Friday, October 30, 2015

Princess Picture Books, Coffee, & Photo Dumps {7QT}

Cecilia's on a princess book kick lately, and in an attempt to avoid Disney-fication, we've been exploring lots of different options at our local library - I have a feeling we'll be slowly working our way through ALL of the fairy tale options sooner rather than later, but here are some current favorites:

Affiliate links below! If you purchase something via my links, you help support this blog at no extra cost to you! Thanks for all your help :)

--1--



The Apple Pip Princess

Not at all saccharine, beautiful pictures, and a story I actually hadn't heard of before!

--2--


Mercer Mayer's Sleeping Beauty

Yes! THE Mercer Mayer who does the Little Critter books! This one is on the dark side - lots of details I'd never heard of in a fairly long Sleeping Beauty retelling, and I had a little trouble telling the difference between several of the female characters... But beautiful pictures and great text.

--3--



Rapunzel

The pictures! Rapunzel is Cecilia's favorite fairy tale princess, although I'm not sure why... I'm just glad she hasn't asked how exactly Rapunzel "married" the prince when they were alone in the tower, and how exactly Rapunzel ended up getting pregnant with twins.

--4--



Beauty and the Beast

I love love love the style of illustration in this one - it's a nice read as well, flowing language and not overly long.

--5--

And now, for something completely different!

I've been cold-brewing my coffee all summer but it's finally cool enough in the mornings that I really want something warm to drink - I've done instant (blech. But cheap, at least), and I really tried to like a hand-me-down Keurig last year but I just couldn't get the coffee strong enough!

I read about the Aeropress Coffee Maker a while back and while it's definitely more effort than brewing a whole pitcher full of coffee for the week, it's DEFINITELY an improvement on weak coffee & instant coffee! I don't drink enough to justify a real coffee maker, nor do I want something that takes up the counter space that a real coffee maker would take up...

Now I just need to get John Paul to wake up early enough to make it for me! He's DESPERATE to try... But if I'm up before 6 and he's not up until 8, there's no way I'm waiting.

--6--

How about a photo dump for those of you not on instagram?


Our playground game might just have changed for the better...


Giant playground "hamster wheel"


Peter's favorite part of the pumpkin patch we visited


Obligatory "how tall this fall" pictures...



Looking back at last year's pictures, are the twins seriously about as tall as Cecilia was a year ago? Okay, she IS a shortie! Here's 2 years ago for comparison, 3 years, and 4 years... And WHY did I not try to get Peter in a picture? Oh well.

--7--

I think this is the first year we're going to be able to skip trick or treating completely! We're going to an all-day party that's got enough activities to keep everyone happy without having to figure out how to corral everybody while trick or treating and trying to keep them from eating all their candy while walking from house to house - a big win in my book! Now maybe the big kids will forget about it and we can just do parties from now on... 

Linking up with Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum - go check out more Quick Takes!







Monday, October 26, 2015

Womp Womp

Well, that... Didn't happen.

You know, the posting every day this month?

I tried. Oh well. Saturday was our housewarming party and it went really well! Tasty food, great company, perfect fall weather, and no time for blogging. And Sunday apparently the weeks and weeks worth of exhaustion caught up, because I was bed-bound all day long (aside from the hour in the morning I was up with Elizabeth before I went back to bed, and the hour I was up with Peter while I waited for my mom to get home from Mass) with a horrible headache and stomachache. So once again, blogging wasn't so much on the to-do list.

Not that you really mind! And really, I feel like I could just ignore it except... Well, I said I would do it. And I didn't. So there you have it - sometimes life gets in the way and that's that.

I'll just consider this the end of the pressure for writing every day this month, honestly. It's been fun, but tiring - I hate not having the chance to answer comments on the previous post before I publish the next post, and I haven't had a chance to visit other blogs and comment as much as I usually do. Plus all those "substantive" posts I wanted to get written? Well, making the decision to write every day doesn't magically make it possible to write every day, nor does it guarantee I'll have any brain power left by the time I can write.

Maybe those drafts will get dusted off, and those real posts will get finished. And maybe not.


So I'll just give you a picture of the baby grabbing leaves and leave (ha!) it at that. Maybe I'll have something to stay tomorrow, or maybe not!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Best & Worst {7 Quick Takes}

Kelly's been hosting a Link-toberfest for her Quick Takes this month, and I have yet to answer any of her questions because I always ended up writing my takes before she posted them... But not today! Today my entire POST will be an answer to her question!

Which, in my case, means I'll be listing my 7 most popular and my 7 least popular Quick Takes posts - hopefully you're bored and want to click around for a while, because this should keep you busy!

Looking back, all the least popular posts are from when I first started linking up with 7 Quick Takes - it took a while for people to start consistently clicking through to read what I had to say, clearly!

--1--

We'll start with the 7th most popular post, as well as the 7th least popular...

Most?

22 Catholic Bloggers. 7 Babies. One Conference.

Least?

Coming in at #7 is...

Mary Claire running for Pope!

--2--

Most?

My first Stitch Fix review (I was so hopeful...)!

Least?

Some really amazing conversations with the kids from years ago... Gosh they were funny! Also weird...

John Paul:  I'm a BFF!
Me:  You're a best friend forever?
John Paul:  Yes!  And I'm an OB!
Me:  You're an obstetrician?
John Paul:  AND I'm an obligation.
Me:  What?
John Paul:  I'm a holy day of obligation.  
Me:  Uh...  What holy day of obligation are you?
John Paul:  August 15th.
Me:  Oh.  So what does that make you?
John Paul:  I'm the Assumption!!!


--3--

Most?

A post with links to my 7 favorite posts from 2 years ago... I think I've probably got some new favorites now!

Least?

My very first Quick Takes post! Including a picture of how dramatically different in size the twins were, because Elizabeth took forever to start gaining weight...

--4--

Most?

That post where I drew eyebrows on baby Elizabeth and it ended up getting linked to on College Humor...



Least?

Tiny Elizabeth in a giant hat, and me marveling at all the crafts I let the kids do in one week (it's STILL a big deal if they paint, let's be honest...)

--5--

Most?

My 2nd Stitch Fix Review - and after 4 tries, I can conclude that Golden Tote is by far a better fit for me!

Least?

Blast from the past, a post from almost 3 years ago in which you can marvel at poor Elizabeth's bald head and big ears... Of all our kids, she's the one whose appearance has made the most dramatic improvement since infancy!

--6--

Most?

Mom Style: How to Start - clearly I'm not the only one who needs help!

Least?

My 2nd ever Quick Takes Post (really not interesting....)

--7--

And the most popular post is...

Pregnancy & Post-Partum fashion tips! Because nobody really knows what to do with that awkward belly...

But more exciting, really, is the least popular post...

My 3rd-ever Quick Takes post! Which actually includes some amazing quotes from 2-year-old Cecilia, who was awesome. 4-year-old Cecilia is ALSO awesome, but man she was FUNNY back then!

Judging from the popularity (and unpopularity) of these posts, it's obvious that the best way to get lots of views on your Quick Takes is to write about fashion, and the worst way is to write random things about your kids. At least for me!

Want to see what other people have written? Check it out at Kelly's!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Same Photo, Different Angles {Theme Thursday}

This week, by golly, I'm posting my Theme Thursday pictures on Thursday!

Peter LOVES standing by the screen door and watching everything - it's actually pretty interesting, there are cows across the road in front of the house, and the darned cat is usually around in back, plus there are all those fascinating siblings to watch, too!


However, it's not a great place to get a picture - too much sunlight gives that awkward halo effect ...



A different angle works a little better, although it really just captures the hair I'm in denial is in serious need of a cut... Sadly, it hasn't gotten long gracefully, and is really just scraggly. But I'm afraid that if I cut it it won't be quite so red!


And I was going to try one more angle, but... Well, he was trying to eat the camera. You know how it is.

Linking up with Micaela at California to Korea for Theme Thursday!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Mountain Picnic

Fun fact: Skyline Drive in Virginia gets CRAZY crowded with tourists every autumn as they all decide they want to drive through simultaneously and veeeeery slowly while admiring the views and fall colors.

I figured a Wednesday would be better than the weekend, right?

And it was, but I still got stuck behind very slow cars going there and back...


We met up with some moms from church for a picnic at the rest area - Andrew joked about us really getting our money's worth for the park pass we bought, given the fact that mostly we just go to the visitor center four miles up...


John Paul ran off with the camera and this picture just makes me laugh every time I see it, so I couldn't delete it!


6 moms, 20 kids, and apparently not enough babies for Cecilia (there were 6, plus one in-utero)...


Is it just me, or does it feel like the colors should be more brilliant at this point? There just seems to be a disappointing amount of brown this year, which is sad.


Of course, John Paul's favorite part was the telephone he found by the restrooms... "For Local Calls Only" so of course he called the City of Winchester. Apparently the first two times he left messages asking for bubble gum. But he managed to get through the third time...

John Paul: I just finished making my phone call to the City of Winchester! And this time they actually picked up!
Me: WHAT.
John Paul: I asked them for 10 gum balls and 2 butterscotch candies. I told them to charge it to my account. They asked me for your phone number, Mom!
Me: Did you give it to them???
John Paul: Yup! Then I hung up.

Shockingly they didn't call me to scold me for my son prank calling them... Other than that, though, it was a good time and a beautiful day!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Golden Tote - What's the Scoop?



Have you heard of Golden Tote? It's kind of like all those subscription clothing services you've heard of before, but with a twist - you keep everything in your box (or bag, in this case)!

They've got three options - for $49 you can pick one item from their monthly line (new items come out on the first Monday of every month), and they'll surprise you with another item once you've filled out a style profile. For $99 you can be TOTALLY surprised with 4 items. Or for $149 you can choose two items and you'll get 3-4 others as well. No styling fee, no shipping if you purchase the largest size tote, and no anguish over what to pick - either you keep it all or you send it all back! You can even shop their boutique if you like the look of their styles but don't like the idea of being surprised.



I was pretty excited to get to try the large tote - I love the idea of being surprised, but I really want to be able to control things at least a little! I chose the Fab Flannel Top (above) and loved the fit and the fabric! Do I feel a little bit country? Yes, yes I do. But really, we moved to a farm, so I've only got myself to blame. I know I'll be wearing this top a million different ways this fall and winter!


I also picked the Fall for Florals Dress - I like it better paired with leggings, but I really appreciate the detail in the dress. The skirt portion was lined, buttonholes were finished nicely (nursing-friendly!), and I love the print!

Next came the surprise portion of the box, which I was nervous about... But my stylist (KB) did an AMAZING job, and completely understood my style. The survey was comprehensive and it was really easy to check off what items of clothing I did and did NOT want included. 


The Lani Mineral Washed Maxi Dress and Newbury Kustom Striped Printed Cardigan looked so complementary I had to pair them with each other... Although the dress was long enough that I needed to knot it to keep it from dragging!



I definitely wouldn't have chosen the cardigan myself, but I think the colors actually work really well!


And I'm saving the best for last. I love love loved these two pieces my stylist chose - the Roly Poly Gingko Print Blouse and the Le Lis Textured Skirt. Both right up my alley when it comes to style, super-comfortable, and incredibly flattering! I would wear this outfit every day if I could... I've already worn the skirt twice!

$149 for 6 articles of clothing comes out to about $25 per piece, which is a steal considering retail prices would be much higher. And if you don't like everything in your tote, you can always sell or trade through their facebook group or just share with friends!

What do you think? Would you try Golden Tote? I can't recommend it highly enough, and I'll definitely be trying it again! If you sign up for their newsletter, you'll be notified when the new month's styles are added but you won't be committing to anything - I love the styling ideas they send out! And if you'd like to try it yourself, I'd love it if you signed up through my referral link - I get $10 of credit to try another box for myself if you do :)

I received a complimentary large tote in order to write this post, but all opinions are my own - I wouldn't recommend a service I didn't truly love!

Monday, October 19, 2015

What Would You Do? Housewarming Crowd-Sourcing

I'm gonna sneak in today's post real quick while Peter's napping (!!! Still!!! No way is he sleeping tonight but clearly he needs the rest since he didn't budge when I went in to wake up...) and John Paul's reading to the girls.



We're having our housewarming party this weekend (want to come? The more, the merrier!) and since it's October and kind of chilly, it seems to me that our usual burgers-brats-hot dogs fare isn't seasonally appropriate, right? Andrew still wants to go with that, but I really want to do a soup party, Theresa-style.

The problem?

Well, Andrew doesn't really like soup...

So what's a man-pleasing, meat-heavy soup that doesn't seem like soup? He dislikes most vegetables, and I think his dream soup would probably just taste like a cheeseburger... Pasta e fagioli? Cheeseburger soup? Send me all your links & recipes!

I'm thinking I'll make a big old batch of mac 'n cheese, a ton of crusty bread, chili & corn bread, maybe minestrone, and then whatever meat soup YOU help me find!

So... Help? Please and thank you!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Easy Apple Crumble Recipe


If there's one fruit we can't live without in our house, it's apples. Which is why fall is by favorite - no pumpkin spice for me, I'm baking as many apple desserts as possible!

We've been apple picking three times so far this season, and have probably picked close to 200 pounds of apples at this point. You'd think that'd mean we've made tons of sauce and apple butter but... Not so much. See, my apple storage system leaves something to be desired.



This means I keep ending up with a pile of apples with one tiny bite taken out of each one that I have to do something with immediately! And while I *could* sauce them, an apple crumble is a little more fun, plus I don't have to roll out any dough!


The topping is my absolute favorite part - buttery, crumbly, and sweet but not too sweet. 


But I won't bore you with the details - you've gotta make one yourself!

Affiliate links included below:


Ingredients:

Filling:

6-8 apples, peeled & sliced (this tool will make quick work of them!)
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon

Crumble:

3/4 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
6 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In large bowl, toss apple slices with 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 tbsp cinnamon. Spread in pie pan or baking dish.

Cut butter into small pieces and pulse with flour and sugar in food processor until crumbly. Spread over top of apples.


Bake on center oven rack for 40 minutes. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes, and serve.

I love this recipe because you can make it into a pie just by adding your favorite crust to the bottom, or you can make it in a deep pan and double the filling easily. It's even delicious for breakfast!




Saturday, October 17, 2015

Up a Creek

When I was growing up, our summers were unscheduled - hours of lying around watching The Beverly Hillbillies and The Price is Right were muddled amongst the many, many hours we spent exploring the creek in our neighborhood. I always imagined raising my kids in the same type of neighborhood - suburbs with woods & a creek, convenient but close enough to nature. And when we moved to our last house, that was basically what we had, only to get to the creek you had to walk pretty far, and through a not-so-hot neighborhood, and it was right next to a major highway... So creek walks didn't really happen.


Last weekend, though, Andrew cleared a path to our very own creek, which actually has water in it after a week of nonstop rain!


And it's basically the only place anyone ever wants to go. My mom's old dog keeps wading right into it up to her belly, jumping out and shaking like a puppy when she's had enough.


We haven't done tons of exploring yet - it's tough with the twins in tow, and I really need to go with clippers in hand because there are tons of thorny vines crossing the creek that I can't get through.


It's amazing to see how much braver Elizabeth has gotten since we moved - she's still kind of a clingy mess (she and Mary Claire insist on holding my hand to go ANYWHERE including down the stairs in our house and have I mentioned it's driving me insane), but she's not afraid of animals anymore, and walks in the creek on her own, and is even willing to cross parking lots and streets without being carried! 


The woods are lovely (dark and deep) and I wanted to try to get some good pictures for Micaela's photography challenge (Theme Thursday is back!). Being a halfhearted excuse for a photographer, I aimed the camera at the sun and clicked! Auto everything!


But then I remembered that adjusting the aperture could give me that starburst effect that I really wanted, so I tried that... But the flare was kind of weird?


But Peter was on my back, so I just tried different angles...


Including in the background, with this tree with cool bark in the foreground.


Then I decided to try to frame the sun between some trees, and these two looked good! But it was off-center and that drove me nuts.


And this is my pick! I just love that bright sun filtered through all the leaves in the darkness of the cool forest.


Anyway, back to the creek... The woods aren't super-easy to navigate, and you have to go down a steep-ish hill to get to the creek. So of course all the kids want to go UP the hill and off the path whenever we go back. Especially John Paul, who will be learning to use a hatchet and a saw soon enough so that he can do something with all those branches we chopped off the trees when we cleared the path.


We stopped by the pond on the way home - see that turtle? They really are there!


And in the midst of trying to determine the depth of the pond with sticks, the dog just walked right in and tested it for us!


Answer: Not deep. And now Elizabeth's not afraid of the pond, either!


Which may or may not be a good thing... In any case, none of the kids are allowed to go there on their own yet!

Linking up with one of my favorites, Micaela at California to Korea - do you have a camera? Or a phone with a camera? Theme Thursday is a fun way to explore your photography skills and meet new bloggers - you should join, too!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Faith-Based Gift Guide (For Plan-Aheaders)

It's October. I just saw some serious Christmas displays at the mall. In October. And yet, here I am thinking about Christmas presents already...

But hear me out - a lot of etsy shops need you to order in October so they can get their items handmade in time for Christmas. And a lot of people (like me!) like to shop for gifts ahead of time so that the shopping is done by Advent. Plus there's always St. Nicholas Day to think about if you like doing gifts then, instead... And All Saints' Day, too!

So if you're a planner like me, and you want to get all your Christmas shopping done NOW and support some really lovely ladies in their work while you're at it, I've got ideas for you!

TOYS

Blessing Blocks

Have you seen these beautiful toys? At AlmondRod Toys, Lindsey makes beautiful blocks with saints, Nativity scenes, Stations of the Cross, and she'll even do custom-work for you! My kids adore these and I love to look at them, too! They're fun to stack and have been holding up really well for us, plus they're reasonably priced!



Lindsey's offering a free Pope Francis block on orders of $30 or more - all you have to do is pray for the Pope and let her know in the "notes" section of your order!

Saintly Silver

Have you seen these adorable plush saint dolls? Saintly Silver is hugely popular, so if you want these in time for Christmas you pretty much have to order now - we actually don't have any because any time there's an occasion I want them for, it's already too late to get one in time... But you're more proactive than I am, I'm sure!


Peg Dolls

Either organize a swap yourself, or check etsy for TONS of options! My kids love playing with them at other people's houses, although I still haven't gotten any for them myself... St. Luke's Brush makes beautifully detailed saints.



Saint Anne Studio might be my favorite, and she makes reasonably-priced saint doll kits, also (the peg dolls are pricey but SO beautiful).

There's also a shop where you can buy a kit to paint your own!

Shining Light Dolls

Have you seen these adorable dolls? Each of our children is getting one for St. Nicholas Day this year, and they just came out with a whole bunch more (like St. Joseph, St. Francis, St. Martin de Porres)! Sturdy, chewable, and cute!





BOOKS & MEDIA




Michele's new rosary book for children, Mary Holds My Hand just came out and looks like such a perfect way to introduce your child to the rosary! And it would be a great gift along with with Rosaries Aren't {Just} For Teething, a book of reflections on the mysteries of the rosary by some of your favorite bloggers!

Michele's giving away a copy of her children's book *and* the rosary meditation book she edited for adults! Enter at the bottom of the post.

Holy Heroes



Holy Heroes creates and sells dramatized audio stories about the lives of the saints. They're exciting, not too long, and a great substitute for screen time! I've written up a full review, and we love their products - coloring and activity books, matching games, even free items sometimes!

Other Books

We've got a few book series that we come back to time and again - Can You Find Saints and Can You Find Jesus are basically Where's Waldo for Catholics. Packed with pictures, fun for kids to look at, and fun for adults also! Once Upon a Time Saints and the other books in the series are all nice short stories of saints that engage adults and children alike. For longer books, we like the Encounter the Saints series and the Vision Series for lives of the saints.


ARTWORK & HANDMADE

Hatch Prints



Katrina's watercolor & hand-lettered prints are so lovely and inspiring - she makes me want to pick up a paintbrush and try my hand at watercolors! But for now I'll just be satisfied with the two prints of hers I have in my house :) She's got prints and greeting cards, all of which would make great gifts.

Use code ABLOGFORMYMOM15 for 15% off your order for the rest of October! And check below for a giveaway item.

Rakstar Designs



I always love seeing what Rakhi is making - her creativity is boundless and she's got necklaces, rosary hangers, and prints in her shop. And she's got a little one on the way!

Use code IAMLOVED for 20% off your order of $15 or more through November 2, and check below for a giveaway item!

Annery Handmade



Annie's knit rosary roses would be the perfect tactile accompaniment to your prayer with young children, and her knit & infinity scarves would make great gifts!

Use code SHIPOCT15 for free shipping through October 31!

Flor Larios Art

We love our Flor Larios wood blocks that hang on the wall (or *will* hang on the wall once we get around to it now that we've moved...), and the kids had such fun picking their own out last year - there's a huge selection of items in her shop, and tons of different prints!



Handmaid Embroidery

Cristina just opened her shop today! Her ornaments are so lovely and I'm really excited to see what else she comes out with!



Lucky you! One person is going to win a whole bunch of prizes, either to keep or to gift to some lucky friends and family members! Here's what's up for grabs:

1 Manger Ornament from Handmaid Embroidery
1 Necklace of your choice from Rakstar Designs
1 8x10 print of your choice from Hatch Prints AND
1 5x7 print of your choice from Hatch Prints
1 paperback copy of Rosaries Aren't {Just} For Teething AND
1 paperback copy of Mary Holds My Hand

I hope you win, I really do - this is an amazing prize package!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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