Friday, August 29, 2014

Getting Ready for School in Seven Quick Takes

Seems all I can think about is getting back to school.  I do have a couple of more posts that I am working on, but school is definitely first and foremost on my mind.  (Although, I have a nagging sympathy for those being persecuted in Iraq that I suppose is above school).  So I am going to do seven quick take--very quick takes--of some things I have found around the web that may be helpful to you in planning your own year.  Have a wonderful holiday weekend.

Harrington Harmonies is a blog I discovered recently and if you have not yet discovered it, please check it out.  My first find that I would like to share is the Wildflower Study series on Harrington Harmonies.  Stephanie has a pack of note-booking pages to buy for only $2.99, but also a free study on sunflowers, and lot of other resources.  I am taking note of all this and holding it out for a spring study, when the year starts to seem long and we need something new.

Okay, so if you didn't check out Harrington Harmonies from the post above, maybe this will get yo interested.  I promise, this is an unbiased, unsolicited plug!  Stephanie also just started a series of lessons and projects on art of the ancient world.  It is wonderful!  I almost want to jump ship on the explorers and go back and do the ancients again.  If you need an art series or are studying the ancients, definitely check this out. 

Moving on, a blog that I just discovered yesterday has me wishing I had more online time.  Wildflowers and Marbles is a lovely Catholic blog that you must visit.  There is so much there, from homeschool lesson ideas to home organization; and just a whole lot of love and support for us homeschooling moms.  I especially liked her posts on Teaching Literature and how the Angel Food for Girls and Boys coordinates with the Baltimore Catechism I'm wondering if I can get my husband to spring for the books before next week:)  In the mean time, I hope to get a little more quiet time to peruse the lesson plans and book list!

Aside from lesson plans, book lists, and unit studies, it is important to refocus and gear up spiritually for the school year.  Another favorite blog of mine is the Contemplative Homeschool.  Check out Connie's 3 resolutions for a more contemplative school year 

After reading so much this summer about prayer in the home, I was happy to find a post on Creating a Monastery in Your Home on Catholic Sistas.  If you have never visited their blog, it is wonderful for every Catholic woman, so informative and up lifting. 

I have followed Catholic Icing for years--I think Lacy only had two children when I started--she is so creative and has great ideas. There are too many good ideas to list and link them all, but one of my favorite discoveries this week is this Mini Saint Information Sheet.  It would be good to use for preparation for All Saints Day, as a mini report, or even a writing assignment.  I think that you could also have your child create their own book of saints using this and have that be your language arts curriculum for the year.  (I need to stop looking, as I am posting I am getting tempted to re-write all our plans!) 

Last but not least, is a bit of a cop-out.  There is so much out there and very little time here, so please visit my Pinterest board on homeschooling.  I have all the links above and more.  I am also trying to compile complimentary links so that you will have all the resources to just create a unit study around any of these themes without doing the digging.  Have a blessed weekend and a good start to the new school year! 

Update:  Read this post on Blossoming Joy!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Faithful Prayers Can Move Mountains

For those of you who follow this blog on Facebook, I posted an urgent prayer request that I received from Mary.  Below is my original post, copied from an email:

An Urgent Prayer Request, Please Read and Pass On:

Dear Friends,

Just a few minutes ago I received the following text message on my phone from Sean Malone who leads Crisis Relief International (CRI). We then spoke briefly on the phone and I assured him that we would share this urgent prayer need with all of our contacts.
"We lost the city of Queragosh (Qaraqosh). It fell to ISIS and they are beheading children systematically. This is the city we have been smuggling food too. ISIS has pushed back Peshmerga (Kurdish forces) and is within 10 minutes of where our CRI team is working. Thousands more fled into the city of Erbil last night. The UN evacuated it's staff in Erbil. Our team is unmoved and will stay. Prayer cover needed!"

Please pray sincerely for the deliverance of the people of Northern Iraq from the terrible advancement of ISIS and its extreme Islamic goals for mass conversion or death for Christians across this region.

May I plead with you not to ignore this email. Do not forward it before you have prayed through it. Then send it to as many people as possible.

Send it to friends and Christians you may know. Send it to your prayer group. Send it to your pastor and phone him/her to prayon Sunday during the service - making a special time of prayer for this. We need to stand in the gap for our fellow Christians.

I posted this on Facebook and then forwarded to several friends.  My friend, Dara, sent me back the Our Lady of Knock Novena and asked everyone on the email chain to pray it for the persecuted and those ministering to them.  So, I am starting another pray-along.  Starting today, please pray this Novena with me, fast if you are so led.  Prayer and fasting can truly move mountains.  So, please take this opportunity to do great work.  It may seem like praying in your living room is doing nothing, but petitioning the Almighty is never a lowly task.  Through prayer, fasting, and alms-giving we can change the world and led our enemies to Christ.  Thank you.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Give praise to the Father Almighty,
To His Son, Jesus Christ the Lord,
To the Spirit who lives in our hearts,
Both now and forever. Amen.
Our Lady of Knock, Queen of Ireland, you gave hope to your people in a time of distress, and comforted them in sorrow. You have inspired countless pilgrims to pray with confidence to your divine Son, remembering His promise, "Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find."
Help me to remember that we are all pilgrims on the road to heaven. Fill me with love and concern for my brothers and sisters in Christ, especially those who live with me. Comfort me when I am sick, lonely or depressed. Teach me how to take part ever more reverently in the Holy Mass. Give me a greater love of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Pray for me now, and at the hour of my death. Amen.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world;
Have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world;
Have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world;
Grant us peace.
Chosen by God to be
The Husband of Mary,
The Protector of the Holy Family,
The Guardian of the Church.
Protect all families
In their work and recreation
And Guard us on our journey through life.
(Repeat - Lamb of God, etc.)
Beloved Disciple of the Lord,
Faithful priest.
Teacher of the Word of God.
Help us to hunger for the Word.
To be loyal to the Mass
And to love one another.
(Repeat - Lamb of God, etc.)
Our Lady of Knock Pray for Us
Refuge of Sinners Pray for Us
Queen Assumed into Heaven Pray for Us
Queen of the Rosary Pray for Us
Mother of Nazareth Pray for Us
Queen of Virgins Pray for Us
Help of Christians Pray for Us
Health of the Sick Pray for Us
Queen of Peace Pray for Us
Our Lady, Queen and Mother Pray for Us
Our Lady, Mother of the Church Pray for Us
(Here mention your own special intentions)
With the Angels and Saints let us pray:
Give praise to the Father Almighty,
To His Son, Jesus Christ the Lord,
To the Spirit who lives in our hearts,
Both now and forever. Amen.
The Rosary or Mass and Holy Communion is recommended each day.

A pamplet of the novena can be downloaded, here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Planning for the Year

While I am still in denial that September is around the corner, I cant stop thinking about curriculum, new workbooks, and organizing agendas.  So, I thought I would do a short post on our plans for the year, just to share my finds and also clear my head of all the dancing lists and books that have been scrambling around in there for the past week or so.

It seems I no sooner start a year, and I begin to plan for the next.  I am a planner, and that is a blessing and a curse.  I am trying very hard to let go and let God more than I do, but in the meantime, here are our plans.  Buddy will be entering first grade and Cowgirl is going into fourth grade.

Language Arts- IEW's PAL Reading which we started last year. We completed the first 24 lessons, but I think we will make it through the rest this year.  It is a K-2 program.

Math: Abeka Arithmetic 1 and supplemental workbooks from Smart Alec series in computation and word problems.

Handwriting:  Draw Write Now book 1

Science- The Kids Book of Weather Forecasting and various small science readers.

Geography- Maps and Charts C 

Spelling- All About Spelling level 1

U.S. History- A study of American saints using the Saints and Me, Holy Friends Thirty Saints and Blesseds of the Americas , and a couple of Fr Lovasik books as supplements

Religion: Faith and Life Grade 1, Baltimore Catechism 1, and begin working on First Communion Preparation Notebook (the blog post I used as a outline for this is no longer available).


Language Arts:  Josefina Unit Study

Math: Abeka Arithmetic 4, and some on-line drill practice found here, here, and here.

Handwriting: A Reason for Handwriting C and copy work

Science: DK Science Rocks and personal nature study

Geography: Maps and Charts E

Spelling: All About Spelling Level 3

U.S. History: Josefina and Kaya Unit studies

Religion: Totally Catholic, Baltimore Catechism, and Faith and Life 4

As a Family:

Latin: Song School Latin and memorization from Songs to Mary book

World History: Age of Exploration through the American Revolution using various books.  We are using Bearers of Freedom, A History of the United States and Its People, and Our American Catholic Heritage as anchor texts

Morning Time:  Inspired by Teaching from Rest and Ordo Amoris blog, I have restructured our day.  Here is my outline for Morning Time that will happen each morning for 1.5-2 hours. {Update: Ordo Amoris has recently shut down, but you can find more information on Morning Time here.}

  1. Morning Offering and hymn
  2. Poetry study and memorization 
  3. Baltimore Catechism
  4. Short Biography of a saint from one of these books.
  5. Music Appreciation/Composer Study
  6. Review the week's Latin vocabulary
  7. Read Aloud 15-20 minutes
  8. Morning "loop": Leading Little Ones to Mary, Life of Fred, Catholic Tales for Boys and Girls, and liturgical study. (one each day)
  9. St Micheal's prayer and Psalm

Finances:  I have really wanted to do a little study on finances and money with the kids.  I purchased some books last year but never got to it.  I'm determined to do it this year, might squeeze it into Morning Time once a week.  We are using Money Matters for Kids, Common Sense Business for Kids, and I just purchased MoneyBright Kids.

Whew!  I'm tired just looking at this.  It looks like a lot, but I have pared down and simplified.  My main focus for the year is to take our time and not just check off boxes.  If we only get to study two composers and memorize three poems, well at least they learned that much!  We are focusing on the basics and doing as much as we can of the rest.  It's not a race, so I am trying hard to breathe deep and plod on in joy.

How are your plans going?

Monday, August 25, 2014

An Explaination of the Mantilla for Children

Throughout history, women and girls have kept their heads covered to protect them from the weather but also to show honor to God.  A girl's long, beautiful hair is like a princess' crown.  It crowns her with glory and makes her special.  God designed every girl to be one of His most beautiful creatures.  When a girl covers her hair it does not make her less beautiful, it makes her more special.  She is showing that she is special and God's princess, but also set apart for God.
 American Girl Doll Lovely Deep Red Taffeta/ Black Velvet Gown with Lace Mantilla for Josefina

Mary, Our Blessed Mother, has always appeared with her head covered.  She is the most beloved and special of any woman to ever have lived or that ever will live.  Her veil is a symbol of her fiat, her saying the most precious "yes" to God.  Mary said yes not just to being Jesus' mother, but to serving God always in every way.  She gave her whole self to God for His Plan, that is why she is most blessed.

When women and girls veil it is not to draw attention to themselves but to draw attention to God and that in turn makes them even more beautiful and radiant.  Mantillas are beautiful works of art in themselves.  They are a unique and attractive way that God sets girls apart and shows how precious they are.  The beauty of the lace conceals and amplifies, or make better, the beauty of the girl wearing it.

As it says above, generations and generations of girls and women covered their heads.  In the south of Europe, it is very hot most of the year.  So, mantillas were created because they were a way to show modesty and honor, but the light, lacy fabric made them more comfortable to wear in the heat.  Popularity of mantillas for worship spread throughout the world and became the standard way that Catholic women and girls covered their heads.  In America, the tradition ended a few decades ago, but it beginning to come back again.  In Spain, mantillas are still worn for all of Holy Week, to bull fights, and other religious ceremonies and worship.

Traditionally, young and unmarried girls wore white mantillas, and married women and widows wore black.  However, today there are so many colors to choose from.  Many different styles, colors, shapes, and variations of mantillas exist but all for the same purpose, to veil the sacred and special.  Until recently, everything in the Church that was most special was veiled in exquisite lace and quality fabrics.  The most decorative veils were reserved for the Tabernacle, where Christ is present in the Eucharist, and the precious vessels that hold the consecrated Hosts for Communion, which is also the living Jesus.

If you see someone with a mantilla and you want to ask questions, do so politely, I am sure that she would love to explain why she wears it, where she bought it, and what the devotion means to her.  If you are interested in wearing a mantilla yourself, talk to your mom and look online.  There are so many, many shops online that offer beautiful mantillas in all different price ranges.  The most important thing to remember about wearing the veil is that it is a devotion to God and an outward sign of an inner commitment to serve and love Him with all you have.  You may feel a little self conscious at first, especially if not many other girls are veiling, but I think you will quickly see that the veil draws your attention to the altar and your thoughts to God, and soon you will be so involved in the Mass you will forget about what anyone else thinks.

If any girls have questions, please leave them in the comment box or email me.  I am happy to answer or I could have my daughter answer.  Thanks and have a blessed week.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Food from the Josefina Unit Study in Seven Quick Takes

He finally slept!  Okay, I know that is completely off topic, but getting a few uninterrupted hours of sleep just felt so good, I had to share.  Below is the last official segment of the Josefina unit study.  I am going to post updates as we complete out study at home.  I plan on taking my time to get through this so that we aren't rushed and pressured.  Trying very hard to have a more relaxed year this time around.

 I have been wanting to try my hand at making my own tortillas for awhile now.  This recipe looks easy enough.

I also found this recipe for sopes, which is a variation on tortillas. It reminds me of the pizza fritte that my Italian family always made growing up.  I just realized a few weeks ago that I have never made them for my children, even though pizza fritte was a common treat on weekends and holidays in my house growing up.  Anyway, we may try this second recipe as well, once we get the hang of working with masa.  {PS: If you decide to make the pizza fritte, the best way to eat it is with the requisite powdered sugar, a thin slice of boiled ham, and some broccoli rabe that has been sauteed with hot pepper flakes and garlic1}

This next recipe is exiting because it is something else I have always wanted to do, make my own cheese.  The recipe in the Josefina cookbook that I purchased seems a little easier to follow, but this one is fairly easy as well. According to the cookbook this cheese was normally eaten for breakfast.
 goat cheese appetizer 

I am hoping to purchase and learn to use a mortar and pestil.  It is something that I have never done and I think it will be fun to learn how to with the kids.  I have seen some reasonably priced ones on ebay so I am keeping an eye out for the best deal.
 Classic Mexican Guacamole 

Refried beans are a favorite of my children.  We a big bean and rice eating family already so Mexican fare is always one of our favorites.  This recipe is very simple and would allow us to make refried beans without any extra chemicals or preservatives.  

The Josefina cookbook also had recipes for sopas (soups).  This one looks delicious and I know would be a hit with my family. It is also easy to prepare with minimal ingredients.  

Mexican Meatball Soup (Sopa de Albondigas) Recipe

Tamales are a bit more work than the other recipes listed, but are a hearty meal especially on a cold winter night.  This could be a perfect dinner for Our Lady of Guadalupe day.  Tamales can be filled with anything from chicken and pork to seafood and vegetarian.  This recipe offers a list of  traditional fillings as well as recipes for making the fillings.

    Homemade Mexican Tamales Authentic Recipe 

Lastly, could we really celebrate Mexican cuisine and not have Mexican hot chocolate?  I plan on buying a traditional mixing stick.  There are several brands of Mexican chocolate available and also a recipe for a homemade blend here. Since we have nut allergies in our home, I need to do more research to see what brand we will be using.  There is also a cute, little song about making hot chocolate that you can find printables for here.

Mexican Hot Chocolate

I have additional ideas on my pinterest board.  Have a great weekend. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Josefina Unit Study: Fashion

Here is a quick post about my plans for the fashion portion of the unit study.  I apologize for the short style here--another rough night with the little one!  I am hoping that it is just teething and the teeth will break through soon, he is usually so pleasant!

Anyway, my hope in this part of the unit is to make an outfit for Cowgirl, with her help to learn some basic sewing skills and also an outfit for her doll. I found patterns for Josefina clothes, here.  Doll clothes go quickly but are also difficult to do on the machine because of the tiny arm holes, however right now we are working on hand sewing still so that isn't so much of an issue.  The link above also has patterns for FREE that can be printed out for all of the original Pleasant Company dolls.  Definitely worth checking out.

To go with the doll dress, I plan to have Cowgirl weave a rebozo using her lap loom, like this one.
 Peg Loom
 If you do not have a lap loom, you can easily make one with some cardboard, tape, and yarn.  Check out this link to show you how. I am thinking that the rebozo should be about 3-4" wide and about 16" long.  There is also this adorable knitting pattern for a doll poncho that I would love to make, it is very easy and a quick project for those who know how to knit. 

American Girl Doll Easy Garter Stitch Poncho from Leftover Yarn 

Part of this fashion portion of the unit includes making girl sized clothes.  This is not as hard as it sounds, trust me I am not a skilled sewist but have tackled both of the following projects easily.  The first is an absolutely darling skirt that is perfect because you can easily adjust the width and length to fit your daughter perfectly.  If you created it in a red calico bottom with a dark brown sash, it would be perfect for dressing up as Josefina.  I would also add a 2-3" wide white, cotton, ruffled lace, like eyelet inside of the bottom hem to give the illusion of a petticoat.


This next project is so easy and a great way to create modest dresses for your girls for a small price.  When I last made these dresses, we used long-sleeved shirts and adult skirts from the thrift store.  I simply cut the bottom portion of the shirt and the waistband of the skirt off and then sewed the two raw edges together.  The dresses were modest, pretty, and very comfortable.  Even if you are using all new material, these are still a bargain to make and with no sleeves nor collars to stitch, a great first sewing project for those who have never made a dress.

You could make this with red calico, brown sash, and long sleeved, white shirt for a quick and comfortable Josefina outfit, or create a style all your own.  It is a very versatile pattern.  The important part is having your daughter create a dress herself, just like Josefina did. These can be machine stitched or hand-sewn.  A great opportunity to practice those stitches!

For a rebozo, we are going to use long looms that I received as a gift two Christmases ago.  The children picked them out for me and have been impatiently patiently waiting for me to use them.  If you have never used the long looms before, here is great pattern for a shawl.

I have additional ideas for this unit on my pinterest board.  An important point to discuss in creating these clothes is both practicality and modesty, two virtues that all of Josefina's clothes posses.  They are versatile, easy to work in, built to last, but also very feminine and modest.  Josefina covered not only to protect her skin but because her faith was central to her life and thus flowed modesty.  I just remembered that I never posted the talk on mantillas for children.  I will put that on my list of what to do next, busy days and sleepless nights have left me a bit dazed!:)

Thanks for visiting.  Is there anything you would add?  Any tips or tricks to share?  Please leave a comment, even if it just to say hello.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Almost a New Josefina Post

Well, as my brother-in-law would say, "long day."  Little Man was up until about 6:30 AM and then only really slept until 8.  That on top of a jam packed day has led to a very short post.  I wanted to let you know that I updated my pinterest board for the Josefina study in anticipation of my next post on fashion.  I hope to be able to pull that together tomorrow.  Thanks for the patience and let's hope we all have a good night!

Monday, August 18, 2014

One Sister Can Change the World

At the heart of my blogging is the hope to inspire others to pursue the religious life.  I prayed and thought deeply for years about joining a religious order and living the consecrated life.  In fact, for 95% of our engagement, my husband and I spent time considering and praying for vocations. We both felt that we might have been called for religious vocations and did not want to marry until we were sure that marriage and children was our God ordained vocation.  I have children that I want to lead deeper to the faith, but also that I want to open up the door to possibly serve as a priest, nun, deacon, etc.  It has been difficult to find any resources to help in teaching about the vast opportunities for girls in vocations.  I began Veils and Vocations as a means to explore that very topic and bring the resources I did find to other mothers, like me, who were searching for them.

Enter the Imagine Sisters Movement!

This is exactly what I have been looking for and am so excited to share.  Imagine Sisters is a group whose aim is to introduce the possibility of religious vocations to girls, answer questions, make connections, and open doors. It is not just for those in religious life, nor only young women discerning the call, it is for everyone.  Without religious vocations, where will our church be?  If you think one consecrated woman cannot change the world, consider the impact that Mother Teresa had not just on our church but on the entire world stage.  Not every sister is called to such a great task but many are called and do not have the resources to discern their vocations.  I hope to get involved with the movement and I look forward to sharing more from them, however, right now I am pleading on their behalf for some help.  The Pope has declared 2015 the Year of Consecrated Life ( I did not know that until I  visited their site, but by am I pumped!) and so Imagine Sisters is trying to raise the funds they need to get their resources out to all who are interested.  Please consider giving even just a few dollars--you never know who will be touched, it just may be that one sister who changes the world!

Here is the link to their donation page, please view the video and prayerfully give even if all you have to give is prayer!  Thank you.

In God We Trust, that's Why We Pay Cash

This is a short post but a little epiphany that came to me the other day and I wanted to share.  At a recent homeschooling conference, I had to bail a friend out because the vendor selling the books she needed would not take cash.  That's right, they would take checks, credit, debit, anything but cash.  It is very curious, however, I have realized more and more how we have gotten away from the use of cash.  I am trying very hard to move in the opposite direction.  We do have credit cards and debit cards, although we have never carried a balance. {Actually, to be honest, I did carry a balance once because I wasn't being frugal and attentive and figured I will just take a couple of months to pay.  I learned very quickly how much more it costs to do that and never did again!}  However, since I have moved from working part-time to being home full-time, I am trying harder to save a bit of money and manage my money better because there is significantly less of it.  It is proving a difficult transition, but I am making headway and have actually save about $200 over the past six months.

The main way that I have saved money is using cash because I can easily move a dollar or two to a "savings envelope" when ever I feel like it and that money is actually saved.  I am not just living under the illusion of saving big because of coupons, etc, which do have their place but do not put money in your pocket.  Anyway, I began thinking of how our culture is becoming one of the virtual.  Letter, pictures, bills, payments--everything can be accomplished at the click of a button, which is great sometimes, but we have lost something.  One thing we are losing is our focus on God.

In an all cash society, we were reminded daily of the foundation of our country and world.  "In God We Trust" is written on every piece of money produced by our mints.  I wonder how many people have not even seen a paper bill nor minted coin in the past year.  We are pushing God out of our finances with disastrous results.  When you are using cash and paying up front there is more of a sense of what is being spent, more of a chance to reflect on whether or not your purchases are necessary.  With cash it is easier to sacrifice what you have and give a bit to those in need.  Can't do that with a debit card!

Money Wise with Howard Dayton is always quoting the scripture verse, "the borrower will be slave to the lender."  In other words, debt holds us down.  We are trying desperately to find a way out of our mortgage debt because we want to be freer to serve God and country.  But, what about the lack of reflection on God that wiping out paper money creates.  Is it just another way to force God out of our land?  We in America are blessed with so much, even the poorest among us has more opportunities and resources than much of the rest of the world.  We have been blessed because we began as a nation centered on God. Now, we are becoming a nation centered on greed and consumerism.  We must remember that we may want that x.y, or z now, but we can survive without it.  We must trust God to provide for our needs, He promised that He will and He never goes back on a promise; and if we are to be indebted or enslaved to someone, let it be to the LORD whose yoke is easy and burden is light.

All of this is easy to forget and coveting has become a national past-time, so I am fully acknowledging that I do not always remember to rely fully on God and set my sights on the treasures of Heaven. I am human and living in a fallen world.  However, I am trying hard to remember that nothing I "have" is truly mine, it is all given to me through the LORD, and He is at liberty to take it back at any time.  We must be good stewards, but always detached from that which we are entrusted.

I'm going to close with a little story that my Godmother sent me years ago.  It was only a forwarded email, but it has stuck with me for over a decade.  There was a very, very rich man who had everything he could ever want and need.  One day, he was out to lunch with some friends and as they left the restaurant, he stooped down and gently picked up a penny that was lying on the sidewalk.  A friend laughed at him and said, "You have so much money, why are you picking pennies up off the ground?"  The rich man replied, "Do you see what it says here, 'In God We Trust.'  Every time I see a penny on the ground, I pick it up and say a little prayer thanking God that we can trust Him so much."

Trust in God and remember to thank Him for that!  He will never fail you, no matter what.  Even when all is lost, our God is able, faithful, and trustworthy always and forever.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Seven Quick Takes: In the End Only Three Things Remain

I am writing this post for my friend Mary.  After a week of disheartening news cycles and personal frustrations, I rode home from Mary's last night thankful for my Godly friend but also a little distracted, until one of my favorite verses came to mind.  St Paul wrote, "In the end only these three things remain faith, hope, and love. The greatest of these is love!" (1 Corinthians 13:13) Here are my reflections on that verse in 7 quick takes.

St Paul was absolutely right, when all is said and done, when you have been stripped of every earthly good and pleasure, there are only three things left: faith, hope, and love.  Most certainly, love is the greatest, for without love there is no faith, without faith there is no hope.   Everything you need and the sum total of what can never be lost starts and ends with love.

There is much darkness in this world, but it is a world of light.  This is God's world, even if satan rules the earth.  He can never truly over take it.  It has been said that there is no such think as darkness, only the absence of light.  Light is always there even when we cannot see.  In the deepest depth of the ocean, creatures make their own light to illuminate a world that has never seen even the hint of daylight.  So, in our deepest despair, the light of love is there in some form, always, because true darkness is a lie.

Persecution does not eliminate faith, hope, nor love.  It can test faith, it can shred hope, it can lead to a feeling of being in a loveless void; however, it can never destroy what has been created and what always will be.  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. (John 1:1)  I truly believe that the "word" is love.  In the beginning there was love, and the love was with God, and the love was God.  God is who was and is and is yet to come, yet He is Love incarnate. He is a force of love and love can rage and love can be the gentlest breeze, but love never dies.  

I sometimes fear persecution, I ponder will I have what it takes. Will I stand there are sing to my God and King, no matter what they hurl at me physically, emotionally, and psychologically.  Will I be able to look the enemy in the eye and say, "As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." while they threaten my family and house?  Every time these thoughts cross my mind, I beg God for both strength to carry the ultimate cross, and deliverance from it.   In the end, I have no fear, for there are fates much worse than death and no matter the gravity of the suffering, it is all momentary but on the other side is an eternity of abiding in pure Love.

We must pray for our enemies, Jesus commanded us to. (Matthew 5:44)  But also, we must pray for the love of God to permeate their hearts that are gripped by darkness.  I think that our immortal soul really is a snip of God's all powerful Love that He infuses into us at conception.  Our souls long for God because they are a small taste of all He is.  Everyone has the capability to return to the one, true God.  No one is ever lost forever on this side of Heaven.Prayer can move mountains, and stone-filled hearts.  Pray for their conversion and deliverance from the evil one.

Like many, I have been greatly saddened by the tragic death of Robin Williams.  While I do not approve of suicide, I do not see an evil man or selfish father or godless dolt; I see a deeply troubled man who loved his work, his family and friends, and his God but got lost in darkness and could not find the light.  None of us know the fate of our soul nor anyone else's.  In those last moments it is only you and God and He is the only judge that matters.  So, please pray for the rest of Mr. Williams' soul.  he was a kind, generous, great man, who will be missed by millions; but most especially his family  Also, read the following article that explores how he felt that ultimately the love of God is the ultimate gift and source of all that mattered.  Rest in peace, Mr Williams.

Faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Doll-sized Mantilla Tutorial

Here is our quick tutorial to make mantillas for both a mini doll (about 6' tall) and a full sized American Girl.  Cowgirl made a few different versions but these were her favorites.  They are very simple and a good activity to practice stitches.  I had planned on going out to the fabric store to buy new lace for this, but then I did a little budget audit and discovered that although there is still plenty of month left, I've come to the end of my spending money.  So, this is a make-do projects.  Below are two versions that Cowgirl created using supplies we already had.  At the end I have dimensions for if you wish to make a traditional triangular veil for either doll.  Thanks.

Mini-doll Mantilla

This is actually my favorite out of what she made.   It is a very simple design but very cute.  it could make a very nice first communion veil for the doll if you made a little white dress.  This could easily be adapted to make a veil for the full-sized doll.  I will put changes in length for that at the end of this.

We found some very pretty 3.5" wide, gathered, white lace.  Cut a 4" long piece of lace.  This is big enough for a beautiful veil but it is difficult to get it to stay on the little doll's head.  So we decided to incorporate a ribbon that is then tied under the doll's hair.

Using 1/4" wide pink ribbon, Cowgirl made a tie down for the veil.  She cut a 9" piece of ribbon, then found the middle of the lace and ribbon.  She placed a straight pin at a right angle matching the center of both items together.  She then stitched the ribbon, starting one inch to the left of the center and stopping one inch to the right of the center.  This was enough to hold the veil down for the crown of the doll's head but still let it flow freely.

I apologize that I only have after pictures, there where just too many things going on while she was doing this.  She really did it all by herself, just checking in periodically to let me know what measurements and materials she used.

To adapt this to a full-sized doll, use 6" wide lace and 1/2 inch wide ribbon.  The veil will be shorter but you could add a layer of lace to the bottom as a trim to make it longer.  Cut a 14" long piece of lace and 24" long piece of ribbon.  Find the middle as above and begin stitching from 3" left of the center to 3" right of the center.  Voila, veil!

Full-sized Doll Veil

This is a layered veil that gives the effect of tiering.  I think that a tie down would be advantageous on this veil as well, but it does stay on the doll without it.  You could also use mini-clips like this that can be found at a local pharmacy, department store, etc.  (Our are apparently missing, so we couldn't demonstrate how perfectly they would work ;) This was Cowgirl's favorite creation.

Using 3 1/2" flat lace, cut the following lengthes 15 1/4",  12", and 8 1/4".  The tiers were then pinned to each other with the scalloped edge placed over the straight edge of the lower level.  Cowgirl then carefully stitched little stitches using the tiny holes along the scalloped edge as a guide.

That's it, simple enough!

Triangular Veil Pattern
This is my pattern that I planned on making until I asked Cowgirl for assistance finding lace and tulle because I realized shopping was not on the agenda.  Her creative juices started flowing and well it was a good afternoon project.  She is now wondering if she could sell doll-sized veils on Cathswap or etsy.  Anyway, on a piece of thin paper such as tracing or tissue paper (newspaper works as well as long as you are careful not to get the newsprint on your hands.)  For a mini doll, draw a triangle with a top side of 4" and two other sides of 3" each.  A full-sized doll would require a triangle with a top of 16" and other sides of 14".  Cut out the paper triangle and pin it to your chosen fabric, with sharp scissors cut out your veil.  I would use a polyester lace for this even though I prefer cotton, because it is less likely to unravel and can easily be sealed.  Simply run a lighter briskly along the edges of the veil and the polyester will melt just enough to seal the seams.  You could alternatively stitch on a small trim to finish the edges as well. 

If you have any questions, please leave them in the comment box. I will be back next week with more of this series.  Thanks.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Golden Hail Mary

I once had a prayer card with a beautiful poem entitled "The Golden Hail Mary."  After many years and several moves, I can no longer locate it, but I always remember reading it over and over some days.  I have searched high and low for that poem online and have not been able to find it again.  The gist of the message was though, that a simple Hail Mary said in haste is worth more than many other
prayers repeated at length.

The Hail Mary is a perfect prayer, it not only calls upon the Blessed Mother's intercession but extols her Holy Son to his proper place of being within the middle of every act of worship.

Hail Mary, Full of Grace
The LORD is with thee
Blessed are thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb
Holy Mary, Mother of God
Pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death. Amen

The name of Jesus, that is above all names, that is the source of all strength and peace, within which when two or more gather, God is present; is the very center of this prayer.  It is not a worship of Mary but an acknowledgement of her holiness because she was chosen to carry the Savior, the Messiah, the Christ, the Great I AM.  Mary is our garden path to the treasure of Heaven, our stepping stool to the heights of the Holy, Holy, Holy.  Christ is our Redeemer, but without Mary, our salvation would not be.  We know little of Mary's life apart from her carrying, delivering, and rearing the LORD on earth.  She is a constant throughout His earthly journey and ministry and there at His last moments on the cross.  However, consider that she may have been an accomplished baker or sought after seamstress.  She may have earned accolades through the community for her sweet singing voice or creative mind.  There are many facets of her life that may have been, yet we know little of them.  Why?  Because her entire being is wrapped up in the fulfillment of prophesy and salvation. It is not important what else she did, because she did the greatest of all acts by fully giving herself over to God for his express plan and purpose.  As St Catherine of Siena said, "Be who you were created to be and you will set the world afire." At her Fiat, her autonomy ceased, and her servitude began.  However, it was not a slavery of drudgery but of joy.  She became the living Tabernacle and through her tenderness Christ learned to love His Bride, the Church.

In this prayer, the Name of Christ is placed directly between the biblical passages that compose the first half and the catechetical affirmation of her true identity, mother of God.  In that exact position is where Christ lives, between biblical prophecy and the tradition and growth of the Church.  He is the connection between the God of the old covenant and the two millennia of the Catholic Church, the hierarchy and laity, the past and the future, the Church at rest and the Church militant.

In these days of persecution when we feel evil and darkness all around, many may be searching for the prayer that will land sweetly on the Father's Ear.  The Hail Mary is that prayer.  She is our mother, eager to soothe and console her broken children, but she is also the mother of God and who could love Christ more than her, other than the great God of love that passes all understanding.  In this persecution it is not just believers that are being broken, but her precious Son, Himself.  In hating Christians, Christ is being defiled.  Mary is the mother of the Son, Spouse of the Spirit and Handmaid of the Father.  She is the most intimate of saints to the Heavenly Trinity.

There have been reports of the Marian statue in St Joseph's Church in Iraq weeping tears of oil that turn to blood. This is not a substantiated claim and there are plenty of cynics, but you can bet that Mary is weeping even if her statue isn't.  She is crying for the mothers who have watched their children die, for the children lost and longing for their mothers, for those who are huddled scared of terror coming for them in orders to kill the followers of Christ, for those who have fled to an unknown land to try to protect their family with nothing but the clothes on their backs.  She has been all of these people, she knows the pain of torment and torture, of being a refuge, of being hated and hunted.

Let us all turn to our Mother and beg her intercession and request her gently caring upon all who mourn and weep.  May St Michael defend us and Our Lady of Victory pray for us!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Five Fave Finds from the Web this Week

Cowgirl and I are working on the doll-sized mantillas.  She has been designing and stitching most of the day.  We are going to pick our favorite versions and post a tutorial tomorrow or Wednesday.  In the meantime, here is a quick list of my five favorite finds of the past week. 

My online time has been limited--hence why this "Monday post" is getting out when it is almost Tuesday--so I have not been extensively searching the great World Wide Web.  However, a few things have happened across my path and I wanted to share them with you.

Catholic Icing
Now Lacy's Catholic Icing is not a new find, her blog is one of the first I ever followed from years ago, however I uncovered two special finds there this week about which I am super excited.  First, I really enjoyed her post today about real world implementation of Montessori at home.  I appreciate much of the Montessori approach, although, I must admit I pick and choose what I like from various styles and create my own.  (I was glad to see that I am not alone, Charlotte, whom I greatly admire, does the same thing.)  One of the biggest stumbling blocks I face with Montessori ideas that I hope to implement is cost, they are amazing materials, but so very expensive. Back to Lacy's post, though, she has great information about organization, finding cheap or free materials and how to pull together and store activities.

While I was on her blog, I noticed a free e-book of patterns for paper bag saints.  Lacy has made so many over the years and they are so cute.  She kindly published a book with all the patterns in one place ready to print!

Catholic speaker and author Gary Zimak will once again be leading Total Consecration To Jesus Through Mary on his nightly radio show
I am very excited about this next find as well.  I have to credit my online friend, Mary of Battlebeads for leading me to it.  I attempted a total consecration once, but I confess I failed.  My regiment fell apart about 25 days in and I have never planned far enough ahead to begin on time once more.  I am thankful to have found this link and hope to listen in and finish the devotion this time.

  Blank Book – Archangels 
This next one, I'm not even sure how I found it but it is a gem.  Illuminated Ink is a Catholic company for arts and crafts kits and supplies.  Great products at great prices, like the blank notebook with color-you-own covers for only $3 each.  They also have beautiful grotto craft kits for various Marian apparitions.  A great place for back to school and Christmas shopping.


St Therese is not a new discovery but the Youtube film in her native French is.   While watching it, I discovered a host of other saintly films also in French along the side bar.  I am a former French professor and have been searching for a good way to brush up on my language skills and still learn something worthwhile.  God led me right to more than I could have anticipated, who would have thought that this movie would pop up at the end of a Father Barron video.

If you are interested here is a movie about St Bernadette in Italian, as well as the complete film of "The Song of Bernadette" in German.  What a discovery!


Catholic Inspired (who I have been a fan of for years!) has a new series going on for Liturgical Ornaments.  I think this would make a perfect addition to a home altar or "little oratory." I have not yet begun making any of these but I am hoping to incorporate doing some into our school year in September as a way to mark some of the feasts we enjoy celebrating.  Perhaps once the chapel veils are finished, Cowgirl will make a few, she has been searching for a creative project now that swim season is over.

Hope you had a wonderful weekend.  Please remember to continue to pray for those suffering in Iraq and those persecuted around the world.  Thanks.