Posted by: ourbakersdozen | January 9, 2018

Throw Back Tuesday

tea time in teh trees Ben and Noah April 2004

Tea Time In The Tree

This is one of my most favorite pictures ever. Though to be honest, if I had known their intent when these two boys slipped outside with tea mugs in their hands, followed by their younger sister with a camera – this picture would never have existed.  The boys were about 17 and 18, their photographer was just going on 16. All of them old enough to know better. 

Posted by: ourbakersdozen | January 4, 2018

Introducing Sadie and Basil…

… the two dogs responsible for the purchase of the original power tool that began the equivalent of the industrial revolution in our lives.

Sadie and Basil collage take 2


It was in April of 2013 that we adopted those two fools puppies who grew almost overnight into handsome and rather large dogs. They are two of the loveliest dogs we have ever had the privilege of  knowing. (Though they are still pretty foolish!)


goofy dogs cropped

As I mentioned in an earlier post – we were never able to convince either of these two to use that blasted dog house, though to be honest, Basil did on occasion use it as a prop. On very rainy days he would lean against his large waterproof domicile and stare at the back door.  Despite having a lovely porch on the front of said sturdy building – Basil inevitably sat in the mud while pulling his sad face. Yet sunny days would find him  sleeping on this same porch…

I don’t know – perhaps they were just too spoiled to appreciate the lovely outdoor home we had built them, preferring instead to snooze here:



Posted by: ourbakersdozen | January 2, 2018

Undergoing life changes …

In August of 2012 we closed on the house we are currently residing in. Cecilia was on the cusp of turning four and Elsa was only seven. Today Elsa is twelve and Cecilia just turned nine. However, they are not the only ones to have grown and changed in the past couple of years. Our house has undergone many changes as well.  floors vintageWe have taken down a wall, built kitchen cabinets, laid new flooring and installed marble tile as a countertop. My husband has learned how to repair electrical sockets that were installed backwards as well as how to put in ceiling fans.

The confidence to approach these many physical changes to our home all began with 2 dogs, and a circular saw. What, you may ask, do those two things have in common?

Well – the dogs needed a doghouse and that required a circular saw. And just as when you give a mouse a cookie – if you give a man a circular saw he inevitably needs a table saw and then a scroll saw which leads to a router and so on. Today we have a well equipped workshop and are rapidly expanding our skills and our list of completed projects is growing continuously.

This bench is one of our most recent projects. It was a Christmas gift for our son and  daughter in law and their kids are already enjoying it.



Not very long after our original project of the dog house (which was long ago upcycled into a chicken coop as the dogs refused to use it) my husband learned how to make these:

Aimee's Christmas box 2017


If you would like to see more of the amazing things we are crafting be sure to drop back in now and again.  You can also see some of our other beautiful wood pieces on our instagram account  the elysiansmiths.  Until then our family wishes you and yours a very Merry Christmas and prosperous New Year!




Posted by: ourbakersdozen | November 28, 2016

Advent is officially here!

And I am so not prepared. Largely because the past week has been spent getting ready for thanksgiving which was then usurped by a stomach flu that took over the festivities on Thanksgiving night. Right after a lovely feast of turkey and all the traditional sides. I’ll spare you the details.

Through all of that, I little felt like climbing into the attic and digging out the tree along with all of our advent decorations that we have used to create a lovely vision of purple and pink the past 7 years. It’s possible that our Advent wreath on the front door is up only because I never took it down last year


So… what to do? I’m still in no shape to pull the tree down for the attic and while my husband finally has his 1979 Ford 150 running after he and one of our sons pulled the engine apart and largely rebuilt it over the past 6 weeks and thus could maybe pick up a live tree with it… I’m really still not ready. There is the question of moving furniture about once we actually have a tree. So what to do so as to create a peaceful atmosphere of prayer and anticipation of the Christ child’s re-birth in our hearts on Christmas day?

I am going to focus on the interior preparation – something I usually feel I have failed in despite all of the external trappings I arrange about the house. Advent chains, advent wreaths and candles, jesse trees, calendars and so on. I scurry about trying to keep all of these things up to date and on track but by Christmas Eve I feel anything but peaceful. Mostly I feel like a fraud and a failure.

Is anyone identifying with this?

Well, this year I have joined an online retreat being guided by John Paul and Annie of and I’m really hoping that it will help me to feel prepared for the celebration of Christ’s birth this time around. I’d prefer not to feel so empty and frazzled. And with 13 children and nine grands chances are I will still feel somewhat frazzled come the 24th but hopefully with the help of the 6 speakers who are participating in this retreat I won’t feel so empty.

From John Paul and Annie’s own description look at what this retreat encompasses:

The Pray More Retreat is an online retreat to help you spend more time in prayer this Advent to prepare to celebrate the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

If you sign up for the retreat, you will receive:

+ 20 Video & Audio Presentations with Transcripts, and

+ 20 Reflective Study Guides – one for each talk

We know how busy you are 🙂 That’s why the retreat is self-paced; that means you can watch, listen or read the presentations whenever you have the time to do it.

SELF PACED! And downloadable talks with transcripts meaning not only can I listen when it works for me but I can re-listen as well as listen on the go! But don’t take my word for it – check it out here!

I’ll be sure to let you all know how it’s going and when we finally get our Advent tree up I’ll post a picture of it. This year will be the first time we won’t have Gabriela here to help put it up since we began with the Advent tree back in 2009. (Hopefully I won’t cry. I’ve cried a lot since she left for her formation training in Wisconsin at the Mater Redemptoris House of Formation.)

I’ll leave you with a rather fuzzy photo of our first Advent tree that we created in 2010. We actually bought white lights and patiently coloured the majority of them purple and some pink with permanent markers. We have since found actual purple lights and have steadily grown our collection of purple and pink bulbs and decorations.


Our first Advent tree!


Posted by: ourbakersdozen | November 6, 2016

How Many Days until Advent???

Can you believe it’s only 20 days until the first Sunday in Advent? If you don’t believe me – just go here and see for yourself! (Keep in mind once this date arrives this link will not work correctly anymore.)

Anyhoo – given Advent is so close I decided to link to a post, Advent and 7 Quick Takes that I wrote 2 years ago for Catholic Sistas, that was all about ways to celebrate Advent with your family.

Here is a little taste of what I wrote:

Quick Take onehow many days are there again until Christmas? One of my favorite ways of counting down till that ‘last big sleep’ is with what our family fondly calls the Advent Chain! There are so many variations you can do with this simple craft. We cut out several strips of paper – typically from purple and pink construction paper. However, if you don’t have that, no worries – just improvise. Use whatever scrap paper that’s lying around or grab a cheap pack of printing paper from a dollar store. Don’t even BREATH the words pink and purple if you go that route and your kids will be none the wiser! We typically make one chain per younger child so that every day of Advent EACH child can pull one loop off the chain. No arguing, errr, trying to remember whose turn it is. A nice twist to this activity is to have each child write something on each loop of the chain before you glue (or staple) the loops into a chain. They can write a sacrifice they are willing to make, a person or cause they want to offer their day up for, no sweets that day, etc.

One of the reasons that I like the idea of using a paper chain is that as the children watch their chain get shorter and shorter, we can remind them that we are getting closer and closer to the birth of the saviour who was born to save us from the bondage of sin.

The last thing that I enjoy about this chain is that it is completely adaptable to the number of days in Advent and if, for some reason, you start late (I heard that thunk as you fell down!)  – just adjust the chain to reflect the number of days left to count down to Christmas.”

If you enjoyed reading that post – please be sure to share it with others and if you have any great traditional ways that you use to celebrate Advent be sure share them below in the comments.

I will finish with a lovely vision of pink that was posted on my original blog, Mum2twelve.



Posted by: ourbakersdozen | October 27, 2016

7QT for the Jubilee Year of Mercy

QUICK TAKE ONE: The doors of Mercy will soon close. Sunday  November 20th, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe , is the day the Vatican will close it’s doors of mercy. Why is that important? Is not Christ’s mercy always available? YES! ALWAYS! But in this past year His mercy has been available in a way typically only offered through the church once every 50 years. But Pope Francis felt called to offer this indulgence just 16 years after the last time St John Paul II offered it in 2000.



This site offers an excellent explanation and the history behind the Jubilee year of Mercy which is recorded all the way back to the days of Moses in the Old Testament. There is even an embeded video of Pope Francis opening the doors of Mercy last year on December 8th.

QUICK TAKE TWO What is different from the past Jubilee Years of Mercy? Something incredibly significant.  For the first time ever, Catholics do not need to make a pilgrimage to Europe and enter through one of the three sets of doors of Mercy found in Rome to receive this indulgence. (The other doors which are opened only after the ones of St Peter’s are opened are found at these three major basilicas: St John in the Lateran, St Paul Outside the Wall and St Mary Major.) Instead Pope Francis has given permission to the Bishops of every diocese in the world to chose not just one set of Doors of Mercy but several within their jurisdictions.

QUICK TAKE THREE: Ok, just what is the indulgence associated with the Doors of Mercy and why should you care?  “For the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Holy Father has announced a plenary indulgence for all who make a visit to the Holy Doors established in every cathedral in the world, as well as in other churches designated by the local bishop.” (emphasis is mine but the quote is from the Diocese of Charlotte, NC as found on the site for St Patrick’s Cathedral)

For those rusty on just what an indulgence is let me quote once more from this site.

“During the Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis has declared that there will be a special Jubilee Indulgence which all of the faithful may receive. An indulgence is the remission of the temporal punishment due to sins which have been forgiven. Sin has both eternal and temporal consequences. In confession, the eternal consequences are forgiven, but the damage we have done to ourselves and to others here on earth remains, and God asks us to assist him in making amends. When we cooperate with God in doing good works and offering up our sufferings, we are purified from the residue of sin. If we die without being completely purified, God, in his mercy, allows us to complete our purification in purgatory. An indulgence is exactly what its name implies. It is God the Father, through the Church, being indulgent with his children. To receive the Jubilee Indulgence one must make a brief pilgrimage to a Holy Door & perform a spiritual or corporal work of mercy.”


QUICK TAKE FOUR: How do I find out where the doors of Mercy are in my Diocese

To locate Doors of Mercy within the United States go here.

Within Canada go here.

To locate them within other countries throughout the world go here.

QUICK TAKE FIVE: What do I have to do to receive this indulgence? Again, because the website for St Patrick’s does such a good job explaining all of this I will simply quote what they have explained:

“The Holy Father wrote that the requirements for receiving the Holy Door indulgence are as follows:  “To experience and obtain the Indulgence, the faithful are called to make a brief pilgrimage to the Holy Door, open in every Cathedral or in the churches designated by the Diocesan Bishop, and in the four Papal Basilicas in Rome, as a sign of the deep desire for true conversion….  It is important that this moment be linked, first and foremost, to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist with a reflection on mercy. It will be necessary to accompany these celebrations with the profession of faith and with prayer for [the Pope] and for the intentions that [he] bear[s] in [his] heart for the good of the Church and of the entire world.” So to receive the indulgence, one must:

  1. Visit the Holy Doors in one of the designated churches with a desire for true conversion.
  2. Be free from any attachment to sin (even venial sin)
  3. Go to Confession within 20 days of visiting the Holy Doors
  4. Receive Holy Communion 
  5. Pray for the intentions of the Holy Father (an Our Father and Hail Mary will suffice)
  6. Make an Profession of Faith (i.e., pray the Creed)
  7. Make a reflection on mercy (e.g., praying a Chaplet of Divine Mercy)”

QUICK TAKE SIX: Why didn’t I write about this sooner? Good question. I am slightly embarrassed to say that until I attended the annual Eucharistic Congress this fall I simply had not heard about it which given that I not only attend Sunday Mass on a regular basis but often attend daily Mass is dumbfounding.  But to be honest – I don’t think we are alone in this situation. In fact when I first began to research it – I found it appalling how few church websites make any mention of it. A few have created a fount of information – our local Cathedral as an example. Yet, others don’t even make a passing mention of it. Last but not least – when I learned about it in SEPTEMBER, (yes, September. I’m sorry that so many opportunities were lost for those who could have stumbled upon my blog and read about these Holy Doors sooner) I came home on fire to write about this magnificent opportunity for grace, forgiveness and mercy. I did a great amount of research and reached out to one of my editors for Catholic Online magazine I have been writing for the past two years who agreed this would be a good post to have. However, literally the day I sat down to write this post – I experienced such physical pain in my arms that typing became almost impossible.  I was literally unable to type for several weeks.  Finally I am healed enough to be able to type again.

QUICK TAKE SEVEN  Where can you learn more about all of this: Well, I will list a few resources I came across when researching about this when I first heard about it.

Official Website for the Jubilee Year of Mercy for 2016.

The Holy Doors has great information and several videos.

Here is one of the videos  found at the above referenced link which explains beautiful the Holy Doors and how they are a metaphor for Christ whom we go through into salvation.  Please take time to view this video. It’s short (2 minutes), simple yet profound.

The Holy Father’s Announcement of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

Here is a segment from his announcement:

I am confident that the whole Church, which is in such need of mercy for we are sinners, will be able to find in this Jubilee the joy of rediscovering and rendering fruitful God’s mercy, with which we are all called to give comfort to every man and every woman of our time. Do not forget that God forgives all, and God forgives always. Let us never tire of asking forgiveness. Let us henceforth entrust this Year to the Mother of Mercy, that she turn her gaze upon us and watch over our journey: our penitential journey, our year-long journey with an open heart, to receive the indulgence of God, to receive the mercy of God.”

But what if you have stumbled upon this too late to participate in a pilgrimage to a set of Doors of Mercy near you? Don’t despair. As I said in my first quick take – God’s mercy is never ending and there are many ways we can partake of it. Our family – as well as planning a pilgrimage through one of the sets of doors within our parish within the next two weeks, will soon start working our way through the 33 days to Merciful Love a DIY retreat written by Fr. Michael E. Gaitley, MIC.

While the 33 days to Merciful Love is considered a sequel to the 33 days to Morning Glory a Consecration of oneself to Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary – it’s not necessary that one complete 33 days of Morning Glory retreat before completing the 33 days to Merciful Love. Keep in mind though that Father Gainly does recommend doing both so as to be able to “drink from it (the fountain of Christ’s Mercy) so much more deeply and easily.

So, as you can see – if you arrive on this post only to discover you missed the opportunity to complete a pilgrimage to the Doors of Mercy – there are still so many ways to experience God’s bountiful mercy.

I would like to close by sharing the link to the incredibly moving and beautiful hymn of mercy written for the Year of Mercy.

Be sure to mosey on over to This Ain’t the Lyceum, eh? That’s where the 7QT’s are hosted, after all!



Posted by: ourbakersdozen | October 25, 2016

If a picture is worth a thousand words…

what is a collage worth?


look for more beautiful pictures from a week on the beach to come…

Here is just a tease:


Posted by: ourbakersdozen | October 25, 2016

Where Did the first Half of October go?

Well – I think it disappeared down in a hole somewhere and there were moments when I felt I had fallen down in behind it and if I hadn’t, perhaps I should.
Seriously though – it’s been a busy couple of weeks for us. The BIG trip was looming in front of us – complete with the sale of our big old 15 passenger van with which I felt like an era in my life was closing. Then there was the purchase of Hugo’s sixtieth birthday gift – a 1979 Ford Ranger. It is a looker, I tell you. Despite needing a paint job the current paint looks great. It arrived sounding really good but on its first job – it started coughing and knocking so it appears that it will need a bit more work than Ben and Hugo thought it would when they picked it out.


We began October with hurricane Matthew teasing us the last two weeks before the trip. Nathaniel was following his progress long before the rest of us were giving it serious consideration. Eventually though Matthew developed enough fury the rest of us started paying attention and all of us  shared a collective sigh of relief over the fact that we had purchased trip insurance. Still we watched it nervously, at times holding our breath as Matthew continued to veer north  with a westward slant to his trail. He actually fooled us into thinking he was going to miss North Carolina altogether but in the end we received the blunt hit with all the damage and loss of life Florida (all the US Media) was poised to receive.
So began the hours of waiting to hear if the house we had rented was damaged, or even still standing. We did not truly believe the latter scenario but the first one – very much so. Multiple times several of us agreed the trip was toast while a couple of members of the family staunchly held onto hope. Myself, I was resigned to the possibility of the trip being a no go and began to research how one applied for their refund and even dreamed a little about how I would spend it – maybe a few more books for my school library, a jump start on Christmas and a big dinner out with the whole family were a few of my ideas.
We finally heard from the rental company that the house was indeed not damaged, not even a tiny bit and then began the agonizing watch of the slowly receding  water that made every possible path to the islands impassable. Almost all of the islands remained under evacuation notice as well, lending credence to my plans for the refund.We were, by then, only 5 days from our date of departure.
Day by day, one road at a time opened until finally on Wednesday learned that our Island was open and we were 99.5% certain the trip was on. So I began an accelerated planning and packing spree and had a very clear plan of action in my head.
All this was thwarted Wednesday evening, however. I had just placed on a burner the homemade soup Hugo had once more painstakingly transformed out of a pile of turkey bones and was looking with Elsa for one of her blouses we had purchased for the trip. Hugo and Nathaniel were working on repairing the temporary window replacement we had fashioned last year when the original one fell out and shattered. Elsa remembered her blouse was probably in the back of the minivan so she whisked outside while I continued to search through clutter in her bedroom.
I heard Hugo calling me and I met him in the bedroom hallway and calmly but with an air of distress about him – he explained how Elsa had accidently closed the mini van door on Nathaniel’s hand. I took one look at his hand and immediately knew a trip to the ER was a necessary evil that about to rob me of a night or prep. (Needless to say… the soup I had placed earlier on the stove – burned.)

There is a merciful God and he blessed us this night with low volume and quick turnover in the ER despite the bizarre fact of a band of Brownies touring the ER…. I mean, who thinks of the ER as a field trip option? So within three hours, Nathaniel and I were celebrating our good luck that we were not looking at surgery to repair a busted knuckle but I was worried about whether we would be able to squeeze a visit to the Ortho in time to be able to leave with the rest of the family for the OBX. Once again the trip was in danger… but only for our portion of the family intended to go on this first family beach vacation in 18 years.

And then there was a matter of what does a 16 yr old do at the beach with a cast on his hand.



Thankfully we were able to purchase and over night a splint that was approved by his orthopedist and could get wet!  Outer Banks – here we come!

Posted by: ourbakersdozen | September 20, 2016

If a Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words…

What is a collage worth?

This does not even come close to capturing the memories of 2016. I don’t think it’s even possible to compress a year of a family the size of ours within a collage but I think I hit on most of the highlights…



This year we squeezed into the very short span of four weeks: a birthday, mother’s day, a baptism, 2 First Holy Communions and a graduation. All of which our eldest daughter flew across the pond to celebrate with us. I also slipped in a touch of Easter, a few pieces of Christmas, our 9th child leaving for college, our fifth child leaving for the beginning of her life as a religious as well as a wedding, the newest grandchild and  some just plain old fun moments.

I’ll share later about the difficulties of adjusting to having a child leave to pursue the vocation Jesus has called her to after she has been your partner in menu planning, cooking, household chores and homeschooling for 5 years.  I’ll also share with you the challenges of learning to cook for only 7 people after 2 decades of cooking for at least a dozen. I can now identify with my older children who often complained to me about the hardships of living off of leftovers every time they cooked for their 2 to 3 roommates after years of cooking for a large family. Trust me I have been swamped with leftovers!

Posted by: ourbakersdozen | August 24, 2016

Daily Reflections

August 24th 2016

When the moderators in a private prayer group that I belong to asked if a few of us would be willing to do write a reflection on the daily readings a few times a week – I volunteered to take on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I’ve recently stepped back from writing the monthly 7QT for Catholic Sista’s and so I thought it would be good to keep my hand at some regular writing and better yet – I would have to read the bible…. at least 3 times a week. I don’t know about you but I have found it hard to commit to reading the bible daily. Like many others – I do not necessarily feel God’s real presence when I tackle that black print on the white page but as Jem Sullivan Phd (catechist & author) shares in this reflection on the USCCB site, if we approach God’s word again and again He WILL reveal himself.

The LORD is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth. Psalm 145:17-18

And therein lies the key – we can only hope to come to know God ‘calling on Him‘ regularly. That is something I fail to do beyond Sunday Mass and sometimes attending Holy Hour, sometimes daily Mass and trying to pray daily. There are many ways, of course, of spending time with God and seeking his presence. Prayer, Adoration, Mass; all of these afford us entrance to God. But – really the easiest way is through reading His word. We don’t even have to leave the house to do this. Why then do I find it so difficult? I’m not going to try to answer that question yet and instead, like my decision to start blogging again, I’m just going to jump right in. This challenge to write three times a week about the daily readings is the perfect means to do so. There are so many resources available online. For now I am finding the USCCB site for daily readings to be a great place to start. The videos you can see to the right of the (USCCB) daily readings offer a personal look into one of the daily readings with some inspiration for reflection.

While I may not immediately feel God’s presence in His Word, I know that just by taking the time, I can trust that He is near and that He is always revealing himself to those who seek Him. By spending this time in reflection each week, I am hoping that I will become more open to His presence everywhere in my life.

If any of you have some favorite resources online or otherwise that you use to study the word of God please share them in the comments.

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