We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. ~Isaiah 64:8

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Jangley

Jangley - that is a new word a made up to describe how I felt yesterday. To describe it further, it feels like I am a little jingle ball that someone has just taken hold of and shaken like crazy - I'm JANGLEY. It's just been that way lately - good and not-so-good reasons.

I'll give you a quick run down, because, honestly I do't have the energy for more than that. *sigh*.
  • helping hubbie with his new business (a ministry, really to offer financial/donation reporting support to missionaries)
  • getting used to Jr High work with eldest son
  • working on our Women's Retreat (can't wait!!)
  • preparing for our neighbors and dear friends to move (not far, but another part of town) - while we are SO EXCITED for them, it is a major change in the way our days look. I'm so used to slipping over for a little "gab" or when I need an ingredient. LOL!
  • taping a cable TV show on educational choices (group conversation on homeschooling)
  • looking at a potential new home - a late 1950's ranch on some acreage (lots of updates have been done, but some were not great and need to be re-addressed - original fixtures in bathrooms). I hope we get this place just so I can show you some really interesting wall treatments. *heh*
  • a number of issues in my extended family - (I'm not ready to talk about all this on the blog yet - it isn't entirely my story to tell and I don't feel it is right to share about that while we are all still in the middle of it)
  • a major change in the direction of our adoption - we are still in the preliminary stage of this change, but I will share all the details when we make the final decision.
  • and I'm planning on traveling this weekend to give some assistance in the family situation.

I came home from a good, but long day at Classical Conversations (a bunch of us went out for ice cream afterwards) and just felt "jangley". I was just tired and overwhelmed by it all. Sweet hubby let me hide out in bed the rest of the evening. Feeling better now. I'll try to fill in some details soon...

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Scalloped Potatoes

These are deliciously creamy!

1 cup chopped onion (1 large onion)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 1/2 cups milk
8 cups thinkly sliced potatoes (red, white, or yellow) - about 2 1/2 lbs

For the sauce, in a med. saucepan cook onion in hot butter until tender. Stir in flour, salt, and pepper. Add milk all at once. Cook and stir over med heat until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat; set aside. Place half the sliced potatoes in a greasted 3-qt rectangular baking dish. Top with half the sauce. Repeat the layers.

Bake, uncovered, in a 350* oven for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 40-50 more minutes or until potatoes are tender. Let stand, uncovered, for 10 minutes before serving.

You can add 1 1/2 cups grated cheese (chedder, gruyere, swiss) to the thickened sauce, stirring until the cheese melts if you'd like cheese scalloped potatoes.

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Simple Woman's Daybook - Oct 20th

For today, October 20th, 2008:

Outside my Window... IT'S HERE! Really and truly Autumn has arrived in the Piedmont of NC. Crisp and wonderfully cool! The leaves are just starting to turn faintly yellow with a touch of orange here and there and the sky is that saturated blue lovingly known here as "Carolina Blue".

I am thinking... so many things today: My mom's visit this weekend, a house that we looked at that has SO MUCH POTENTIAL, and a possible change to our adoption plans (still adopting, but maybe a change in country).

From the learning rooms... Oh, my, last week was a bust. Between me being sick and the kids being sick, neighbors packing up their house to move, and my mom coming for a visit...we just didn't get much of our planned work done. So, this week we are catching up - slowly. We missed some this morning helping my mom pack up her car and Thursday we have a Children's Theatre event...so we won't be able to entirely catch up. But by next week, we should be back on track.

I am thankful for... a praying church community

From the kitchen... another week of the "Sunday Roast Weekly Menu".

I am wearing... very casual today: gray and white yoga pants, white top, pink hoodie - and SOCKS!

I am reading... The Family Cloister and Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid and Real Food Revival.

I am hoping... for some positive information to come in concerning a "new" house we are considering.

I am creating... a huge batch of homemade croutons for my freezer (and eventually Christmas gifts).

I am hearing... my kids' enjoying lunch and one of their favorite TV shows, "Phineas and Ferb" - the "Squirrels in my pants" episode. Sound ridiculous? Well, it is, but it even makes me laugh. It qualifies as "brain candy" around here - you get to enjoy it in small doses.

Around the house... this week is the week to change out my clothes. I'm also going to do a very thorough culling of those clothes (both the Summer ones I'm putting away and the Autumn ones I'm bringing out). I just have too many things that I don't wear because they don't fit, or I don't really like them.

One of my favorite things... my new jeans from Chico's!!! They fit so well and are very flattering. I hate the thought of paying nearly $70 for jeans, but that is why I wait until I have a gift card AND a discount coupon. :)

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...
  • Tuesday night I've got a work meeting for our Women's Retreat.

  • Thursday I'm taking the children to a Children's Theatre performance of "The 1,000 Cranes"

  • I might possibly drive to my mom's home in VA over the weekend so that I can help her look at a couple new houses.

You can read more posts (and more about the Daybook) here.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Blog Action Day - Holy Poverty

Today is Blog Action Day. Today is also the Feast Day of St. Teresa of Avila - a woman who embraced poverty.

St. Teresa was a woman born in the 1500s to a wealthy family who eventually became a nun and, in conjunction with St. John of the Cross, founded a reformed order of nuns called the Discalced (Shoeless) Carmelites. (Shoelessness is a symbol of humility and poverty.) She believed her call from God was to "Holy Poverty".

When I think about the calling to holy poverty, I think of it as a specific Vocation (that is vocation with a most definite capital "V") - not something that the average Christian is called to, but I'm not so sure about that anymore.

When we embrace the truth that all our possessions are only given to us to enable us to do the Lord's work - God's provision for us - suddenly we are the the midst of a dichotomy: ultimate poverty and ultimate wealth. We are entirely poor because nothing we have truly is ours - it belongs entirely to God...and yet, we have a God who "owns the cattle on a thousand hills." He owns it all and can provide for us all that we need and more.

This attitude toward belongings may not lead us to a vocation of Holy Poverty (big H, big P), in which we eschew owning anything, but it might lead us to holiness in poverty (little h, little p) by allowing us to look at our belongings and money as not "owned" but "held in trust". When we hold our belongings "in trust" we are able and willing to freely give to those in need because we understand that "it" all belongs to God anyway.

Want to read more about Holy Poverty?


In honor of St. Teresa of Avila's Feast Day, here are some links and bits of information for you to learn more about her, her order, and her call to Holy Poverty.



A prayer for St. Teresa of Avila's Feast Day
Father, by your Spirit you raised up Saint Teresa of Jesus to show your Church the way to perfection. May her inspired teaching awaken in us a longing for true holiness. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen..

A retelling of her story geared toward young children. And one for older kids and adults. And one more if you'd like a more complete biography.

She is a patron saint - against bodily ills, headaches, sickness, and heart disease, of lace makers and workers, of those who have lost parents, of people in need of grace, of people in religious orders, and of people ridiculed for their piety, of those in opposition to the Church authorities.She also authored two great spiritual works: The Way of Perfection and The Interior Castle.



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Monday, October 13, 2008

Simple Woman's Daybook - October 13th

For today, October 13th, 2008:

Outside my Window... sunny and cool - a really lovely fall day. Temp right now (at 10:30 is 68F.)

I am thinking... about whether or not I want to start school - and if so when. Hubby has the day off, but is working on some work for his new business/ministry this morning. It sure feels nice just "hanging out" for a day.

From the learning rooms... this week we are learning about (among other things) George Washington and the Digestive System - not together, of course.

I am thankful for... my husband. He is a really good and kind husband who always takes care of me and plays with his kids.

From the kitchen... I'm trying out a new menu plan this week all based on a Sunday Roast (all the meals using the leftovers). Come on over and check it out!

I am wearing... still in my pjs: flannel pj pants and a tank top with a lime green hoodie to keep me warm this morning.

I am reading... The Family Cloister and Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid and Real Food Revival.

I am hoping... for some inspiration as I work on a logo this afternoon for hubby's business/ministry.

I am creating... (and no, I still haven't done the American Art lesson plans) not much right now - just trying to get the "must do" stuff done.

I am hearing... my dog's collar jingling as she rolls around playing with her ball.

Around the house... I have a lot of clean laundry piled up from our major wash session last Monday (not to mention the dirty clothes that accumulated while I was washing linens, pillows, etc). I sure hope I can get those put away today and tomorrow. Heck, it is about time to change out my clothes anyway, so maybe I'll do that at the same time. (I pack up off-season clothes.)

One of my favorite things... my new den floor plan. We've done something totally different and it is so comfortable and cozy! Maybe that will be my picture this week...

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...

  • Tuesday night I've got a work meeting for our Women's Retreat.

  • Wednesday is taping for the "Raising An Amazing Generation" show (INSP network) about homeschooling.

  • Mom is coming for a weekend visit! And we might go apple picking!

  • I have a coupon and a gift card to use at Chico's, so I think Mom and I will spend an afternoon shopping while she's here.
Here is a photo thought I'm sharing:
Our couch used to be against the right-side wall and the the shelves weren't in this room at all. I like having them in here because we do school in the kitchen and this room (our family room). We have a homeschool cabinet in the kitchen, but it only has our daily books and supplies. The books on these shelves are ones we need here and there during the week. Previously they were in another room, so I had to gather them up each day we needed them. Now they are right at hand!

I also like how the couch turned in gives this room a very cozy feel. You can see that I still have to move that picture to the right of the TV armoire.

You can read more posts (and more about the Daybook) here.

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Pasta al Forno with Chicken

This is pretty quick and easy to assemble; makes good leftovers; and freezes well. You could easily make a double-batch to share or put in your freezer (freeze it before baking). This could also be made without the chicken or with ground beef.

1/2-1 lb chopped cooked chicken
8 ounces small shaped pasta
1 (25 ounce) jar marinara sauce
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 (10 ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed and drained or frozen broccoli
1 cup ricotta cheese (or cottage cheese)
6 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon oil

Preheat oven to 375°. Coat 2 1/2 quart baking dish with cooking spray. Cook pasta; drain; rinse with cold water.

In bowl, combine marinara, mozzarella, spinach or broccoli, cottage cheese or ricotta, 6 T Parmesan, salt and pepper. Stir in pasta and chopped, cooked chicken (or ground beef); transfer to baking dish.

Stir together bread crumbs, Parmesan and oil; sprinkle over pasta. Bake until hot, 25-30 minutes.


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Chicken and Biscuits

Seriously good comfort food and a wonderful one-dish meal.

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, sliced
1 large carrot, sliced
1 1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley, 1 tsp dried
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup frozen peas
1 1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of milk whisked with
3 Tbsp sifted flour

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions and cook until just softened and transluscent. Now add carrots and cook until the carrot is just starting to cook. Add the parsley, broth, peas, cooked chicken and salt/pepper. Bring it all to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes. Whisk flour and milk together (you can strain it if it is lumpy) and add to the pot. Bring back to a low boil, then simmer until it is thickened.

Biscuits (*as a short cut, you can use Bisquick and their biscuit recipe on the side of the box)
2 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup cold butter or margarine cut into small chunks
3/4 cup cold milk

Stir the dry ingredients together and cut in the butter (you are going for coarse crumbs). Stir the milk in just until the whole thing is moistened. Knead it very lightly 2 or 3 times.

Pour the hot chicken into a casserole. Drop pieces of the biscuits on top of the stew. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until the biscuits are just starting to brown on top.

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Crockpot Italian Wedding Soup

This is a new recipe for me (from recipezaar.com) - it sounds wonderful, I'll let you know how it turns out!

16 1/2 ounces meatballs (you could make these while you are making the meatballs and tomato sauce from last week and just freeze them. I'd suggest making bite-sized meat balls for this dish or quartering regular-sized ones)
6 cups chicken broth
1 cup cooked chicken, chopped
1/2 cup carrot, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/4 (8 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted (or fresh if you have it)
garlic salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
1/4 cup romano cheese
1/4 cup acini di pepe pasta (small pasta)

Combine all the ingredients except pasta in crock pot and cook all day on low (7-8 hrs). Add the pasta during the last hour of cooking. Serve with an awesome crusty bread.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Brine your Bird

Ever heard of brining your bird? Soaking your bird (chicken or turkey) in a simple brine before roasting really does result in a delicious roast. I highly recommend it!!

Here's a recipe that I use to brine chicken or turkey - it can also be used for pork roast, although I've never tried that. It comes from Chez Panisse. Use a whole recipe for a turkey, half for a chicken. Also, this recipe calls for juniper berries. You can find them at specialty cooking stores or World Market. If you can't find them, just skip it...I've made it a number of times without the berries and it was wonderful.

If you make the whole recipe, it makes a LOT of brine, so you'll need a big pot in which to submerge the roast. Also, you'll have to plan ahead for soaking time - a day for poultry, 3 days for pork - and they must be fully defrosted...so plan accordingly!

Chez Panisse Brine
2 1/2 gal. of cold water
2 c kosher salt (table salt works well, too)
1 c sugar
2 bay leaves, torn into pieces
1 bunch fresh thyme, or 4 T dried thyme
1 whole head of garlic, peeled
5 whole allspice berries, crushed
4 juniper berries, crushed

Prepare the brine and soak: place the water in a large pot that can easily hold the liquid and the meat you intend to brine. Add all the ingredients and stir for a minute or so until the sugar and salt to dissolve. Refrigerate poultry in brine for 24 hours; pork for 3 days. If the meat floats to the top, use a plate or other weight to keep it completely submerged in the brine.

To roast: Poultry - stuff cavity with desired herbs (chicken: onions, lemon wedges, herbs such as thyme, parsley, rosemary/ turkey: lemons, herbs, onions as desired). Rub the skin with oil to help browning; sprinkle with fresh pepper - salt is not needed due to the salt in the brine. Cook uncovered in a 400-degree oven until done (about 1 hr 15 min for a 3-4 lb chicken or 12-15 minutes per pound for a turkey). Boneless pork roast: Sprinkle the roast with pepper and herbs such as sage, thyme or tarragon,if desired. Roast uncovered in a 400-degree oven for about 12-15 minutes per pound.

I think you'll find that even the leftovers stay wonderfully moist!

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Ceci (Chick Peas) and Tagliatelle Soup

Oh, I meant to post this earlier. It was REALLY good. I kind of made this up after seeing a similar recipe on Lidia's Kitchen (PBS TV show - Italian cooking).

2-3 T olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
dash of salt
1 lg carrot, sliced
1 lg stalk of celery, chopped (with leafy tops)
2 cans chick peas (Ceci or garbanzo beans), drained, but not rinsed
8 c. chicken broth
1 - 2 tsp thyme
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
1 pkg tagliatelle noodles

In large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium-high flame. Add onions and sprinkle with dash of salt. Saute until they are transluscent. Add carrot and celery and continue sauteing until all the veggies are tender. Add chick peas and toss to coat. Allow the chick peas to warm up a bit, then add the chicken broth. Add the thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Let the whole thing simmer for at least 20 minutes. You can let it simmer longer at a lower heat for a more flavorful soup. This is what I prefer! Just make sure your herbs are well softened and the soup has good flavor. Adjust the salt and pepper as needed.

Just before serving, bring the soup to a gentle boil and drop in the noodles (breaking them up a bit on the way into the pot). Cook them for the length of time recommended on the package (mine were done in 4 minutes). Reduce the heat and serve!

I recommend a good hearty bread - or some homemade croutons, too!

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Meatballs and Tomato Sauce

In the past I've made these in the oven and that is a very easy and good way to make them (and a slightly different recipe). But, if you have the time I highly recommend using the stove top method - and this recipe (adapted from a recipe in Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Here it is:

1 lb ground beef or turkey
1/2 c bread crumbs
1 T onion, chopped very finely
1 T parsley, chopped
1 egg
1 T EV olive oil
3 T grated parmesan cheese
dash of ground nutmeg
dashes of salt and pepper
more oil for sauteing
1 can Italian plum tomatoes, chopped up, with their juice

In a large bowl, mix the ground meat, bread crumbs, oniob, parsley, edd, 1 T olive oil, parmesan chese, nutmet, and salt and pepper well. Use your hands or a sturdy spoon - but don't squeeze the meat.

When well mixed, gently shape into balls about 1 in in diameter. You can roll them in more bread crumbs, if you wish. I skip this, though.

In a large saute pan, heat enough oil to come up 1/4 of an inch on the sides - on a med. high heat. When the oil is hot, gently place the meatballs in the oil one at a time. Be careful not to splash the oil. Brown them on all sides (turkey will not "brown", it will get a little golden) - but turn them carefully so they don't break apart.

When done, remove the pan from the heat and tip it slightly. With a spoon, remove as much of the oil as you can. Return the pan to the heat (medium heat) and add the chopped tomatoes - give the pan a pinch salt and a grinding or two of pepper. Gently turn the meatballs to coat them in the sauce. Cover the pan and cook at a very gentle simmer for about 20-25 minutes. Serve alone, over rice or pasta (our preferred way).

These are excellent made ahead of time and then reheated before serving. They also make a great freezer meal.


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Monday, October 6, 2008

Simple Woman's Daybook - Oct 6th, 2008

For today, October 6th, 2008:

Outside my Window... Oh, my another busy, busy, busy Monday that started much later than I'd hoped (ie. I slept in). The day is almost gone and it has been such a doozy, I think we are getting take-out mexican for dinner. We NEVER eat out, so that is a big deal! So, outside my window I see the light fading fast over grass that is finally turning a deep emerald green after the dry brown of summer.

I am thinking... about my dear neighbors moving and how to make it a bit easier on my kids. Our friends are already spending lots of time at their new home (while they are having various work done - carpets, painters, repairs, etc), so it feels a little like they've already moved, but without the official send off. I think the uncertainty of "are they here or there" has been hard on the kids. They aren't moving far away (really just minutes), so once the "dust settles", figuratively and literally, and the kids are able to visit their friends' new home it will be easier.

From the learning rooms... my middle boy has become quite taken with the Boston Tea Party and the Revolutionary Way. He has been working on a play to act out all that! Today, he and his sister worked on costumes (very un-authentic, but cute) and the basic flow of the play. Later this week we will make punched tin lanterns for the "One if by Land, Two if by Sea" (or is it the other way around - good thing I'm not Paul Revere).

I am thankful for... an amazing series of emails that bounced around among some local ladies this week talking very frankly about right to life issues. There were pro-choice and pro-life sides taken...and some of the pro-life women shared very honestly and profoundly about their personal experiences with abortion and the guilt and remorse they were left with (one of these women was pregnant after a rape and still regretted her decision). I was so proud of my sisters sharing this way and for those courageous enough to share their experiences.

From the kitchen... I had planned a lovely meal for tonight, but the days' events have left me exhausted and with much more work ahead of me this evening. I'm so thankful for a hubby who understands that tonight is a night for takeout! I'm hoping to get some Cinnamon-Raisin Bread in the oven. OH! And last week a friend at Classical Conversations shared some sourdough starter with me, so I'll be giving that a try this week! Can't wait, hubby and I LOVE sourdough!

I am wearing... One of my most favorite outfits - red canvas shirt, blue jeans, hair up in a twist.

I am reading... The Family Cloister and Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid and Real Food Revival.

I am hoping... for a very relaxing evening and a perfect cup of Trader Joe's Orange Spice Rooibos Herbal Tea.

I am creating... I never completed that American Art lesson plan. Hopefully this week. (Maybe that should have been my "I'm hoping"?)

I am hearing... Eldest son playing "Tanks", daughter "reading" aloud in the other room, dryer chugging along with the 6th or 7th of many, many loads of laundry today.

Around the house... Another day of de-lousing. I'm not sure if we missed some nits and they hatched or what, but we are at it again. This time it seems limited mostly to my daughter, but I'm treating everyone and washing all the bedding again. Lord Help ME! :)

One of my favorite things... my new laundry detergent: Mrs. Meyer's Geranium Scent - oh, it smells SO GOOD. It is all-natural and super concentrated. I thought is was much more expensive than standard brands, but I get about the same number of washes for the same price as Tide or All. I'm still considering making my own, but I've got to find a geranium scent (or lavender).

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...
  • My Dad's birthday is Thursday, so I need to get some goodies in the mail to him.

  • Tuesday night I have a Women's Retreat meeting.

  • Friday night some girlfriends from church are getting together for dinner. We've been trying to schedule this since the summer!

Here is a photo thought I'm sharing:
This is our beloved and very goofy Sophia (she is a 2 year old BIG labradoodle we rescued from a shelter). This picture obviously is distorted and makes her nose look huge, but it does express her personality: perky eyes, curious nose, and her always moving mouth.

You can read more posts (and more about the Daybook) here.

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Friday, October 3, 2008

Feast of Saint Francis - Oct 4th

Saint Francis of Assisi is a popular medieval saint associated with animals, nature, and vowed poverty. He is the patron saint against fire, of animals, those dying alone, ecology, families, fire, lacemakers, merchants, peace, zoos, Italy, and Assisi, in particular.

There are not any specific foods associated with St. Francis or traditionally served on his feast day, but since he was from Italy, perhaps an Italian feast might be appropriate! I did come across a reference to a trial by fire that St. Francis endured, so perhaps a flaming dessert of some sort might be a fun adventure!

Assisi is located in the Umbria area of Italy. Perhaps you would enjoy learning a bit more about this part of Italy? The Basilica of St. Francis has wonderful architecture and frescoes.


Activities

Have a Blessing of the Animals for your pets.
Many Catholic and Anglican churches (and perhaps other denominations as well) offer a "Blessing of the Animals" on St. Francis' Feast Day. Here is a simple service you can do with your family and friends if your church doesn't have an official Blessing.

Provide your pets with some special treats.
If you don't have pets, or even if you do, consider taking treats or supplies to an animal shelter.

Consider a trip to the zoo.
Get up close and personal with animals from all over the world!

Care for wild animals in your yard and neighborhood.
Make a bird feeder, or buy one, and hang where you can watch your winged visitors. Put out special treats for other critters, too!

Color a picture or icon.
An Icon, from Waltzing Mathilda (a blog with lots of resources and particularly coloring pages for the liturgical year!). A coloring page with a prayer by St. Francis.

Read a story to your children.
A list of books for young children with links to lists for older children, as well. Here are two stories you can read online: God's Troubadour, a story for older children; and another by Amy Steedman that is a bit shorter and for younger children.

Give a lesson.
This is a nice lesson plan for a larger group of children or classroom setting focused on teaching kindness to animals.

Read the Bible.
The Anglican readings for St. Francis' feast day.

Learn more about St. Francis' legacy.
The Rule of St. Francis - I find it particularly interesting that he specifically addresses brothers who will be ministering to Muslims. It makes me want to read more on his writings about Christian witnessing and outreach to Muslims. GK Chesterton's treatis on St. Francis - This may be something you'll want to print out as it is a bit long to read on a computer screen, at least for me.

Pray.
A Collect for St. Francis' Feast Day:
Father, you helped Saint Francis to reflect the image of Christ through a life of poverty and humility. May we follow your Son by walking in the footsteps of Francis of Assisi, and by imitating his joyful love. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


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