Monthly Archives: December 2007

Sidebar re-ordering

 Relaxing By The Fire I have spent a bit of time sorting out the sidebar to make it easier to use and have added a lot of new resources including online books for both early reading and older readers

I do use online books a lot-they are free and space saving. My poor husband has been saying we have “too many books” (which is surely an oxymoron) and so this is a way to have EVEN MORE books without creaking shelves Smile .

I use INTERNET ARCHIVE a lot. I have downloaded a lot of Chesterton and Belloc. You can download a free DJVU programme that allows you to read the books that have been scanned into the archive.

I am also using the Fantastic Fiction website to check out the Lord Peter Wimsey books of Dorothy L Sayers and the Fr. Koesler Mysteries by William X Kienzle. These will be for Iona.

For Ronan apart from the poems of A.A. Milne from “Now We Are Six” and “For The Very Young” I am going to read Hillaire Belloc’s “The Bad Child’s Book of Beasts”

I’ve added a whole load of other things I’ll be using with the children or have used. I am thinking of leaning more towards personal reading for Iona. I never have liked the bittiness and spoon fed feel to worksheets-and anyway she found that boring. Working through what Charlotte calls ‘living books’ gives us plenty to discuss and look up.

I will continue to read Robert Hugh Benson’s ‘Come Rack, Come Rope’ and then we’ll choose something else-maybe something lighter.

Anyway have a good look at the side bar and I will (try to) update it on a regular basis. And if anyone has good links you think I should add let me know.

St Stephen’s Day

I have written about TODAY HERE. ststep.gif Josh and Alex are both members of the Guild of St Stephen, that is they are altar boys. Each year on this day they renew their promises.

The Guild of St Stephen is an International Organisation of Altar Servers founded in England in 1904 by Father Hamilton McDonald when he formed a Society of Altar Servers at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in London. In 1905, Pope Pius X gave his approbation to the Canonical establishment of the Guild at Westminster Cathedral and in 1906, the Sacred Congregation of Rites made the Guild an Archconfraternity prima primaria enabling all the parish branches to be linked with it. The Guild spread, and in 1934, Pope Pius XI enabled all Guilds of Altar Servers throughout the British Commonwealth to be affiliated with the Archconfraternity at Westminster.

The Guild Promise: “I offer myself to God Almighty, to Blessed Mary ever Virgin and to our Holy Patron, St Stephen, and I promise to do my best to serve reverently, intelligently and regularly, having the glory of God and my own eternal salvation as my object”.

The Guild medal is made of latten, an alloy of copper and zinc, and has in the centre the Greek letters XP, – Chi Rho- the initial letters of the Greek “Χριςτός“, i.e. “Christ”, and around the edge the Latin motto, Cui servíre regnare est (“He who serves shall reign”). At the top of the medal is a crown and at the bottom the palms of martyrdom. It is worn on a red cord around the neck.

Next year the boys will have earned their silver medals.


Birmingham city council was notorious for the year it tried to remove Christmas and give us the meaningless ‘Wintervel’ and I know other councils have tried to Winterfest, Snowfest and generally infest us with anything daft.

On Christmas morning Avila began the day by throwing up. Not wanting to do anything by halves she was well away by mid morning and Ronan had joined her. Iona therefore, decided to go with a modern approach and named the day “Pukefest”.

Fortunately no one else has gone down with it and Ronan is better already. Avila is more fragile and taking longer, but she is okay.

Vigil Mass

 Manger We went to the children’s vigil Mass on Christmas Eve. The lights are switched off and the servers process in, the younger ones carrying lanterns and the youngest carries the baby Jesus on a velvet cushion. (This year his head was firmly on his shoulders. We had a bit of a wobbly head incident a couple of years ago).

  Once Jesus was safely laid in his manger between the kneeling statues of Mary and Joseph, Father liberally applied the holy water-thus it rained in Bethlehem. As Mass started more and more candles were quietly lit around the sanctuary until at last as the Gospel acclamation was finished the lights went on. I love these parts of the Mass, the ones that incorporate all our senses sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. We bow, kneel (if we can) and move our whole selves in prayer. I always remember Scott Hahn talking about how he came to understand that we are supposed to worship God with our whole selves-body and soul. I found this use of all the senses in worship; light and colour, incense, food, song, the fabric of the church-was very important in helping those with learning disabilities, particularly autism and its related disorders, come to know God. But we all benefit from beauty in worship, and it certainly helps when teaching young children of any ability.

All the children had received a little gift of chocolate just at the end of Mass. I think one of the congregation works for Cadbury’s and donates this every year. It’s an awful LOT of chocolate as every child gets one at each Mass.After Mass Ronan went up to the nativity scene and gave Jesus the birthday card he had made for Him. My friend told me when her son was little (he’s 18 now) she used to attend a different church and all the children would give Jesus a birthday card like that so that the crib scene was surrounded.

After tea the little ones put out a plate with a mince pie, carrot and drink for Santa and Rudolph. Then they went dutifully to bed-while Santa’s elves wrapped the last pressies and stuffed stockings


Happy Christmas


Busy week and Last Homeschool group

It’s been a busy week despite the fact it is supposed to be the end of term. Iona has really just continued to work as she has Maths and a special story to finish for her auntie Kathryn.  I had a hospital appoitment on Monday afternoon so Heleyna got to be admired by nurses -something I think she rather enjoys. Crawling Baby 

We had a lot to do yesterday and then it was the last homeschool group of the year today, last Sign Language group and for the older ones the last scouts meeting. The children had a great time playing freely for a while at homeschool group and then those who are part of the Sign Language group demonstrated their skills with a signed rendition of ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’. It was lovely to see them do this so well and everyone clapped them at the end.

We had a good Signing session this afternoon including another practice of ‘The Fisherman and His Wife’. This simple repetitive story works well for learning the signs. It’s also good for using expression in Sign as the sea gets rougher and wilder as the story goes on.

Got the gasman tomorrow (sigh) and we’ll try to get to Mass and Confession-at least for those not at work. Al says he will take me out tomorrow Chinese Restaurant – though Josh has an audition for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I did actually give him a singing lesson t’other day—it was an interesting experience!


Man came to fix the gas fire in the back room! WHOOPIE! We have heat!.

SCIENCE for Little Ones Alex found the whole set of the Usborne Pocket Science booklets which had been kept in his room. Our auntie Margo had given them to us and they are ideal for homeschooling. I think Roni is a little young for them yet. They are aimed at 7yr olds, but we can do some introductory work on some of them next term.  We will probably start with ‘How Do Bees Make Honey?’ which Usborne have usefully added QUICK LINKS for further research. You’ll see they link to a lot of other stuff including downloadable and printable manuscript paper.

PIANO & MUSIC: Charlotte recomends Mrs Curwen’s book ‘The Child Pianist’ and I have found ‘The Teacher’s Guide’ to the Curwen Method HERE. This is yet another book that recomends starting a child at the age of 7 rather than earlier. Ronan is interested though and enjoys playing simple one handed tunes such as “Twinkle Twinkle” and “Silent Night”.  Unfortunately I can’t find the actual piano book.

Iona has had her last Maths lesson this afternoon and is already well on her way through the Higher IGCSE book. Her tutor sees no problem with her being able to sit the exam in the Summer.


by James Martin
from James Martin’s Christmas Feasts

I said I would have a go at this alternative recipe and let you know. It makes a huge loaf and I feel the dough is a bit too sticky so it spreads more than I would like in the oven. It doesn’t hold it’s shape the way a bread recipe does. Nevertheless it taste’s delicious and was ideal as an constantly being interrupted kind of recipe-so I recommend it to breastfeeding and otherwise lots of people to deal with mothers.

I did change some of the ingredients. I used bio yogurt because that’s what we had and I used cinnamon and Mixed Spice (sometimes called Christmas Spice) and I quickly soaked the fruit in a little orange juice rather than adding rum.

I must admit I don’t like grams-I’m a pounds’n’ounces kinda girl and I like the American cup measurement which is simple and sensible. If it’s any help it is about 2 and bit cups of flour-just over 1lb.

So give it a go.
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 40 minutes
500g plain white flour, sifted
2 pinches Salt
125g unsalted butter, softened
15ml Baking powder
200g unrefined caster sugar
a few drops vanilla extract
a few drops almond extract
30ml dark rum
1 large lemon, finely grated zest
1 tsp cardamon seeds
10ml ground mixed spice
50g suet
125g currants
125g raisins
125g almonds
40g chopped mixed candied peel
250g Crème fraîche, or thick greek-style yogurt
2 large Eggs, beaten
250g natural-colour marzipan
To finish
25g melted butter
icing sugar, sifted
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Grease a baking sheet.

2. Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl and rub in the butter. Add the baking powder, sugar, vanilla and almond extracts, rum, lemon zest, mixed spice, suet, dried fruits, almonds and peel and mix well. Stir in the crème fraîche and eggs to form a nice firm dough.

3. Put on a floured surface and gently roll out with a rolling pin to form an oblong about 30 x 45cm and 2cm thick. Form the marzipan into a sausage shape the length of the dough. Fold the top of the dough over the marzipan, and seal well. Fold under the ends.

4. Place on the baking sheet and bake for about 35-40 minutes, or until well risen and golden brown. The cake will spread slightly – don’t worry this is quite normal.

5. Once cooked, remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack with a piece of foil underneath. Brush liberally with melted butter and dust with plenty of icing sugar. Leave to cool.