Wales is the leek, and that many Welsh people pin a leek stalk to their lapels on this day.  I  was very unfamiliar with leeks but decided to make this delicious Leek Potato Soup. It will become a favorite no-meat meal for Lent! 

Wales' national flower is a daffodil. Since it was Sunday, I made and served this daffodil angel food cake:

The inside is yellow and white. I added a couple drops of yellow food coloring to half the cake mix, then alternately dropped spoonfuls of yellow and white cake mix into the cake pan.

It was a fun surprise when we cut the cake!

I frosted the cake with pre-made vanilla frosting, to which I added a drop of lemon flavoring.
I'm no cake decorator (as you will see) but I decided to try making daffodils with the fondant that's been sitting in the cupboard for a while.

I colored the fondant and rolled it out. I used a mini cutter to make flower petals:

To make the flower's cup I finger rolled tube shapes, cut them into smaller pieces and used a chopstick to make an opening in the cup:

But I didn't really like the look so I took small rectangular shapes and rolled them "jelly roll style". I liked this effect better.

It was a tiny bit time consuming to make those little daffodils, but it added a special touch to the cake.  I might make a similar cake for Easter since out of town guests will be celebrating with us.

I also considered doing one or two simple daffodil or St. David inspired crafts, like the ones I saw at the DLTK-Kids website and the Activity Village website, but we ran out of time. Perhaps next year!

It was a fun, relatively easy way to learn more about another Catholic saint.

Do you celebrate lesser known saints' days?  If so, which days?  How do you celebrate them?