What's for Supper?

What’s for supper? Vol. 65: The importance of being parchment paper

Ooh, I’m in such a hurry! We’re headed out for a day trip as vacation week wraps up. I’ll just have to talk about food and skip the jokes, to save time.

SATURDAY
Chicken burgers

We decorate the tree on Christmas eve, and then we went to “midnight Mass” at 10 PM. Part of me was sad and a little irritated that the parish wasn’t giving us our rare and special twice-a-year midnight liturgy this year; but the other part was like, HOME BEFORE MIDNIGHT, WOOOOO! Because we did manage to get all forty presents wrapped, but there were still ten stockings to fill . . .

SUNDAY
Christmas brunch; Pupu Platter for 15

Our traditional Christmas morning brunch is  cinnamon rolls, bacon, grapes, orange juice, and egg nog.

christmas-brunch

 

Tip: The way to keep kids from drinking egg nog until they throw up is . . . buy tiny cups. Cheers!

eggnog-small-cups

I made Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon roll dough the day before, and rolled out the rolls in the morning.

cinnamon-buns-red-pan

I made a double recipe, which was insane. I make this same mistake every year. We ended up throwing out both unused dough and uneaten cinnamon buns, and we brought a pan to my mother-in-law’s house, too.

We ordered Chinese from the restaurant down the road. We used to do the whole “Thanksgiving recreation” meal, or sometimes a glazed ham with cherries and pineapple rings, until we realized nobody wanted a huge, formal meal, and also it was kind of crappy that everyone else gets to relax and have fun on Christmas, but I was spending all day cooking. So, Pupu platter!

pupu

MONDAY
Leftover chinese food, leftover chicken burgers

Plus some extra frozen pork rolls my husband picked up because he is crazy. I also threw in some sad peppers and avocados I found in the fridge, because it felt like we hadn’t eaten vegetables in six years. Somehow the vegetables are always the first to drop out.

leftover-pupu

Finished making caramel chocolate-covered almonds from Smitten Kitchen today. This project had been lagging on and on for weeks. We eked out a few batches in time to give to teachers, and finally finished the rest on Monday.

If anyone’s interested, I have a series of photos showing exactly what the caramel should look like while it’s cooking. It goes through an alarming series of transformations, all of which are normal. Just say the word and I will share the pics.

I made the first few batches right, but then I got lazy and didn’t separate the caramelized almonds properly. So I just broke it up into clusters, rather than individual almonds and dipped those into chocolate, which was way easier and faster and just as good. I thought the gold sugar was especially pretty.

almonds-done

This recipe could be used for any time of year — just change the colors of sugar and sprinkles you use.

TUESDAY
Hamburgers, chips

Husband ran out to the store for meat while we all lazed around eating chocolate and playing video games.
We also made stained glass cookies, on the principle that it is better to make Christmas cookies late and slightly crabby then not to make Christmas cookies at all. We used this foolproof sugar cookie recipe for the dough. Then we sorted out some Jolly Ranchers by color, bagged them, and smashed them.

candy-crush

Then we cut them out and used smaller cookie cutters or knives to make cut-outs inside the cookie shapes. You’re supposed to bake the cookies part of the way, then fill them with candy bits, and then finish baking, but I forgot, and filled them before baking.

filling-cookies

They turned out great! Note the parchment paper.

cookies-baked

Look, I even made a corny pro-life cookie.

baby-cookie

That baby head-to-pelvis ratio is pretty accurate for Corrie, as I remember it.
Irene, of course, made a skull with glowing red eyes:

skull-cookie

Murry Christmas, weirdo. The key to the success of this recipe is, and I cannot stress this enough, USE PARCHMENT PAPER. Not wax paper, and not (brrr, your poor molars) tin foil. Parchment paper. If you don’t have parchment paper, do not make these cookies!

WEDNESDAY
Bacon, Brussels sprouts, and eggs; french fries

How I love this one-pan dish from Damn Delicious. It would make a wonderful brunch, but I think it’s super for supper, too. Bacon needs balsamic honey, eggs need hot pepper, and everyone plays well with Brussels sprouts, what do you know about that?

bacon-eggs-pan

I had microwaved leftovers for breakfast the next day, and had a banner day for productivity. I owe it all to protein, and Brussels sprouts. Even kinda congealed, it was so very good.

bacon-leftovers

THURSDAY
Spaghetti and meatballs, salad

I stuck with Fannie Farmer’s recipe for meatballs, which is basically one egg and half a cup of breadcrumbs for every pound of meat, plus whatever spices and herbs. I used about 6.5 pounds of beef and a little ground turkey, and made 85 wonderful meatballs. Rather than frying them, I put them on a broiler pan and cook them in a medium-hot oven. They keep their shape and don’t get all greasy, and it’s so much easier.

meatballs-pan

Yum yum. We were pretty much snowed in all day, so I was happy to have a very hearty meal.

spaghetti-meatballs

Speaking of snowed in, here is my recipe for completely delicious hot chocolate: Put into a pot one heaping tablespoon of cocoa powder and two heaping tablespoons of sugar for every mug of hot chocolate you want. Add enough water to make a thick syrup, and mix over low heat until the sugar is all melted. Then add the milk and a glug of vanilla. Stir and heat until it’s hot.

Benny insisted on drinking out of her doll tea set. As I mentioned before, the key to success and happiness in life is and always will be TINY CUPS.

FRIDAY
I think pizza.

And now my poor family is waiting for me in the car! Happy trails. Hope you are all having a wonderful Christmas and using parchment paper like I said. I’m not kidding.

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Remember Syria on the feast of Stephen

 

Today is the feast of St. Stephen, first martyr of the Church. That’s what kind of faith it is: One day we celebrate the birth of the Savior, and the very next day, we celebrate the death of a man who died for that Savior’s sake. It’s an especially poignant feast to remember as we see the images of Syrian Christians celebrating Mass in a church half-filled with rubble, the roof blasted away.

Imagine if this were your church?

This is your Church.

This is the Catholic Church, and these are your brothers and sisters. After this footage was taken, the Catholics remaining celebrated Mass on Christmas eve, in a roofless, blasted structure that’s safer than it’s been for a long time. Christians have not been able to enter for years, but they came back to Christmas to find it still standing, still waiting for them to come and worship God. They brought in flowers and candles from God only knows where, and they assembled a nativity scene out of scraps of rubble, covering it with branches from the trees that are still putting out green leaves.

Do not forget Syria. Catholics suffering around the world don’t want to take away the joy of us Christians who enjoy peace and plenty on Christmas. But do not forget them. Do not forget what kind of faith this is. The Savior does not promise to keep our bodies safe; but He does promise that the Church will always prevail against evil.

The ornament featured above was painted by Erica Ploucha (more of her work is here). Her husband Nick sent me the photo, saying “I can’t see this ornament and not think of Syria.” God has not forgotten the people of Syria, and neither should we.

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And in His hand, the golden ball

I’m not sure if you want to cry, or what; but if you do, you might consider reading Tomie dePaola’s The Clown of God. (If you don’t own the book, you can hear and see it read aloud in this video.)

Quick summary: In Renaissance Italy, a ragged street boy falls in with a travelling show troupe, and as he grows, he becomes an expert juggler. Eventually he strikes out on his own, and becomes a celebrated performer all over the country. He has a complicated routine, but always ends with a rainbow of balls and then “The Sun in the Heavens,” a single golden ball that he tosses impossibly high.

He enjoys his fame; but then times get hard, the clown gets old, and no one cares about his act anymore. He even drops “The Sun in the Heavens,” and the crowd jeers. Now a ragged beggar, he stumbles back to his old hometown, where he takes refuge in a dark church and falls asleep. He wakes up in the middle of the night to blazing lights and music, as a procession of villagers and religious present Christmas gifts before a statue of Mary and a somber Child Jesus.

When they are all gone, he gazes as the statue; and, remembering that he once made children smile, he suits up and goes into his old juggling routine one last time. He works his way through all his tricks, and finishes with the rainbow of colored balls. Finally he adds “The Sun in the Heavens.” He juggles it higher than ever before and cries out, “For you, sweet child, for you!”

And then his old heart gives out and he falls dead to the ground. A sacristan finds him and calls a priest, who blesses the old man’s body.

But the sacristan backs away in fear: The child Jesus is smiling, and in His hand, He holds the golden ball.

***
Among other things, it’s a story of when things are almost too late — when we almost miss Christmas, because of all the hustling and costume changes and juggling and fuss.

If you can, remember that phrase: “For you, sweet child!” — and toss Him one golden ball.

Apologize to someone if you were rude.
Put your phone down and read a book to your kid.
Let an insult pass without comment or retaliation.
If a street person asks for one dollar, give him ten.
Stop and pray for someone, or give a word of encouragement, before you go on with your juggling routine.

For you, sweet Child! He will catch that ball, and smile.

The Catholic Weekly

Can we celebrate Christmas as Syria burns?

Trying to tamp down the guilt that rose like a cloud of evil dust, I mentally ran through my week, comparing it to the week that my brothers and sisters have endured in Aleppo. I shouldn’t have bought any presents, I thought. How could I even dare? How can we light our Advent candles and sing “O Come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel?” We are not captives. We are healthy, wealthy, safe, pampered. Our walls our intact. We are home. Our children are with us, safe and warm in bed. The Syrians, they are the ones who need rescuing, Lord. Lord, isn’t there something I can do?

Read the rest of my latest at The Catholic Weekly here.

***
Image: By Ahill34 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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What fresh hell is this? It’s Pinterest Christmas 2016!

Feeling a dearth of burlap, foxes, chevrons, fairy lights, and mason jar lids in my life, I went on Pinterest to see what was happenin’.

I always start out with wholesome intentions, sincerely searching for neat DIY ideas. I even bought a set of plain glass balls, and I intend to spray paint them, using tiny paper snowflakes as stencils. As stencils! It is going to be pretty. Tell me it’s going to be pretty!

I start out, I say, with good intentions, looking for ideas that we will enjoy trying out; but I always end up calling my husband over for backup to help me mock stuff more thoroughly.

Because son, there is some stupid shit out there.

For your convenience, I’ve organized my thoughts into some basic rules to help you identify when you’ve slipped past DIY and landed smack in the middle of WTF, by which I obviously mean Where’s the Fphrenologist to feel your lumpy head and figure out what would impel you to follow through with some of these hideously inexcusable projects?

Things that would bring shame to hobos. Okay, so we all have failed crafts and stupid crafts and crafts that don’t turn out so great. That is fine. I have a number of them displayed around my house, because I have low standards.

But when I do come up with something lousy, I do not then use an expensive camera to take luxe photos of it and offer tutorials for how to recreate it in your own home. And not only because it didn’t occur to me! It’s because when you take a sweater and cut it up into heart shapes and then stick a paper clip through it, that’s not a cozy winter ornament. That’s garbage.

When kids make things that turn out a little rough and wobbly, that’s cute. When disabled people make things that are kind of naive and clunky, your heart is allowed to melt. But functioning adults are not allowed to just churn out crap and call it “adorable” just because it looks bad! Bad is bad! It’s not twee or offbeat or funky! It’s just bad! Bad bad bad!

(If you want to live a little, browse around in this chick’s site. Do not miss the confetti updo, which, the tutorial will instruct you, can be achieved by braiding your hair and then using your head to clean under the couch. In another spot, she instructs you to roast a turkey, cram some pom poms up its ass, and call it “festive feast.” I BET IT IS.)

Craft projects that require you spend $18 on a hobby store fake version of something people used to throw out back once the hogs were done with them. You know it must be within ten days of a major American holiday when local message boards are full of frantic pleas: Does anyone know where I can find wooden pallets? No, honey, nobody knows, because they have all been painted like terrible flags for the fourth of July, hung on the walls of pretentious condos for terrible wine racks, transformed into terrible herb planters in the front yards of people who wouldn’t know what to do with basil if grew with instructions right on the leaves, or tacked together by someone’s gloomy husband who would be perfectly willing to shell out cash for an actual, real, non-wobbly coffee table that doesn’t give you splinters, but now we have to spend all Thursday night sanding, and the Raiders are playing, too.

Leave pallets alone. Also milk bottles, mason jars, pre-weathered planks, and fruit crates. Gosh.

When you have a display, rather than decorations. Stores put up holiday displays. Businesses put up holiday displays. School children get together and work on a nice display together. But why are we doing this as individuals living in our homes? Why do we buy three shrink-wrapped bales of disinfected hay upon which to prop up some easily-identifiable symbols of the current holiday season in a studiously asymmetrical fashion, and set it up just to the left of the entrance to your home, and then forbid the children to play in the front yard because you’re trying to make it look homey with all those corn stalks you bought for eleven bucks a bunch? It’s your house, and you’re supposed to be living in it, not marketing it.

A small-scale rendition of this trend is when you take perfectly good stand-alone ornaments and tag them with keywords designed to snag maximum pageviews. You know what I mean: You have five glass balls in tasteful blue and silver, and that’s fine, but then you have to buy a special glass-writing marker and label each one with a Certified Holiday Word (without upper case letters or punctuation, of course, because we are having fun!). “Jingle” says one. “Merry,” explains another. “Star,” posits a third.

What? What? What is this for? This is stupid.  If you like jingling so much, maybe use a bell, eh, smartacus? This is one of those things that people only do because other people are doing it, so it seems normal and cute and pretty, but it’s not. It’s stupid and it’s making the word stupider.

Subset: those astronomically smug, oversized wall decals that literally spell out exactly what kind of family you are. “WE DO LOVE! WE DO MESSY! WE DO OOPSIE WOOPSIE DOO ON THE REGULAR! WE SHINE FULL TIME! LOOK AT MY WHITE TEETH! I DEMAND A GOLD MEDAL FOR NOT FLIPPING OUT WHEN CARTER DROPS A CRACKER ON THE CARPET! CAN YOU EVEN BELIEVE YOU GET TO BE FRIENDS WITH US!” No, I can’t. Please give me my coat back; I really must be going. I think I left my humidifier running, and the cats are going to get all waterlogged.

Yeah, yeah, I know, they’re not there for guests. They’re there for the actual family, to remind them of their own ideals. Except they’re not. They’re totally there to impress people, along the lines of those “Another family for peace” bumper stickers. I’m going to start my own auto insurance company just to design a rider specifically to cover people who deliberately rear-end another family for peace.

 

Inedible food ornaments. This may just be a hangover from some stinging childhood disappointment, but I feel like it’s bad form to fill the house with marvellous scents and then not get to chew on anything. Gingerbread cookies? Those are for eating. Applesauce is also for eating, and not for compressing into little weird brick stars and hearts that only look like non-poop if you tell people, “Those are made of applesauce, you know!” I’ll make an exception for clove oranges, because they really are pretty, and they have a venerable past. But no more dried applesauce poop. It doesn’t make me mad, it just makes me sad. I like applesauce.

Complete non-ornaments that just stare baldly at you, daring you to wonder if this is, like, the lost and found shelf, or what. Skis, ice skates, sleds, bicycles, wagons, whatever. You are not TGIFridays, nor were meant to be. Just because you manage to hang it on your wall, that doesn’t magically transform them into decor. This offends my thrifty heart, and it also violates the whole “decoration vs. display” rule.

Now, if you’re trying to sell me on the idea that industrial design can be beautiful, that is one thing. I will actually go to a museum and look carefully at a very good toilet or a telephone or a circuit board, because I like design. But that is not what is going on here. What is going on here is that some deranged housewife gets it into her head that anything that is no longer for sale at full price at Bed, Bath and So Forth must be automatically nostalgic, and therefore decorative. My only comfort is that deranged people are bad at hanging stuff, so it will probably fall down at some point and hit somebody. Kapow! Where’s your nostalgia now?

 

Things made out of books.  Okay, so if the book was going to be destroyed anyway, that’s fine. But the thing that gets me is “She loves books so much, she made a whole chair out of them!” Hey, that’s great. I’m entirely blown away with your thorough grasp of the purpose of the written word! Or maybe you love books so much that you cut them up into bits and torture them into a gluey diorama depicting a scene from that book, that’s how much you love books!

Super duper. Remind me not to let you babysit my kids. Yes, I know you said you love kids. I heard you.

***

In closing:  Yes, I write things like this because I am a bitter, unhappy person who finds fulfillment in criticizing others, even though their behavior in no way impacts my life. Please pray for me.

Yes, mason jars are still a thing, still. I checked.

 

 

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50 Gifts our 10 kids loved, the 2016 list!

We have ten kids, ages eighteen to almost two. We buy . . . . a lot  . . . .of gifts. Here’s a list of fifty that our kids tried and liked this past year. They’re mostly under $50, and are in order from cheapest to most expensive, so it’s a little book-heavy in the beginning.

I’d also like to apologize for the graphic.

Most of these items are from Amazon. I’m an Amazon Affiliate, and all of the Amazon links in this post have my code embedded, so I earn a small percentage of the sale price, which is how we buy more presents for ten kids next year, and on and on it goes.

Here is my Amazon Affiliate link:

 

Simcha’s Amazon Link!

Please consider bookmarking it and using it every time you buy from Amazon! Thanks a million.

Here’s the first list of fifty from a few years ago, and here’s a list of twenty-five more the next year. And here are this years gift ideas:

1. Orthodox icon suncatchers and nightlights, $3.50 – $6

You can see a few in the window of my dining room here:

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Jesus’ beard is sparkly! They are plastic and vividly colored. I want them in every window of the house.

2.Stretchy tattoo choker necklace, $3.99

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Apparently these are back in style? My daughter wore one to the senior prom, along with hot pink Doc Martens (see below). (I wore my grandmother’s pearls to my prom, if anyone’s wondering.)

3.Nixon decal, $4

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“I’m meeting you halfway, you stupid hippies!” Possibly specific to the needs of my family. For the right person, it could be the best $4 you ever spent. When people ask how my kids deal with being one of the few Catholics in a giant public school, this sums it up pretty well.

4.The Mysterious Benedict Society, about $5.

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This book came highly recommended by trusted friends for kids grade four and up, and it lived up to the hype. Original, exciting, and the author actually wrote it with care and wit, rather than just assembling a plot with the right keywords. Kids and I both enjoyed it. It’s part one of a series of four.

5.Betsy-Tacy collection, $5.99

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Another book my friends have been lauding forever. My first-grader just adores this series, which has ten books total. I admit I haven’t read it yet, but my daughter doesn’t put up with a lot of nonsense, so I respect her opinion.

6.Hanging glass egg vase, $6.99

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This is the one of two items on this list that I haven’t actually bought yet, but it’s on my list — in this case, on my wish list. If someone gets it for me, I plan to grow ivy in it. Ivy will grow easily in water. I need green in the house to tide me over until spring!

7.Bubble motion tumbler, $7.50
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This was a gift for the six-year-old, but everyone loves it, from the baby on up. Those orderly little drops, marching up and down the steps, hurrying or strolling, as you choose. Endlessly fascinating, miraculously never mixing. (There are any number of liquid motion toys to choose from. Great for babies, older kids who need calming down, or adults who need calming down. I once spotted a few of these toys in the waiting room at the washing machine repair shop, and I’ll be darned if I didn’t mind waiting.)

8.Feasts of Our Lord and Our Lady coloring book, and A Feast of Saints coloring book, $7.95

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Matthew Alderman’s new offerings this year. Alderman’s style is so fresh and inviting, reminiscent of Trina Schart Hyman, who drew heavily on heraldry and illuminated manuscripts, nodded at the pre-raphaelites, and then opened the window to let some air in. Great stuff. Kids (and others) soak in knowledge as they color.

9.Oreo teether, $7.97

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Corrie got this last Christmas, when she was teething hard, so it became known as the Corrie-o. The little ridges are perfect for sore gums. It’s bigger than a real Oreo, so not a choking hazard. Super cute, still a favorite after a year of gnawing.

10.Babies DVD, about $9
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How I adore this movie. It shows, without comment, everyday scenes from the lives of four babies, from just before they’re born until they’re learning how to stand. The families live in San Francisco, Tokyo, the Mongolian steppe, and Namibia, and their lives vary widely, but some things are always the same. Sweetness and a little melancholy, but mostly sweetness. I always feel restored after watching this short, gentle, agenda-free movie, and the kids love it.

11.Mighty Jack, about $9

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Ben Hatke’s first installment in a new graphic novel series. It’s a reimagining of Jack and the Beanstalk, and it’s wonderful. You care about the main character right away; Hatke is generous with understated details that tell you what you need to know about the world they live in; and I have no idea what is going to happen next. Some serious themes — serious money troubles, danger, a younger sister who is autistic, and a difficult friendship — but suitable for kids age 7 and up, if they’re not highly sensitive.

12.The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists, about $10

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We loved The Pirates! Band of Misfits movie so much (made by the same folks who make the excellent Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep), and recently discovered that it was based on a series of books that are even odder and nuttier than the movie. These books do include some bawdy jokes and some violent details, but I feel that the most inapwo-pwo stuff goes over the little kids’ heads, and it’s just edgy enough to give the older kids a little thrill, without crossing any lines.

13.Slingshot rocket, about $10

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Light foam, low-tech, lots of fun until the three rockets get lost. The feral 8-year-old daughter had a blast with it.

14.Garden fairies scratch book, about $10

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Sturdy, spiral-bound (so you can open it up flat to work). Scratch away the black to reveal rainbow swirls and glittery colors underneath. Sweet little poems, pictures to copy if you like, and blank pages for sketching, besides the scratch-off pages. Many themes available, from  outer space to mermaids to Jurassic creatures.

15.Galaxy infinity scarf, $11.95

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My fashion-minded ten-year old would wear this every day if we let her (which we do). Pair it with the TARDIS hat (which she does) and and maybe the TARDIS dress, and you have a themed ensemble. The scarf is a stretchy rayon, machine washable.

16.Baby smartphone, $12.65

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This toy distracts the baby from your actual smartphone for maybe ten minutes. Worth every second. I like B. Toys because they make sounds, but they are intentionally soft; and they have an off switch. This one has held up well, and doesn’t gobble batteries too badly. Also records your voice, so the older kids are always pranking each other.

17.Little Dalek action figure, about $12.95

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Shiny and detailed. Perpetuate the Doctor Who obsession for another year. PER-PET-U-ATE!!!!

18.Wooden ball rattle, $12.99

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The large wooden balls are linked with elastic, so you can wear it like a bracelet, or you can roll and twist them to make all kinds of lovely clusters of color. Each ball is painted a slightly different shade, it’s pleasantly heavy, and it makes a soft clacking sound.  Fine, I bought it for myself, and sometimes I let the baby play with it. We’ve had good luck with this brand, Manhattan Toy.

19.Dragon scale leggings, $12.99

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We looked at a lot of mermaid-print leggings, but realized that our kids are more the dragon type. Snarrrrl. These come in a few different colors.

20.Krakitten T-shirt, $13

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I’ll let this magnificent garment speak for itself. Comes in a few different colors.

21.TARDIS hat, $14.88

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Aized about as expected, even on the inside. The pom pom on top is generously poofy.

22.Calico Critters Triplets, $14.99; Triple bunk bed, about $10

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Whenever my kids put Calico Critters on the list, I grumble and complain about how stupid and pointless and expensive they are; and then I start shopping, and then I go, “AWWWWWWW.” They really are adorable. These are very small toys, so not great for kids who lose stuff; but they are sturdy and sweet, and come in dozens of different species. We also have the pool and sandbox set.

23.Headband kit, $14.85

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I actually resisted buying this kit, because it seemed dumb (ALEX toys are hit or miss) but one kid desired it greatly. It turned out to be quite good. The headbands haven’t broken after a year of use, which is almost a miracle; and she had a surprising amount of fun making different combinations.

24.One Potato, Two Potato, about $15

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My current favorite read-aloud. This book has an unusual focus for a children’s book:  a very old couple, so poor they have to share everything, including a chair, a blanket, and the one last potato in the garden — or so they think.  A simple and hilarious story of unexplained magic, but so much to unpack about what you really need in life.  The illustrations are understated but extraordinary.

25.CowCow dresses, about $18 Something for everyone!

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My ten-year-old daughter worked to earn her very own ice cream and candy dress, but maybe you’d prefer beetles, constellations,  or cute ghosties. More varieties, some of them truly bizarre, than you can shake a stick at. These dresses are on the short side for adults of average height, but work fine for shorter folks. They come with or without sleeves, and are made of a stretchy rayon material.

26.Butterfly wings, about $18

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Flap flap flap! Always in style.

27.Hanging glow lamp, $18.99

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Oh, I lied, this is another thing I haven’t bought yet, but friends say it’s lovely. I’m a sucker for little worlds under a dome, and I love how this comes with a hanging hook. Friends say it’s brighter than you might expect. We recently redid the little girls’ room with two sets of bunk beds, so we may be investing in individual lighting for individual preferences.These come in three different colors, and you can get either the rabbit thing, or a plump little bird.

28.Melissa and Doug 12″ baby doll, about $19

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A sturdy favorite. Here is Corrie on her first birthday, getting to know her new baby.

29.Tinkerbell learn ballet DVD, about $20.

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By far the nicest instructional ballet video I’ve ever seen. The music is pleasant, there are no bizarre mascots or intrusive animation, the teacher seems to actually like kids, and you will learn some true, basic ballet. We put a broomstick between two chair backs to make the required barre.

30.Hooded cloak, about $20

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Exactly what the kid was hoping for. It’s not real velvet, obviously, but it’s held up well. Comes in many colors.

31.Werewolf Deluxe game, about $20. Good for ages reasonably-alert-10 to adult.

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The premise is that, when night falls in the village, a werewolf comes out and kills someone; and everyone else has to figure out who the werewolf is and what to do about it. Everyone closes his eyes, and the leader instructs one person at a time to wake up, take a look at the card that reveals his role (werewolf, bodyguard, witch, villager, etc.), and then go back to sleep. There are several rounds of play, in which the players anonymously decide to kill, save, protect, or silence each other.

Then everyone has to vote on whom to lynch. Players are eliminated one at a time, and it becomes more and more evident who is killing everyone, who is being framed, and who is lying through their teeth (and, in my case, who forgot the rules and accidentally blabbed too much information).
32.Airzooka air gun, about $20  

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More low-tech fun. Aim, pull, and release. Shoots a harmless blast of air, enough to make your hair blow back, and makes a satisfying “choonk” noise, too. 

33.Twirled Paper book and kit by Klutz, $20; Refill of  Quilling paper, 720 strips, about $10

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Quilling is making a comeback! A lovely, old-fashioned craft where you roll up thin strips of paper, loosely or tightly, then pinch them into various shapes. No end of possibilities here. You can make free-standing 3-D ornaments, glue the paper to eggs, make cards, or even jewelry. A very pleasant way to spend time. My nine-year-old needed a little help to get started, but she caught on fast.

34.Parachute hammock, about $24

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An excellent hammock for the price. I wish I had had a hammock the last ten times I was pregnant! Heavenly. These sturdy, easy-to-use hammock straps, about $16, were a good investment, too.

35.Lenox ballerina jewelry box, $25.

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With eight daughters, we’ve tried a number of jewelry boxes. A number. This one is by far the sturdiest, but it still looks delicate and dainty. The ballerina still pops up, the music still plays, the hinges still function, and the box is still a box. Pretty, silver-satin quilted design. Plays “Fur Elise.”

36.Godzilla hands, about $25

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I don’t know what to say about this. We have these. They are by far the most luxurious Godzilla hands we’ve ever owned.

37.Ramona complete collection, $27.50

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A much-desired gift. For the right kid, a boxed set of every single one of their favorite character’s stories is a wonderful prize. Ramona really holds up all these decades later.

38.Blowfish tea set, about $30

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Quirky but elegant!  A very good product for the price. This is a full-sized, functional tea set for two, not a toy.

39.Toddler slide, $31

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Probably the most-used piece of furniture in our entire house. This lived in our living room for at least five months, and saved my sanity while Miss Insano clambered up and threw herself down hundreds and hundreds of times. Folds for storage.

40.Legend of Zelda stained glass backpack, about $34

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Just a light nylon backpack, but it was what the kid wanted. It’s a little roomier than it appears, and the pattern is actually more vibrant than the picture shows.

41.Long Ballerina Tutu, $36

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This is the absolute last untested item on this list! We’ve bought many items from The Little Dress-Up Shop, and have always been completely delighted, so I’m confident that this sweet, poofy ballerina skirt with rosebuds will be well-received.

42.Portable Bluetooth speaker,
about $37

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Exactly what we needed. It works with my kid’s phones, and lets them blast music while slaving away in the dirty dish mines or cleaning up the yard after the last raccoon garbage party. Easy to use, and a good value for the price.

43.White bird mobile, about $38

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Marketed as a baby mobile, but it’s a real work of art, and very large. A cloud of white birds in constant, gentle motion. We got this for our fourteen-year-old, and it really transforms a space.

44.Darth Vader Skechers, about $40

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These are adult sized, in case your kids grow out of kid’s shoes before their brains grow out of a love for Star Wars, which of course could never happen.

45.Punk tartan purse, $41

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Sturdy and awesome, lots of zippers, buckles, and studs, perfect for that one punk kid who needs a place to keep all her black lipstick. Has an adjustable shoulder strap and shiny black insides.

46.Dark Prince sword, $43

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It wouldn’t be Christmas without at least one sword. This one is long, shiny and seriously heavy. Not sharp, but you definitely could kill someone if you tried. Not meant for heavy fighting, but good for stage or costumes or just swaggering around with a big-ass sword.

47.Stilts, about $45 a pair

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Greatest inspiration I’ve had all year. We now have two sets (they come rated for different weights), and they are adjustable. First kid went from zero skill to wobbling across the floor in a few minutes, and now she can jump, run backwards, spin, and do all kinds of terrifying stunts. Good exercise, good for improving balance, and great for building confidence. Excelsior!

48.Hot pink Doc Martens, $75

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For the prom! For everyday wear! For making yourself awesome from the ground up. A million colors, all shiny and rugged and BACK IN STYLE. Aw yiss.

49.Casio Keyboard, $129.95

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A very serviceable electric keyboard for people learning to play. Comes with a stand and headset, so you can practice without driving your sister crazy, assuming that’s your goal.

50.15-foot Trampoline and enclosure with basketball hoop, $329

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Yes, this is the second trampoline we’ve bought. We finally destroyed the mat of the first one, and after several unsuccesful attempts to replace it (we kept buying the wrong size, the wrong spring size, etc. etc.) we just threw in the towel and bought a new one, upgrading to fifteen feet. I know all about the horrible stories of mangled faces and splintered tibias, but we are still a trampoline family all the way.

Baby loves it. Kids love playing with the baby on it. It’s instant entertainment at birthday parties, with or without water balloons and a sprinkler or Easter dresses.

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Grouchy or sullen teens discover that life is worth living after taking out their troubles on the trampoline. And it’s a perfect spot for stargazing or sunbathing or lying down while the kids run around you, blissfully under the illusion that you are playing with them.

You really need a trampoline. (And if you happen to have a spare trampoline frame, you can wrap some chicken wire around it and make a garden fence, or maybe a chicken coop.)

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Okay! That’s it for this year. Happy shopping! Thanks again for using my link when you shop on Amazon.

Uncategorized

Catholics on Etsy, Part 2! Christmas and Advent Gifts for 2016

Yesterday, I shared part one of this year’s  list of Catholic-made, handmade goods — jewelry, art, and prints of various kinds. Today, part two: unusual rosaries, knit and fabric goods, and my favorite category of all, miscellaneous.

A few of the sellers have set up a special discount code or deal just for this post, so take note!

UNUSUAL ROSARIES and ROSARY ACCESSORIES

There are ever so many gorgeous rosaries on Etsy. I featured several of them on my Easter gift guide last yaer, including Iron Lace chain mail rosaries; a huge variety of styles from Rosaries by Allison; heirloom-quality rosaries from Athey Rosaries; sweet, affordable chaplets from ChapletsNSuch; a nice variety for various occasions from Snowshoe Rosaries; gemstone rosaries on flexwire from Prayer and Sparkle; and heavy, elegant rosaries from Et Corde.

Today, I thought I’d feature a few rosaries and accessories that are a little off the beaten path:

Two Hearted Ranch: Catholic and custom gifts and jewelry, rosary cases, keychains, including customized floating lockets
Featured item: Monstrance glass-topped steel-plated tin rosary case
, $9.95.

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You can also add a stamped tin disc to the bottom of the inside to commemorate a sacrament. Many other designs, bold and eye-catching. Keep those rosaries untangled!


Roses for Mary by Becky Arganbright
Featured item: Clay Rose garden three Hail Marys, $7

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If you only have time for three Hail Marys, these rose counters are sweet and nostalgic-looking.


The Wallet Rosary, $12.50
Made of string, light, brushed stainless steel, and slim as a credit card, it fits right in your wallet.

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Neat idea! Grab it when you need it.
Use coupon code “SimchaChristmas” for free U.S. Shipping on orders of 2+ rosaries through 12/15.


Chews Life – an assortment of rosaries, chaplets, and bracelets and necklaces designed to divert and delight nursing, teething, twiddling babies
Featured item: Chews life decade rosary, $18

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Gracefully bow to the inevitable and carry a rosary designed to be gnawed on. Love it.


Apple and Azalea by Theresa Barger – Memory wire rosary bracelets and other elegant jewelry and accessories
I always admired my friend Theresa’s style and elegance when we were in college together, and her original wrap-around rosaries ($24-$28) are exquisite and varied.  I had a hard time picking just one to feature, so I picked three.

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My own wrap-around bracelet, a southwestern-style one, has held its shape through years of abuse at the hands and mouths of various babies.



KNIT and FABRIC GOODS

The Knot Haus – many fresh and whimsical knitted gifts, including some CUTE cute cute baby hats.
Featured item: Green Celtic knot bracelet, $25

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Neat, eh? This knit knot bracelet is made with silver-plated ribbon clamps and a lobster clasp. Say that sentence three times fast!


Blue Ridge Purl Hand-knit hats, scarves, cowls, and gloves by a pair of homeschooling Catholic moms
Featured item: Hand-knit fox hood, $40

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Imagine glancing out the kitchen window to see a flock of little foxes prancing by, and knowing that for once, their ears are necks are warm. (Foxes do so come in flocks.) Completely adorable, and so cozy.


Three Jolly Owls by Katie McGinley: Handcrafted Goods and Gifts for the Liturgical Year: peg doll saints, Jesse tree ornaments, and more.
Featured item: Handmade felt Jesse Tree ornaments, $54

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Perfect! Simple, bright, and meaningful, and an easy tradition to follow every year. The ornaments have ribbons loops for hanging.
SPECIAL OFFER: Use coupon code PANTS10 to get 10% off! – valid until 12/31


S. Lochet Designs by Stephanie Lochet: Period and Vintage Inspired Creations
Featured item: Set of three tissue holders (tissues included!), $8

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I don’t even carry tissues with me, but I want these. So cheery! Many more styles and patterns on the site, as well as retro aprons and more.


Faith and Fabric Design – 
Reversible Advent and Christmas Table Runner
, $38

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I love table runners. Such an easy way to change the look of a room. This one is reversible: When Advent is through, flip it over and see a pretty Christmas design.

I also like this peg doll flower, $12. Keep your peg dolls snug and sorted.



MISCELLANEOUS!

Pottery From Your Roots by Faith Connor
Featured item: Chicory Mortar and Pestle, $40

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Ooh, I like the looks of these. Spare and elegant with a soupçon of strangeness. Many more pieces on the site.


Door Number 9 by Elisa Low
Featured item: Hamilton Gimmel Rings, $25. You remember Elisa from when we chatted about holy cards as fan art, and the intersection of faith and geekdom. Well, those interlocking Alexander and Elizabeth Hamilton wedding rings she was working on are on their way! The first run sold out immediately, but you can pre-order, $25.

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Elisa also offers a wide variety of unusual handmade goods, from saint wine charms to portable oratories to Cyberman tea wallets.


Sweet Soft Skin Handmade Soaps by Margaret Grimm
Featured item: Limited edition “Gifts of the Magi” soaps scented with frankincense and myrrh, $4.50

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So luxe! I love how the natural shape of the soap is incorporated into the design, like a little landscape. Get several as little gifts or stocking stuffers, or keep them for yourself and enjoy that once-a- year scent.


Wild Things Adventures by Sarah Antonio
Featured item: Adventure bags, $85 Handmade leather satchels stocked with a hand stitched, leather bound journal with 24 watercolor pages, a Prang watercolor set with small water jar (not pictured), branch pencil, compass, binoculars, and a folding magnifying glass!

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Eh? Eh? You can almost smell the outdoors calling.


Ashcraft Creative hand-tooled leather by Mark and Christina Ashcraft
Featured item: Stained glass leather wallet, $65

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Not gonna lie: this is probably my favorite item this year. Just stunning. Many more splendid, original, hand-tooled leather items on the site.


Art 4 the Soul – devotional art and retabolos
Featured item: Sacred Heart Leather keychain/bag tag, personalized, $25+

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Sacred Heart, you come with me! I love this. Many more original designs and combos on the site, great for bag tags, key chains, or zipper pulls.


Saong Jai – an assortment of Catholic and vintage goods
Featured item: Set of 3 vintage Catholic ornaments, $25

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Yes! Catholic up your Christmas tree. Aren’t these spectacular?



Don’t forget to check out part one of the Advent and Christmas Catholic Etsy list. That’s it for handmade gifts this year. I’ll be doing my annual “gift ideas for kids” post in the next week.

Are you a Catholic who sells handmade or hand-designed goods? Feel free to leave a link to your shop in the comments.