Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Pay it Forward: my favorite blogs you might not know about yet

Last week, I wrote my thank you notes to some bloggers who have helped me along my bloggy way this last year. And you guys were mostly all, "Duh. Obviously. Those are all great blogs and we already totally like them." 

So now I'd like to share the love with some blogs you might not be quite as familiar with. 

Some of these bloggers have asked me for advice, some I've just become friends with through commenting or facebook, but all of them should have way more followers than they do. So check 'em out.


In the category of "Crafts and Craftiness," 
I submit for your consideration:

Theresa's blog is full of lovely photography, really great crafts for moms and kids, and excellent iPad homeschool tips. She's also got non-iPad-related homeschool stuff, sewing tutorials, recipes, reflections on raising a child with type-1 diabetes, and . . . Christmas Snack Table.

Post to check out: Happy Handmade Christmas


In the category of "Home and Life Organization," 
I submit for your consideration:

Life out of control? Stuff out of control? Maybe Amanda can help. She's got great free printables to organize the day for you and your kids, plus household organization tips (like how to turn your coat closet into a mud room), foster care/adoption insights, and sewing tutorials.


In the category of "(Possible) Conversion Stories," 
I submit for your consideration:

Jenny's blog is about everything and nothing, sprinkled liberally with non-expert photography and Pinterest fails. She's funny and forthright, and she and her husband are considering converting to Catholicism, so please keep them in your prayers!

Post to check out: Max's Poetry Corner


In the category of "Social Media, Sarcasm, and Special Needs," 
I submit for your consideration:

Kelly can help you stop hating Facebook, and you can help her by NOT parking in that handicapped spot. If you like touching stories of real families learning to live with special needs and random weird photos of stuff and entire posts about things you can't afford on Amazon, well this is the blog for you.

Post to check out: Learn From My Preschool Mistakes; A Letter To Myself


In the category of "Literature and Intellectualism," 
I submit for your consideration:

My dislike of Flannery O'Connor is so exasperating that it's inspiring entire new blogs. But the world is better for it, because Kathryn is brilliant. She's got insightful and novel takes on movies, music, and literature. Reading her blog is guaranteed to make you seem smarter at dinner parties.


Christy may be a rural Canadian homeschooling mama of a bunch of littles, but don't let that fool you. She's a fountain (see what I did there?) of insights on excellent authors (but especially Chesterton), sophisticated British miniseries, and classic Christmas movies.

What other blogs out there should we be checking out for the new year? Let us know in the comments!


Time is running out! Did you enter my Blogoversary giveaway? You could win a copy of my book and a custom-made baby quilt. Click here for all the details.


Here's wishing you and yours . . . 

from Catholic All Year!

Linking up with Hallie at Moxie Wife for Five Favorites!


Sunday, December 29, 2013

An Open Letter to People Who Are Good at NFP

Dear people who are good at NFP, 

Have you ever found yourself saying things like, "Oh, I don't really even have to chart, I just KNOW," or "I'm sorry, what did you say? I was just noticing myself ovulate," or "You just need to try Creighton, it's made of SCIENCE."? If the answer is "yes," then we need to talk.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

My Thank You Notes (and a Giveaway!)

It has been almost a year since I started this here blog. And what a year it's been. You guys are the BEST! I can't believe I get to harangue the interwebs with my opinions on everything from Irene Adler to Cryin' Babies to Quitting NFP and you good folks are here to read it. 

But none of those gems would be there if it weren't for some other bloggers who have really helped me along my way. Today I'd like to thank them. And to show my appreciation to them, I'm going to do a giveaway for everyone!

Update: Bonnie points out that, really, you should all be listening to this music while reading my thank you notes. . . 

Dear Jen and john,

Before I knew what blogs were, I read Cake Wrecks. I still do. Then you started writing Epbot and I loved you even more. You're funny and crafty and smart and geeky. You somehow always manage to walk that line between snarky and sappy.

I love that even though you write two HUGE blogs, you are totally engaged with your readers. You always seem so grateful that all these people read your blog.

When I decided, in a fit of impulsiveness, to start a blog, I wrote an email to a few bloggers to ask some questions. And john actually wrote back. It was a very encouraging email and really meant a lot to me. And then Jen wrote to me about another post, which made me feel all squishy inside.

I'm not sure I manage it, but it's my goal to write like you do.

Thank you for being awesome and for teaching me that even big blogs can keep that small feeling. And for introducing me to Doctor Who.

Cheers, Kendra

Dear Marquette,

Back before anyone had ever yelled at me in church, I didn't have a blog . . . I just had an itch to write.

I found your awesome craft fail blog, Pinstrosity, when Jen from Epbot linked to it and I got to watch it quickly become a HUGE blog. Like Jen, you and Emilie manage to be funny but not mean in the face of hilarious failures. I loved reading your blog. So much, in fact, that I up and wrote you an email with some suggestions (I know, I'm insufferable) and an offer to help write some posts from the perspective of someone with kids.

You wrote back to say no thanks, but were awfully nice about it, so when I decided to start Catholic All Year I wrote to you again and your advice was really helpful. And now I'm pleased to count you as a friend!

Thank you for teaching me that part of being successful is just being in the right niche at the right time, but the other part is having a great idea and executing it really well. Congratulations on your new baby, the blogosphere looks forward to your return! 

Cheers, Kendra

Post to check out (hey I got to write for Pinstrosity after all!)"Hooo" dat?


When I googled "Catholic Blog" you were the first result. So, I emailed you to ask all the nuts and bolts questions I had about becoming a Catholic blogger. And not only did you respond (as I recall it was while you were supposed to be getting ready for a dinner party) you gave me all sorts of insights I hadn't even known to ask about.

And even now, when I have a question about what to do when faced with a blogging situation, I know you'll have the answer.

Your blog is about . . . everything: books, art, faith, photography, TV, movies, liturgy, the Onion. 

Thank you for teaching me to blog about what I care about, whatever that happens to be. Because nothing else is going to be interesting to me or anyone else.

You were my introduction to link-ups and the community of Catholic bloggers. You invited me to participate in your Lent link-up, and that post is still my most viewed post ever.

THEN we got to talking and realized that in addition to being Catholics and bloggers, we are both mothers to, um, challenging little guys. We got to bond over the fake correspondence of our sons.

Thank you for teaching me that blogging can be a vocation. Unlike you, the Pope didn't specifically tell me to do this, but I'm still going to keep at it.

Cheers, Kendra

Post to check out: My Direct Order from the Pope

Dear Bonnie,

I found you when, a month into my blogging career, some kind soul nominated me for one of your "Sheenazing Blogger Awards." I didn't win, but I did find some great new blogs (including yours) and some new readers found me.

Then, I picked a fight with you over a movie, which you handled pretty gracefully. And then, while I was in your home state for the summer, you invited me over to visit and now I feel like I've known you forever.

Thanks for teaching me how a blog can be honest and "real" but still uplifting. You write about Truth. You write about Important Things. And you write about pop music. And you do it all with charm and a personal touch.

I think you are probably my favorite person that I've never met (Benedict Cumberbatch and Pope Francis are tied for second). 

Your blog is just so hip. Classic literature, homesteading, simple gourmet cooking, clever satire, defense of mothering, love of the Catholic faith, and a gentle evangelization -- it's all there. 

I feel like that girl you don't like from the books you don't care for. I'm suddenly friends with the coolest kids in school. But, fortunately, I'm pretty sure you're not a vampire. And even when we don't agree, you always challenge me to really figure out what I think about an issue and why.

Thank you for teaching me how bloggers can support each other and help each other become better. 

Cheers, Kendra

Thank you for hosting this link-up every week. Thank you for bringing together all of these bloggers and all of their blogs from different countries and different perspectives so we can share what we think about stuff with each other.

Also, thank you for assuming that the self-published romance novel about a very multicultural love-triangle that comes up when you put my name into the Amazon search engine was probably not my book.

Cheers, Kendra

Post to check out: My answer to “Do you want more children?”


And now for the giveaway! To say thanks to my fairy godbloggers and all of you, I'm going to give away a copy of my forthcoming book <cough, available now for pre-order on Amazon, cough> AND a custom made baby blanket (like the ones in take 4 of this post) made to order for the baby of your choice. Both to be delivered in March (if not earlier).

To enter, leave a comment here answering this question: 

What blog or blogger has been 
helpful to YOU this year? 

A winner will be randomly selected from all the comments on January 1st. Please make sure your comment profile is linked to your email address (here's how) so I can contact you when you win!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Whew! (and that's just day one . . . )

Merry Christmas to you from the gang at Catholic All Year.

It's been quite a day. (And we haven't even had dinner or the Nativity Play yet!)

Yesterday we chopped down our tree and decorated it, despite the (sunny and 85) weather . . . 

This morning we awoke early to see what Santa had brought and open the gifts under the tree.

And, you guys! This blog made out very well, I have to say. I got an awesome new lens for my camera, which will allow me to take pictures of things that are farther than 5 feet away from me (also good for kids' sporting events), AND a blog makeover (so stay tuned for that!) and . . . wait for it . . . 

THIS zombie-survival bracelet!

get your own here!

And then off to Mass . . .

I have no idea why it's snowing in this picture. Apparently either Picasa or Blogger thought it would be a good idea. I'm going to go with it. Especially since I'm sleeveless and flip-flopped right now.

Merry Christmas to you all! (And if YOU got anything blog and/or zombie related for Christmas, I want to know about it.)


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Keeping Christmas: How we keep celebrating from the partridge all theway to the drummers

At our house, we've been making a concerted effort to wait to celebrate Christmas, until . . . about now.

It gives us at least a chance of keeping up with the kids' enthusiasm for the whole twelve days. (Or however many days of Christmas you like.)

So, in case you're looking for ideas to make your celebration last all the way to Epiphany, here's what we'll be doing:

1. Twelve Days of Christmas Tree

We replace our kitchen table Advent wreath with a little Christmas tree. Each morning, we put another ornament on (we have a set like this one from Land of Nod, currently only $13!) and sing the song.

2. Find the Wise Men

I heard about some folks sending their Wise Men on adventures during Advent, as an alternative to Elf on the Shelf. Which is fine. But if I were being nit picky, I might say that I prefer to have my traditions be less reactionary and more historically accurate, and my understanding is that the Star of Bethlehem rose upon the birth of Christ, and that's what they were following. (But wow, if you really want to confuse yourself, try to figure out some hard facts about the Wise Men!)

So, our Wise Men depart from their spot on the other side of the mantle from the Holy Family on the evening of Christmas. And they journey through the house for two years, because we're real sticklers for accuracy around here. Just kidding. They journey for twelve days until the Epiphany, when they arrive at the Baby Jesus. And we have our Epiphany celebration.

Our outside Wise Men move across the yard and end up on the front porch. There they are on the right, creeping up . . . 

3. Christmas Movies!

Each night for twelve nights, we sit down as a family to watch all the movies and shows we didn't watch during Advent.

This year, we're planning to find some new favorites, courtesy of recommendations by Christy at Fountains of Home (check out her Five Favourite Classic Christmas Movies) and Kathryn at Through a Glass Brightly (she recommends A Muppet Christmas Carol in her piece comparing Dickens and Dante).

But right now our five favorites would have to be . . . 

It's not perfect. I cringe at the way the family fights with each other (and we fast forward through the Buzz's magazine part). But my kids love it. And for me, the unpleasantness of the beginning is more than outweighed by the beauty of the Christmas carols and the lesson Kevin and his neighbor learn about forgiveness, and how he hides in the Nativity set (Sanctuary!). It's just old-fashioned slap-sticky fun.

There are so many things that are endearing about this movie. The kids and grown-ups in our family both find it hilarious. And we totally own a Red Ryder BB Gun as a result.

Here's where I start cheating, because this one is actually five shows. The kids like all of them, but as Jenny from Life in the Cookie Jar points out, one is especially dumb. Rudolph, for as extraordinarily odd as it is, is somehow endearing. And The Little Drummer Boy is a sweet retelling of that story.

4.Walt Disney Classic Cartoon Favorites Volume 8 & Volume 9  

These are awesome. Volume 8 is a collection of great old cartoons (some really old) starring Mickey, Pluto, Donald, and Chip and Dale. Volume 9 has The Small One, a very sweet telling of the backstory of the donkey that ends up carrying Mary to Bethlehem, Mickey's Christmas Tree, and Mickey's Christmas Carol.

It looks like these DVDs are hard to find, but most of the individual cartoons seem to be available on YouTube.

Bing Crosby stars as Fr. O'Malley in this Christmasy sequel to Going My Way. It doesn't hold the kids' attention as well as the others on the list, but it's just so sweet, I make them sit through it anyway.

And, we watch It's a Wonderful Life, obviously.

4. Treats!

We do some Christmas baking during Advent and hand out plates of cookies to the neighbors, but we (mostly) try to make ourselves wait, and have a Christmas treat each of the twelve nights.

New for this year, I totally want to make these!

So that's it! What do you guys do to keep it Christmasy at your house?

If you'd like to keep track of ALL the feasts of the Catholic liturgical year, I've created a wall calendar to help you do it!

It features the all the feasts and fasts of the Universal Calendar and then some, illustrated with images featuring the traditional Catholic monthly devotions. It's an easy visual way to bring liturgical living into your home. You can keep track of the feasts and fasts and seasons of the Catholic year, and be reminded to focus your prayer on a different aspect of our faith each month.

January:The Holy Name of Jesus 
February: The Holy Family 
March: St. Joseph 
April: The Blessed Sacrament 
May: Mary 
June: The Sacred Heart of Jesus 
July: The Precious Blood 
August Immaculate Heart of Mary 
September: The Seven Sorrows of Mary 
October: The Holy Rosary 
November: The Poor Souls in Purgatory 
December: The Immaculate Conception 

As the Church year begins with December, so does this calendar. You get December 2017 through December 2018, thirteen months. Available for purchase here. Thanks!


Monday, December 23, 2013

Alas, There is Still So Much Wrong in The Hobbit II

If despite reading my review of the first installment of Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy, you (as I did) still held out hope for improvement and wanted to see the second movie: The Desolation of Smaug, here's what I have to say about it . . .

If you like no-look orc-killing, unfaithful adaptations, dwarf-elf romances, and falling dipthongs (smaowg) then this is the movie for you. If NOT, you might just want to wait until it comes out on DVD.

That is all.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

An at Home Nativity Play for Increased Christmas Awesomeness

Maybe it's the new baby, but Advent has FLOWN by in our house. Christmas is almost here!

I just had to re-type this because I'm pretty sure I have to say my favorite part of our Christmas celebration is the Mass. But a VERY close second is our At Home Family Nativity Play that we put on each Christmas evening.

that's little Jack and even littler pregnant Betty
A few years ago, I sat down and typed up a script, based on Luke 2:1-20 and Matthew 2:1-12. You can find the script here at Catholic Culture.

For a set we use an old cardboard box and some stuffed animals. Costumes are all dad's t-shirts. Each person gets one for a tunic and one for a headdress. I also made some cardboard angel wings and found some sticks to be staffs, but you really wouldn't need to do that part. I'm an over-doer. You don't have to be.

who says there wasn't a hippo in the stable?

Grown-ups and big kids read from the script, and for little kids I just prompt them what to say. Everyone sings along with familiar songs. It turns out really cute with very little advance prep.

Here it is in action:

(it's only 5 minutes long)

note: I put together the script at Catholic Culture after this Christmas. I wanted one that was mostly just the Bible and couldn't find one, so I made it! 

I'd love to hear about it if any of you try this at your own homes this year!

By the way: giant baby spotted hanging out with the stuffed nativity.

Look out, Baby Jesus!


And, um, my book . . . available for preorder . . . great for kids, grandkids, Godchildren, etc., etc. . . .

Click through to Amazon here: A Little Book about Confession for Children 

Right now it says it will ship mid-March. My publisher says it's more likely to ship in February, but they can't be sure. So right now, it says March. Hey, it's only $8.99!

If you order the book as a gift on Amazon, you can print out this lovely certificate to stuff in a stocking or tuck in a card. Just click on the link to download the printable PDF!

click HERE to download


And, it's Sunday, so here's what Lulu and I wore to Mass:

Me . . .
Sweater: Banana Republic
Skirt: Gymboree (the girls had dresses that matched it a couple years ago)
Shoes: Steve Madden

Lulu . . .
Sweater & tights: Gymboree
Dress & boots: Old Navy
I'd like to point out that at 3 1/2 weeks old, Lulu has perfected the official What I Wore Sunday "Random Sideways Look Off Into the Distance." She's a real pro.

Thanks to the Ladies at Fine Linen and Purple for hosting.

Have yourselves a Merry Little Christmas!