Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Idea sharing: some of our past Lenten activities

Looking for some special ways to observe Lent with your family this year?  Here are some photos of things we've done in the past, along with information links...

Printable Stations of the Cross Cards (these match the images on the candles)

Hope these ideas inspire you!  What new traditions are you trying this Lent?

Don't forget to "bury the Alleluia!"

When I was a catechist in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) atrium, one of the childrens' favorite activities before Lent was to "bury the Alleluia."

We gave the kids 8" x 4" slips of paper with the word "Alleluia" printed on them, along with a variety of water color pencils and metallic pencils -- items not often available in the atrium -- and they were encouraged to decorate the word and make it look beautiful.

After decorating, we placed all of the alleluias in a large jar, which we then sealed.  If the weather was nice, we went outside and dug a hole, then literally buried the alleluias.  If the ground was frozen, we would cover the jar with a purple cloth then place the cloth and jar in a special place in the church near the tabernacle.  The buried Alleluias reappeared on Easter Sunday.

Although my kids have "aged out" of the  of the CGS program at our local atrium, they still ask if we can "bury the Alleluia."  So I came up with a way we could observe this practice at home. I painted some wooden letters and a box with gold paint. This is the result:

 I display the letters on Mardi Gras and leave them out overnight.  Then, on Ash Wednesday, we say "goodbye" to the Alleluia by singing a song or two with the word "Alleluia" in it while we carefully place the letters in our gold box.  I usually wrap the letters in white tissue paper but I ran across some cheesecloth in my craft supply, so think I will use that instead (to represent Jesus' burial cloth).

We then put the gold box away in a dark closet.  It will reappear on Easter Sunday on top of one of our cabinets...

Or near our tomb...

We then leave the Alleluia out for all of the Easter season.

Do you have a custom of "burying the Alleluia?"  If so, please tell us about it in the comment box below!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Tomorrow is "Pancake Tuesday!"

As I mentioned in a 2011 post, Shrove Tuesday (or Mardi Gras) is a big day around here.  However, we've renamed it "Pancake Tuesday."  It started when my kids were young. I was looking for an easy way to celebrate before we began the serious fasting of Lent.  After reading about Shrove Tuesday celebrations in  England and Ireland, then discovering that Russia (my daughter's birth country) celebrates Maslenitsa, I decided that we should have our own little pancake-themed celebration.

Even though my kids are now 11 and 14 years old, they really look forward to Pancake Tuesday.  They are even asking if they can skip their activities tomorrow night so we can celebrate.  (Tuesday's swim team  and basketball practices mean we won't be home until 9:45 p.m.  -- a bit late for a celebration.) 

In fact, it is one of the few times each year where we eat pancakes for supper.  But not just run-of-the-mill pancakes.  No, the kids are invited to create "pancake masterpieces" by decorating their hotcakes with a variety of toppings such as strawberries, blueberries, bananas, whipped cream, Nutella, chocolate chips, peanut butter, even colored sugars.  I usually scour the refrigerator, freezer and kitchen cupboards to find our "embellishments."  As I've shared with the kids, I'm following the "Fat Tuesday" custom of  using up food items that we will not be able to eat during Lent.  I display all these delectable items on the table. Here's a photo of our table last year:

(Our table included strawberries, marshmallows, peppermint candy pieces, nuts, applesauce, sprinkles, Nutella, cherries, a couple of different types of syrups, honey, peanut butter and two whipped creams.)

After dinner prayers, the kids are invited to decorate their pancakes.  Here are last year's creations. 
We had a chocolate/cherry and raspberry theme going last year.  In other years, our creations have included  "banana split pancakes" (with pineapples, bananas, cherries and chocolate), mint pancakes (with chocolate syrup and mint chips), tutti fruitti pancakes (fruits galore), and many other creations.  It's fun to see the kids' imaginations at work! 

After the decorating is finished, everyone casts their vote for the creation that looks the most delicious. The winner's name is added to our "World's Best Pancake Chef" plaque:

(I need an updated photo of our plaque, since we've been doing this for years and this photo only shows one winner!) 

The plaque proudly hangs in our kitchen. It's not only a conversation piece for visiting guests, but reminds us throughout the year of the fun we have on Pancake Tuesday!

How do you celebrate Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday?  Please share in the comments box below!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Giving up--or adding something--to Lent

Hard to believe that Lent starts one week from today!  I'm still diligently making my Jesus Tree felt pieces; will I finish in time?

Have you been thinking about what you will give up for Lent?  Or some people suggest adding something--like praying the Rosary every day or keeping a prayer journal.  

I'm hoping to add two things to my Lenten schedule:

1) Attend noon Mass every Tuesday at a nearby church.  My kids' school drop-off schedules mean that I can never make morning Mass at our parish.  I was thrilled to learn recently that another parish in our area offers a noon Mass every Tuesday. I plan to be there! 

2) Spend an hour in the adoration chapel at our parish each week.  I was a regular adorer two years ago.  But school and activity schedules changed and I haven't been able to carve out a regular time to visit the chapel.  I've picked out a day and time and am going to schedule the time in my Cozi calendar.  I'm less likely to skip or forget that time if I "carve it in stone" in my online planner/calendar.

I'm hoping to give up one thing during Lent:

1) TV at night.  After everyone has gone to bed, I relax by watching TV.  We don't have cable, so I'm limited to about 10 broadcast channels.  Unfortunately, the programming isn't very good and most of the programs promote values that make me uncomfortable. If I'm truthful with myself, I'm using TV as a passive way to relax at night. But there are much better ways!  So I've filled a basket with good reading material--spiritual stuff, classic novels, stuff that intrigues me and says "read me!"  I'll place the basket near the chair where I relax at night.  Instead of switching on the remote, I'll be picking up a book and filling my mind with good stuff! 

That's it.  Three things I'll be changing during Lent. Only three, because I really need to keep my life simple these days!

How about you?  What are you going to give up or add?  If you need some inspiration, check out Catholic All Year's  Outside the Box: 66 Things to Give Up or Take Up for Lent or Held By His Pierced Hand's 100 Things to Do for Lent.   Then share your "giving up" or "adding" ideas to the comment box below!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Preparing for Lent: Making a felt Jesus Tree

After debating it for several years, then purchasing (and storing!) the kit for a year, I've finally decided to create a felt "Jesus Tree" for my family to use during Lent. We have two small wooden ones (you can read about them here) which I've hung on the kids' bedroom doors, but I thought it might be nice to do something different this year.

If you aren't familiar with the "Jesus Tree," it's a Lenten version of the "Jesse Tree" used during Advent. But the Jesus Tree Biblical readings focus on Jesus' life, ministry, death and resurrection while on earth. Like the Jesse Tree, there is a daily reading. After the reading, children can put a related symbol on their Jesus Tree.

I'm using this kit from Scripture Trees:

Upon opening the package, I realized this is a bit of daunting task to tackle just 10 days before Ash Wednesday!  They are many, many small pieces to cut out and glue together.  So I'll just do my best to finish as many pieces as I can before Lent begins.

To make it less overwhelming, I decided to prepare one sheet of patterns (usually about 6 days) at a time.  With this kit, you pin or tape the paper patterns to various colors of felt, then cut them out and glue some of the pieces together. I cut out the first sheet of patterns today. Here are a few photos of the work in progress:

Here's a photo of several cut pieces, waiting to be glued together. Some pieces have parts or details that need to be glued onto the main piece.  For example, the mountains pictured below are cut out of green felt, then white felt snow caps are glued on top of the green felt.

And a few quick photos of  a completed "dove" ornament for the Jesus Tree:

 I'll try to post updates on my progress as we near Lent.

If you would like to try using a Jesus Tree during Lent this year, there are a few options for creating one. I purchased the Scripture Trees kit from Leaflet Missal.  Unfortunately, it looks like it is out of stock.  However, The Art of Being Mama has some paper patterns that you could color (or have your children color), then cut them out and use them on a paper or felt banner.  Or, if you are artistic, you could try designing your own ornaments. For inspiration, check out the photos and detailed descriptions at the  Shower of Roses blog (scroll down the page to the Jesus Tree paragraph, which has week-by-week links of her Jesus Tree.)  There are also some photos at Under Her Starry Mantel.  There's a list of readings (and symbol ideas) at EasyFunSchool, too.

Have you created and used a Jesus Tree for Lent?  How well did it work?  Please share your ideas and thoughts in the comments section below! 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Revisiting Advent: Marian inspired Christmas tree

Back in early December, I promised to share photos of the Marian inspired tree I was creating for Advent and Christmas this year.  But life happened, the kids kept me very busy, and the photos have been sitting in a draft folder waiting for me to do something with them.  So this post is very overdue,  but thought they might inspire others who like to plan months in advance for next Christmas! ;-)

I discovered this beautiful glass ornament in a Christmas display at a garden store (of all places!) in early December: 

Suddenly, I began picturing a Christmas tree draped in midnight blue, gold, and silver and embellished with ornaments depicting the Blessed Mother. But how could I create it? 

I clipped photos of Mary from old Christmas cards, in addition to printing images of her from the Internet, then Mod Podged them to wooden ovals and rectangles.  Before decoupaging the wooden pieces, I painted them a deep midnight blue, then sprinkled them with gold and silver glitter.

I wrapped the tree in midnight blue and gold pieces of wide tulle ribbon.

I  topped the tree with two large blue bows with "tails" that draped down from the top of the tree.

I added my glass Mary ornament, in addition to the wooden ornaments I had created, scattering  them throughout the tree.  Then I added blue poinsettias to fill in the spaces.

Finally, I sewed a new tree skirt for the tree.  I purchased an uncut, discontinued Daisy Kingdom tree skirt panel on eBay.  It took only 30 minutes to cut out the panels, sew them together, then give them a border of gold seam binding. This tree skirt is so pretty!  Gold images of the Nativity are printed on a midnight blue background.

Here are a few photos of the finished tree:

The tree lit up during the day: 

The tree lit up at night:

(My daughter and her puppy Addie with the tree.)

This was a nice change from our usual Christmas tree, which is traditionally decorated with a mix of homemade ornaments and heirloom pieces inherited from my mom.  Best of all, gazing at the ornaments encouraged me to think more deeply about Mary's fiat throughout Advent and the Christmas season.

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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