Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Preparation & Reflection: an Advent Dichotomy (and a Giveaway!)

This time of year, with holidays looming, brings about a sense of rushing and cramming. Of getting everything ready in time for Christmas only to collapse on December 25th from exhaustion. There are cookies to bake, cards to get in the mail, presents galore to purchase, parties to plan, and so forth. Just listing that makes me a little dizzy.

The culture demands that of us.

And then we have Advent. The Church gives us this beautiful season of quiet and focus leading up to Our Savior's birth. When I think of the Season of Advent (beginning this year on November 30th), the words 'Preparation' and 'Reflection' pop into my head. At first these words sound in opposition to one another. Really, you want me to be all prepared and still be in a quiet meditative reflective mood, too?

But, when you look at it with the focus being the state of your heart and your soul, it all makes sense. It fits so perfectly. As we ready sit back and reflect on where we are at in our heavenward journey and contemplate the great mystery of God coming to earth, we are able to perfectly prepare to celebrate the great feast of Christmas. 

In the hustle and bustle of the world around, it's so easy to render our focus askew. Let me share with you one way of getting your focus back to a true state of preparation and reflection. Blessed is She, the online devotional I have been privileged to be a part of, has made a beautiful Advent journal to write down your thoughts on the day's readings along with promptings to dig deeper. Each day includes the readings, and Sundays include an extra section on a Saint for the week and space for homily notes.

As you can clearly see, I was super excited to get my copy. Selfie immediately. And yes, I am wearing a hat inside. Our thermostat is broke, so temps in the house hover between 53 and 61 most of the time.

Back to the good stuff:

As of my last check, there were only 63 left in stock, so if you want one for yourself, a gift, or both, head over to the Blessed is She shop now to grab a copy before they're sold out. Each one costs only $19.99 and all proceeds go directly to keeping Blessed is She running (the website and the e-mail service). Your support is so appreciated!

I also have one copy to giveaway to you my lucky readers! This giveaway will run until this Sunday because I want to make sure I can get it in the mail to you, so you can have it in your hands for Advent.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You must comment on this blog post for any of your entries to be considered valid.

There are 13 possible entries, with a few options to come back daily and earn extra entries. I will use Rafflecopter's generator to choose the winner, who will then be announced here on the blog + via social media. Email address you provide will only be used to contact you if you win. U.S. and Canadian mailing addresses only. Entries will be accepted until 12:00am 24 November 2014. 

For more of my thoughts on Advent, check out these posts: 

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This post: Preparation & Reflection: an Advent Dichotomy first appeared on Two Os Plus More on 19 November 2014 

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Dozen Thanksgiving Picture Books

Thanksgiving is less than 2 weeks away, and other than pumpkin pie and a vague concept of thankfulness, my kids don't know tons about the holiday, so off to the library I went to find some awesome for our bookshelf. After sifting through an assortment of picture books, it only made sense to share our favorites with you.

So, here you go, a dozen books perfect for sharing Thanksgiving with your children: the turkey, the family, the gratitude, the crisp fall weather, all of it. 

It's Thanksgiving! by Jack Prelutsky + illustrated by Marylin Hafner

We're big fans of Mr. Prelutsky's 'Scranimals' here, so when I saw he was the author of this one, I knew it was one to grab. A collection of 12 short (often funny) poems perfect for celebrating.

Thanksgiving Is Here! by Diane Goode

Love Diane Goode's illustration style, so this was another obvious grab. Shows the joyful spirit that arrives alongside family plus it reminds me much of my family gatherings.

In November by Cynthia Rylant + illustrated by Jill Kastner

A focus on all that the month brings rather than just the holiday, this book is full of similes and metaphors, so perhaps a good early elementary introduction to those as well? Lovely art to depict the world readying for winter.

Sometimes It's Turkey, Sometimes It's Feathers by Lorna and Lecia Balian

The end twist on this vintage story is great - the one I got from the library actually was in tricolor, which was super fun for my ever vintage loving self. Mrs. Grimm finds a turkey egg and sets out to raise him...

This Is the Feast by Diane Z. Shore + illustrated by Megan Lloyd

I thought this was a great introduction to the story of the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving - the writing style keeps it light, but it includes a little of both the struggles and the successes of what the pilgrims found in the New Land.

Over the River and Through the Wood by Lydia Maria Child + illustrated by Christopher Manson

We also love the one illustrated by Brinton Turkle, but it is rather hard to find as it has been out of print for awhile. The woodcuts depicting this classic poem (that for some reason I always associate with Christmas - whoops!) are gorgeous and frame worthy. Definitely a beautiful book to read.

Little Bear's Thanksgiving by Janice + illustrated by Mariana

Another vintage one that I was mostly intrigued about since the author and illustrator's names aren't included. Anyhoo, it's a sweet old fashioned tale and I've found it at several libraries, so hopefully you can find it, too.

Thanksgiving with Me by Margaret Willey + illustrated by Lloyd Bloom

Another one that I picked up purely for the art, but then I was captured by the sweet love this mama shares with her little girl about all her tall brothers. Not that my brothers are super tall, but I could relate to the family love.

A Plump And Perky Turkey by Teresa Bateman + illustrated by Jeff Shelly

My sons personally found this one hilarious - a town is in search of the perfect turkey for their Thanksgiving meal, but none can be found. They host a contest and recruit a turkey to judge in hopes of solving their problems.

The Thanksgiving Story by Alice Dagliesh + illustrated by Helen Sewell

Vintagey art brings each of these stories about the early settlers and the first Thanksgiving to life. My two year old wasn't interested in sitting still to listen, but my kindergartener listened while I read the stories.

An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving by Louisa May Alcott + illustrated by Jody Wheeler

From the author of Little Women comes this tale of the Bassett family who were "poor in money, but rich in love." Simple pleasures abound. I think there are a few adaptations of this book around, but we got the one pictured above and enjoyed it.

Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende Devlin + illustrated by Harry Devlin

This is one from *my* childhood. A sweet story from the collection of 'Cranberry' books about not judging a person at first glance and realizing there is more to each person than meets the eye.

Enjoy! Do you have any favorites that I missed? Please share!

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This post: A Dozen Thanksgiving Picture Books first appeared on Two Os Plus More on 14 November 2014

Friday, November 7, 2014

7 Quick Ways to Celebrate Martinmas, the Feast of St. Martin of Tours

I meant to write a whole post about who St. Martin of Tours was and a more in depth "How to Celebrate…" guide, but it's been a fairly crazy week around here, so I'm hijacking 7 Quick Takes instead. 

Martinmas is coming up quick on Tuesday, November 11th, which also happens to be Veteran's Day. This will be our first year celebrating this feast as a family, and we're super excited. So here are 7 pretty easy ways you can get excited about this holy man, too!


Read his story.

Download a copy of The Life of Martin of Tours or find it within either Treasury of Saints and Martyrs or Saints and Angels: Popular Stories of Familiar Saints. As always if you don't already own these, check your library system - I have found many great Saint stories by doing so.

You can always read about him online, too. Holy Spirit Interactive has a pretty short but detailed summary of St. Martin's life here.


Color some pictures

Find one from one of these sites:

Kids N Fun
Waltzing Matilda
Found this one on Pinterest but it doesn't seem to work on its original site.


Have a simple autumn Feast

Overrun with squash, root veggies, and the like? We are! 

Haley and Daniel have a delicious looking stuffed butternut squash recipe in their E-book, Feast! or you could roast a simple chicken or goose (more traditional, but not as easy to find!). Anything Fall-ish goes! 

Go one step further - invite another family to join yours in this autumnal celebration.


Make cards for our soldiers

This is doubly perfect since Veteran's Day in the US and Martinmas fall on the same exact day. St. Martin was a soldier before becoming a monk. He is also the patron saint of soldiers.

After you decorate your cards thanking our soldiers for their service, you can contact one of the following for units to sent to:

A Million Thanks
Operation Gratitude
Operation Dear Abby


Give away extra winter wear

It's that time of year where many are pulling out their winter gear, and you might find you have more than you thought or that you're not using much of it. Donate it! In honor of St. Martin cutting his soldier's cloak in two and sharing it with the beggar, give to those who need it more than you. Many shelters are taking winter gear right now, so ask around.


Make lanterns

I'm actually attempting this one with the preschoolers in our co-op today, so wish me luck. There are so many lovely examples to be found online. The making of lanterns is a German tradition and reminds us of the flicker of hope that cannot be burned out. Even one small flame can still bring light and hope.

I used: a recycled small glass jar (thank you TJ's pumpkin butter), colorful tissue paper cut into strips, white liquid glue, foam brushes, and some fancy Star Wire Garland.

Brush glue onto cleaned jar with foam brushes. Place pieces of tissue paper on. Cover with another layer of glue. Let dry, tie some star garland around mouth of jar, and place a tea light inside.

Tip: to get tea light to stay in place, drip melted wax into bottom of jar and put candle immediately on top to hold it there.


Say one of these prayers

Dear well-beloved Saint, you were first a soldier like your father.
Converted to the Church, you became a soldier of Christ, a priest and then a Bishop of Tours. Lover of the poor, and model for pagans and Christians alike, protect our soldiers at all times. Make them strong, just, and charitable, always aiming at establishing peace on earth.

O God, who are glorified in the Bishop Saint Martin both by his life and death, make new, we pray, the wonders of your grace in our hearts, that neither death nor life may separate us from your love. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son. who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Linking up with Jen @ Conversion Diary

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All rights reserved. ©Sarah G. Ortiz
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