Saturday, December 17, 2011

Santa Claus = St. Nicholas?

Enjoy this lovely image of St. Nicholas from artist Susan Seals, and purchase a print here. A friend of mine posted on a message board wondering what I've heard many Christians (Protestant and Catholic) wonder: how a person can encourage his or her children to believe in Santa Claus, as opposed to St. Nicholas, the Catholic saint. Are they really the same person?

First, it must be pointed out that Santa Claus IS St. Nick, at least literally. Santa means "Saint" and "Claus" is an abbreviated form of Nicholas (as in Ni-KLAUS). In our house, Baby Jesus gives the gifts (and hence all requests for toys are addressed to him).

We tell our kids the gifts come from Baby Jesus but St. Nicholas delivers them, and St. Nicholas lives in heaven, which is a lot nicer than the North Pole. We let them think what they want about reindeer and elves.

With our own children, we don't really encourage them to watch movies that propose to explain the Saint as a secular phenomenon, whether Miracle on 34th Street or The Santa Clause, so as not to confuse them. Of course there is no Mrs. Claus (Fr. Fasano says it's an easy mistake to make: she's his housekeeper.) And as I've blogged before, we love the book Country Angel Christmas by Tomie de Paola, which features a Santa Claus who lives in heaven (reindeer and all). I think that helps them picture him more clearly.

Our pastor Fr. Jerome Fasano (whom I think is the best homilist in the US) gave us a stern lecture Dec. 6th weekend when he first came to our parish, talking about the terrible scandal of so many Catholics in American accepting heresy, even unwittingly, because of lack of teaching. He said that he was pleased to see how devout and faithful our parish was, but he suspected us of harboring one heresy he found absolutely unacceptable: that there is no Santa Claus. (There was a relieved shout of laughter from the congregation at his words.) Now he gives a similar version of the homily seasonally, telling us the facts about St. Nicholas (for instance, that he was imprisoned for the faith, and that he attended the Council of Nicea, where he distinguished himself by punching Arius the heretic in the nose), and urging us to not deny our children devotion to this wonderful saint.

Some people object, saying that the popular image of St. Nicholas hardly resembles the actual life of the saint. My surmisal is this: if even half the legends about St. Nicholas are true, then I'd think that a man who spent his time on earth rescuing little girls from prostitution and little boys from sadistic butchers would be perfectly contented spending his heaven helping children receive dolls and Legos and basically serving as one of the hallmarks of their childhood innocence.

What is certain is that every since Nicholas went to heaven, he's been wildly popular with the faithful, and the accusation that he's more popular thant Jesus is far from a new one. (See various medieval miracle plays to the saint, in which Our Savior's name is barely mentioned.) Which leads me to think he really was a splendid personality on earth.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Evi Doll Patterns at last!

Many of you know I'm big fans of the Nova Natural Evi dolls. Two years ago, Nova released their popular all-natural fair-trade dolls in "dressable" form: and I lost no time in buying the "mother" doll (who can pass for a fairy-tale princess in my book!) and outfitting her with a wardrobe. Some of you asked for the patterns I used. It's taken me two years, but at last (Merry Christmas!) I'm posting the patterns I made. If you would like to download the PDF of the pattern book I made of clothes to fit that doll, click here. I believe the clothes would also fit the flower fairy dolls and some of the fairy tale dolls (they would have to go over the existing clothes those dolls wear unless you, like my daughters, cut the clothes off the doll).

The six-page book can be printed onto letter-sized paper in black and white. The patterns presuppose a knowledge of sewing and dress construction. So I didn't really include any directions, just the pattern pieces. But maybe in the future I can do an upgrade. I welcome any feedback you might have, and yes, I would love to see photos of how the clothes turn out!

So here's the Evi Dollhouse Doll Pattern Book. Happy crafting and blessed Christmas!

Monday, November 07, 2011

Flowers in the Snow

The other day we were surprised by an early snowfall two days before Halloween. Activities were cancelled, electric currents flickered, and the family stayed home by the fire instead of rushing about in a frenzy of fall activity. My herbs and snapdragons, the first I've succesfully gardened, were caught unawares but bloomed bravely on. The unseasonal chill seems to have strengthened them: they are flourishing even more fiercely now.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Looking Up

I've been so busy in my life for these past few months (as my hiatus from journaling shows) that I feel I'm always looking down - down at my keyboard, down at my checkbook, down at the mess of the house and the chores needing to be done. How often do I look up?

Not very often, I realize. Even when I take a walk, I find myself looking at my feet, anxious not to make a false step and stumble - instead of looking at the beauty all around me.

I found this picture my daughter took, while lying beneath one of the trees in our front yard. She was looking up - and I'm posting this as a reminder to myself. I want to be looking up more - looking up at the sky, at the fall leaves and colors, and at our Heavenly Father looking down at us. He may just be smiling at me, but I'll never know if I don't look up.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Starting a publishing company....

One reason for my hiatus is that we have decided to make our self-publishing company into a REAL publishing company with our acquisition of the John Paul 2 High Series. It's very exciting but a lot of work. I pulled out an old drawing of Chesterton's White Horse which I did years ago and designed a logo for our company, Chesterton Press (which formerly published only the Fairy Tale Novels). I hope you like it.

So we are hurrying to get the first three new books into print before Christmas, plus redesign or design three websites, and I still must do more sane household things such as going through our sheets and blankets and get rid of things in preparation for the fall...

Please do pray for us in our busy-ness and I look forward to posting about sanity soon.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Blessed Easter!

He is Risen! Alleluia!

My daughters colored these eggs and created a nest for them of colored paper, two colors of green photocopy paper run through my husband's office shredder. The result was as vibrantly colored as the Easter eggs, a true match and a nice change from the pale pastels such papers usually come in.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Black and White, Lamb and Cat

One of our sheep gave birth to twin lambs but rejected one. So, much to our children's delight, we have a temporary house pet named Oreo, who drinks from a bottle and wears a diaper at night time (we only allow him on the wood floors). He has gladly adopted us as his flock and baas most disapprovingly when we go away in the car. The other party delighted with the addition of a sheep is our youngest cat, Hotaru, who takes every opportunity to play with him--whether or not the lamb is interested in playing with him.

For me, one of the highlights of owning farm animals is the opportunity to observe their beauty, and Oreo and Hotaru are both rewarding in that respect.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Refinisher's Two New Best Friends

I've been meaning for a while to blog about two newer products I've discovered that have made home improvement projects so much easier. If you refinish furniture or do woodworking, you want to check these two concoctions out.

It used to be that stripping paint meant donning heavy-duty gloves, a breathing mask, and seting up shop far away from any inquisitive children. With Safest Stripper from 3M, those days are over. This paint remover looks deceptively like Elmer's glue, and feels just as safe: it causes little or no skin irritation (gloves still recommended, but I speak from experience!). Spread on a thick coat, let it sit according to the directions, and the paint begins to gel and crack, and can be easily scraped up with a plastic or metal putty knife. I've had to search hard to find it: our local Lowes doesn't carry it, but our small-town hardware store was willing to order it for me. It works easiest on latex paint and varnish, but with hard work and plastic wrap (to keep it wet), it even removed six layers of old lead-based paint from our 1890 kitchen. Safest Stripper makes an arduous chore far less so, and I am grateful.
For me, applying polyeurethane always meant sacrificing a paint brush, since I never seemed to be able to get the bristles completely clean, and I seldom remembered to stock up on paint thinner. No more! The water-based revolution continues in paints, and Miniwax's latest offering is water-based wipe-on polyeurethane, which makes adding a final protective coat as easy as wiping a hard surface with a rag--literally! And coats dry extremely rapidly, which is another plus, making the application multiple coats so much easier.
So if you're thinking of beginning a project, keep a look out for these products I've stumbled upon, which do an excellent job. As a mother of small children, I've been particularly happy to discover them. Pass it on!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Pig Butchering and the Art of Sausage Making

The depths of winter are the poor man's butchering season. For those of us without walk-in freezers in our homes, it is a far easier chore to butcher your own hogs when your garage has acquired the temperature of a cold refridgerator. So these January weekends we are butchering, with lots of help from family and friends. Some aspects of pork butchering are easy to learn: after the men have done the messy work of gutting and hanging, what remains of the pig roughly resembles what one finds in the store. Cutting a ham is simply, if not gracefully, done, and with a pair of sturdy sterilized tree pruners in hand, chops and spare ribs are easily cut.
But sausage making is not such a simple proposition, as we have discovered over the course of two years of pig butchering. Combining cubes of fat and odd bits of meat with an array of spices is truly an art, and not one that can be swiftly mastered. Since sausage remains our family's favorite dish, we are striving hard to be careful and to test our mixes before committing. It means, of course, more time, since raw pork precludes taste testing. Many small patties are fried as samples and everyone gives their opinion.

This year's sausage making was made vastly less arduous by our Christmas-present-to-ourselves of a black KitchenAid mixer with a food grinder and sausage stuffing attachment. And our neighbors offered to double our output by loaning us their red model. So even now we labor far into the evening on what we hope will afford us six months of breakfast sausage, all hands pitching in, as you can see from the above.
Appearances aside, we haven't achieved nearly the level of the Ingalls family of Little House fame: we don't use all of the pig (no roasting of the tail!) and we are scarcely as resourceful as Ma. Yet I will say that butchering our own animals has brought us a degree of community with our friends (for we need their help!) like nothing else.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

No Room in the Stable

During the Christmas season, our cats discovered that the apple-crate stable we were using for our Willow Tree nativity figurines was the perfect napping place. Hotaru, our calico, had no qualms about knocking over St. Joseph and displacing Mary, baby Jesus, and the various stable animals from their shelter in order to take a relaxing sleep. Or perhaps he just wanted to be a part of the scene?