Monday, February 29, 2016

Leap Day Time Capsule {Free Printable}

Four years ago on February 29, 2012 {Leap Day!} we made time capsules... The kids were so excited to wake up and find them on the table this morning!

They all wanted to make these again this year so I hopped over to PicMonkey and created images for a new document inspired by the original printable we used four years ago. I laid out the document so that it can just be printed and folded this time, instead of cutting and pasting the pages into a booklet like we did last leap day.

My little ones can hardly wait to start filling them out after lunch this afternoon. And Bud, who was only a couple months old last leap day, saw the pictures in the archives last night and has been saying "Mommy! Will you pleeeaassseeee make me an apple frooooggggg!" all morning! I guess we'll be doing that this afternoon too! :) Good thing I happened to pick up some apples after Mass yesterday and I think we still have at least a few marshmallows leftover from the Thor's Hammer Birthday Cake I made earlier this month.

If any of you would like to make 2016 Leap Day Time Capsules with your children today, you are welcome to download and use my document! I just uploaded the pdf to Dropbox. Here's the link:

Sunday, February 28, 2016

New Additions to Our March Book Basket

Happy 3rd Sunday of Lent! It's hard to believe that Lent is nearly half over... And it is already time to start filling our book basket with books for March! I have a few new additions to our family's ever growing collection to share with you today. You can also find last year's New Additions for March in the archives.  Be sure to scroll to the bottom and leave a comment to enter this week's giveaway!

In addition to our Lenten devotions, I plan to begin reading the following book aloud each day beginning on the "Eve of the First Day" and continuing through the "Thirty-First Day" of March and praying the Nine Day Novena to St. Joseph and the Thirty Days' Prayer to St. Joseph, found in the back of the book, for special intentions. The section for each day is only a few pages long and includes a short reflection followed by a prayer for the day and resolutions. I haven't read it yet, but it looks excellent.

The Month of St. Joseph: Exercises for Each Day of the Month of March
(Also available directly from St. Augustine Academy Press)

St. Teresa of Avila tells us, "I took for my advocate and lord the glorious Saint Joseph and commended myself earnestly to him...he gave me greater blessings than I could ask of him. I do not remember even now that I have ever asked anything of him which he has failed to grant." 

This hidden saint, the blessed foster-father of our Lord and protector of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is a powerful intercessor for us, as well as a model of perfect virtue. The bible records not a single word of his, yet we know that in the holy house at Nazareth, the young Jesus-the Word made Flesh-was subject to him. Through this series of daily meditations for the month of March, we may increase our devotion to this great saint while also making a fruitful use of the days of Lent.  As patron not only of fathers and of the worker, but of the universal church, all of us-men and women, old and young-would do well to look to him in our every need.

+  +  +

I am slowly working on building up our collection of books from the In the Footsteps of the Saints Series. Here are our new additions for the feasts of St. Patrick, St. Benedict, and St. Perpetua.

(Also available directly from Sacred Heart Books and Gifts)
(Also available directly from Sacred Heart Books and Gifts)

(Also available directly from Sacred Heart Books and Gifts)

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I just ordered a copy of this book so I haven't seen it in person yet, but I think it's going to be a fun addition to our collection. I plan to give it to the kids on St. Patrick's Day along with a couple other little treats. (Note: You can "Look Inside" on the Amazon page for the Kindle Edition.) 

The Wolf and the Shield: An Adventure with Saint Patrick
(Published by Pauline Books and Media) 
Kieran is braver and stronger than most eleven-year-old boys. And ever since his father's death, he's been doing his best to take care of his mother and little brother. In fifth-century Ireland, though, there aren't many options. When Kieran rescues a wolf pup and meets Saint Patrick, his choices become even more difficult. Should he leave home to join Carrick's warriors? Will someone discover the wolf he's been hiding and kill it? But the hardest question for Kieran to answer is the one Patrick had asked him on a moonlit night: What does your heart hunt for? Join Kieran as he cares for an orphaned wolf pup and searches for a shield strong enough to protect everything-and everyone-he loves. Filled with well-researched facts about the people, animals, and customs of fifth-century Ireland, The Wolf and the Shield is historical fiction for children ages 7-10. Exciting and fast-paced, this adventure novel explores what friendship with a saint might be like, showing Saint Patrick as approachable and understanding of the challenges of a young boy. The Wolf and the Shield: An Adventure with Saint Patrick will stimulate young imaginations to realize that the saints are holy but also human and approachable, and they are always good friends.

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There is a good chance that we will be spending St. Patrick's day on the road this year and I'm going to fill up a memory card with audio stories for the drive including Torch of Fire - St. Patrick from Regina Martyrum Productions!

Torch of Fire - St. Patrick 
(Audio Drama from Regina Martyrum Productions

This is the story of an apostle, chosen by Jesus Christ himself, who picked up the fiery torch of truth and bravely carried it into a land of utter darkness 400 years after Our Lord had risen from the dead. It was the land of Ireland and this magnificent man not only converted that whole country, but also kindled the fire so brightly that we still feel its warmth around the world today. This is a story of St. Patrick

Before I go I have a little gift to send one of my visitors for the upcoming feast of St. Patrick! Simply leave a comment on this post by next Saturday, March 6, 2016 and one commenter will be randomly chosen to receive Patrick: Brave Shepherd of the Emerald Isle (DVD) and St. Patrick (Tiny Saints).  I'll announce the winner in this post and also contact them by email next Sunday. 

Update: Thank you all for participating in this week's giveaway! Congratulations, Carrie!  

I'm still working on the list of books for this year's Easter Baskets, in addition to another basket of books to give away! In the meantime, you can find our complete list of books for the month of March here:

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Gospel Time Trekkers {Sponsored Review}

I'm working on the list of books that will be in this year's Easter Baskets and will try and post it here on the blog sometime soon. (You can find our 2013,  2014, and 2015 Baskets of Books for Easter in the archives.) In the meantime, here is a little sneak peek at some of the books that will be in one of the baskets! 

Catholic Child recently sent me the complete Gospel Time Trekkers series for review and I'm planning on giving at least a couple of them to our 8 year old next month for Easter.  

"Three ordinary kids, six extraordinary adventures, one incredible quest! The Gospel Time Trekkers series follows the adventures of three siblings as they travel back to Gospel times to find Jesus and learn to discover him in their everyday lives. This wonderful historical fiction series shares Christian faith and values in a creative way for today’s kids while remaining true to Bible culture and scholarship."

There are six books in the series: Shepherds to the RescueBraving the StormDanger at SeaMystery of the Missing Jars,  Courageous Quest, and Discovery at Dawn.   (All the previous links take you to the individual product pages over at Catholic Child.) 

Written by Sister Maria Grace, this series (similar to the Magic Tree House Books but Catholic!) is suggested for ages 6-9. Our 8 year old is already reading more advanced chapter books, but I think he is going to love this simply written but fun series. They will also make a great read-aloud, since he loves reading to his younger siblings and anyone else who will listen! ;) 

Purchase the whole series over at Catholic Child! Save 10-20% off all orders this weekend using the coupon code shared on their Facebook Page good through February 29, 2016.

P.S. While your over at Facebook be sure to like their page and enter their weekly giveaways each Wednesday to celebrate 20 years in business. I actually won the giveaway this past week! :)  

Looking for additional Easter Gift Ideas?  
Here's the link to last year's 100+ Easter Basket Stuffers and Catholic Gift Ideas!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Hearty Healing Beef Stew

I love beef stew and finally have a new favorite (grain and nightshade free!) recipe to replace my old favorite which is no longer on the list of foods I can eat.  

This stew is so nourishing and delicious! I discovered the recipe it in a cookbook I pre-ordered last December: The Healing Kitchen: 175+ Quick & Easy Paleo Recipes to Help You Thrive. This cookbook has been such a blessing and is really helping me add some variety to my diet! 

I decided to serve the "Hearty Healing Beef Stew" for the feast of St. Brigid (Feb. 1st) this year. St. Brigid is patroness of cattle (among many other things) and many miracles have been attributed to her that involve physical healing. This stew was perfect for her feast! 

St. Brigid Doll from Catholic Folk Toys

I have ended up serving this stew the last four Monday nights! The boys love arriving home from their late night hockey practices to some stew simmering on the stove. We rarely have any leftovers! 

I modified the original ingredients (serves 4 to 5) from The Healing Kitchen to make enough stew for our family of nine:

Hearty Healing Beef Stew

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 pounds beef stew meat
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 2 large yellow onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme (This time I used 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick (I am out so I used 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon) 
  • 2 (1-inch) pieces fresh orange peel
  • 8 cups Beef Broth 
  • 1 - 15 oz can Sweet Potato Puree
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 8-10 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (the first time I used 1 bag of Trader Joe's Carrots of Many Colors) 
  • 1 head of celery, chopped
  • 1-2 bunches of kale, chopped


Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the meat, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and brown on all sides for 8-10 minutes total, but avoid getting a crust on the outside.  (Make sure you scrape up all those caramelized brown bits from the bottom of your pot to give your stew a deep, rich flavor!)

Stir in the onion, thyme, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, orange peel, and remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until fragrant.

Add the broth, sweet potato puree, and wine to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover with a  lid, and cook for 1 hour.

Add the carrots and celery to the pot and return the stew to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for an additional 40 minutes. Add the chopped kale, submerging it in the liquid, and cook for 25 more minutes, until wilted and tender.  

Remove the bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and orange peel before serving. 

For the feast of St. Brigid, the girls also made our "St. Brigid's Cross Dinner Rolls" again this year to serve alongside the stew for the rest of the family who aren't on a grain-free diet. I love how they turn out!

Prayer to St. Brigid of Ireland

St. Brigid,
You were a woman of peace.
You brought harmony where there was conflict.
You brought light to the darkness.
You brought hope to the downcast.

May the mantle of your peace cover those who are troubled and anxious,
And may peace be firmly rooted in our hearts and in our world.
Inspire us to act justly and to reverence all God has made.

Brigid you were a voice for the wounded and the weary.
Strengthen what is weak within us.
Calm us into a quietness that heals and listens.
May we grow each day into greater wholeness in mind, body and spirit.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles {Sponsored Giveaway}

Happy Second Sunday of Lent! What a week. Lent has definitely arrived here in our home along with some extra little crosses to offer up this year including sick kiddos and even a broken tailbone... If I owe you an email, please forgive me. I haven't been spending very much time sitting at the computer and am falling behind again.

Anyway, I just announced the winners of last Sunday's giveaway (Congratulations to Kellie, Tiffany, and Courtney! I'll be sending you individual emails soon.) and I have another giveaway for you all today. This one is sponsored by De Montfort Music and perfect for the rest of the Lenten season and the upcoming Easter season! 


This week one of my visitors here at Shower of Roses will WIN two soul inspiring CDs from the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles: Lent at Ephesus and Easter at Ephesus! 

I have posted about these beautiful CDs in the past and they are definitely favorites in our home. They also make excellent Easter gifts and were included in last year's 100+ Easter Basket Stuffers and Catholic Gift Ideas

This giveaway will remain open through Saturday, February 27, 2016. The winner will be announced in this post and contacted by email on Sunday, February 28th. 

Please enter the giveaway using the Rafflecopter box below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Lent at Ephesus and Easter at Ephesus are available from Amazon.
You can also order them directly from the sisters

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Thor's Hammer :: An Avenger Themed Birthday Cake

As I mentioned over at Instagram, this cake wasn't one of my best, but considering I hadn't even come up with a theme until the night before, I was really excited with how the birthday party came together! Even though the cake didn't turn out exactly like I originally envisioned, it really did turn out neat and was a definitely a hit with the birthday boy and the rest of my family. Thank you all for the sweet comments as well! 

Here's what I used: 
  • 2 - 8" chocolate cakes
  • chocolate frosting
  • Oreo Cookies
  • Candy Melts (Light Cocoa, White and Black)
  • Silver Sugar Sheet (leftover from the Hockey Jersey Birthday Cake
  • 1 Batch of Rice Krispie Treats (3 TBS Butter, 40 large marshmallows, 6 cups Rice Krispies - Melt butter in large saucepan over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.) 

While I baked the cake I had a couple helpers making the Rice Krispie Treats which I planned to use to mold into the hammer for on top of the cake. 

With buttered hands we shaped a rectangular block for the hammer head and then a roll for the handle. We had the equivalent of one or two treats leftover for my helpers to sample. ;) 

This is what happens when you forget to "cool completely" before trying to frost the cake... Whoops!

After it had a chance to finish cooling, I cut a chunk out of the top of the cake to sit the hammer down into for stability, added a little of the trimmed cake to one side to create a bit of a mound, and then added the rest of the frosting. 

One of the girls crushed about six or seven Oreos to place on the top and all around the base of the cake. Not only did it taste great (according to my family) it also helped disguise the horrible job I did with the frosting!

Fondant would have probably worked so much better, but I was trying to use up some of the decorating supplies I had in the cupboard. I mixed some white and black candy melts to create gray for the hammerhead and then used light cocoa for the handle. It was so hard to get it to look smooth over the Rice Krispies, plus I was in a hurry so I didn't spend that much time on it either. I then used some strips of the silver sugar sheet to wrap around the handle and cover the end.  Once it had a chance to dry we placed in on top of the cake. All done! 

You can see the rest of the party here:

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Little Flower: A Parable of St. Thérèse of Liseux {Sponsored Review & Giveaway}

Happy First Sunday of Lent and Feast of St. Valentine to all my visitors here at Shower of Roses! We are heading out to my parents to celebrate my brother's birthday (he was born on St. Valentine's day 26 years ago today) but first I wanted to share a new picture book from Peanut Butter & Grace with you all...

"Becky Arganbright has adapted St. Thérèse’s lesson of the little flowers into a delightful parable for children. The young Thérèse learns that even though she might be little, with God’s help, her littleness can be a way of doing great things for God."

I've been looking for books to include in our children's Easter Baskets next month and am excited to add this parable of St. Thérèse and her "Little Way" to our youngest daughter's basket, especially since she is named after this beloved saint.

The inspiring book is filled with beautiful watercolor illustrations and will make a lovely addition to our collection of children's books about dear St. Thérèse!

The Little Flower: A Parable of St. Thérèse of Liseux is available directly from the publishers
You can also order the Hardcover, Softcover or Kindle editions over at Amazon. 

.: Giveaway :.

Peanut Butter & Grace has generously offered to send THREE of my visitors a softcover edition of The Little Flower: A Parable of St. Thérèse of Liseux! The winners will be selected and announced in this post next Sunday. The books will be shipped to the winners directly from Peanut Butter & Grace.

Please enter the giveaway using the Rafflecopter box below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, February 13, 2016

No Greater Love - The Story of St. Valentine

"Searching for the perfect Valentine's Day gift for a loved one? Whether it be your spouse, a friend or your children, you need look no further than this inspiring and heartwarming story about the saint whose self-sacrificing love and message of giving has come down through nearly 17 centuries and remembered every February 14th – Saint Valentine himself.

How this obscure Roman priest and martyr, who neither courted nor married, became the patron saint of lovers has led to many stories and legends about him. Yet this well-researched and magnificently produced play portrays Saint Valentine as he surely must have been – a humble, kind and selfless follower of Christ whose charity always sought out those who needed it most. Young and old alike will be both entertained and edified by this heroic story. Indeed a gift worth giving!"

Regina Martyrum Productions just released the story of St. Valentine - No Greater Love! I'm hoping to download it tonight so we can listen to it during our drive to Mass in the morning. 

Right now you can buy his story plus one other of your choice for only $20 using coupon code "VALENTINE" at checkout!

I hope you all have a very happy St. Valentine's Day! 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Marvel's Avengers :: Thor Birthday Party

Yesterday we celebrated Ranger's 14th birthday! FOURTEEN!!! Didn't he just turn seven?!? They are sure growing up fast, but I am really enjoying this new season of family life with teens. Our older boys are turning into such amazing young men!

The birthday boy didn't have any special requests this year so we actually weren't going to do a theme, maybe just take him somewhere special, but I changed my mind at the last minute and decided to "Assemble" an Avenger's themed party, focusing on Thor, inspired by his graham cracker creation this past New Year's Eve!

Saturday was packed with hockey games, practice, and lessons from 8am-3pm then my husband and I attended a dinner/fundraiser for our parish's home for homeless pregnant and parenting teens from 5pm-10:30pm, but we were able to stop at the store for some supplies before driving home. Surprisingly it all came together and ended up being a perfect theme for our teen!

.: pop•tarts :.

I asked our oldest son if he had any suggestions for Thor... He replied, "Ummmm, Pop-Tarts?"  Great idea! We don't usually buy Pop-Tarts (when I buy toaster pastries I opt for the Nature's Path or Trader Joe's brands) but we went with official Pop-Tarts for the birthday boy.  Sean picked out the S'mores flavor and it was a hit.  The birthday boy found the box on the kitchen counter in the morning along with a quote from the movie. Even though the "entire box" was for him, he still shared some of them with his siblings!

.: "This Drink... I like it!" :. 


After Mass we came home and I got started baking the cake and pulling together some other fun treats for the day while the older boys played Marvel Super Heroes on the Wii.  Just before dinner Sean drove him back to town for his free birthday coffee. Thor really liked coffee, right? ;) 

.: Avengers Popcorn Bar :. 

I decided to put together a snack and popcorn bar for our movie night, incorporating popcorn add-ins for each of the various Avengers!

I made up some food labels on the computer while the cake was baking and Chiquita drew some images to add as well!  (She also printed and colored the birthday card pictured on the table next to his cake!) 

Avengers Popcorn Add-Ins:

Thor's Hammer: Silver Marshmallows with Pretzel Sticks (or just use marshmallows for hammerheads) 
Black Widow Bites: Dark Chocolate Pomegranate Flavor
Nick Fury's Eye Patch: York Minis
Iron Man's Arc Reactors: Twizzler Mixed Berry Bites (I was trying to avoid food coloring as much as possible, but couldn't get to the health food store late Saturday night for Raspberry Chews...)
Hawk Eye's Bow and Arrows: Flipz Milk Chocolate Covered Pretzels
Captain America's Shield: Little Secret's Milk Chocolates with Mini Marshmallows (Not cheap, but they make my daughter, who is allergic to Red40, very happy!)

And just for fun: Avenger's Cheeze-Its

.: Avengers Assemble Pizza Party :.

A google image search provides tons of inspiration for Avengers themed party foods! I decided, for our teen's birthday, to go with pizza.

I picked up six frozen cheese pizzas, a package of pepperoni, and some veggies Saturday night and they came together quick and easy on Sunday afternoon! The birthday boy was so surprised when he arrived home from getting his coffee to see them all assembled. I did have some help!

Avengers Logo Pizza: Pepperoni, sliced into strips and arranged on pizza

Captain America's Shield Pizza: Pepperoni and Star Shaped Slice of Cheese

Thor's Hammer Pizza: Red & Yellow Frozen Peppers and three slices of Turkey Lunch Meat (Canadian Bacon would have probably worked better, but we had this in the fridge and the kids loved it!) 

Incredible Hulk Pizza: Lots of Green Veggies (we used broccoli, green pepper, green onions, asparagus, and sliced brussels sprouts) 

Black Widow Pizza: Sliced Black Olives and a slice from the end of a vine ripened tomato

Iron Man Pizza: Pepperoni, extra cheddar cheese, two slices of mushrooms

.: Thor's Hammer Birthday Cake :. 

“Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.”

The cake wasn't as easy to make as I thought it would be. The cake itself was fine, but that hammer... I should have just had Ranger make me another one out of graham crackers!

Update: Thor's Hammer :: An Avenger Themed Birthday Cake

I was going to grab some "Java Thunder" ice cream, since Thor (that hammer-wielding god associated with thunder) liked coffee so much, but the store was out so we went with "Chocolate Brownie Thunder" instead.

Rose practiced playing "Happy Birthday" on her harp all last week in preparation for her big brothers birthday, and he got all those candles out in just one try. 

.: Birthday Gifts :. 

Homemade cards and book markers from his siblings, a card/gift from Sean's parents, a gift certificate for an hour long golf lesson from my parents, a new track jacket (Costco has a great deal on these - Captain has the Dark Gray and we got Ranger the Gray), the complete trilogy of The Hobbit (Extended Edition), and lots of LEGO... He was pretty excited!

I had purchased The Louvre last Thanksgiving during a Barnes & Noble sale and ended up not needing it for Christmas. Ranger loves the Architecture series and this will be another great addition to his collection.

For nearly a year I have been searching for an inexpensive replacement set of The Battle of Helm's Deep. It has always been one of his favorite LEGO sets but he used it as the base of the cathedral he is building, not thinking that it was going to turn into such an extensive project and that he may not want to take the cathedral apart, at least not for quite some time. I finally found a set of just the bricks (no mini-figures, etc) for a great price on ebay. Hopefully they are all there... I guess we'll see!  (I love Captain's smile in this picture... He had helped me search for this particular gift. He did not, however, have any clue about the next gift!) 

Ranger's last gift was an even bigger surprise. It was another amazing deal I found last year, this one from Amazon, for a "like new but damaged box" LEGO Tower of Orthanac! He now has plenty of bricks to keep him busy for a long time at least another week or so... maybe a little longer due to the boy's full high school and hockey schedule! Now if I could just find a great deal on some gray roof tiles for that cathedral.... ;)

Happy 14th Birthday!