Advent 2014 {with Magnificat Advent 2014 Companion iOS App Giveaway!}

Disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links; thank you for your support!



Less is more. We’ve all heard it but until you have had. it. up. to. HERE. nothing changes. Well, I’ve decided to really pare down our Advent activities this year. Here is what we are going to keep.

Advent Books

We love to read and I snagged two books from Ignatius a week before Christmas last year– 24 Christmas Stories for Little Ones and 24 Christmas Stories to Welcome Jesus. I think we’re going to read both of these before bed in lieu of The Advent Storybook. Unless there is mutiny.

For our morning read-aloud time, we will begin with Welcome Baby Jesus. maybe this will be the year we are consistent about it.

For my own personal spiritual reading & devotion, I will be using the Magnificat Advent 2014 Companion app for my iPhone.  I was lucky enough to get to review it at (coming soon to an RSS feed near you).  And if you keep reading, 2 lucky winners will get a copy, too!

Advent Feast Days

I love our traditions for the Feast of St Nicholas and the Immaculate Conception. Those will stay the same.

Since we are reading about St. Juan Diego for the saint book club I’m going to try (again) to celebrate St. Juan & Our Lady of Guadalupe. I want to teach Lil’ Bit how to make God’s Eyes this year. I might even try doing an Our Lady of Guadalupe Tea. If not, we will eat burritos for dinner. Or maybe we will just get some Taco House; I haven’t even looked at the calendar to see what days they are yet :).

diy washi tape wreath kid-friendly


Catholic Advent Traditions 2014

We will have an advent wreath. This year we will use the washi tape advent wreath above. Looking for a more traditional one? Try these ribbon covered advent pillar candles I made a few years ago. They are still going strong!

We will attend our parish festival the first weekend of Advent. I have volunteered to bake a little since I can do that with tiny people underfoot :).

We will get a real tree and the girls can decorate it on the 3rd Sunday of Advent.

And we will read a ton! I also bought Christmas Mosiac last year and might try to work in some extra activities to go with our reading.


Magnificat Advent 2014 App Giveaway

Looking for an Advent devotional app?  Check out this giveaway from Magnificat!  If you read, you will see my full review of this awesome Advent 2014 Companion app from Magnificat.  Use the widget below to enter!



What are your favorite ways to observe Advent?

Jen S.

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Apple Picture Books + a No-Filler Apple Pie Recipe! {Poppins Book Nook}

Apple books and apple pie


Isn’t it funny how often plans are derailed? When I discovered this month’s Poppins Book Nook theme was cooking, literal me wanted to jump straight to an actual children’s cookbook. We flipped through a World cookbook and they wanted NO part of it.


Zany Apple Picture Books

They wanted The Gingerbread Man. I wanted Amelia Bedila’s First Apple Pie. Guess who won :)? We actually received the book as a gift from my aunt & uncle. Unlike the Amelia Bedia, we grew up, this one is a literal little girl, not a grown up. In this delightful fall favorite, Amelia helps make an Apple pie from shopping for a farmer at the farmers market to sneaking in her own tiny pie at the end. It’s full of silly Amelia jokes and actually does a great job of telling how to make an apple pie. I think my almost 7 year old would be able to do it after reading this book.


We also read Curious George Apple Harvest. This is a favorite as well. In typical Curious George fashion, George is helping pick apples in the Renkins’s orchard. Jumpy Squirrel comes in and grabs one and George chases him all over the farm trying to get it back. He ends up at the cider mill and accidentally turns all the apples into cider. As usual, it all turns out & George did something good by accident.


filler free apple pie

Filler-Free Apple Pie

Since we had a few apples left after making all our applesauce, I decided we should make an apple pie. While the book does include a pie & crust recipe, I used pre-made crusts and my own filling.

I am of the opinion that a fruit pie should be filled with fruit, not flour & sugar. Here is the apple pie filling recipe I got from my grandmother.


  • 6 c apples, peeled & thinly sliced
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • nutmeg, to taste
  • 1 T butter
  • 9″ double pie crusts (bought or made, your choice)


Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Peel apples & slice thinly.   I cut mine into quarters, cut out the core, and then slice as thin as possible.

Place apples in large bowl.  Add sugar, cinnamon, and a dash of nutmeg, if desired.  Stir until well coated.

apple pie filling

Put bottom crust into pie pan and pour apples on top.  Put thin slices of butter around on top.  Top with top crust and make several small cuts in top to vent.

Place pie plate ON A COOKIE SHEET (unless you would like to clean your oven later) and put on lowest rack for 10 minutes.  Reduce temperature to 350 and bake for another 30-35 minutes.


I’ll be honest. We are STILL eating Halloween candy & I just made brownies for my book club, so I didn’t actually cook the pie. We put it in the freezer for Thanksgiving. And I forgot to take pics before I did.  Oops!

To cook after freezing, put the frozen pie (do not defrost) into the oven at 450 for 15 minutes, then reduce temperature and cook for 45-50 minutes.


While its a little late to have shared this for apple season, it was the perfect topic for cooking. Were it not for the foot of snow already, I’d still be thinking it was apple season!

Poppins Book Nook

Check out posts from all Poppins Book Nook co-hosts about cooking and add your post to the linky below.

Poppins Book Nook main image 2014 - 2015  Clip Art by Melon Headz

Check out more Poppins Book Nook posts by these lovely bloggers:

Enchanted Homeschooling Mom ~ 3 Dinosaurs ~ To the Moon and Back ~ Planet Smarty Pants ~ Farm Fresh Adventures ~ Growing in God’s Grace ~ Chestnut Grove Academy ~ Learning and Growing the Piwi Way ~ The Usual Mayhem~ Preschool Powol Packets ~ Monsters Ed Homeschool Academy ~ Adventures in Mommydom ~Teach Beside Me ~ Life with Moore Babies ~ Kathy’s Cluttered Mind ~ Are We There Yet? ~ Our Crafts N Things ~Hopkins Homeschool ~ ABC Creative Learning ~ Joy Focused Learning ~ P is for Preschooler ~ My Bright Firefly ~A Mommy’s Adventures ~ Inspiring 2 New Hampshire Children ~ World for Learning ~ Ever After in the Woods ~Golden Grasses ~ A glimpse of our life ~ Journey to Excellence ~ Happy Little Homemaker ~ Little Homeschool Blessings ~ Raventhreads ~ Tots and Me ~ As We Walk Along The Road ~ Stir the Wonder ~ For This Season ~Where Imagination Grows ~ The Canadian Homeschooler ~ School Time Snippets ~ Peakle Pie ~ A Moment in our World ~ Every Bed of Roses ~ Finchnwren ~ At Home Where Life Happens ~ The Library Adventure ~ Embracing Destiny ~ Day by Day in our World ~ Our Homeschool Studio ~ A “Peace” of Mind ~ Thou Shall Not Whine ~ SAHM I am  ~ Simple Living Mama

Be sure to follow Enchanted Homeschooling Mom for more book related posts & even lapbook pages to go with each months theme!

Do you have a favorite activity related for apples?


Jen S.



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New Book for Sunday Read-Aloud – Jorge From Argentina {Book Review}

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the publisher but was under no obligation to review it.   This post contains affiliate links; thank you for your support!


jorge from argentina elementary catholic book review

We are a family of readers. Even my 17 month old boy will grab a stack of books and plop himself into any available lap. Over the years, I have been blessed to find many wonderful children’s books to support our Catholic faith. Unfortunately, they are not usually the first choice of our offspring.

In order to read many of these books, I have instituted Sunday read-aloud time. Every Sunday, we read a book about God or an aspect of Catholicism. Sometimes they are drawing or working on a craft project, but many times we are all just snuggling on the couch.

jorge from argentina review inside

PaulineKids sent me a copy of Jorge from Argentina: The Story of Pope Francis for Children forever ago and I decided to use that for our next Sunday read-aloud. This isn’t really a picture book, though there are a handful of illustrations. The age range for this is from about 7 to 10. It’s a straight up biography about 50 pages long.

And it’s fascinating for my people loving almost 7 year old. I totally did not expect to read the whole thing in two Sundays. She requested more after each chapter until I finally had to make dinner.

Jorge from Argentina made Pope Francis seem like a regular person. He lived a similar life to my kids (more or less). It was nice to see his desire to live God’s will even when it was hard. It also was a great source for finding out more about how one becomes a priest, a Jesuit, bishop, cardinal & pope.

It led to some great discussions! If you are looking for a good book for your older child, especially those who are people oriented, Jorge from Argentina would be a great pick! Not only would they learn that important people were once young, too, but that they usually made the choice to live joyfully, even when difficult. Plus, they may even remember the hierarchy and how Pope’s are chosen :). It would make an awesome first communion gift or even a birthday or baptism anniversary gift for elementary students.

Jen S.


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December Saint Picture Book Club Unveiled!

saint picture book club december st juan diego

On All Saints Day, I shared my plan to celebrate the Catholic liturgical year by reading a book each month. I’m so excited to share the first saint for the picture book club!

St. Juan Diego

St. Juan Diego’s feast day is December 9. I found two books that would be fabulous additions to your Catholic children’s library.

The first is one of those investment books–Talking Eagle and the Lady of Roses: The Story of Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe.  If you can swing it, it’s gorgeous and my 4 year old Ioves it. Bright illustrations and (seems to be) culturally appropriate also.

The second is smaller and simpler, but also good–Juan Diego: Mary’s Humble Messenger (Saints and Me!).  It’s not as much of a story as the first, but is another good picture book for children about St. Juan Diego.

Be sure to come back on December 8 to share your favorite books about St. Juan Diego! Subscribe to our RSS feed so you don’t miss a post.

And if you are in need of an Advent devotion, check out the 2014 Advent Companion app giveaway from Magnificat!


See you in a few weeks!

Jen S.


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3 Ways to Cultivate Gratitude for Busy Families

3 Ways to Cultivate Gratitude for Busy Families


Science has suggested that people who are grateful are happier, according to Gretchen Rubin. Author of The Happiness Project & Happier at Home, Gretchen scheduled a gratitude project and it changed her outlook.

Here are three easy ways to cultivate gratitude for YOUR busy family.

quick and easy gratitude journals

A Gratitude Journal

A simple gratitude journal is an easy way to list your blessings. It can be as simple as a plain notebook or you could use one of the many beautiful journal collecting dust on your shelf. Or maybe that’s just my house.gratitude-prompts-preview

Here are two gratitude prompt printables I made; one with quotes & one with Bible verses.

For more ideas, check out my post at Successful Homemakers (FKA Homemakers Challenge) — Quick & Easy Gratitude Journals.


DIY Family Gratitude Wreath

If you need some help as a family, but are looking for a smaller project than the Thankfulness Tree I shared a few years back, try this Thanksgiving Wreath.



  • A circle cut from a paper plate or cardboard
  • Leaves, handprints, or other shapes (we bought a foam craft kit from JoAnn’s a few weeks ago)
  • Sharpie or other dark marker
  • Glue
  • Ribbon
  • Hole Punch


  • Cut a wreath shape from your plate or cardboard. Make sure it’s big enough to glue stuff to, but not so big you can see it around your shapes.
  • Cut or punch a hole at the top and thread the ribbon through. Tie a knot to make a loop to hang the wreath from.
  • Lay out your shapes around the wreath, spread out enough to write on them. When you are happy with how they look, glue them on. Save the bottom center for last.
  • On the bottom center shape, write “I am thankful for…”
  • Write what your family members are thankful for on each shape until you have filled the wreath.
  • Hang & enjoy!



Gratitude on the Go

If you are always on the go, I found an awesome app to help cultivate gratitude — Gratitude365. This inexpensive app allows you to track things you are grateful for by text AND photo. You can view the list, the day or the calendar with pictures.

My full review of the Gratitude365, with screenshots, can be found at

So what about your house? Do you try to be intentional about gratitude? What tools or practices do you have?

Jen S.


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