Wednesday, November 26, 2014

5 Easy-Peasy, Inexpensive, Homemade Christmas Gifts

Every year around this time I look for new inspirations for crafty, inexpensive gifts. There's just something appealing to me about handmade gifts. Yes, our budget dictates that we spend wisely, but more than that I like to pour my time and energy (which are generally in limited supply) into making something unique and personal for the ones I love. 

Here are this year's creations:

1. Photo Holder Wreath 

The card holders are meant to display Christmas cards or all those adorable holiday photo cards. I was shopping for a circular wooden cutout with an open center (like a wreath), but I could only find solid circles so I simply opted to paint a bow in the middle.

I chose two shades of green and a red for the paint as well as a white paint pen for the thin lines/details. The clothespins came in a variety pack so that there were three different sizes included. You could simply stick with the large clothespins, but I wanted to double-stack a few so I needed some medium sized pins. I used standard wood glue to attach the pins to the bases.

As it turns out my grandmother is moving into a much smaller place this month, so I thought this idea was a great fit for her, too. With six children, she has been blessed with a whole host of grandchildren and great-grandchildren which equates to a lot of class pictures and family photos. The photo holder gives her the option of hanging those pictures in a tight space and changing them out easily. I tried to make her gift less holiday specific (if you couldn't tell from the colors- she is proudly Irish). 

2. Family Fun Bucket

The Family Fun Bucket came from my good friend Tracy Smith over at ASlice of Smith Life. The bucket is meant to be used by families throughout the season. Each evening, every member gets to select a slip of paper that describes an activity (like singing a Christmas carol or playing telephone). This gift is a great way to draw the family together. Tracy did all of the hard work by creating printables HERE, so head on over to her blog and snatch them up for yourself.

3. Warm Buddies

Fumbling around on Pinterest, I saw a few home-sewn, bean (or rice) filled heating pads as well as a tiny kid version. The child version appeared to be hand-sized felt animals. Both of those ideas sparked my creativity. I liked the idea of a stuffed animal that could be warmed and laid in the bed with a little one, but I wanted something big enough for my youngest to snuggle. So I dug through my fabric straps and whipped up these warm buddies. I filled the bigger leopard with beans. I let my littlest guy try it out and he seemed quite interested in the rattle sound the beans made when he played with it. My older kids took note of the bean smell it emitted when we warmed it in the microwave. For the snake I tried rice for filler and it definitely fixed the scent issue, but the rattle effect was lost. I decided to go back to beans for the frog.

I didn't have a pattern. I just cut rudimentary shapes with a concentration on the torso. The torso functions like a heating pad so it needs to hold the majority of the filler. I stuffed it just enough to fill all of the interior spaces, but not so much that the filler was immovable (and the torso too stiff). In order to prevent the limbs from ending up empty, I stuffed them and then stitched them so that their filler could not spill out into the torso. You could certainly get more creative when designing the facial features, but remember to stay away from buttons or other tiny features that could become a choking hazard.

The idea is to give your child a comforting, warm buddy at bedtime. You could also opt to place a few drops of your favorite essential oil on your buddy (just be sure the oil is rubbed into the fabric so as to avoid burning the child's sensitive skin).

The smaller the buddy or the thinner the fabric, the less time it requires to heat up in the microwave, so be sure to test it out (start with 30 seconds) before you hand it over to your sweetie.

4.  Me Felt Books

Our kids usually bring a sack of appropriate books to our weekly holy hour which got me thinking about a gift for the toddler. He is old enough to need a little distraction, but I'd prefer not to bring non-faith related books into the chapel. We are trying to teach the children to spend quiet time with Jesus and so the books they read need to keep their attention on Him.

While pulling down the winter clothes from the attic, I unearthed an old cloth book I'd made years ago. It was a Christmas book and it became the catalyst for these Me Books. This project was going to be one big, fat book, but I broke it into two when I realized that sewing through many layers of fabrics was too difficult.

these are my failed photo transfers

One book contains a picture of a church altar and an icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. I used large wooden beads, a cross and paracord to create a decade for praying the rosary. The beads are movable to help teach him to keep count.

The pages are felt rectangles cut into halves. I used photo transfer paper to put our pictures on an old bed sheet (the photos didn't transfer well directly onto the felt). I then cut the sheet with the photos and glued them onto the felt pages with fabric glue.

The second book has pictures of our family. I also included my son's patron saints and a back page with a pocket to hold treasures (like an extra picture of his great-grandma).


I used an extra long, thick needle to sew the book bindings and Liquid Stitch to attach the photos to the felt pages

5. Portable Art Desks


I came across these great plastic lap desks at a local grocery store and my niece and nephew instantly came to mind. Using a paint pen, I added a bit of personalization. The paper clip (which I attached with some hot glue) will keep their masterpieces from slipping. The side cubbies can be filled with art supplies and snacks.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Life In a Big Brood: 10 Problems with Living in a Family of 10

When we started out, just the two of us, my husband and I were clueless. He is an only child and my siblings didn't show up until I was 10 years old. We both were accustomed to the limelight, tranquility and praise, but we'd always longed for the joys of sibling companionship. My husband says he actually referred to himself as a lonely only when he was little.

Our heads in the clouds, we envisioned our own family would be a cross between the Von Trapps and the Bradys. Add twenty-two years and eight kids and our eyes have been opened. Oh, we wouldn't trade one of our lovelies for the world (most days), but we concede that our initial plans were unrealistic.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

NC State Fair 2014: Lilia's Blue Ribbon Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookies (recipe)

Every year we start gearing up for the big, annual NC State Fair in about late August. Okay, truth be told, in about late August I remember that registration deadlines are looming and I make a mental note to actually start preparing our submissions. A few weeks later, with only days left to meet the cut-offs, I remember that mental note. Then, I make a frantic attempt to get my kids to commit to the categories they intend to enter and I pull my hair out while trying to navigate the oh-so-not-efficient state fair website for said categories. A few more weeks of procrastination (like four days of so before things are due to be dropped off at the fairgrounds) and then we finally whip up some masterpieces. Somehow we always (except the year we didn't) manage to create some awesomeness to share with the world.

Monday, October 27, 2014

We've Gone Batty Part 2: Outdoor Decor, Party Food, Pippi hair & a Headless Horseman

Halloween decorations

Our annual family-friendly Halloween bash was last weekend and the big day looms ahead, so we're in full ghoulish mode around here. If you are just starting to pull together costumes or if you are looking for a few fresh ideas to add to your collection of haunted yard fun, we've got lots to share.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Homosexuals Have Gifts to Offer: Why that Headline Isn't Newsworthy

On first read I couldn't quite figure out what it was about the headline that bothered me so much. Homosexuals Have Gifts and Qualities to Offer the Christian Community was the highlighted statement being used to draw readers into the newly released documents coming out of the Catholic Church's Synod on the Family. Of course, as one could imagine a firestorm has been lit on social media and I wasn't really planning to jump in. But once I recognized just what had me so unnerved by that title, I decided weighing in on the matter was worth the risk of getting singed.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

We've Gone Batty: Get Inspired for Halloween

halloween batsIt's that time of year when we here in Brelinskyville go batty for all things Halloween. Somewhere along the line we developed a ghoulish fascination with ghosts and goblins, creepies and crawlies. Maybe it's my fond childhood memories of scouting the neighborhood with a pillow case full of sweet loot or perhaps the home made haunted houses in my parents' basement were the catalyst for my 
family's love of Halloween fun.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

There's No Room for Envy in a Grateful Heart

The house was buzzing with the usual school morning routines. There was foot traffic up and down the stairs and hallway, dishes being banged and stacked, and water pouring through the faucets. The dog was rubbing against every available leg and a rooster was crowing in the distance as the clock clicked passed 8:30.

In an attempt to corral my students to their assigned seats around the table, I grabbed my wooden beads and began that familiar recitation of the rosary. Like the Pied Piper's entrancing tune, my rhythmic words drew my children forth one by one.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Summertime Sonnet by Nikolai Brelinsky


This is an original work written by my 17yo son. With the end of summer fast approaching (too fast as far as I am concerned), I thought his sonnet was a perfect reminder to slow down and enjoy the last days of the season.

Sipping a glass of lemonade outside
The proud screen-door hinges standing open wide
Porch swing swaying lazily, doing its chore
A couple basks in the season they adore

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Little Reminder That Life is Good

When my older boys were little I made Halloween costumes (from sewing Buzz Lightyear to creating a bull out of a cardboard box), threw themed birthday parties (Veggie Tales and Sea Creatures), paper-mached a pinata (that turned out to be nearly indestructible), and baked birthday cakes (a school bus). Eight kiddos later and I sometimes feel a bit of guilt because my crafty skills are more often constrained by time.

Lately, I have to admit I feel downright aggravated with myself.

Monday, August 18, 2014

On Saturday's Chore List: Telling Lies; Exposing the Truth About the Anti-life Protesters

Imagine you are a scared teenager who has just discovered you are pregnant by a boyfriend who adamantly tells you he's not interested in raising his child. Maybe you're a single woman whose married boyfriend finally admits he has no intention of leaving his wife and helping raise his child. Perhaps, you are too poor to take care of the kids you already have and you feel overwhelmed by the thought of having another. Or you trusted your contraceptives to make your sex life sterile and now you're shocked to find out they didn't work.

You have cried, begged, bartered, and agonized. Your situation feels hopeless and all that you can think of is wanting it all to go away.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

My Morning At the Abortion Clinic

Hilarious” that's the adjective used to describe the pro-aborts' signs in front of a local abortion mill. A couple has made it their weekend chore to mock Christian pro-lifers and chronicle their efforts on a blog. Their dedication to confrontation merited them some viral exposure from a writer who found the couple's signs (that state things like “I like turtles” and 'Hail Santa”) to be side-achingly hysterical. The coverage inspired a fellow parishioner to post the article on facebook along with a call to offer a counter-balance to the situation.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Super Simple, Shadow Box Baby Shower Gift

It's baby time around these parts for a number of my beautiful friends. So, it was an extra special treat to be invited to a baby shower recently. Of course, I wanted to find the perfect gift to honor the expectant little one. Then, I remembered the unique gift we received from my youngest child's godparents and I used that as my inspiration.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Life of Adoration - my guest post for Deacon Ian's blog

Pieter van Aelst, 16th century
A friend of mine, who just happens to be a deacon on his way to becoming a Catholic priest, began a blog to help his readers grow closer to Christ through prayer. His writings include a thorough explanation of a particular type of prayer called Lectio Divina (which I'd highly recommend learning more about). He asked some friends to share their personal prayer testimonies from the focus of how do you pray, what is your relationship with the Trinity and have you ever had an intense 
prayer experience

Here's my story:

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Why Our Family Never Misses A Meal (our favorite recipes included)

Please, pass the mashed potatoes and don't hog the gravy.”

Some of my best memories revolved around the dinner table. With nine (or more) of us gathered around, I learned the value of keeping your elbows off the table and your manners minded. Poor Aunt Amy, the only lefty in the crowd, always got assigned to the end seat to keep her from poking her neighbor. And it became the running joke to stick dear Aunt Kathy with the bum-chair (the one that was missing a few screws -that's the chair was missing screws, not the aunt!)

Friday, July 25, 2014

Hope Didn't Die With the Baby, Dimitri's Legacy

Nineteen years ago today, when I was twenty-four and my husband twenty-six, we made a mad dash to the midwife Annie's office. The hot, southern, July sun was just beginning to heat up the air and the morning traffic rush was under way. My concentration was centered inward (in a kind of hypnotic state), but I remember distinctly watching the cars moving outside the window. Feeling my face contort now and again, I wondered if anyone could see me.

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