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

Friday, December 14, 2012

Our Australian Catholic Families Facebook Community

Have you visited our Australian Catholic Families Facebook page? It was set up as a link to this blog. But the page doesn't just contain blog post notifications. We regularly post other information, photos and links that might interest families, such as...

Links to Catholic books and freebies
Links for craft, Advent and Christmas activities
Links for the Year of Faith
Information about events that are coming up
Beautiful and inspiring photos
Links to interesting articles on other blogs
Links for recipes

There is also an opportunity to comment and share your own information.

So please follow the link, have a look around, 'like' our page and get involved. Lots of people have been 'talking' and  it would be lovely to see our online community grow even bigger. 

Looking forward to seeing you on our page!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Speculatius for the Feast of St Nicholas

Written by Sue Elvis

It’s not too late to bake up a batch of Speculatius to celebrate the Feast Day of St Nicholas...

1 cup butter
1 cup lard
½ tsp nutmeg
4 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
2 cups brown sugar
4 ½ cups sifted flour
½ cup sour cream
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ cup chopped nuts

  • Cream the butter, lard and sugar together.
  • Add sour cream alternately with sifted dry ingredients
  • Stir in the nuts
  • Knead the dough into rolls
  • Wrap the rolls in plastic wrap, chill in fridge for a few hours or overnight
  • Roll the dough thinly and cut into shapes
  • Bake in a moderate oven for 10-15 minutes
  • Serve with warm mulled wine or just a plain glass of red!

We've made a huge batch of Speculatius. We'll enjoy some tomorrow on the Feast of St Nicholas. We'll freeze the rest and eat them at Christmas.

These biscuits are guaranteed to be very delicious.

PS To be totally accurate, my daughters did the baking. I just wrote the post!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

How the Grinch stole Christmas.

File:Grinch poster.jpg

Most of us know the famous Dr Seuss story where the Grinch is able to infiltrate Whoville and steal "Christmas" from right under the little Who's noses.

If you are a Christian in these modern and secular times this may be an all too familiar feeling - that Christmas is being stolen from under us and transformed into something that could be called worship, but certainly not that of Christ Our Saviour!

It is the worship of gifts, money, decorations, food and festivities and all under the popular term of "happy holidays" - a very non Christ like term.

So what can we do? How can we keep Christ in Christ-mas?

Of course it starts with our spiritual lives and our personal worship of Jesus. He must be born in the stable of our heart.  If we have this part right then we are on the right track as we will be a beacon for others as the light of Christ shines forth from us. But there are practical things we can do too.

Do not adopt any of the popular secular terms associated with Christmas. "Happy holidays" does not represent Christ in any way.

Do not buy anti-Christmas propaganda! This means only sending holy and appropriate Christmas cards, even to non believing friends (this has the added bonus of a holy image being displayed in a non- Christian home, even if it's only for a short time).

Ask your post office specifically for religious Christmas stamps. If we don't create the demand they will not supply them.

If you are celebrating Christmas with some non Christians do not adopt their accepted methods of celebrating. Keep your interior recollection and keep the day holy! Set a positive example.

Make Christ centered family traditions. Mass, advent wreaths, special prayers are just a few holy devotions. One of our traditions is to set an extra place at our Christmas dining table for The Unseen Guest.

It is an absurd thing to throw a great big party on someone's birthday, sate ourselves and make merry, all the while ignoring He whose birthday it is, especially when it is the birthday of the King of the universe!

Merry Christmas and abundant blessings to you all!

You can read more about me and my family here.
This post was co-authored by my husband Patrick.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Empty Shoes

Do your children put out their shoes on St Nicholas' Eve? Do they hope to wake up and find St Nicholas has visited in the night and left them a treat?

Written by Sue Elvis, on the Feast of St Nicholas, 2010

Last night, St Nicholas forgot to come. Sophie couldn’t believe it. Her face fell as she peered into her shoes…nothing. They were as empty as they’d been the previous evening. There was nothing in any of the shoes, from the giant black boots at the head of the line to the small buckle-ups at the end.

‘You’re up much too earlier,” I said hastily. “Back to bed. St Nicholas probably hasn’t got here yet.” The girls dived back under their blankets.

Rustle! Rustle! Rustle! Rustle!

Some time later: “Is it time to get up yet?...Wow! Look! Two sorts of chocolate coins!”

We never intended the children to believe that St Nicholas really fills children’s shoes with gold coins. It all started off as a bit of fun. I thought we were all aware that it was a pretence. But somewhere along the way, the younger girls grew up thinking the chocolate coins were actually delivered by the patron saint of children. I suspect their older brothers are to blame. They couldn’t resist bringing a bit of magic into their sisters’ lives.

We all want to create a bit of magic for others. When I was growing up, my mother provided many magical moments for me and my sisters. She was good at playing the Santa game. She could always come up with answers to such tricky questions as, “Why is Santa wearing glasses? He could see perfectly well when he was in that other shop.”

A few weeks before Christmas, my mother would take us to the department store in the city to visit Santa. We’d whiz up to the top floor in a special rocket elevator complete with flashing lights and buttons of all descriptions. “Next stop Santa’s grotto!” announced the pilot. The doors slid open and with eyes wide, we emerged into a wondrous, snowy land. Pixies and elves were waiting to greet us. Where was Santa? He couldn’t be seen. He was deep inside his fairy tale grotto. My sisters and I joined the queue of other excited children. Soon we on our way down a sparkling, twinkling, magical tunnel that led to Santa’s enormous chair. Finally it was our turn to climb up onto Santa’s huge lap. We told the very plump old man what we wanted for Christmas. He told us to make sure we were good girls before giving us each a little gift. Of course, we were all very determined to be as good as possible, at least until Christmas Day.

On Christmas Eve my mother would help us pour a glass of milk for Santa. We’d add a plate of biscuits in case he felt hungry. And a bunch of carrots for the reindeer. We put everything on a tray where Santa would be sure to see it. Then it was off to bed early because everyone knows Santa doesn’t come until all the children are asleep. How difficult it was to settle down! But finally our eyes would close and we’d be dreaming of pillow cases bulging with presents. One year I woke in the middle of the night and I was certain I saw Santa’s black boots disappearing through the doorway. At the end of my bed was a huge stack of gifts.

Yes, I have some very magical memories of Christmas because of the efforts of my mother and father.

When Andy and I had our own family we wanted to provide an exciting and magical Christmas for our children too. We started off trying to celebrate in the same way I’d known as a child. But, unlike my mother, I wasn’t very good at pretending games. I felt sure I’d forget something and then my children would be so disappointed. I didn’t want them to become disillusioned when they realised everything was not really true. I wondered if we could have an exciting and magical Christmas without keeping up the myth of Santa.

When our first children were very young, I became a Catholic. A whole new world opened up for me. I discovered something far better than the magic of Santa. It is the miracle of Jesus. The thought of God, the Creator of the World becoming a little baby and being born on Christmas Day is just beyond comprehension. The myth of Santa just pales into insignificance. We didn’t need to pretend to believe in a myth. We could believe in the Truth.

So we swapped all the Santa traditions for the traditions of Advent and I hope our children will treasure their Christmas memories just as much as I treasure mine.

I think that Santa can have a place in a Catholic celebration of Christmas. We all know the myth has its roots in a real saint. And there are so many aspects of a Santa Christmas that find an echo in the Catholic celebration: the anticipation, the waiting, the hope, the gifts, the love, the charity, the excitement, the work and sacrifice involved…If I’d had my mother’s skills at pretending…

But I can’t even remember to fill a few shoes with chocolate coins on St Nicholas’ Eve. What if I forget to do this task before I go to bed tonight? What will I say if, once again, my girls discover empty shoes on St Nicholas’ Day? Well, I could come clean and confess my forgetfulness and admit I don’t make a very good saint. How will my girls cope? Will they feel as empty as their shoes when they discover they believed in a myth? Of course not. They have something much better to believe in: the Truth. And that is all they need to have a truly magical Christmas.

In case you're wondering, Saint Nicholas did a fine job that year. Our children were delighted to see their shoes overflowing with chocolate. Well done, St Nicholas!

I blog at Sue Elvis Writes. Please feel welcome to visit and share more of my stories.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Cornflake slice and an introduction!

Hi! My name is Kelly and I'm a new contributor to this blog. My husband and I have four children and we have been homeschooling for 7 years. I thank you all for having me here and hope I can make some positive contributions! If you would like to know more about me you will find my blog here.

Mother in Law's recipes are great - these ladies who cooked on wood stoves (and my MIL still does) and fed the hungry hoards (my MIL had 10 little ones to feed) really knew what they were doing. We "modern" homemakers can learn so much from their ways. This recipe is from my Mum in law :)

125g butter
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup cornflakes
1 cup desicated coconut

Melt butter and honey together, add to mixed dry ingredients. Place in a shallow slice tin, press. Cook in moderate oven until golden brown (about 15 minutes) and leave in tin to cool. Turn out and cut into squares.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Beautiful art images for the daily rosary

I shared this posting a couple of years ago but it has been a constant blessing to our lives using these images in the recitation of the family rosary, so I thought this would be great to share for the month of the Holy Rosary ~ October.

I had mentioned recently that we have been using beautiful images to use for reflection and meditation during our daily, family rosary. Images that I know will sink deeply into the hearts of my children for life, creating cherished, prayerful memories. I know this can happen as I remember as a child, being facinated with my mother's daily prayer book. She knelt by her bed every morning with this book. It was filled with holy cards with prayers on the back and using them, she would recite her prayers for the morning. Inside this book (which I think from memory, might have been a latin missal) there were the most beautiful images of the life of Our Lord and Our Lady, many were the were work of Danish artist, Carl Bloch and it explains why I love his work so much. With the use of so many of the world's greatest artists work, it's also an effective way to cultivate in children, the love and appreciation for the finest art in history.

I remember in Maria Von Trapp's autobiography Maria: My Own Story she shares a similar childhood memory:

"In these first years of my childhood, God entered my life for the first time in a very gentle and loving way. My foster mother was a deeply religious person, truly pious. Every morning she would go to church, many times taking me with her, and I remember how I often looked at her rather than at the altar. Her face radiated kindliness and the love of God.

At home she would sometimes take me on her lap in the evening and go through an illustrated Bible in large print. I am sure I would think the pictures atrocious now, but at that time they were a source of great happiness. I remember a child Jesus in a pink gown with yellow curls, His mother all dressed in blue. I couldn't get enough of it. And then at the gruesome pictures of our Lords' passion, my little heart welled up in pity and misery. Once my foster mother found me in a corner curled up over the Bible as I pierced the eyes of those bad men torturing our dear Lord - with a crochet hook."

We have been using these images on our TV screen, just below our altar, for a couple of months now and it has been a wonderful help to us all. I find if I am reciting the rosary out of the home, I now recall images I love in my head to assist in my meditation.

I am at the present moment, sitting the children down and stepping them through the images, folder by folder, encouraging them to look for the symbols and images in the paintings, explaining to them what they all mean (similar to what they do in one of the Seton homeschooling Art books). It has been a wonderful learning experience for us all.

I have purposely chosen images that visualize the invisible spiritual world around us. You could have a painting that has only Our Lord being baptized by St John the Baptist in the river Jordan, very simple and straightforward, but doesn't everyone want to see the heavens open up, the God the Father and the Holy Spirit surrounded by beautiful angels, the light pouring down upon baptism? Catholic paintings emphasize the reality of the spiritual in a wonderous way. Catholic symbolisim also speaks strongly to us, so it is great to see it in a painting.

So I have finally shared here at Starry Mantle my 20 images for each decade/mystery of the rosary (20 mysteries all up). You can click open each image and it will blow up to full size, which then can save. I have one master folder on the desktop called "Holy Rosary" when I click it open, there are four folders, "Rosary 1" "Rosary 2" etc. Each of these folders are structured the same, click one open and there are four more folders, "Joyful Mysteries 1" "Luminous Mysteries 1" etc. When I click open one of these folders, say the Joyful Mysteries 1 for example, you will find 5 folders, "Annunciation 1" "Visitation 1" etc.

When you click open one of these mysteries, there are the 5 images and the Irfanview slideshow for those 5 images. It is this Irfanview slideshow I click open to display on our large TV screen (which is attached to a computer) ~ the TV screen is directly under our large family altar. If your TV is not readily turned into a computer screen maybe you can think of a way of placing the images on a DVD disk as a slideshow? I'm sure there would be a way. For some people their computer is a laptop and could be placed near their altar for the recitation of the rosary, or plug a cord from their laptop into their main TV screen and use the screen as the computer.

So why so many images? We discovered years ago when we use to have images in folders for the children, it was good to rotate images in a way that they were seeing the same image once every 10 days or so. The other reason is.....do you realise just how many BEAUTIFUL Catholic old masters paintings there are?? It's a very hard job to short list with only 5 or 10 pictures.

The opening for the TV cabinet has wooden doors which we can close and lock at any time. So we open them up for the times we want to watch EWTN, say the rosary or watch a video.

For those who do not want to place the images on the computer during the recitation of the rosary, you can just print some of the images and place them in folders, one for each of the children in the family, this is what we have done in the past.

Below are all the postings for each mystery of the rosary. Each mystery contains the twenty images (in groups of five) of old master paintings we have chosen to use for our rosary.

(The links below will take you to my personal blog, Under Her Starry Mantle)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Little Girl's Apron Tutorial

To fit approximately size 5, but is also multi fit.

Start with:

From main fabric -

11 x 7.5 " - Cut 2 (bodice)
45 x 13.5" - Cut 1 (skirt)

From contrasting fabric - 

25.5 x 3" - Cut 1 (waist band)
45 x 2.5" - Cut 1 (bottom of skirt)
24 x 3" - Cut 2 (waist ties)
22 x 2.5" - Cut 2 (neck ties)

*Please note that I refer to serging as overlocking throughout the tute (cos I'm Aussie!)

Take all the ties and press them in half. Open out, then press each long edge in 1/4 inch. Press one end in 1/4 inch also. Fold over in half again.

Topstitch down the length of both sides of each tie (including across the short edge you folded in) Overlock the short raw edges that you didn't fold in on each tie.

Pin the neck ties 1/2" in from the sides of one of the bodice pieces. Place the other bodice piece on top with right sides facing. Pin, then stitch around 3 sides, leaving the bottom open.

Turn right sides out and press. Topstitch around the 3 sides.

Take the skirt piece and the bottom skirt piece. Sew them together, right sides facing. Overlock the raw seams, then press open. Overlock the sides and bottom of the skirt also.

Run 2 lines of gathering stitches along the top of the skirt. Gather up until it is the same length as the waistband. Pin the waistband to the top of the skirt, right sides together.

Now take the bodice. Measure and mark the centre of the skirt and place the bodice in the centre, on top of the waistband which will be wrong side up. The bodice will be right sides facing with the skirt. Pin on and remove pins from underneath where you pinned on the waistband so that you don't sew over them!

Sew along the waistband and over the bodice from one edge of the skirt to the other. Overlock the raw seams.

Press. Now topstitch the top of the waistband to the bodice, sewing along the line you made previously. No need to topstitch the full length of the waistband, just at the bodice to attach them together.

Take the waist ties and sew to the edge of the waistband on each side.

Your apron now looks like this. The last step is to fold in the overlocked edges on each side of the skirt and topstitch. When you fold in the edges the ties will face outward and will be caught in the stitching. Add an extra short line of stitching to the tie to secure it more to the waistband if you wish.
Now fold up the hem and stitch.

Lastly, give it to a little girl and make her smile!

I hope you enjoy this tutorial and make lots of pretty little aprons. I'd love to see what you make :)
You can use this tute for personal use and to make aprons to sell, provided you acknowledge me, Kelly Casanova as the original author. 

I'd really appreciate you letting me know of any mistakes or improvements - I'm no expert at writing tutes!

Please visit Kelly's blog, Embroidery and Design by Kelly Casanovato see more of her beautiful creations

Friday, September 14, 2012

How to Make a First Holy Communion Cake Big Enough for a Crowd

Written by Sue Elvis

Six year old Charlotte couldn't wait to receive her First Holy Communion. Everything had been arranged: she’d learnt her catechism, prepared for confession, tried on her white dress and veil. Only one more thing needed to be done: bake a celebratory cake.

Now there is nothing difficult about baking an ordinary sized cake, but what about baking a cake big enough to feed a crowd? Charlotte’s First Holy Communion took place at a homeschooling camp. There were thousands (really only a hundred or so!) children there. And all those children loved cake.

This is how we solved the huge cake problem:

I decided I would make a very simple cake using bought packet mixes.

I bought two large rectangular tins to bake the cakes in. (The kind used for roasting potatoes or chicken.)

I worked out how many packet mixes were needed for each large tin. To do this, I had to compare the capacity of one large tin to an ordinary sized cake tin, by filling the larger tin with water using the smaller tin as a measure.

I then decided how big a cake I wanted, using the large tin as my basic unit.

I can’t remember the exact measurements but let’s suppose…
One large tin equals 4 small cake tins…
And I wanted a cake 4 times the size of the large tin…
Then I had to buy 16 packet cake mixes.

Is this getting confusing? I feel like I'm doing a homeschoolers' maths problem…

I made up the cake mixes, poured them into the large tins and cooked them in the oven, two tins at a time.

I then wrapped each cooked-and-cooled cake in plastic wrap, and froze them until the day before the First Holy Communion.

Andy bought a large board from the hardware shop, and a packet of prepared white cake icing.

He designed some simple and appropriate decorations to go on top of the cake: a chalice, crosses, the Host… He drew them on baking paper and cut them out to make templates.

Andy then divided the icing into three pieces. One piece was coloured blue and one yellow, using food dyes. The third piece remained white. The icing was rolled out and the decorations were cut out using the paper templates. The decorations were then wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated.

On the morning of the First Holy Communion, we made up a large batch of simple butter icing: we creamed together softened butter and icing sugar to taste. (There are lots of recipes online.)

The thawed cakes were placed on the board. They were covered with the butter icing. The decorations were added to the top of the large cake. Voila! The cake was ready to be eaten after the First Holy Communion Mass.

Of course, if your cake doesn’t need to feed such a large number of people, and you want it to be very special, you could bake your cake from scratch. Here’s our favourite celebratory cake recipe.

You could also make a Confirmation cake the same way, using prepared icing Fruits-of-the-Holy-Spirit decorations. This is only a small cake but a larger rectangular cake could be made...

Or a baptism cake.

How about a simple wedding cake? This is the cake Imogen made for her big sister’s wedding. Each cupcake was decorated with silver balls and white icing flowers.

Charlotte’s First Holy Communion cake looked impressive. No one realised it was a packet mix cake. There was plenty for everyone. It was a great success. 

One very simple but delicious cake. And one very happy First Holy Communicant.

I blog at Sue Elvis Writes. Please visit to share more of my posts!