Saturday’s Holiday Shopping Guide: Homemade Gifts

We are down to  2 Saturdays until Christmas! I am hopping a plane back to the midwest to attend a baptism in a few hours leaving Daddy and Daughters home for a little Daddy-Daughters weekend, in which they will be taking the Christmas Card Picture (hint… The Wisconsin Badgers will have something to do with the picture!) and possibly getting the tree. I am a little sad to miss out on the tree hunt, but I am very excited for my Godson, Cazimir’s, baptism.

So far, we’ve covered ladiesgentlemen and those-hard-to-shop-for ; this week… easy-peasy homemade gifts for even the most non-crafty! I’ll admit right at the outset… some of these ideas came from Pinterest. Pinterest is a crafty and non-crafty girls’ dream! But beware… it can be addicting. You’ve been warned.

Fleece-Tie Blanket.

This is an easy craft that doesn’t take that much time. You need two pieces of fleece, both the same length. Lay one piece on top of the other and make continuous cuts around the outside, 2″ (5cm) in length. Once all of the cuts are made, tie one fringe from fleece #1 to one fringe of fleece #2 all around, using square knots. Once you’ve finished, you have a great, practical gift for anyone! One key thing to keep in mind, make sure your shears are sharp because fleece is very dulling.


I personally love gifts in jars. They are pretty to look at. They store well and when you are done with them, you have a new jar! For most food-based gifts-in-jars, you will need a 1-QT Mason Jar with lid. You can jazz the jar up with some scrap fabric, ribbons and a hot glue gun. For bath/ beauty gifts-in-jars, the Pint Sized Mason Jar should suffice.

Chocolate Holiday Cookies (from Taste of Home)

1.5 c. All Purpose Flour

0.5t baking soda

0.25t salt

0.5 c Dark Cocoa

0.75c sugar

0.3 c baked brown sugar

1.25c red and green M&M’s

0.3c white baking chips

1. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. In a 1 QT jar, layer (in order) the flour mixture, cocoa, sugar, brown sugar, M&Ms and baking chips. Cover and store in a cool, dry place for up to one month. (Makes 36 cookies)

To the jar, add the following directions:

This recipe makes 3 dozen cookies. Store the mix in a cool, dry place for up to 1 month. To make these festive cookies, you will need:

0.75 c butter (softened)

1 egg

1.5 t vanilla extract

1. In a large bowl, beat the butter, egg and vanilla until well-blended. Add contents of jar and stir until combined.

2. Drop by rounded tablespoons 2 in apart onto an ungreased baking pan. Bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes or until set. Remove to wire racks to cool. Store in airtight container.

Mmm-Good Pasta Soup (from Taste of Home)

0.5 c. dried split peas

2T chicken bouillon granules

0.5 c dried lentils

2T dried minced onion

1t dried basil

1t dried parsley flakes

1 envelope vegetable soup mix

2c uncooked tricolor spiral pasta

1. In a 1QT jar, layer the first seven ingredients in the order listed. Place the pasta in a 1QT resealable plastic bag; add to the jar. Seal tightly, store in a cool dry place for up to 1 year. (makes 3.5 QTs soup.)

To the jar, add the following directions:

This will make 3.5 quarts of a delicious soup… enough to feed 14 people! You will need:

Contents of your soup jar

10 cups water

3 cups cubed cooked chicken

1 can diced tomatoes, undrained.

1. Remove pasta from top of jar and set aside. Place water in a Dutch Oven; stir in soup mix. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes.

2. Add the chicken, tomatoes, and pasta. Cover and simmer 15-20 min longer or until pasta, peas and lentils are tender.

Bath Seeds

1 c. baking soda

0.5 c citric acid (order online)

0.5 c cornstarch

2T plus 1t oil (almond, sunflower, coconut, mineral, canola or baby)

2t water

1-2t essential oil (order online)

0.25 t Borax

food coloring

Mix baking soda, citric acid and cornstarch. Mix the wet ingredients and the Borax and slowly add to the dry ingredients, mixing constantly. Mix SLOWLY or you will get bubbles. Pour into a 1 QT jar and add the following to the label:

Homemade Bath Seeds

Use 2-4 Tablespoons per bath

And now, from Pinterest!

Reindeer Thumbprint Ornament from Little Bit Funky

Memory Ornaments from InMyOwnStyle

T-shirt Shag Rug by Rags by Sock Monkey

Crayon Monogram by Chic and Chic Nursery (great for teachers!)

Hope this will help a bit in your holiday shopping! This has been a fun series and I hope that you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it!


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Filed under christmas, crafts, family, gifts, hanukkah, holidays, saturday

Seven Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 16)


This is my first post since we’ve returned from my mother’s funeral service. As much as we tried to put the FUN in funeral, it was still a bittersweet event. Not only did people tell me how much I reminded them of her, but I’ve realized that my mom was a people collector just like me. She had made so many contacts and so many impressions that the fact that she was gone was very apparent.


Case in point, after the military service at their cabin in the woods (and you could totally spot us city folk from the Nordwoods folk, by the fact that our feet were freezing as it had snowed,) the hubs, my BF and I headed into a bar for a beer. (It’s Wisconsin.) The other bar patrons asked if we were visiting and I told them that I was there for my mother’s funeral. A bit of time passed and one of them said… “Not Stephanie?! You look just like her!” Everyone in that little town knew her.


One thing about funerals are the old pics that get pulled up. Here is a pic of my parents and my grandparents in the 70s.

IDK what gets me more… my dad’s hair and Tom Selleck ‘stashe or his 3-piece suit.


One good thing about the trip is that we were able to introduce the girls to an Old Milwaukee legend… Real Chili!

They had hot dogs.


For me, one of the most touching moments of our trip back was the fact that my husband’s family (Mom, Dad, Brothers, SIL, our niece and nephew,) as well as my dad and stepmother,  all drove over for the funeral. Why? In the words of my MIL: “Family is family.”


Yesterday was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. To celebrate, we made blue frosted cupcakes.

Can’t really tell in the picture, but the cream cheese frosting kind of took on an “odd” texture. But they were still yummy.


Today, I tried to become an official California Resident. However, since the fact that I needed additional proof that I am an American Citizen was missed (needed to bring in a passport or birth certificate and marriage license) I spent 40 minutes at the DMV for nothing. The other gem of the day? Because we’ve owned the Swagger Wagon for less than a year, we have to pay the SALES TAX difference between MO and CA (even though the van was bought in MO.) That grand total was $1300! To register my car!  The DMV worker *suggested* we wait until after we’ve owned the van for a year to avoid the extra cash out of pocket. Hot. mess.


Thank you so much for all of your prayers, positive thoughts, cards and gifts! It really did brighten my life in this dark moment. It’s so hard being away from friends and not having a support system (yet!) and it’s great knowing that you are all there!

Be sure to head over to Conversion Diary to read more Seven Quick Takes!

Tomorrow I have a 7a flight out of LAX but I will try to get my “homemade” gifts post out before then.


Filed under 7 Quick Takes, family, Friday

Monday’s Journey: The Conclusion to Regina’s story

For the last few weeks, we’ve been following Regina (not her real name) on her journey of faith and I am happy to bring the conclusion to you today!

I wanted to send you some photos of Kate’s baptism – we had it this past weekend. Parts of it were lovely, but unfortunately some of the other families getting babies baptized turned the church into a bit of a marketplace and there was a fairly young priest who didn’t take control of the situation. One family even laid their babe out on the altar to take photos! People kept running back and forth to take photos, including walking back and forth in front of the priest as he was talking, and crossing in front of the font while other babies were getting baptized — we have no photos of that part of the ceremony because so many other people were buzzing around. It was a bit upsetting, especially since [The Hubs] and I had both thought so hard about it and were trying to take it so seriously. I must admit, it was hard to focus on the promises. We had a nice party at our place afterwards, though, with some very tasty cake.

Later on that night, I thought and prayed about it, and I realized that baptism is kinda like marriage – it is a gateway to a new life, and the ceremony itself doesn’t matter as much as how you decide to live the vows that you take. So it doesn’t really matter that her baptism was a zoo – what matters is that we have our families and each other to support and love Kate and raise her the best way we can. [The Hubs] is going to take a year or two of going to church before he does RCIA. He was ready to right before the baptism, but he was so appalled by the other families’ behaviour that he is really turned off church right now, which is unfortunate. I’m thinking about joining the choir! We’ll see.

I know it’s smaltzy, but I get teary-eyed every time I read that email. I think it’s the part where she says:

 …baptism is kinda like marriage – it is a gateway to a new life, and the ceremony itself doesn’t matter as much as how you decide to live the vows that you take

I mean, how profound is that? Regina’s story just makes me happy and I am glad that she thought it to be a good idea to share with you all as well.

And what’s a baptism without some tasty CAKE?


I hope you enjoyed Regina’s story. You can let her know your thoughts and feelings by leaving comments here.


On another note, you might not be hearing much from me this week. Or, you might be hearing a lot, I don’t know yet.

Early on Black Friday morning, we received a call that no child is ever prepared for. My mother was unexpectedly was called home to God’s embrace. She was only 59 years old and in good health, according to her last physical. She and I had a few rough years therein, but I am eternally grateful that we had the chance to patch things up and the last few years with her have been great. She called after dinner on Thursday and we had a great conversation… the girls chatted up Grandma and we made tentative plans for her next visit here to Pasadena.

And then she was gone.

It’s old advice, but think about your own lives. Is there someone you are angry with or has done something so unforgivable? What would happen if they were gone tomorrow? God forgives us of all of our sins, why can’t we forgive others?

We fly to Wisconsin on Thursday and the service will be on Friday AM. I will post information on the CCM FaceBook page as requested by a few emails. Thank you for the emails, positive thoughts and prayers. I love you all.


Filed under Catholic, Regina, sunday

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Best Wishes and all of God’s Blessings on You and Yours on this Thanksgiving!!

It’s odd, it doesn’t really feel like Thanksgiving here because we aren’t traveling as we are not having family in, but it’s nice to have Daddy home for the day and to just hang out together.

Have a great day and don’t eat too much Turkey!

And… starting tomorrow, I’ve linked up with a few friends to have an online vendor show. If you are interested in checking out who is there and maybe getting some Black Friday deals, click here.


Safe Travels and Happy Thanksgiving!

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Filed under holidays, Thursday

Whatever Wednesday! Turkey Hats!

In honor of Thanksgiving, here are our Turkey Hats.

Thanks to Nina for the inspiration!


Safe Travels and Happy Thanksgiving!

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Filed under Art, crafts, family, holidays, wednesday

Confessional on a Tuesday

I’ll admit, I really like it when bloggers write out their confessional posts. Confession really is good for the soul and while confessing little bits about yourself in a blog for the enjoyment of your readers is NO MATCH for the Grace that flows from a true Reconciliation for someone is a true state of Sin, they are still a little fun. We all have our idiosyncrasies and sometimes you have to talk about them.

Without Further Ado:

1. I really enjoy Young Adult novels.
2. I have never read nor seen a Nicholas Sparks book/ film inspired by a book.
3. Last month I ate cooked peas for the first time.
4. I schedule out my days.
5. Red Wine contributes to my migraine headaches, but I still have a glass here and there.

6. “Breaking Dawn” was the first Twilight film I saw in the theatre.
7. I enjoyed the Twilight books.
8. I tend to dress in neutrals because I am too lazy to match colors.
9. I let the 4 year old leave the house dressed in what she picks out.
10. Usually it’s a hot mess.

11. I am considering wearing a head covering outside of the Mass.
12. Yes, I am serious.
13. In our house we have 2 iPads, 1 iPhone and a MacBook… and a Blackberry
14. 90% of the time, DH and I are in the same room whilst on computers.
15. I like Shamrock Shakes.

16. I realize that writing is narcissistic work, and I see the irony in being a Catholic blogger trying to work on her pride.
17. I love eggnog lattes.
18. I hate stuffing/ dressing.
19. When my girls pretend play, coffee is always involved.
20. I’d take Alan Rickman over Hugh Grant ANY DAY.

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Filed under lists, Tuesday

It’s that time again! Advent!!

I was looking at some Halloween pictures on-line this past week and I noticed a “different” costume on the daughter of my friend. Her little girl was dressed as a Jack-O-Lantern, but she had little Elf Shoes and a Santa Hat on. The caption of the picture said that she was dressed as… The Christmas Creep. Not only was this a cute costume, but it was also very applicable. Think about, September was barely in the books when stores started putting out their Christmas Displays.

I understand that The Christmas Shopping Season is when most retailers make enough money to get into the black, but how are we as parents to handle this creep within our families? How do we keep Christmas as special as it is while we are reminded of it’s presence starting in the Fall? How are we supposed to help our families remember that Jesus is the reason for the season and not getting new stuff? One way that our family does is pretty easy and fun: We celebrate Advent.

I grew up in a black Baptist church and when I was a Junior in college, I converted to Catholicism. Growing up, the only thing that I knew about Advent is that there was a cute little calendar that had chocolates, one for every day leading up to Christmas (My father’s side of the family is German and I attended a German Language Elementary School.) Once I became Catholic, however, I learned there was whole season in the liturgical calendar for Advent. Advent gives us the gift of four week of preparation: preparing our hearts and our homes for the coming of the Christ Child. It is four weeks for us to re-focus on what is most important, getting ready for the bridegroom to come to his bride.

Having two little ones, my husband and I know that we have to keep our Advent activities simple but still educational. It is important to us, as well, to make Advent just as meaningful as Easter, Lent, or Christmas. Some of our favorite Advent activities are:

– The Advent Wreath: This wreath of evergreen branches sits on our dining table and has 4 or 5 candles (1 candle for every Sunday of Advent with an optional candle for Christmas Eve) Three candles are purple, one is pink and the optional candle is usually white. I don’t have to tell you that kids and candles are always a hit. Before sitting down for the Sunday meal, we say one of the “O Antiphons” and light a purple candle. On week 2, we light 2 purple candles, etc. Week 3 brings the two purple candles and the pink (Gaudate Sunday: Time to Rejoice! The Christ Child is near!) and week 4 we light all four candles. On Christmas Eve, we light the white candle in the center, along with the other four and turn off the rest of the lights in the house and dine by candlelight. The candles stay lit though the evening meal and we let the girls take turns blowing the candle out after the meal.

– Advent Garland: This activity is great for preschoolers. First prep a series of purple and pink strips of construction paper along with some tape (you will need 3 purple strips for every 1 pink strip) to make chain garland. The garland follows the pattern: Purple, Purple, Pink, Purple (just like the Advent Candles on your wreath.) Not only does this make a cute Advent decoration, but it also helps to teach pattern recognition in your child!

– Jesse Tree: This activity does take a little more prep on the part of the parents, but you can make it as simple of as elaborate as you would like. The Jesse Tree tradition comes from the passage in the Bible where it talks about Christ coming from the root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1.) The tree can be just about anything: a bare branch from outside, a tree painted on your window, a hand-drawn tree on a large piece of paper. There are 24 Jesse Tree Ornaments (one for every day of Advent- not counting Sundays, or you can start your tree on December 1 and hang an ornament daily.) We usually hang our ornaments after dinner: we read the bible passage that matches the ornament or tell the bible story and the girls get to hang the ornament. You can either print off Jesse Tree ornaments or you can make them. Google “Jesse Tree” for some additional ideas or images.

This year, Advent begins on November 27 and ends on December 24 and I hope that these suggestions help you to start a few new traditions within your family and to stave off that “Christmas Creep” a little longer!

Have a blessed Advent!


Filed under Advent, Catholic, family, holidays, monday

Sunday’s Journey: Regina, Part 2

November is the month where we focus on giving Thanks. Not only am I thankful for all of you, my readers for giving me inspiration to write, but I am also thankful for the gift of Faith, Hope, and Charity that comes from Our Wonderful Savior.

Over the next few Sundays, I would like to share with you Regina’s Journey… not her real name, but in her words (via email.) She’s given me permission to share her story with you and I give you permission to share with others. You never know where someone will be met on their journey, but remember… no matter who you meet, where you meet them, treat them with love and respect but do not deny the truth.

So, when we last left Regina, she was struggling with parts of Catholicism, specifically the Church’s view on homosexuality and treatment of women. This was a struggle for her personally because she and her husband want to have their daughter baptized in the faith, but didn’t know if it was right to have her baptized if they didn’t fully believe in the faith.

I asked her how she felt about the Eucharist (the source and summit of our faith) and to find out why the Church essentially does what she does with respect to the sticky-wicket social issues. (And I know that that is a total mom/teacher answer… “I could tell you why, but it’s better for you to find it on you own!”) And what did Regina discover?

I love the Eucharist and feel blessed, graced and warmed when I receive it – it is an important part of my connection to God. If it weren’t for the feelings that I get when I receive the Eucharist, I am sure I would be researching other branches of Christianity rather than trying to conserve my connection to Catholicism.

I’m down with God being the Father (rather than some ambiguously gendered being, although I doubt God conceives of himself as limited by “Him” – He has many feminine aspects to Him, but anyway). I much prefer mankind and humankind over men. It just sticks in my craw. But I agree about not getting caught up in the little things.
Part of me -old agnostic intellectual (Regina) – finds it difficult to turn myself over so completely to God, and I think that might be why I keep fighting with the little things. But since I’ve met my husband and given birth to my daughter my sense of worship and wonder at the world has changed significantly – for what can love and birth be but an act of God?
I had my pre-baptism meeting with my pastor today and we talked a little bit about some of the things we talked about. He had some interesting things to say on certain issues. The one that I felt particularly convinced of was his explanation of the church’s attitude towards homosexuality: he argued that as we currently do not know whether or not gays or lesbians are the way they are because of nature or nurture, it is difficult for the church to not view the act of gay sex as anything other than disordered – in the same way that premarital sex and contraception are both “disordered” to God’s plan. He said that if the Church ever decides that gays and lesbians are “born this way” (to steal from Lady Gaga), then they must have been made in God’s image and it would be only right for the church to accept them fully. Considering it took a few hundred years for the Church to accept Galileo, I’m not holding my breath, but his argument did give me peace. I think he genuinely appreciated my questions and interest, and I got the impression that he would rather see someone asking questions and thinking through things rather than blindly going along.
I’m going to do a bible study through as a way to deepen my own faith and understanding of Catholicism, and I’ve been looking at some of the different resources you’ve suggested. My husband is investigating RCIA, but I think our plan for now is that we make a serious commitment to attend church as a couple this year, and see where that leads him. He has difficulty with some of the more mystical aspects of Catholicism – namely the saints. He got off on a bad foot when he was looking at the study guide our church provided for the new mass translation and found that it featured saints days with the face of the Virgin appearing to people. We are both getting hung up on the details, I think.
Next Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent and I can’t wait for you to read the conclusion to Regina’s story! Stay Tuned to next Sunday for the conclusion!


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Filed under Catholic, Regina, sunday

Saturday’s Holiday Shopping Guide: Hard-To-Shop-For

We are down to  5 Saturdays until Christmas! In our family we really value not celebrating/ decorating Christmas until after Thanksgiving (although I would prefer waiting until after ADVENT, but we compromise.) But that’s not so say that the shopping portion can not be completed earlier!

Sometimes it’s really hard to find great gifts for people, ones that are functional but also pleasant, so I thought that I would offer some unsolicited advice on what I would consider great gifts. So far, we’ve covered ladies and gentlemen; this week… those who are hard-to-shop-for/ “have everything” in your life! These are the people who tend to receive cash or gift cards or something just as generic. So, this year, lets change it up a bit and consider Charitable Donations!

These can be a bit on the tricky side. The key to giving a charitable donation is to keep your recipient and their stance on issues in mind. Your gift is supposed to be one of appreciation and kindness and should not start an ideological war. The list below is not a comprehensive list and you can of course look to local agencies, but consider this a starting point!

To fight hunger/ aid disaster relief

American Red Cross

-Feeding America

Share Our Strength

The Salvation Army

For the Animal Lover 


Best Friends Animal Society

-Local Animal Rescues

For the educators

Donors Choose

For non-cash charitable donations

These are kind of neat because you can use your cash to buy a gift in someone’s name which is then donated to a family. Some examples of the gifts are: cows, goats, honeybees, fish for a fish pond, micro finance, etc.

Samaritan’s Purse (Christian Organization)

Heifer International

Kiva (micro finance for men and women)

Accion (heavier emphasis on financing women)

Hope this will help a bit in your holiday shopping! Next week, we’ll talk about some easy-peasy handmade gifts that even the non-crafy among us can make and give!! And of course, if you know of other charities or other great gifts, please leave a comment below!


Filed under christmas, family, gentlemen, gifts, hanukkah, holidays, ladies, saturday

Seven Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 15)


Fall Ball was last Saturday and needless to say the girls had an absolute blast hanging out with Cinderella, Prince Charming, Tiana, Tinkerbell and Rapunzel. The Dragonfly is already talking about next year!


It seems as if the Milwaukee Co-Sleeping/ Infant Mortality billboards have really hit a nerve in the blogosphere and has even received some national attention. So, now we’ve got lots and lots of people talking about it, but will anything good come of it? I can tell you, most of the ire is coming because of the vilification of co-sleeping/ bedsharing. If would be different if that was the only factor leading to the deaths. Why aren’t we talking about how important it is not to parent while under the influence or why co-sleeping needs to occur on a firm mattress, without fluffy pillows and blankets and not on the couch. I know that “keep your baby in a crib” is the easiest message to get across, but there are also inherent safety dangers to crib sleep: fabric crib bumpers, ill-fitting slats, too small mattresses. Considering it’s been about 2 years since the first controversial anti-cosleeping ads hit the city and we are still “talking” about it shows there is still much to be done.


Thanksgiving is less than a week away and the only plan that we have in place is that we are going to be brining and smoking a turkey. Have I mentioned that we haven’t purchased a turkey yet?


I am a week into the 14-day Heart of Gratitude challenge put forth by Betty Beguiles and I have to share that after a bit of a rocky start (ahem, Sunday disagreement) things really are becoming lots of fun. I find myself looking forward to the challenges and excited to see DH’s reaction. So far, so good! Plus, he’s planning at-home date night tonight!


This week, The Feminist Breeder featured a guest post about the Fertility Awareness Method. Two fantastic things came out of this post:

a. thousands of women found out that NFP is a form of the FAM (just with abstinence rather than condoms)

b. thousands of women found out that the Catholic Church endorses NFP and NOT the rhythm method for spacing children.

Yay for information sharing!


I have to admit something. Despite reading tweets and information pages about the Occupy Wall Street movements, I honestly can’t figure out what the goal is. I mean, like them or not, the Tea Partiers had a pretty clearly stated goal, right? So, if you can help me out, I’d appreciate it.


Read this awesome prayer in the December issue of Good Housekeeping:

“Lord, Grant me the Power to get out of the Shower.”

How many of us have been there, done that?


Be sure to head over to Conversion Diary to read more Seven Quick Takes!

Tune in tomorrow for my gift guide for the “hard-to-shop-for” in your life!


Filed under 7 Quick Takes, family, Friday