Tuesday, March 31, 2015

30 Last Minute Easter Basket Fillers and what is going in our baskets this year

Running behind on filling the Easter baskets this year? I just finally made my last purchases the other night via trusty ol' Amazon and then sent my husband to a local chocolatier on his lunch break to grab some chocolate bunnies. And I think that should wrap it up for this year, but since I am behind schedule, I thought perhaps you might be, too.

You also might still be stumped though for what to stick in your children's baskets, so I have rounded up 25 ideas that are easy to find, inexpensive yet still not making you feel like you settled for cheap crap, and fun for many ages. I did write an ever popular post a few years back (Simple Easter Basket Fillers), which alas features beautiful handmade items for which the deadline is past for ordering and them arriving in time. These items should all be available in your house already, at a local grocery store, or via Amazon with Prime shipping making it possible for arrival on time.

Products are grouped according to age, but that doesn't mean those outside the range I put cannot enjoy fun treats found in other groupings. =)

For the Youngest of young (Ages 2 and under)

1. Jumbo Triangular Crayons (by Melissa & Doug). If you have broken crayons laying around your house, melt them into colorful and fun shapes using a silicone candy mold or even just a muffin pan.

2. Natural Baby Bubble Bath (by 7th Generation). If you happen to have random ingredients around your house, you can also make your own fizzy bath bombs!

3. Bib or washcloth

4. Bath toys - The LANCO Natural Rubber are BPA and phthalate free.

5. Wooden Easter Eggs - encourage Montessori style play with these simple craft items. Can be found at a local craft store pretty easily. You can also dye them bright colors with the same ingredients you use to dye regular Easter eggs.

6. Sarah's Silks Rainbow Playsilk - A little pricy for an Easter basket filler, at least I think, but I definitely think this is a quality product, so if you were just going to do one nice toy, this would be perfect.

For the Exploring Preschool age (2-4 years)

7. Stickers are always a winner. I buy a sheet or two and then cut them up to fit into eggs.

8. Easter Egg Sidewalk Chalk is another easy and cheap usable treat.

9. Play dough - You can buy this pretty much anywhere from a drugstore to just ordering it. eco-kids Gluten Free Dough is fun, natural, and gluten free! If you're running really low on time, just whip up a batch in your own kitchen. No Cook recipes as well as simple recipe for stovetop dough that can be tweaked to be whatever color and scent you wish!

10. Coins - Nothing delights a small child like dimes and quarters. Plus you get to clean out your wallet or the bottom of your diaper bag.

11. Holy Cards - We have a ring of holy cards that we sometimes bring to mass in attempts to keep our 3 year old focused and quiet. This could be something you start in their basket or you could add a card to an already existing collection.

12. Bubbles - Another easy crowd pleaser. Here's our recipe for making your own.

13. Small instruments such as a Harmonica (Melissa & Doug) or these Maracas perfect for little hands.

14. Finger Puppets like this Monarch Butterfly One one from Folkmanis, really any by them are superb quality.

15. Wikki Stix Rainbow Pak - perfect for the creative and imaginative young mind. They can be shaped into letter, or used to build and decorate.

For the Older Child (5-10 years)

16. Temporary Tattoos - these Fingerstache ones are super fun!

17. Nail polish - I don't have little girls, but if I did they might be getting some Piggy Paint

18. Seed packets - A fun springtime activity that can be both fun and educational. 

19. Chopsticks - especially if you eat a lot of Asian cuisine, these could be fun. My son would personally get a kick out of these Luke Skywalker Light Up Chopsticks

20. Water Balloons - summertime is on its way in and you might as well buy these now. 

21. Legos - there are a good number of small and inexpensive sets like this Creator Emerald Express that can build three different designs.

22. Mugs - Tea, hot cocoa, plain ol milk? Definitely a useful item that can be personalized to anyone. I personally love this Disney Pixar line that this Russell from Up Mug is a part of.

23. Bug Bungalow Perfect for capturing creepy crawlies and looking at them up close and personal.

24. Playing cards - These Princess Bride are the most epic ones I found. You're welcome. Several of our favorite card games might work, too!

25. Reusable Snack Bag - maybe not the coolest gift, but still can be a fun twist on a useful item.

Healthy food ideas to fill the eggs

26. For really little ones, try raisins and craisins

27. Annie's Bunny Graham Friends or even homemade tiny sugar cookies with sprinkles

28. Yogurt covered raisins - Trader Joe's sells these for a great price.

29. Candy covered sunflower seeds - another Trader Joe's win!

30. All natural Fruit Chews or Leather that can be rolled up.

Now that you have seen all the ideas mulling in my head, here's what will be filling our baskets this year:

Adrian (age 10.5 months) 

Our Lady of Lourdes Collectible Vinyl Doll from Shining Light Dolls

The Gospel for Little Ones from Ignatius Press

My First Easter by Tomie dePaola

Eggs filled with raisins because that's pretty much where he's at food wise. 

Blaise (age 3)

Wikki Stix

A new toothbrush because I'm an exciting mom. I did find a Captain America one if that counts for anything.

The End of the Fiery Sword: Adam & Eve and Jesus & Mary by Maura Roan McKeegan + illustrated by Theodore Schluenderfritz

Dominic (age 5)

Wikki Stix

A new toothbrush - his is a Star Wars lightsaber one. Making brushing cool since 2015.

The Weight of a Mass: A Tale of Faith by Josephine Nobisso + illustrated by Katalin Szegedi 

And both boys will have a variety of treats and masquerading treats (aka yogurt covered raisins) hiding in eggs as well as their request of a chocolate bunny.

If you're interested in more of our favorite books for Eastertide, check out this list from the archives.

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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Observing Your Way Through Holy Week for Busy Families

Holy Week is here. Lent is coming to a close, and we are almost ready to celebrate the Feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord. For me, the days in Holy Week are one of the most beautiful parts of celebrating Easter.

All of Lent has been spent reflecting and repenting; hopefully, if we've been doing it right, we are focussing more and more on Christ and what He did for us. But this week, especially, we are invited to lean all the way in and walk with Him in the journey to the Cross, keep vigil as He lays in the tomb, and utterly stand back in awe at Christ's conquering of death and the grave on Easter morning. How much more exciting can our Faith get?

Here we are at Palm Sunday, and after possibly breaking up sword fights with palm branches, and shushing small voices during this morning's epic Gospel, you might be dreading all the long masses this week promises. How can we bring the deep lessons of this week into the day to day? How can we share the beauty of Christ's passion with our youngest saints in the making?

I love making the Liturgical Year come alive in our home, but honestly, you'll find me on most solemnities printing off a coloring sheet and reading a story out of one of our saint books. This isn't bad or wrong in any way, but for Holy Week, I like each day to have a moment of learning, of training the young souls I've been entrusted with to focus as much as they can. This is a week of preparation, of compassion, of stillness. Anyone who has small children about knows these words are pretty much in opposition to the daily reality.

For both Advent and the 12 Days of Christmas, I came up with simple and doable day by day ideas, and I wanted to do that again for this coming week. Here is what I've come up with. May this be a starting point for you to embrace your own pace for moving through this week.

March 29 // Palm Sunday

Picked up many, many palm branches during mass this morning? Try your hand at making palm crosses or even try out one of these many other ideas Lacy over at Catholic Icing has featured. I'm pretty much at the cross level of craftiness, but you might be way more skilled. I'm thinking my 5 year old can join in, and the 3 year old can watch this year or have LOTS of help.

Perhaps after dinner each night this week, you can read from a children's bible (or just the family bible) parts of the Passion narrative. Start with Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem for today!

Haley of Carrots for Michaelmas wrote this haunting piece last year for Palm Sunday - give it a read again as we get ready to plunge into Holy Week.

March 30 // Monday of Holy Week

Make pretzelsCatholic Culture has a great write up for why we eat pretzels during Lent. Think snack time, religious ed, and cooking lessons all rolled up in one activity.

March 31 // Tuesday of Holy Week

Do some spring cleaning around the house in preparation for Easter. Listen to some somber Lenten music while doing so and try to keep your focus on Christ and how vast His love for you is.

Lent At Ephesus by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles is one of my favorites for Lent. You can find the album on Spotify, too!
Some of my friends from Ireland released an album last year that is perfect for Holy Week. It is so beautiful, perhaps not as somber as the Sisters but just as fitting. You can buy it here or listen on Spotify.

April 1 // Wednesday of Holy Week

Encourage some good works around the house to get those last Sacrifice Beans in. Or make today a meat free day and put the money saved into your CRS rice bowl.

April 2 // Holy Thursday

Cuddle up and read some Easter books. Our favorites can be found rounded up into this list.

If you want to try some food themed observing, Shower of Roses has this Holy Thursday Lenten Dinner or you could do a variation of this Story of the Passion Lunch from Catholic Icing.

Have a foot washing service in your home, washing one another's feet keying in on how Christ came to serve and asks the same of us.

April 3 // Good Friday

Pray the Stations of the Cross. Our city has an outdoor Stations and Chaplet of Divine Mercy walk to pray in front of an abortion clinic. Perhaps your area has something similar or another way to specially take note of Good Friday.

Hot Cross buns are a simple, traditional snack perfect for today. I've tried several recipes, and since I can never remember which one I follow, I suggest just Googling for one.

Read all or part of T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets (this one is more for the adults and maybe older kids).

Kendra over at Catholic All Year wrote this fantastic piece on how to talk to young kids about the Crucifixion. The Passion of Our Lord includes many intense subjects that probably don't come up in everyday conversation, and Kendra has great ideas for how to approach it without omitting the sadness and horribleness of it all.

April 4 // Holy Saturday

We try to keep things quiet around our house on Holy Saturday, focussing on doing family activities to prepare for Easter. One of our favorite things to do is dye our Easter eggs. The past several years we have been using only homemade natural dyes and it's now the preferred method. The boys love guessing what color the cabbage or the onion skins might color our eggs.

Here is our method. Don't forget to try white and brown eggs for more color variation!

David and I have been switching out who attends the Vigil Mass. This year is my turn, and I am thinking of taking Dominic, who is 5, along. I know some are brave enough to bring all their kids, but as most Sunday masses have Adrian fussing 50% or more of the time, I am just not there yet. If you do take your kids, I'd love some tips for the future!

Other ideas I've been collecting over the years can be found on my Lent + Easter Pinterest board.

               Follow Sarah's board domestic church :: lent + Easter on Pinterest.

Any ideas and traditions your family has, I would love to hear, so please tell me what you do! I hope your family is blessed this coming week!

Art by Bronzino, 16th century, Florence, Italy

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This post Observing Your Way Through Holy Week for Busy Families first appeared on Two Os Plus More on 29 March 2015

Sunday, March 1, 2015

28 Books for Each Day of February: Cuddling + Learning, Boys + Me

Every month we consume quite the pile of books. I find this to be ever so true in these winter months. February may be the shortest month, but it certainly seemed long when nearly every day a dreary grey sky greeted us and snow was most likely the weather prediction for the day. The temperatures we've been having pretty much guarantee us staying inside, and so books are our chosen adventures to bring some delight to each day.

I'm rather glad we are stepping into March today. Last month was oh so long, and I'd be delighted to have a day above freezing.

I picked out 28, one for each day, to share with you. Some that were picture books, some that we used for school reading, some read alouds, and a few I finished off my own reading list for the year (as well as some not on said list).

First up, some newly discovered delightful picture books. I am a stickler for our picture books having both an entertaining story and beautiful images. Otherwise, they often go right back in our library bag after one read. So, I count these as worthy reads for their content both in words and images.

Ugly Pie by Lisa Wheeler + illustrated by Heather Solomon

Sugar Snow (My First Little House) by Laura Ingalls Wilder + illustrated by Doris Ettlinger - reading this one as we prep to go to a historic village for their Maple Syrup days in March!

Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel - a classic that maybe we read in the past only *this* time it's Dominic reading to us. 

Paddington by Michael Bond + illustrated by R.W. Alley - a classic that amazingly we had not yet read.

Madeline and the Cats of Rome by John Bemelmans Marciano

Wink: The Ninja Who Wanted to be Noticed by J.C. Phillipps - Dom loved this as a preschooler, and now it's a favorite with Blaise.

Mother Teresa by Demi

Who Goes There? by Karma Wilson + illustrated by Anna Currey

Pigs Make Me Sneeze! (An Elephant and Piggie Book) by Mo Willems - the Elephant and Piggie series are our favorite! So easy to add your own unique voices to the characters and make it all the more fun.

The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit by Emma Thompson

Fiona's Lace by Patricia Polacco

Dominic is 5 and a young kindergartener. For history, we've just been picking out some things he's been interested in and reading them aloud. This has mostly been in the theme of early America and the Revolutionary War. These are a few of our favorites thus far.

Growing Up in Revolution and the New Nation 1775 to 1800 by Brandon Marie Miller

Yankee Doodle America: The Spirit of 1776 from A to Z by Wendell Minor

A Picture Book of George Washington by David Adler + illustrated by John + Alexandra Wallner

A few other "learning" books we have enjoyed have included everything from poetry to biographies as well as a few about crystals and minerals.

It's Raining Pigs & Noodles by Jack Prelutsky

Sam Patch: Daredevil Jumper by Julie Cummins + illustrated by Michael Allen Austin - this one was fun because he's buried here in Rochester, NY and we have a packetboat that we are hoping to ride this spring named after him.

Handel, Who Knew What He Liked by M. T. Anderson + illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

Peanut Butter And Jellyfishes: A Very Silly Alphabet Book by Brian P. Cleary + illustrated by Betsy E. Snyder - ABC books for the win! Blaise is loving the ones we have been discovering at the library. When Dom was at this learning point, I made a whole list of some of our favorites, but now I am going to have to make a whole new one with more finds!

Minerals (Rock Stars) by Chris and Helen Pellant

We finally finished up this read aloud book and are on the lookout for a new one to begin. Do you have any favorite chapter books perfect for little ears?

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder - A favorite from my childhood, I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading this one, and my sons didn't seem to mind that it was about a family with only daughters. Once we finished it, we checked out The Little House Cookbook and will be making something fun from it this week. The boys are voting Johnny Cake, which is pretty much cornbread.

And last up, a few that I have finished this month.

A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O'Connor

Designated Daughters (A Deborah Knott Mystery) by Margaret Maron - it's been a mystery sort of month. February kinda is, you know? It just seems like the perfect sort of weather to curl up with a good suspenseful read. 

Queen of Hearts (A Royal Spyness Mystery) by Rhys Bowen

Re-read The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie

This one wasn't on my original list for the year, but I had some birthday money to spend, so I bought it and have begun. I am trying to take my time and savor each chapter… might finish it faster than that though because there is so much good to be had inside.

Our bread machine broke, so I picked this one up at the library to try and keep tasty and fairly cheap bread on our table to go with all our Lenten soups.

The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking by Jeff Hertzberg + Zoë François - if we love it, I'll probably also check out the gluten free version: Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Oh and I got this one as a great deal, and I can't wait til Easter to put it into practice. Haven't read it entirely, but I have been salivating over the pages if that counts.

Shake, Stir, Pour-Fresh Homegrown Cocktails: Make Syrups, Mixers, Infused Spirits, and Bitters with Farm Fresh Ingredients by Katie Loeb

And that wraps up the peek at our bookshelves this month.

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