Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Plans to Observe Candlemas with Art, Music, and a Poet-Tea (with FREE Printable Fine Art 10-Pack)

This year, Candlemas (also known as the Purification of the Blessed Mother and The Presentation of the Lord) falls on the same day as my children's regular AMP It Up club meeting.  Thus, I asked the other mamas in the club if we might depart from our regular Art, Music, and Poetry activities for the day in order to focus on the liturgical celebration.  They happily agreed,  thus, much like I did for a Poet-Tea for the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, I have been having fun planning our Candlemas Poet-Tea.

During AMP meetings, we typically:

  • recite and chat about poems,
  • read about a composer or par of the orchestra,
  • listen to some classical music,
  • complete a simple journal page,
  • take a movement break,
  • enjoy a brief picture study or look at an example of art from around the world,
  • and try our own hands at making art.

For liturgical year Poet-Teas, we change things up a little. 

A Candlemas Poet-Tea Setting and Menu

For Candlemas, a simple poet-tea table will be decorated with:
  • a white tablecloth (for purity)
  • a variety of candles (including a blue one for Mary)
  • an image of the Presentation of the Lord at the Temple 

Symbolic drinks and foods will also be laid out as friends arrive.  They will likely include:

  • a pitcher of water (to represent the purification)
  • hot cinnamon-vanilla-coconut milk (white - to represent Joseph's pure protective love for Mary and Jesus, with specs of brown to remind us of sawdust since Joseph's career was carpentry)
  • GFCF pretzels (to represent Simeon's praying arms)
  • raspberries with swords in them (to remember the prophecy of the pierced heart)
  • strawberries and Cocowhip (to remind us of Mary's pure, sinless heart when she went to the temple for purification due to humble obedience)
  • peeled apple slices and chocolate fondue (to remind us of Anna the Prophetess with the "black" on the outside - symbolic of Anna's widowhood - and the white on the inside - symbolic of the purity and goodness of her devout heart, for she never left the floor of the Temple, day or night)
  • homemade blueberry vegan ice cream (brought by a friend for Our Lady)
  • vegan cupcakes decorated with swords or doves (brought by a friend to symbolize either Simeon's prophesy or the offering Joseph and Mary brought to the temple)
  • Paleo Crepes (brought by a friend because crepes are traditional on Candlemas and remind us of Jesus swaddled

(Great thanks to Alice at Cottage Blessings and Jessica at Shower of Roses for the ideas for many of these dishes!)

Presentation of the Lord Chat and Poet-Tea

Once all are gathered, we will likely commence our poet-tea b watching this brief dramatization of the Presentation of the Lord on YouTube:

Or, perhaps, this one:

Then, we will
pray grace together and chat about the symbolism of each item of food on the table.

As children eat, I will read a selection of Candlemas poetry as found at the International Marian Research Institute and , perhaps a Sonnet for Candlemas shared by Malcolm Guite. As I read, I will ask the children to listen for specific words and phrases that help them to see the images within the poems and we'll chat about how specific word choices can make or break a poem.

Art Appreciation, Prayer, and Poetry Writing


Once all the children are done eating and we
clear the table, I'll lay out a collection of 10 fine art images of the Presentation of the Lord at the Temple,
and with these to help us mediate on the fourth Joyful Mystery, we may pray a decade of the rosary

Then, we will tie the idea of specific words making or breaking a poem, to specific details depicted by artists through the ages.  Examining the fine art images, we will
play Two-Finger Touch I Spy by having one child say, "I spy... (a detail in the image)" while the other children attempt to be the first to two-finger touch the image that matches the description.   Whoever is the first to touch the correct image  keeps it and gives a descriptor of another image

When all images are in hand, children will pair up so each pair has at least one image.  Then, pairs will be challenged to help one another create a stanza of poetry to go along with one of the images they hold.  Children will be asked to remember the importance of specific word choices and, when we share our poems with one another, will be encouraged to comment on vocabulary choices that help them see and feel.


Then, it will be time for the music portion of our gathering, which, I admit, almost had me stumped.  For, despite spending far too much time on Google and YouTube, I have been unable to discover a "perfect" (for us) piece of music to explore for our Candlemas Poet-TeaThus, I've decided to teach a music vocabulary word instead: canticle.

I intend to play one of the following two versions of the Canticle of Simeon and, then, to ask if anyone has ever heard the words in the song before and where?  Pending what the children respond with, responses, I will
explain that a canticle is a hymn, psalm or other song of praise taken from biblical or holy texts other than the Psalms.




I may also play the following video while the children do their artwork:

Art: Creating Specific Details

We will close our gathering with artwork before free play and conversation.Using a variety of art media and inspiration from the images we focused on while praying the Fourth Joyful Mystery and playing I Spy, the children (and mamas) will be invited to create their own depictions of a single detail from the scene of the Presentation of the Lord at the Temple or of a symbol of the day, such as the flame of a candle, the hand of Simeon, the eyes of Mary, etc.  This exercise should tie in well with the specificity of detail that we will have talked about during our poetry portion of the Poet-tea.

{Disclosure: Some links which follow are affiliate onesShould you click through them to make a purchase, we may receive compensation at no extra cost to you.  Earnings go right back into training happy hearts in our home and sharing about it with you here.}

Media we may use includes:

For Another Time
After the Poet-Tea, I hope to listen on my own or with my children to the short audio called the Sorrows and Wisdom of Mary at Ancient Faith Ministries and would love to find some Catholic audios and podcasts related to Candlemas, too.  (Please share links with me if you have any.)

I also intend to share the following video about the Presentation with my children either before or after our Poet-Tea so they can learn more about the significance of the Presentation of the Lord at the Temple.

(I do not want to share it at the Poet-Tea for several reasons, among them, the bloody images at the beginning may disturb our more sensitive AMP members and spoil the tea.)On a more light-hearted note, I would guess that taking a babydoll and dramatizing the Presentation might unfold naturally with my children.  We shall see...

However our Candlemas Poet-Tea and post-tea unfold, I know we will be blessed.  I pray your Candlemas is filled with light, beauty, love, and blessings, too!


Enjoy glimpses into other Poet-Tea plans and photos.


I'd welcome YOUR ideas for celebrating Candlemas with a Poet-Tea or just in general.  Please do share your favorite recipes, poems, songs, artworks, crafts, talks, prayers, and devotions with me, so I might be inspired by them for inclusion in my family's future Candlemas observances.  Thank you!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Preparing to Prepare: A Commitment to Spend Time Each Month Preparing for Advent and Christmas


I know.  I know.  You have just read the title of this post and are thinking, "Christmas?  Why is she talking about Advent and Christmas?  That time of year is months away."

Well, let me assure you, I have a sound reason to be thinking about Advent and Christmas.  For, I admit it: I am not the most organized housekeeper and a mere day or two before turning the calendar page to February, Advent and Christmas items were still exploding throughout my home.

Now, I know some of you, like me, purposefully leave certain decorations out until Candlemas.  however, I am not talking about having an intentional Nativity set or two still out.  No, I am ashamed to admit that my family and I had been
slaloming through Advent and Christmas bins in my hallway, wading through stacks of Advent and Christmas books, separating our homemade12 Days of Christmas ornaments from other ornaments that we took down after Epiphany and finally wrapping them up, and more until I made huge push this past weekend to get the Advent/Christmas chaos under control.

Yes, with humility, I admit I am not a gifted housekeeper, and, I often let tasks literally stack up.  Yet, with hope, I plan to change that.

One of my goals for this year is to finally break the cycle of disorganization that has plagued me (my children, my husband, and our home) for years.  And, one of the ways I have decided to work on that goal is to invest time up front to prevent seasonal explosions from derailing the rest of the year.

Thus it is that I have determined that I will NOT spend late November and early December of this year pushing to prepare for this year's Advent and Christmas seasons and, likewise, I will not still be tucking away the majority of our Advent and Christmas items away as February nears next year. Rather, - God-willing - this November will find my family and I peacefully prepared for Advent when it rolls around in early December this year, and, then, equally able to slide right into a joyous Christmas, before heading into an organized Ordinary Time with a smiles on our faces and but few intentional Christmastide about the house.

Great intentions, right?

Indeed.  But, they are only as good as the effort behind them.

So it is that, as of today, I am committing to doing extra preparation and organization each month this year in an effort to make my family's next Advent and Christmas among our most organized and peaceful ever.

My first step has been an easy one:  Creating an Advent and Christmas Corner.  

Out of Sight, But Not Out of Mind

 I re-delegated a portion of my attic to storing 18-gallon totes with our:
  • Advent and Christmas Books
  • Jesse Tree Ornaments and other Advent Decor
  • Nativity Scene Figurines
  • Christmas Ornaments and Lights
  • Christmas Eve through the End-of-Christmastide Decorations
  • Christmas Gift Storage
  • Christmas Craft Items

Then, I began the process of sorting, purging, organizing, and cataloging items - as well as carefully labeling bins - so as to ensure that I know exactly what was in each bin stored in our attic and how those things may be used intentionally in the years to come.  (This is actually something I hope to do with ALL of the things in our  home - sort, purge, organize, catalog, and label. Wish my luck!)

I have finished that process with all of our items except our nativity sets (which I leave out until Candlemas) and our picture books, which are sorted, but not catalogued and tucked away yet. 

So it is, the process continues

Your Invited to Follow My Progress - and Prompt Me to Keep Going

Once I get our nativity sets and picture books tucked away until this year's Advent and Christmas seasons, I do not intend to stop the organization process.  Rather, I plan to do a little each month so that I am not scrambling to prepare on December 1st of this year. 

Yes, since Advent begins this year on December 3rd, I have decided to give myself interim deadlines of the 2nd of each month to make further progress on preparing to prepare, and I plan to share about my progress as I go.

So, please continue to pop on over on the 2nd of of each month to hear how I have been moving along with my next steps of preparations or to prompt me - please! - to progress if need be, and if find yourself scrambling to prepare lessons, heart, and home just before Advent each year, join me in parallel efforts at your own home.  Maybe what I share can inspire your efforts.

May we each be disciplined in getting through tedious tasks in order to better prepare our hearts and homes!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Enjoy a St. Brigid and St. Verdiana S.K.I.L.L. T.I.M.E. + and a Luncheon "Tea" Plan

Just a few days away, on February 1, is the feast day of St. Brigid and St. Verdiana, so today, I have been planning our saint-inspired S.K.I.L.L. T.I.M.E. + in connection to these saints as well as planning details for hosting a small saint luncheon tea with friends.  In case you, too, enjoy weaving saint-based learning, food, and fun into your days, too, I thought I'd share my plans.

Saints Brigid and Verdiana S.K.I.L.L. T.I.M.E. +

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  S - Spell and Learn Words  

My children always enjoy find-a-word challenges on saint days, so we will first, talk about how "St." is the abbreviation for the word "Saint" and, likewise, how "Sts." if the one for "Saints".  Then, using our movable printed alphabet, we will "write" "Sts. Brigid and Verdiana" with our printed alphabet letters on the floor, upon which, I will challenge my children (and myself) to create as many words as they can from the letters within the saints' names withing an agreed upon amount of time.  Then, starting with my youngest, we will read the words we created and see if we can each meet the goal of having written as least as many words.

I may slide a gentle grammar lesson in as well, chatting about why we capitalize the word "saint" sometimes and not others, what a common noun is and what a proper noun is.

I will also, of course, highlight phonograms my children have been working on and ones that come up as they create words and may discuss strategies we each used in creating our word lists, such as thinking of rhyming words, finding as many words as we can from the letters in just one word (Sts., Brigid, or Verdiana) before moving on to the next, or thinking about 1-letter words, then 2-letter ones, then 3-letter ones, and so forth.

K - Keep Reading to Yourself

The children, as always, will be able to choose their own reading for "Read to Self" time, including the following saint day selections and, maybe books about Ireland, Italy, snakes, foxes, as well as other creatures and things related to the lives and legends that have been recorded about St. Brigid and St. Verdiana.

Some of the books they might dip into are:

St. Brigid of Ireland (The Story Library of the Saints), which we own

Saint Bridget and the Fox and Saint Verdiana and the Snakes (Amazing Saints & their Awesome Animals), which we own

St. Brigid's Cloak, which we have borrowed from our library system
Saint Brigid (Saints Lives and Illuminations), which we have borrowed from our library system and which is on my "buy" list
Brigid's Cloak: An Ancient Irish Story, which is in at our local library for us and which I have now put on my buy list after so many years of borrowing it


I - Illustrate and Write

I was hoping to make a free printable copywork/studied dictation sheet today to share using the quote:

"I would like an abundance of peace. I would like full vessels of charity. I would like rich treasures of mercy. I would like cheerfulness to preside over all."
- St. Brigid of Kildare (451 - 523)

Time ran out on me as I attended to other needs, but we may still use the quote without a printable.  (Or, if I find the time within the next couple days, I may make a simple sheet and share it here later.)

The children may also be encouraged to color the Saint Bridget and the Fox and Saint Verdiana and the Snakes  images in our Amazing Saints & their Awesome Animals Coloring Book and, then, to write their own version of the tales, if they wish.

Or, perhaps I will have them write letters to people we know which include this blessing:

May Brigid bless the house wherein you dwell. Bless every fireside, every wall and door. Bless every heart that beats beneath its roof. Bless every hand that toils to bring it joy. Bless every foot that walks its portals through. May Brigid bless the house that shelters you.

St. Brigid of Ireland, Pray for us!

L - Listen to Reading
Along with reading some of the books listed above, we will likely read or listen to one or more of the following together:

I would love to own Life of Saint Brigid: Abbess of Kildare, but copies of it seem to be found only at crazy-high price right now.  Luckily, the book is offered free as an audio online at Ancient Faith Minisitries along with other St. Brigid day audios, so we may listen to it while we do chores, color, or craft.

We also have these stories on hold at our library, which I hope come in in time:

Saint Brigid and the Cows (Brother Wolf, Sister Sparrow)


Plus, of course, I have plenty of online excerpts bookmarked on my laptop should we have time to read more, including some from this goldmine of St. Brigid tales and this archived reading on St. Verdiana or this more modern one from the Catholic Herald.

L -Learn and Play with One Another Using Language Arts

Although I sometimes comes up with fun games for saint days, this week, I want to stick with the children and my typical 1:1 routine, which includes them reading to me and then us playing a 3-in-a-row game on whiteboards with challenge words.  We'll likely do this with St. Brigid or St. Verdiana readings.

T - Think, Read and Write About Math

The children  and I will create story problems related to the saints as we read about them.  I may also have the children
draw what 13 portions of something might look like, with the 13th portion extra big, for it is said the Brigid used to apportion the butter she churned into 13 portions to remember Jesus and his 12 apostles, and that she would always set the larger "Jesus" portion aside to offer to those in need.
I - Investigate and Problem Solve with Math

St. Brigid and St. Verdiana are associated through stories with all manner of  animals and objects.  Thus, we might use our Tangram Race Game pieces to challenge ourselves to make swords, dogs snakes, cows, and foxes.  Perhaps, I will read the children the different tales as they make the shapes.

M - Master Math Skills Together

We may measure out a space that is 10 ft. x 4 ft., the size the St. Verdiana's cell is purported to be, and then figure out its perimeter and area.  I might even have each child spend part of the day in the measured space and imagine what it would be like to live there for 3 years, alongside two huge snakes, to boot!

Also, 34 years in a cell for St. Verdiana. Thirteen portions of churned butter from St. Brigid.  The numbers in tales of St. Verdiana and St. Brigid are plenty.  With them, we can create addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems with ease.  We can also figure how long each saint was said to have lived, how many years apart they lived, etc.

Plus, playing on the idea of the two snakes that tested St. Verdiana's patience (by her own request), we can work with counting by two's.

E - Exercise Math Skills on My Own

I may have each of my children pick a number from the saint stories and write that number in as many forms as they can think of - as a Roman numeral, as coins, as an addition/subtraction/multiplication/division problem, as a date or month (of possible), in word-form, in tally marks, etc.

+ Extra Learning and  Fun

  • Virtues:  We will likely discuss piety, generosity, patience, and mortification in reference to St. Verdiana and piety, generosity, perseverance, joy, hospitality, and morein relation to St. Brigid.
  • Practical Life:  We will likely have Irish-oatmeal for breakfast, which the kids can help make.  For dinner, if we are feeling ambitious, I may enlist the children to help make slow cooker GFCF Irish Stew or One Hour Vegan Shepherd's Pie for dinner in celebration of St. Brigid's Irish heritage.  If we are not up for that, I will have the children help me make Irish and Italian "flags" out of produce and whatnot to celebrate both St. Brigid's and St. Verdiana's countries of origin.


  • Culture/Geography:  Of course, we will find Ireland and Italy on maps and globes, and we may also chat about Irish and Italian culture, as well as traditions connected directly to the saints, such as hanging out a piece of cloth or ribbon to become a piece of St. Brigid's mantle.

  • Survival Skills:  It is said, among other things, that St. Brigid kept a fire perpetually burning.  Depending on how the day goes, perhaps we will make an outdoor fire and try to cook some potatoes in it.
  • Music Appreciation and Song:  Youtube has a wide variety of songs about St. Brigid as well as plenty of Irish music, so music should be no problem.
  • Art:  Obviously, with so many possibilities for learning and fun on this day, there will be more plans than putting into practice (which is okay by me, since the plans we don't get to can be used in future years!)  Among those plans are painting peg dolls, creating mixed media art, and otherwise diving into arts and crafts in regards to these saints.
Faith through Food and Fun

This year, we'll be hosting a luncheon "tea" for some friends we've been trying to get together with for some time.  We had actually planned to have them over to share in our annual Our Lady of Altagracia celebration but Nana's passing canceled that.  So, this week, we'll be celebrating a triple-saint "tea", honoring Our Lady of Altagracia, Saint Brigid, and Saint Verdiana.



With so many saints to celebrate at once, our decorations will be simple.

  • the table will be covered a white table cloth layered with a blue fabric with golden "stars" on it since Our Lady of Altagracia's veil and St. Brigid's mantle are both sometimes depicted as blue with stars.
  • a green candle will remind us we are in Ordinary Time again (though some, traditionally consider the seasons Christmastide straight through Candlemas on February 2) and a white candle will remind us of the purity of the saints' love for God.

  • several of the aforementioned picture books and/or printed images of the saints will adorn the head of the table.
  • my Our Lady of Altagracia peg doll (from the lovely collection I have form a local Marian peg doll swap), a St. Brigid cross (if I have time to fashion one), and some dry beans to remind us of St. Verdiana's charitable heart will also adorn the table.
  • a globe, so we can locate Ireland (for St. Brigid), Italy (for St. Verdiana), and the Dominican Republic (for Our Lady of Altagracia)

Tea Time Fare 


Our menu will be eclectic, since we are celebrating three saints and accommodating multiple food allergies, intolerance, and preferences between our two families which preclude things like Irish bread, Irish stew, and popular St. Brigid Day fare.  However, somehow we have managed to plan a gluten-free, casein-free, menu without rice, soy, corn, grains, legumes, and added sugar, while still including some meat for our meat lovers.

  • The children will be able to choose from Irish Tea (for Saint Brigid's homeland), water (for St. Brigid's Holy Well), orange juice (for Our Lady of Altagracia), or chocolate almond milk (because two of my three children love that!)

  • A small bowl of oranges and clementines will remind us of the story A Gift of Gracias about Our Lady of Altagracia.
  •  To add some vegetables and some meat to our table, I will make our now-traditional "orange grove" in honor of Our Lady of Altagracia using nitrite and nitrate-free cold cuts, baby greens, and carrot slices. 
  • My friend said she is going to bring a delicious gluten-free, casein, free, paleo orange cake she experimented with (also in honor of Our Lady of Altagracia).
  • She is also bring GFCF biscuits and jam, as we have read that eating blueberry jam on St. Brigid's day is becoming customary in Ireland.  (I will add Earth Balance spread and peach jelly "marmalade" since those are one of my child's preferred spread)
  • Homemade crockpot applesauce (which my children love!) with optional So Delicious Cocowhip, will remind us of St. Brigid's generosity and the purity of her love and kindness as it  is said that St. Brigid gave away gifts of apples to lepers.  (See Bethu Brigte for more details.)
  •  Although part of my friend's family does not do legumes, since it is an intolerance, not an allergy, I will put out some chickpeas and cannellini beans to remind us of St. Verdiana and to get some protein into my one vegetarian.

  • We will, of course, pray Grace and spontaneous prayers.
  • Then, we'll add a Hail Mary in honor of Our Lady of Altagracia.


  • We also will add a spontaneous prayer related to St. Verdiana



  • We will likely read one or more selection from the books I mentioned under S.K.I.L.L. T.I.M.E. + and, possibly, A Gift of Gracias, which I have previously shared a book study for.

  • The Great Giveaway:  Although the Year of Mercy has ended, every year is a year to focus on mercy and virtue as far as I am concerned.  Thus, I thought we might read The Giveaway poem (as shared in my 2012 St. Brigid Day post) and, then, read a bit about St. Verdiana's generosity before making My Great Giveaway charts.  What I am envisioning is that each child can make a 12-month chart decorated with images of, and, perhaps, notes about, Sts. Brigid and Verdiana.  Then, they can use it to remind themselves to give something away by the first of each month (the monthly anniversary of both St. Brigid and Verdiana.
Revisit Past Celebrations and Ideas

Our family has celebrated St. Brigid's Day in one way or another almost every year since 2010, and I've written up descriptions with photographs and links for several of those years.  Enjoy clicking through to find more ideas and inspiration if you wish.

 As always, I pray that the sharing I offer here blesses your family's life and learning.  

I would also love to hear about your favorite resources, recipes, prayers, and ideas related to Sts. Brigid and Verdiana (and Our Lady of Altagracia, too!). Links and comments about descriptions of your devotions, studies, and celebrations are always most welcome.

  St. Brigid, St. Verdiana, and Our Lady of Altagracia and pray for us!


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