Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Making an Advent Wreath

An Advent wreath is a wonderful tradition, and growing up my family always had one. I probably thought that every family lit an Advent wreath in preparation for Christmas! We had it on our dining room table since we always lit it at dinner. Dinner is a great time for the family to do their Advent prayers and reflections since everybody is already together. I like to stick with what I know; I prefer my Advent wreath to be a circle, have taper candles, and be on my dining room table

I used to have a little Advent wreath I made out of items from the dollar store. I had four taper candle holders surrounded by four mini wreaths which I pushed together to make it look like one big wreath. If I couldn't find Advent candles I'd paint white ones with melted crayons. (Hint: If you're looking for Advent candles try craft stores like JoAnn Fabrics or Hobby Lobby!) However, last year my wonderful husband burnt that one down. I noticed that the candles were getting low, so I blew them out. He came around later and decided he wanted to light them. We are now down one Advent wreath and one bookshelf! We are thankful we caught it in time, it could have been much worse! We may have lost an Advent wreath, but we gained a family story. 

The good thing about the great Advent fire of '13 is that now I get to craft a new Advent wreath, which is something I've kind of been wanting to do. I started with a basic plain Advent wreath. 

From the craft store I got:

pink and purple glitter poinsettia picks
pink and purple ribbon
faux pine garland

First I wrapped the wreath with the fake greenery. I found that the garland was too big and thick to wrap around my wreath, so I cut off individual fronds and wrapped those around. It took me about eight in between each candle holder. No glue necessary, the garland holds in place all by itself!

Next I twisted the pink and purple ribbons together and wrapped them around the wreath. Once again, no glue necessary, I just tied it to the wreath at the beginning and end. 

Now we need some glue to put the flowers by each candle holder. I tried cutting off the stem of the pick, but there was a metal wire in it which made that difficult. Luckily it wasn't that hard to just pull the flower part off of the stem! I used a hot glue gun to affix each flower to the wreath.

And voila! A new Advent wreath to light as you pray and reflect to prepare for the coming of Jesus! A new candle is lit each Sunday of Advent, with the pink one being lit on the third Sunday. Just keep an eye on how low those candles get! 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Food for the Soul

November is one of my favorite months. Yes, most of the brightly colored autumn leaves have fallen to the ground leaving the trees bare and it can get cold and gray; but there is a certain quiet, intangible beauty in those bare trees against the gray sky that I can't help but admire. I feel that it kind of goes along with the Catholic Church remembering the dead this month. Of course November 2nd is All Souls Day, but the whole month is dedicated to remembering those who have died and praying for the souls in purgatory. On the surface it can seem morbid or sad, and of course feeling sorrow over those we have lost is natural, but by praying for the dead not only are we are helping them to reach the glory that is heaven, but it also serves to remind us that we believe that there is life after death, that Christ has given us victory over the grave; and that my friends is a beautiful thing.

We made a special All Souls meal this year in remembrance of some family and close friends who have passed away in a nod to the Mexican Dio de los Muertos tradition of placing a loved one's favorite food on their grave or on an altar. We are blessed to have some of the culinary traditions of those loved ones written down, which helped make this special meal possible. Food can do so much to connect us; not only to the people around us when we are enjoying the meal, but to those we can't be with and to our past. If you have a favorite family recipe that isn't written down or you don't know how to make, don't let it get lost! Find whoever cooks it now and have them write it down or teach you how to make it!

The main dish was french fried shrimp, cited in my trusty family cookbook as the birthday favorite of my Uncle Matt who was killed in Iraq in 2009. For dessert we had a delicious chocolate pie made from the recipe of a dear family friend named Beverly who was a home economics teacher. A cookbook of her favorite recipes was made after she passed away from ovarian cancer in 2008. I have featured a couple of other recipes from her before; broccoli salad and pineapple boats. The plan was to enjoy the food with a glass of red wine as a priest friend of ours, Fr. Will, who passed away after a battle with cancer this September, was known to enjoy one glass of red wine with a meal every day. However with my husband on some medications from a recent medical procedure and me nursing the new baby, we decided that alcohol was not the best idea at the moment. Another time!

 Using food and other traditions to remember loved ones is a wonderful thing, however as I was thinking about writing this post I felt compelled to mention that this is not what we are doing when we celebrate the Eucharist at mass. We are not just eating some bread and drinking some wine while we think about what Jesus did for us a long time ago. The Eucharist truly is Jesus; body, blood, soul, and divinity, and in the mass we are truly present at his sacrifice. By participating in this, the Church and her people in heaven and earth are in communion, connected with each other in the most special of ways. Fr. Will was my pastor at the Catholic church on campus when I was in college; the type of place where people are always coming and going. He liked to remind us that no matter where we are, we are all connected in the Eucharist. A beautiful thing to think about whether someone we love has moved away, or has left this earth before us. As Fr. Will would say, "See you in the Eucharist!"

Uncle Matt's French Fried Shrimp

2 lbs (or more) large raw shrimp, shelled and de-veined, but leave the tails on. (I bought raw shrimp that were already shelled, de-veined, and had the tails off. No tails means no handy handle for dipping, but you also don't have to be as careful when breading. Of course if you buy raw shrimp with the shells on they will cost less, but then you have to do the dirty work yourself.)
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups dry bread crumbs ( I used panko as that it what I had in the cupboard)
Oil for frying - peanut oil is best ( I used canola since that's what I had)

Stir together the flour, salt, and pepper.
Heat oil to 375 in a deep-fat fryer or kettle.
Coat shrimp with the flour mixture (do not coat the tails), then dip in the beaten eggs, then coat the shrimp with bread crumbs (do not coat the tails).
Fry  in the deep fat fryer or kettle until golden brown (about 2-3 minutes, depending on the size of the shrimp).

Serve with cocktail sauce ( or try what my husband did and serve with buffalo sauce!)

Beverly's Chocolate Layered Pudding Dessert

8 oz Oreo cookies, crushed (I like to put them in plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin, a food processor would work too)
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 stick melted butter
4 oz softened cream cheese
1/4 cup powdered sugar
8 oz whipped topping
1 small pkg instant chocolate pudding prepared with 1 1/2 cups milk

Reserve 3 cookies for topping.
Combine butter, crushed cookies and sugar. Pat into 9 inch pie pan.
Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, and half the whipped topping. Mix until smooth. Spread over cookie crumbs.
Pour pudding over the cream cheese layer. Top with remaining whipped topping and reserved crushed cookies. Chill for at least three hours.

This post is linked up on the Catholic Bloggers Network 2014 Link Up Blitz and the Equipping Catholic Families 2014 Saints Linkup! Check it out!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Halloween 2014: Dalmations, Ladybugs, and Candy Corn

Happy November! The newest addition to our family, Rosemary, arrived on September 29th, so naturally blogging took a back seat last month. Isn't she beautiful?!

 Halloween was couple days ago and we had a lot of fun! We had snow here in Michigan, but thankfully the local mall offers an indoor trick-or-treating experience.

I'm a firm believer in homemade costumes. They are so much fun and inspire creativity in the whole family. The possibilities are endless even if you don't know how to sew, and believe me, I sure don't!

This year Sam wanted to be Marshall from the show Paw Patrol. Marshall is a fire fighting dalmatian pup. Rosemary was a ladybug. Yes I went against everything I just said and she is wearing a store bought costume. Taking care of a brand new baby just didn't leave with the time or energy to work on a homemade infant costume, please forgive me. Here they are together. Pardon the blurriness, now that I have two I'm learning how hard it is to get everyone to stand still for pictures!

Everyone loved Sam's Marshall costume, even if they'd never heard of Paw Patrol. I loved how it turned out too, and it was pretty easy to make! Sam even helped with some of it. 

  • Supplies:
  • White shirt and pants
  • White felt
  • black fabric paint
  • red felt
  • fire hat
  • construction paper
  • ribbon
  • glue
  • scissors
  • two pop bottles
  • red duct tape
  • black and white face paint

Take the white clothes and paint black spots on them with the fabric paint. Cut out ear shapes and paint spots on them as well. Let them dry. Tape the ears to the inside of the fire hat. We got our hat for free at a local restaurant called Firehouse Subs!

My mom sewed the vest out of red felt, but you could buy a firefighter vest at the store.

My husband made the collar out of construction paper, gluing the red background and orange and yellow fire shapes onto some white foam to make it more sturdy. Attach it to a ribbon and that part is all done.

Marshall carries a water pack on his back. My husband and Sam made it by wrapping two pop bottles with red duct tape. They even made the straps with the duct tape as well. 

Paint the face white with black spots and there you have Marshall! Of course it doesn't have to be specifically Marshall, it could just be a fire station dog as well.


For Sam's preschool treat I handed out candy corn with this cute free printable I found that uses the three colors in one candy corn to help explain the Trinity. Sam will probably be going to public school for kindergarten next year, so I have to get in stuff like this for school when I can!

Of course the day after Halloween is the wonderful feast of All Saints Day! We used some of my past projects to help celebrate, like getting to eat a piece of candy for each match made while playing the Saints Matching Game, and reading our Saints, Saints, Who Do You See? book. We also listened to "When the Saints Go Marching In," and during prayer time remembered to thank God for having the communion of saints there to help us and asked Him to help us, our family and friends, and all other people to become saints. 

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