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December 2008
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February 2009

January 2009

Reality Check

We're expecting friends this afternoon so naturally I'm cleaning the house like crazy tidying up here and there. A few moments ago, Crackerjack walked into the living room, cast a wary eye about his surroundings and said:

Hey, things look different around here!

I paused in my feverish scrubbing damp-dusting, and responded: 

Different? How so?

Crackerjack shrugged. 

I don't know? Different like ... clean?

Hmmm. Methinks it's time to revisit my housekeeping routines ...

Thoughtful Friday


"Every child is gifted. They just unwrap their packages at different times." ~ Unknown

Just a quick note to say Earlybird did great at his new social skills group yesterday! Also, he lost his two front teeth over the past few days. He looks so cute with that big toothless grin! (Of course I can't show you that grin because the boy just will not smile for the camera. Nor sit still - you've got to sneak up on him, lol.)
Big changes for our little guy lately - and he's handling them very well.
We're so proud of him. :)

Notes for Late Winter Learning


I've been working on my notes for next month and I thought I'd share them here with you all. Sorry if they seem kind of disjointed - sometimes that's just the way my brain works!

*Season: Late Winter*
*Month: February*

On the 1st of the month, we'll read Brigid's Cloak: An Ancient Irish Story and I'll serve shepherd(ess) pie for supper. I found a deep blue, star-laden fabric at the craft store - I'll wrap that around Earlybird as we read. :)
I'll refresh the nature corner to reflect the new month at hand - heart-shaped rocks, pretty amethysts, tealights and tiny pairs of lovebirds will take their place on the shelf. 
I'll add some red and white heart-shaped doilies to the learning room windows.
Early on the morning of the 2nd, we'll await Punxsutawny Phil's prediction. We'll read our favorite Groundhog Day book (yep, we have a favorite!) - How Groundhog's Garden Grew. Whether the outcome is more winter or an early spring, this book fits either mood. It really encourages an appreciation for each turn of the year.
 The 2nd also brings Candlemas, so we will roll beeswax candles in the morning and dine by candlelight in the evening. We'll also recite the old saying ~
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter will take another flight.
But if Candlemas be clouds and rain, 
Winter's gone and won't come again.
We'll start watching for the earliest blooms - snowdrops. Bill planted the tiny bulbs in the northwest corner of the garden last fall. They probably won't show up till March (until the snow has melted somewhat) but it will be fun to start looking.
Earlybird and I will read The Story of the Snow Children and learn about "Snowdrop Fairies" in Flower Fairies of Winter.

Deep sleeps the Winter,
Cold, wet and grey;
Surely all the world is dead;
Spring is far away.
Wait! the world shall waken;
It is not dead, for lo,
The Fair Maids of February
Stand in the snow!

I'm planning to make a tiny snowdrop fairy for the nature shelf - sort of following the directions in All Year Round. (I say "sort of" because I'm going to use a wooden peg base instead of making a soft stuffed doll.)
Over the weekend of the 7th-8th, we'll take part in the annual Mass. Audubon project, Focus on the Feeders. We've done this for the past several years now.
Midnight-moon On the night of the 9th, we'll look for the Full Snow Moon. The next morning we'll look up how many inches of snow our town has had so far this winter - and whether we're above or below average. (My guess is above!)
On a clear, mild day we'll go for a late winter nature walk. I'll have the older boys look for animal tracks in the snow, while Earlybird and I gather a basket-full of winter weeds. Back at home I'll make a "winter weed" bouquet for the nature shelf. 
On the 12th, we'll attend an Abraham Lincoln Celebration with our homeschool group. I'll set up a book display in the learning room filled with books on our 16th president. (We're studying the Civil War this winter, so this activity is quite timely.) For dessert that night, I will serve a jelly roll - a "Lincoln Log," if you will. :)
We'll start listening for the earliest spring birdsong on Valentines Day when, legend has it, the birds choose their mates. We'll make some Valentine "treats" to hang in the trees outside our windows.
Around the second week of February, according the the Audubon Society, is when skunks begin to mate. (Just in time for Valentines those clever critters.) We'll watch our favorite Valentine special, A Kiss for Little Bear, which includes the story of a wedding between two skunks.
Starting early in the month we'll start preparing homemade Valentines for friends and family. (This means a trip to the craft store this weekend to purchase any necessary supplies.) 
We'll hang a poster of presidents on Presidents' Day. And decorate frosted cupcakes with little American flags.
Our nature study focus this month will revolve around the Beatrix Potter story, The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin. We'll observe and learn about red squirrels and owls.
Our homeschool Nature Study Club will be dissecting owl pellets this month. We'll also walk into the woods to observe an owl's nest.
Earlybird and I will begin his very own Book of Trees. (Simply a handmade, child-friendly field guide.) We'll be reading The Happiness Tree and focusing on evergreens this month. (Next month: maple trees.)
Later in the month we'll start tracking the daytime and nighttime temperatures. When the days get over 40 and the nights fall below freezing, it means the sap will start running. (Next month's nature study focus.)
One day late in the month, we'll visit the nursery to purchase seeds for our spring garden. We'll start some seeds at home in a sunny window or two.
On the 24th, Shrove Tuesday, we'll make masks for Mardi Gras and eat pancakes and bacon for supper. We'll decide what we're giving up for Lent this year, as the next morning brings Ash Wednesday.
Earlybird is learning how to use the library. Meaning, he's learning how to behave when we're there, how to politely ask for help, how to treat books, etc. We will turn a plain canvas bag into a "library tote" for him, embellishing it with rubber stamps and fabric paint, etc.
As always, I must stress ... these are my notes - my hopes, and ideas - they do not always ALL come to pass. As you can tell, though, I do enjoy finding ways to weave the natural year into our home learning lifestyle. I find a wealth of inspiration in every turn of the year; I hope maybe you can find a little inspiration during your visit here!
Have a wonderful evening, my friends. I'm off now to feed my troops supper. :)

Heralding the Snow

Well, we're in for another big snow here tomorrow! Lol, I should have known - we've only just begun to see our driveway again! But you all know I don't mean to complain. Winter in New England means snow, and some years that means more snow than others. I think it's safe to say, this has been a very snowy winter so far ...

Well, a few days ago I was poking through my craft bins downstairs and I came across some unfinished wooden snowflakes. I decided that the next time we had an impending snowstorm, I would have the boys paint them up and then we'd hang them in the learning room windows - to welcome the snow in our own special way. 

So with the storm on the way for tomorrow, we got started on this craft just after we got home from EB's therapy today. Truth be told, this was all for Earlybird, who loves to paint in any capacity. Nature-related crafts are a big part of his kinder "curriculum." The older boys, good sports that they are, joined him at the table this morning.


There was a snowflake, a paintbrush and a cup of color for each one.


Here's our Earlybird, concentrating hard. (I feel compelled to mention, that's not peanut butter smeared around his mouth or anything. He has a terrible winter rash around his lips right now. It's actually much better than it was last week.)


Here's Crackerjack, also working carefully.


And our Bookworm, too.


The snowflakes drying in the sun ...


... and now hanging in our windows. 
Welcome Snow!

So tomorrow we'll be staying in, watching the snow fly and keeping warm at home. I plan to read a special book with Earlybird in the morning - The Big Snow - a longtime winter favorite. It's the story of Winter on its way (and a "big snow" along with it) and how all the woodland creatures prepare. It's a wonderful story and there's great scientific information to be learned, too. The last part is the best, I think - when a thoughtful family puts out food for the hungry animals. (I plan to have EB toss cracked corn and toast crusts outside our birdfeeder windows.) And the very last page is quite timely - the groundhog wakes up on the 2nd of February (which is next Monday, my friends!), sees his shadow and burrows back into his den for the rest of his winter's nap.

It's not a very long book, but just enough pages that I could see Earlybird getting impatient if he's not really into the story. EB has a hard time sitting still for books, so to make it more interesting for him, I pulled together an assortment of nature puppets to use as we read. As luck would have it, I had a puppet for each on the creatures mentioned in the story! (This is thanks to years and years of collecting.) 


As I read the book, and mention an animal, I will have Earlybird look for and pull out that particular puppet. When we are done, he can play with all the puppets and make up his own story if he wishes. 
If you don't have nature puppets, you could always use photos or pictures for a similar activity. (Just google each animal online.) I've found enjoying books with EB in this way helps my squirmy listener stay put - and pay closer attention. 

OK, then ...
Birdfeeders filled? Check.
Hot Cocoa on hand? Check.
Cream to whip? Check.
Cookies to bake? Check.

I think we're ready for that snow now.

A Year @ a Glance Bulletin Board


Good Monday morning, everyone! I hope your weekend was nice. They always fly by too fast, don't you think? 

Here's a little peek at a project I worked on yesterday, while Bill had the boys out and about. (Technically I was supposed to be paying bills and planning lessons, but I took a little break to putter.)

Our learning room bulletin board has been empty for well over a month now, and I was trying to decide how to use it this year. I love the idea of using it as a current events board - filling it with newspaper clippings, etc. - but that takes a lot of maintenance. And to be honest, it bores the kids silly. (Maybe this will work better when they're all a little older.)

Anyway, I bought a set of wooden numbers a few weeks ago - "2009" - and decided they would look nice, painted and set at the top of the board. I chose to paint them black - which is, generally speaking, a strange color choice for me, but I thought they would pick up the black of the appliances in the kitchen just behind the board.


It's hard to tell in the photo, but the numbers also got sprinkled with some Martha Stewart "onyx" glitter. The glitter does catch the afternoon sunlight that fills the learning room most days. 

After the pieces dried, I used a little mounting tape to secure them above the board.


Now, my plan is this ... As we move along through the year, we will print out a few pictures each month and attach them to the board. These photos will showcase our homeschool and family activities (field trips, nature walks, social gatherings, etc.) as well as the season at hand. So January will probably include the picture of the boys building Legos at Tufts, a family picture from my birthday party, snowstorm pics and the hanging icicle picture, etc. Each month I'll add more pictures, starting in the top left corner, and by the end of the year, we should have a whole Year@-a-Glance!

I'll post about this project again when I've added the first batch of pictures. And by the way, the sun is a wooden nursery decoration I've had since Crackerjack was little. The boys have outgrown it, but I haven't. :) I bought it here, but I don't think they carry it anymore.

So, if you have a spare bulletin board hanging around your house, consider setting up a Year @ a Glance photo display! It should be a fun and visual way to record your home- learning/family-living year! And what a great conversation piece, too.

Well, I'm off now to get this day started. Another cup of coffee is called for, I think. It is Monday morning after all. :)
Have a good one, my friends!

Thoughtful Friday ~ Cats


Cats can work out mathematically the exact place to sit that will cause most inconvenience.
~Pam Brown~

I was just settling in to do some week-ahead planning, spreading out my calendar, clipboard, folders and what-not all over the worktable, when Penny decided to help out in her own special way ...


She looks awfully comfortable, though - doesn't she? :)

Getting to Know You (Or, in this case, Me)

My friend Kim sent this along in an email and I thought, who am I to resist the chance to talk, yet again, about myself? ;) Really, I wish I could forward you all her answers - they were much funnier than mine ...

This post kills two birds with one stone, actually, because my friend Leigh recently tagged me for a "6 Random Facts Meme" and I think you'll find at least half a dozen random bits of information below. :) 

If you do this at your blog, please leave a note!


*Getting to Know You, 2009 Edition*
Completed on Thursday evening, January 22nd

1. What is your occupation right now? Homemaker/Homeschooler.
2. What color are your socks right now?  White.
3. What are you listening to right now. The clink and clank of dinner dishes being cleared.
4. What is the last thing you ate? A bite of garlic bread.
5. Can you drive a stick shift?  No - but believe me, I've tried. 
6. Last person you spoke to on the phone?  Bill called me on his commute home.
7. Do you like the person who sent this to you?  Yes! Both Kim and Leigh are wonderful friends and fellow homeschooling mums.  
8. How old are you today?  40
9. What is your favorite sport to watch on TV? Football - though as far as I'm concerned the season is over.
10. What is your favorite drink?  Non-alcoholic: coffee with cream. Alcoholic: Cabernet Sauvignon.
11. Have you ever dyed your hair? I was, briefly, a blonde in college. These days I do - ahem - cover a bit of gray.
12. Favorite food?  Pizza - I could eat it every day.
13. What is the last movie you watched?  Bill and I watched Speed on HBO the other night.
14. Favorite day of the year?  Labor Day.
15. How do you vent anger?  I asked those who would know best: my loved ones. Survey says I "never" yell, but I can "fume" with the best of 'em.
16. What was your favorite toy as a child? My baby dolls and my play kitchen.
17. What is your favorite season?  Autumn.
18. Cherries or Blueberries?  Hmmm. Tough call. Blueberries, I think. 
19. Do you want your friends to e-mail you back?
20. Who is the most likely to respond? 
21. Who is least likely to respond? 
22. Living arrangements?  Average size, full-basement ranch - shared with 3 boys, a husband and 2 cats.
23. When was the last time you cried? This afternoon.
24. What is on the floor of your closet?  Who knows ...
25. Who is the friend you have had the longest that you are sending this to? Reading this, I would say my cousin Amy. :)
26. What did you do last night? Watched Lost with my husband.
27. What are you most afraid of? Any kind of harm coming to my family.
28. Plain, cheese, or spicy hamburgers?  Cheese, please.
29. Favorite dog breed? Cairn or West Highland Terriers.  
30. Favorite day of the week?  Friday.
31. How many states have you lived in?  TX and MA 
32. Diamonds or pearls?  You really can't go wrong either way.
33. What is your favorite flower? Winter: Snowdrops. Spring: Daffodils. Summer: Morning Glories. Autumn: Football Mums.
34. Favorite Hobby? Blogging! Closely followed by reading and (paper) journaling.
35. Have you ever tried singing Karaoke?  Not that I recall. ;)

Thanks for stopping by this evening. Have a good night, and I'll see you all again sometime soon!

Just a Few Pictures from our Day

Where is this week getting to - it's already Thursday! Did anyone watch Lost last night? We did (Bill and I, that is) but we only got halfway through - so no spoilers in the comments, please, lol! What we did see was very intriguing, though ... it's so good to have our favorite show back on TV at last!

I was just uploading some pictures from yesterday, and since I don't really have a post yet for today (I'm working on a "random facts meme" right now), I thought I'd share a few with you all ...


I know, I know - yet another sunrise picture. But I can't help myself! There is just something about the quiet beauty of those dark early hours.


The sun had not come around this side of the house, but I still had to show you this shot. We get several cardinals here, and they usually come all at one time - I wonder, are they a family? Competing pairs? They seem to get along - maybe they save the fighting for spring when it's every breeding male for himself? Whatever the story, they are gorgeous to see against the new fallen snow. I feel a little guilty that I haven't been able to trek out to the feeders in a while. (Snow's too deep!) I'm going to have to do it soon though, because the poor things are starting to panic. 


Crackerjack (left) and Bookworm (right) standing outside Tufts University just before their Lego Engineering class. As you can see they were not too thrilled to stop and pose. The temps yesterday stalled in the 20s!


Much happier (warmer) faces, showing off this week's Lego creations.


Back at home - my new digital picture frame, a birthday gift from Bill and the boys. He set it up on the nature shelf for me and uploaded all of our January-February pictures. So all through the day, this frame flashes wintry image after image. It's a really neat addition to the nature corner!
Well, I hope you all have a nice Thursday morning. I'll be back later today - I think! Thanks for stopping by!

Ice, Ice, Baby


*The view out my kitchen window this afternoon, just before dusk.*
(Don't ask me how I got this picture. Suffice it to say I now have very sore knees and slightly shocked children.
"Hey, Bookworm, come quick! Mama's hanging out the window again!")

Now, you all know I love winter, but I'm feeling kind of done with it right now. We've been getting a LOT of snow and ice here in the northeast and we're not even into February yet! 
It might seem like winter lasts forever, but January will be gone before we know it - let's have a little fun with it while we can. Here are a few winter "ice-capades" to enjoy with the children.
  • Bundle up on a cold day and go on an icicle hunt. Look high and low, and you'll be surprised how many places you'll find icicles hanging. Take pictures for your nature journal.
  • Can't find any icicles? Make your own! Punch a tiny hole in the bottom of an open-top container. Fill it with water and hang it outside overnight. It will slowly drip and freeze and by morning you should have an icicle!
  • While you're out and about, gather little bits of nature - tiny things you can find and bring home like berries, leaves, twigs, pine needles, acorn caps, pretty stones, etc. Bring these treasures home and then make icicle suncatchers!
  • This would be fun with the little ones. Fill several different containers with water (add food coloring if you'd like) and freeze them solid - outside or in your kitchen freezer. When you release the ice shapes inside, let the kids build "ice castles" with them.
  • If it's too cold to go out, you could try this ...
  • Or, snuggle up by the fire and read the tale of The Snow Queen. My favorite retelling is this one, illustrated by Bernadette Watts. Gorgeous pictures, wonderful prose. 
"Little January
Tapped at my door today.
And said, "Put on your winter wraps,
And come outdoors to play."
Little January
Is always full of fun;
Until the set of sun.
Little January 
Will stay a month with me
And we will have such jolly times -
Just come along and see."
~ Winifred C. Marshall, January


Winter Morning


Winter is the king of showmen,
Turning tree stumps into snowmen
And houses into birthday cakes
And spreading sugar over lakes.
Smooth and clean and frosty white,
The world looks good enough to bite ...
(Ogden Nash, Winter Morning)

Moments ago the sun rose ~ did you happen to see it? 
Bill is off to work and the boys and I are getting the morning under way. So much to do and discuss today! I'll be back soon to catch up.
Hope your day is a good one!

From My Desk: Pretty Little Notebooks

As addicted as I am to office supply stores and the myriad materials found within, nothing beats the fun in making my own desk accessories! So, remember the pretty papers I showed you last weekend? Well, here's what I've been up to ...


The papers feature all those sherbert-y colors I love and the cutest little owls. I adore owls these days - and according to the scrapbook store lady, they are very "hot" right now. (Who knew, lol?) I bought several sheets in coordinating colors and patterns. These are all produced by a company called Sassafras. Check out that link - such cute papers! (They even have a blog here.)

So what kind of notebooks did I make up? We'll here we go ...


A budget & marketing notebook. A page to write out the month's budget and all the weekly expenses/shopping lists in between. I even made up a coupon packet for the back cover:


(I'll only add the coupons I'm planning to use each week. I'll take this notebook with me while I shop.)

Next comes a new gardening journal:


(That middle image is a rub-on.) I attached a pencil with some twine. When I walk around the yard making notes it's handy to have a pencil.


This will be a master-to-do list - just a running list of things to "remember."


This is a small assignments notebook I bought at the start of the year. I had intended to use it as a place to write down brief "teacher" notes each day, but I haven't really been using it like I thought - or at all. Maybe the paper will make all the difference, lol! Peeking out from the bottom is an alphabet ribbon pagemarker.


I am particularly excited about this little book. It is a blank "chipboard" tab book made by October Afternoon (a new favorite of mine) with 16 pages of soft, lined paper and 4 tabbed sections inside. I plan to fill it with notes for Earlybird's nature-based K-1 curriculum. Kind of a catchall for my thoughts regarding nature, learning, crafts and simple celebrations for each quarter of the year.

A peek inside:


I stamped those tabs myself, in case you couldn't tell, lol. They're not done very well, but they'll do. :)


I'm so scrap-happy right now, I had to use a little scrap to make a bookmark for myself. I added the monogram tag as an afterthought. 

Speaking of monogram tags, I added a new pagemarker to my current journal:


Another little side-project today - gussying up my new clipboard (the one I posted about last year was long ago commandeered by the kids). 


Those are scrapbook paper punch-out letters - I secured them with a length of clear mailing tape. I use this clipboard to hold any "action items" for the week.

Now, my final picture has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of this post, but I wanted to share it anyway:


As you can see, we got a LOT of snow over the weekend! And in the foreground is one of my leftover birthday cupcakes ~ vanilla cake, penuche frosting. Oh, so very delicious. :)

Well, stay tuned! I still have lots of paper leftover, so there may be more notebooks to show you before long. In the meantime, I  hope you all enjoyed a lovely long weekend. Thanks for stopping by ~ I'll see you all again sometime soon!

This Week's Library Haul


 I'm back in the "library swing of things" lately. Right now we're making it there twice a  week - the older boys and I run over while Earlybird's at therapy, and then Bill takes EB on Saturday mornings. By going so often I find we are working the system more efficiently (with holds and such) and getting things back on time - thereby avoiding late fees and the resultant shame that sometimes keeps me away from the library for months at a time ...

Anyhoo, since my card and conscience are currently clear, I thought it would be fun to show you all what ended up in my library bag this week. As you can see in the photo, my mind is on herbs and healthy food these days ...

From top to bottom:

(I've wanted to read this for a while now.)
(A mystery written by a Massachusetts author - I've had my eye on it since it came out last summer. Turns out, it's a 1-week rental. Rats. There's no way I'm reading this in a week.)
In children's book news, Bookworm just finished The Magician; he'll be reading The Goblin Wood for Book Group next month (and The Hobbit after that). Crackerjack will be reading Danny, Champion of the World and then The Secret Garden in March. (I'm leading the group in March - Secret Garden is one of my favorite books of all time.) And today, Earlybird came home with Trains, Trains and ... Trains. :)
Bill just finished Twilight on audio - I gave it to him at Christmas; I figured it was time he found out what all the hubbub was about. ;) He really liked it - so much so that he had me request New Moon from the library. He's not one for reading, but he loves to listen to audiobooks while he commutes. And while he's waiting for New Moon to come in (not so patiently mind you - he has me check daily to see if it's in, lol) he has me reading a little bit of Midnight Sun to him every night. (This is a re-write of Twilight, told from Edward's perspective.) It's fun to read together at night! (And now you see why there's no way I'm finishing Lace Reader in a week ... :)
OK, enough with the book talk. No more blogging for me tonight. It's time to get these kiddoes off to bed ... 
But please tell me, if you care to, what's on your library shelf this week? :)
Have a good night!

Thoughtful Friday ~


You will find something more in woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters.
~ Saint Bernard

This picture was taken last October ... a nice reminder of warmer days. Today, according to forecasters, will be the coldest of the whole winter ~ bitterly cold, and there's a storm on the way for Sunday. A good weekend to hunker in and putter around the house. And since puttering usually leads to posting, I'm sure I will see you all again before the weekend is out. ;)

Have a good one, my friends!

~*~The January Nature Shelf~*~

Now that the holidays are over and the learning room is, for the most part, back on track, I was able to spend some time refreshing the nature corner:


There's not a lot going on in nature right now ~ it's as if the world has stilled itself, like it's holding its own frosty breath. We're not outside nearly as much as usual so there aren't a lot of "treasures" to display; January is a bare month, and so its corner reflects that.

But, as you can see in the picture below, we've added a new facet to our nature display:


Note the picture frames on the wall! 

Do you know how long I've wanted to get these up here? I think I told you about these maybe a year or so ago, but we haven't had a chance to get them up till just now. I bought plain unfinished wooden frames at the craft store and we printed out current nature photos to hang above the shelves. Each month we'll change them up. These will always be pictures we took ourselves, relfecting our own "habitat" and the changes that take place through the seasons ...


So as you can see here (barely I know - the light is so bright) we have pictures of a snowy treetop, a titmouse, a chickadee and a red squirrel. Ideally these pictures will also feature our nature study focus of the moment (winter birds and wolves right now). Obviously, it's easier for me to get bird pictures than wolf pictures in these parts - thank goodness!

In the far left corner I always prop open a book featuring a seasonal inspiration:


Often I choose a book of nature poems, but this month I really wanted to show the January spread in Tasha Tudor's A Time to Keep. The words and illustrations evoke a simpler time of soft, frosty nights and old-fashioned delights. Just the right mood for this month.

"Oh, there were lots of joyful times. On the last day of the old year the children built a bonfire. We all danced around it and shouted Happy New Year. Then we had a party supper with roast beef and Yorkshire pudding and apple pie and ice cream and cheese."

Now from left to right, let's take a look at the top shelf ...


First, we have a few birch logs from our woods. (Taken from felled trees we found along the bike path.) I once read about a Celtic Calendar of Trees, one for each month, kind of like Native American moons. Birch, I believe, is assigned to early January. I like their wintry beauty and symbolism - birches are the first trees to grow back after a forest has been razed. Also, the Gaelic word for birch means beginning. Rather fitting, don't you think, for the first month of the year? But we mustn't forget our conifers! Standing nearby is a giant pinecone from out west (purchased last winter at Whole Foods) as well as a collection of ceramic and stone birds, and a geode with glittering crystals inside ...


Centered in the shelf is a new book I bought to share with Earlybird as we explore trees this winter: The Happiness Tree: Celebrating the Gifts of Trees we Treasure. (I'm going to do a review of it in the near future - but suffice it to say, I cannot recommend it heartily enough.) Also shown, The Big Snow, Animals in Winter and Tracks in the Snow.

 In the lower left corner is a photocopy I made of a page in the Winter Flower Fairies book ~ the Song of The Pine Tree Fairy; it's perched right next to a woodland tealight (battery-op!):


A tall, tall tree is the Pine tree,
With its trunk of bright red brown ~
The red of the merry squirrels
Who go scampering up and down.
There are cones on the tall, tall Pine tree,
With its needles sharp and green;
Small seeds in the cones are hidden,
And they ripen there unseen.
The elves play games with the squirrels
At the top of the tall, tall tree,
Throwing cones for the squirrels to nibble ~
I wish I were there to see!


Next we have a pretty ivy wreath I bought at Trader Joe's last week, with a tiny chickadee perched on top. (You can buy silk-feathered birds at craft stores for a few dollars a piece. The bird in the nest there is also from the craft store collection.) By the way, here are directions for making your own ivy topiary at home - a lovely Valentine's gift!

And finally, a glimpse of yet another book display, this one reflecting our current nature studies ...


Lots of wolf-related books as you can see. Our field trip to the wolf sanctuary has been postponed, actually. It was supposed to take place today, but the weather here is so very bitter (18 for a high) we've put it off until next week when hopefully we might enjoy slightly warmer temperatures. (Maybe even a January thaw? Wouldn't that be nice?)

Well, I'm going to leave it there for now because I've talked your ears off for too long! I have to get going anyway ... the day is unfolding and I've got many things to do. First off, I have to run to the registry to renew my license (groan) - keep your fingers crossed for me the lines aren't too long!

Thanks for stopping by - hope you're all keeping warm and well. See you all again sometime soon. :)

So, what are Turkey Taco Potatoes?


I had a few queries about our dinner last night, so I thought I'd "talk tacos" today! :)

Turkey Taco Potatoes are, basically, just baked potatoes that have been topped with spicy ground turkey and taco toppings. It's like having a taco - on a potato! 

The details ...

Pop large, scrubbed Russet potatoes into a 375 oven. (We use 1 potato per 2 people. And not to sound like a food snob, but we've found that organic really does make a difference. The flavor and texture is much better, and the skins can be eaten without hesitation.) 

Bake the potatoes for one hour, then turn the oven off and let the potatoes sit in warm oven for an hour. I don't know why or when I started doing this, but I found it really improves the texture of the potato.

Meanwhile, stir fry sliced/chopped onions and bell peppers in a skillet. Set aside.

Brown 1 pound of ground turkey (you could use beef or chicken instead) in same skillet. Drain fat. To season the meat, we use a packet of Old El Paso Taco seasoning - "mild." (Ideally, I'd use my own seasoning mix here - less additives and sodium - I just have to find a recipe.) You basically sprinkle the powdered seasonings over the meat along with 2/3 cup water. Stir and heat through.

Split potatoes, fork-mash slightly, and top with meat and veggies. Add toppings of choice (shredded cheese, lettuce, diced tomatoes, sour cream, etc.). And voila ~ Turkey Taco Potatoes!

Ridiculously easy and very tasty. And, if you're careful with the toppings, relatively healthy as well. We set some of the meat aside before adding the spices for the children who refuse anything spicier than Prego. And of course, they eat the meat, veggies and potatoes completely separate from each other (no touching!) because that's just the way kids can be. :)

This is a favorite meal of ours. It appears at least once in our two-week dinner menu rotation. The leftovers are great wrapped in tortillas. Sometimes, when I'm really on top of things (which is rare) I make up a baggie with sliced peppers and onions at the start of the week. The ground meat could also be browned and stored until it's ready to season and heat.

I also like making cheeseburger potatoes (ground beef, cheese and steamed broccoli florets) on occasion. They are really good served with hot soup. Great wintertime fare!

OK, you've all got my inner foodie all riled up now! I think I'll do a few more menu-related posts in the near future. I will also ask my mum for the fudge frosting recipe (chocolate and penuche) and I'll post it here very soon.

Have a Wonderful Wednesday, everyone! See you all again sometime soon ...

Birthday Cake with my Boys


So, you might have heard somewhere that yesterday was my birthday? :) Well, my mum came over last night to babysit so Bill and I could go out to dinner, and when she arrived, she carried with her a beautiful, homemade chocolate cake! Nothing - I tell you nothing - beats my mother's chocolate fudge frosting. Except maybe her penuche frosting. Hmmm ...

But the thing that was extra-special about this cake was that was, in fact, an extra - you see, we are having a party this weekend to celebrate my birthday along with my gram's and, naturally there will be cake - Crackerjack would argue there should be two - but my mum wanted me to have a cake to enjoy on my own special day.

Wasn't that sweet? 

Well, by the time Bill and I got home from the restaurant we were completely stuffed. (Dinner was delicious. I had a green salad with blue cheese dressing, baked scallops and sirloin, rice pilaf and the nicest red wine ...) And, much to the boys' consternation (since it was also very close to their bedtime), we decided to save the cake until today.

So, right after we got home from Earlybird's therapy this morning, we ate a quick lunch and then I whipped up some cocoa and fetched candles for the cake. The boys gathered 'round and helped with the wishes ...


(Check out those hat-heads, lol!)


And you know, besides milk, what goes better with a slice of chocolate cake than a steaming cup of cocoa? (Whipped cream-topped mint cocoa no less.) 
Fyi, I never start a New Year's diet until after my birthday. ;)

All right, I guess I'd better be going - the kitchen timer's going to ring any moment. (Dinner tonight? Turkey Taco Potatoes, a family favorite ... and, of course, leftover cake. 
I hope you all have a nice night - thanks, as always, for stopping by!

I have no words this morning ...

So I'll begin with someone else's ...


"Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom." ~ Marcel Proust

To my friends, family and charming gardeners ...

You cannot know how grateful I am for all your beautiful, heartfelt birthday messages. My 40th birthday was happier than I ever could have imagined, and it was all thanks to you - each one of you who took time from your day to wish me well. 
Your every wish was a seed, planted firmly in the garden of my heart ... and what beautiful memories will grow there.

And to my charming, clever and creative husband ...

Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be. ~ Robert Browning

Honey, you are the best
Last month, when you asked me to help you set up a blog for some kind of "photo project" I never could have imagined all of this. Thank you for making my birthday so special. Thank you for making me feel special everyday ... I love it that, now that I'm 40, you have been in my life longer than not. :)

You know, more than one person has said to me, 40 is really just a number, and I agree. I really don't feel any different, I don't feel any older. (Well, maybe a tiny bit stiffer in the mornings ...) Inside I still feel like the little girl you saw in those pictures ...

I hope I always keep that girl fresh in my mind, and alive in my heart ~ she got me where I am today, after all. Healthy, happy, filled with love and life ... and eager to start the next leg of the journey.

The great thing about getting older is that you don't lose all the other ages you've been. ~ Madeleine L'Engle

Blessings to you all!