A blog where families who love and live the Catholic Faith can share, encourage and support each other.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Continental Knitting or Confessions of a Knitting Numbskull

By Vicky

Since I started to blog, a few months ago, I've noticed that many fellow Catholics - and homeschoolers, in particular - share my love for home crafts and the arts. I've found that the blogging world is full of inspiring photos, ideas and directions for a wide array of different projects, and blogging, itself, is often a very creative and inspiring activity. Though I enjoy using modern technology, it is the old, traditional crafts and vintage styles which appeal to me the most. This is, probably, because of the deeply satisfying and relaxing nature of these highly skilled occupations, which, generally, result in practical objects of timeless beauty. Though I am far from being an expert, I enjoy smocking, knitting, gardening and cooking; and I am always excited to discover new crafts or techniques, and to learn new skills.

At the moment, I am working, rather laboriously, on a knitted jumper for my 5 year old son, Joel. It has taken me a whole month just to finish the back section of this garment because my knitting skills are primitive, to say the least. I used to watch my mother and grandmother knit, when I was a child, and I remember being amazed at the speed at which the wool passed through their needles. Their fingers would fly so quickly that they would seem as a blur to my eyes. Unfortunately, though I learnt how to knit, I didn't acquire the correct technique that they used to such great effect. As a result, whenever I knit, my arms swirl around in a big, circular motion and my fingers struggle to control the yarn in a tragic display of wasted energy. To a skilled and seasoned knitter, it would prove a most painful sight!

For years now, I have persevered with this unique and highly inefficient practice and, despite my snail-pace progress, I have managed to produce a few useful and attractive jumpers of which I am, more than justifiably, proud. I, probably, would have continued in this manner indefinitely, knitting only small-sized outfits which often grow more slowly than their intended recipient, and restricting my knitting ambitions to the limits of my feeble skills, if I hadn't discovered a new way of knitting. Yes, an easy and super-efficient method exists for hitherto knitting numbskulls! It's called Continental or left-handed knitting, and it used to be quite popular, before the Second World War.
The YouTube video above explains the differences between English knitting and this superior technique, which is preferred by most professional knitters. Basically, the biggest difference is that the yarn is held in the left hand and slipped over the needles, when using the Continental method. This makes for a much quicker and smoother motion as, instead of throwing the yarn, the yarn is simply caught up in the natural movement of the needles.

I have a long way to go before I perfect the method - my habits are long-ingrained and it takes time to become competent in a new skill - but, at least, I can see a future beyond baby bootees and doll's blankets, now. Who knows? Maybe, one day, I might surprise my husband with an oversized fishing jumper for his birthday!!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cooking with the saints...this week

A busy week of saints and cooking.

For how better to remind ourselves, our children, our families, of the saints and the feast days, than by reading, praying, attending Mass, talking...and eating together.

Building memories of the liturgical year... building a sense of the faith, a sensus fidei , a connection with the saints.

October 17... St Ignatius of Antioch...who wrote. " I am the wheat of Christ"... And we made whole wheat pancakes.

October 18.... St Luke....and jam tarts. Why tarts for St Luke? Traditionally in England, this feast falls in the midst of the Banbary festival and autumn Banbary (fruit ie fig and raisin) tarts are served.

October 19... St Peter of Alcantara, who, among other things, was the spiritual director of St Teresa of Avila. Avila Potatoes.

October 21.... Blessed Charles I of Austria ... And Austrian Coffee Cake for dessert.

October 22..... Blessed Pope John Paul II. A perfect day to try Polish recipes....Sweet Polish Cherry Cake?

October 23...... The Franciscan St John of Capestrano, who travelled with St Bernardine of Sienna, encouraging devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. This saint is often depicted with angels in the background. A delicious ending to the week of saints and of cooking...Self-Frosting Angel Cake.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sacramental Preparation

This year Jelly Bean made her First Confession and First Holy Communion.  We are in the blessed position of being able to prepare our children ourselves.  The majority of the resources we used I have used before to prepare her older siblings, although I added a few new titles this time around..

The New St Joseph First Communion Catechism - Fr Lovasik
I have used this little book with all my children, a great little gem to make certain I have covered all bases.  

Ten Eager Hearts - Sister of Notre Dame
An OOP gem; each story contains incredibly inspiring stories of children preparing for their FHC and their prayers to Jesus after their first reception.
The author also wrote 'True Stories for First Communicants’ and ‘First Communion Days’ republished by Neumann Press.

Patron Saint of First Communicants: The Story of Blessed Imelda Lambertini - Mary Fabyan Windeatt
Only a slim volume, but so inspiring.  Imelda's love of Our Blessed Lord and her desire to receive Him in the Blessed Sacrament shines throughout. This is a must read for us, I have read it to each of our children as they prepare for their First Holy Communion.

First Holy Communion for Little Catholics - Fr Demetrius Manousos
A beautiful little book published by Guild Press in the 1950s.  Solid teaching, written for a child to easily understand.   

My Jesus and I - Aloysius Heeg
I only began using this book with Princess after Margaret alerted me to this gem, previously it had been gathering dust on my shelf. The text is thorough but easily understood, each chapter has three sets of questions. The first corresponds to the chapter, 2nd to the Baltimore Catechism and the third are review questions.  Very solid

Eucharistic Adoration Coloring Book - Katherine 
Beautiful illustrations; symbols of the Eucharist, vessels of the liturgy, images of saints with Eucharistic devotion. Only a new find.

The Weight of the Mass - Josephine Nobisso
A shabby, penniless old woman enters the baker's shop as he is preparing luscious creations for the king's wedding, which is about to take place in the city cathedral. Few are expected to attend, as the populace has grown cold and neglectful about their faith. When the baker refuses to give the old woman even a crust of stale bread, she offers to say a Mass for him, in exchange for food. Scoffing, he writes "One Mass" on a tiny piece of paper, places it on his scale, and tries to overbalance it with heaps of his finest pastries, but to no avail. The Mass outweighs them all. Inspired by a real story, lovely watercolours. Picture book.  A true treasure.

The Most Beautiful Thing in the World - Susan Brindle
The youngest angel in Heaven is sent on a quest to find the most beautiful thing on earth. A red rose? Birds and butterflies? Puppies and kittens? A beautiful baby? No, each time the other angels send him back to earth to keep looking. Finally the angel visits the church and finds a surprising answer. The Sacrament of Confession.  To be honest I'm not really a fan of Brindle's books, they are too wordy but we'll use it until I find something better.

Read more of Erin's posts as Seven Little Australians and Counting.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Spanish dinner for St Teresa of Avila

St Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church.

 The Holy Father spoke of St Teresa " as a true teacher of Christian life for the faithful of every time. In our society, which all too often lacks spiritual values, St Teresa teaches us to be unflagging witnesses of God, of his presence and of his action. She teaches us truly to feel this thirst for God that exists in the depths of our hearts, this desire to see God, to seek God, to be in conversation with him and to be his friends."

 In honour of St Teresa, we planned a dinner from Spain. Tonight we made Vegetarian Paella and Nigella Lawson's Spanish Omelette.

 I have to admit to being a Nigella- wannabe. I love her recipes; reading her cookbooks is an escape....she doesn't just give a recipe but draws a cosy picture.

 But if you, like me, are Not-Quite-Nigella, then perhaps try this Five Minute Spanish (Potato) Omelette ..from another NQN, with a very popular foodie blog....

 And if you like meat, try some other paella recipes . We have made Easy Paella and also Easy Chicken Paella in previous years, in honour of this saint.

 Most of all, enjoy your cooking and eating together for, in St Teresa's words.."From silly devotions and from sour-faced saints, good Lord, deliver us"

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Turning Off the Screen

Joyfully we listen to the sound of children playing outside in the winter sun, inside the computer screens sit silent. Far too often lately the children have been indoors grouped around the computer screens, finally however we have declared 'enough!'

For the first nine years of our marriage the only electronic screen in our home was a rarely used computer. Life was far simpler, with no TV/DVDs and very minimal computer exposure, our children played outside for hours; in the sandpit, climbing trees and building from scraps of timber; inside they spent many hours crafting, playing with jigsaws and 'dressing up'.

As much I wish it had, life didn't stay so simple, there came the day we caved and bought a television (to watch The Test Match.) At first our screen was limited to DVDs, several years later we added an aerial, then we bought a couple of faster computers, two years ago we added a PlayStation, then more computers and recently we were gifted an XBox.

Whilst we still discern carefully the suitability of television programs, DVDs and gaming discs, we have over a period of time slid into a pattern of spending more time on electronic pursuits than we feel healthy.

A few months ago I read Last Child in the Woods; Saving our Children from a Nature-Deficit Disorder. Louv discusses the importance of children connecting with Nature and how many children today are simply not spending time outdoors, one of the reasons for this is electronic media. I began researching the impact of screen time on children and recently I've been googling to find out just how much electronic exposure per day is recommended. Children under two should have NO screen time and children over two have one to two hours only.

My research findings are not unfamiliar to us, nor are we surprised. We've long known from observation the impact of too much screen time on children. They become fractious and lethargic. Most worrisome their creativity is effected, and they are less likely to engage in outdoor play.

We have of course, tried various methods to enforce screen restrictions at times but our current method seems to be producing the best results. The study (computer room) door is staying locked until 7.30pm every night, nor are DVDs watched until about this time. This means of course I have to lead the way, so I'm finding it a little difficult to find blogging time, but it is so worthwhile.

As we've lived through 'screen detox' before we're familiar with the patterns. After a few days of aimlessness; physical activity increases, the children reconnect with nature and creativity abounds:)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ice Cream!

October 12 is the feast day of Our Lady of the Pillar.

You can read more of this Marian apparition at St Maximilian Kolbe...the blog of the Militia of the Immaculata of Australia.

Our Lady appeared to St James the Apostle when he was in despair over few converts to Christianity. And his faithfulness in building a shrine in her honour was rewarded with the growth of Christianity in Spain.

A perfect day to remember St James with this dessert...Coupe St. Jaques. Literally, an ice cream cup for St James.

Fill parfait glasses with two or three different types of fruit, top with ice cream , pour over liqueur and syrup, and then top with whipped cream.

And say the litany of Our Lady!

If you want to make your own ice cream, here is a very simple recipe..and one that has never failed me.

Start with two cups whipping cream and one tin of sweetened condensed milk. Whip the cream to the stiff peaks stage. Add flavourings or add-ins to the condensed milk. Stir the condensed milk into the cream. Put in a covered container and freeze. I usually freeze overnight.

Simple and luscious.

Add-ins and flavourings? Chocolate chips, Nutella, nuts, peanut butter, coffee, vanilla, mashed banana or strawberries, dried fruit, glade cherries.....you name it!

Monday, October 10, 2011


By Sue Elvis

I often wish there was a Catholic children’s fiction section in our local bookshop. I’d love to be able to browse the shelves when I went into town and come home with something worth reading to our children. Obviously, the mainstream publishers don’t think there is a big enough market for Catholic fiction. They are not interested in this type of book. But there are good Catholic books being published. And there must be lots of families like ours who want to read them. We just have to do a bit more work to discover them.

Some months ago I heard that Fr John O’Neill had written another book for children, Benjamin. We’d read a couple of his previous books and enjoyed them immensely so we couldn’t wait to find out what his new book would be like. We all waited impatiently for Benjamin to be published and when we saw the book for sale at a recent homeschool camp, we didn’t hesitate. We knew we had to have a copy.

I have just read Benjamin aloud to my girls aged 6, 9 and 13. We read a chapter or two a day until we finished the book last Friday.

On the back of the book it says:

As a young Jewish boy, working on the family farm in Galilee, Benjamin wants to experience so much more of life. After a bitter argument with his older brother Reuben, Benjamin leaves home, his flute in hand, searching for adventure.

Benjamin’s journey takes him to Rome, where he makes both friends and enemies and learns just how difficult life can be, before returning home to Galilee.

In Galilee, Benjamin again crosses paths with his childhood friend, Youshua. Their encounters will have a deep and lasting impact on Benjamin’s life, as the story reaches its dramatic conclusion.

This blurb accurately describes the story but leaves so much out.

Fr O’Neill is such a clever writer. As we were reading the book, we met so many of the familiar stories of the New Testament but they were presented from a different angle, one which really engaged our imaginations, got us emotionally involved and gave us much to think about.

I think we all guessed how the book was going to end but I don’t think we were quite prepared for how that ending was going to affect us. I began to wonder if I’d be able to finish reading the final page. My voice started to shake but I did make it right to the last word. Then I looked up. Charlotte had streams of tears running down her face. Sophie was about to sob. That was it. I burst into tears myself. Gemma-Rose grabbed the tissue box and handed it around.

“That was a really good book, wasn’t it?” I managed to ask. All the girls nodded their heads vigorously. I think we will remember this story for a long time. I hope that the truths that Benjamin finally learnt will also ‘have a deep and lasting impact’ on my own children.

Cardinal Newman Faith Resources is stocking Benjamin. They might also have copies of Fr O’Neill’s previous children’s books Cappy and Nor Life, Nor Death, both of which we enjoyed immensely. But be warned: Nor Life, Nor Death, like Benjamin, might reduce you to tears. We sobbed our way through the final chapter.

I’d love to hear about any good Catholic children’s books you have read. We are always on the lookout for new treasures.

Please share more of my posts on my blogs Sue Elvis Writes, Stories of an Unschooling Family and Stories of Grief, Love and Hope

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Monastery Bread for St Bruno

St Bruno , with the encouragement of Bishop St Hugh of Greenoble, founded the Carthusian order of monks , their monastery being at Chartreuse.

I have been fascinated by monastery cookbooks in my time..simple meals to feed a large number of people with minimal fuss or cost.

Some of my favourites?

Well, I own this one....Twelve Months of Monastery Soups. Delicious soup recipes for wintry family dinners.

And what comes to mind, to eat with a monastery soup? Monastery bread, of course!

Simple, rustic, crusty bread.

On the feast of St Bruno, or some time this weekend, why not bake bread?

Here is a simple recipe for rustic, hearty, no knead bread....

No-Knead Bread

3 cups bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 3/4 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, ( overnight!) at warm room temperature.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel with flour; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 200 degrees. Put a heavy pot (I have used Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover and bake 30 minutes, then remove cover and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack. And let it cool a bit before slicing!

Eat and enjoy, in honour of St Bruno.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Cooking for the Feast of St Francis

October 4.The feast of St Francis.

St Francis' ardent love of God merited for him the name of Seraphic.

What can we cook with our families on this feast?

Well, tradition holds that on his deathbed, St Francis asked for Frangipane cream or Moastaccioli (almond biscotti).

Desserts! Perfect to cook and eat together!

The book A Continual Feast, by Evelyn Birge Vitz, a great aide to celebrating the liturgical year with food , has this recipe for Moastaccioli:

1 pound blanched almonds (approx 500g)
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon, or 1 teaspoon vanilla
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
Approximately 1 cup flour

Chop the almonds very fine or coarsely grind in a blender.

In a bowl combine the nuts, honey, cinnamon, and egg whites. Mix thoroughly. Gradually stir in enough flour to form a thick paste.

On a lightly floured surface, knead the paste until smooth and stiff. Roll out to about 1/4 inch. Cut into diamond shapes, about 2 1/2 inches long. Place the diamonds on a lightly buttered and floured baking sheet. Let dry for 1 to 2 hours.

Bake in a preheated 250° F (150 degrees Celsius) oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until set. Do not let brown.
Enjoy with coffee, tea or hot Milo!

Feast Of St Therese of Liseux or the Little Flower

Monday, 3 October 2011

Feast Of St Therese of Liseux or the Little Flower

She is the Saint of the little ways. I have learnt through parenting and particularly its the little ways that we see grace and Gods love.

We had grand plans for this feast day. Brid had been given a St Therese statue by her Grandma last Christmas- they share the same Patron Saint. This all came unstuck once we realised that a retreat for teen girls was on this weekend.
So before we left for our journey to join this retreat, we hurriedly place St Therese on the family dining table were flowers were waiting for her.

As St Therese is also celebrated in the old calendar on 3rd October, we will be enjoying her feast day then. .....
I first heard of her through a friend many years ago. I read her book ‘The story of a Soul’, and the story really didn’t capture my attention. Some time later, Brid chose her as her confirmation Saint. She had many saints chosen so she prayed and asked the Saint wanting to be her Confirmation Saint to make it known to her. Brid decided to do a novena to St Therese, and nearly everyday she received a flower or a rose. On the last day, a person in a shop handed her a bunch of roses. Brid knew St Therese was the Saint for her.
So happily she added this name to her given names on her confirmation day and constantly asks for her intercession.
Recently I read a lovely inspiring book. A little way of homeschooling – Suzie Andres. St Therese again.
Is she trying to tell me something, is this a message for me. Everywhere I go, she is there, present, waiting for me. I feel totally surrounded by her.
So today on her feast day, I took myself to Mass and I found myself attending Adoration and Benediction afterward. It was a very peaceful and calming experience.

All day I was thinking, “I wonder how Brid is celebrating this feast day? What is Mum doing? How are the girls and the Sisters getting on? Are they enjoying each others company.

Brid dressed up as St Therese at a Saints Party, aged 9
How did you celebrate St Therese of Liseux’ feast day.?