Thursday, March 30, 2017

Your Handwriting Matters

Today is National Pencil Day, did you know? (There's a holiday for everything...) In honor of such a prestigious event, today was the day to finish up this post about loving and styling your handwriting- because it always starts with a pencil :).

I've been honored to lead a couple of workshops recently about lettering and handwriting.  Gathering my thoughts for the why of those events before I planned the how reminded me of just how important handwriting is to me.  I wrote about it a couple of years ago in this post, and revisited those ideas for the little book I put together for the workshop.

You can click over to read all the details, but here is the gist:
Your handwriting matters:
1. Not because it is perfect
2. Because it reveals your personality and emotions
3. Because it is Incarnational in an often impersonal world
4. Because it is sentimental
5. Because it connects us with the history of the past and creates history for the future
6. Because it is a witness and testimony to what you believe and think
7. Because it is a connection that binds our words to our actions

In the workshops I gave, we talked about things we like or don't like about our handwriting, tips for improving your everyday handwriting, styling lettering for something special, etc.  We had lots of practice paper to doodle on and try new things and then did a few make-and-takes as well.

Most of what I know and can do has come from years (I mean like starting back in junior high...) of doodling, trying new styles, imitating someone else's letter formation, etc. until I could create many styles on my own.  I am always trying new things and looking for new lettering inspiration.

Common questions included what some of my favorite supplies are.  I but always love experimenting with new tools.  The supplies that I use all the time for everyday writing as well as for special things like my #SundayReadingsScriptureDoodles are nothing super fancy.  Really the trick is trying out different pens and markers and finding what you like.  You can make art with anything.  Try out new supplies until you find what you are most comfortable with.

Here are some of the supplies that I use all the time: (affiliate links)
-Ticonderoga Pencils (the ONLY pencil with using in my opinion)
-Regular Sharpies (seriously great for practicing, cheap, last through lots of projects)
-Pentel White Erasers (a good eraser is a necessity- these are cheap and work really really well)
-Sakura Micron Pigma Pens (various sizes) (these are my absolute favorite for outlining and are the final tool for how I create most of the printables on this site.)
-Stabilo Pens (.88 Multicolor pack) (a little bit more of an investment, but they are high quality and so fun.  I use mine all the time and have had them for almost two years)
-Sakura Brush Tip Pens (I'm still working on this technique, but if you want to give brush tip pens a try I would recommend these pens)
-Papermate Ink Joy (these are my favorite everyday-grading-note-writing teacher pens.  They are so cheap, come in packs of 8 different colors, and write boldly and smoothly)

Do you have any favorites that you would recommend?  Let me know in the comments!

So if you're interested in why your handwriting matters, why you should use it more often, how you can style it, and more, you might like my short little ebook.
It contains:
-The seven reasons why I think handwriting is so important
-General tips for styling and loving your handwriting
-Sample manuscript and cursive fonts/styles
-Steps for creating the popular "fake" calligraphy that anyone can create
-Ideas for a couple simple banners/borders

Click here to get your copy of the Your Handwriting Matters ebook:
What do you love about your handwriting?  And what would you like to change?

Monday, March 27, 2017

A Kids-Can-Make Peg Doll Nativity

School auction season is upon us, and I am always in search of a new kid-centered auction idea.  At our school each class makes and donates something special for parents and parishioners to bid on with proceeds helping fund large scale projects for the school.

We've made classroom books, painted pottery, etc. Two years ago we made this chalkboard table. This year, I decided to help the kids make something that might appeal to the parents of younger students, so we created a hand painted peg doll nativity.  Making Saint peg dolls has become a go-to gift for me, and I knew my students could handle making a set with a little guidance.  Each kid chose one person or animal to contribute to the nativity set.

For the planning process, I would recommend showing some example pegs or using a book like the Encyclopedia of Peg Saints from  Saintly Heart (affiliate link).  With lots of close up pictures, ideas for symbolism, etc., this book would be helpful for kids (and adults) as they are creating a peg doll from scratch.

I knew that the kids would need a little guiding and planning before we started in with the paint, so I created a Peg Doll Plan sheet for the students.

It helped them plan colors and symbols, as well as sketch out the front, back, and side views for the peg doll.  They then used that pattern to draw in pencil on their wooden peg.

We then had small groups working on painting.  I sat at a table with five or so kids.  They would add one layer/color of paint and then set it aside.  The next group would come and do the same, etc. By the time we were back to they first group, that layer of paint was dry and they could add the next color.

Taking turns was a great way to manage the mess of non-washable paint and for me to be available for a little guidance during the painting.

While the kids were painting figures, I painted the box/stable.  I think the the whole set turned out great, and I hope it finds a happy home at the auction!

Here's the outside of the box:

Click here for the printable Saint Peg Doll Planning Sheet:

Here are some of my recommended supplies that could be used to create a Nativity or set of Saints: (affiliate links)
-Wood Doll Bodies Man 3 9/16" (Although I bought in bulk last time to save!)
-Wood Doll Bodies Woman 3 1/2" (Also bought in bulk)
-Wood Knobs 2"
-Wood Blocks 2"
-Wood Blocks 1 1/2"
-Wood Eggs 2 1/2"
-My favorite boxes are from Hobby Lobby.  Unfortunately, I can't link right to the product I used, but I love these boxes.  They are sturdy and you can get them individually in store.

If you are interested in some other ideas, here are all of my other peg doll posts:

All Natural Peg Doll Nativity:

Peg Doll Nativity:

Wooden Animals for a Peg Doll Nativity:

Passion & Resurrection Peg Doll Set:

Saints, Cathedral, and Mass Set:

All Natural Noah's Ark Set:

Friday, March 17, 2017

Pray, Fast, Give: Print Giveaway (everyone wins!)

Hey friends, I just want to take a minute to say thank you.  We all know that social media has the potential to be a very negative place.  But this little blog and the people I've met through it have been nothing but lovely, gracious, and kind.  I'm so grateful to have a place to share ideas and creativity, give encouragement, and pray for each other.

In gratitude for all of you kind readers (and to celebrate a milestone of followers on Instagram!) I've partnered with Kayla Phillips Design to offer a little giveaway.  We are reaching the half-way point of Lent, and I know that this is a good time to remind ourselves of our focus- to pray, fast, and give as we come to know Christ deeper in these 40 days.  Kayla agreed, designed this sweet and simple handlettered print, AND then decided to offer it as a giveaway here on my blog.

But the best part?  This is a giveaway where everyone wins!  That's right, just click right here and you can download and print your very own Pray, Fast, Give print.  Kayla is offering this freebie to Look to Him and Be Radiant readers until March 31st.  AND you can also use code Lent2017 for 10% off anything in her Etsy shop through the end of the month!

I printed mine, put it in a pretty gray frame, and added it to my Lent table display.  It was a perfect addition to help me refocus during this (almost) third week of Lent.

After you print yours, Kayla and I would love to see how you display it!  Frame it, add it to a prayer journal, hang it on your mirror... there are plenty of ways to use this as a prayerful and pretty reminder.  Show us your print with a pic on social media using #PrayFastGiveLent.

And, as a thank you for Kayla's generosity, please go check her out and give her a follow!  Don't forget you can get 10% off any purchase in her shop using code Lent2017.
Kayla Phillips Design on Etsy
Kayla Phillips Design on Facebook
Kayla Phillips Design on Instagram
Kayla Phillips Design Website

Thanks again for being here!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Katie Reads {5}

Time to chat about what I've been reading!  These posts are keeping me accountable to continue picking up the books I've been meaning to read.  I also have found so many good recommendations around the blogging world, so I'd like to share a few ideas with you!

(FYI- the links for the books are Amazon Affiliate links.  That means that if you click through and purchase something, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you.  I will gratefully use it, probably to stock up on more books! :)  )

Since I would rather be reading than writing long book reviews, I'll give you a grade and a quick run down- totally just my opinion based on what I enjoy.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on these books or suggestions of what I should read next in the comments! 
You can check out other book recommendations here: 
Katie Reads {1} 
Katie Reads {2}  
Katie Reads {3}
Katie Reads {4}

The Awakening of Miss Prim, Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera, {B+}
  • Haley and Christy of Fountains of Carrots recommended this one, and I really enjoyed it (you can listen to their podcast discussion of the book here.)  It's a new book, but is written in an old fashioned style about an old fashioned character who stumbles upon a job in an old fashioned town.  
  • Miss Prim accepts a position as a librarian for an eccentric gentleman with a fabulous library, despite the fact that she is highly over qualified.  She finds herself immersed in an interesting little town, full of interconnected people and stories that lead her to questioning the world she thought she already understood so well.
  • I will admit that while I am not well-read or intelligent enough to fully understand all the classic literature references, I could still appreciate the air of nostalgia associated with higher learning and discourse and philosophy.
  • One of my favorite elements of this book were the townspeople and community.  The layers they add to the story made me actually pick up and reread this book about a month after I finished it, something I rarely do.  I enjoyed them even more the second time around.  
  • "My story is as old as the world.  I'm not the first and I won't be the last.  I know what you're thinking.  Would I turn back if I could? No, of course not.  Would a newly awoken man willingly go back to the sleepwalking life?"
  • If you like books that make you think a bit about the world and what it might take for you to change the opinions you hold so dear, I think you'd like this book.

St. Gianna Beretta Molla: Wife, Mother, Doctor, Pietro Molla and Elio Guerriero {A}
  • St. Gianna makes my Saintly Top Ten (don't make me actually list my favorites- it is impossible).  I first read this book- maybe right after college?- and loved its style.  Written by St. Gianna's own husband, we get a loving look into the everyday life of this amazing woman.
  • And then when I had the opportunity to meet her daughter Gianna (the child whom she risked her life for) I knew I had to reread this book.  The photo of the book was taken from our visit to the Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine in LaCrosse, WI, home to the beautiful original painting in the background.  Below I'm including a picture of my friends and I with Dr. Gianna Molla. :)
  • It includes a biography of both sides of the family, her childhood and young adult years, and content from interviews with Pietro.  You will also find Pietro's reflections on her virtue. 
  • So much beauty existed in their relationship, so I think one of my next book purchases will be The Journey of Our Love, a collection of Gianna and Pietro's letters. (swoon)
  • "Gianna had that courage and found true beauty in living with joy and love in the grace of God, 'with Jesus in her heart', in admiring and enjoying the wonders of creation, in seeing the gift of God everywhere."
  • Really, I would recommend this book for any woman- It presents a beautiful image of having a career, of serving God as a single woman, and of being a wife and mother.

The Blue Castle, L.M. Montgomery {A+}
  • This one was another Fountains of Carrots recommendation, with a podcast coming soon. 
  • I LOVED this book.  I'm still working my way through the Anne books, so I expected something similar.  However, it is everything that makes people love the Anne series, but deeper and richer and different.  I read that critics have called this Montgomery's best work, and I can see why.
  • Valancy Stirling has led a miserable life, and as a still-single-twenty-nine-year-old, she knows nothing good will ever happen to her.  Stiff, formal, sheltered, and with no pleasures of her own (except enjoying her creative daydreams), she risks throwing everything away and is viewed as crazy by her whole family.  Her choice leads her down a path that changes her life and helps her discover who she really was all along.
  • This is another books that has phenomenal "townspeople."  The secondary characters were both ridiculously adorable and ridiculously deplorable, depending.  The dialogue made me laugh out loud several times and the characterization was just stellar.  I so wish there was a movie version of this book!
  • I know I just said that I don't do this, but I seriously read the last page of this book and immediately turned back to the first page again.  I just enjoyed the characters and how the story turned out so so much.  It was a bright spot in this dark winter.
  • (Also, small note- The hardback book pictured above is the hardcover listed on Amazon.  I was disappointed in the binding (cracked and split when I first opened the book) and the fact that the pages look like downsized pdfs, resulting in approximately 8 pt. font.  Just get the kindle or paperback version!)
  • "Valancy reviewed her whole life between midnight and the early spring dawn.  It was a very drab existence, but here and there an incident loomed out with a significance out of proportion to its real importance.  These incidents were all unpleasant in one way or another.  Nothing really pleasant had ever happened to Valancy."
  • If you are a typical fan of AnneLittle Women, or Jane Austen, this book is for you.  

How to Be a Hero: Train with the Saints, Julia Harrell {A}
Pauline Books & Media provided me with a free copy of How to Be a Hero: Train with the Saints in exchange for an honest review.
  • When Julia asked for reviews of her new book, I knew it was going to be right up my alley.  I've written before about some of my favorite Saint books for 9-12 year olds, and this one needs to be added to the list.
  • Julia created a handbook of how to grow in virtue (an important topic for home & classroom) for intermediate age kids.  Pairing each of the Cardinal, Theological, and "Little" Virtues with the example of an awesome Saint, she is giving the kids the inspiration to find holy heroes and become like them.  She chose some of my favorites, such as St. John Paul II, Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, and St. Josephine Bakhita.  The Saints also range in era from very early Christianity (St. Monica) to modern day (Bl. Chiara Badano.)  There is someone for every kid with Saints representing varying interests, backgrounds, struggles, and triumphs.
  • The book has several content areas for each Saint, including info about a virtue and how they exemplified it, a short "novelized" biography, discussion/reflection questions, photos, drawings, and a prayer. There is also a section in the back with brief, page long biographies of each Saint.
  • I would most recommend this book for 4th-6th graders.   I especially think that the "Who Is...?" chapters work perfectly for read-alouds, which is how I have been using the book in my classroom.  I also have had several students pick up and read selected chunks (note- I love that they can pick and choose the chapters to read- this works so well for this age group) and they have really enjoyed it.  Some of their feedback included that they were really interested by some of the stories of Saints that were new to them, they liked the details packed into the short chapters, and liked the "look" of the book with all of the illustrations.
  • "You can be holy.  There are as many ways to be holy as there are people.  The saints come from every country, every time period, every age, every walk of life, and every type of family. Though there is enormous diversity in their circumstances, every saint lives a virtuous life: a life powered by God himself."
  • I'm grateful to be able to add this to my classroom library for continued lessons in virtue and devotion to the Saints, and I think it would make a great addition to your home or classroom, especially as a read-aloud and a resource for great virtue related discussion starters.

The Catholic Table, Emily Stimpson Chapman {A+}
  • This is by far the best new nonfiction I have read in a long time.  Emily blogs at The Catholic Table, where she writes about life and food and hospitality and faith.  This book of the same title covers the same topics, but in an interwoven and introspective way that I did not expect when I first picked it up.
  • Emily takes food, the substance we all can't live with out, the thing many people obsess over, the item that we misuse frequently, and helps us see it through God's eyes.
  • The content of this book is just amazing.  She writes about food, but connects it to Creation, Theology of the Body, eating disorders, cooking, hospitality, family, friends, sacramentality, the Eucharist, and more.  Even better, the book is peppered with delicious recipes, stories of food miracles, and mini bios of Saints connected to special food patronages.  It was a delight.
  • I now would love to score an invite to one of Emily's dinner parties. ;)  And this cover! So beautiful! It was what first attracted me to reading it, and the image doesn't disappoint.
  • "Food isn't just about calories and fat, vitamins and minerals, additives and preservatives.  It's about God.  It's about community.  It's about life.  Food is one of God's most precious gifts, a sign of the Lord's goodness, abundance, creativity, and love.  Most important, it's the very thing that God becomes for us in the Eucharist."
  • I loved it so much, I am convincing my young adult group to lead a Bible study series on the topics Emily presents.  In the meantime, I want more people to read this book.  I think that it will be especially poignant for wives & moms seeking meaning and everyday theology in the daily tasks of providing for people.  But really, I think that this book is for anyone who eats and wants to know why God gave us food and how He is using it to draw us back to Him.  

Austenland, Shannon Hale, {B}
  • I reread this one Saturday in January when I had the rare luxury of staying home most of the weekend.  You know I love all things Austen, and Austenland is probably my favorite fun adaptation.
  • I first picked this up because I LOVE Shannon Hale's writing, both personally and for my students.  My favorite by far is The Goose Girl (and series) and I also really like The Princess Academy. She's a Newbery Honor author, so when I found that she was also was writing some chick-lit Jane Austen stories, I had to read it. 
  • Jane is a modern day woman whose life has been overtaken by her love for Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice, Mr. Darcy, and Colin Firth.  She receives an incredible vacation as a gift- but that vacation is to Pembrook Park, a themed Inn that immerses its guests in the life of Regency England.  Complete with no electronics, costumes, balls, and actors playing the part of doting gentlemen, she hopes the trip will cure her of her Austen obsession.
  • "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a thirty-something woman in possession of a satisfying career and fabulous hairdo must be in want of very little, and Jane Hayes, pretty enough and clever enough, was certainly thought to have little to distress her."
  • The movie is fun as well, but I like the book better- shocking, I know.  If you like Jane Austen at all- even just the movies- and are looking for a light-hearted read, you will enjoy this book.

A Lantern in Her Hand, Bess Streeter Aldrich, {A+}
  • This book made me cry on an airplane. Well, I was leaving my sister and nephew behind, so I suppose the tears are not that unexpected, but seriously, real tears.  If you've read some of my other Katie Reads posts, you know that Little House has forever made me love Pioneer Lit.  A Lantern in Her Hand has become a new favorite.
  • Chronicling the lifetime of Abbie Deal through the hardships and triumphs of pioneer life in the unsettled Nebraska territory, we get to read about the 80 years in her lifetime.  While the first half or so of the book read a little like a series of events, the further I got into the book (and the older Abbie grew) the more introspective and thought provoking it became.
  • A White Bird Flying, the sequel about Abbie's granddaughter Laura, is now on my wishlist.
  • "'I think it's a nice memory, Grandma, but something about the way you say it makes me sad.'  'But it's not sad, Laura.  My memories are not sad. They're pleasant.  I'm happy when I'm living them over. You'll find out when you get old, Laura, that some of the realities seem dreams... but the old dreams, Laura, ... the dreams are all real.'"
  • Don't judge the terribly nineties cover- I'd love to see a redesign more accurately representing the era in which it was published (1928) or the setting of the story.  As I'm posting this, the paperback is only $2.99 on Amazon! Go grab yourself a copy and reflect on the lifetime of hard work and self sacrifice lived out by the generations before us.
There's all my new recommendations!  My to-read list grows longer and longer, so I'm almost afraid to ask...but what do you think I should read next?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Sleeping St. Joseph

(This post contains Amazon affiliate links.  That means that if you click through and purchase something, I will receive a small percentage at no cost to you. Thanks for supporting my little blog! )

A few years ago while visiting the Philippines, Pope Francis wove his love for St. Joseph into an address on prayer and family.  Specifically, he spoke about a statue he has on his desk of the Sleeping St. Joseph.  From the Gospels, we know that St. Joseph listened to God in his dreams and then rose to act on His will.  Pope Francis shared with his audience that he asks St. Joseph to pray for his intentions by writing them down and slipping the paper under the statue of St. Joseph.

This sweet devotion has been spreading slowly across the world.  A dear friend was the first to introduce it to me, and I just love this new connection with one of my very favorite Saints.  How comforting to think of St. Joseph caring for the Church, for us and our concerns, while resting in God.

You can read the full text of Pope Francis' address here.  (It is super accessible- only a couple of pages long with a theme of family and prayer, making it very readable for older kids.)  There are several awesome, wisdom packed quotes from his talk that I think would be great to share with kids and adults alike:
· “I have a great love for St. Joseph, because he is a man of silence and strength.  On my table I have an image of St. Joseph sleeping.  Even when he is asleep, he is taking care of the Church!”
· “Joseph’s rest revealed God’s will to him.  In this moment of rest in the Lord, as we pause from our many daily obligations and activities, God is also speaking to us.”
· “But like St. Joseph, once we have heard God’s voice, we must rise from our slumber; we must get up and act.”


The Solemnity of St. Joseph is coming up (observed on March 20th this year) and I am one of the teachers that helps plan the St. Joseph Day celebrations for our school, which is under the patronage of St. Joseph.  You can see my other ideas for celebrating St. Joseph's Solemnity in this post.  For my students, I might add this adorable St. Joseph figurine and this prayer book to our Faith Corner. We will enjoy our school's tradition of  sharing St. Joseph Day Bread, we'll read my favorite St. Joseph book and the beautiful Joseph page of this book, and... we'll do some Sleeping St. Joseph activities.  This year, our staff decided to introduce the kids to a new way to connect with St. Joseph by getting our own Sleeping St. Joseph statue.  We are so excited to share him with the students on his feast day during an all school assembly and blessing.

Sleeping St. Joseph in various picture books.
Our new Sleeping St. Joseph statue was purchased by my principal, but you can find some similar options like this one or this one.  Our statue will have a home on a shelf outside the school office.  He will rest on a box with an opening for students and families to leave their prayer requests.  I made a sign and a stack of prayer cards to leave with the statue as well.

Even if you don't own a Sleeping St. Joseph statue, you still can use his image and story to help kids learn about St. Joseph's prayer and action, strength and silence.  Here's an outline of my suggestions for leading children to a devotion to St. Joseph (all of these printables are at the bottom of the post).
· Color the Sleeping St. Joseph coloring page and share prayer requests for St. Joseph.  Talk about how St. Joseph protected and provided for the Holy Family, and how he protects and provides for the Church.
· Color, fold, and tape the Sleeping St. Joseph statue to create a prayer pillow.  Slide prayer requests inside the pillow.  Another variation is to fold the statue like table tent so it stands up.  Prayer requests can still be added inside.
· Read Matthew 1:18-25, discussing how St. Joseph rested in God, listened to Him, and then acted on His instructions.
· Color one of the Sleeping St. Joseph pages or Pope Francis quote pages.  Discuss Pope Francis’ wisdom about St. Joseph and his role for us and the Church.
· Use the Sleeping St. Joseph booklet to talk about Pope Francis’ speech and devotion to St. Joseph with the selected quote and discussion questions.  Write down prayer requests for St. Joseph.
· Read the stories of St. Joseph (Matthew 1:18-25 and 2:13-14) and Joseph, son of Jacob (Genesis 37, 40, and 41).  Compare how God used dreams in their lives and how they responded.
· Read the full text of Pope Francis’ speech and discuss his teaching on St. Joseph, prayer, and the family.  Identify the virtues of St. Joseph and how we can emulate him.

Your kids can make their own Sleeping St. Joseph with a place to keep their prayers.  Using the same printable, I have two suggestions.  We'll call one the prayer pillow (pictured above) and one the pop up statue.

First, color St. Joseph:

Then fold the top and bottom sections back on the dotted lines.  They will overlap.  Tape the length of the paper.  I used colorful masking tape so that you can see it, but scotch tape will work just fine.

Next tape the end of the prayer pillow closed near St. Joseph's feet:

Leave the end near his head open, and slide your prayer requests inside for him to rest on and pray for:

A slightly different variation creates a pop up statue.  Color St. Joseph, fold back the top and bottom of the page on the dotted lines, but instead of overlapping the flaps before taping, line them up.  Tape, and you have created a tri-fold that will stand on its own. Prayer requests can still be slipped inside the pop-up St. Joseph Statue.  He could sit on a shelf or desk, but also could be folded flat to add to a notebook or lapbook project.

I have a ton of different printables linked below.  I was aiming for a variety that might help meet the needs of different ages and classrooms.  I hope that something in the collection catches your eye!

Click here for the teacher guide with a summary of the devotion and a list of ideas for varying age levels- perfect to give as an overview to a group of teachers or catechists:

 Click here for prayer cards with a quote from Pope Francis and a prayer for the Sleeping St. Joseph:

Click here for a printable of the plain Sleeping St. Joseph to be used to make the prayer pillow or stand up statue:

 Click here for the same printable, but with "Sleeping St. Joseph, Pray for Us" included:

Click here for a Sleeping St. Joseph coloring page with a chunk of St. Joseph's story from the Gospel of Matthew:

Sleeping St. Joseph, Pray for Us cursive coloring page:

Click here for the Sleeping St. Joseph Devotion Booklet with discussion questions, room for prayer intentions, and Pope Francis quotes:

Sleeping St. Joseph Devotion sign for your own statue and display:

Click here for the Pope Francis St. Joseph quote coloring page:

Have you heard of the Sleeping St. Joseph Devotion?  Is it something you would like to add to your home or classroom?