Sunday, September 30, 2012

Underground: Reclaiming the Little Holidays

I love holidays, and I doubt I'm alone.  I love parades, big dinners and {yes, I admit it} presents.  I can't wait to see how our family traditions grow and change over the next few years as our children learn and begin to anticipate holidays.  As much as I want my children to adore and anticipate their major holidays with joy, my husband and I wanted something a little bit more in our celebratory year than just the guns - Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, etc.  Perhaps it sounds a little selfish, but we want more holidays.

Now I bet a few people are rolling their eyes.  "Oh," they're probably saying, "Someone just wants more presents and reasons to spend money.  To that I'd reply with a polite shake of my head because it is the opposite of what we're desiring.

There is only so much, I feel, we can do to "reclaim" holidays that have been claimed so strongly our consumer culture when shops start setting out Christmas decorations in July.  While we intended to fight the good fight to ensure that our major holidays are focused on the ideas and celebrations we feel are right for our family in the end there might be only so much we can do.  So instead of fighting tooth and nail to save our only holidays from consumerism we thought, we not go "underground" and reclaim days that our society, as a whole has forgotten or ignored.

It's a little easier for our family; Catholics love holidays, or feast days as they're usually called, so we have plenty to chose from.  In fact, it's rare when you don't find someone or something that you could celebrate on any given day.  However, many religions or denominations have old traditions and celebrations that have fallen by the wayside and who's to say you can't take a little inspiration from someone else.

 Our reasons for wanting to add more special days into our year are simple:
  • Inspiring Family Time - We wanted more ways to make our family times a little more special.  While we're committed to things like family dinners and activities sometimes you just need a little inspiration to set the table again or you've just run out of ideas for next Sundays' Family Day and I'm sure I'm not alone, but sometimes I need a little inspiration to liven up the meal planning week after week.
  • Life Lessons - We wanted new, yet subtle ways to teach our children about the people and ideas that we find important.  Since many of the feast days focus around a particular person it becomes easier to take a moment to reflect on their achievements and struggles.  If we don't want to focus on a particular person, we can always pick a theme like Courage or Honesty.
  • Commercial Break - Okay, I'll admit it - I love Christmas presents.  Within reasons, I love picking out, wrapping up, giving and receiving gifts on Christmas day, but I'll also admit our society as a whole has a serious problem with the importance of this action.  We want a chance to impart to our children that it's not presents that make a holiday special - that a gift can be in the form of an activity, a special dinner or a small tradition.  Perhaps, just perhaps, our children might grow to understand that a holiday is not just about gifts if they have fewer holidays that are focused on gift giving.  It might be a pipe-dream, but it seems a worthy one.
In order to achieve this without throwing Grandma or Auntie Ida into a tissy by suggestion that we change or simplify the major holidays we simply choose to go underground and make a few more holidays to celebrate.  We claim special days and occasions that are not on Hallmark or Nestles' radar with the freedom to make it exactly what we want to be without magazines and T.V. shows giving us unrealistic expectations of what our homes and families should be experiencing to make the moment magical.

Ideas of what our Little Holidays might include:
  • Small, but special family dinners.  Perhaps we'll try out a traditional dish from another country or time; sometimes the dinners might be a little grander than normal and sometimes they will be simpler.
  • Storytime; I doubt I could do any kind of holiday without finding a book that relates in some way or another.  It might be a book about the person we're learning about, or share a similar theme or perhaps it will be a time for story-telling and a chance for children and adults to share special moments in their lives.
  • Purposeful activities.  They might be grander gestures or small things we can do around the house.
  • Community; while I'd love to find ways to inspire our parish to celebrate more of the Little Holidays I hope to foster a sense of community starting at home whether it's with family, neighbors or friends.  I don't want to create something just for the reason of proselytizing, but rather find ways to include those who are important to us on days that our important to us in a way that is comfortable and welcoming.

Ideas for finding Little Holidays to bring into your home:
  • For the religious or spiritual - look to older traditions within your Church, or (if you're comfortable with the idea) look to other denominations or religions similar to yours.  I remember learning a lot about my family by celebrating holidays likes Chanukah and Passover even though we weren't Jewish (we do have a Jewish-side of the family and it was a great way to stay connected to them and their traditions).
  • Celebrate the birth (or death) days of people you find inspiring or important in your lives.  This could be someone famous, or a great way to remember a beloved friend or family member.
  • Look to nature - consider creating family traditions on the longest and shortest days of the year or around berry-picking or apple harvesting times!
  • Look to other cultures - this can be an amazing tool for learning about others in your community.  Consider finding New Years celebrations or days that celebrate parents, sibling or other family members.
  • Look to Literature - Consider celebrating Elevensies for the anniversary of The Hobbit, having a birthday party for Harry Potter or finally learning what was so important to Henry about "St. Cripsin's Day".
  • Be Silly - Maybe "International Talk Like a Pirate Day" or "Pick Up Rocks Day" is just what your family needs to get out of the house and have a little fun. (hint: google "bizarre holidays" for more!)
I hope this gives a little more insight to the holidays you'll see us celebrate through out the year and maybe give you a little inspiration to go underground and claim some new traditions for yourself!

If you missed it go HERE to see our ideas for celebrating our first Michaelmas and Feast of St. Francis and HERE to see the pictures of our first Michaelmas celebration!

Friday, September 28, 2012


 Michaelmas Dinner - 

Chicken, Roast Potatoes, Onions & Carrots, Rolls and Cider from a local orchard.
In the background you can just see where I wrote out the Prayer to Saint Michael on our sliding door.

Michaelmas Flowers - 
A basic bouquet from the grocery store and mums from our backyard

St. George and the Dragon - 
A long read by toddler standards, but great book to read aloud.

Our Michaelmas Bonfire and the first use of our fireplace.

Blackberry Pastry Tarts - 
the best decision of the night.  Simple and delicious. 
 Recipe HERE.

Michaelmas is over and done with for us (we celebrated a day early due to a wedding this weekend).  I think this is the beginning of a great family tradition.  The full thoughts are still forming in my head, but it was so strange and so good to celebrate a holiday that was not commercial in anyways.  It was not about big family get-togethers or heaps of presents - rather just a night to say a special prayer, read a special book and make and share a good meal.  While a part of me wishes there were Michaelmas activities to participate in around town or at least at our parish, it was such a unique experience to be celebrating this holiday on our own.

I have a lot of thoughts of things to incorporate for my children as they get older - the great part of these little holidays is the learning experience combined with something festive - but for now I'm quite full and content and our little bonfire has burned itself out.  

We are officially ushered in to fall and I think I'm going to go pull on a pair of my handknit socks and get in a little reading under the small mountain of blankets on my bed.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Celebrations: Preparing for Michaelmas and the Feast of St. Francis

I have to admit this is my favorite time of year because it's all my favorite holidays grouped so close together.

Since Henry is a little older this year we've been talking about how to incorporate our faith more in our home and we're looking forward to incorporating more of the liturgical year into our home life.  Luckily, being on the Catholic side this means we get the opportunity for a lot more little parties throughout the year (and our share of solemn days too of course).

Two of the Feast Days I've been most looking forward to are just around the corner:  Michaelmas and the Feast of St. Francis. 

For Michaelmas I'm drawn more to the older traditions the focused on celebrating the end of the harvest season; my father just told me that the combining guy is coming any day now so it's just about that time.  My husband thinks the archangels (the day gets it's name from Micheal the Archangel) are pretty nifty; he (we really) also love the idea of celebrating the passage of the seasons and this gives us the opportunity to do so much at once.  This holiday, while not often celebrated anymore, just seems bursting with opportunity to me.

St. Francis is, to use a colloquialism, my home-boy.  Seriously, even growing up Protestant I couldn't ignore the fact that St. Francis (and his BFF St. Clare) were pretty awesome and I know I'm not the only one to consider them the unofficial Patron Saints of the Simple/Voluntary Simplicity movement - really voluntary simplicity, radical homemaking, back to the land homesteaders are just aging hipsters compared to those two.  I'm really excited to bring the teaches of this amazing man into our home!

I can't tell you what our fantastic traditions are yet, because we don't really have any yet.  But I can give you a run down of what we have planned.

Michaelmas (because of a wedding this year we'll be celebrating on the 28th):

  • Food!  Carrots, Blackberries and Goose is traditional.  I've got plans for the first two, but I'm going to be honest - I plan on picking up a rotisserie chicken for the main course (sue me, it's end of my long work week and we leave for wedding festivities in the morning).
  • Books - I'm still trying to track down a few related reading materials, but if nothing else we'll pull out our "fall books" for a good pouring over.  Though not an archangel, I've got a copy of "Saint George and the Dragon" on reserve at the library, which seems to be a favorite for a lot of families.
  • Fire - Many traditions mention a "Michaelmas Bonfire" to officially usher in the fall/winter.  If the weather is right I think we might try to light our first fire in the fireplace!
The Feast of St. Francis:

  •  For the animals:  St. Francis well known for a love of and the affect he had on animals.  We'll do a deep cleaning of our cat's things, and perhaps gift him with a new toy.  I hope to take some supplies over to our local animal shelter, but need to research how they accept donations beforehand.
  • Books - I have a few St. Francis books ready to pick up from the library as well, and a copy of  Brother Sun, Sister Moon might make it's way to us in time.
  • Family Activity - I'm thinking we might try to make something as a family - I'm leaning towards Pinecone Peanut Butter Bird Feeders. 
  • Food - We'll see how industrious I can be about all of this, but I'd love to try my hand at a small batch of frangipane cream on some kind of desert.  This might end up being a fruit tart from the co-op with whipped cream on top, but I'm going for the A for effort.  ;)
Those are the main ones we'll be focusing on until the end of October, but we're rather excited about the whole thing.

Honestly, and yes it may be a little selfish, but I love having so many special days (Secular and Holy) to fill the space between the beginning of Fall and well into the New Year it just makes me look forward to the "dark days of winter" that much more.

For some great Michaelmas ideas go check out Haley over @ Carrots for Michaelmas and for a list of great St. Francis books visit Elizabeth @ In the Heart of My Home.  And if you're interested in learning more about or planning out your liturgical celebrations I recommend the Calendar over at Catholic

What special days do you celebrate in the fall?  Do you have any special traditions for these days?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Everyone Needs More Recipes!

Hey folks, looking for some new, healthy recipes to add to your rotation?  I don't know about you, but I always get the cooking and baking bug bad as soon as the first frost rolls in!

Why don't you head over to my dear Jamie's Blog "Jamie's Recipes" and enter her give away for a copy of Diabetic Slowcooker Magazine.  She's an amazing mom to three and was nice enough to sit with me through a couple of our Children's Theatre classes in college.

While you're over there why not take a look thru her "Cold Lunch" Series in which she's documenting the easy, nutritious school lunches she sends with her daughter to school!  Her oldest daughter has a soft spot in my heart for listening to me almost 7 (is that right Jamie!?) years ago when I told her mom in one of our theatre classes that March 7th was an excellent day to be born.  ;)

And if there's such a thing as Cupcake Envy, Jamie deserves it - take a look at the gorgeous snacks she made for her daughters first bake sale   - those gluten free, mint buttercream topped chocolate cupcakes are on the top of my list for Christmas!

Go comment for your chance to score a new collection of recipes and take a moment to look back thru a great collection of recipes!

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Making Season

Spring and Summer are the growing seasons. 

The seasons in which it's easiest to see creation at work.  You barely need to lift a finger to see those subtle promises of birth and life as things starting turning green and growing again.

Fall and Winter are the making seasons. 

As the world around us starts to fade and grow dark and things stop growing we pick up our own tools of creation - scissors, needles, measuring cups and any number of other supplies and start to make.  Not just to keep our selves warm or to have something to do to pass the cold, dark hours, but rather to remind ourselves that even in the long days we still have within us the power, the desire and ability to create whatever the season we find ourselves in.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Time of Knitting is Upon Us

Henry's Thorpe.

We've received our first frost advisory of the season for this weekend so I'm very glad this little hat only took about 2.5 days (of furious nap-time knitting) to complete!  I made a size "Medium" but only smaller needles and it's just the right size for my little "megamind" toddler!  No fancy yarn on this one, I wanted something that could be washed up at daycare with no fuss and no tears if it accidentally went in the dryer and lots of things seem to make their way into the dryer in this house.

Can't wait to show it to you in action once the weather makes the tiny-terror a little more compliant in the headwear his mother may or may not chase him around the house with.

One project down, two on needles and who knows how many to go.

And I'll go ahead and link up with this weeks KCCO and Yarn Along.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Words, Words, Words

Saw this going around facebook and thought it'd be fun way to hear from some readers.  Regular or first time commentors tell me what the first three words you see in the puzzle are!

I got Love, Health and Time.  So apparently the puzzle is in cahoots with that voice telling me "In Due Time."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

More Inspired Additions: Simple Living Books for Kids

It's time for another round of "Inspired: Simple Living Books for Kids"!

The illustrations and limited next in "A Good Night Walk" are perfect for the younger children in your family.  I highly recommend reading thru the story and stopping to ask the child where different objects mentioned in the story (and not!) are to encourage language skills.

Who wouldn't love to have friends near by who could build you a cottage in two days in exchange for a plate of Peanut Butter Sandwiches.  I'm ashamed to admit that I want the house built in this story for my own!

Another great books in the footsteps of books like "Ox-Cart Man" charting the passage of a full year on a small farm.  Lovely images of a family working and living together will delight you and your older child!

Don't forget to subscribe to the "Inspired: Simple Living Books for Kids" Pinboard HERE
and look at past Inspired Posts HERE and HERE .

This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links.  
I have not been paid in any other way to share these books and share them only out of my own desire to pass on good, inspiring children's literature to you!

I've just finished "North & South" and "The Giver" and am slowly working my way thru "The Bridal Wreath" by Sigrid Undset and re-reading "A Shadow of Night" by Deborah Harkness just for the heck of it.  

What's on your nightstand?

Monday, September 17, 2012

In Due Time

The first day of fall rolled into today.  We had a few hours of cold, rainy weather.  Perfect soup weather.  I knitted Henry's winter hat while he read books and played with trains.  Good days.

I seemed to have temporarily lost my blogging mojo.  I apologize.  We've had vacations and ill relatives, a house to get ready for winter, a few unexpected expenses and all those little things that take up time.  However, in the few moments I have to spare I've been putting together a few great posts that I think will make up for it.


It's too easy to get wrapped up in the minutia of the day to day life.  Particularly as a work-away-from-home Mom it's too easy to discouraged when you feel like those hours you spend away aren't amounting to as much as you'd hoped.  But, if there's one thing being a parent has taught me is that you can only plan so much.  I used to be able to plan out long stretches of time and have it go, relatively, according to plan and to an extent I miss that.  I'm trying not to let myself plan too much any more.  Sure we have our little goals - savings accounts and things set aside for special occasions, to do lists for the house and family, but I'm trying to learn to let that go a little more. 

I try to remind myself that we are succeeding in living within our meanings on a small budget a large portion which is eaten up by daycare expenses.  One day we'll have that money again we'll be able to plow thru those student loans and have more wiggle room.  I remind myself that we wouldn't be anywhere near comfortable if I wasn't working and that's just the reality of it.  It's not a career mindset and it's not where I go to feel "fulfilled", it's what I do so that my son can see his father day to day and we don't have to fret about the heating bill or groceries and that's better than nothing.

It's easy to let the jealousy bug take a bite being surrounded, in real and blog life, by so many wonderful women who get to do things I can only dream off - stay home, not worry about the spacing of their desired children, etc., etc.  Sadly, I'm human and if you're reading this I've probably compared myself to you one too many times even though I don't know the ins and outs of your lives, you struggles or even your budgets.  But at least I'm honest, right?

The phrase I've been given, literally after prayer, is "In Due Time".  In due time we'll know when it's right to grow our family, but for now we're enjoying ever minute of Henry's life.  In due time we'll pay off those loans, but for now we should be proud in our ability to live well within our means.  In due time we'll get there.

In due time is such a strange phrase to have been given; it's not a yes and it's not a no.  Rather it's a "wait" and, well, who ever was giving me that message knows me to well because that is the one thing I'm terrible at doing.  So for now I wait for what will come in due time.

Monday, September 10, 2012


We're still here!  Well I should say we're back and have been from our little vacation.  Long and short of it was that it was great fun while being very low key - lots of lying around reading books and watching H. line up his trains for hours!  Seeing him amuse himself with one little basket of toys all weekend made me want to purge my house complete and give myself a pat on the back for having a toddler that can amuse himself.

But we came back and Fall was standing at the doorway - there are weddings to attend, food to process, things to make and winter to get ready for!  My housekeeping is lagging behind badly as I just want to get out and enjoy every minute of the perfect weather we've been having.  I would be happy if it never got above 82 degrees for the rest of my life.

I'm counting my blessing right now - we've been getting regular rain since the beginning of August so our CSA is thinking he'll give us and extra week or two of food and already we're freezing, drying and storing about half of our box each week because it's too much for us to go through!  And a great coworker gave me no fewer than 4 boxes of clothes and two bags of shoes that her boys had out grown.  Even after sorting through it all and only keeping half of it I probably wont' need to think about buying the kiddo a piece of clothing until next fall!  Plus she's promised more as her boys keeping growing seeing as she has a great desire to reclaim her basement from storage boxes.

Needless to say that Generosity and Community are among my favorite words right now.

I'll be back in a few days I'm sure as I finish getting things under control here!  Hope your Septembers are starting off well!
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