Holiday Shopping


Some of us are finished with their holiday shopping. I am not one of those people. We’ve had a few mishaps since thanksgiving week, but we’re hoping to get our tree up this week and possibly put a few gifts under the tree then.

One of our traditions was to buy the kids a pair of new pajamas and a book to read for opening on Christmas Eve. One selfish reason for that was to get them into bed, but also to have them appropriately dressed for Christmas morning photos.

Other ideas are gift cards. I know that gift cards are one of those gifts that people feel strongly about in both directions. Some love them, and some would rather have a physical present. I love gift cards if they’re thought through. My brother-in-law gets me an Amazon gift card and I use it to buy a bunch of e-books. Couple that with a Starbucks card and I have hours of entertainment alongside my Hot Chai Latte.

If you’re still looking, check out some of these super people. I know most of them personally even if I haven’t ordered from them all. The books recommended in this post have all been read and enjoyed by me.

These are some people who I know personally even though I’ve not ordered from all of them. They are all creative and talented and making their way with their small businesses. If you’re looking for gifts for this holiday season; whatever holiday you’re celebrating or birthdays coming up, take a look at these friends and do yourself a favor.

My most recent purchase from Ms. Creation Soap. They smell so fragrant; it’s bold and soothing.

Ms. Creation Soap Artisanal Soaps from Ms. Creation Soap; hand crafted in small batches

The White Rabbit’s Glove Crafts from the creative mind of D.

Courdorygirl Crafting and Gaming Handmade toys, puzzles, and plush.

Samantha Wallace, ColorStreet Nail polish strips, nourishing hand and nail care products, and premium makeup.

Rain City Handcrafts Glass and Stainless steel tumblers. More selections at her Etsy Store.


Carolyn L Huston is an author of several books. Writing and educating others about autism has enabled her to be available for her son’s needs while pursuing her writing career.

Empty Shoes by the Door: Living After My Son’s Suicide by Judi Merriam

The Truth and Legend of Lily Martindale: An Adirondack Novel by Mary Sanders Shartle

A Prisoner and You Visited Me: Homilies and Reflections for Cycle A This is a book to read weekly throughout the liturgical year. I’m friends with one of the authors and the artist. This is the third in this series (one each for Cycle A, B, and C) that I’ve read. It is excellent opportunity to expand your spiritual life.

From the same publisher: The Best Present Ever: A Sinner’s Guide to the Holy Land by Sean Gunning I read this book through the fall, and I loved it. The realistic way he wrote about his journey made his spiritual awakening that much more emotional to witness.

Summer Fun


The great thing about most of these activities is that even though they may seem too young for you elementary age child (or even middle school), when you couple the activity with a younger child, your older one will have just as much fun.

Find activities that are active, outdoors, and hands-on, not to mention creative.

1. Water Play

Even without a pool, you can still have water fun on those really, really hot days. Use a sprinkler. Use water sprayers or water guns. Use small bowls or containers of water. If you do use containers, some very important CAUTIONS to keep in mind:

Do NOT leave children unsupervised no matter how small the container is. Children can drown in as little as two inches of water.

Do not leave your containers standing out when they’re not in use. The standing water breeds mosquitos and other icky things. Pour out the containers. If you must leave them outside, store them upside down. Rinse them out before and after each use.

2. Movies

Grab some movies ahead of time from the library for that inevitable rainy day.

3. Craft Projects

Visit the Nifty (for crafts) and the Tasty (for recipes) Facebook pages for fun activities.

4. Pinterest

Visit the Summer with Bubba board for some great activities, both fun and educational.

5. Barnes & Noble

B&N has a summer reading program that will give your child a free book after they read for so many hours. It is a limited selection but they are all age appropriate and free books are fabulous!

Put any other suggestions/links in the comments below.

Have a great summer!

My Everlasting Gobstopper Prayer Bead (Title Change)


Today was week one of a four week mini-retreat I guess I’d call it. I hadn’t realized that there was an art component, but Brother Mickey and my son’s hesitation to explore his own talent has me stepping out more and more in the artistic realm. It’s not museum quality, but I’ve been pretty happy with what I’ve worked on.

The theme for the four weeks is exploring and meditating on the women of the Gospel as well as the Gospel women in our own lives. We all know them, and this series of exercises will let us dwell on them and ourselves with the guidance of the women mentioned in Scriptures.

Every week we will hear two readings and have the week to think on them. Lecto Divinia was mentioned as a tool which is one that I enjoy. When we return, we’ll talk about our week away and work on some kind of art that reflects our reflections.

Today, being the first day, we reflected on why we’ve come to this type of workshop and we set out to make a prayer bead. It’s not quite a bead. Some of us went long like a rosary. Some of us made necklaces, bracelets, danglies, and whatever else struck our fancy.

Mine is a necklace that i’ll wear the next four weeks, and then I will probably convert it to a danglie.

It’s something tangible to hold onto while I’m reflecting or meditating or sit next to my keyboard while I’m writing.

I anchored mine with a bell. I like d the idea of a little bit of noise in the silence of meditating.

Today’s silence was a bit too relaxing – I think I fell asleep. No one said anything, but I still feel as though I missed some parts of the talking bits.

When mine was finished, it reminded me of an everlasting gobstopper. Watch Willy Wonka making them, and then look at my photos from this morning.





Tote Bag Fun


This activity needs a little prep before the winter recess (or spring break) begins. If you know your kids well, you can use this with any age, but I’ve always geared these tote bags towards early childhood up to about first or second grade. Again, adaptability is the key.

Each tote bag contains themed activities or a planned outing. for example, the library tote can store your finished library books until the next time you visit the library or your library tote can contain books that your kids rarely read or new books to create a library for the day in your home.

1. Library – include books that your kids haven’t seen in awhile. Add card stock, colored pencils, markers, and crayons to make bookmarks. Include journaling paper for book report, reviews, sketch paper for adding illustrations, paper for extending the story (ie. fan fiction for kids).

2. Beach – Throw in those leis from the variety of birthday parties your kids have attended. Include a bathing suit and towel for each child. Don’t forget the sunglasses and water bottle. Put in a CD of dance music and a camera for selfies. You might also want a big, wide-brimmed straw hat to keep the sun out of their eyes.

3. Get Crafty – All the things. Paper, tape, feathers, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, glue, chalk, yarn, string, whatever you can think of. Collect some recycling in anticipation of the week recess: toilet paper and paper towel tubes, egg cartons, tin cans (washed, of course), newspaper, magazines. Pirate themes are always fun. Toilet paper tubes make great binoculars and wind socks. Paper towel tubes make periscopes, telescopes, Olympic torches. Use your imaginations and enjoy the creative time together!

4. Dress Up – Hats, shirts, dresses, Mom’s and Dad’s shoes, neckties, scarves. Don’t forget the leftover Halloween costumes too.

5. Back to Nature – Construction paper, glue. Include paper bags to collect the nature items with. Pre-make scavenger hunt sheets where the kids can check off what they find and draw pictures or use a digital camera to take photos of the scavenged items.

6. Animal Hospital – Include a variety of stuffed animals, reusable bandages, a doctor’s kit with stethoscope and blood pressure gauge. Use washcloths as blankets. Pretend ice packs or real ice packs as long as they’re leak-proof.

7. Kids Cook – Aprons, chef’s hats, preferably kids’ sized. Cookie cutters, sprinkles, food coloring, measuring cups and spoons, bag of chocolate chips, can of frosting, box mix for cake or brownies or cookies. Box of Jello.

What tote bag activities can you add to this list? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments.