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Autumn Tea and Tidbits!

Tea with lesson planning 2

Hello my friends, and Happy Weekend! Welcome to my first Autumn Tea  - of 2017! Something I hope to make a semi-regular recurrence at my blog going forward. Every so often I'll pop in with a cup of tea and a few bits and bobs from our homeschool ... a way to catch up and celebrate the season at hand. :) I'm hesitant to set a schedule however, as tempting as it is because you know I LOVE schedules - but it's been a little bit hectic so far this school year. Time at the computer (nevermind time for tea itself!) has been a little on the low side. But two things that make my heart so very happy are blogging and savoring tea, so I'm determined to make more time for both in my life!

So since it's been a while since we talked tea ... what are you drinking these days? I myself am enjoying Allegro Black Decaf during the afternoon (sweetened with raw sugar and a splash of whole milk) but after supper, now that the nights are cooler and darker, I am turning to a cup of decaf Constant Comment. There's something about that orange-spice flavor just makes me think AUTUMN! I still savor a cup or two of coffee in the mornings but after that I limit my caffeine intake as best I can ...

Well, I started in on my tea-taking early today as the above photo was taken just now (Saturday around 11 a.m.) because I was ready to get down to the lesson planning and for that, I absolutely MUST have tea! But before we talk about autumn homeschooling ...

Grab yourself a cup of your favorite brew and make yourself comfortable, please ... I have lots to share! :)

Let's begin with a peek into my October planning. Below you see the cover page for this month's section in my homemade planner (also seen in the top photo) ...

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And here is my planner stack on my kitchen counter - aka "mama's command center!"

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Sitting below my homemade planner is my Day Designer, and below that is a project clipboard. (I always put something underneath my planners in case there are spills or marks on the counter.)

So after the cover page (which is made from that cute vintage paper I love!) I have the two-page monthly calendar spread ...

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I added the stickers and a few quotations written with black ink and soft colored pencils ...

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I love peppering my planners with seasonal poems and quotes!

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Next page has my October menu calendar ...

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I described how I fill out these menu calendars in this post, but I want to stress that this is an ideal - we don't always keep up with the "new" and "varied" meals I've envisioned. Often - especially when we're busy or I'm tired (the state of affairs more often than not around here!) - I fall back on tried and true, easy meals. (Homemade pizzas, baked pasta, grilled cheese and soup, burgers, meatloaf and roasted veg, etc.) 

And next comes my monthly overview ...

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I added the highlighted notes at the top of the page this month, and of course there are post-its! The green apples reflect our October homeschooling themes and topics. I try to review this page every weekend to see where we're at and what tasks and activities can be scheduled in the week ahead. Note: "October Goals" became a place to write down upcoming movies, tv shows and books.

A closer peek ...

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And here is last week's spread!

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Next week I will do a WHOLE post on how I'm using this weekly spread, but in the interest of time and word count, let me move on and show you  ...

... next week's spread that I'm filling in now!

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You might wonder how long it takes me to fill in all those spaces, but honestly, it's not very long. A lot of the information is already available (Days of Note, Seasonal Theme, Dinners, Weekly Rhythm) so I just write those things in first. The to-do list is also pretty quick to fill in - I look at last week's list as well as our weekend planner to see what tasks still need doing. I take another look at the monthly calendar to see what new things have been written in for the week (a new event to prepare for, for example) and I also look back at that monthly overview to see what To-Dos can be fit into this coming week.

Beside my homemade planner I have parked my Day Designer ...

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Here's how it looked one day last week (when I first started working on this post!) ...

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Ok, moving on from planning (let me know if you have any questions or would like me to follow up on anything!) ... I thought I'd share some random photos from the past week or so ...

First, because it was the week of the Full Harvest Moon, I had planned to make "Harvest Moon Muffins," (a quick bread recipe baked in muffin tins) but due to the aforementioned busy schedule/tired mama syndrome, I stopped short at "Harvest Moon Applesauce." 😉

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I love using my grandmother's food press when making applesauce! 

This was actually part of a little "science" experiment this week, making applesauce together! The boys helped me with counting and measuring before I loaded the apples, sugar and spice into the crockpot, and good GOLLY did it smell wonderful in our house all day! The apples were done cooking just before bedtime so I placed them in the fridge for the next day. After milling the apples into sauce we set up a little taste-test - our homemade applesauce vs. Stop 'N Shop brand! Could people tell which was which? (The answer, happily, was yes!)

Then last weekend I combed through the autumn book basket and pulled out titles that matched October's weekly themes ...

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  • Changing Leaves (10/2-10/8)
  • Woodland Flora & Fauna (10/9-10/15)
  • Pumpkins (10/16-10/22)
  • Goodnight Garden/Halloween (10/23-10/29)

I also have two sweet board books for my younger boys for learning the Hail Mary and Our Father prayers, as part of Holy Rosary month. :)

Speaking of books though, look at these lovely new titles that arrived in my mail last week!

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A couple of picture books we usually get out of the library to celebrate the Full Harvest Moon, a new (and adorable) autumn board book for Little Bear (which might be my new favorite autumn book of all time!), a CD of scientific storytelling for Earlybird (which we once owned but now can't find!) and a new Waldorf-inspired crafting book for Mama. I'm positively swooning over that last one in particular - a bit of a splurge, but worth it!

Here's a gorgeous page from Hello, Harvest Moon ... 

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Did you happen to catch it last Thursday night?

Harvest moon rising

We are surrounded by trees here so we have to wait a while before the full moon is visible ... but honestly, I think the way it peeks through the branches and illuminates the tree-line is quite magical! We let Little Bear stay up a bit late so he could watch the full moon rising ...

LB and the full moon

Now, back to books for a moment ... just look and see what arrived in my mailbox early last week!

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A very thoughtful gift from my friend (and longtime reader), Penny! When Penny read that I was positively pining for this particular PW book, she offered me her own copy. (How nice is that?!) Naturally I said I would just LOVE to have it, so she popped in the mail and I received it a day later! Hooray for packages in the mail and hooray for the ever-speedy USPS ... but most of all, HOORAY for kind-hearted and generous friends!

Ok, now we all know the Pioneer Woman loves boots ... well, I'm no cowgirl, and I haven't been on a horse since I was 12, but how do you like my new "riding" boots?

Boots

I have lusted after these "Westport," Maine-made boots for years ... and finally (with Bill's blessing of course), I made the splurge! I ordered them online because I don't get over to LL Bean's that often, but was very happy that not only do they FIT just as well as I'd hoped, they are truly quite comfortable. I thought they paired rather nicely with a knee-length denim skirt. :)

(This was me on my way to Sunday brunch with my college girlfriends!)

Speaking of shoes though ...

Archie and sandals

That's my Archie, flopped all over my favorite pair of summer sandals ... the ones I can't bear to put away for the season just yet. (Though truly, we've had plenty of summer-like days recently.) But as you can see, Archie's looking rather relaxed here, smug you might even say ... because while Oliver had to be at the vet's annual exam last week, Archie got to skip it completely. And all because he's just SO naughty when we bring him! Nothing like the sweetie-pie he is at home - at the vet he's all hissing, spitting and growing ... frankly, it's a bit of a horror show. The next attempt was going to include some serious sedation ... which makes me very nervous ... but fortunately our vet is wonderful and fully understood our apprehension. We decided he can wait till next year when he is due for his rabies shot. (My cats are indoor cats, but are still kept up on all their vaccinations.)

In other wildlife news ...

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Howsabout this guy???

Isn't he magnificent? This is a Barred Owl, and we hear him (her?) very often in the woods behind our house - usually around dusk, but my older boys (night owls themselves) say they hear hooting late at night as well. Well, there I was at the sink starting supper last Friday night when Little Bear, looking out the kitchen nook window, exclaimed: "Mama, look! It's a snowy owl!!"

And this is what he saw ...

Barred owl on feeders

Isn't he GINORMOUS?? And clearly looking for his supper! I took this picture above with my cell phone, then went outside with my big camera to try for a better shot. The first owl picture was taken from beneath the tree just to the right of the feeders. The owl was staring at me - really peering at me with those gorgeous black eyes! - then his attention would be caught by something moving in the underbrush and he'd turn his head downward ...

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Finally he'd had enough of me, my snapping camera and restless Little Bear and took off ...

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He landed in the front yard where LB and I were joined by Bill and Earlybird and we watched the owl fly across the road and into the woods to the north. Absolutely amazing ...

(Crackerjack and Bookworm were out on a driving lesson and missed the whole thing!)

Ok, and now for some autumn homeschooling ... these pics are all from the past couple of weeks!

First came APPLES ...

Apple collage

Apple Week included apple snacks, an apple star surprise, drying apples, applesauce and an apple-y harvest wreath on the front door. :)

Also, I finally made use of that peg dolls book I showed you a couple of posts back, and look who Little Bear found in his learning room mailbox one morning!

Autumn star fairy

I made this "autumn star fairy" from a wooden peg base, with a little sheep's wool for hair, an acorn cap for a hat and a silk leaf (plucked from a garland) as wings! I made the verse card with a blank postcard and watercolor paints. I just wrote the verse on the card once the paint had dried. I've been using these cards for little poems, prayers and verses this year and I love the effect of those pretty paints!

Next came SEEDS ...

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Seeds week included seed gathering, sorting and observation, seed crafts, seed treats, seed experiments ... and very happy chipmunks!

And then on Michaelmas Day we had our first Nature Club meeting of the year ...

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My younger boys all came along and we met with other homeschooling families to take a walk along a local trail. We found everything on our Nature Scavenger hunt checklist as well as garter snakes, spiderwebs, several types of leaves and some very cool fungus. Best of all, there were Michaelmas daisies growing all over the woods! :)

The next Monday we celebrated the Feast of the Guardian Angels ...

Angel collage

I made another watercolor card for the Guardian Angel prayer and set up this small scene on our learning room table. I lit the beeswax tealight and read the prayer aloud to Little Bear ... who took great joy in blowing out that candle! :)

We also found time to celebrate the Feast of St. Francis, our family patron saint ...

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Little Bear especially enjoyed assembling "all of creation" as I crafted a simple grotto and read aloud our favorite child-friendly version of Francis's "Canticle of the Sun." I made a verse card for the first stanza and plan to make cards for the rest of this beautiful prayer. :)

Last week we also visited a local agricultural fair - along with Earlybird's therapist and Bill who took the day off so he could join us. :)

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And the day after that we joined our homeschool group on a field trip to a local corn maze!

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It was a beautiful day - as you can see, warm enough for short sleeves! - and what fun we had navigating our way through the rows of corn and listening to the raspy dry ears in the breeze and hearing great vees of geese honking overhead! 

✨ 🍂 🍎 🐿 🌻 🌞 🍁 🍄 🌽 🌛 ✨

Well this was quite a long post I'm afraid, but I hope you enjoyed it! I had meant to create posts around each of these collages - with more details - but time kept slipping by and then we'd be onto the next thing! I can certainly expand on any of these themes and projects (as well as my planners) in a future post and happily, though last week was particularly busy with two field trips, a fair trip, a vet appointment AND the SAT ... the coming week will be much quieter! Knock on wood!

So I will leave you now my friends, with my thanks for your visit and my wish that you all enjoy a lovely autumn weekend. I will be back again here just as soon as I can but in the meantime you can always find me on Facebook or Instagram. :)

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, dear friends ... see you here again very soon!


Advent Tea, Week 1: Stones, Stars & Shortbread

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Hello my friends and Happy Friday! Did this week go by REALLY fast or is it just me? Seriously - it feels like we were just finishing up Thanksgiving dinner and now here we are nearing the end of the first week of Advent! 

Well, at any rate - welcome! Thank you so much for stopping by and, goodness - please come on in out of the cold and let me offer you something warm to drink. Or maybe it's raining where you are ... or perhaps it's perfectly sunny and warm? But whatever the weather, please do come in! Let's pause together for some rest and refreshment ... time passes too quickly nowadays. We should sit down and savor the season while we can!

Now, my Tea theme this week, as you've probably gathered from the post title, is reflective of where we are in Advent this week. As described in yesterday's post, our family's Advent is a celebration of God's beautiful creation, because the whole world waits together for the miracle of life (and light) to return! Just as the earth goes quiet and dark at this time of year, we too slow down and turn inward, looking for ways to light the path before us ...

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2:43 p.m. and yes, the sun is going down ...

So this week we are focusing on the beauty of "earth and sky" - stars, stones, shells, sun and soil. We'll be making crafts that utilize and rejoice in these blessings of creation. Because when you take the time to really observe and think about these things - particularly if you look through the eyes of a child - you get such a sense for how wondrous our world truly is.

And for me personally, I really do relish crafting with natural materials ... these kinds of projects, most of which become gifts or tree ornaments, just seem especially meaningful to me. :)

Ok, so I have several things to tell you about, but let's start with my tea mug this week ...

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This mug is an oldie but goodie and some readers might recognize it since I've shared it a few times before! But it's my favorite and most comfortable mug. And though it feels wintry to me, I use it all year round. And today in this mug I'm enjoying another old Advent favorite - Harney & Sons' Holiday Tea. This is a black tea blended with subtle spices with a lovely vanilla-type of taste. (I don't believe there's any vanilla in the tea itself, but it just seems creamy and comforting to me.) It's GREAT with a wee bit of sugar and a healthy dose of whole milk. :)

The shortbread you see on the plate - one piece for me, one for Little Bear - was baked Wednesday in honor of St. Andrew (of Scotland). Maybe it's because I'm part Scottish (my maternal grandmother was born in Edinburgh), but shortbread is my hands-down favorite type of cookie! I just love the simplicity of shortbread - the flavor and texture is perfect to my mind (or I should say, palate). I'm always tempted to dip the ends of the bars in melted dark chocolate or thick caramel but then never do. Maybe I'll try that for Christmas this year.

In these pictures you can see I was sitting in a rather sunny spot ...

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The kitchen table gets such wonderful light all day. Usually I "take tea" in the library, but this is where I spread out yesterday - it was bit of a "working" tea. ;)

Here is a closer picture of our Advent Garden-in-progress ...

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Last year we set up an Advent Garden on the patio and while I enjoyed having it there very much, I decided to do something different this year. (Ok, truth be told I had a much larger scale project in mind originally - turning a small section of the yard into a grotto of sorts - but that was deemed a project better suited to spring!)

So instead, we're bringing our garden indoors. Throughout Advent, each week we will add a new layer of creation to this terrarium bowl. This week we've added stones (and soon to come soil), then next week will be plants (aka moss from the garden). In the third week of Advent, we'll add some small animal figures, and then finally, in the last week before Christmas, we will celebrate our own kingdom of creation, humankind - with tiny peg people and little wooden houses.

I'm really excited for this project and I love how it's being done in stages ... really highlighting the "waiting" aspect of Advent. It's certainly piqued the curiosity of my cats and kids ... and even guests to our home!

Now the candles around the bowl technically number 23 instead of 24 - but you didn't hear that from me. *wink* It's all I could scrape up! I had purchased glittery battery-lit tealights for this project but then they didn't really all fit ... size-wise nor sense-wise. (Glitter is lovely but not necessarily, natural.) Then I remembered my collection of beeswax tealights and thought how much more fitting they would be. Some have already been burned a little but that's ok. We'll light a candle each night throughout Advent (one will be lit twice) and that will be another nice way for us to pace ourselves a bit. To gather around the supper table and talk about the good things that happened that day ...

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Here are a couple of stories we're reading during this week of "stones and stars." Three Pebbles and a Song is actually one of our November books but I kept it aside just for this week. It is such a sweet little tale, perfect for this time of year - all about preparing for the long winter and appreciating that we all have gifts to offer. The illustrations - in grays, blues, browns and beige - perfectly suit these bleak days of early December. And another favorite book is this retelling of the fairy tale The Star Child - with its gorgeous illustrations and heartwarming tale of generosity and selflessness. I love how the little girl in the story is so selfless and never once hesitates to hand over something of her own to help another in need. Little ones might fret a bit over the girl's condition (as she slowly sheds her belongings) but her reward at the end of the story is simple and satisfying. 

Speaking of stories ....

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Another thing I'm doing this year is creating an Advent nature story to share with my younger boys - in particular my Little Bear who loves to snuggle and "hear stories."  I bought a couple of bags of "river" stones at the craft store (they're cleaner and more uniformly shaped than our yard stones!) and each stone is painted with a symbol from nature. The story is very simple (just a few lines a day) but it leads us towards Christmas in a way that meanders through creation ...

So ... we begin with a sleepy sun, a friendly starfish, a lonely rock, and a generous star ... and then next week we'll meet proud trees and humble plants ... later on there will be hungry birds, silly crows, clever bees ... and at last ... a humble home, a friendly barn and a very loving family. :)

I'm storing the stones in the 24 little drawers of that wooden Advent tree seen below, and each day we'll pull out a stone, tell its tale (Earlybird can read the card) and then nestle it in amongst the green branches.

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I'm having a lot of fun with it so far! And the boys seem intrigued. :) And since my artistic talents are somewhat limited, I have enlisted our resident 17 year-old artist, Crackerjack, to help me out with painting the stones ... 

Now I have one more thing to show you ... something that will be part of my "Winter Comforts Basket" giveaway!

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These pretty soaps are made by a company called Hand in Hand, and whether you buy them for yourself or a friend (online or at Target), they are a gift that truly gives back. Because for every purchase, HiH gives a month's worth of soap and clean water to a needy child.  These soaps are so well-crafted, softly-scented, earth-friendly AND gorgeously-wrapped. (I love the subtle colors and natural themes!) I'm giving several people on my gift list a bar of this beautiful soap, and ...

... whoever wins my "Winter Comforts Basket" will receive one as well!

(Remember - to enter my Winter Comforts Basket giveaway, all you have to do is send me a picture of your favorite mug or cup. It can be a special one you use at the holidays, throughout the winter, or any old day. You can send me your picture by attaching it to an email (send to drhanigan AT gmail DOT com). Feel free to tell me as much as you'd like about your mug - we love to talk tea here! (And cocoa, coffee, mulled cider, etc.!) I will share these pictures in my weekly Tea posts and then, on New Year's Eve, I will randomly pick a winner! 

So without further ado, here are this week's Tea Friends ... :)

From Elizabeth: "I'm sending you a picture of my favorite mug that I use all the time. I love to enjoy hot chocolate, herbal tea and spiced apple cider in the evenings. Especially with a good book or favorite episode of a beloved TV show or movie."

Friends Tea 1

 

From Lauren: "For your tea post, I wanted to share my favorite tea cup that I use during the winter season."

Friends Tea 2

 ❤

From Heather: "I have to share more than one ... They are all perfect for the season! Happy Advent!"

Friends Tea 3

"My Pioneer Woman Christmas Tree Mug."

Friends Tea 4

"My 'Home is the Nicest Word There is' Mug."

Friends Tea 5

"My Mary and Martha "Lovely" Mugs."

Friends Tea 6

"And these little glass mugs in our hot chocolate bar!"

 ❤

And from Gill:

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"This is a photo of the corner of my kitchen, where I stand to make tea or coffee, cook and bake, or turn 90' to wash up! I spend many contented hours exactly here working or dreaming or gazing out of my window to the front yard, where the dog, cats, hens and wild birds all interact!

In the summer the troughs against the yard wall are overflowing with flowers, now they are stuffed full of daffodil, crocus and narcissus bulbs, covered over with pine branches. The tree is the one we went into the forest to cut down last weekend. The bird feeders are usually busy. It is the funniest thing that the wild birds throw down seed to the hens beneath, and the hens keep the cats away!

You can just see that I have hung my Christmas curtains and that they are swathed with fairy lights. I have my breakfast ready: Norwegian brown goats cheese on bread and a cafe latte in my favorite Emma Bridgewater JOY mug. The board I have my bread on says " A friendly word can work wonders" which is so very true. I had just poured my coffee when your post pinged in, so I snapped the photo and hope you won't mind an Advent breakfast instead of tea!

Wishing you a very peaceful Advent ..."

***

Oh my goodness, wasn't that fun? I just love talking "tea" (etc.) with friends. I do so wish we could all sit down in person and chat, but I guess for now this is the next best thing. (Maybe someday I'll figure out that periscope trend, lol ... or maybe host a "seasonal tea" webinar??)

My sincere thanks to Elizabeth Mary, Lauren, Heather and Gill for sharing their beautiful cups! I loved seeing them and hearing their thoughts on this cozy, happy topic!

And thank you all for joining me today ... I hope you enjoyed our teatime and hearing a little more about my family's Advent rituals. I will share Tea again here next Friday, and all are welcome to partake. If you'd like to send me a picture for the post (and giveaway!) please do so at your earliest convenience, by attaching a photo to an email addressed to ...

drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

I hope to hear from you! Until then, have a happy and restful weekend and I will see you all here again very soon!


Creating Seasonal Themes: Corn Week!

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(Plus a bit of book news at the end!)

Happy Wednesday, my friends! Sorry I've been a bit out of touch lately ... we've had a lot going on here at the house these days!

We're gearing up for a new year of home learning, and we're getting Bookworm ready for his move back to BC, and we're starting Earlybird on a new, daily, home-based, fairly intensive, behavioral therapy. All very good things, but all things requiring a lot of time, energy and attention. (And did I mention, energy?) Also, as August winds down, we're trying to squeeze the very last drops of goodness out of this fast-fleeing season ... we'll have warm weather here for several more weeks, but for all intents and purposes, Summer pretty much ends after Labor Day.

So I thought I would share some of my notes for this week with you all! As I have mentioned before, I enjoy shaping my family's year by assigning seasonal themes to each week. This helps me weave in all the little comforts and joys of the season I might otherwise overlook. And though I really get into planning these themes out with all kinds of details, I try not to set my expectations too high. Because real life often runs over my plans, and a particular "theme" might not get explored very much ... so some years we might manage something small (a special recipe, perhaps) while other years we might go all out and really work that theme into our homeschooling and home life! Either way, I think it's always good to have a plan. And to be aware ... I think as seasons pass, the beautiful rhythm of the year truly wraps itself around my family however much attention we pay it. That is my end goal! :)

Anyhoo, this current week is devoted to the very timely topic of CORN. In New England (and I suspect, across much of the country) corn is in its peak season these days. Corn-on-the-cob is just heavenly right now - partaking daily is not out of the question - and cornstalks will factor into our home decorations in the coming weeks ...

But enough gabbing on my part! Here are some of my thoughts:

The Full Green Corn Moon will rise on Saturday, August 29th @ 2:35 p.m., and it's a Supermoon this month! We'll have to be sure to look for it after dark and plan a special farmstand supper - starring corn, of course! - for that night. 

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We'll visit a local corn field ... we drive by it often and always marvel at its size. This time we'll stop the car and get out - observe the field, its sounds and smells. What wildlife is flying overhead or scurrying underfoot? What do we hear? (Is that the corn making that sound?) What can we smell? (Vegetation, earth?) How does the air feel right now? (Hot, humid?) Now, we won't touch these stalks because we don't have permission, but we might visit a local farm and ask to do just that. I'll see what our schedule allows and how much interest has been piqued. Before we go, we'll take pictures of the cornfield from various angles. 

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We'll visit our favorite farmstand and buy plenty of ears of fresh corn. We'll ask where the corn comes from and how many ears they sell each day. We'll buy some to eat and some to use for exploration/activities ...

At home, we'll pile some ears on the table and take out our colored pencils and sketch pad: "Still Life with Corn!"

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We''ll enjoy some nice books from the library all about corn:

Corn book 2

The Life and Times of Corn

Corn book 1

Corn

Corn book 3

Corn is Maize

Corn book 4

The Popcorn Book

Corn book 5

Raccoons and Ripe Corn

(These might be in a basket or set up as a display on a nature shelf.)

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We'll play some pretty lullabies ... and discuss how/why corn was so important to Native Americans

Corn music

Under the Green Corn Moon (Native American Lullabies)

For craft day we'll make a corn husk candle - a small glass votive surrounded by corn husks with a tiny beeswax tealight tucked inside. That will look nice on our table! (We could also try making this or this ...)

Or we could try making a corn husk doll (and research the history behind it) ...

We will pop popcorn for snack ... and we might even make marshmallow popcorn bars for a tasty treat!

We might do a taste test: boiled corn vs. grilled corn. 

On baking day we will make a pan of corn bread, and serve it with honey butter.

🌽

We'll learn a poem called "A Green Cornfield" by Christina Georgina Rossetti. We'll add that poem to our nature journal, along with our pictures/sketches.

 The earth was green, the sky was blue:
I saw and heard one sunny morn
A skylark hang between the two,
A singing speck above the corn;

A stage below, in gay accord,
White butterflies danced on the wing,
And still the singing skylark soared,
And silent sank and soared to sing.

The cornfield stretched a tender green
To right and left beside my walks;
I knew he had a nest unseen
Somewhere among the million stalks.

And as I paused to hear his song
While swift the sunny moments slid,
Perhaps his mate sat listening long,
And listened longer than I did.

🌽 

We'll consider "Kansas Corn Field," a painting by artist John Steuart Curry in 1933:

Corn 2

***

I also have notes for some Indian Corn activities but I'm not sure if I can get it at the nursery yet. Also, those might wait for a later week in the fall. This week is really more about fresh, or green, corn. :)

So there, in a nutshell (or a kernel!) are my simple ideas for celebrating the goodness of corn during this last week of August. Remember - they're all just possibilities! I can't imagine fitting them all in in any one given year.

How do you enjoy corn at this time of year? Perhaps you grow it yourself or have a favorite recipe ... let me know in the comments below! In the meantime, and before I go, I wanted to mention my book briefly, because I've had a few people ask recently about how my progress is going ...

So, I have been working on it this summer - here and there, not as often as I'd like! - but it took me a while to get going because I wasn't entirely sure WHAT I wanted to write about. I have a few subjects I enjoy very much and there are a few topics people ask about more than others ... well, I finally found my focus! And that enabled me to get rolling ...

I am going to do a book about the file crate system - describing how I do it (and why) and the basics of setting a system up for yourself. That will be the first half of the book ... the second half will focus on seasonal learning (and living) ... and how I use my FCS to manage my family's year. So my hope is to have an outline of 52 (weekly) *seasonal* themes to present  along with activities and books and observations. And tips for using the folders to make it all happen! (Or most of it ... some of it ... well, you get the picture!)

Sometimes when I describe this it all sounds so straight forward and simple - these are my two favorite topics, after all! It seems like the two sides of the equation should work well together ... I need the folders to make the plans happen! But it's possible I may need to separate the two topics ... goodness knows I can get wordy!

(Case in point, this post.)

I will most likely be self-publishing so I'll need to do a WHOLE lot of research into that. I have my eye on a neat contraption that will allow me to bind things at home ... and I am looking into permission for using things like scrapbook papers and poems, illustrations, etc. 

Much to do, much to do! But I'm excited ... so I wanted to update you all .. and I will of course keep you all posted. For the time being, if you have a prayer to spare, or good energy to send, I would be grateful ... I'm desperately trying to find the time in my new schedule to just ... get 'er done!

 :)

Thanks so much for stopping by my friends ... enjoy the rest of your Wednesday and I will see you here again very soon!


On this Loverly Day ...

Valentine tasha tudor

Wishing you all a very Happy St. Valentine's Day!

I hope you all have a nice weekend - we'll do our best here! We are, however, expecting another big snowstorm tonight ... a BLIZZARD in fact, bringing another 12+ inches of snow and extremely high winds. No idea where all this new snow is going to go - we already have about three feet all around us! (As well as on top of us - Bill is going to attempt to remove some of the heavy snow on our roof today - prayers for his safety would be most appreciated!)

Sunday will be a whiteout (and hopefully not a power-out), but Monday brings a lovely national holiday for our country, Presidents' Day. Most schoolchildren enjoy a week off from school in honor of this holiday, but considering how much school they've missed already this year, that might not be wise ... I'm thinking they may still be in class come July!

But we'll plug along here, and "weather the weather" as best we can ... all the while, praying for those poor souls who are without homes or heat or help during this trying time. And for the safety of all who are in the path of such extreme conditions.

***

Be safe and loved, my friends ~ savor your blessings and the comforts around you. I will see you here again very soon ...

(* Illustration from Tasha Tudor's A Time to Keep)


A Monday Hello ... and Tea notes

Mary melcher card

Isn't this the sweetest illustration? Doesn't it capture the colors and feel of a November day? This is a detail from a Thanksgiving card designed by one of my favorite artists, Mary Melcher. Are you at all familiar with her work? She mostly does greeting cards but has also illustrated a few children's books. (One of Little Bear's favorites, in fact: Good Morning, Sun.) I can never resist her cards - they're hard to find, but I snatch them up when I find them - and those I wish to actually send I buy in double!

:)

Alas, November does not look quite so lovely today as it does in that card; it's a cold, wet and rather gloomy Monday here in New England! A good day to stay in and fortify oneself with warm socks, comfort food and hot cups of tea ... if at all possibile. :)

And speaking of tea, a week from today we'll begin our Advent Tea gatherings. Advent does not actually begin until November 30th, but I thought it would be nice to have tea during Thanksgiving week. So next Monday we'll talk about gratitude and sharing life's blessings, as well as our hopes for the season ahead. I usually have tea (baby-willing) around 4 p.m. so my post will go up around then (or just thereafter). If you have a blog and would like to join me at tea, please send me a link and let me know! Or, blog or not, if you'd like to send me pictures and comments to include in my post (how do you do tea?), I would love it. You can send me submissions for our November 24th Tea here:

bysunandcandlelight@comcast.net

**

But for now I will wish you all a good day and hope to see you here again very soon. And as always, thanks so much for stopping by!

Enjoy your Monday, my friends ...


happy little hedgehog ❤

It's hard to justify new baby clothes when one is having her 4th child of the same gender, but really ... when the clothes are this cute, how can one possibly resist?

Hedgie 1

Hedgie 3

Hedgie 2

Love the autumnal colors and I've always been quite fond of hedgehogs! Tagging Penny from VT and Shirley Ann from England on that! ;)

***

And speaking of Michaelmas (which I was the other day), Bookworm texted me a picture of this gorgeous statue of St. Michael the Archangel which stands in one of his classroom buildings at BC.

Michael statue

* And finally, our supper tonight has an "Octoberfest" feel: turkey kielbasa roasted with diced potatoes, zucchini and red peppers, served with crescent rolls and Octoberfest beer (for the grownups, natch).

Have a great evening, my friends!

**


National Lighthouse Day!

I had no idea that yesterday was National Lighthouse Day (or that it existed at all), but in its honor I'd like to show you all a picture of Earlybird's bedroom door ...

Lighthouse door

My mum painted it before he was born. :)

And here are lighthouse curtains made by Bill's mom ...

Lighthouse curtains

And even a lighthouse lamp!

Lighthouse lamp

(In case you couldn't tell, Earlybird's bedroom is done in a lighthouse theme!)

Also, here's a link to my Portland trip last September - my friends and I visited several lighthouses that weekend, so naturally there are tons of pictues! And here's a link to the "Open Lighthouse Day" website - lots of great links to explore there! (Fyi: Maine's annual "Open Lighthouse Day" is Saturday, September 15th this year.)

Finally, how about a few "lighthouse book" recommendations?

The Little Red Lighthouse and The Great Gray Bridge

North American Lighthouses Coloring Book

Lighthouses for Kids: History, Science and Lore

Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie

The Lighthouse Cat

**

Have you ever visited a lighthouse before? They're such an interesting part of our maritime history!

Well, my friends ... have yourselves a wonderful Wednesday, and I'll see you again sometime soon!


A Happy Mother's Day Brunch ❤

MD brunch 1

Well, this has been such a lovely day!

We had an early start (natch) ... I savored my first cup of coffee in bed ... then headed into the kitchen to bake something special for brunch. And just before leaving for Mass, I pulled this buttermilk-blueberry breakfast cake from the oven ...

Md brunch 3

Earlybird helped, especially with the lemon zest and the tossing of berries with flour. (He has a special love for lemons, lol.) I highly recommend this recipe ... it's very easy to make and super delicious to eat!

MD brunch 10

In my big red glass decanter, I mixed up a cold, fruity punch - it was just a strawberry juice blend mixed with seltzer - simple, but special. There were supposed to be floating strawberry slices too, but alas - I forgot to buy fresh strawberries! I served this over ice, in our pretty green glasses, and it was a very refreshing drink. The moms got a splash of Malibu rum just to give it a little zing.

MD brunch 5

EB and I scoured the yard for our "floral arrangements." You really can't beat azaleas for bright, punchy color, and as for dandelions ... well, if you're a mom, there's a special place in your heart for dandelions. :)

The rest of the meal consisted of two homemade quiches (one plain, one bacon) made by my mother, and a plate of apple-chicken sausages grilled up by Bill. There was also fresh fruit, a few pastries and freshly brewed coffee. And then of course there was the aforementioned blueberry cake ... I made up some whipped cream, just to put it over the top!

***

And here's a handmade card from my boys ...

MD brunch 4

"Mom, like the parable says, you are the tree and we are the branches. You support us and help us in everything we do."

      (And here is my heart --><-- swelling with love.)

Here I am with my Mum ...

MD brunch 6

I will always count my mum as one of my greatest blessings in life. She not only gave me life - which, hello, you can't beat that as gifts go! - but she showed me how to live in a sincere and honorable way. She taught me how to be a lady, and that family always comes first. Today she supports my life in any way she's able ... she never hesitates to help or encourage, and she's the kindest person I know.

Without a doubt, the mom I am today is thanks to the mom she's been to me ...

I love you, Mum!


And here we have two special gifts ...

MD brunch 7

The pen was a gift from our pastor this morning - there was a basket filled by the door, a pen for every mom - and how I love the bright pink! (The message is lovely, as well.) And we will always know who this belongs to, because anything pink in this house must be mine, lol! ;)

Now, the item sitting behind the pen takes some explaining ...

Crackerjack, as you all know, is taking an art class this year. He enjoys it so very much and we've been pleased to see him take such pleasure (and pride) in his artistic endeavors. Well, a few months ago, the class worked on clay projects ... I'd pick up CJ from class and he'd be covered in bits of clay, and his hands were so dry they'd drive him crazy! But he told me - very sincerely - that he couldn't tell me what he was making ... but that "someday," I'd know.

(Every mother knows what this means, but we never ever give away that we do.)

Well, come to find out - though not in the way CJ meant me to - he made a little teacup for me, knowing how much I truly love tea. He made some swirly rose shapes for the edge, and painted it all in my favorite shades of yellow, orange and red. And once it was dry and "set," he brought it home, just in time for Mother's Day ....

But then he left it in his bag.

The bag that sat in his bedroom.

Under his brother's bag, and, as the days went by, a multitude of other things such as shoes, jackets, toys and a couple of books.

>.<

While I was out shopping yesterday, Bill tried valiantly to glue it back together for CJ ... but as you can see, there was nothing he could do. The cup was crushed - and so was CJ - he rushed to tell me about it the moment I walked in the door.

And oh my gosh, my heart just broke ... because he tried so hard to make this such a big and special surprise. But I assured my 12 year old son - my sensitive one, who truly takes everything to heart - that I loved this unique cup first and foremost, because HE made it himself. It was made by his hands - with me in his mind and his heart. And that no matter its original purpose, I would love it and cherish it all the same.

So now ... I have a really awesome paperweight! Something that will hold down a stack of papers to grade, or receipts to look through or maybe some magazine clippings to peruse ...

Best of all, it's something that will always make me smile, and that's something I can truly use, every day.

:)

Well, my friends, I hope you've all had a nice Sunday, and if you're a mom (in any capacity) I wish you all a happy and relaxing evening. My night looks to be fairly simple - just as I like it - a little reading, a little supper, a little TV. Can't wait to catch our two favorite shows ... and can't wait to come back in the morning to chat with you all about it!

So thanks as always for stopping by and sharing in my day ... I will see you all again very soon!


Refresh Yourself!

Coca cola vintage ad

Well, I just learned that on this day in 1886, the first glass of Coca Cola was sold! How very interesting ...

Here's some more information from China Bayles' Book of Days:

"In 1886, in a three-legged kettle in his Atlanta, Georgia, backyard, Dr. John S. Pemberton brewed a carbonated, nonalcoholic, herbal tonic that he called Pemberton's French Wine Coca. Pemberton's formula called for 5 ounces of coca leaf (the source of cocaine) per gallon of syrup. The coca's hefty kick was boosted by a generous does of the caffeine-rich kola nut; hence: Coca-Cola.

The first glass of Pemberton's tonic was sold to the public at Jacob's Pharmacy on May 8, 1886, for five cents. Originally advertised as "valuable brain-tonic and cure for all nervous afflictions," a glass of Coke contained about 60 milligrams of cocaine. After Asa Chandler bought the company and began distributing syrup for bottled Coke, the drink's popularity soared. But the dangers of cocaine were recognized, and public disapproval mounted. The drug was removed from the drink by 1903, the company insisting that the "spent leaves" of coca were used for flavoring only."

So first of all - yikes! Glad to hear the Coca-Cola company realized the dangers of its original brew (or at least, it responded to public concern). But secondly, and on a far less serious note, I must pose the inevitable question:

Which do you prefer? Coke ... or Pepsi?

To be honest, I try not to drink soda at all - but given the choice, I'd definitely choose Coke over Pepsi. And I will say, sometimes, if I get a headache, the best cure I've found is taking 2 Motrin with a glass of Coke. It almost always wipes my headache away. (Fortunately I hardly ever get headaches!)

Well, my friends ... hope your day's going well. See you here again very soon!



Crackerjack's Latest Art Project ...

Tay's art

(But I call it my early Mother's Day gift. ❤)

I'm sorry I did not have time for a second post today - it was just that kind of day. I didn't know if I was coming or going half the time! But it was a good day all the same ... and it certainly flew by!

And now we're all home and supper's getting "fixed up" in the kitchen ... a squash soup is simmering on the back burner, steak fries are sizzling in the oven, and Bill's got his Griddler out, toasting those apple-cheddar-turkey panini. I got it all started ... now he's finishing up ... and he just brought me a nice glass of wine.

*sigh*

I wish you all a very happy evening ... thanks so much for stopping by!

:)


A Lovely Little Painting

Sons and heroes painting 1

You might remember a while back I did a Spring Package Giveaway here at my blog. Well, the winner of the contest, EK White, sent me her own little "thank you" package in return! It arrived just the other day, a happy little parcel sticking out of my mailbox - and OH, how it made my day! Inside the package I found (in addition to a lovely note), this beautiful piece of artwork, which EK made herself. It's a mixed-media painting, done in soft blues and greens, and featuring a truly wonderful quote:

 "You don't raise heroes, you raise sons. And if you treat them like sons, they will turn out to be heroes, even if it's just in your own eyes."

~ Walter M. Shirra, Sr.

EK, thank you so much for this gift - I will treasure it always!

I'd like to mention, dear readers, that EK has a lovely Etsy shop where you can find paintings like this (and many other pretty things, too). You must take a look!

:)

And speaking of pretty things, may I direct your attention to the brand spankin' new banner at the top of my page? I'm so excited about this new banner! And let me tell you why. I have always admired photo banners, but I have never taken the time to figure out how to do one properly. So up till now, when I do a photo for my banner, the dimensions are such that the image gets tiled. Not quite the look I was going for, but the best I could do! Well, today I explained this issue to Bill and, as he is known to do, he took over and within five minutes had the whole thing figured out! He showed me what to do (with pixels and whatnot) and ... voila! I now have a full photo banner JUST as I've always wanted! I'm tempted to play around with new images, but I really like these pale flowers for now. I bought them at Trader Joe's this morning, where I was picking up some fresh edamame (our new favorite snack). I could not resist these lovely blooms - so delicate and sweet - I love the way their petals catch the sun.

Well, my friends, I hope you are enjoying your weekend. It's a lovely one here in New England - sunny and unseasonably warm. (Marathon Monday may hit 90 degrees!) Tomorrow I will be catching up on blog comments (I'm sorry I've once again fallen behind ...) and then, look for my "Masterpiece Monday" post to focus on this weekend's Titanic, more so than MC's Edwin Drood. I do plan to watch Edwin Drood at some point next week, but this weekend I'm all about Titanic.

 So have a good night, everyone ... take care and God Bless!

I'll see you again sometime soon ...



Friday Photos (and a Few Felines)

Happy Weekend, my friends -  I hope you all had a nice Friday! I have a few pictures to share with you before wrapping up the week ...

This first picture was taken by ...

Library shot

 Earlybird!

Well, I helped him take it, using my phone-camera. We were walking into the library today when he stopped us and said - "Look at that! The library is so beautiful!" So I whipped out the phone and together we got the shot.

And here he is about an hour later - inside the library, waiting for Crackerjack to finish with Book Group. This is EB's favorite aisle in the whole building - it's where you find both planet books and train books.

Library books

We also found several interesting books about flight. Since Crackerjack is working on a report about zeppelins and hot air ballooons, we decided to make the topic a family affair. :)

Here's our library corner at home:

Library books 3

And here's our Archie, just waking up ... love that tongue! 

FF2:3:1

A touch of early spring inside: pussy willows on the nature shelf.

Pussywillow1

A touch of early spring outside: crocus shoots in the ground!

Crocus shoots in feb

(I can't remember ever seeing them this early!)

And here is Bookworm's latest art class project, a landscape done in acrylics:

Acrylic landscape 2

He worked so hard on this - and he's very pleased with how it came out.

(We are too!)

So, remember I told you all I was thinking about getting an inbox (or basket) for the left side of my desk? Well, I found a great basket I already had on hand ... trouble is, guess who else thinks it's pretty great?

Inbox1

{Now, I must include a picture of Ollie, just to be fair.}

FF2:3:2

And I just love the following picture even though it seems pretty random ...

It was taken by Bill - roundabouts 5 a.m. This is EB and me sitting at the kitchen island very early the other morning. He's got it all going on as you can see ... fully dressed, already drawing, his iPad playing Fireman Sam. As for me, there are pajamas beneath that sweater, my hair's an obvious mess, lol, and my coffee is right there by my side.

Still. I like that this picture captured one of our very "everyday" family moments.

Earlybirds

:)

So, my friends ... I will be off for now, but I wish you all a pleasant evening and a lovely weekend as well. Thanks so much for stopping by ... I will see you again very soon!



A Sunny Sunday Hello

Well friends, I hope you're all having a nice Sunday! The sun is so bright and beautiful here today ... but don't let that fool you ... it's barely 20 degrees!

Bitter cold aside, we're in the midst of a nice, long holiday weekend. Busy Saturday - quiet Sunday - not sure yet what Monday will bring! I thought I might share a few things with you all while I grab a few moments online ...

*--*

A bowl of clementines on the table, just soaking up the sun.

Clementinesinbowl

A catalog filled with summer promise ...

Dahliacatalog

Bookworm's recent art project.

Owlpainting

A craft book I'm perusing.

Teacupcandlepic

Our "rainbow angel" nightlight.

Angelnightlight

(And by "rainbow" I mean, she changes color. :))

Also on my mind this sunny Winter Sunday ...

*-Downton Abbey, of course! Cannot wait for tonight's installment. I'll have my "morning after" post up as quickly as possible.-*

*-This recipe sounds good - and healthy! I'll be trying it later this week.-*

*-The big Pats win last night - we're one step closer!-*

*-Great Expectationswhich I've just started reading - or re-readng, really, though it's been too many years to count!*

*-My desk - I think it's supposed to ship this week!-*

*--*

So, a bit of this, a bit of that ... but that's all I have for now. :) Thanks so much for stopping by ... to read, to say hi, or to just take a look! Have a great Sunday night, everyone ... I'll see you all again very soon!


Our Advent Calendar is Ready to Go!

Adventfun3

Finished just in the nick of time ... with a little a lot of help from my mum!

Remember all those months ago, when I came home from the craft store with this?

Well, I really must laugh at myself. There I was thinking I was so ahead of the game, when that tree sat on the top of my bookshelf until just after Thanksgiving! Honestly, I was thisclose to just leaving it plain! But my mother very kindly offered to take it home to paint in time for December 1st. We discussed colors and design, and off she went to the craft store ...

And just 24 hours later, she brought over the nearly finished product! (I say nearly finished only because it still needed numbers and a few embellishments which we did together while the boys ate lunch.)

And here's how it turned out!

Adventfun2

I just love how it looks!

Adventfun7

As you can see, we chose soft Christmas-y shades of red, gold, green and blue ... and my mum picked out lovely, silvery snowflakes and tiny bits of vintage clip art. For the countdown, we used simple black number stickers (I attached them with tweezers as they were fairly fragile).

And at the very top we placed a beautiful angel ...

Adventfun10

Inside the drawers will be tiny treats and notes for the boys ...

Adventfun17

And on the back of the tree is a special message:

Adventfun6

Now, earlier today I started organizing the things for inside the drawers ...

Adventfun11

These are strips of scrapbooking paper and some brightly wrapped chocolates. On the strips of paper I will write an activity or idea for each day (sometimes something special, often very simple) and then roll it up tightly and tuck it inside the drawer alongside a chocolate.

(Note: I write out the strips one night at a time, working off my big list of ideas. I find it hard to plan too far ahead when weather, sickness, and all kinds of other intrusions can upset our plans.)

Now, a word on the chocolates ...

Adventfun12

I bought a couple of bags of mixed Lindt "Lindor" truffles, and they conveniently come wrapped in three different colors. So each boy gets a chocolate every third day. Bookworm's are blue (dark chocolate), Crackerjack's are red (milk chocolate) and Earlybird's are gold (white chocolate). Except that, EB can't eat these particular chocolates ...

So what we will do is this:

He will trade me his truffle for a special treat I have on hand just for him.

That's a win-win situation in my book! ;)

Now, I took the above pictures in the front room because it had such great light, but I've since moved the Advent tree to its permanent home, on top of the nature shelf:

Adventfun13

The Tree is surrounded by favorite (nature-related) Christmas books, as well as ...

... our little Star Children ...

Adventfun14

... and my Holiday Peace candle:

Adventfun15

I'm just so very pleased.

Adventfun16

So here we are on the last night of November, and our Advent Tree is ready to go! I can't wait for tomorrow ... December is such a wonderful month, because there are so many special pleasures in which to take comfort and joy. It's my hope our Tree will guide us through Advent, and help us prepare - inside and out - for the happiest day of the year.

~****~

Have a lovely night, my friends, and thank you very much for stopping by. I will see you all again here very soon ...

:)


Cake and a Craft for The Annunciation

Marigolds3

To be perfectly honest, I was a bit tired after yesterday's shindig, but I still wanted to do something special with the boys for today's Feast, The Annunciation of the Lord, (technically, a Solemnity, but a day to rejoice nonetheless). On this day last year we brought roses (and, ahem, rocks) to a nearby Marian statue, but this year I was determined to stay in. Between the rain and the snow, it was downright unhospitable for even a brief outing, so while the flakes fell fast and furious, and the boys finished their math, I got started on the cake.

Now, you're probaby saying to yourself, "She baked a cake? Didn't she say they had a whole bunch of desserts leftover from yesterday's party?"

(Well yes I did ... and we did (still do) ... but nothing Earlybird can eat, and I wanted him to have something fresh and festive for today. Besides, I love to bake.)

Anyhoo. I had wanted to try making homemade angel food cake, which is a traditional food for today, but at the last minute I realized I don't own a tube pan! (How can that be??) I wasn't sure if a bundt pan would cut it, so instead, I reached for a lemon cake mix I had on the shelf. So easy, and I kind of liked how golden it came out. :)

And with all the time I saved using a box mix, I made up some lemon whipped cream with EB:

Marigolds2

(Picture by Bookworm.)

Then, I turned a Ziploc bag into a makeshift piping tube ...

Marigolds16

And got fancy with the whipped cream ... :)

Marigolds15

(More photos by my Bookworm.)

And we fished blueberries out of the fruit salad to place all around ...

Marigolds14

All that was needed was a pretty centerpiece - so I plucked a few leftover tulips (aka "Mary's Prayers") and voila ~

Marigolds17

A fun, yummy feast day treat!

As the boys ate, we read about the Angelus, and I showed them this famous painting. I also showed them the Daily Missal you see below; it has just come into my happy possession. It was printed in 1959 and belonged to my grandfather. (Thank you so much, Mum and Uncle George!)

Marigolds4

Here's the lovely page for The Annunciation:

Marigolds5

And then it was time to get our hands dirty!

Marigolds7

I read a suggestion in this lovely book to plant marigold seeds on this feast. (Marigold = Mary's Gold.) The boys have been itching to plant something, so a few dixie cups and some potting soil later, and we were good to go! :)

Marigolds9

Note the variety of Marigold = Crackerjack! Which of course, made his day. ;)

First we scooped the potting soil into the cups carefully:

Marigolds6

Next we fished out the seeds:

Marigolds11

Marigolds8

And each of my boys prepared his own special cup:

Marigolds10

Bookworm added the water:

Marigolds12

And now the cups will sit in a window full of spring sun. (Once it returns!)

Marigolds13

And there you have it, our day in a (rather large, chatty) nutshell. (Though I left out the part about the flock of wild turkeys that passed through ... that caused some excitement around here!) I hope your day was a good one, too. Good night for now ~ I'll see you all sometime tomorrow.


The Chickadee Post, Mid-December

Chickpost1

Dear Earlybird,

Today is a very cold day in the woodland. Most of our food sources are snowed under, so we really appreciate the food your family puts out for us! Many of my feathered friends like the black oil seed the best, but I also like your spruce tree cones! I've sent you one as a small gift ~ I'm not sure if you like to eat spruce cones (I'm guessing probably not since there's always plenty on your tree!), but maybe you could put it on your nature shelf? (Or you could hang it on your Christmas tree. I've seen it through the windows. The lights are very pretty!)

In other woodland news, a Cooper's hawk has made himself quite a nuisance at the feeders. Perhaps you heard about poor Red Belly's close call yesterday? She's one lucky woodpecker, I tell you! Lately I've been keeping to the deeper areas of the woodland, so I've been safe. I'll come visit later in the winter when my food stores run low!

Well, Earlybird, I'd best get this note off to you as I'm expecting my cousin Gray Tail for tea at any moment. (I bet you'd like to know what I'm serving: fresh juniper juice and thistle seed cake!)

And here's Little Chickadee now, ready to deliver my note to you today! I'm so glad your Nana made you that special mailbox ~ now we can share all kinds of news with each other!

Keep warm and be well, my dear little boy ...

Your Friend,

Red Tail the Squirrel

There was some excitement here yesterday afternoon ~ Earlybird received his very first piece of Chickadee Post! How did he know? Well, for starters, the flag was up on his special nature mailbox!

Inside the box, EB found (top photo) a small note card and a real spruce cone ...

Chickpost2

Now, the note card is just a piece of oatmeal-hued cardstock, folded over and adhered with a sticker. I used a rubber stamp for the chickadee image (and thankfully, my mum happened to be here, so she drew the little branch he's sitting on) ...

Chickpost3

EB opened it up as fast as fingers would fly, and inside he found a special note ...

Chickpost4

He was a bit over-excited to sit and listen at first, so I had him go and get his little red squirrel puppet and I read the note to him through the puppet's "voice." :) He enjoyed the story very much, and asked for it to be read again a few times over! Right after we finished reading, we set about decorating the spruce cone for our tree.

Of course, we began with a good spackling of glue ...

Chickpost5

... followed by a liberal sprinkling of glitter, and then a jingle bell tied on with a bit of twine. Once dry, it was ready to hang:

Chickpost6

Stay tuned for more tales from the woodland ~ brought to you (and EB!) by Chickadee Post! :)


A Christmas Corner Tour

Here's a little tour of a spot in our home that makes our afternoons and evenings (even our dark mornings) quite cozy: a Christmas corner in our family room. The boys love to curl up next to the fire, so I planned around it ~ bringing in cushions and baskets of books. I also made our mantel a centerpiece of decoration ...

Mantel1

First, tucked down in the far right, is the basket of winter-themed books (please see my leftand sidebar for a description of its contents). This bed-rest in Christmasy red has been borrowed from Crackerjack's room for the month of December. :)

Mantel2

A close up of the winter books ... these will stay out well after Christmas. Winter often overstays its welcome here in New England, but roundabouts February a few early spring titles will appear here.

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And now for a quick tour of the mantel. Our theme this year is a woodland Christmas, a "Heaven and Nature Sing" kind of thing. Front and center we have a prayer card of The Holy Family, glowing in the light of a starry votive candle. Also we find a wooden lion and lamb, together, a universal symbol of peace.

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At the far left and right, are holiday prints that I collected years ago and recently framed. If you are familiar with the Chinaberry catalog, you might remember the lovely covers that used to grace every issue ~ whimsical and sweet with tiny fairies and ladybugs, etc. They were hand-drawn by artist Louise Popoff, and I was quite disappointed when they stopped using her work. (They now use book illustrations which, of course, are lovely too. But I still miss that artwork.) Anyway, this year I finally worked these enchanting prints into the decor ...

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You might notice in a few of these shots, the huge pine cones (there are two, one at each end). I found them at Whole Foods for $1.99. Normally, I wouldn't buy pinecones as they fall rather reliably from our own spruce and pine trees, but I couldn't get over the size of these! The funny thing was, the other day the boys and I read about "Digger Pines" which have cones "as big as softballs" and we think that's what these might be! We've never found any so big around here (in the wild, not the market, that is).

We also have a few little toys nestled in here and there, and that's a holly garland behind it all. I'd love real greenery, but so would my cats (and even at 16, they'd find a way up there), so plastic it had to be ...

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The bears and the apine village ...

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The wise old owl, the fawn and the squirrel ...

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More village buildings, the rabbit and hedgehog ... I also nestled our Advent candles into the scene: plain glass votives with sheer ribbon wrapped around each (three in purple, one in pink).

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The two main Christmas baskets (the one on the left holds our favorites).

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The windowsill holds still more books (I change them up each week), and the rectangular basket holds our magazines (mostly mine, but a few of the boys' too).

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We also have our current nature story basket. I pick puppets from our main stash that correspond with the birds and animals we've been observing. Just now there is a cardinal pair, a crow, a hawk and a black squirrel. (Yesterday we added a woodpecker.)

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And, the Christmas tree is done at last! (I finally just let the boys have at it, lol.) I will take pictures today, but here is a glimpse of some ribbon I found this year - isn't it perfect for our woodland-themed tree?

I'll be back later today* with tree pictures and a bit of news from The Chickadee Post ... :)

*Make that first thing tomorrow ~ the day got away from me! See you bright and early, then ...


A Special Gift for Earlybird*

*From the heart and hands of his Nana ...

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I have been dying to tell you all about this project, a birthday gift for Earlybird from my mum (and to a much smaller degree me)! This is a mailbox, as you can see, but a very special mailbox ~ one that will bring Earlybird tiny notes and treasures from the woods ...

Let me back up a bit. A few months ago I came across an unfinished mailbox at AC Moore. Though it was quite inexpensive ($5), it was well made and sturdy. The door worked with a magnetic catch, the flag moved up and down smoothly. I immediately thought this could make a nice toy for Earlybird, so I purchased it on the spot.

Back at home, I started imagining how we could use it, and of course my mind wandered to nature study. You all know how much we love nature, well, what else could this mailbox bring but news from our woods?

So the next thing I did was to ask my mum (who paints beautifully) to help me with this project, and we hoped to have it done in time for EB's birthday. About a week ago, I gave her the mailbox and some vague indications of what I envisioned ("red squirrels, acorns, pine boughs and birds"), and from these sketchy ideas, she made this ...

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I am just overwhelmed. It's too lovely for words!

Bill is going to build a special corner shelf in the learning room for our mailbox. And every few days, EB will see that little flag sticking up and that will mean ... MAIL!

And that's where I come in! I bought some rubber stamps, ink pads and some natural colored paper and tiny envelopes. Using these supplies I will pen little notes "from the woods." They will be delivered to EB's mailbox, naturally, by Chickadee Post. :)

And some days EB might find a tiny treat or treasure inside too! A spruce cone, a leaf, a feather, a ripe berry, a rock ... those simple, yet magical, kinds of things. Everything will have a story to it, of course. :)

My mum gave Earlybird (and me!) this lovely gift today, at EB's birthday party. Before I go, I'd like to share just a few pictures from our day ~ and you can be sure you'll be hearing more about (and from) the Chickadee Post before long!

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EB helped me set the table. Everyone got at least one fork, and, possibly, a spoon. ;) Our theme was snowflakes, so Bookworm made lots for the windows, and I made a batch of snowy cupcakes for dessert ...

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EB and his family!

Well, thanks for stopping by this evening and letting me gush share! It's now getting late, and we're hunkering in, waiting for that Nor'easter to hit sometime before dawn ~ now wouldn't that make a good story? :)

Have a good night!


Papa, Don't Peek!

*Because what's to follow is a surprise!*

For his birthday (which, as I mentioned earlier, is shared with his Papa), Earlybird received a set of watercolor paints. I wish I could have captured his glee (there's no other word for it) on camera; painting is his most favorite thing to do. Ever. So it goes without saying, he was quite happy with his present and that watercolor painting became the morning's occupation.

We had just rolled up our sleeves when I reminded the older boys (who were researching sea creatures beside us) that we needed to make Papa his birthday card. They asked what his favorite color was and I replied that there were actually two colors: green and blue. Since EB had started in with those two very colors, we decided to use his work as a base for the card!

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I shared with the boys how it is I can always remember Papa's favorite colors; it is because when I was little, on the years that we had outdoor lights, they were always blue and green. Now, truth be told, I would have liked multicolor or maybe pink or even white, but blue and green it was (and mostly blue). They were my dad's favorite (and what he grew up with) so those colors always stayed vivid in my mind. We decided to work this bit of information into our card:

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Here is Earlybird's watercolored paper, dried and folded in half. It is set upon a stash of tissue paper in cool blues and greens.

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I drew (with a plain old pen) a strand of old fashioned lights. Using a pair of manicure scissors, I cut out the bulb shapes, and then we tucked small squares of tissue paper behind each opening ...

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Just a few stickers later and we had a card for Papa! (The paper clips are holding the card closed; the paper was warping a bit from being damp.) Final step - a piece of light blue cardstock attached inside upon which the boys can write their message. (That part of the project is still pending due to a much needed lunch break!)

This was a fun and easy craft to do with the boys, one I'll have to remember ~ I can visualize other themes down the road (birthday balloons, Easter eggs, pumpkins, etc.). At the rate EB cranks out those watercolors, I should have cards enough for the whole year before long! :)


Painting Day!

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Do you have a regular painting day at your house? A day when you break out the brushes and watercolors, tie smocks on the kids and let them have at it?

Well, in theory, we do - though in practice, not so much. I mean, I am completely sold on the idea that a regular painting day (just like a regular nature study day or a regular tidy-up day) has an important place in our home learning rhythm. So what keeps us from doing it more often? (I am asking myself as much as anyone!) I think the answer (as with most things) lies within the issue of organization.

Basically I am looking for a way to make kid-crafting more do-able: easy and spontaneous, yet with a manageable mess quotient. I would love - love - a corner all set up for this kind of crafting; in fact, I have one "on order." ;) Bill is working on making over our basement into a playroom for the boys. I have requested a craft corner - with enough space to work, to store supplies neatly, and with perhaps a clothesline hung above for finished or drying projects. It also has to be set up in a way that Earlybird can manage - i.e. enough materials to be creative, not so many as to be overwhelming.

But all that will be fodder for a future post (when I get some pictures of downstairs), for now, let me return to our "Harvest Moon" painting day last week. It was so nice out, we decided to work out-of-doors ....

Here are the boys at their workspace (the picnic table covered in newspapers):

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Due to Earlybird's sensitivities, I hesitate to use traditional watercolors when working with him. Instead, I mixed up some natural food dye with a bit of water, and hoped for the best.

He pretty much liked the mixing part the best:

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Working with a Harvest theme, we stuck to yellow and red (and thereby, orange).

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I was a little fuzzy on the whole paper thing - it had been a while since we last painted - soak, don't soak, soak a little? I didn't have the OM manual at my side, so I hedged my bets and ended up wiping the paper with a damp sponge. It seemed to work well.

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I loved watching all the boys get into it in their own way. EB was all about the water, Crackerjack wanted to get back to his baseball, lol (though he did finish his painting), and Bookworm took things nice and slow:

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The only instruction I had given them was to fill their papers with "harvest color." Bookworm decided to make an autumn sunset, and he worked on it for quite some time.

You can see the paintings hanging to dry on our clothesline at the top of this post. They dried very quickly in the breeze and were ready to craft with before long.

I made an orange moon out of my paper and hung it against peach tissue in the windows:

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It reminded me of the sky in the opening scene of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, when Lucy and Linus head out to the neighborhood pumpkin patch ... do you know the one I mean? The sky is always perfect in those CB specials.

Crackerjack made a pumpkin face with his (photo forthcoming) while Earlybird used his painting as drawing paper (photo not available). :)

Bookworm used some of my orange painted paper to cut out a smaller Harvest Moon. He rigged up a pulley system and suspended it over his sunset (adding a piece of starry blue scrapbook paper above) ...

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He then had a neat little nature story to tell - the rising and setting of the Harvest Moon! You could do this with any full moon, changing the color to white or even blue or green. (Or even the shape could change as the moon waxes and wanes!)

I expect our next painting day will be held indoors, unless we get another touch of Indian Summer - but hopefully we'll have our craft corner soon ready downstairs! You know, I would love to see how other folks set up their crafting corners ~ now, wouldn't that be a fun carnival?

Well, thanks for stopping by and I hope you have a great Wednesday!