Friday, December 26, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Hello dear readers!

Merry Christmas! 

 I will largely be away from the computer over the next 12 days, so I can be all out celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas with my sweet boys. Today is day 2, so I'll probably pop in a few times over the next ten days to share some Tops and Bests of 2014; otherwise, I will see you in the New Year.

I hope each and every one of you had a blessed Feast of the Nativity of the Lord. A quote author Scott Hahn shared on his Facebook wall today jumped out at me of such a beautiful thought, and I wanted to share it with you:
"Remember the reason for the season, and that Jesus comes to us today in the Eucharist the same way he came in the manger: 'meek and humble of heart.'" (Jeremiah Hahn)
How intimately lovely that Our Lord not only comes at Christmas, but at each Mass that is celebrated.

I hope your Christmases were full of joy and sweet memories with your family and that as we continue to celebrate over the next week and a bit, you are filled with hope anew for the new year to come.

And for a forced photo from before our Christmas Eve feast…

Sick boys meant we had to split up our Christmas Eve attending, which was kinda sad, but at the same time, we didn't want to infect our parish with the virus we've been battling. Consider that our gift to you. (Un-gift?) Anyhoo, Dominic (almost 100% healthy by this point) and I hit up the 4 pm mass and came home to a lovely feast.

Love to you each,


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This post: Merry Christmas! first appeared on Two Os Plus More on 26 December 2014

Monday, December 22, 2014

Celebrating Your Way Through the 12 Days of Christmas for Busy Families

We're almost there. Advent is coming to a close. Preparation for the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord is actively afoot. If you haven't been doing much "Christmassy" stuff during Advent, I'm sure the stamina to party all 12 days of Christmas is there. Even if you have been sneaking some cookies, music, and movies here and there… *ahem* guilty on all accounts … you still want to make all that excitement last, right?

After the coma that the sugar rush and present pile on Christmas Day brings, what else can be done to keep the party going? Well, first off, there are some major feast days to be celebrated throughout the 12 days, so I'll give you some simple ideas to remember and observe those. Otherwise throw in some Christmas cheer here and there, and you're sure to have a wonderful 12 days of Christmas.

First up, the day we've all been hoping, preparing, and waiting for…

December 25 // Christmas Day

Feast, feast, and feast some more! Jump in feet first to the celebrating of Our Savior come to earth! Light the white candle in the center of your Advent wreath. Open gifts. Sing hymns of joy of Jesus born to be God with Us.

Here is a Christmas prayer from Catholic Culture to add to your festivities!

December 26 // Feast Day of St. Stephen the Martyr

Pray for the martyrs of the Church as we remember St. Stephen, a deacon of the Church, who was stoned to death for his Faith.

Sing Christmas carols around your tree - don't forget 'Good King Wenceslas,' which refers to the King giving alms on the Feast of St. Stephen. If you have forgotten almsgiving or making a donation to an organization you were hoping to during Advent, never fear - today is also a perfect day to give a gift to the poor.

Feeling British? Today is also known as Boxing Day - here is a recipe for Turkey and Ham pie to use up those Christmas leftovers.

December 27 // Feast Day of St. John the Evangelist

A traditional celebration on this day was to bless wine with a special blessing, partake in it, and then save it for the rest of the year. This practice comes from a legend where St. John drank poisoned wine and was unharmed by it.

Read John 1 aloud.

December 28 // Feast Day of the Holy Family and the Holy Innocents

Pray for families around the world including your own! Buy this printable from Emerlyearts on Etsy, print, and color.

Remember the Innocents that are forgotten amongst us - the many pre born children taken by abortion. Read a book like Angel in the Waters. Buy diapers or wipes and take them to a local pregnancy center.

It is also customary for parents to bless their children on this day:
"Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, and their angels always see the face of my Father;" Look now, we beseech thee, on the innocence of these children: Bless them and protect them this night and throughout their lives; (the parent makes the sign of the cross on the forehead of each child) in thy grace and goodness let them advance continually, longing for thee, knowing thee, and loving thee, that they may at the last come to their destined home and behold thee face to face; through Jesus Christ, the Holy Child of Bethlehem, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

December 29 // Feast Day of St. Thomas Becket

In heraldry crows with red bills are known as "beckits," so an activity for today could be filling your bird feeders. If you decorate your Christmas tree with popcorn and cranberries, you could move those decorate strands outside today for a snack for the birds, too.

Make some Christmas cookies or other treats for yourselves, too!

Older celebrators could watch Becket, but I wouldn't recommend it for the younger crowd.

December 30 // 6th Day of Christmas

Make Christmas stuffed apples from Haley and Daniel's E-cookbook: Feast! (on sale for the rest of Advent, so make sure to get your copy of this great E-book now!)

December 31 // 7th Day of Christmas

Cue the Christmas movies! And the music! Celebrate the end of the year with friends or family, loud or quiet. We're going to be just us this year, so I'm pretty sure we might not even make it to midnight, but we'll still do something fun that celebrates another year of growing and learning.

We're lovers of great games, so you'll probably find us playing at least one game. Want ideas for some new ones for yourself? Look no further.

January 1 // Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Get thee to mass. It's a holy day of obligation to honor our Blessed Mother. Then pray a family rosary or at least a decade. Blueberry treats of a sort would be perfect to set the day focussed - tarts, pie, breads/muffins, or just atop a scone or waffle.

January 2 // Feast Day of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen

Make a Christmas ornament for your tree or some paper snowflakes for your tree. My oldest would leap for joy if we made these.

There is a recipe for St. Basil's Bread in A Continual Feast: A Cookbook to Celebrate the Joys of Family and Faith Throughout the Christian Year that is a Greek Orthodox tradition for this day.

January 3 // Feast Day of the Most Holy Name of Jesus

Remember the godparents of your children by making them a special homemade card or other small present. Talk about your kid's names and what they mean and why you named them that or who you named them after.

January 4 // Feast Day of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Read about this saint who was the first American born person to be declared a Saint.

Catch up on any Nativity picture books that you haven't read yet.

January 5 // Twelfth Night // Feast Day of St. John Neumann 

In medieval times, today would be the 'Feast of Fools,' on which we're reminded that Christmas is a season celebrating something that set the world "topsy turvy," as it were. God coming down to earth as a man so that we could become sons of men. Contemplate on this beautiful mystery we've been celebrating and how it truly changed the whole world for all time.

Put on a pot of wassail, cozy up in the blankets, and watch Twelfth Night

There you have it! Some of our plans for the 12 days of Christmas. Does your family have any fun ways you draw out the celebration for the whole 12 days? 

Wishing each of you a blessed Christmas season as you revel in the miracle of our Savior coming to earth, so we could become children of the Most High.

Don't miss a post! Subscribe via the RSS or email links in the top righthand corner. 
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All rights reserved. ©Sarah G. Ortiz
::This blog post may contain Amazon Affiliate links. 
By clicking through to make a purchase, you help to financially support TO+M::
first appeared on Two Os Plus More on 22 December 2014 

Friday, December 19, 2014

7 Actually Quick Takes - A Christmas Miracle

As I sit here rocking a teething, cranky yet finally sleeping lil mister back and forth in the the trusty Beco, I figure why not update you on my oh so exciting life in some quick takes. These takes will be as quick as I can crank out before the boy awakens and demands to nurse or chew on my finger or some combo of the sort.


So many fun comments have been coming in from my games you might never have heard of post. Check the comments and the FB page to see even more ideas. I didn't realize so many of you loved games as much as we do. I consider us rather crazy (but fun!) to own so many games. So many in fact that I had to box up some and put in the attic for now because I don't have sufficient storage space!

If you didn't share yet, please let me in on your faves because you know, when I have more creative ways of storing them, I'll be buying more. Or if you have a great way of storing them, that'd be handy, too.


Games make a great gift… mentioned that many time, I know. Buuuuut, it you're still looking for some gift ideas for hard to buy people, here are a few lists I've compiled that even I refer to when I'm stuck. Plus they're Amazon friendly - so free 2 day shipping… should make it in time for Christmas if you order today!

I'll be taking advantage of this shipping because though I am mostly done with shopping and have been for almost a month, I kinda forgot my eldest's book, so if you have any books a 5 year old boy who can read, loves Star Wars, and imaginative humor might like, hit me up!

Stocking Stuffers for the 0-5 crowd 
Wintery Picture Books 
Every Christmas book you might ever want to know about 
and What my kids are getting this year AKA our minimal gift approach


Since listening to one of the episodes on Fountains of Carrots (a podcast celebrating the coming together of two of my favorite people) that talked about dresses in the BBC miniseries context, I've been in the mood to rewatch Downton Abbey Season 4 . I'm way behind in my podcast listening… but I think I'll have enough cooking, baking, and kitchen cleaning ahead of me this next week that I just might catch up on all the goodness.

I still haven't made up my mind where Downton falls in my ranking list… I loved the first two seasons, was meh about the third, think the fourth could have redeemed it… guess I'll just have to watch Season five.

A little more Amazon love: Seasons 1-4 available streaming for Amazon Prime members.

And in case you didn't know, as I didn't until this week, there's also a Christmas at Downton Abbey audio CD. You're welcome.


Speaking of presents and watching and stuff, TONIGHT is the annual watching of 'Elf' and Twitter party with Cari and Dwija. I joined last year and it made the viewing even more fun. #clanunseen Join in!


Looking for a more quiet, focussed activity than live tweeting about a comedy, purchasing last minute gifts, or watching reruns?

Here is some of the grand reading I found about the inter webs this past week - what were you reading? Share cuz I'm amazingly pretty much caught up on my blog reading, and I might need a quiet moment this weekend. ;)

The Donkey // Ana from Time Flies When You're Having Babies

The Ardent Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary // Christy at Fountains of Home

And then go read ALL of the wonderful series Olivia at To the Heights put together on the Marian virtues. So good. Seriously so good. She has wrapped up the series with a great giveaway, too, that's happening now!

On a more practical note: A Budgeting We Go // Jenny from Mama Needs Coffee

A reading challenge for the New Year - who's with me?

Also, please continue to keep the Lenaburg family in your prayers this week as they watch vigil over Courtney as she's living her last few days here on earth.


In case you just need a smile, go watch some of these clips of people tangoing for Papa Francisco in honor of his birthday (a day before mine, so we're practically birthday buddies!)


So yup, it was my birthday. I am now the ripe but not really old age of 28, which reminds me that I owe you, my readers, with some sort of About Me type of page. I should get on that. One of the sweetest things about yesterday: my 5 year old got up and insisted on wearing a button down and his new Star Wars bow tie because he "wanted to look fancy since it's your birthday." Heart. Melt.

This is what I look like at 28. Not much older, but in dire need of a haircut. Thinking about just cutting the back super short… thoughts?

And this boy is my new selfie buddy - he giggles, smiles, and leans right in when he thinks it's picture time. 

Don't miss a post! Subscribe via the RSS or email links in the top righthand corner. 
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All rights reserved. ©Sarah G. Ortiz
::This blog post may contain Amazon Affiliate links. 
By clicking through to make a purchase, you help to financially support TO+M::
This post: 7 Actually Quick Takes - A Christmas Miracle first appeared on Two Os Plus More on 19 December 2014

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

5 Awesome Games You've Probably Never Heard Of

When I think holidays, I think games. Board games, card games, no pieces needed games (think Charades or Mafia). This all comes from my connecting family to holidays and games to family. Every family gathering that I can remember has had at least one game going most nights. So after growing up with a game playing family, I went to a super nerdy college that boasted many Friday night game nights, and then the icing on the game cake: I married a man who also loves games.

And so here you have many layers of pure game loving family time. Our kids are just getting to the ages where they can join in on games that are actually fun for adults (not that Chutes and Ladders isn't a good game per say , but you can only take so many rounds of it, am I right?). Games, in my mind, are the perfect way to get together those who don't know each other as well, or to spend quality time with your favorite people. They bridge age gaps, encourage learning, and are all around fun.

Most of the ones I list here are also available for free 2 day shipping via Amazon Prime. Not a Prime member? Nothing like right before Christmas to sign up for a free 30 day trial. Games are always a good Christmas gift. =)

So in case you think you've played them all, here are 5 of our all-time favorite games that aren't as popular say as Monopoly, for the mainstreamers, or Carcassone, for you more nerdy type. 


Have you ever played Mafia before? This game is basically Mafia played with cards, set in the Wild West, and without the whole making up some story to exonerate oneself (which is my least fave part). Since you do need at least 4 players, this is a great group game, but not so much for a night with your honey. 

Game says 12 + up, but we've played it with 7 year olds before. They just need to be reading pretty well.

4-7 Players


It's small size makes it a perfect stocking stuffer, and this is a great one for so many occasions. Fast paced and easy to learn, it's reminiscent of Double Solitaire, but more fun. There is an Expansion Pack that allows you to play with more than 4 players, but I've never played that way. We have tried just playing with two decks, and that works out ok though you have to sort the cards in the end.

Recommended age is 8+, but if you're patient, you could probably teach a focussed 5 or 6 year old to play.

2-4 players


Definitely the perfect family game - fun and challenging for everyone. Especially good for building quick thinking and acting skills, this game challenges you to make sets based on similarities or differences. You can group cards according to colors, shapes, shading, or number of each. So much fun, and everybody plays at once, so it can be as short or as long as you choose.

Ages 10 + up recommended - I'd say definitely as young as 6, maybe even 4.

Play solo or with a group - totally flexible here!


I remember my dad teaching us this game when I was in high school. Another classic - this one based on a car race. Each player adds mileage via number cards aiming for 1000. All the while their opponents are attempting to knock them out of the running with flat tires, out of gas, and other casualties.

Ages 7 + up, pretty accurate. You need to be able to add well, read some, and understand the logistics of removing the casualty cards.

2-8 players - with this particular copy the number of players is higher. I believe ours only allows up to 4 due to number of cards. Games can be combined to allow for more!


Ok, so I almost didn't include this one because it's out of production, but I've found copies at Goodwill/Salvation Army, so it's worth a look. I'm actually quite horrible at this game and always end up losing, but I still find it so much fun. Each person picks a secret word and then letter by letter words are guessed. It's a great learning game to increase vocabulary, but even if yours is limited, you can hide simpler words and make them hard to guess. 

Ages 8 +up, I'd say this was an accurate recommendation 

2-4 players, but multiple sets can be combined for up to 8 players

I'd love to know some of your favorite games! We haven't found any new ones in a year now, so we're definitely on the lookout for more tried and true winning choices.

Linking up with Jenna today at Call Her Happy for 

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All rights reserved. ©Sarah G. Ortiz
::This blog post may contain Amazon Affiliate links. 
By clicking through to make a purchase, you help to financially support TO+M::
This post: 5 Awesome Games You've Probably Never Heard Of first appeared on Two Os Plus More on 16 December 2014

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Simplifying Christmas by Minimizing Gifts {7qt}

Christmas gifts can get so out of hand so quickly, feeding our love for consumerism. More, more, more! all the advertisements scream in our face. But, whoa, can that make Christmas stressful or what?

My husband and I have committed to keeping Christmas as low key as we can by limiting the number of gifts for each child and the nature of those gifts. We try to set our goals well in advance of shopping (think summer), do as much shopping as possible before Advent even begins, and then stick to a set regimen each year. As with all the things we buy we aim for quality first, and then try to hit one or more of the following: handmade, recycled/reinvented, practical, homemade, food, or locally found. With searching in the handmade realm, sometimes I plan to add things to the stockings during Advent, so I can shop at local art and craft sales.

As Christmas is less than 2 weeks away at this point this year, this is just a reference point, so if you wish, you can save it to keep in mind in the future. Or feel free to think we're crazy or whatever. I also decided to give you the exact run down of what we're wrapping and stuffing in stockings this year, so maybe some last minute ideas if you need any. ;)

7 ways we simplify our Christmas, in both the buying/preparing aspect and controlling of the overwhelming sense that sometimes happens on the actual day:


First up, we only give ONE present to our kids.

One total, not one each. This might sound crazy to some, but with three kids, those toys pile up fast, and I feel even with this "rule" in place that I'm still constantly weeding out unplayed-with toys. They really don't need toys, and since Christmas isn't about them (their birthdays are for that), this allows us to also keep the "No asking for toys for Christmas" mantra in place.

This year our boys (ages 7 months, almost 3, and 5) will receive:

2 Madame Alexander Muppet Hand Puppets (one Fozzie, one Kermit) that I scored off Zulily back in the fall.

A homemade Kid Sized Construction Kit created from PVC pipe (instructions courtesy of


We kindly ask grandparents and other family to limit their gifts, too. This can be difficult, but for the most part we've had success asking for a membership for the whole family or one gift that can be enjoyed by the whole gang. For us, one year, this was Melissa & Doug Cook's Corner Wooden Kitchen. Most years, one set of g-parents has given us a membership to the most awesome children's museum ever, which just happens to be less than 5 miles away.

Again, our kids don't do the asking for Christmas. For birthdays, they can concoct whatever list they want, but this holiday, we try to emphasize the "not about them" part.


On top of the 1 group gift, each child receives a new book. As book loving parents, this could be cruel to deny them right? Plus, it gives me the great excuse to expand our library quite a bit.

This year, the kids will be receiving:

SkippyJon Jones by Judy Schachner for B

The only gift I haven't picked out yet is the book for D, but this one is in the running:

The Runaway Dinner by Allan Ahlberg + illustrated by Bruce Ingman

The Legend of Sigurd and GudrĂșn by J.R.R. Tolkien for David

And then each person gets 1 stocking filled with goodies

This year, this is what it looks like:


For Adrian, 7 months, practical, yet fun gifts:

A sweet pair of Camper Leggings from Whole Parenting Goods

Teething Waldorf Gnome Doll from La Fiaba Russa

A ninja nubbin from KiraArts, lovingly chosen by his big brothers

JoJo Maman Bebe Baby Cable Knit Socks

Baby's First Christmas Hedgehog Ornament from Little Sapling Toys


For Blaise, age almost 3, spunky and into anything his brother thinks is cool

A Captain America ornament from Lease A Penny

Tegu Pocket Pouch Magnetic Wooden Block Set, also scored via Zulily

Superhero T-shirt

Wooden Top from Homegrown Toys

Frozen band-aids

Stickers - foam and character

Natural candies from the Natural Candy Store

An orange, per tradition


For Dominic, age 5, independent as ever, loves drawing and Star Wars

Millennium Falcon Ornament from Wooden Warbirds

Avengers T-shirt

Wooden Yo-yo from Homegrown Toys

Monsters Inc band-aids

Avengers stickers

Fancy Eraser

Also candy from Natural Candy Store

and an orange


For David

Coffee mug

Zippo Hand Warmer - idea from Olivia // To the Heights's great man gift guide


Beer - usually I pick a couple craft brews that we rarely purchase

And there you have it. Fun, yet simple. We do celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas on December 6th and give a small gift sometimes in their shoes, and everybody gets a new pair of pajamas to open on Christmas Eve when we return from mass. On Epiphany, January 6th, or on Twelfth Night, January 5th, we add several books to our Christmas book collection. But, that's it.

Christmas for us is as focussed as we can make it, concentrating on Jesus and his coming to earth to be with us rather than a pile of presents. This is obviously not the only way to focus back on our Savior, but for our family, we've found that having these guidelines in place helps us not go overboard or be as concerned with the "getting" attitude. I would love to hear about how your family helps to keep the focus on Christ during the Christmas season. It's always beautiful to hear different traditions and ideas.

And even though it's Sunday night, I'm linking up with Kelly over at This Ain't the Lyceum, mostly cuz I know she's awesome and might overlook my super lateness. Sorry bout that… I was holiday bazaaring it up yesterday to fundraise so we can maybe (please yes!) go see the Pope next fall!!! Yup, that's my excuse. =)

Don't miss a post! Subscribe via the RSS or email links in the top righthand corner. 
You can also follow me on FacebookTwitter, or Pinterest.
All rights reserved. ©Sarah G. Ortiz
::This blog post may contain Amazon Affiliate links. 
By clicking through to make a purchase, you help to financially support TO+M::
This post: Simplifying Christmas by Minimizing Gifts {7qt} first appeared on Two Os Plus More on 14 December 2014

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