Sunday, January 11, 2015

Lenten Memory Verse Garden (printable)

We're getting ready for a new little one around here - I'm due on Palm Sunday. So I wanted to think ahead to have something educational for the kids during Lent - even if I'm not up to doing much later. When a sick little one kept me home from church today, I spent most of the day preparing this little paper lenten garden.

Since we started homeschooling, I've always liked the idea of a seasonal table - but I've never actually had one. Occasionally we have a seasonal centerpiece, and this fall/winter we decorated our kitchen window with a seasonal-wintery scene. My paper craft lovers had fun with the window, so I thought we'd do that again for Spring/Lent! We actually made our winter scene while it was still fall, and now that winter has only barely begun, I'm trying to hold myself back from starting Spring too early. But I think adding a new flower each week throughout the triodion might be just the right pace. By Pascha it will be Spring, and we'll have a full garden!

So here's how it works:

1. Print! I made up templates for a bunch of flowers in the style of Lois Ehlert's Planting a Rainbow - which we love! I think the easiest way to get lots of color without lots of work (or using lots of ink) is to print these templates on colored construction paper, but if you want to print them on plain white paper and color or paint them, of course you could also do that. The stems have memory verses taken from each Sunday Gospel during the Triodion and Pascha. Once they are printed, keep them handy in a folder. This will be a great reminder to Teach the Story each week.

2. Cut! This will be the most time consuming part, but you could easily break it up and only cut out what you need each week. Or better yet, make the kids do it.

3. Assemble! Each week, cut out the flowers and stems and any little extra leaves or bits you need as described in the weekly guide. I think we will glue together the parts of the flower, then tape the flower to the window. (In the picture below, they are just laid out on the floor, so the pieces aren't all attached properly :P ). As you do assemble your flower (or flowers), you can listen to the Sunday Gospel for the week provided by the Antiochian Archdiocese, and then review the memory verse.

My older daughter came home and found me cutting out construction paper and insisted on playing along. So we cut everything out and arranged all the parts on the floor. I'm glad we did a test run because we ended up printing and cutting out a few extras of some things, which I have described in the weekly guide, and you can see one way of assembling the flowers. Of course, they don't have to be assembled in any particular arrangement. The pdf (download here or embedded below) includes printing instructions, the weekly guide (telling you what you need, how to assemble, and what the memory verse is each week), and all the templates.

A few tips: 

  • The guide suggests printing all the pages one at a time to get the right colors, but I don't think its too difficult to do this: stack 1 white, 1 red, 1 yellow, 1 purple, 1 blue, 1 white, 4 green, and then print pages 1-10.
  • Print at actual size to get the biggest flowers. Your computer may worry that some of it is outside the printable area, but it shouldn't be a problem.
  • If you don't have white construction paper, use a medium weight drawing paper, card stock or regular typing paper in a pinch. The white flower page is the only sheet that contains color, but if you're printing all at once, go ahead and print in color.
  • We printed extra ferns for Palm Sunday to fill in the awkward spaces at the bottom. That way it will be pretty throughout Paschaltide. :)
  • Print the guide, too. Initially I thought I wouldn't print the instructions, but then I realized each week I will need to refer to what we need, and having that in the folder will be handy. On the same note, bookmark the Sunday's Gospel page so you can listen each week!
  • And a final thought - you could use these to build a memory verse garden outside of Lent - just don't print my memory verses, and write your own on the blank stems!

The Triodion begins on Feb. 1!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

Christ is born! Wishing you a blessed 2015! We went to bed early last night, but had brunch this morning with this yummy vasilopita recipe. Maybe next year we'll go back to a full size cake!

Our 2015 is a little lopsided, but surely that won't reflect the year ahead, eh?


We still haven't found the coin! This year the girls are old enough to understand and want to win the coin, so we've claimed the rest of the slices and will try again after dinner. :)

Friday, December 12, 2014

St. Lucia Day printable

Happy St. Lucia Day! After my very hectic St. Nicholas Day, I'm planning a bit of a low key St. Lucia Day - but still some fun, since it is also a name day in our house. I meant to make a sweet yeast dough, braid it into a ring and bake like this one,  but decided a bundt cake with candles will look nicely like a St. Lucia wreath or pancakes shaped like O's? Lucy Cats with all the fun shapes are more traditional, but also more time consuming, so I'll have to pass on those this year. 

We've been making gift tags with fingerprint animals and figures, ala pinterest, which lead to the idea for this little printable. All you need is to print this page (below) and some green, red, and yellow ink. Make a fingerprint wreath and candle flames, and color the rest if you like. [You could also cut and glue on construction paper if you don't have stamping ink.] The picture above is the test picture I made today, and I'll let the kids make their own tomorrow. Afterward, while they're still all inky, I'll give them blank paper and let them make their own designs (the ones that mommy doesn't bossily tell them how to make!).  This will delight my craft loving daughter and make a special, but easy morning, I think. 

Happy St. Lucia Day!

This png is sized for a full size page. Just grab and drop on your desktop to print.

This png is sized for a half page card. Print at actual size and fold paper in half for St. Lucia card.

Cookies for St. Nicholas Day

my finished cookies! The book shown is the Life of St. Nicholas by St. Nectarios Press.
We also like 
St. Nicholas: the Real Story of the Christmas Legend

Happy (belated) St. Nicholas day to all!

I love St. Nicholas day! We have enjoyed developing some traditions at our house to remember this great saint, and also his namesake, our child Nicholas. This year, however, St. Nicholas was also named the patron of our new mission church! So in addition to plans at home, I was busy planning for a celebration at church as well. It was such a lot of fun, and we're thrilled to have such a special patron. I really wanted to make a bunch of individual St. Nicholas cookies, and spent WAY too much time figuring out how. In the past I've made a large cookie for our family shaped like St. Nicholas, but to make the same thing, with a fasting recipe, in miniature, times 60 - was quite an ordeal. But I admit to having fun doing it!

I don't know if I'll repeat these next year, but I wanted to be sure to record all the things I wanted to remember to make it easier on myself if I do. Next time, much less trial and error, lets hope. Recipes and tips below!

Our table before breakfast. One little girl had discovered her treats. 

Our St. Nicholas day breakfast table with stickers and treats and stories and shoes. :)

Initially, I started my cookie baking by trying to make a speculaas recipe with a lovely cookie mold I bought months ago. They have lots of tips on this site also (scroll down to find the recipes and tips). Unfortunately, it was a total failure. I'll try again sometime, but I decided to go back to my sugar cookies recipe. 

However, I couldn't find a simple St. Nicholas cookie cutter that wasn't too Santa Claus-y, and I didn't want to shape them all individually. Finally, I created my own cookie cutter from a snowman by flattening the round bottom and squishing the hat into a point instead of a top hat. I traced the cutter on paper to seem the outline as I worked on it, and was pleased it didn't take too long. My cookie cutter was only about 2.5 inches tall, but spread a bit to make a 3" cookie.

I was able to add details with fine tip icing. I just use a baggie with a tiny corner clipped. I based my design on this simple one that is cute and cartoony, but with eastern bishop style from the St. Nicholas Center (scroll down and look on the right side bar for the Ukranian Nykolai Cookies).

Fasting sugar cookies
3 cups flour
1.5 cup sugar
1.5 cup non-butter (earth balance buttery sticks - no less that 60% veg oil!!)
3 tsp baking powder
3 tsp vanilla extract
3 zestlemon /3 TBSP lemon juice

Chill for 1 hour. Roll out and cut shapes. If you plan to leave the cookie face blank for skin, poke holes with a toothpick before baking to create dimples for the eyes. Bake at 345 for 10-15 minutes or until brown. Be sure to let the pans cool between baking. Let cool before glazing. Makes about 5 dozen with a small cookie cutter - which is great for church parties, but takes a long time to glaze and ice all of them! For home, cut recipe in half.

The cookies after baking: they spread a bit while baking, until I reused a pan without letting it cool. Then they held their shape very well, but were just a bit crunchy and too small to work on the details. I ended up liking the bigger ones better. 

Glaze Recipe
Note: if you want to make eyes with icing, you will need to glaze over face and use white icing to create a beard later. I learned this the hard way, which is why mine have no eyes. Pipe on to define shape, then spread with knife. Let harden before icing.

4.5 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
4 tablespoons light corn syrup
3-4 TBSPs of water, more if needed, but add sparingly

After cooling, I drew out my plans on a paper. Then I applied a glaze, leaving blank cookie for the face.
I squirted the glaze on to define the shape, and then spread it with a knife. This was a
bit time consuming. Next time I may just use a knife and cover the whole face with the glaze...

Fasting Royal Icing Recipe
After the glaze hardens you can pipe fine details on with a dark red. I added a bit of black to my red so that the icing wouldn't be too orangey red. A very fine tip (or tiny cut corner) will help make finer lines for better details. 

1.5 cups confectioners sugar
4 tsps water
2-3 tsps light corn syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
gel food coloring

Cookies with a dark red icing finely lined over the glaze for details. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


When I lost my last pregnancy at 14 weeks, I remember walking around in a surreal haze for a long time. The world kept going, the holidays were happening.

I remember walking around the store in this haze, with the girls in the cart and my mind far away. I wandered into the plant section to find something in bloom, flowers for my child. There wasn't much, but I chose a white Thanksgiving Cactus, hoping it would bloom again next year.

I am so glad I did. 

That first year, as I counted the weeks to finish my phantom pregnancy, as I wept in the middle of the day, as I scurried away from babies, I tended to my cactus. When fall came again, and the smell of the house reminded me of the child not in my womb, it ached so. And I was so very sad for the child that no one else seemed to remember. And, as if to tell me, "Don't despair, I remember," my cactus burst forth in new blooms.

Every year, it seems a little bit harder to talk about, as he becomes more distant. We celebrate his name day with much joy, and it seems to wash away the sadness. This year we have a new little one growing and kicking. I am filled with joyful anticipation... but also reminded of someone missing.

To all of those grieving during these holidays, don't despair! Christ remembers, and offers hope of blooms in the darkness.

With the saints give rest, O Christ, to the soul of Thy servant where sickness and sorrow are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting .

Monday, November 17, 2014

40 Day Nativity Printable and getting organized

If you read my blog for very long, you'll find that there are two things that I love the most: special breads with special shapes for holidays and the Jesse Tree. I get so excited about them and love to share when they turn out lovely. But I'm really bad at, like, everything else - so don't take this organization as the standard for the rest of my life.

This year, I started early to organize my ornaments and readings - not quite so handmade, but neat and tidy and that makes me happy.

1. I bought an ornament storage box from Lowes. We now have two sets of ornaments, so I wanted a way to organize the ornaments by day - and easily see if we're missing something. This box has 48 compartments, so I put two days in the first four compartments to make room for 52. I wrote the numbers in the compartments with a gold pen. We'll keep the box under the tree (once we have a tree!).

2. I printed my Jesse Tree readings. I'm using the Jesse Tree readings from the festal celebrations group. They also provided some additional readings for each day, which are really nice. Somewhere I downloaded a pdf with the scripture readings and additional readings combined (I can't find the source for this pdf! does anyone know where it came from?), and I had this printed and coil bound at fed/ex kinkos. It can be pricey - but I'm always very happy with things I print there, and now we'll have a nice book for years to come.

We keep the book in a basket in the living room with our other read alouds and nativity books, and my Old Testament timeline in a plastic sleeve. We try to read at night after dinner, but don't sweat it if we get behind. I'm so grateful for all of the people who organized the Jesse Tree ornaments and readings in the first place! 

3. I made an easy 40 day Advent calendar printable. While I LOVE the Jesse Tree, it doesn't provide a visual way to see how far you've come/have left to go - and you can't find commercial calendars with 40 days. There are a lot of complicated projects you can do to make your own, but this year I made a simple printable instead. We put it on the fridge, and I thought we could draw the ornament symbol or X each day. Grab the PNG below to print.

These organizers aren't necessary, of course, but now they're done - they make my fast a bit simpler and prettier - and maybe they'll make next year easier, too. So hopefully I can continue to move through the fast a bit more quietly now.

Wishing you a good fast!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Old Testament Timeline Printable for Jesse Tree

Okay, I'll admit it: I started playing Christmas music yesterday. 

with a few sweet ornaments from our ornament exchange group
I'm getting ready for one of my favorite family traditions of the whole year. During the Nativity Fast we do a Jesse Tree, with readings and ornaments from the Old Testament that lead to the birth of Christ. I've noticed my children don't always have a good sense of how the different events relate to one another. For years, I've wanted a Bible Timeline to provide a context for the stories we tell. There are several commercial ones: most have a lot of text and dates and are more involved than I need. I really like this one with all the pictures, but its 10' long! That just won't work for our home. 

So I obsessed over it for 48 hours, and made my own. I drew a simple cartoon history of the Old Testament. It doesn't include every prophet and king and favorite story (because otherwise it would be 10' long!), but it provides a big picture, so when you're reading your favorite story you can point and say, "this happened here." I'm hoping it will help my kids develop a sense of the continuity of the story.

I drew the timeline over 5 sheets of paper, but through the magic of Adobe, I've squished it onto a single printable page. Yes, ONE page. The pictures are tiny, but they are simple and readable, so I think it works. 

And its for you, too! Wishing you a good Nativity fast! Grab the printable PDF here - it includes a black and white page, and one with a little color. 

If you don't want the teeny-tiny version, you can order it in poster form from Zazzle in various sizes and paper qualities. I haven't actually done this yet, but I might. Let me know if you do! Click the embedded poster image below to head over to zazzle.

*I've cross-posted this on wewilsons blog to share the fun.