Category Archives: Quick Takes

Picturing Parties, Peacocks & the Perfect Beach Day

Just another week in Brelinskyville I say. And by that I mean: traveling to celebrate our first graduate, hosting 86 of the world’s most awesome party guests, a stray peacock, field tripping to the beach and an extra blessing to count.

1. I’ve already gushed HERE over my very first home school graduate, but now I’ve actually got the pictures to document the achievement. We opted to enroll our high schoolers in Seton Home Study, so my son was eligible to participate in a graduation ceremony in VA. What a thrill to be among 100+ other graduates (from all over the country and one who came all the way from the Philippines) and those were just the graduates who chose to attend the event. 

I can’t say enough about how well Seton met our needs as a family and prepared my son for his future as an intelligent adult and a Catholic capable of defending his beliefs. Quite frankly, while I knew I would stay the course throughout my son’s high school education, I was somewhat intimidated and overwhelmed at the prospect of having to calculate his credits, double-check his requirements and create his transcript. Enter Seton where they do all of that and more. Four years and three high schoolers later, I am satisfied that we made the right choice and the tuition is worth every penny.

Class of 2014

Jude’s First Holy Communion
Sebastian’s Confirmation

2. When we throw a party, we like to really throw a party! Years ago we decided to host big, all-inclusive, family-sized shin-digs. When the oldest two were little I did the kids’ only, themed birthday parties (think Veggie Tale donuts, pirate treasure hunts and paper mache pinatas) complete with preplanned games and a gift unwrapping break. However, as the size of our brood increased that plan seemed less than ideal and honestly kind of un-fun for the adults and siblings. I mean hosting 8 birthday soirees would book up our whole summer and fall (since our bdays span from March to September). So the big bash idea sprang up and we’ve been sticking with it ever since. Now the kids entertain one another (no need for me to orchestrate games) and no one is left out since there is a least one (or six) somebodies your age to hang with. Moms and dads are then free to enjoy the company of other adults since the kiddos are so busy together. Of course, being southerners and all potluck is the way to go. This cuts down on expense and allows friends to share something rather than feeling obliged to bring gifts.  

This go around we and 76 of our friends and family spent the afternoon together celebrating this year’s sacraments and milestones (with a confirmation, communion and graduation in one spring there was oh so much to celebrate).

Kevin (named in honor of the bird from UP)

3.  Okay, so normal people might happen across a stray kitty or puppy, right? But here in B-ville we find ourselves adopted by a stray peacock! No, really, a peacock literally flew into our field of fowl and he’s decided (against our best efforts to discourage him) to make this home. Occasionally, he perches on our high roof, but most of the time he sits near the hens that he is trying so very hard to impress. Quite comical, when the hens walk passed he fans out his tail feathers and shakes them ever so purposefully whilst turning slowly so as to remain within 

the hen’s line of sight. The chickens (like innocent, college girls in a frat house) don’t quite understand his oh-so-subtle flirtations (or they’re just not interested in inter-species romance). If the girls here aren’t diggin’ him, I guess he’s decided the food makes up for it. Anyone got any peacock tips?

Mr. B and the sea

4. How is it that a whole year has slipped by since I carried my big bellied self to the beach? Well, it has and it was high time to soak in some RR on the coast of NC. A more perfect beach day we couldn’t have prayed for (okay well the freezing cold water may have been a deterent for some of us but as you can see from the pics the kids numbed up fast enough to enjoy the chilly waters) as the temperature was warm but not sweat-worthy, the life guards were on duty, the parking lot was nearly empty and the sky maintained its Carolina blue.

We barely even bothered with the radio as the soothing sounds of the waves were enough to captivate our attention. God also graced us with just enough wind to lift our kite, but not so much as to require us to wrap up in towels for comfort. The coast takes a bit of navigating for our crew since we live a few hours from it, but as always the day trip gave us that little timeout we all needed.

5. Putting this post together, I have to admit my shame in adding this last thought. Just across the way from our favorite beach spot is the Bodie Island lighthouse, so this trip we decided to check it out (not sure why we hadn’t in the past). Happy to have arrived an hour before its closing, we filed out of the van and began snapping pictures. A tour guide was about to usher in a new group and she advised that we’d need to purchase tickets inside to join the next grouping. Unfortunately, once inside we realized the pricing was too far outside of our tight budget, so we had to settle for looking at the curator’s picture book of the lighthouse interior. 

Glad for the portrait view, I was internally bemoaning. Our budget is more often than not tight, but I hate saying no again and again. I wanted to say, “Yes. We’ll take ten tickets!” I wanted my kids to race up the spiral staircase, to peer out from the top, to imprint a lasting memory, but thoughtful planning dictated that we needed to forgo this expense as our traveling is not yet complete for the summer. 

How silly I feel now for my ingratitude as I detail the abundance of blessings that have been poured forth these last few weeks. So what that we missed the spiral stairs in that black and white structure we’ve witnessed sacraments, welcomed loved ones, met new friends, experienced unfamiliar settings and stored up an ample cache of mental souvenirs. 

Once again, this domestic church I call home succeeds in raising my eyes upward.

7 Quick Takes: A PSA, a home remedy, DYI, a library must-have & the Big Fibber

                                                 My Public Service Announcement

Well, after Pio’s accident I was freaking out about our basement door. Every time I turned around someone was forgetting to close it inspiring nightmarish visions of a repeat performance. I made three trips to two different big name hardware stores and purchased two different door closing devices, but all that merited us were holes in the door.

My mother owns a rental building and the law in her state requires that all the entrance and exit doors from each apartment close automatically, so I knew there was a simple device to accomplish the mission of kid-proofing our doors. Thankfully, my husband put an end to my city by city wide search and found the solution on Amazon. This simple spring fits over your existing hinge (no holes required) and voila!

Now the basement door closes magically as soon as you let it go. It works so well we added one of these awesome springs to our mud room door (now the dog can’t push it open every five minutes) and to the back door. My kids may still act like they live in a barn, but now at least the barn doors get closed.

                                                            My Home Remedy

Okay, this isn’t actually MY remedy like I invented it, but everyone in Brelinskyville knows garlic is my go-to cure-all.  Whether it’s a fever, a sinus infection, an earache or a bad cough my best line of defense is the garlic poultice. HERE is a handy visual on making a garlic poultice. I most often place the poultices on the soles of our feet and then simply slip a pair of socks on top. For the bigger kids, Mr. B, and myself, I generally insist we drink the garlic water that is left over after soaking the paper towel with the crushed garlic inside. A note of warning the water is VERY spicy and you will stink a bit, but for the tougher ickies like infections I reason it is worth grinning and bearing it.

Because I didn’t learn my lesson the first time, I got poison ivy AGAIN (just as round one started to clear up). In my blind fury to rid my yard of weeds before our upcoming party, I grabbed a lovely vine of the itchy stuff and thought, “Ut oh!” Yes, I attempted to wash the invisible residue off, but apparently it was a fail. I awoke the next morning to a forehead dotted with tiny bumps. Not really sure garlic was a remedy for this, too, I gave it a shot and applied a poultice directly on my head. Here I sit 2 days later scratch-free on the parts I applied garlic to (I left my legs alone for comparison and for that I’m sorry).



Our family room is one giant space which houses an office, a playroom, and an entertainment area. The space needs to be both comfortable and functional. As NFP teachers, we also use the space to host classes so I’d rather that the playroom portion not overrun the whole room. Using furniture placement and a little creativity, I think I’ve achieved my goal.

the view of our family room at first sight

the playroom section

what’s really going on behind that couch
my hubby’s office space camouflaged behind a home-made partition


                                                           Another DYI: extra seating

This seemed like a no-brainer, but it took me a few years to give this hope chest a second job. I really don’t like have too much furniture, so the items that make the cut generally serve more than one purpose. Mr. B and I bought this hope chest (used) pre-kids and it has faithfully held our extra blankets and stuff for years. When I was rearranging the family room recently (rearranging/swapping furniture is a cheap way to renew your space every few years), I decided we needed an extra spot to plant little “seats.” I touched up the finish on the old chest, added a cushion and here ya go.


                                               One More DYI: Umbrella Stand

We have a badminton net that has been relocated at least half a dozen times. The tie-downs it came with have long ago disintegrated and who knows where the metal anchor pins ended up. Since I am all about being frugal and making things last a LOOOONNNGGGG time, I asked my handy hubby to make something more permanent but also easily movable. With a few 5 gallon buckets (we own more of those than any normal person needs), pieces of PVC pipe and a bag of cement, he created these great stands for our nets and our porch umbrella. They are heavy, but that keeps them firmly planted upright and they aren’t so heavy that the big people around here can’t move them when necessary.

the PVC pipe is cemented in the center so the umbrella can be slipped in and out


                                            A Book That I Must Have for My Library

A few months ago we attended the annual Ignited By Truth Conference in Raleigh, NC and we were privileged to hear Jennifer Fulwiler speak. Ms. Fulwiler, of Conversion Diary blog, has now penned a book about her conversion from atheism to Catholicism. My 12 year old daughter was so taken by Ms. Fulwiler that she has been asking to purchase her recently published story, Something Other Than God.  Don’t tell my daughter, but I am planning to put this purchase on top of the to-buy list come pay day.


                                                             The BIG Fibber

If you need evidence to secure a conviction than my 5 year old hasn’t got a prayer. This little ball of energy and wit keeps us ever wondering and sometimes worrying. So, when I heard another ruckus just the other night I was expecting anything from blood to broken bones. I reached the dining room just after Daddy managed to rescue the said child who’d been hanging by an arm and a foot from the second floor railing.  No less than 100 times we have implored, forbidden and begged him not to slide down the banister. On this evening, our threats came to fruition as his sliding feat turned dangerous when he slipped too far over the side. The ridiculous thing is that he insisted we (all nine of us) were wrong because he was NOT sliding down the banister. He had no other alibi than to
 promise he had definitely not flung his leg over the rail. I submit the following picture of my crooking painting and Happy BT R Y sign into evidence (not to mention the testimony of his father and siblings who found him hanging on for dear life).

Same child, different day…my daughter runs in screaming (or was she just talking ’cause it’s hard to tell the difference) that her little bro has just taken a mud bath. Fast on her heels he arrives crying innocent. Um, yeah, we’ll turn to the evidence again and let you decide.

For More Quick Takes by great blogger, check out
7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes about winners, 100th birthdays, blue blocking glasses, and my desperate need for Youtube recommendations


7 Quick Takes for Combating Cabin Fever

ideas to pass the time when you are stuck inside with the kids
Got cabin fever? What can you do to break up the day when you are stuck in the house? Here are seven quick ideas to chase away the winter blues.

#1. Bake up some fun. Pull out your cook book and make a cake, brownies or your favorite cookies from scratch. Perhaps, a loaf of fresh bread would make a nice compliment to tonight’s dinner. Or throw together a few extra meals to store in the freezer in anticipation of some late nights when you won’t have time to cook.
Brownie recipe
(after I discovered this recipe I never bought another boxed mix again)


1C (2 sticks) butter 
1C all-purpose flour
2C sugar
4 eggs
¾ C unsweetened baker’s cocoa
2 tsp vanilla extract 
½ tsp baking powder 
¼ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease/flour a baking pan and set aside. (The other reason I love this recipe is that all of the mixing takes place in just one saucepan, so the clean-up is minimal.)
In a heavy saucepan, quickly melt the butter, then remove pan from heat. Add in sugar and vanilla, stir. Add eggs one at a time, being sure to mix each in completely (be careful the mixture isn’t too hot because you don’t want the eggs to cook). Mix in the cocoa (I use my hand whisk for this) and then the flour, baking powder and salt. 
Pour into the greased baking pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan. I like my brownies super gooey, so I take them out while the center is set but still soft. I tried these in a mini muffin pan and got perfect brownie bites (cooked for just 15 minutes).

Try this tip:
If you’re going to make your favorite cookie dough, why not just double the recipe and store half for another day. Just wrap half of the raw dough on a sheet of wax paper (forming a log in the center) and fold as you would a burrito. Then, wrap this log in a sheet of aluminum foil, mark the outside with the name of the cookie and place in freezer (you might need to place the log on a cookie sheet when you initially put it in the freezer but after about 30 minutes it should be hard enough to store without the extra support). When the day comes that you are ready to bake this portion, simply pull it out of the deep freeze, thaw for an hour, open, cut into pieces and bake.
#2. Pull out those extra cozy blankets and build a fort 


fun things to do when you have cabin fever
apparently one Brelinsky isn’t having loads of fun
#3 Raid the bookshelf or movie stockpile for some oldies but goodies that haven’t garnered any attention in a while. Then, sit down and read together or pop-up a big bowl of popcorn and have a family movie night.
#4 Collect paper, pencils, crayons and scissors. Design a few Valentine’s Day cards or birthday cards. See who can create the most elaborate snowflake cut-out or write a love note to a far away friend.

#5 Go play outside. Bundle up in your warmest mittens, hat and coat and spend a little time romping in the snow. Use a stick to sign your name in the slush or draw some silly faces. 

#6. Sip some hot cocoa or a snow shake.

Hot cocoa recipe:
fun in the snow with snow shakes Fill a jar with these two ingredients- 3 parts sugar to 1 part baker’s cocoa
Optional: add a bit of cinnamon to taste
Shake all dry ingredients up well
Fill a mug halfway with hot water (or hot milk) and spoon in the mix by the tablespoon, stir until dissolved. If you opted for the hot water, you will want to add milk to finish filling up your mug (otherwise your hot cocoa will be too thin)
Snow shake recipe:
Fill up a cup to the top with snow, then add milk (until it reaches about 1/3 of the way up) and sugar (by the teaspoon, to suit your taste), stir together. You can also add either a pinch of baker’s cocoa or a squirt of chocolate syrup.

#7. Play a game.Try a board game or card game (think War or Go Fish). Set up nine plastic cups in a hallway and bowl them over with a soft ball. Need to get your parts moving? Try a little Simon Says or Hokie Pokie. 


7 Quick Takes To Get Your Home School Year Moving

7 tips to help get your home school year off to a good start
Everyone’s headed back to school according to social media posts and commercial advertisers. Back packs and curriculum, lunch boxes and lesson planners, parents are gearing up for another year of educational progress. As for us, we’re year-rounders so just when everyone else is shifting out of park, we’re kicking into second gear. But no matter what your schedule choice, it is a good time to do a systems check.

Here are seven quick takes to help you keep your engines running smoothly.

School Room VS. the Dining Room Table

#1 My social media feeds are filled with snapshots of beautiful school rooms, filled with learning centers, educational posters and inviting seats. School rooms can be a great place to keep and organize your books and learning tools, as well as, a good way to structure your child’s day (school happens in here, play happens outside of here, etc.) However, you should keep in mind a separate room is not a requirement for success and for some it may be a hindrance. 

We’ve always schooled at the dining room table (which is centrally located) because I found, with little ones toddling about, it was easier to make sure the preschoolers were in clear sight and had ready access to their play area. Of course, this means we have to pull out and put away our school books each day. To make the movement of books easier, every child has his/her own school box with their current grade books inside. When deciding what works for you, consider what ages you need to monitor and which household chores will require your attention during the day, than select the location that works best for everyone.

Shop ’til You Drop?

#2 Browse through a catalog or educational book dealer and you’ll be overwhelmed by the available choices from colorfully illustrated science books to laminated posters of the life cycle of a frog. If there’s money in your bank account, you’ll probably be tempted to shop ’til you drop. You’ll just have to try that book your girlfriend recommended for grammar and doesn’t that math manipulative look like fun. I’ve been there and done that, only my bank account forced me to restrain myself sometimes more than I wanted.

 Now with twelve plus years of home schooling on my resume, I have to admit the basics are the better deal. Think about it, little Dick and Jane were just as equipped educationally (in some cases better equipped when compared to today’s youth) and they didn’t require fancy new books and educational toys to absorb their reading, writing and arithmetic. Keep it simple, stick to a solid foundation of thorough basics and resist the temptation to buy into every new idea if the old one worked well. I remember in my Catholic grammar school there were lovely, decorated bulletin boards lining the hallways, but I can’t remember that those pretty pictures actually taught me anything of importance. In contrast, I did learn plenty from the information in those well-worn textbooks (I also learned to treat things with greater care because our supplies weren’t disposable).

Just the Right Price = Free

Okay, I’m dating myself with this picture
#3 Utilize free resources as much as possible. Make sure your family has a library card and visit regularly. Why buy when you can borrow? To this end, be careful in allowing your children on the internet. While it can be a wonderful tool to learning, it requires vigilant parental supervision.
#4 On the free front, my husband was able to find a good number of classics for “free” on paperback swap. You earn credits for free books by offering your used books for free (which is a great way to help clean out your overflowing book shelves). The book offerer pays the cost of media mail only. E-book readers also offer lots of free material, but again be careful that your kids aren’t able to access the internet via their reader without parental controls.

Learning All the Time

#5 Never forget that learning is a constant process so sweet Susie is learning all day long, not just when seated at a desk. Include her in the daily chores as part of her school day. Let her help make lunch, fold laundry and read to a younger sibling. 

How better to learn real life skills and religious lessons than by putting ideas into action? The Corporal Works of Mercy are an abstract for little ones until you have Bobby dress the baby and then point out that he has just clothed the naked. As Julie makes piles of laundry for each family member, you might tell her that she’s classifying items like in science. The point is if you are having an off day and you didn’t finish that whole page of math, Timmy and Tammy didn’t miss out on a whole day of learning. In days of old, parents understood this concept. Great minds were formed at the hips of their fathers and mothers; they still are.

Train Good Communicators

#6 My children tend to be outgoing and I think it’s an important skill to learn: how to communicate and navigate in the wide world. From the time they are little, I push them to engage others when appropriate (and safe). For example, have your younger child select an item from the store. Have him count out his own money, decide if he can afford the item, hand the money to the cashier and politely thank the checkout person for the change. If they can’t find a book in the library, have them ask the librarian for help, etc. I also make my kids write thank you notes which has become somewhat of a dying art, but is still no less important. 

Obviously, some people are introverts, but we will all need to navigate through life, so teach your children these skills from the beginning. On a confessional note, I have a child who hates to ask for help, so I had to quite literally force him to call the home school counselor on occasion. It was well worth the effort because now as a young adult he is able to handle his own affairs.

Teach Them to Love

#7 If you love your children and model that love daily, you are succeeding. There are too many people in the world suffering from lack of love, but your children will not be in that group. And in loving them, you are teaching them to love which will change the world one person at a time.

So whether today is the first day of your school year or your 31st day, take heart and know you are capable of preparing your offspring to succeed. It doesn’t require bundles of expensive books or a vast array of flashy, new tools to educate a young mind. It only takes a loving, thoughtful teacher who inspires a love for learning.