Easter Basket Ideas for the Very Young Catholic Child

Inedible vegetables in an Easter basket - There are only so many years we can get away with this!
Inedible vegetables tucked into an Easter basket? There are only so many years we can hope to get away with this!

While we’re not a no-sugar household, we don’t do much candy. So, as I slowly accumulate some items for a certain two year old’s Easter basket (in order to avoid an aimless and mad rush to CVS on Holy Saturday), I’ve been looking for creative ideas that are beautiful or inject some catechesis into a basket celebrating our greatest of liturgical feasts. Don’t worry, there will be some Jelly Belly Beans in the mix, too, if only to satisfy my own buttered popcorn-flavored craving! Plus, I picked up some classic German and Belgian Easter chocolates, Matt found some fun, child-friendly snacks from the local Asian market, and we even collaborated on a block of cheese in the shape of a zebra from the infamous Jungle Jim’s (it is as awesome as it sounds).

Here are some of my non-edible favorites, which either made an appearance last Easter or will be this coming Easter for our 2 year old:

- Maite Roche’s My First Pictures of Easter board book  - We bought this book last year, and have been reading it during this Lent, since it covers Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, betrayal, and crucifixion in a very simple style and type of language, without watering the story down too much (unlike many of the baby and toddler Bible adaptations one is likely to encounter). I am a big fan of Roche’s work – it is a joy to experience for parent(s) and child(ten) alike.

- I Am a Bunny, by Ole Risom and illustrated by Richard Scarry – This has nothing to do with Jesus’ dying and then rising three days later in victory over our sins, but oh my is it sweet. I have this book memorized from my own childhood, and just know my toddler will also appreciate it. This falls into the solidly beautiful category.

- Wee Believers’ Easter Faith Mat - This may sound a bit strange, but we are slowly acquiring/making a collection of catechetical placemats for use during Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter (so far, we only have Advent), and then, during ordinary time, we do general educational ones I pick up at a local teacher supply store. While I really like the look and quality of this Easter one, I do wish it wasn’t made in China.

- Wee Believers’ The Story of Easter Magnet Book – $13.99 - Also made in China, this portable scene with movable characters would be good for early childhood catechesis at home or mass.

- Maite Roche’s My First Bedtime Prayers - Yes, I am admittedly a Maite Roche super-fan! This is yet another of her delightful little board books. My toddler already spied it, pulled it down, and requested I read it, but he’ll have to wait until Lent is over, as will I….

- Ikea’s Duktig 14-piece vegetables set – We have a mini-kitchen from the 1970s, made by the iconic Creative Playthings company, which we picked up via Craigslist. Up until recently, it has been stationed in our library, mainly holding cars in the cabinets and stuffed toys in the sink, but I recently moved it into the kitchen and invested in some miniaturized cooking utensils and pans. These will look so cute in the Easter basket, inject a little dose of irony, and our son will enjoy them, no doubt.

In addition, here are my Lent and Easter Pinterest Boards.

I’d love some more inspiration. Got any great ideas?



Printable Film Critique Assignment: Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments


As a current thirty-something, I grew up with the yearly tradition of watching Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments on TV. It has everything – adventure, romance, questionable hairstyles (I’m looking at you, Yul Brynner) – so, imagine my surprise when I was fresh out of college and teaching Scripture and realized most high school students, at least the ones whom I’ve encountered, have never seen this epic in its entirety. Now, almost a decade into a career in education, this is still my experience. Instead, many of them have seen Prince of Egypt, which is another story altogether.

It was in such a fit of DeMille enthusiasm, that I came up with this film critique assignment because, let’s face it, it’s a great film that everyone should try to make an effort to see, but it is not exactly identical to what we come across in the Old Testament. I saw this as an interdisciplinary opportunity for my students to watch critically, compare/contrast, practice active note-taking skills, and hone their writing skills. Plus, from my observation, adolescents just love the high-tech, mid-1950s special effects!

I used this assignment with high school sophomores, however it really could work well for middle school and up.

In honor of the start of Passover, you’ll find a PDF of the assignment below.


Meat-Free Friday: Tofu Pad Thai

As much as I applaud the Meatless Monday initiative that has had, for the last several years, foodies and the socially conscious alike (with much overlap, of course) combing their shelves at the start of the week for a tasty vegetarian option, the Catholic Church is way ahead of you. It’s abstaining on Friday, and you can do it all year long. In fact, the 1983 Code of Canon Law encourages it, unless – at least for those in the United States – you have another specific penitential or charitable act in mind.

Home-grown Mung Bean Sprouts - Aren't they pretty?
Home-grown Mung Bean Sprouts – Aren’t they pretty?

There’s not much penance involved in our meal planned for tonight (I’ll add pictures this evening), as it’s kind of a crowd pleaser, especially if you count the pleasure I get in watching Matt willingly ingesting tofu, which doesn’t happen all that often: Pad Thai, a meal as varied as it can be good. The recipe we’ll be following this evening has simple to follow instructions, although some of the ingredients are easier to find than others. I grow my own Mung Bean sprouts, and I’ve already invested in Thai dried chili peppers and a good fish sauce, but we may have to do a little hunting for banana flower and preserved turnip, as well as Chinese chives. For another perspective on authentic Pad Thai, I enjoy the anecdotes and pictures provided here. She also provides some good substitutions, as well as entertaining commentary on ingredients foreigners like to add.

* 04.14.2014 Update: According to Matt, this is one of the best meals I have ever made – this is all owed to the recipe’s clear instructions and the great finds he was able to pick up at our nearest Asian market. But truly, it was better than any Pad Thai take-out I’ve ever had. As the recipe mentions, the meal is really much less oily than take-outers are probably used to, and the noodles themselves are comparatively drier.


St. Benedict’s Church, Covington, Kentucky


On Sunday, all three of us went to mass in the Diocese of Covington, Kentucky at St. Benedict’s in Covington proper, as Matt would be speaking to parishioners after mass about Sacred Heart Radio and The Son Rise Morning Show, encouraging them to join the mailing list and consider becoming members. I am so glad I decided to go along with him, as the liturgy was wonderful, the church and its architecture are gorgeous, and everyone was very welcoming, not least of all being the Franciscan Daughters of Mary. As we were planning to go to the zoo after mass, I happened to have my camera, and was fortunate to be able to snag a couple of moments after mass to snap some pictures.

Cincinnati, Ohio’s Spring Grove Cemetery

Spring Grove Cemetery
Spring Grove Cemetery

On Saturday, a good friend, the child, and I spent some time walking around Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati. Recognized as a United States National Historic Landmark, the architecture, gardens, and graves are beautiful, and I’m sure get only better as the Spring progresses. I’m looking forward to taking Matt sometime soon, but in the meantime, here are some pictures I took:

Meatless Friday: Curried Rice Noodles with Shrimp

A plate of Curried Rice Noodles from the Annie Chun site - ours got consumed too fast!
A plate of Curried Rice Noodles from the Annie Chun site – ours got consumed too fast!

I am not usually one to make recipes from the back of a box, but this is one that is a family favorite, and was perfect for a meatless Friday – Curried Rice Noodles with Shrimp. This is a bit Americanized, I think, but one of the wonderful things about making Asian food at home is that, unlike take-out, you can control the sodium and oil content. I followed the recipe exactly, putting neither salt nor any more oil than was called for into the wok, and it was perfect.

Maifun (a bit thinner than vermicelli) rice noodles are very easy for toddlers and other young children to manage, and just generally fun to eat. I used Annie Chun’s Maifun Brown Rice Noodles, and all the ingredients were easily found at Kroger. My only caution is to use a timer and be careful not to overcook the noodles (or the shrimp!), as they can get overly pasty and sticky if boiled for more than about 3-4 minutes.

Printable Fulton Sheen Coloring Sheet

A small sampling of the Fulton Sheen Coloring Sheet offered below
A small sampling of the Fulton Sheen Coloring Sheet offered below

During Spring Break we went to Mammoth Cave as a family, checked out some great, new-to-us kids’ music, and I even got a little productive.

One of my projects has been to work on the planning and orchestration of a Catholic family camping retreat for our Teams of Our Lady group. It’s set to take place in June at a state park with wonderfully primitive and spacious group camping space, and I am looking forward to the adventure, but also the process of organizing it. I’ve come up with an itinerary, the template of which I hope to share soon, as well as a theme which is based off of the mass readings for that particular weekend. Additionally, I commissioned (aka begged and offered little to nothing in return…) my long-distance, art teacher mom to create a coloring sheet to be able to use for a portion of the weekend. Our group has been reading Fulton Sheen’s Three to Get Married all this year, and I highly recommend it for individual, small group, or large group use. It is full of practical and still very timely wisdom. My hope is to introduce some early to middle childhood-level Fulton Sheen catechesis to the roughly twenty children ranging from infancy to older elementary school who will be in attendance at the camping retreat, especially as his Venerableness has just had a miracle approved by the Vatican that is attributed to his intercession!

One neat feature of the coloring sheet is that there is extra space on the signature Sheen blackboard for another quote under “God Love You.” If you have an older child, challenge him or her to find another favorite Sheen saying and inscribe it also.

Fulton Sheen Coloring Sheet

"Marriage is a duel to the death, which no man of honour should decline." – G.K. Chesterton's 'Manalive'


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