Friday, January 31, 2014

St. John Bosco's Feast Day and My Dad's Induction to Hall of Fame!


St. John Bosco's feast day is today, January 31.  In the short paragraph HERE about John Bosco's life it states that,"to ensure the continuation of his work, St.  John Bosco founded a religious congregation named in honor of one of his favorite saints, St Francis de Sales.   This holy saint died in 1888, but today John Bosco's Salesians continue his work all over the world.

I love learning more about this Saint, especially since my father is a graduate of one of the schools that was inspired by John Bosco's life and by the religious congregation that Don (Don = a traditional Italian honorific for a priest) Bosco founded!  I think that's a cool connection to have to a man who later became a Saint! :) 

 
In 2011, my Dad was inducted into Salesian High School's Hall of Fame and you can read my post about this great honor and trip with my parents HERE.

Patty over at Reasons for Chocolate made this traditional Italian dessert in honor of Saint John Bosco: Double Chocolate Walnut Biscotti.  Mmmmm...I might just have to try these out!

Saint John Bosco, pray for us!




Thursday, January 30, 2014

Congratulations Winners of the Catholic Bloggers Birthday Giveaway!

Congratulations to the Winners of the Catholic Bloggers Birthday Giveaway!

We have selected 21 winners to each receive one of the 21 awesome prizes!
We have emailed the winners…so if one of these names looks like yours…check your inbox (and maybe your spam folder)!

We need you to reply as soon as possible with the information requested in the email so that we can allocate the prizes, with special consideration to your first and second choice of prize!

drumroll please…
A. Faber
M. Koralewski
M. Natores
C. Weitzel
B.M. Harrell
E. Brana (you have won the copy of "Pope Awesome" from me and I sent you an email! Congrats!)
L. Jasmin
A. Durocher
M. Reyna
M. Oberle
R. Longwell
M. Roy
C. Sconochini
A. Good
D. Harre
T.D. Masters
S. Patterson
A.D. Hilker
Ryan
J.J. Ramirez
A. O’Donoughue

Congrats again to all the winners!!!!



Monday, January 27, 2014

Easy Homemade Brownie Mix



This post contains affiliate links.

I'm really trying hard to not buy boxed cake mixes and make cakes and sweets from scratch as much as possible as a healthier alternative to the boxed ingredients.   In the past, I have made this soccer cake with homemade yellow cake with cream cheese icing, homemade funfetti cake with chocolate mousse layers, homemade chocolate cupcakes, and recently I posted about the homemade pancake mix that has been a hit with our family.

Last week, it was my 6 year old's turn to make our Tea Time snack (I'll blog about what Tea Time is all about soon, I hope), and she wanted to make brownies.  I didn't want to go to the store to buy a boxed variety so I went to Pinterest and found a delicious and easy Homemade Brownie Mix.  And my mind tells me it's a "healthier" version of brownies (sort of) so I can sneak a few more brownie bites :)

Here's the recipe and I like that you can easily turn this recipe into a gift by placing the dry ingredients into a mason jar or container and leave instructions on how to add the wet ingredients and bake them.  They are delicious (and did I mention easy too?) :)

Homemade Brownie Mix

Dry Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups white sugar
chopped pecans (optional)

Wet Ingredients:
1 cup melted butter or margarine
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions:
1. Mix dry ingredients together and place in a jar or container.

To Make Brownies:
1 Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until well combined.  Grease a 9 X 13 pan.  Spread batter evenly and bake at 350 for 22-25 minutes or until done.

Notes:
Gluten Free...Use your favorite gluten free flour mix in place of the all purpose flour and add 1 tsp. xanthum gum.    For Dairy Free....Use dairy free margarine.

Enjoy!

Want to check out other recipes?
This week I'm linking up to Lisa's New Recipe Link Up at Home to 4 Kiddos.


 



Friday, January 24, 2014

What I Like/Don't Like About Homeschooling


I've been homeschooling since 2005 and it seems I think about what I like and don't like about homeschooling all the time. 

This post here is a humble attempt to be as transparent as possible (yet still maintain some privacy). 
My hope is that my triumphs and trials will be encouraging for all of us homeschooling moms who may think, "THAT mom must have it all together because her life/blog posts show only perfect pictures, projects, children, and all smiles!" (I must admit, I am guilty of feeling this way when I observe local homeschool moms or visit others' blogs as a homeschool mom and blogger myself.) 

Maybe my list will give my readers a more realistic picture of what my life is really like behind closed doors as a homeschooling mom who, by God's grace, strives everyday to be a better wife, mom, and teacher for my family.


Since I'm in my 9th year of homeschooling here are 9 things I like and don't like about homeschooling...

1.  I like passing on my family's faith and values to my children all day, everyday.  I don't like that satan discourages me often as I try to build a solid faith foundation for the souls God has entrusted me.

2.  I like being with my kids all day (most of the time!).  I don't like being with my kids all day (when I am impatient or the kids/me have bad attitudes toward school work or they argue with one another or at the end of a hard day I'm crying on my husband's shoulder as my heart and soul is filled with doubt, fear, frustrations)

Photo Credit: Google Image
3. I like knowing what my kids are learning and who is teaching them.  I don't like feeling like I'm talking to a brick wall when my kids seem to dislike what they are learning and they give me blank stares. :-/ 

4. I like having so much good, quality curriculum to choose from which makes teaching and learning interesting and fun.  I don't like having so many curriculum choices since I get easily overwhelmed with all that is available.

5.  I like praying all day with my kids in order to be peaceful and stay sane and reading scripture/the lives of the Saints/great literature, history, science books out loud to my kids everyday.  I don't like when I struggle with my prayer life and my kids are distracted while I'm reading out loud to them. {speaking of prayer, I really like the prayer, The Stressed Out Parent's Prayer, written by Tina.}

6. I like spending time as a family, building up relationships, in and out of "school" time.  I don't like spending time on constantly disciplining and correcting behavior in and out of school time.

7.  I like making my own schedule and fitting events around our family's priorities vs. fitting our family into a school system's schedule.  I don't like when my schedule does not go as planned because I felt I did more disciplining than teaching academics with my children.

8. I like being able to do my morning routine at home vs. rushing my kids out the door to beat a tardy bell.  I don't like when my morning routine does not go smoothly because my children and I have lack of discipline and at least one of us wakes up on the wrong side of the bed.

9.  I like hearing my kids say, "This is fun!" as they do school work that involves a variety of teaching methods.  I don't like hearing my kids complain and say, "This is boring/hard/stupid" as they do school work that they don't like as much.

So there you have it.  Some things of what I like and don't like about homeschooling.  It's a roller coaster ride, this calling to homeschool my children, and I know I find great comfort knowing I'm not the only one who struggles daily with this important calling.  Comment below if you can relate to the daily struggles of being a homeschool mom.  I would love to be blessed by you! 

I hope my post here is a little reminder that all of us are fighting some kind of battle, even those that appear to have the most perfect family, homeschool and blog life. 

God bless you as you live out God's calling in your life, one day and prayer at a time!

 





It's quite an honor and quite humbling that my little corner of blog land has been nominated for a 2014 Sheenazing Award hosted by Bonnie at A Knotted Life.  My blog was nominated in the "Best Looking Blog" Category.

As you will see there are alot of blogs I'm up against and all of them are beautiful and wonderful!  So if I win I'll be shocked, but I thought I would at least mention it in case you want to click on over and vote for me at "A Slice of Smith Life".   

You can cast your vote by scrolling down the page HERE and click on the circle to the left next to my blog title under the "Best Looking Blog" Category.  Thanks!   

Wright's Law: An Incredible Video and My Blog's Been Nominated!

This was incredibly touching and made me cry. "Why do we have stars in the sky?" Mr. Wright asks his students, "because Someone loves you."




It's quite an honor and quite humbling that my little corner of blog land has been nominated for a
2014 Sheenazing Award hosted by Bonnie at A Knotted Life.  My blog was nominated in the "Best Looking Blog" Category.  

As you will see there are alot of blogs I'm up against and all of them are beautiful and wonderful!  So if I win I'll be shocked, but I thought I would at least mention it in case you want to click on over and vote for me at "A Slice of Smith Life".   

You can cast your vote by scrolling down the page HERE and click on the circle to the left next to my blog title under the "Best Looking Blog" Category.  Thanks!   



  

 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

March for Life 2014



Unfortunately, I can't attend this year's March for Life again.  I wish there was no need for a March for Life. I wish there was no need to stand up to defend the millions that have no voice and that have been terminated killed.  But, there is a need and until abortion ends, there will always be a March for Life.
I hear it will be a record number of people from all walks of life, no matter the gender, age, race, religion, who will be marching this year as it was 41 years ago that abortion became legal in the Roe v. Wade case on Jan. 22, 1973. Each year since the Roe v. Wade case, pro-lifers have been marching in Washington D.C. on/near the Jan. 22 date to peacefully and prayerfully protest the abortion industry and to solemnly remember the 55 million + lives that have been lost to abortion. 

So since I won't be physically at the march, I will be there in spirit praying for friends and the rest of the 500,000 that will be attending  March for Life 2014.  I pray for their safe travels as I hear the weather is supposed to be bitter cold temps and snow. 

But, here are my previous posts about our March for Life experiences if you want to check them out complete with words, pictures, and video. Just click on the titles to go directly to that post. 

Our First March for Life: In My Own Words and Photos  (March for Life 2011)

 

Capturing March for Life 2012 in My Own Words/Photos/Videos (March for Life 2012)

I started a Pinterest Pro-Life board called "L.I.F.E. = Life Is For Everyone" awhile ago, where I have been collecting pro-life posts.  If you are interested in following the board go HERE.

March on!  God bless all those that stand up for those who never get a chance to have a life or voice!

Many Catholic bloggers, including my blog here, are celebrating life with a birthday giveaway going on right now!  Have you entered to win 1 of 21 awesome prizes that includes Amazon gift cards, Catholic books, printables, and gifts?  Go HERE for more information and to enter!  

  

 


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Book Review and Giveaway of an Awesome Book: Pope Awesome and Other Stories

I use "Awesome" in the title of this post to describe the book, Pope Awesome and Other Stories by Cari Donaldson, because that pretty much sums up how I feel about it in the fewest words possible (and because I want to write like the author when I grow up.) 

But, why is it so awesome??!!?? I'm glad you asked!

1. I read it in 2 days! Yep, it was that good!  I can rarely finish a book these days or read half a page without dozing off so reading Cari's book quickly should tell you that it is worth reading (and staying awake for!)  I read Pope Awesome on my Kindle and I  found that hearing my baby's cries in the middle of the night meant two things:  ONE: she's hungry and TWO: I had another opportunity to read more of Cari's interesting and amazing story...even in the middle of the night!  During the two days that I read the book, I would tell my older children the baby was hungry again and I would sneak off for 10 minutes to nurse the baby read Cari's book. :-)

2. Cari is such a funny storyteller.  I laughed out loud in several parts of her conversion story from a New Age, childless feminist to pro-life Catholic mother of many children.  Her wittiness and great sense of humor not only made for an entertaining read (even during middle of the night nursing times), but laughing about mommy-hood made her story relevant and showed the joyful side of life.  Plus, I always need encouragement and inspiration to find the positives and the humor in raising a large family. 

3.  I loved all her birth stories.  Each of her children's birth stories brought back memories of how my own 5 children entered this world.  As mentioned above, Cari went from wanting no children to now having six.  Reading how her heart changed to be open to new life was inspiring.  Her "born-again" experience was refreshing as she grew to know, love, and serve God in ways she never imagined. 

4.  As a cradle Catholic (I was baptized Catholic as an infant), I LOVE hearing conversion stories because I learn so much about my beautiful faith that I sometimes take for granted.  I loved reading what Cari found intriguing about Catholicism to eventually accept God's calling to enter the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.  

5.  I loved the part of the book where she went out to lunch with a friend and the friend brought her baby.  At that point in Cari's life she didn't want to be bothered with children in her marriage, but it was after seeing how her friend and the baby lovingly interacted that pulled at Cari's heartstrings to
reconsider the possibility of opening her heart and love to children in her marriage.  So it wasn't necessarily what her friend said, but her actions that brought Cari to this realization.   

This incident, among many in Cari's story, brought to mind Saint Francis Assisi's quote, "Preach the gospel everywhere you go, and, if necessary, use words."  Cari's experience helped me realize that as a mother myself, I'm important in not only my children's lives, but I can also influence others in positive ways by fully embracing the vocation of motherhood.  I never know who is watching me as I raise my own family and what seeds God's grace is planting in people's hearts at any given time.  

6.  Last, but not least, awesome books need to be shared and that's why I bought 2 copies for 2 dear friends. They both loved the book as well!

Another way I can share this book is by contributing it to the Catholic Bloggers Birthday Giveaway!  Thank you Cari for donating an autographed copy with your signature and your 6 year old son's signature, "Pope Awesome" himself!

If you would like to participate in the giveaway (with over $250 in prizes) and possibly win Cari's book or one of the many other wonderful books, printables, and gifts, including an Amazon gift card, go to my blog post HERE!  

For read more reviews on Pope Awesome and Other Stories, you can go HERE.
Pope Awesome and Other Stories can also be purchased HERE.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Handmade with Love: Felt Fun and Homemade Pancakes



This past week was our first week back into the homeschool routine after having a fun and memorable Christmas break.   With the hustle and bustle of the Advent and Christmas season, I didn't get a chance to post some homemade gifts our family made for loved ones for Christmas.  

I had some great fun making a few gifts with felt. (Thank you to my friend, T.D., who let me borrow her bag of felt material over the holidays!)  I thought I would share the 2 gifts I made in hopes that it will maybe inspire you to use felt in fun and festive ways!

For my parents (a.k.a "Grandpa and Nana"), I took a 4x6 photo album that I had for a few years. I used my hot glue gun to make a snowman cover by gluing black felt with glitter  to the cover and back of the album.  With scissors and patience, I snow scene was made.

On the inside, the first page of the album was covered with black and white cardstock paper and my family and I dipped our fingertips in white paint to make a family of snowmen because "We love Grandpa and Nana "snow" much!"  Each of us signed our names under our snowman and I cut out a green felt tree.  The snow was made by dipping a Q-tip into white paint and making dots.

Here are my parents opening up the snowman photo album with my cupcakes and I looking on: 

Then for my sweet niece up north, I took a large (clean) green bean aluminum can and made a "P" is for Piper "can"-tainer.  I used my hot glue gun to glue a pattern of felt around the can and then took foam shapes to finish off the decorations.  I had so much fun making this "can"-tainer for Piper.  I put in a few art supplies into her felt can in hopes she will use these items to create art projects, which she enjoys doing.   

Besides making homemade gifts with love, I enjoy finding homemade recipes that are easy, healthy, and yummy for my family.  I wanted to share a healthy homemade pancake mix that I found that my family has enjoyed eating.


I found a Healthy Homemade Pancake Mix recipe HERE at Today's Mama.

For the oat flour in the ingredient list, I just take a cup of oatmeal and grind it up in my Vitamix blender until it's a flour consistency.

I wrap any extra uneaten pancakes in saran wrap in groups of 3 or 4 and put them in the freezer.  Then during the school week the kids can reheat the pancakes in the microwave for a quick and easy breakfast.    

This is what the pancake mix looks like after you add the eggs, milk, and butter.  
 I store the mix in a large plastic (ice cream) container.

No more "Bisquick" pancakes for the Smith Family!  The homemade pancakes passed the husband and kid "test" and everyone agrees they taste delicious (and healthy too)!  Do you have a homemade pancake mix you enjoy eating?  If so, please comment below! :)
I hope you are enjoying your January 2013!

I'm linking this post to Frugal Homeschool Family Friday Link-Up
FHF FL

Hearts for Home Blog Hop

 




Saturday, January 4, 2014

Ringing in the New Year with Mary and Annual Homeschool Epiphany Party!


Virgin & Child

In the Catholic Church, January 1st is the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.  Many are not comfortable calling Jesus' mother, the Mother of God.  Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosi has an interesting article titled, Mary, Mother of God?, which discusses how this title of our Blessed Mother came to be and the history behind it. 

I always enjoy attending Mass as a family to set the new year off right. We went to the vigil Mass on Dec. 31 at 6 PM since we knew we would be out late ringing in the new year with family.  We rang in the new year with a dinner at my in-laws and we played Blokus, Cantan Junior, and Cubulus, 3 new games we got for Christmas. 

Last night, our family hosted our homeschool group's  annual Epiphany party.  For a great article about the Epiphany feast day be sure to read The Epiphany Revealed!


We have a potluck get together after the pre-Christmas rush and it's nice to come together in fun and fellowship just before the second half of our school year begins.

This year the children acted out a simple Nativity play.  With homemade and borrowed costumes from my church, we had narrators tell the Christmas story and then the "actors" and "actresses" came out on "stage" (our living room in front of the fireplace).  T.D., a mother in our homeschool group, did a great job organizing the short and sweet play and writing the scripts for it from various sources.  Here are pictures from our fun and memorable evening:

 This beautiful banner was borrowed from our church.  It made a perfect backdrop that we tacked up in front of our TV screen over the mantle

Getting ready for the "big" performance as we helped the kids get dressed upstairs in my house and then the narrators practiced reading their parts and the other children walked on stage. 
The 3 wisemen carried treasure boxes with real frankincense and myrrh that Anna-Marie at Life's Adventures posted about and then she sent me some in the mail. Thank you Anna-Marie for your thoughtfulness!  We have used these gifts several years now for our Epiphany parties.

Our 5th cupcake got to play Baby Jesus.  She did a superb job and was a natural as Mary and Joseph admire their "newborn" Child :) 

 Here's the entire cast:  Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, sheperds, animals, wisemen, angels, narrators

After the Nativity play was over, we had Father Alex, a wonderful friend and spiritual director for our homeschool families, say a Blessing of the Home and Household on Epiphany
Then he blessed the colored chalk by reciting THIS blessing of chalk on Epiphany.  It is traditional to bless your home on the Epiphany and bless chalk so that you can mark the names of the 3 Magi over your door as a witness to your faith and protection against evil.  

I had each family take a piece of black construction paper and blessed chalk and mark the first letter of the 3 Magi (C = Casper, M = Melchior, B = Balthasar) over their doors, along with the "20" for the first two numbers of the year and "14" for the last half of the year.  Each family could then take home their paper and tape it to their door or even use the chalk and mark the numbers and letters directly onto their door.
We then bid farewell to a homeschool family that is leaving town next week for a year :(  And then it was time to surprise Father Alex, the priest who baptized our little Leah, with a birthday cake that I made using this Homemade Funfetti cake mix with the homemade cream cheese icing that is always a hit!  Father Alex turns a year older younger this weekend, so we thought it was great fun to sing "Happy Birthday" and I "stole" a baby picture he posted on Facebook and printed it out.  I then attached a popsicle stick to the picture and placed it on top of the cake. I didn't take a picture of his decorated cake, but here is Father Alex with his baby picture decoration....HaHa! Everyone got a good laugh at this!

After Father Alex said a beautiful dinner blessing, we had some great food, fun, and continued fellowship.  These "prayer" stars were made by T.D. and I.  I wrote each family member's name on a star.  Then one person from each family picked a star randomly and that is the family they pray for in 2014.  We have done this tradition of the exchanging of prayer ornaments for awhile now and it's always so nice to pray for others and have prayers said for us. 

 (white chocolate nativity made by T.D.)

It was a wonderful evening filled with many blessings and a great start to 2014!

God bless you in the New Year!

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I'm Tracy. I love my faith, family and on most days, homeschooling my 5 blessings. When I'm not busy baking cakes for my family or making memories in real life or dreaming I had a housekeeper or professional chef, I enjoy documenting a slice of Smith life in blog land.

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