Super Girls and Halos

This post contains affiliate links. I received this book free of charge, for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Superheros are pretty popular in this house. The kids love reading about them and watching all of the movies. I know not even a fraction of the superhero trivia that my children know, in fact I kind of can’t even keep straight who is who. But I like saints and saint trivia! So when I had the opportunity to review the new book Super Girls and Halos by Maria Morera Johnson, I was thrilled!

Johnson talks all about real life superheros and concurs with Edna Modes opinion that superheros don’t need capes. Johnson pulls our her favorite superhero saints and compares them with scores of your favorite fictional superheros. This book is a really fun comparison of virtue and vice – two things we all have, whether we are saints, sinners, or superheros.

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I love that Johnson not only makes these  comparisons, but breaks down some of the virtues and gives really lovely explanations of what, exactly these virtues comprise. In her chapter on fortitude, she points out that, beyond just courage, fortitude fights for the good. She compares Hermione Granger’s fortitude in facing Voldimort with saintly fortitude in facing persecution.

The author does a great job of pulling a few lesser known saints, as well. I definitely learned a few new names and tales as I read. Not all of her superheros are the caped variety, either. As an X-Files fan, it was fun to see Dana Scully make an appearance alongside St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross!

We are told all of the time to look to the saints for inspiration. But it was a fun twist to think that these virtues can also be found in so many modern day superheros, as well. Give your kids the saints, but give them superheros, as well! Teach them to look deeper and see virtues everywhere.

Super Girls and Halos was a really fun, inspiring, and intriguing read. It’s geared mostly to females, just in that the saints and heroes are all women. I plan to tuck my copy into a stocking, come Christmas. I am sure my superhero loving teenager will enjoy this little book!

Hop on over to Reconciled to You for more posts and to enter a giveaway!

Handmade, Catholic Gift Guide

Every year, I dream of completing my Christmas shopping before the start of Advent. This year, that date is December 3. We are running out of time, folks!

Last year’s gift guide was hugely popular, so I thought I’d make a few more guides this season. Today guide is all about the handmade and the faith based. (This post contains affiliate links!)

I am a HUGE fan of shopping small and buying handmade. Not only do I find handmade more beautiful, long lasting, and meaningful, but I love to know that my dollars are going to good families and hard working mamas, instead of some huge corporation.

All of these items are beautiful, faith based, and well made!

Relics By Rose

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If you’re looking for unique, faith inspired jewelry combining remnants, relics, or styles from bygone eras with stylish, modern designs, this is your place! Her work is beautiful. All of her work is beautiful, particularly this Miraculous Medal!

Christmas Order Cutoff is December 5.

Hairbows for Life 

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Hairbows for Life is a small business that makes hair bows such as Saint bows, Blessed Mother bows, Pro-life bows, Ballet bows, and simple yet sweet bows. They are 100% pro-life and donated a % back into the pro-life community.

Christmas Order Cutoff: December 6

Telos Art

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Telos Art creates religious jewelry, art, and liturgical calendars. The liturgical calendars include seasonal liturgical colors, daily readings, feast days, and sacred art by current and classical artists. A lunar gardening calendar will launch in December 2017.

Christmas order cut of is December 15.

AshCraft Creative

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Beautiful, hand tooled leather items.

Christmas Order Cutoff: Nov 30

Little Praying Hands

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At Little Praying Hands, we bring Catholic inspired teethers to the little people in our lives. Not only can babies and toddlers teethe on RosaryChews and RosaryRingChews they get used to having this important part of our Catholic faith close at hand.

Our new baby will be receiving on of these rosaries in his/her stocking this year and it is SO CUTE!

Christmas Order Cutoff: RosaryChews: 12/10/17. RosaryRingChews: 12/14/17

Come Holy Spirit Rosaries

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Come Holy Spirit makes Catholic rosaries, chaplets, and jewelry for my shop Come Holy Spirit Rosaries.  All pieces are handmade, most with semi-precious stones and solid bronze parts or silver-filled jewelry wire.  Many pieces are ready made, and always welcome custom orders.

Christmas Order Cutoff: December 17

Sweet Little Ones

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The mission of Sweet Little Ones Shop is to help Catholic women decorate their homes in a meaningful, faith-filled way on a budget. We offer wall art printables that aim to serve as beautiful visual reminders that will inspire a deepening of the Catholic faith in our everyday lives

Christmas Order Cutoff: For the majority of my shop, which are instant downloads, there is no deadline. For custom orders, the deadline for Christmas is December 8

Apple And Azalea

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These creative and unique Morris Code Necklaces are the perfect gift for any guy in your life! I love how masculine they are, while carrying a subtle message.

Little Faithful Friends

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Peg dolls are so popular with kids! Dolls from Little Faithful Friends bring the saints right into your kiddos hands. And the Ingalls Family! So cute!

Happy Nest Home Goods

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Happy Nest Home Goods offers hand embroidered jewelry & wall decor, Catholic diffuser jewelry, and sacrifice beads all lovingly crafted to bring a little more joy into your every day. I have a pair of Theresa’s diffuser earrings and they’re just lovely!

Christmas Order Cutoff: Embroidered items: December 1 Beaded items: December 15

Other Gift Guides:

Toyless Gift Guide

Game Edition

Books!

Books! A Christmas Gift Guide

We love to read and nothing is cozier in those quiet Christmas days than snuggling up with a book, a warm fire, and a hot drink. We love to tuck books under the tree, so the kids have new reads to entertain them over Christmas break. Most of these recommendations came from my kids, so there’s your endorsement!

(This post contains affiliate links)

Younger Children

Penguin Cha Cha

I love reading aloud this sweet book about a little girl named Julia and her steadfast determination to dance with the penguins at the zoo! It was a library pick that became a must buy favorite.

Julia’s House for Lost Creatures

I promise I really love this book and I’m not just including it because the author is my brother. It’s a delight to read aloud and the pictures are beautiful. Our copy is so read that it is in tatters!

The Animals of Farmer Jones

This is Kateri’s favorite book and she insisted that it be included on the list!

Strega Nona

a classic favorite. Is there any better lesson than the ones we learn from Strega Nona and Big Anthony?

Bigger Kids (10+)

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

if your kids like fantasy and adventure, this is a great one for them. It’s a series and my big kids have enjoys all of them.

The Hound of the Baskerville

Sherlock Holmes is all the rage right now. Why not have the kids read the original works? We have a copy of the complete works and, while huge, it’s been a popular one to pick up and read here and there.

Biggest Kids (14+)

Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow

This science fiction novel enthralled my kids from about sixth grade on. It’s intense, so maybe not the best for the sensitive kiddos.

A Girl of the Limberlost

This tale of a girl and her love for the swamp where she grows up is charming and sweet.

The Graveyard Book

I’ll preface this by saying that not all book by Neil Gaiman are suitable for kids, but this one is aimed to young teen / teen crowd. Spooky, intriguing, suspenseful; this one will keep the pages turning!

Graphic Novels 

Graphic Novels are perfect for a range of ages. I’ve seen them turn reluctant readers into ravenous readers and the proficient readers keep coming back to them!

Zita the Spacegirl

This is one the kids keep coming back to this trilogy about an adventurous girl and her intergalactic journeys.

Sister and Smile

My brother stop by this summer, with a merry troupe of traveling artists. Afterwards, Raina gifted us a set of her books. My kids quickly devoured these fun autobiographical tales of Raina and her family.

TinTin

Satire, adventure, and a fun quirky read. This is a series, so it can keep you going for quite a while! My boys, especially, enjoy TinTin adventures.

One Dead Spy

These books by Nathan Hale are a fun way for kids to learn a bit of history, while reading an adventurous story. One Dead Spy is actually about the original Nathan Hale and is a house favorite. We’ve read quite a few and I think the historical references are pretty accurate and stories and graphics are enjoyed by the kids.

Ugly Cry Inducing (My teens love a good book cry!)

Of Mice and Men – a classic, no doubt. Hand this over with discretion. We deemed it the saddest book ever written.

Where the Red Fern Grows – another sad one! But my kids have all loved this classic little tale.

The Bridge to Terabithia

 

This is a tear jerker I remember fondly. It’s such a sweet story of friendship and imagination!

Add your favorite books to read or gift, in the comments! Other gift guides to check out: Toyless Gift Guide (2016) and Game Edition

Beyond the Piston Cup to the Main Street of America

(This post contains affiliate links)

Leaving for this mega road trip to California proved to be more difficult than expected. Of course a 5000 mile road trip through the mother land would be a huge undertaking for anyone, plus the fact that my wife and I were out numbered by the kids 3-1. But we couldn’t even make it out of the driveway! We locked ourselves out of the car just after we locked up the house. Seriously? Stranded outside our own home without the keys to the van wasn’t a good way to get an early start. After calling in an emergency set of keys held by my father-in-law, we were finally on our way only to realize we left our phone chargers and had to make a U-turn. Arrrhhh! How we managed such a feat, could have only been coordinated by Uncle Murphy himself.

We figured that the first part of the trip would be tough because we were on a timetable for my presentation in Los Angeles, so we decided to drive as far as we could the first night. If we made good time, then we might be able to spend more time at unique sections of the Painted Desert/Petrified Forest National Park, such as the Rainbow Forest and Petrified Ruins.  There is lot to see and only a small amount of time, so lets get driving!

Lucky for us, we got all the worst weather out the way on the first day. Throughout Missouri, our radio was blasting one severe weather alert after another. The announcer seemed to rotate between her three favorite warning scripts: hail storms, tornado warnings, and high winds.

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After blasting through Missouri and Oklahoma (I couldn’t sleep for more than an hour at the truck stops, so we pressed on) we finally arrived in Amarillo, Texas. We arrived just in time to catch Mass then grab some famous TexMex for breakfast and hit the road again.

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Route 66 – Main Street of America

As we sailed through New Mexico on the open road, we soaked in the beautiful small towns of Route 66 and listened to podcasts about how the movie Cars brought new life to this almost forgotten roadway that defined American exceptionalism. Our constant search for new challenges, exploration, diversity, and adventure could be delivered through a new medium for the middle class family – the road trip. Yet, traveling on Rte 66 is more than just any road trip. Once it begins on Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, this Main Street of America crosses the rivers, plains, mountains, deserts, and canyons of eight states and several Native American reservations before ending on the Santa Monica Pier in SoCal, 2448 miles later.

Beyond the Piston Cup

The podcast we were listening to was an interview with Michael Wallis, a historian who consulted for the Pixar creative team to develop characters and sets for the movie that related to life and culture on the historic byway. In fact, Michael even became the voice of “Sheriff” in the movie. He explained how Radiator Springs, although fictional, related to many small towns on Route 66. If I had to pick one town it resembled the most on our trip, it would be Tucumcari, New Mexico. It had the neon signs, dated hotels, and even a mountain in the shape of a radiator cap!

Lets see if we figured out any other similarities between the movie and what we saw on the Mother Road.

The ill-behaved herd of tractors seen wandering through town and invading a store in Radiator Springs are a likely homage to the wild burros that roam along the Route 66 ghost town of Oatman, Arizona between Kingman and the California border. The animals are descendants of the burros once used in the gold mines there. The burros are definitely a tourist attraction unto themselves. We had to stop on the side of the road when we saw this unlikely foursome hanging out in the bush without a care in the world. Although they don’t make the “moo-ing” sounds of the tractors in the movie, the burros definitely made their presence known.

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Lizzie’s Curio Shop in Radiator Springs resembles any one of the crazy gas station/mini-museums you see along the long sections of Route 66. They don’t sell gas any more, but you can find everything else from a jumble of memorabilia and knickknacks to rocks and bottle caps. 

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Tow Mater, everyone’s favorite character in the movie, is played by Larry the Cable Guy and he’s a homage to the owners of Sandhills Curiousity Shop in Erick, Oklahoma who describe it as the “Redneck Capital of the World.” My opinion is that Tow Mater’s character pays homage to all the hard working Americans who wake up every morning to swing a hammer, wrench, or other tool to make a living. Below is a picture of the kids and I hanging out with Tow Mater’s cousin, Tow Tater?

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In the movie, “Ornament Valley” is a reference to Monument Valley, in the far northern portion of the state, but you can pretty much see these monuments everywhere on varying scales. After we woke up one morning, we scaled this monument rock next to our campsite near Kingman, AZ.

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Finally, when Sally and Lightning McQueen drive into the country along old Route 66, the forest road resembles the highways winding through the Kaibab National Forest west of Flagstaff, Ariz., and the twisting, turning road that leads to Oatman, Ariz. 

 

Unfortunately, our “exceptionalism” has also spurned the development of highway improvements that have replaced many of Route 66’s sections with four-lane interstate highways.  In fact, they even removed many traces of Route 66 signage, which guarantees you will easily miss all of this scenic byway, along with the small dinners, curious museums, and wild burros. Skip the fast food highway by picking up a Route 66 guide to get you off the humdrum of interstate travel, beyond the Piston Cup, and back to Main Street America.

Book Recommendations:

Route 66 Tom Snyder

Route 66: The Mother Road Michael Wallis

Full map and descriptions of the Cars characters and scenery found along Route 66

 

Christmas Gift Guide – Game Edition

We love family game night! Sometimes it’s tough to find games that fit a broad spectrum of ages and abilities. In our house, often big kids and adults will team up with the littles, so that everyone can play and have fun. (This post contains affiliate links)

I can’t take credit for a lot of these great game finds. My mom and my husband are masters at sniffing out quality games. And that’s not always an easy feat!

Chicken Cha Cha Cha

This one is mostly for the younger set, but DON’T BE FOOLED. Our nine year old will smoke you. It’s a twist on the old memory game and quite entertaining!

Happy Salmon

This simple, but rousing game is fun for everyone. Even the four year old plays along! It’s loud and wild, but hilarious!

Bird Bingo

Here’s another one the kids love. It’s not my personal favorite, but once they can read, they can play independently. With a little help, the younger set (4ish) can play along, too. You’re budding ornithologist will love it. It also comes in other animals like Dog Bingo and Bug Bingo.  And bonus – you can totally count this as educational!

Farkle

Here’s one to challenge the math skills. As in, my own math skills! This is a simple dice game, but lots of fun. We picked it up on a camping trip and it proved to be a great little travel game.

Stratego

Here’s a classic strategy game that still holds the attention of kids (8+) and grown ups alike. My husband loves to challenge the kids and we’ve had adult friends challenge the kids to a game, as well. It’s a two player game, but the others love to stand around and cheer on the players.

Five Crowns

 

Here’s a game that my mom found, but we loved it so much we got our own set! It’s a rummy style card game that builds and changes as the game moves on. It’s a great game for age 7 to adult to play together.

Multi-Pack of Playing Cards

 

Lastly, we love to play regular old cards. Our big kids have finally mastered our favorite game of Euchre. But we always seem a few cards short of a full deck (literally and not so literally). This would solve our problems, at least for a bit!

What are your favorite family board games? I always love to hear new suggestions and ideas. Leave your faves in the comments!

For more gift ideas, hop over to last years Toyless Gift Guide. Also, be sure to follow the blog for a few more gift guides that I’ll post in the next week or so.