Saturday, January 27, 2018

Plan a St. Brigid and St. Verdiana Art, Music, and a Poet-Tea

February first is the Memorial of Saint Brigid of Ireland and also that of Saint Verdiana (although some calendars have Saint Verdiana's day listed as February 16th.)  It is also a day that our AMP It Up club is scheduled to meet.  Thus, I am planning another saint-based Poet-Tea, filled with faith, food, friendship, art, music, and poetry.

If you'd like to include saint-centered snacks and arts immersion on the St. Brigid's and St. Verdiana's feast day, I thought I'd share our Poet-Tea plans.

A St. Brigid and St. Verdiana Poet-Tea Setting and Menu
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Our poet-tea table will be decorated with:

  • a white tablecloth (for the purity of the saint' love for God) layered with a blue fabric with golden "stars" on it (since St. Brigid's mantle is sometimes depicted as blue with stars).
  • green candle (to remind us that we are in Ordinary Time) and a white candle (also to remind us of the purity of the saints' love for God).
  • several books depicting Saint Brigid and Saint Verdiana including: 
Saint Bridget and the Fox and Saint Verdiana and the Snakes in Amazing Saints & their Awesome Animals

  •  a St. Brigid cross (if I have time to fashion one) and some dry beans to remind us of how St. Verdiana, with her charitable heart,  gave away all her beans to the poor).
  • a globe, so we can locate Ireland (for St. Brigid) and Italy (for St. Verdiana).
  • perhaps some snake and cow figurines (since snakes play into St. Verdiana's stories and cows into St. Brigid's)

The food and drink we will serve s still being decided, but will likely include some of the following:
  • bread, water, and herbs (because St. Verdiana's diet consisted of eating bread and water once a day, and, sometimes, eating herbs or vegetables.)
  • beans (because Verdiana gave beans to the poor.)
  • apples (because apples play into one of the tales of St. Brigid's miracles and charity.)
  • coconut milk (because there are a number of tales and traditions related to St. Brigid and milk, but my children are cow-milk-free kids and one of our guests has both nut and soy allergies, so coconut milk is our only milk alternative)
  • oat bread (adapted from traditional St. Brigid's oat cakes)
  • blueberry jam (because it is traditional to eat on St. Brigid's day.)
  • an "Italian Flag" fruit plate and an "Irish Flag" vegetable plate (because St. Verdiana was Italian and St. Brigid was Irish.)

Whatever the fare ends up being, I know, we'll pray pray grace, some spontaneous prayers, and a Traditional Catholic Prayer to Saint Brigid before digging into it and chatting more about the lives of Saint Brigid and Saint Verdiana, who were both known for their charity.


We will revisit the poem The Giveaway, a long-time St. Brigid Day favorite of mine using a pdf from Clondalkin Village Parish.  Then, after reading about Saint Verdiana, I will ask the children to try their hand at writing a poem, inspired by The Giveaway, about Verdiana.


Bridging from poetry to music, we will take a peak at the lyrics of the Hymn to Saint Brigid as we listen to it sung on a Youtube video:

We will also sing along to We Sing a Song to Saint Brigid.


This file comes from Wellcome Images, a website operated by Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation based in the United Kingdom. Refer to Wellcome blog post (archive).

Finally, for art, we will notice how the illustrations in 
Saint Brigid and the Cows use hatching and how an engraving of St. Verdiana by Bartolozzi uses stippling, much like his other artwork did as demonstrated in the detail below:

Then, we'll explore hatching and stippling using simple exercises like this one:

Or, perhaps, by creating our own simple line drawings of items and creatures that remind us of Saint Brigid's or Saint Verdiana's story, and, then, adding value to our drawings through hatching or stippling.


Find loads of ideas, resources, and links for lessons inspired by Saint. Brigid and Verdiana as well as plans for a luncheon.

Enjoy some ideas for simple stories and notebooking -including a link to a free online story, take a peak at plans for a simple Saint Brigid Feast day for younger children, or flashback to how we celebrated one year when my children were wee ones.

Browse through Poet-Tea plans and photos for other liturgical celebrations.

Saint Brigid, pray for us.  Saint Verdiana, pray for us.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Pray, Fast, and Give on the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children

January 22nd is the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children
and so, in our home, we'll be taking a bit of a break from our usual life and lesson activities to focus on extra measures of prayer, fasting, almsgiving. We encourage others to do the same.


Of course, attending Mass and praying for unborn children, for their mothers, and for our nation to respect the rights of the unborn child is an ideal choice for the day. 

Praying an intentional Rosary for Life is, too. 

Or, for those who seek shorter prayers, the Prayer to End Abortion by Rec. Frank Pavone at is a powerful one.


Ideally, all healthy adults will participate in fasting, eating only one full meal and two smaller meals which do not equal one full meal. 

Children (and adults!) might choose to offer penances by:

  • abstaining from meat
  • abstaining from a particular food or beverage 
  • fasting  from one meal
  • offering up the day’s challenges and inconveniences 
  • giving up some form of entertainment for the day
  •  offering up extra works of charity


Everyone in the family might offer some money to give to a pro-life organization. 

Or, perhaps, the family can shop for baby items to be brought to such an organization or simply collect like-new items from home to gift forward.

For crafty kids (and grown-ups!) decorating bibs and onesies to donate can be fun and meaningful.

Family Time

Counting our own blessings with gratitude is important, too.  So, our family will likely gather to chat about specific ways each of us blesses others - affirming the unique gift each person truly is. 

I can foresee this leading us into a trip down memory lane, sharing stories and pictures from birth and early childhood and, perhaps, singing our Song of Jack and for each of our other children.

To keep the warmth of family time going, I have also already begun stacking up favorite books for a "read in", when our family snuggles together to read book after book after book together.  

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Some of our pro-life favorites are:

Also, since we all enjoy family movie-time, I've also put The Altar Gang's Skif and AJ's Fantastic Voyage in our pile.  It's a beloved DVD around here.

Surely, on January 22, we can all set aside some time to pray, fast, and give, praying for legal protection for unborn children and giving thanks for each of our lives.  Perhaps, we'd like to start now:

God our Creator, we give thanks to you, who alone have the power to impart the breath of life as you form each of us in our mother's womb; grant, we pray, that we, whom you have made stewards of creation, may remain faithful to this sacred trust and constant in safeguarding the dignity of every human life. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
~Collect Prayer

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Walking Down Memory Lane with St. Nina, "Mother of Georgia"

Tonight, I've been taking a walk down memory lane, looking back at how we've observed St. Nina's feast day since our family re-committed to celebrating each of our Name Days and enjoyed our first St. Nina family feast in 2013

That year, our annual celebrations kicked off in a rather smoky kitchen, because, sometimes, new recipes don't cook up quite the way you expect them to do so.

Still, we enjoyed learning more about St. Nina and tasting dishes inspired by the cuisine of the Republic of Georgia.

Since, then, we've continued to mark 
St. Nina's feast day with prayers, food, and celebration each year.

In 2014, we did so as a family.

First, though, the children practiced practical life skills, climbing up to the kitchen sink... work as a team, freeing delicious pomegranate seeds.

One also concentrated on slicing cucumbers...

.... to make a traditional Georgian salad,

... while another sliced and dicde mushrooms...

.... for a Georgian-inspired dish.

Still, a third happily chopped walnuts... candy and enjoy.

Then, they all helped prepare traditional corn bread...

...bean dishes, and more,

which all resulted in a full spread Georgian-inspired dishes to enjoy together...

...after prayer, finding where St. Nina may have been born and where she traveled to...

... and giving our own Nina her very own homemade "book" about St. Nina, because she had been asking why we don't have any books about her name saint. 

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We have since found two published children's books for our girl:

Saints Lives and Illuminations contains a St. Nina page...

...and The Life of Saint Nina is an entire rhyming children's book about her!

In 2015, we had a lot going on right before St. Nina's feast day and could not do much preparation, but that did not keep us from celebrating our girl's beloved name saint.

We just had to get a little creative about food choices, which resulted in us making a makeshift "St. Nina Cross" our of gluten-free toast...

... to eat with preserves (popular in Georgia) and sides of grapes (because St. Nina had a grapevine cross) and salad with walnuts and pomegranates (because both of these are common in Georgian cuisine).

A simple meal served on special dishes made everyone happy!

In 2016, we again found ourselves scrambling, trying to fit a feast day celebration in between pre-scheduled commitments, so we went even simpler - and delectably sweet!

You can never go wrong with sundaes made with blue and red berries (since St. Nina is often depicted in these colors) and walnuts (since St. Nina is considered the "mother of Georgia", having converted many there to Christianity, and walnuts are popular in Georgian cuisine.)

Yes, our sundaes were a hit!

Then, last year, in 2017, we had to go even simpler for St Nina's Day.

Nana was quite ill, so we traveled to see her one last time, and, thus, our typically festive St. Nina Day observances were put on hold.  Basically, we recalled the day, with a simple, "It's your Name Day," and prayer with our girl and allowed her to indulge in a rare treat of potato chips (because salty fried potatoes are common in the Republic of Georgia) as a happy "high" on an otherwise mostly low day when we were making prayerful and emotional goodbyes to our Nana.  

Nana passed but a week later  -  God rest her soul - and we would appreciate continued prayers as the first anniversary of her passing nears.  Thank you.

We also invite you to join us in praying for the intercession of St. Nina:

St. Nina, like you, 
may we endure hardships with faith, 
be a healing balm to others, spiritually and physically,
and glorify God in all we do and say,
growing in holiness.
Also like you, may we have a transforming effect on others through our witness. 
St. Nina, please intercede for us 
that God may save our souls.

If you would like to know more about St. Nina, visit our St. Nina Name Day post from 2013, where you'll find more information and links and, also, view this brief video, which offers a summary of St. Nina's life:

We'd love to hear your favorite prayers, resources, recipes, and traditions related to St. Nina and wish you a blessed ad beautiful St. Nina feast day.

St. Nina, pray for us.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Epiphany - Traditions and Transformation

Happy Epiphany!

Today, our home is a mess, we're still buried in snow, and the rest of life seems perfectly imperfect, too.  However, that did not prevent us from celebrating the Epiphany!  In fact, our traditions carried us through all the imperfection to embrace this wonderful feast day.


Our morning, of course, started with Mass, where we were blessed to hear a meaningful homily that reminded us that "God sees our sacrifices - big or small - as gifts" and also that "every good gift God gives us us given o us for a reason - to share."  We are "given a healing balm to give one another" and are encouraged to "take what we receive and go out to give it to others."  Mercy.  Grace.  Consolation.  Dignity. Joy.  All this is given.  All this is meant to be shared.

Symbolic Eats

I would love to make beautiful, tasty, elaborate feast day meals as some families do, but between life's busyness and all of our different dietary needs and preferences here, most traditional recipes just don't work for us.  So, we've developed our own repertoire of symbolic simple eats for feast days, and, today that meant our now-traditional simple "donut stable", gifts from the Magi, and star.

This year our gold was eggs; our frankincense was cashews with cinnamon (thus aromatic and reminding us of the sweet smell of incense); and our myrrh was baby kale (which we know is not a healing oil, but which is good for the body!)

Our star this year was made with defrosted blueberries and pineapple pieces.

We also had rich ruby kingly juice for the kids and golden mango-honey smoothies for Mom and Dad.

Before the meal, of course, we prayed, then, we used the food and decor to prompt a chat about the story and significance of the Magi visiting Baby Jesus to pay homage.

Books, Books, Books (and Figurine Puppets)

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No feast day here ever seems to pass without some reading, and, today, we had a stack of books to choose from and, thus, as he children ate second and third portions of our symbolic eats, we began a mini-marathon with picture books.

First came The Christmas Baby which takes a few liberties with the nativity story, but also has a sweet message at its end about smiling back with God's own smile.  I read this to the children as my pick because it reminded me of the homily we had heard and how no matter what we have been gifted with - even something as small as a smile - it can bring great joy to share it.

Then, we moved onto one of the children's favorites, Humphrey's First Christmas.  Oh, how I love to hear my children laugh at the story and illustrations as the camel Humphrey attempts to get what he wants at the beginning of this story - a blanket.  And, oh, how I love the quiet beauty that descends when we read how Humphrey ends up finding finding true warmth as he gives his blanket to Baby Jesus.  Plus, the book ties in so nicely with the just-passed feast day for he Holy Name of Jesus.

After that, the children asked for "the one we always read": Three Wise Kings.  We just LOVE this classic story which we now own in the Joy to the World collection.


Next up, we browsed They Followed a Bright Star and The Third Gift, which we'd read earlier in the week, recalling how the former title helped us think of people Jesus would come into contact with later in his life (even as it made us question why anyone would wait to encounter Jesus) and how the latter one helped us imagine what it was like for a boy who collects myrrh and how myrrh was once used.

By then, the children were done eating and ready to gather more closely around beautiful images, so we inspected the Giotto fresco of the Adoration of the Magi and read the accompanying text in The Glorious Impossible.

... and did the same in The Life of Jesus.

We then revisited The Little Boy's Christmas Gift, which has become a perennial favorite for us, with beautiful illustrations and a reminder that we each have something we can offer, and, sometimes, even the bits and bobs others take no notice of, can become wonderful gifts we share to make Jesus smile.

Finally, we enjoyed the illustrations of We Three Kings while singing the carol in the book.

During some of these readings, the children also began acting out stories using our figurines as puppets - with reminders to be careful!


After story time, it was time for the children to process, singing, to place our Magi figures in our nativity sets. 

Each of them was eager to do this, and it made me smile, savoring the moment as I snapped a few pictures, wondering if a time will come when they will feel too big for such traditions.

Luckily, that time has not yet come.


Also, o my amusement, they are not too old to enjoy other little traditions of ours, it seems.  For, before I knew it, one child had upturned a stool, gotten a baby doll and other props and called to siblings to enact the Magi coming to give Jesus tribute.

As they knelt in character, I asked them each to step out of character and to share a gift they have that they might offer others this year.  

They had their own ideas for gifting forward, of course.  

My Mama's heart, though, thought, Your smiles.  Your joy.  Those alone are such a gift when shared.



Magi near Jesus.

Baby Jesus gifted with even a blanket from a camel.

Action stopped for a short period of quiet and reflection (and, okay, some watching of football for dad and he boys!)

Chalking the Doors

Then, finally, it was time to take the chalk we'd asked our priest to bless after Mass, some printouts from Rosary Bay (meant for a priest to lead, but adapted for home use), and Holy Water to bless our home.

Of course, doing just the front door was not enough for my children.  One wanted to do every door and even swung on a trapeze to complete her work.

And, so it was, we celebrated this Epiphany and now move forward, knowing, as our priest reminded us this morning, that "the work of Christmas begins when the 12 Days of Christmas end."  It is time to be transformed by our encounter with Christ and to live in relationship with Him, loving Him and one another by gifting forward. How might we choose, moment by moment, thought by thought, word by word, action by action, to live like those who have been in the presence of Our Lord?

Praying your Epiphany was filled with blessings and delight and that you are ready to go out into the world, transformed by your encounter with Christ.


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