Monday, January 31, 2011

Feast Day: St. John Bosco

St. John Bosco (1815-1888) was a priest, educator and champion of the young.  He has some amazing insights into teaching the young (a wonderful resource for Boscovian quotes can be found at Saint  A great way for the kids to understand this wonderful man's life is the movie St. John Bosco: Mission to Love (Italian but dubbed in English)... a favorite around here!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Hey all you knitters ... a preview and jump on Easter knitting ...

As many of you know, I write the handcrafts column for the quarterly Catholic homeschool magazine, mater et magistra.  I'm just putting the finishing touches on the column for the Spring 2011 issue, an issue with a large chunk of editorial space devoted to Easter celebrations. 

Whenever I write the column, I try and include a bit of knitting content and this column is no exception.  In fact, I created a design just for Easter:  a set of nested fabric baskets knit using a re-purposed sheet cut into strips.  To get a free copy of the pattern, subscribe to this wonderful magazine ... if you just can't wait till then, I have the pattern available for immediate download from my Raverly store ($4.00 for the design with all info necessary to recreate this one-of-a-kind Easter decoration). 


Of course these baskets would be wonderful for a new baby's room, or powder room, or wherever you want a splash of color and distinction.  [I'm thinking of making seasonal sets as well as a set that will coordinate with the dining room decor!]

Review: A Biblical Walk Through the Mass

I have just finished an amazing book that taught me so much.  A Biblical Walk Through the Mass: Understanding What We Say and Do in the Liturgy by Dr. Edward Sri taught me more in its 150 pages than I learned about the Mass in my 17 years of formal Catholic schooling.  Here I am a cradle-Catholic and yet there are comments, descriptions and explanations in this book that I didn't know before or never had it explained to me in these easy terms.  Dr. Sri proves that the Catholic Mass is tied to tradition and scripture and that every piece has a reason ... a past ... a link to bringing the participants into the Presence.

Dr. Sri, provost and professor at the Augustine Institute in Denver, goes through EVERY aspect of the Catholic Mass and explains the scriptural basis and historic setting of each part.  Starting with the "Sign of the Cross" in the Introductury Rite, working through the section known as the Liturgy of Word (the how, why and who for the readings, responses, homily and creed), explaining the rituals and prayers performed during the Liturgy of the Eucharist and then quickly following with a breaking apart of each element of the Eucharistic Prayer (when the priest changes the water and wine into the sacred Body and Blood of Jesus Christ during the consecration -- a time known as the mystery of the Faith), and then finishing with the Communion Rite and the Concluding Rites (including the sending forth of the congregation to spread the Gospel).

Dr. Sri speaks from his knowledge and expertise as a theologian and scripture scholar.  But he doesn't just give the reader his opinion.  He quotes Church documents (including the Catechism), papal writings and encyclicals, other theologians and scholars including Doctors of the Church and direct scriptural quotes.
This book is a book for apologists, catechists and even "Joe Blo" in the pew -- this book helps illuminate the truth, beauty and good inherent in the Catholic Mass and gives the historic and spiritual underpinnings of each element.  And, it is very readable for the untrained!  This is an amazing resource for use in the home or parish or school.  Excellent ... excelllent ... excellent!

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on A Biblical Walk Through The Mass Book . They are also a great source for serenity prayer and baptism gifts.


Friday, January 28, 2011

Feast Day: St. Thomas Aquinas ....

St. Thomas,
please watch over all our students today and throughout the year ...
help them to remember that
"love takes up where knowledge leaves off" ...
St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Finally .... SNOW!

Last night about 5:30 p.m. ... a little dark but you get the idea!
Not alot of snow, but enough to keep dh home today ... to get the kids done with their work early so they can go out and play in it ... and enough for me to think about sittin' and knittin' all afternoon with a cuppa and a movie on the screen .... oh and the mandatory "snow baking" (olive oil chocolate chip cookies and fresh white sandwich bread) to ensure that the house is warm and tummies are full! 

A perfect day at the Lake!  Hope wherever you are, you're staying warm and cozy with loved ones around!

You can see how much snow by the "icing" on the bird bath

Max ... not sure if he likes this stuff!

Snow baking -- to keep the house warm (and tummies full)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Yarn-along: January 26th edition ....

~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs. I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading? Take a single photo and share it either on your blog or on Flickr. Leave a link below to share your photo with the rest of us! ~ from Ginny's blog, small things

Can I just say that I love these "yarn-alongs" that Ginny started.  What a great way of peeking into homeschool-rooms and seeing what's on the needles, the reading table and other interesting tidbits!

On my needles:  last week I started Victoria's Tank but only got about 1/3 of the way done with it during the week as I had a cashmere design (Birds in Flight cowl/headband) to prep for a meeting with my supplier of cashmere (and cashmere goat owner) Miss Jane.  Miss Jane was coming on Monday, so the weekend knitting was devoted to prepping that design.  But I did get a bit done and love the way the top is coming out.  The unwound skeins in the picture are for a design that Jane commissioned ... a Snow on the Mountains vest in this lovely dusty rose ... that will imitate the Snow on the Mountains scarf I've already designed for Spring Gate.  So, I'll be working on BOTH knitting projects this week ... glad the weather is supposed to cooperate by being nasty AND the van is in the shop so I can't go anywhere anyway!  Great knitting times ahead!

Reading table for the kids:  Last week we gave String in the Harp a shot.  After reading more than 20% of the book (our standard if-it-don't-hook-us-it-ain't-gonna), we decided to set that particular book aside and pick up something else:  the kids picked The Bridge to Terabithia (not knowing the ending!) and so we sailed right thru that one, finishing yesterday afternoon (and then watching the latest video version ... which led to some interesting discussions of what was in, what was out, what we liked/didn't like from the movie, etc).  Today, we're starting a creative writing unit to encourage the kids' writing:  Word After Word After Word will be our read-aloud today .... a lovely book by famed author Patricia MacLachlan (Sarah Plain and Tall series, etc).  We're also using this week:  Writers Express, You Can Write a Story: A story-writing recipe for kids, and we'll start doing the exercises in Unjournaling.  I'm looking forward to pulling the creative writer out of each of my littles -- they can tell stories but avoid writing stories!

Reading table for mom:  continuing to read the Agatha Christie's notebooks book ... fascinating (and maybe why I'm on a creative writing kick with the kiddoes!).  I have also started Dr. Ted Sri's latest book, A Biblical Walk Through the Mass, which is a GREAT book and particularly interesting since he's using the new translation for the Mass that will go into effect this coming Advent!  Very cool to see all the links to scripture that are included in every Mass celebrated every day throughout the world.  Dr. Sri is a homeschooling dad and amazing theologican I was privileged to know during our sojourn in Denver.

So what do you have on your needles and your book table this week?  [BTW, make sure you link your yarn-along post to Ginny's this week; she's giving away a gorgeous skein of yarn!]


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Obedience ... my word for 2011 ...

As I've mentioned previously, my "word" for 2011 is "obedience" ... "docility to the will of God" .... "cheerful embracing of God's desires for me" ...

Sounds easy? 

Not if you were raised in the United States in the last half-century.  Americans are taught from cradle-to-grave to be independent, self-reliant, demanding what WE want.  If you are an American woman raised in the last half-century ... you've been taught: "you are woman, hear you roar", "it's your body and no one can tell you what to do to it", "you can want it all ... you can have it all can do it all".

If you notice, nowhere in that paragraph above is there anything about me submitting to anyone else ... let alone God.  Nowhere is there mention of allowing God to have His say in my life.  Nowhere is there even the suggestion that I would need anyone or anything else in my life.

What a load of cow manure! 

But this is what the "American dream" has become ... self-centered claptrap engendering chaos, discord and disunity.  Is this REALLY what we're meant to do here on Earth?  Is this really getting us what we want?

I'm thinking not.  I'm thinking that when I back off from my own desires -- not needs, but wants --when I submit to others, sacrifice for others, seek the needs of others, I am so much happier.  I have such a better day and go to bed with a clean conscience and a stronger love for all.   

THAT's why my word for 2011 is obedience -- docility to God's will and cheerful acceptance of where I am and who I am and what I am.  

The prayer card above I created to help me remember my goals.  I will put it on my laptop as my "wallpaper" so that every time I pass my desk ... or sit down to work ... or get ready to school the kids, I will think of this prayer and my need ... my desire ... my wish to bend my will to Him who created me. 

[A personal note:  This is a prayer attributed to St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits).  My father, God rest his soul, really liked this prayer and, furthermore, LIVED this prayer: May I be so blessed as he was.]

Saturday, January 22, 2011

This is why our fiber club is under the patronage of St Agnes ...

Pope blesses special lambs on Feast of St. Agnes :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)

Don't you love how the little lamb is all decked out in roses and leaves ... he almost looks like an Easter cake!  The article linked above has pictures including what the pallia look like and further info about this annual "blessing of the lambs".

and the prayer card I created last year for this special day ...


Friday, January 21, 2011

Feast Day: St. Agnes of Rome and the St. Agnes Fiber Club

I've been remiss in telling you all about a girls' group I'm doing this year but since it's St. Agnes' feast day and we've put the club under her patronage (read the saint bio below for just why we have St. Agnes as our patron), I thought I'd share a bit with you:

Nine 9-13 year olds come to my house every two weeks or so and learn all about wool fiber at the St. Agnes Fiber Club.  For the basic framework of the class, I use Harrisville Design's great curriculum, WoolWorks: Teaching with Fiber Arts.  This is a complete (if a bit pricey) guide that includes background information and activities to help the girls understand the many facets of wool.  The activities suggested allow the moderator to either buy pre-made kits from Harrisville or to use what they have on hand.  We were forutnate to be able to save a bit of money as Knit Picks (LOVE those folks) sponsored our club and donated raw wool for spinning, wool yarn for dying, knitting needles and knitting yarn!  This cut the cost somewhat, but I still had to charge the girls $75 each to be in the year-long club in order to cover supplies.

I've augmented the guide's info from more current resources (some of the information is a bit dated in the guide) and am compiling a resource list of books, magazines, websites and you-tube videos which I'll give to the girls at the end of the year (along with copies of each recipe I've made to stave off hunger during our two hour meeting -- boy, these girls can EAT!).  Each two hour meeting includes a "lecture", review of past meetings, an activity, and snack time. 

We started in October and we've already done: history of sheep and wool production, classifying different raw wool types, felting wool, spinning wool (after first making drop spindles!), and Peruvian braiding designs.  We still have:  potholder weaving (beyond the camp style), world history of weaving, weaving on rigid heddle loom, weaving a tapestry, kool-aid dying washable wool yarn, and then (of course) knitting with wool. 

I love getting the girls (even those who thought they didn't want to learn about wool) psyched about the fiber and all the cool, amazing things for which wool can be used.  We are covering history, geography, math, science (a wool fiber is an amazing example of complex protein!), art ... and having tons of fun at the same time.  We're nurturing their God-given creative talents while learning ... and I'm right there with them learning to drop spindle ... or felt .... or braid.

Here's the prayer we pray before the start of each meeting (I got a prayer card for each of the girls from Catholic Prayer Cards, a family business that has GORGEOUS holy cards!):
O lovely St. Agnes, spotless lamb of Christ,
you glorified God in fidelity and purity while on earth,
and you now behold the glory of His radiant face in Heaven.
In your passion for Christ, you persevered, even unto a martyr's death,
and gained the crown of eternal life.
By your constant prayers, protect us from every danger that threatens us on our pilgirmage of faith,
and intercede for us in all of our needs and trials.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen

What a blessing this Club has been, and continues to be!  Thank you, St. Agnes.

St. Agnes was a Roman girl who was only thirteen years old when she suffered martyrdom for her Faith. Agnes had made a promise, a promise to God never to stain her purity. this was how great was her love for God! Since she was very beautiful, many young men wished to marry Agnes, but she would always say, "Jesus Christ is my only Spouse."

Procop, the Governor's son, became very angry when she refused him. He had tried to win her for his wife with rich gifts and promises, but the beautiful young girl kept saying, "I am already promised to the Lord of the Universe. He is more splendid than the sun and the stars, and He has said He will never leave me!" In great anger, Procop accused her of being a Christian and brought her to his father, the Governor. The Governor promised Agnes wonderful gifts if she would only deny God, but Agnes refused. He tried to change her mind by putting her in chains, but her lovely face shone with joy. Next he sent her to a place of sin, but an Angel protected her. At last, she was condemned to death. Even the pagans cried to see such a young and beautiful girl going to death. Yet, Agnes was as happy as a bride on her wedding day. She did not pay attention to those who begged her to save herself. "I would offend my Spouse if I were to try to please you. He chose me first and He shall have me!" Then she prayed and bowed her head for the death-stroke of the sword.

Agnes comes from the Greek word "hagne," which means chaste and sacred. Because of her purity, and because her name is similar in spelling and pronunciations to “Agnus,” St. Agnes is often depicted with a lamb. The Feast of St. Agnes is also connected to the pallium, a vestment worn by the pope and also presented to certain archbishops. Two very young lambs from the sheepfold belonging to the Trappist fathers of the monastery of Tre Fontane near St. Paul's Basilica are crowned and placed in straw baskets, which have been carefully decorated with red and white flowers and streamers: red standing for Agnes' martyrdom, and white for her purity. They are then taken to the Basilica of St. Agnes Outside the Walls. There, at the end of the solemn feast day Mass, a procession composed of young girls in white dresses and veils, as well as carabinieri in red and blue uniforms and hats, who bear the lambs on their shoulders, proceeds down the center aisle. The lambs are ceremoniously incensed and blessed. They are then shown to the Pope at the Vatican and finally placed in the care of the Benedictine nuns of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, who rear them until Maundy Thursday, when they are sheared. From the lambs' wool are woven approximately 12 pallia a year.

St. Agnes is the patron saint of girls, young women, chastity and purity.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Yarn Along: January 19th edition

Last week, I was reading Defiant Joy (about GKChesterton ... excellent book!) and readng Lost in Peter's Tomb to the kiddoes.  I was also finishing up a cashmere design which I've titled Blue Ridge Sunset (it's available for download from my Ravelry store).

So, what's on my reading table and knitting needles for this week?
Reading:  reading to the kids a Newbery Honor book (from back in the day when that meant good literature), A String in the Harp by Nancy Bond.  It's a great story about a family who moves to Wales after the death of the mother ... and their adventures in the midst of dealing with their grief.  So far, the reading is wonderful -- the images Bond conjures with her words are amazing!  The book I'm reading is one I found at the library last week and was so thrilled with, I ordered a copy for my shelf: 
Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks!  This book is fascinating -- seems Christie scholar John Curran deciphered Christie's hand-written notebooks to create this book.  It's a creative-writing lesson in book form!  For this wannabe-writer and Christie fan, this book is perfect.  What a fascinating glimpse into the overall writing process!  Loving it!

On my needles is a new design that I'm calling "Victoria's Tank".  The body of the top is a classic Victorian knitted-lace pattern that will have a bodice put atop.  I'm using KP's Comfy Fingering (a washable cotton-blend) and it is kniting up beautifully!

So won't you join the Ginny's yarn-along posts .... and any comments on my designs or suggestions for great read-alouds for the kids would be most appreciated!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Review: Defiant Joy -- The Remarkable Life and Impact of GK Chesterton

I love reading GKC ... he's always provocative, often humorous, and always spot-on with truths that transcend his time.  He is as pertinent today as when he was writing in the early 20th century.  He had an impact on many of his contemporaries -- not least of which, C.S. Lewis who credits GKC's writings with helping him find Christianity.

The above is why I jumped at the chance to review, Defiant Joy: The Remarkable Life and Impact of GK Chesterton by Kevin Belmonte.  Published by Thomas Nelson, this paperback with it's fairly cartoon-ish cover is a wonderful overview of GK's life, but more interestingly, the book is also a highly readable analysis of GKC's prolific production of the written word.  Belmonte, who obviously greatly admires this early 20th century writer, crafts a book that pays homage to GK's life, philosophy (as gleaned from his writings), and impact on others.

If you're looking for a biography of GK ... this is an ok starting point, but there are better biographies out there.  But if you're looking for an highly readable analysis and overview of GK's writings ... this is a wonderful book for you.  I thoroughly enjoyed the reading ... especially appreciating the excerpts from GK's own writings that illustrated Belmonte's points.  What better way to analyze than to use the actual words of the author being analyzed?

I highly recommend this book for high schoolers and up ... for all those interested in literary criticism, writing, and especially GOOD writing.  Excellent!

DISCLAIMER:  I received this book as part of Thomas Nelson's BookSneeze program with the promise that I would write an honest review of the work.  The above post is my honest opinion of Defiant Joy.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Football: uh oh ... what happens when you run out of ice cream ...

... when it's playoff weekend? 

Quickly (and I mean, quickly) make a big ol' pan of brownies with chocolate frosting and sprinkles ... DUH! 

File this in the "whew ... dodged that bullet" category ....