Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Planning Out Advent

I'm ashamed to admit it, but I'm an Advent Novice.  Scratch that, novice is to nice of a word.  Novice, makes me think of someone carefully planning and researching with delicate thought a consideration.  At best, I'm an Advent Newb.  I charge in, full of good, intentions proclaiming everything that I know which is nothing new those much more well versed than I am.  Eventually I'll trip myself up on something incredibly obvious and everyone will just point and laugh.

The truth is that I am still very new at this.  A part of me just wants to throw in the towel and a part of me wants to cling on to every word of someone else's traditions and force them to behave.

The truth is, no matter what my intentions are I still feel the need to honor my own roots (and those of my husbands) and remember that it's okay to hold on to some of our old traditions as we, slowly, mix in the new.

So for the sake of the list-lovers out there here's a quick run down of what our Advent season is going to look like.

Keeping it Simple:
  • There are too many people out there who are using Advent as a month long Christmas morning.  We will not be doing some amazing adventure everyday, nor will we be opening a present everyday for a month.  Instead our Advent calender is more of an exercise to remember to slow down and spend more time with each other - in fact post of our Advent calender is blank.
Traditions and Togetherness:
  • Okay, well it's not completely blank.  
    • Saturday nights are reserved for Mom and Dad to read thru "A Christmas Carol", a favorite of mine and a tradition started when Ben and I were first married, very poor and looking for something meaningful to do.
    • Sundays are just for lighting the candles, a prayer and maybe a reading.
    • We have a night reserved for driving around to look at luminaries (something or town does every year), a night to attend a choral concert at church and a night to go to family holiday show.
    • We have a few nights in which to do something special - hot chocolate, movie night, making ornaments and making cookies.
    • All the other "blank" nights will simply be filled in with reading a book from our Holiday selection.  I say holiday because I have quite a few books about Channukah (part of my family is Jewish) and a few "winter favorites" that will be in the mix.
    • Christmas Eve is for church, making our Christmas Eve Lasagna (another poor, newly wed tradition - it was the fanciest thing we could make with the ingredients in our kitchen) and Christmas Eve PJ's.
Avoid Christmas Overload:
  • We won't be putting up the tree until after the 2nd Sunday of Advent and won't be decorating until the next week.
  • Trying to take it easy on the Christmas music and movies.
Do Unto Others:
  • Participating in some type of Angel Tree program or similiar
  • Have made plans to leave someone an extra special tip on a special night eating-out.
 What We Want to Do - Eventually -
  • Attend local performances of "A Christmas Carol" and/or "The Nutcracker" - these are much beloved traditions from our childhoods and they are too special to us to cut out completely. In another year or two Henry will be ready to join us to re-start this tradition; for now we watch movies.
  • Set out a Nativity and slowly add the figures to tell the story.  We have a small creche that we will put out on the 1st Sunday, but no other nativity scene.  I hope to add this next year.
  • A community service project for the whole family.
  • Include the O Antiphons into our last week of advent.  Truth be told I didn't know what this was until a few days ago.
  • Continue to extend our Christmas season into Christmastide thru Epiphany.  This is not something either my husband and I grew up doing, so it feels strange to jump into head first.  I want our traditions to be an organic process rather than something we announce as tradition.  I look forward to seeing how this develops.
What are some of your plans for the Advent Season?
Don't forget the Link-up approaches.  We can't wait to see what you have to share on Monday!
Little HolyDays Link-up

Inspired: Warm Winter Books

It's been a while, but nothing says "winter" to be like a big stack of books and a bigger stack of comfy blankets.  We're still waiting for winter to officially make it's appearance here, but preparing for it all the same so I thought I'd share a few of the " warm winter" books we've been enjoying around our house.  

Here are a few of our favorite simple-living inspiring children's books for winter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All in all a big stack of books that just makes me want to pull on a big sweater, make a fire and something hot to drink and snuggle down for a long winter's nap.

What are your favorite Winter Books?

Keep up to date with our Inspired: Simple Living Books for Kids Series via Pinterest
 *this post contians Amazon affiliate links - if you click on a title above and proceed to make a purchase I make about $0.04*

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving and Communication

I wanted to sit down and write a long, sappy list of everything I'm thankful for.  Instead I'm going to make it short and sweet:

If you are reading this:
  • No matter how long we've known each other
  • No matter how well we know each other
  • No matter how much time we've spent together
I want you to know that 
I'm Thankful for You.

Thank you.


***************** 

B: "I see you decided to make the cheese cake after all." 

M: "It's not a cheese cake." 

B: "What is it?" 

M: "A cake with cream cheese in it" 

B: "What's the difference." 

M: "It's not a cheese cake."

**********************

And with that tidbit from Team Awesome (as my husband and I humbly refer to ourselves) I wish you a peaceful and happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Shadow of Thankfulness


Thankfulness is in the air.  All around us we see people making month long lists and planning "thankfulness" centerpieces.  Many of us will gather around a ridiculous amount of food in a few days and between mouthfuls we'll say that we're thankful for this and that.  Then we'll wander away from the table, bellies full and eyelids drooping.

Don't get me wrong, dear reader, I love Thanksgiving.  I love that is a major holiday without presents and I kind of love that it gets passed over on the store shelves.  I love planning and preparing activities and food.  I love the simple traditions before a busy holiday season.

But, there is a shadow that lurks behind Thanksgiving Day.  Something that taints the spirit of the entire day.  It is not the history behind the holiday - it is easy to dismiss the past of a holiday created during a period of white-washed history and save the good the left over.  No, it is not that which spoils the holiday.  It is not even the day itself, it is the day after.  The shadow of Thanksgiving; the black day.  Black Friday.

There are those of you now rolling your eyes at my melodrama.  There are those of you getting ready to type out a hasty "Now listen here young lady."  There are probably a few you who are heating up the tar and finding your bag of feathers, but hear me out.

On Thursday we spend the day feasting and celebrating; we tell each other that we are thankful for the food on our plates, the clothes on our backs and the roof over our head.  We say we are thankful for friends and family and the time spent with each other.  Then so many of us go to bed that night full of Thankfulness only to wake up the next morning and shoot Thankfulness in the knee caps.  We leave Thankfulness stuttering in the driveway as we pull away in the pitch black morning to prove that we aren't very thankful at all; we don't have all we could possibly need, in fact we need more of what we don't have and we prefer it imported, shoddily made and cheap.

Black Friday has become an entity in and of itself.  It's a huge monster that announces itself months in advance.  We start planning our shopping routes before we know if Thanksgiving will be at Aunt Mary's or Grandma's this year.  We drag the young and old out of the warm beds that yesterday we were so thankful to provide.  We create mass hysteria that can no longer be seen as naive and innocent; it is harmful and even deadly.  We encourage and justify the "creep"; infringing on others day of thankfulness just so we can get that perfect deal.

Most of you already, at the point in the season, know what your plans for Friday will be and I know there is little I can do to sway you.  But I hope, if nothing else, I can encourage you to consider a few things.  I hope you will consider where the money you spend will be sent.  I hope you will consider the conditions of the people who make the products and ring up the sales.  I hope you will consider alternate times and places in which to spend your money. I hope you will consider those whose choice on Thanksgiving night is to go to work or loose their job.  I hope you will consider the safety of those around you.  I hope you will consider the message it sends to those dear to you.

*******************

In closing, my friends, I just want to say a few things.  I am not against shopping.  In fact, I'm quite fond of it.  I am not fond of a non-tradition that is continually bringing out the worst in our population.  I'm not fond of that fact that many retailers are beginning to "creep" into the actual Thanksgiving Day.  I'm not fond of how the big box stores know you're coming and that you're probably cold and sleep deprived and stuff their aisles with cheap product that has little to no real use because it will look good at four o'clock in the morning and it is because of this we'll be staying home on Friday.

I encourage you to do the same.  Watch more movies, read a book, snuggle, roughhouse, eat more leftovers and give yourself one more day to truly embody the words "I am Thankful."

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Up and Coming {Little HolyDays}

I hope you enjoyed Haley's guest-post a few days ago.  We've all been eagerly awaiting the chance to announce our project to the blogging world.  To start spreading the world we thought we'd give you a little more info about the whole grand affair.


Haley of Carrots for Michaelmas, Hannah and Tammy of Dualing Moms, and Molly of Molly Makes Do are joining forces to host a new linkup: Little HolyDays: Redeeming Time with Feasts, Fasts, Holidays, and Everyday. We want to encourage and inspire each other to observe the liturgical year to deepen our families’ faith and build up the domestic church (especially during this Year of Faith!) by sharing posts about observing feast days, liturgical seasons, etc. in the Christian Year.
We hope you will participate by linking up with your posts (old or new) that have to do with the season of Advent including (but not limited to): simple holiday traditions, music, crafts and activities, reflections and essays on the seasons, food and recipes, sustainability and responsible gift giving/food, charity, and teaching and learning about the Christian Year with children.
Our first linkup will open December 3rd and might include posts on topics such as: the season of Advent, the First and Second Sundays of Advent, Feast of St. Nicholas and the Solemnity.  We hope to share seasonal reflections, ideas for family togetherness, crafts, recipes and anything else that might come to mind.
There will be a new linkup open the following week and we will highlight some of our favorite links from the previous week in the new post and on a Little HolyDays pinterest board.
While the three of us will be focusing on topics that will help us expand our HolyDay season from a Catholic point of view we welcome and hope you will share your ideas and traditions no matter your denomination or practice.  We welcome you to share about your feasts and festivals that fall within each week of December to grow and strengthen our real and virtual communities. {as moderators of this link up we will reserve the right to remove any offensive or off-topic posts as we see fit in order to maintain a positive and understanding atmosphere}
We would love to have you join in with your posts and would be eternally grateful if you would tell your readers about this new linkup which will be accessibly for each of our blogs on Dec. 3rd.
Looking forward to encouraging and inspiring each other!
Haley, Hannah, Molly, and Tammy

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Home I Want

Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance. 
Where there is patience and humility, there is neither anger nor vexation. 
Where there is poverty and joy, there is neither greed nor avarice. 
Where there is peace and meditation, there is neither anxiety nor doubt.
- St. Francis of Assisi

I want a charitable home because charity is the highest form of love.

I want a wise home because wisdom is the perfect blend of knowledge and action.

I want a patient home because patience is quiet, steady perseverance.

I want a humble home because humility preserves the soul.

I want a poor home because a poverty of things does not require a poverty of spirit.

I want a joyful home because joy is the outward expression of a deeply rooted contentment.

I want a peaceful home because peace requires active mediation.

I want a meditative home because meditation requires passive contemplation.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Guest Post - Holy Time: The Gift of the Liturgical Year and Big Announcement

I am pleased to share this post via Haley @ Carrots for Michaelmas and to finally get to announce our big project for the holiday season inspired by my "Little Holidays' series.  I hope that you will join us starting December 3rd to share your ideas on creating simpler, more meaningful "Holydays" for you and your family. 

Original Post found here.
*********************
“The liturgical year is not an idle discipline, not a sentimentalist definition of piety, not an historical anachronism. It is Jesus with us, for us, and in us as we strive to make His life our own. It is goad and guide to the kind of personal spirituality that is worthy of the Jesus whose commitment to the Word of God led Him all the way to the cross and beyond it—to Resurrection.” (Joan Chittister, The Liturgical Year)
Everyone remembers their favorite professor from college, right? Mine is an East Texas born Baptist, a scholar of Religion and Literature. I clearly remember so many of his lectures given in his big, booming voice. And I remember the painfully truthful criticism written on the first paper I turned in for his class: “My dear Ms. Payne, unfortunately, no one has ever taught you how to write.” Ouch! Followed by one of the most generous offers ever given to me: “Please let me have that honor.” When I left his class, I was a better writer and a better thinker. I have much to thank him for, but I am particularly indebted to him for introducing me to the Christian Year.

He began a lecture for our Literary Classics of Christianity class by drawing a line across the board. He then drew two upward marks evenly spaced. The first he labeled Easter, the second Christmas. “This, friends, is what most of us in the South have grown up believing are the events of the Christian year. Wait, I’ve forgotten the Fourth of July,” and added a mark in the middle of the Christian Year timeline. Growing up in the South as an Evangelical Protestant, I knew he was right. Every Sunday at church feels pretty much the same except for those three days. Easter we had lilies. Fourth of July we sang “God Bless, America,” and Christmas was the last Sunday that we had to sing “Angels, We Have Heard on High” and hear someone belt out “O, Night Divine” as a solo.

“But this isn’t the whole story,” he told us. Then our professor started to add marks to the timeline. And not just marks, but blocks of time. There weren’t just a handful of special days to add, there were entire seasons I had never known about! He started out at the beginning, which for the Christian Year isn’t January 1, but Advent, the four weeks before Christmas.

In detail, he explained what the seasons were. Why they were. What they meant. How they prepared us for the season that followed and how as a whole, they told us the whole story of redemption. He explained the darkness and the preparation of Advent with its symbolic color of purple—the color of the bruised heart. The sorrow of the world waiting for a Savior, followed by the joy of the Incarnation. God loved the waiting world enough to become a helpless child. To be born as a human baby, homeless, and naked.

And Christmas wasn’t just one day! It was a season—12 days long of feasting, celebrating, and joy. And then the season of Epiphany arrives: we remember the Wise Men traveling from distant lands and how Our Lord didn’t come for only one people group but for all. We celebrate him as the Light of the World.

Then, after weeks of preparation, then celebration and feasting, we have “Ordinary Time” with its color of green. Time to live and work and pray—a season for growing.
Then comes Lent as winter’s chill prepares to give way for spring. Again purple, for our hearts are in darkness. We fast, pray, and give, in order to see ourselves as we truly are and have true penitence for our sin. We ask to be transformed. Good Friday arrives, its color black, its complete utter darkness when Our Savior dies for our guilt. And then, the brightness of Easter after a long, cold, difficult 40 days of Lent. The joy of a Risen Savior after we stopped still to mourn the Passion of Our Lord. And there was more! Pentecost! Feasts and fasts and days to remember and celebrate! It was such a rich tapestry telling the cosmic story and I was hooked.

What a beautiful gift the Church offers us in the Christian Year! We get to wait for Christ, walk with Him, die with Him, and be raised with Him each year. We get to use food, music, and traditions to help tell ourselves what story we are really a part of. We get to live by a different calendar, one that isn’t created by Hallmark and candy companies. A rich calendar of redemptive time that makes us take a breath, slow down, grow, change, remember, mourn, and sometimes really kick up our heels and party with joy. Join me as we start this new Year of Faith the Holy Father has called us to. Live by a different watch, by holy time. Be transformed.
————————————————————————————————–
Do you observe the Christian Year? Is your family just learning to incorporate liturgical traditions like mine is? I am so excited to tell you about a new project to encourage and inspire each other to observe the liturgical year, deepen our families’ faith, and build up the domestic church! I’m  joining forces with two other Catholic blogs (Molly Makes Do and Dualing Moms) to host a new linkup: Little HolyDays: Redeeming Time with Feasts, Fasts, Holidays, and Everyday.  We’ll be linking up with posts (old or new) about feast days, liturgical seasons, and family traditions and we’d love for you to join us! Our first linkup will be December 3rd and focus on the season of Advent. More details to come!

Not Catholic?  No problem - we look forward to your reflections, your new and old traditions, crafts, recipes and anything you are doing to make your December days a little more special. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Acclaimed Audibles

Tonight we had some friends come to visit - a rare treat as most of our close friends live a minimum of 2 hours away.  We were touched to receive from them two CD's for Henry - one of music and another of stories. 

To be honest, I can't believe I've never thought of this, but what a great idea for an affordable, customizable gift for a new baby or child of any age!

We've been enjoying a lot podcasts at the moment and I've actively searching for free (or at least affordable downloads) that can be engaging for the family and I thought I'd share my latest finds.

One of the best finds I've found so far is:
  • Librivox - a huge collection of free audiobooks.  They are all public domain books recorded by volunteers.  Because it's done my volunteers it can be a little hit or miss as to the particular talent of the reader.  But, there are some very talented readers who've shared their time with this project and I've been very happy with this find - I highly recommend Ms. Elizabeth Klett.  I'm in love with her version of "Persuasion" and currently working through her version of "Jane Eyre".  They offer many of their audiobooks in "Podcast" form and can be downloaded via Itunes or a similar platform.
  • The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd -  In their own words "The Radio Adventures Of Dr. Floyd is a weekly, 5 minute, family friendly show that combines the fast paced, episodic hilarity of Rocky & Bullwinkle and the imagination inducing power of “old time” radio. It’s Stan Freberg, Jay Ward, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Prarie Home Companion, and Sesame Street all rolled into one" Dr. Floyd are the adventures of an evil villain and a bumbling hero who thwarts his nemesis' attempts to steal certain artifacts from history.  Educational and Entertaining!
  • Storynory - Storynory is a collection of stories for children ranging from classic fairytales to classic literature and everything in between read by professional actors!  They are currently publishing their version of "The Secret Garden", but also have a finished version "Wizard of Oz" as well as original stories, Aesop, World Fairytales and so much more!  
  • Barefoot Books - Barefoot Books gives a weekly story thru their podcast of one of their titles.  Similar to Storynory they offer original works as well as well known and global fairy-tales.
  • One other podcast I've downloading but haven't played yet (past a few little snippets) is a reading of "A Christmas Carol" distributed via podcast by BBC Learning.  The episodes are only available for download for a limited time, so I'm not sure if you'll be able to get the early episodes - BUT "A Christmas Carol" is public domain so tracking down a free version shouldn't be too hard.
  • I'm thrilled to see that there are more and more "children's" audiobooks being offered - not just chapter books but picture books, too.  Many of the picture books can be downloaded for under a dollar and most for under $4 and would be perfect for a long car ride or to have on hand when mom or dad might be a little under the weather and you just can't take another episode of Thomas!
Any favorites out there that I'm missing?

*I'm am not affiliated with any of the companies or groups mentioned above.  It is my own desire to share their products with you with no compensation of any kind received.*

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Martinmas Hide and Seek

 St. Martin and the Goose (photo borrowed from here)

While thinking of Martinmas and activities to do as my children get older I couldn't help but think of the game of hide and seek.  You see according to legend St. Martin had a tendency of hiding from people because he reluctant to take any higher office in the church, which others actively wanted him to take.  Legend also states that on one occasion he hid in a barn and was given away by the squawking of a goose (which is why it's tradition to eat goose on Martinmas!)

Now, my son is a little too young to do either of these ideas, but I thought that someone out there might want to test out my games!

Hot and Cold St. Martin - (2 people or more)
  • Find a small statue or figure that either is of St. Martin or can stand in for St. Martin (throw a scrap of cloth over a GI Joe and make him Martin the Roman Soldier!) and take turns hiding the figure throughout the house.  Whoever hides St. Martin get to squawk like a goose as the seekers get "hotter" (near to the figure).  Start out squawking quietly and get louder as they get closer!
Martinmas Hide and Seek - (3 people or more)
  • One person gets to be St. Martin (who hides), one person gets to be the Goose and the rest are the townspeople trying to find him.  Start by having the townspeople and the goose close their eyes while St. Martin hides.  When eyes are opened everyone starts looking for him.  If a towns-person finds him first the round is over and you choose a new goose and St. Martin.  If the Goose finds him first the goose will squawk and everyone must close their eyes while St. Martin "runs away" and gets to hide again.  The round ends when he is found by a towns-person first.

There you go - two fun ways to add a little more fun into your Little Holiday celebrations!  I'd love to hear back from anyone who plays either of these!

Also you might want to check out my Lanterns for Martinmas Pinboard for lantern inspiration!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Little Holidays: Martinmas

I'm so glad Elizabeth posted about Martinmas a few days ago.  This little holiday has been on my radar, but would have slipped right by. 

Henry is going to be a little too little to really partake in many of these ideas this year, but I have some ideas.



What is Martinmas?
  • It is the feast day of St. Martin of Tours - There's a lot of info about this holiday so I'm just going to redirect you to Wikipedia for now.
Martinmas Activities:

Whether you're celebrating it as a religious holiday or as part of a more secular observation - Waldorf Schools are a big fan of Martinmas - the big focus seems to be on lanterns.
  • Make a lantern
  • Go on a "lantern" walk
One of the stories about St. Martin revolves around his dividing his clock in two to share with a beggar to save the person from freezing to death.  He later had a vision of Jesus wearing his halved cloak
  • Take this time to go through your closets and see what you can divide for those in need.
  • Take items - clothing, food, and other donations to your local crisis center, food bank or winter clothing drive.
  • If you're crafty (or just want an official day) choose Martinmas as a date to handout your knitted goods like hats, scarves and mittens just in time for the winter!
  • Many Martinmas treats revolve around the horseshoe as St. Martin is often pictured riding a horse.  It's also rumored that if it snows on St. Martins it will snow on Christmas - referred to as St. Martin riding a white horse.  If there was no snow on St. Martins, then there would be no snow on Christmas and St. Martin would be said to being riding on a black horse.
Martinmas also marks the beginning of winter for many and the end of the harvest, typically with the slaughter of an animal - like a pig or cow.  Martinmas used to be the last day to feast before the penitential fasting took place leading to Advent.
  • Go through your own supplies and provisions and make sure you are prepared for the winter weather.
  • Enjoy a large, rich meal complete with a main item like a roast (goose is also traditional for Martinmas) - but don't forget to keep charity in mind; perhaps invite friends or family over to share your meal or include similar items in a donation to a food bank.
St. Martin was a soldier and is considered the patron of soldiers.  November 11th is also when Armistice/Veteran's/Remembrance Day occurs
  • Participate in local observances for your veterans
  • Consider doing a work of charity that supports your military/veterans or their families, particularly with the holiday season approaching.
We hope to celebrate Martinmas simply this year.  I have an idea of a toddler friendly lantern project that we might attempt, but we'll wait to do a lantern walk for another couple of years.  Hopefully by that time we can find other families to participate!  I think Henry and I will go buy some hats and gloves to donate to the crisis center and perhaps hit up the thrift stores for some quality outerwear (that fits our budget) to add to that donation.

I really like the idea of using Martinmas as my day to present the family with their handknits (or at least new winterwear) for the year instead of waiting or "regifting" at Christmas.  This is definitely going to happen next year.

No matter which direction you come at it Novemeber 11th seems like a good day to prepare for winter, reflect on the brave men and women around you and take the opportunity to bring a little light into your world and the world of others.

I'd love to hear about your Martinmas or Veterans Day traditions!  Does November 11th hold any special meaning to you?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Vote

Friends, I'm not going to tell you who I think you should vote for.

I'm going to trust that you are making what you consider the best decision for yourself, your family, your friends and your fellow human beings even if we don't agree.

I just want you TO VOTE.

Don't forget, don't run out of time and don't assume that your guy has it in the bag.

Too many people in the world don't have anything close to the say we have in our countries politics.

Please don't take that for granted.

That is all.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Halloween Harry


We never did manage a picture with his glasses on.



Not the most flattering picture of us - Harry, Tonks and Hagrid.

We hit up about ten houses and then called it good.

Ben asked if all of Henry's Halloween costumes are going to include hand-knit scarves.

We seem to be on a roll.

Henry as "The Doctor" (Tom Baker Version) complete with K-9


Thursday, November 1, 2012

"Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted".  

As these words were read tonight I reached over and took my husbands hand as this part of the reading jumped out at us tonight.

We, each, have had our share of mourning in our lives.  Friends and family taken to soon, or after long periods of suffering and trials.

Tonight we went to church with reality heavy on our hearts.  One of my husbands uncles, already a survivor of a brain tumor, subsequent stroke and numerous other related issues is in failing health again.  An inoperable tumor has resurfaced, another bleed on his brain and the discussion of bone marrow cancer and as these things usually go he is still relatively young and the father of four.  We hope and pray for a miracle, but also know that it's healthy to start accepting the reality of the situation.

Today would have also been the birthday of our dear sweet Sarah, who was taken away in a motorcycle accident this summer.  It seems fitting.

Our days of remembrance can be bittersweet indeed.