Merry Christmas Gift Guide

Now, I am not one to start Christmasing early.  We celebrate Advent hard and save Christmas for its proper 12 days as much as possible in today’s world.  But part of having a peaceful Advent for me is doing my Christmas shopping in November.  If you want to get an early start too, I’ve got some ideas for you!

Many of the products below were created by folks I know, or were given to me to review in the past.  There are a few (very few!) affiliate links among them.  In many cases I have included links to my reviews so you can learn more.

Let’s start with Catholic gifts. 

I used to think my only option for Catholic gifts was the local Catholic book and gift shop.  It’s still a great option when I need something right away, but there is so much else out there, much of it handmade by Catholic artisans.

I love, love, love Pink Salt Riot products.  You cannot go wrong shopping for your favorite Catholic woman here!  My top recommendation is the design your own bracelet:I wear the one I created most days!

I also love my St. Peter bracelet from Kindred Forest Co.

Visit them for a wonderful product line geared toward helping you be friends with the saints!

I am crazy about SockReligious (especially the clever name!).  There are so many choices that I can’t pick a favorite.  Maybe these?

Stay Close to Christ is another source for all kinds of Catholic gifts, including these adorable tiny saints.  You can get one for free with your $10 purchase if you enter the code LESLIE at check out.

I found these and many other favorite Catholic products via the CatholicsOnline Directory.  Click on the logo to learn more.

The talent of the artisans listed is truly a gift from God and I have been blessed by the products I have purchased.

A couple of my favorite Etsy shops I discovered via Catholics Online are Saongjai (I have bought sturdy, beautiful rosaries there) and No Heart Untouched (love her style and my husband loves the coffee cup I bought for him!).

There are always books on my Christmas list

I’ve already written some posts on Christmas-themed children’s books.  And here’s a link to non-Christmas picture books I love.

The following are a few Catholic books I have reviewed and can recommend.  Links to purchase are in each post:

And here are links to a few that I have not reviewed:

Be Yourself: A Journal for Catholic Girls  (The boys’ version is coming out soon!)

The Gift of Invitation (this is one of a series of Stay Connected journals)

Becoming Holy, One Virtue at a Time (another of the above series, to pre-order)

Made for Greatness (a growth mindset journal for Catholic kids)

Now for a few secular options!

I love the ring I purchased from Mama’s Jewelry, which contains the birthstones of all my children.  There are lots of styles to choose from and they are surprisingly affordable!  

This is the best lipstick I have ever owned.  It’s no longer available from the seller in the linked review, but you can purchase it here.

This next one is a bit pricey, but Healtop health and wellness products are amazing.

Finally, for those-hard-to-shop-for-people-who-have-everything, visit Uncommon Goods.  Honestly,  I love almost everything they sell (especially the candles)!

Let me know in the comments if you found anything here for your Christmas list!

Books Worth Reading: Christmas Part II

I’ve written previously about our family’s Christmas book tradition and shared some of our favorites.  Just in time for you to order before Christmas, here are five more of our all-time favorites.

Who Is Coming to Our House

I am pretty sure this was the second Christmas book I bought for Emily, so it has been part of our Christmas for over a quarter of a century!  She loved it so much that she memorized most of it.  A big plus is that nowadays you can get it as a board book!

We Were There

Now, there are lots and lots of books that tell the story of the birth of Jesus from the point of view of the animals in the stable.  But there were other creatures present that you may not have thought of.  This book was–and is–a hit with our youngest two, who love all things creepy crawly; and it is a wonderful reminder that God made ALL creatures, not just the cuddly ones.

Santa and the Christ Child

From a literary standpoint, this one isn’t going to win any awards.  But I still love the story, and it reminds me of my favorite “Kneeling Santa” Christmas decoration.

Christmas Tapestry

We are big Patricia Polacco fans and several of our Christmas books were written by her, but I think this recent acquisition is my favorite.  Although it’s a Christmas miracle story, it’s also ecumenical and historical and heartwarming.

All Creation Waits

Maybe it is cheating a bit to include an Advent book but we got this last year and I cannot tell you how much we loved it.  We read one story every evening as a part of our Advent celebration.  I bought it for my son the animal lover but we were all enthralled and amazed by the beauty of God’s creation as revealed in these stories.

That’s all for this installment! Tell me about your favorites in the comments–I need some ideas for what to order this year!


Five Favorites

Today I’m linking up with Mama Knows, Honeychild to tell you about five of my favorite things! (Don’t be thinking Sound of Music here!)
1.  Yves Rocher
yves rocher
No, I am not on their payroll, although I would do a sponsored post for them is a second if I thought I could get free things.  Because I buy stuff from them through the mail EVERY MONTH.  I don’t really wear makeup except on the most special of occasions (maybe I’ll blog about that some time too).  But I anoint myself liberally morning and night with beauty products from Yves Rocher–it’s my one self-indulgence and I’ve been indulging myself for close to 20 years, off and on.
I think I first discovered the company in one of those get-so-many-free-things-it’s-too-good-to-be-true ads in a magazine, and then I was hooked.  Because although their deals seem too good to be true, they ARE true.  Shopping with them brings me a constant supply of free samples, sales, and fun gifts.  Pretty much all of my luggage came to me as free gifts from Yves Rocher.  I’ve also got coffee mugs, blankets, and a lot of jewelry.  And their products are great!  In fact, I think I’ll do another five favorites post on my five favorite products!
Finally, it’s a French company and when you call customer service (they have good customer service, by the way, and they give you three months free credit automatically!), the people all have French accents.  So that’s pretty cool.  I’m always tempted to speak to them in French but then they might start talking really fast and that could be embarrassing.
2.  Hanna Andersson
hanna andersson
Buying clothes at Hanna Andersson is my only indulgence on behalf of my kids.  I’ve always been happy to dress my kids in consignment sales finds, hand-me-downs, gifts from relatives, and the occasional necessity grabbed at Wal-Mart or the like, but I make an exception for hannas (as we call them around here).  William spent most of his babyhood in Hanna Andersson clothes and it just kills me that I won’t have those to hand down to grandchildren one day.  Because I totally could.  Yes, they are expensive, but they last forever.
Since I discovered zulily, which often has Hanna Andersson sales, I’ve gone a little crazy buying them for Lorelei.  She loves them to, because she is itchy and they are soft.
3.  Deb
Emily recently introduced me to this shop at the mall.  They have great sales, and they have plus size clothes that are not frumpy.  If you aren’t plus-sized, you have no idea what a big deal it is to find the combination of inexpensive and non-frumpy.  I have, for example, been trying forever to find some capris that don’t look like someone’s grandmother would wear them.  These are the ones I bought last week at Deb:
deb capris
Also, I have a very hard time finding jeans that fit correctly.  I’ll spare you the details. 🙂  But I found a brand at Deb that does.
4.  Janice Holt Giles
I just posted about Janice Holt Giles in my What We’re Reading Wednesday post, but she deserves more than that.  My mother introduced me to her books years and years ago, one summer when we were visiting the library, and I think I read them all.  Hers are historical novels, with that sense of place that is so important to me as a reader.  Many of them are part of a series in that the characters are related to one another, but they can be read separately.  I think The Believers, which is about the Shakers, is my very favorite.
I am a terrible library patron.  Invariably, I start off with the best of intentions, then forget to turn in my books, run up a huge fine, and am banned until I pay it (or wait until the day when I can be forgiven by bringing in cans of food or school supplies).  Right this minute my card and William’s card are non-functional, but we still have Lorelei’s!  So I’m not a regular visitor to the library, but every summer we try again, because of summer reading.
And every summer I look to see what Janice Holt Giles books, long out of print, remain on the shelf of whatever library we are visiting, and I check some out.  We went to the downtown library last week, and I was rewarded with this:
act of contrition
This was published posthumously in 2005 (Giles died in 1979).  I haven’t started it yet and I hope I like it!
5. South Knoxville Urban Wilderness
I hope y’all aren’t tired of hearing about this yet because I intend to plug it every chance I get.  It’s getting national recognition and if you are local and don’t take advantage of it you should be ashamed.  Here’s just one picture (more to follow) of our walk in the wilderness last weekend:
And that’s the end!  Check back next Tuesday (yes, I am a day late!) to see more of my favorite things.

We were in Alabama over the weekend . . .

. . . but not to watch the big game. 🙁
No, we were in Mobile, at Spring Hill College, to visit Emily, our oldest, for Family Weekend.  Emily is a Junior, and some of us have attended the weekend each year, but this time it seemed especially important for us to be together, since she has not been with us during the recent trials and tribulations.
John in particular felt nervous about leaving our new home considering what happened the last time we went out of town, but I convinced him, and we took Lorelei along as well.  And we had a great time.  It was the nicest weather we’ve ever experienced at Spring Hill, which was a balmy 102 the first time I set foot on its campus!  The highs were in the 70s and it was sunny but breezy.
There are some planned activities that are part of the weekend but most of our fun was spontaneous:  A trip to Target to shop with some of our gift cards at a place with a lower sales tax, dinner at Felix’s Fish Camp, dessert at Yolo–where we were surprised with free cupcakes to go with our frozen yogurt, afternoon coffee and cider at Carpe Diem, visiting the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception downtown.
The highlight of the trip for Lorelei–who hung on Emily like an affectionate parasite the entire time we were there–was probably spending two nights with Emily in the dorm.  But for the rest of us it was certainly the two hours we spent at the Book Nook, the little used book store in the basement of the college library.  Emily told us she had a surprise for us on campus.  What can I say–she knows what we like!
I started at one end and made my way mostly around the whole store.  We each had our own approach.  John was looking for all new books.  I was replacing the classics–not all of them, but the ones I just KNOW I will be wanting to read again–The Canterbury Tales, David Copperfield, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Little Women, to name a very few.  Emily was replacing some that she had lost and finding others that had been on her list to read.  Lorelei was poring over picture books, mostly about animals.
Soon the four elderly ladies and the one college boy who volunteer at the store noticed we were getting quite a big stack of books.  They were hysterical, by the way, talking about books and politics in their Alabama accents and teasing the boy who they said works there because they are so good looking.  It was kind of an intellectual Steel Magnolias vibe.  Of course I told them why we needed all these books, knowing instinctively that they would understand the tragedy of our loss.  In the end, we had a plastic container (which they gave us, and had the young man carry to the car) about three feet long and two feet deep full of books, which they sold to us for half-price–$75.  It was a good afternoon in a good weekend.
And everything and everyone at home was fine when we came back. 🙂

In the campus Grotto

At Felix’s Fish Camp

Lorelei thinks she’s a college girl

Sunday Mass at St. Joseph’s Chapel on campus

A beautiful morning on campus