Sunday, January 10, 2021

A Christmas Catch-Up

Happy New Year! We had a comfortably quiet Twelve Days of Christmas and are finally getting used to the idea that we are back to lessons tomorrow after three weeks off. I didn't get quite as much done as I was hoping to over our break (nothing new there!), but I did do a lot of pre-reading and a good amount of work for the CMEC, and I finished a first-round edit of Gianna's first novel! (Well, it was the first round for me, but probably the third or fourth round for her. ;) She finished it last spring and is determined to publish it this year.)

But we're still celebrating the Christmas season here, so I thought I'd do a little catch up this evening with some snaps from our festivities over the past few weeks.

One thing I never thought we would have to do is go to Christmas Mass in a car...but such is life in California right now (and since March).

A beautiful sunrise greeted us on the way home, though!

Since we weren't getting together with family at all this Chirstmas, the kids and I did a bit of extra special baking this year. These were our three favorite cookies! (My usual gingersnaps came in a close fourth.)

But we couldn't skip our usual Christmas brunch -- the kids want that meal to be the same every year.

After breakfast, we always do a procession around the house to add all the Baby Jesus figures to their respective mangers...

The kids did a secret santa swap this year. They were most excited about giving their sibling gifts! They all pitched in to get Emilia a gift...

That big smooch was just the reaction they were hoping for!

Each year I make each of the kids an ornament. I usually tie it to one of our handicraft projects from the year. This year we have been working with raffia, so I made these raffia circles using plastic canvas coasters:

I took the advice of a friend and kept my middle kids busy prepping some "fun" foods...

A little wonky, perhaps, but everything tasted great. ;) We did appetizers and pies for dinner and it was all so good. I have been working on my pie crust this year and the holidays are a good opportunity to practice! I should have made a couple more because these didn't last long. ;)

I'll be back soon to share some favorite gifts as well as what we have been reading -- LOTS and LOTS of reading by everyone (including me) over the break!

Wishing you a happy, healthy, HOLY New Year!

Thursday, November 26, 2020

A Few of Our Favorite Things :: 2020

In the midst of my own Christmas shopping, I thought I'd pull together a few current "favorite things" from our house in case you're looking for gift ideas! (Warning: it's a random assortment! But all things we use and love or are gifting this year. :))

For Baby

These bibs are still used at every meal at our house and have held up wonderfully. (I first posted about them here. All the other "favorites" in that post are still in rotation here also, just FYI.) I love how big these are, how well they stay on, and how easy they are to clean -- just throw straight in the wash. They really are water/foodproof, and two years later, look as good as they did on the day we bought them.

I grabbed this teether for Emilia this year. It caught my eye because it has a "stopper" so she isn't so inclined to gag herself while she teethes -- which for some reason she really loves to do! LOL We will see if she likes it.

We have two sets of this set of sensory balls and my littles have loved them through the years.

Our leather-soled baby shoes finally need replacing this year at Kid #10. That's a lot of wear! I consider them an essential toddler item and am deciding between these and these for Emmy.

For Littles

I have mentioned Schleich animals before but I'll mention them again: big winner in our house, year in and out! These durable figurines are used for all kinds of things here -- from a geography tableau in the sand tray, to a "family" of kangeroos in the dollhouse.

I usually use Christmas or Easter to restock our sidewalk chalk. When you have a lot of children, consumable gifts are so welcome to keep a handle on the clutter!

Speaking of consumables, my littles have also been enjoying Wonder Stix and chalkboard placemats this year. They clean up easily with baby wipes or a wet paper towel, and the colors are so vivid. You can also use the stix to write on windows and regular chalkboards.

One last handicraft idea that has been a hit here: yarn! You can pair with plastic canvas and some dull needles (plastic or metal), or you can gift with a knitting tower or lucet. Littles can also braid bracelets with the help of a clipboard (get the kind with the straight metal clip) to hold the ends. (And if you are like I am and have old skeins of yarn lying around from long-forgotten projects, just give them the tools and then turn them loose with your stash! ;))

For Boys

My kids have all loved Nature Friend Magazine through the years, but particularly my boys. And who doesn't love getting mail?

A little unorthodox perhaps, but my sons eagerly anticipate our restocking their personal supply of tape at Christmas and Easter. We do regular scotch tape, duct tape, and washi tape for them to use for their building and crafting projects. (The girls like washi tape too! It makes a great stocking stuffer.)

This set of sports balls is one of our go-to gifts for little boy birthdays. They are great for outside and inside use (if you don't mind pictures getting hit down from walls now and then...or maybe that's just my house?) and are baby-friendly too.

I'm putting together a post on knot-tying featuring My First Book of Knots and this handy practice set -- two instructional resources we have used for many years.

(I am thinking about doing some Toobs army figures for my boys this year. Anyone love these? Are they as durable as the Schleich animals?)

For Girls

We have a tradition of getting a sports watch for each child for their 12th birthday. I got Gianna this watch and just bought one in a different color for Cate, whose birthday is coming in January. Not only has it been sturdy, but I like the feminine profile and my girls like the fit.

Each of my big girls has this recipe box and it is so pretty!

My oldest bought these scrunchie ribbons for the girls of the family to share last year and they get worn by one or another of the sisters daily. It's such a easy way for them to add a bit of style to their outfits. (This year I grabbed a pack of these for them to share.)

If you have a girl who has "graduated" from this great beginner book for friendship bracelets, we recommend this one. Gianna got this for her birthday a few months ago and has found it not only helpfully written but also full of unique and challenging designs.

For the Whole Family

I love the Cavallini aesthetic! In the past, I have purchased their mini-notebooks, puzzles, and posters as gifts and am doing the same this year. They have so many different vintage designs. The foreign language posters, nature displays, and maps would be especially charming additions to a schoolroom.

Whether you are looking for something to liven up Morning Time with your kids or an inspiring addition to your personal morning routine, we love The Cloud of Witness and its companion volume for children, The Golden Key. (We have begun a tradition of giving each child their own copy of the latter when they enter Form 3, alongside a copy of the first volume of Ourselves.)

My kids are crazy for lettering, and I enjoy using good markers to set up my logbook grids -- we all gravitate to the Staedtler Triplus Fineliners! They would make a good mom-friend gift or family gift. This year, a few of my kids are getting this set this Christmas because I am tired of sharing! :)

I mentioned handicrafts for littles and for boys above, but supplies make great gifts for older kids too or can give you a jump start on family art for the term ahead. The posts from my {Getting Started with Handicrafts} series offer lots of great options for putting together your own handicraft kits.

If you or your children send a lot of letters: my kids love using sealing wax for a fun finish. They got a set last year that included a botanical stamp, and this year, I have my eye on initial stamps.

If you're looking for games that don't take up too much room in the cabinet (my constant dilemma!), we recommend Iota Qwixx, and Phase 10.

For Your Homeschool Mom Friends (or Yourself!)

I have the newly-released Scale How Meditations on my wishlist this year. I already have an old paperback copy, but who can pass up a Riverbend Press hardcover?

Have you seen the prints from Emilia's Post? Not only does she have beautifully lettered quotes from classic writers (including Charlotte Mason!) but I have one of these little madonnas and it is super sweet.

Over time, I have been building a collection of ceramic cookware -- easy to use, easy to clean, and looks nice for serving as well. I have another pie plate on my list this year. Granite Ware is my other go-to; I have a huge roasting pan that gets near-daily use for our family of 12.

Speaking of ceramic, I have had this mug for several years and it's durable and convenient. And I love how much it can hold! I use it as my go-to tea mug.

If you have a friend who would love some notebook-keeping supplies, I have all of our favorites on my Products We Love page!


So -- it's a bit of a random assortment, but as I sat down at my computer, these are the items that came to mind. :)

Let me know: what are your best ideas for this year's gifts? I still need something small for a few of my kids and for my husband. But I'm always looking for suggestions to bookmark for the future too. Hit me up with your ideas!

(Links above may be Amazon affiliate links. Thanks for your support!)

Monday, November 23, 2020

{This and That} :: Thanksgiving Week

Hello friends! It is hard to believe we are in late November now. We have a short school week this week for Thanksgiving, and then we're officially halfway through our school year! I can't believe how fast this school year is flying by. 


First happy news: my oldest two were confirmed!

Their sponsor got them these watercolored saint portraits from The Fig and Thimble. They love them!

For their confirmation saints, Gianna picked St. John the Evangelist and Vincent picked St. John Bosco. Both choices were unexpected but made sense to me in hindsight.

We are studying Titian this term, so we thought it would be neat to get Gianna a framed print of Titian's St. John the Evangelist on the Isle of Patmos. Isn't it striking? Vincent got a couple books about St. John Bosco that he has already started reading.

Gianna asked me for an at-home Confirmation Retreat, so I prepared a week's worth of short readings for them to do alongside their novena to the Holy Ghost. I pulled completely from religious books we already had on our shelves -- a little wisdom from St. John Vianney, Cardinal Newman, the Baltimore Catechism, Mother Loyola, and more. It is so nice to have a good selection of books to choose from for projects like this! I am always thankful to my younger self for taking the time to scour used bookstores and church library sales and investing in a long-term library of our own.


Emilia just turned ten months old! She is so playful and determined. She loves all the attention she gets from her siblings and plays Peek-a-Boo, Pat-a-Cake, and This Little Piggy. She is also a full-time walker now. Such a fun age! If only she could start napping a little more reliably... :)


We did the seasonal clothing switch-out last week. This is one of the chores I dread each year, simply because of the sheer number of children and clothes. My kids have capsule wardrobes -- very manageable and streamlined. They all wear a "uniform" of sorts, as you may have noticed from posts through the years. But still, if I were a millionnaire, I would donate the kids' wardrobes at the end of each season and start fresh every time! There is just something about this task that always ends up being more complicated than it ought to be.

However, I'm finding that the chore has been getting progressively easier -- even though I have more kids than any other year, having more bigs than littles really has helped so much! And this year, my to-buy list is unprecedently short: just a couple pairs of replacement leggings for my girls and a few tops and bottoms for Vincent, my oldest, who grew several inches this year. Gianna is now as tall as I am and has been for about a year, so I think she's close to finished growing. All of her clothes from last year still fit, which has never happened for any of my children, ever! A new stage of parenting, for sure.

I also gave all of my girls (except Emilia) haircuts this past week! All but Clara had it down to their waists and were super overdue for a cut, but they LOVED their long hair. They finally consented and they love the shorter hair too, thank goodness.


Are you getting started with Christmas shopping? I am hoping to take some time over Thanksgiving weekend to look through my lists and begin making plans. We keep things very simple around here, just a few things per person, but times that by ten and it's still a pretty big task. But I have been quite determined to get my shopping done before Advent this year.

(Speaking of Thanksgiving, I have a post from ten years ago here on the blog that I always share this time of year: Cooking Up a Thanksgiving "Feast.")

I also took and ordered photos for our Christmas cards this weekend. Christmas cards take a good amount of time to put together and send out, but they always feel worth it to me -- and especially this year. Sending something personal during a year of very little personal interaction is the kind of hopeful statement I want to end the year on.

I am planning to pull together a few quick gift ideas here on the blog this weekend if I get a chance, but in case you're wanting suggestions now, I have a bunch of favorite links from last year compiled here: {This and That} :: Thanksgiving and Advent.

And since we are almost at Advent, you can read more about Advents past in our home. This year we'll once again be lighting the Advent wreath, choosing Christkindls, observing some special feast days, and decluttering and deep cleaning with a hopeful but penitential spirit! And we'll be adding the free printable Advent calendar from Lydia -- so lovely.


Our Halloween was quiet -- there was no trick-or-treating in our neighborhood, so we stayed home and had an impromptu party. We told the kids they had 45 minutes to dress up as a saint with items from the constume bin. Then we spent the evening playing board games and making cookies. In times like these, I'm grateful that we always have enough people for a party here at home!

The hit of the night was Pictionary, which we don't play that often...but every time we do play it, I think we ought to play it more! It is such a fun game if you have preschoolers in the mix.


Justin turned five! Besides books and a Schleich animal, he got embroidery thread for making friendship bracelets and a bunch of plastic canvas squares for "sewing" with yarn. He was so pleased and has done little else since then. He is truly a delightful kid and I am soaking up this age.


Scenes from the past couple weeks...

Animalium has a helpful diagram to accompany Life and Her Children

More Fesole -- this time, a still life!

Vincent set up his still life as well, but hasn't finished his painting yet -- isn't it perfect for fall?

Free time painting for Bridget after studying Titian's Saint Christopher

Fireside prepping (my favorite!) for the Form Meetings with the CMEC

California fall!

And some recent work in clay over the past two weeks. We all love this medium!

(We have these silpats and Chavant Clayette clay -- which is unfortunately out of stock right now, but I'll add the link when it's back -- both thanks to recommendations from the art teacher at the CMEC. The Fall Mini-Retreat immersions were so helpful in giving us a good start.)


Well, that's it for now! What are you up to this holiday weekend -- and what's on your menu? I am going with a classic Thanksgiving line-up this year, though we'll do chicken instead of turkey since my husband prefers it. But I am looking forward to teaching my girls to bake apple pie! I have made it by myself in the past but skipped the past couple years. Now I have eager helpers, and I think we'll have a good time perfecting the method. :)

And before I go, I want to say too that I am grateful to the kind community of readers who read along, leave comments, and send emails -- thank you for your encouragement and I wish you a wonderful week!

(Links above may be Amazon affiliate links -- thanks for your support!)