Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Things To Do (especially) in London over the Easter Break

Here's a guest-post from my niece, Marta is a London-based mother of three lovely and lively young children... and a real activity-nerd when it comes to holiday time...

School broke up for Easter this last Friday and seeing as my children are 6, 5 and 2, and constantly fighting, I realised early on in the school year that I have to keep them super busy in the holidays.  As a result, our school breaks are action-packed.  We plan activities for every day: playdates, crafts, baking, outings into central London… Chiara asked me to share a few of the things we’ll be doing over the Easter break.

Hot Cross Buns

In England, Hot Cross Buns are spiced sweet buns that mark the end of Lent and are usually eaten on Good Friday. They’re made with raisins or currants and are marked with a cross on the top which represents the Crucifixion; the spices represent the spices used to embalm Christ at his burial.  I don’t usually eat them as I’m not a huge fan of raisins in my pastries, but my son Jude discovered a love of baking this year, and my daughter has come home the last two weeks singing the ‘Hot Cross Buns’ nursery rhyme every day, so I have decided to make the most of this and make them during the Easter holidays this year.  We’ll be using this BBC recipe . Hot Cross Buns are best eaten cut in half, toasted and buttered.

In the last few years it has become popular to create variations of the traditional recipe, such as toffee, orange, apple-cinnamon and coffee.  Others use chocolate chips instead of raisins.  

Foam Crosses

We’re big fans of crafts at our house.  Foam crosses are so simple to make! Using art foam (or card, or any other medium, really!) we cut out a basic cross shape.  I then cut smaller foam pieces in different colours, and stick them to the cross background to create a mosaic effect.  In the past we’ve made them at the beginning of lent, and have stuck on a mosaic tile each time I’ve observed the children being helpful, loving, or sacrificing something they want for someone else, hoping to fill the crosses before the end of Lent.

Signs of Spring

Autumn is a sad time for my children – they’re heartbroken at the idea of the flowers and the trees ‘dying’.  Because of this, the first signs of spring are super exciting for them! We walk through the park on the way to school so they can see the blossom trees flowering and the new leaf buds on the trees.  During the Easter holidays we’ll be going to see other signs of spring and of new life.

Bluebells are the UK’s best-loved wild flowers, and they flower between mid-April and late May.  They completely transform our woodland in springtime, creating carpets of intense blue.  Half of the world’s bluebells are here in the UK, and the children and I will be going to Beckenham Place Park, South-east London, to see the spectacular display there

London’s city farms are currently welcoming their newest members and we’ll be going along to see the new lambs, ducklings and chicks too. Surrey Docks Farm is a family favourite, but Godstone Farm and Christmas Tree farm in Orpington are also recommended!

For anyone planning to go and see bluebells, remember that they are protected in the UK and picking them is highly discouraged.

The Passion

We have not been to The Passion of Jesus in Tragalgar Square before, but will definitely be going this year.  It’s a Passion play put on by the wonderful Wintershall players every year.  Over 20,000 people travel to Trafalgar Square in central London every Good Friday to watch the free 90-minute production.  They have two performances on the day – 12 noon and 3:15, and large screens are provided to maximise visibility, and there are BSL interpreters. Due to its being a realistic interpretation, they advise parental guidance. 

National Gallery

One of our favourite school holiday activities is to go to the National Gallery and take part in their holiday activities. They do a Messy Monday and Talking Tuesday both of which are amazing.  They’re aimed at under-8s and the lady who usually runs them, Jacqui Ansell, is wonderful.  The sessions focus on one painting from the museum and Jacqui usually starts by telling the story of the painting. There’s soft play, sensory play, crafts, painting, dressing up…

The drop-in sessions they run on Tuesday – Thursday are incredible.  I don’t mind admitting that most of my kids’ artwork ends up in the recycling bin after a couple of weeks, but every single thing we have made at the National Gallery sessions is still in the house, and most of it is still on display.  Upon arrival you’re given a pack containing sheets of paper, colouring pencils and an information sheet which is a map of the museum with a series of paintings to go and look at and instructions to copy a particular detail from each.  At the end of it we make something. In the past we’ve made a mobile, angel wings, a horse sculpture, silhouette puppets… and they’re usually big projects that the children are really proud of.  I highly recommend it. 

They usually also run apprentice workshops, run by a professional artist.  My sister has been to several of them and has enjoyed them all! 

The National Gallery website will let you know everything they’ve got going on  

Tall Ships Regatta

The ever-popular Tall Ships Regatta returns to London this April.  We are lucky enough to live a short 15-minute bicycle ride from Greenwich, and attend this event every time it takes place.
During the Tall Ships Festival a fleet of more than 30 ships spends the weekend in the Maritime Greenwich and Royal Arsenal Woolwich riverfronts.  The crews prepare for their 7,000 nautical mile race to Canada, and those of us on dry land have four days of festivities, including cruises aboard the ships, beautiful fireworks displays every night and maritime themed activities in both town centres.

Resurrection Garden

I recently discovered Resurrection Gardens on Pinterest.  It’s a wonderful way to talk about Christ every day during Holy Week.  Every part of it is used to talk about God and Jesus, going through the Creation story, the Flood, the Nativity, Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, and finally the Resurrection. This is another one we’ll be trying for the first time this year.  A quick Google search will bring up countless tutorials - there are so many different ways of doing them, depending on the time and materials at your disposal!

Easter Egg Hunt

For as long as I can remember we have had an Easter Egg Hunt at my grandparents’ house at the beginning of Easter.  I have wonderful memories of searching high and low in the garden for the small foil-wrapped eggs, competing with my cousins to find as many as possible.  Now I hide the eggs rather than search for them but I love watching my children run around the same garden that I searched in with my younger siblings and cousins.  If the weather allows, the Egg Hunt is preceded by a big family barbecue, and is usually the first of the year as the weather finally starts to improve.

I hope some of our activities serve as inspiration for you and your families.  Happy Easter to all!

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Accompanying Young People in their Faith Journey

All of this week a Symposium is taking place in Barcelona in preparation for next year's Synod on Young People. The theme is "Accompanying Young People to freely respond to Christ's call." It's organised by the Council of European Bishops Conferences. 

We were contacted by the Vice President the extraordinarily dynamic Dutch priest Michel Remery and author of a great book of apologetics for young people: Tweeting With God.

He wanted a 5 minute video of a family with children of various ages, talking about accompanying young people in faith and discovering their vocation. That seemed easy enough but if you're ever doing a video, leave at least five times as much time as you think you need!

We were on a tight deadline and finished the video after about 100 takes, at 2:30am talking about the joys of family life and wanting to strangle eachother!

We had so much more we would have wanted to say and say better but we think we managed to get something of value across... you decide!

Friday, 10 March 2017

Fish Friday - 10 Minute Sicilian Courgette and Prawn Pasta

10-minute courgette and prawn pasta sauce.
Serves 6-8

This is a great recipe I learnt in Sicily from a little fish restaurant where we go on holiday. It's super quick and tasty so put the water for the pasta on to boil while you're making the sauce.

Olive oil 
Uncooked prawns
Tinned cherry tomatoes 

Cut the courgette into small matchsticks. Dice a clove of garlic and fry in olive oil until golden.

Add the courgettes and fry them quickly while stirring until they are soft.

 Add a tin of cherry tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.

 Add prawns and simmer until the prawns are pink (don't overcook the prawns or they'll become rubbery)!

Serve ideally with casarecce or if you can't find them then with penne and add some chilli oil for some extra bite.

Buon appetito!

Thursday, 9 March 2017


Hi! I'm Ettore, eldest of the Finaldi clan, I'll be 17 soon and this year I was finally old enough to go to the youth conference of the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child. Here's a little report on a great weekend.

Day 1

It began as any other Friday, long and labour intensive biology lesson followed by an even longer Government and Politics lesson... a two-day conference was the last thing I wanted to do after the tedious week I'd just had, but I knew it would be worth it in the end so off I went (funny the tricks the devil plays on you!) Anyway after a train, an underground and another train I finally arrived in Stoke on Trent some 200 miles from home.

Outside it was dark, dreary and rainy, the complete opposite of the atmosphere I found inside the conference. After making immediate acquaintance with three friendly Mancunians I went to check in. The room was brilliant, but I'm not here to give a review of the venue (which was brilliant by the way.) 

I arrived at the point of a quiz, it was great fun that bonded us as fellow pro-lifers, it was a perfect start. From that moment friendships were made and it set a perfect tone for the days ahead, knowledge and fun.

Day 2
Now being as lazy and a late riser I missed breakfast, Mass and the workshop. Shame, but luckily I came to what I found to be the crown jewel of the talks, 'From Pro-Choice to Pro-Life' by Dr Tony Levatino an ex late term abortionist, and if you're as aquatinted with the Pro life movement as I am, he's kind of a celebrity, so I almost screamed when I saw him the way a fan would! But jokes aside he gave a harrowing talk about the reality of abortion and his joining of the pro-life movement. 

After that inspiring talk we got to ask questions, we asked for his conversion story and he gave us a shortened version. The part that stuck out most was when an old lady said to him in his pre-christian days "it's great to see what Jesus is doing in your life.' he responded with something along the lines of "I don't really believe in the whole thing." she replied saying 'Jesus knows your name, he'll get you sooner or later.' and now he's Christian. Funny how things turn out. 

This was followed by a quick tea break and then a very sad talk by Alexandria Tompson called 'The problem with screening for down's sydrome.' This highlighted the 'unintented' eugenics of abortion, how soon we will become a world without children with down syndrome due to abortion, and how we must be willing to lose things for our views, shown through Jérôme Lejeune, the French scientist who became famous for discovering that Down's syndrome was genetic, and once his discovery was used to abort the child before birth, he fought against it and fought for their right to life, this cost him his career and countless awards, but he knew they were meaningless compared to the mass genocide that was happening. 

The thing I learnt from this sadly truthful talk, was that we must be willing to take one for the team, our views are important but if we hide them and express them in the secrecy of our own homes they are useless and will never change anyone's mind, enough of being a closet pro lifer! You may lose your job but thousands are losing their lives every day and if he did it we should follow his example (especially since Jérôme Lejeune may become a saint).

Guys be prepared to take one for team life and in the words Congressmen Henry Hyde 'As a Pro lifer when you die and you come up in front of the Eternal Judgement,  before the throne of God there will be a crowd of children pleading on your behalf, saying "Please let this person in, he did so much for me". 

This was followed Dr Anthony McCarthy's thought provoking talk on gender theory and showing what a bad position the secular world has come to, as the 'I think therefore I am' mentality has lead to things as far as 'I identify as an attack helicopter.' 

The Scots then came up to show us the work they had been doing around their glorious land, a week of pro-life activism around different towns and cities in Scotland for young people, something I would highly recommend for youths looking for adventure and empowerment.  

It was time for another tea break and a highly fascinating talk by Dr Patricia Morgan on 'The Family Under Fire.' a once again depressingly realistic talk on how the family has and is deteriorating at an alarming rate... though to every action there is a reaction, we were told WE ARE THE FUTURE and we stand in defence of the family

The talks finished, we had dinner and free time to freshen up for the Ceilidh. After a pleasant meal and a shower I joined the community of like minded people (a strange feeling, I sometimes tried to start arguments on purpose to feel more at home!) ...we danced the night away full of fun conversation, embarrassing attempts of certain steps and great music. 

It was great to be in communion with these fellow pro-lifers during these hard times. As the night progressed and the music stopped, the softies went to bed and others stayed into the early hours of the night talking about whatever and whoever, I spoke with many different people and had great fun, until words turned to music once again when we were joined by a tipsy philosopher with a guitar who told us about how 'God was love, the liturgy was the source and summit of our faith' followed by Ed Sheeran sing-songs, it was great to be amongst like minded young people

Day 3
I woke up few minutes before Mass, chucked on my Sunday best and ran to the room where Latin Mass was held, the room was overflowing with young Christians. After Holy Mass we had breakfast and checked out.

Since debates are one of my favourite things, I attended a workshop by Dr Anthony McCarthy on how argue hard cases . Once again we drank tea and moved on to our last talk, by Dr Joseph Meaney a highly uplifting talk on the the effect of our work and the reality of abortion facts, the fact that the worst human rights abuse in the history of the earth came from the worst political system on earth, communism. 

The talk ended, received thunderous applause and was followed by a great inspiring March for Life presentation, we watched an amazing video that made us feel (and rightly so) awesome! This is a pro-life march taking place in Birmingham this year... If you are reading this post in the UK... this calling is for you have no reason not to attend, babies need you to go too! Even if you do nothing else, the more people there are the louder the voice, 'LIFE IS FROM CONCEPTION, NO EXCEPTION!' 

I can confirm I did not regret attending the Youth SPUC Conference after my long and tiring week and I strongly advise any young Pro-lifer to go, you will not regret it. It's great fun, teaches you loads, you make friends and equips you to fight for life. I cannot recommend it enough.


Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Happy Women's Day!

Thank you, women who are mothers! You have sheltered human beings within yourselves in a unique experience of joy and travail. This experience makes you become God's own smile upon the newborn child, the one who guides your child's first steps, who helps it to grow, and who is the anchor as the child makes its way along the journey of life.

Thank you, women who are wives! You irrevocably join your future to that of your husbands, in a relationship of mutual giving, at the service of love and life.

Thank you, women who are daughters and women who are sisters! Into the heart of the family, and then of all society, you bring the richness of your sensitivity, your intuitiveness, your generosity and fidelity.

Thank you, women who work! You are present and active in every area of life-social, economic, cultural, artistic and political. In this way you make an indispensable contribution to the growth of a culture which unites reason and feeling, to a model of life ever open to the sense of "mystery", to the establishment of economic and political structures ever more worthy of humanity.

Thank you, consecrated women! Following the example of the greatest of women, the Mother of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, you open yourselves with obedience and fidelity to the gift of God's love. You help the Church and all mankind to experience a "spousal" relationship to God, one which magnificently expresses the fellowship which God wishes to establish with his creatures.

Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a woman! Through the insight which is so much a part of your womanhood you enrich the world's understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic.
Pope Saint John Paul II

... And because it apparently was 'Women's Day'... Do you know how I celebrated it?


I did exactly what I do every day, because everyday it's a beautiful celebration of the privilege of being a WOMAN!


Friday, 24 February 2017

Carnival in Venice

The UK doesn’t really do religious holidays! As a protestant nation of shopkeepers and business people, we have to wait for the prosaic-sounding secular feast days called bank holidays to get some rest and relaxation rather than looking forward to the romance and mystery of saints days and religious festivals. Lent has become a pale shadow of the severe season of fasting and preparation of Catholic medieval England so all that is left of the pre-Lenten carnival gaiety of old is pancake Tuesday. One city that has kept carnival alive in all its splendour is the romantic Italian city of Venice and Giulia, an old Venetian friend and member of the Catholic Mothers group has kindly written a guest post on carnival in Venice.

When Christmas time is over Venetians start feeling the expectation and excitement for what is one of the most interesting holidays in the world, the Venice Carnival.
We usually wonder how many tourists will join us, which parties to attend, the beautiful costumes we are going to see down the calles and we also begin to savour the food we normally cook or buy to celebrate this period of the year.
I’m sure you all know that the Venice Carnival is the most internationally known festival celebrated in our dear country and I have talked about food and parties mainly because it was first born as a public celebration to honour the days preceding Lent, the fasting period that leads us to Easter.
Back in History, the Venetian Carnival was a concession from the Senate of the Republic of Venice to the city, its objective was fun and people could indulge in music, dancing and parties. Wearing masks and costumes soon became a tradition and it allowed people during these days to hide any differences of class or status.
The word itself “Carnival” originally comes from the Latin expression “carne vale”, which means “farewell to meat”, referring to the long Lenten season of fasting and abstinence. Therefore, the Carnival is strictly tied to the liturgical calendar and always ends on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday.
This hedonistic feast brings magic into our city. During this period there are many public shows and exhibitions, mainly in St. Mark’s square, but parties and unconventional performances also take place in private houses and in cafès where costumes balls are held.
Many Venetians celebrate it, but the city is also full of tourists and visitors, especially at weekends. It is a visual feast, which means that costumes and masks are the most significant part of it. You can see perfectly tailored traditional costumes but there are also very remarkable homemade attempts to create something unique, both for adults and children.

Among the most famous and diffused costumes there is the so-called baùta, which consists of a particular white mask which covers only part of the face, under a black tricorn hat and a black cloak.

Another traditional mask, worn only by women, is the moretta, a black oval mask that is held in place not with a band or string, but by a button on the inside of the mask that is held clenched between the teeth of the wearer. However, this is not so common nowadays.

There are also other costumes taken from the “commedia dell’arte”, such as Arlecchino, Pantalone, Brighella and Colombina.

It is the huge variety of costumes that helps create a surreal atmosphere in the city. Even if you don’t wear anything special you can enjoy this time by simply wandering through the calles and admiring all the colours, tissues, laces, feathers etc. that animate the feast.
For the city itself and for tourism in general this is a key period. On the other hand, for local citizens it is also a very challenging time. Venice is a small city and people always move on foot, or by boat. The calles are heavily crowded and tourists sometimes seem to forget that there are people who live in the city and are not on holiday.
However, it is also for them a time to celebrate and also to take a break. Children have some days off from school and are very involved with costumes, activities and interesting events. Bakeries are full of galani, frittelle and castagnole….yum! And even if Venice is such a small reality you can breathe its international vibe.

Till a new time comes and Lent with its deep meaning washes away all confetti and streamers.