Saturday, December 31, 2016

My 10 Most Popular Posts of 2016 !

Here we are on the last day of 2016! So much has happened in a year in the real world and blog world!  It's hard to believe 2017 is just about here!  I want to thank everyone who visits my blog regularly or occasionally or even if you happen to stumble upon one of my posts somehow. :)  I pray it is a source of inspiration and support in some way as I continue to love to document the sweetness of my faith, family and homeschooling!

As I look back through my blog this past year and look forward to 2017, I thought I would list my 10 most popular posts of 2016 in case you missed a few.  It's been fun to see which posts received the most page views.

So here we go....

#7 Holy Heroes: Spiritual Diary Review (posted on 5/23/16) 


#5 Advent Book Review and Read-Alouds (posted pm 12/5/16)



#2  Our 2016-2017 Homeschool Curriculum (posted on 8/1/16)

And the #1 most popular post of 2016 on my blog was.... 

(posted on 8/28/16) with close to 6,000 page views!  

Thank you again to all those that visited my little corner of blog land this past year!
Thank you also if you happened to click on any of my Amazon affiliate links and purchase items through my blog's affiliate link!  Thanks so much for your support for my blogging adventures!  

I wish you and your families and friends a blessed and happy new year in 2017!

I linked this post to Convert Journal-New Evangelists Monthly-January 2017, Issue #49

God bless you always!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Our Family's Christmas Cards from 1997 to Present: 2016 Edition

For the past 2 years, I've written a post of all the photo Christmas cards that we have taken since the Smith family was established in 1997.  This is an updated post with our current 2016 Christmas card added to the bottom of this post.

Our family has been sending out Christmas cards since the year my husband and I got married, 1997, and some years I have thought about not sending out a photo card, but I can't seem to stop the fun habit. :)

I love sending out our photo cards.  (I don't write a Christmas letter, but sometimes I wish we started that tradition back in 1997 as a great way to document a year's worth of memories)

Our family also loves getting Christmas cards/letters in the mail.  We display our cards around a kitchen door frame decorated with lights. (This is a door we don't use much.)

I thought I would share the Christmas photo cards we have sent past and present so you can walk down memory lane with me :)

  1997 Christmas Card
Hmmm...I wonder what happened in July of '97?  This is one of my favorite cards as it was the year the Smith family was established and I loved how our photo card had a church photo on it (that is cut off ) with the words "Silent Night". 

 1998 Christmas Card

1999 Christmas Card
This was the last year that it would be just the two of us in our Christmas photos.  We were so blessed to conceive our first child in 1999. 

2000 Christmas Card
In May of 2000 we welcomed our first daughter into our hearts and home.  What a fun Christmas it was to watch how our daughter loved listening to all the Christmas music and playing with the wrapping paper.  :)   This was the year our daughter played Baby Jesus in a living nativity at a local parish. You know when you wrap a baby girl up in warm blankets and have her wear lots of layers, no one notices who is playing the Baby Jesus.  :)  

2001 Christmas Card
17 months after our daughter was born our son was born in October 2001  My oldest daughter and son get along well as they are close in age and my oldest never remembers life without her sweet little brother. 
2002 Christmas Card

2003 Christmas Card
This photo card reads "We are EXPECTING you to have a merry and blessed Christmas!  That was our clever way of announcing our pregnancy with Smith Baby #3.  I was in the "yuck" phase of the pregnancy during this photo shoot and when I look back at this card, I remember that I was so happy to be pregnant again, yet I was trying so hard to smile through the nausea, hence the somewhat forced grin :)   
This Christmas card is special too because Parents Magazine contacted me and used this card in a post titled 29 Totally Adorable Holiday Pregnancy Announcements. If you click on the title link and scroll through to our card under the title "Pun Intended", you'll see this 2003 card and a small paragraph about the card.  What a fun post to be a part of!

2004 Christmas Card
Baby #3 came in June 2004 with a head full of black hair!  She found her hands fascinating as she looks down.  :)  

2005 Christmas Card

2006 Christmas Card

2007 Christmas Card
In November 2007, our 4th baby was born.  This picture was taken when we arrived home from the hospital.  I remember our older children couldn't come to the hospital to visit their new sister because my oldest daughter was sick with a strep throat. :(  

2008 Christmas Card

2009 Christmas Card
Yes, that is a wreath hanging from a tree limb in the middle of the woods.  :)  I was trying to make the woods festive :)   I laugh at this picture though because of the Christmas wreath that seems to be hanging in mid air coming from nowhere :) 

2010 Christmas Card

2011 Christmas Card

2012 Christmas Card
This picture was taken just after my sister's wedding ceremony in October 2012.  My younger daughters handed out the programs and my oldest daughter did a reading during the service.  My son was an altar server, hence his robe.   This was another "We are EXPECTING" you to have a Merry Christmas" cards since we conceived Baby #5 in November 2012.  She was born in July 2013.

2013 Christmas Card
This photo was taken in a Catholic church in PA when we went to visit my younger sister and her family for Thanksgiving in 2013. 

2014 Christmas Card
These pictures were taken in September 2014 when my family had a reunion with my parents, two brothers and my younger sister and their families.

2015 Christmas Card 
This picture was taken in August 2015 when we had another great family vacation at the beach with my parents and siblings and their families.

2016 Christmas Card

And this is our 2016 Christmas card.  This photo was taken in July 2016 when we traveled up north for my Aunt and Uncle's 50th wedding anniversary celebration!  Fun trip!
I hope you have enjoyed looking at just how fast our family has changed and grown through the years because it has been fun for me to think back to the many memories and blessings from the past years since our first Christmas card in 1997.  

I hope your Christmas has been blessed and merry! In case you missed it, I posted our Christmas 2016 Highlights!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas 2016 Highlights!

This post contains affiliate links.

It's the fourth day of Christmas and it's a good thing it's still the Christmas season so I can still wish you a "Merry Christmas!" and try to play catch up with real life and blog life. (But, no matter what I do, I'll always feel 2 steps behind most days...)

Before I share some of our Christmas 2016 highlights you might be interested in reading a post I wrote a few years ago about why celebrating Christmas as a season makes sense.  I wrote this post after hearing and seeing how many people think Christmas is during Advent and then on Christmas Day, it's over and done with, but in reality Christmas Day is the first of the 12 days of Christmas!

Also, on this fourth day of Christmas, the Feast of the Holy Innocents and Martyrs, we remember the Ten Types of Holy Innocents Today. Such a sad post, but an important one as a reminder to continue to pray for all of God's children, unborn and born.

Without further delay, here are some Christmas 2016 highlights....

Just before Christmas, each of my children added one hand print to our "Handy Tree Skirt". We have been doing this tradition since 2008.  We use the same white felt tree skirt year after year and after we paint each child's hand and lay it (carefully) on the skirt, I write the child's name and year next to their print.  So each year we add 5 red and green hand prints to our skirt.  My children look forward to this simple and fun tradition each year!

Our family was busy in the kitchen making several plates of Christmas treats for friends and family the week before Christmas Day.  We made our traditional Bua Bark and Pretzel Treats which we have made for many, many years.  This year we also made Rocky Road Fudge and the new sweet treat that were added to each plate were these delicious Chocolate Carmel Pretzel Bites! Oh My!  They are as good as they sound!

And here is a plate with all 4 treats included.... Bua BarkPretzel TreatsRocky Road Fudge, and  Chocolate Carmel Pretzel Bites.

Each year we try to think of creative homemade gifts I can give to my parents from my children. In the past they have made different gifts with their handprints, like last year's Handprint Wreath, but this year they made ornaments and decorated plastic Christmas balls  using the craft supplies we had in our craft closet.  I bought our plastic Christmas balls at our local AC Moore craft store for $1 each.  So this gift was fun and frugal!  Here are their creations that my parents loved! I loved them too and wanted to keep them for ourselves. :)

My 3 year old daughter put glue in hers and then dropped beads and sequins in the ball and some foil paper.  My 9 year old daughter glued a "R" on her ball with purple and white beads because her name begins with "R" and then she cut up various colors of shiny paper and stuffed it in the ball.  My 12 year old daughter cut out the squishy white stuff out of a pull up diaper, wet it and then put it in her ornament.  She found this idea on Pinterest!  Then she painted a snowman face on the outside.  This makes for a very cute and heavy ornament!   My 15 year old son went outside and found soil, leaves and Christmas tree needles and made a "mini-terrarium"as he calls it.   My 16 year old daughter glued various sequins on the outside of hers.

Also pictured above in the photo is the plastic jar ornament I made my 4 year old niece.   I gathered sand from our local beach since she lives many miles away from us and doesn't get to visit our beaches a lot then I added small trinkets (beads, rubberband, shells, marble....) in the sand so it became a "Seek-n-Find" ornament.  When I mailed her the ornament I wrote out a list of things she could find in her ornament.  I used a jar so that she could display it all year on its lid side.

With all the ornaments I hot glued the tops so nothing would come out and added ribbon so they could hang.  This little project was worth getting burnt fingers!  Ouch! I have a love/hate relationship with my hot glue gun, if you know what I mean!??!???  ;-)

Once again we attended the 4:00 PM Christmas Eve Mass since 2 of my daughters sang in the children's/teen choir and my oldest daughter played one song using bells with other friends.  It was beautiful!  Our son was an altar server at Mass.  Our church sounded and looked festive and beautiful!

Merry Christmas from our family to yours! 

Late Christmas Eve brought very bold colds and fevers for both my husband and myself.  (I'm sure staying up to 3 AM wrapping gifts and playing Santa and waking up at 6:45AM by our children didn't help with sickness!)  So Christmas Day and the day after Christmas were long for both of us, but filled with many blessings!

All our children enjoyed their gifts and were grateful for them. After gifts were opened my parents came over for an Italian lunch.  On the menu was my grandmother's homemade sauce and then meatballs, sausage and raviolis.

I was happy to use the new tablecloth, table runner and plastic covering that my parents gave me for Christmas. I also decorated the table with the Silverware Stockings I made for our family and my parents and a friend several years ago.  I also made a Christmas tree salad complete with feta cheese "snowflakes" (because with 70 degree temps on Christmas Day, we can only dream of snow even on salads. Ha!)

On Christmas night, my 3 year old decorated Jesus' birthday cake with sprinkles and I took a couple of photos of her before my husband and I had to leave my in-laws Christmas gathering with our 3 year old because we weren't feeling well at all.  My 4 older children stayed at my in-laws to hang out with the cousins and were brought back to our house later that night.

This year we celebrated Jesus' birthday with a cake and a pie! Since we weren't able to sing for Baby Jesus as a family on Christmas night due to my husband and myself being sick we waited to celebrate together the day after Christmas, on the second day of Christmas, and sang "Happy Birthday" to Jesus with the Butterscotch Cinnamon Pie my 9 year old daughter and I made!  My daughter got the recipe from Nerdy Nummies, a YouTube channel she watches often and is inspired by.

 It was another blessed Christmas spending time with family and friends!  I am so grateful for our faith, family, health and being able to embrace the true meaning of the Christmas season!

I hope to write a post on my top 10 most popular 2016 blog posts as I look back at another fun year of blogging.  In the mean time, be sure to check out my most popular 2016 post (in case you missed it the first time around), 10 Simple Ways to Celebrate the Canonization of  Mother Teresa with Your Family, that I linked up at Catholic Mommy Blogs and be sure to visit the many other bloggers' posts that have their most popular post linked up too!

Merry Christmas again and God bless!


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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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