Artwork Feed

Creating Seasonal Themes: Corn Week!

Corn 1
(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. 


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. 


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!"


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 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.)


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:


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.


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


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! 


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


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?


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


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.



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.


A catalog filled with summer promise ...


Bookworm's recent art project.


A craft book I'm perusing.


Our "rainbow angel" nightlight.


(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!


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!


I just love how it looks!


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 ...


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


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


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


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 ...


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:


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

... our little Star Children ...


... and my Holiday Peace candle:


I'm just so very pleased.


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


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:


(Picture by Bookworm.)

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


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


(More photos by my Bookworm.)

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


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


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!)


Here's the lovely page for The Annunciation:


And then it was time to get our hands dirty!


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! :)


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

First we scooped the potting soil into the cups carefully:


Next we fished out the seeds:



And each of my boys prepared his own special cup:


Bookworm added the water:


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


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


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 ...


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) ...


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


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 ...


... 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:


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 ...


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. :)


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.


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.


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 ...



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 ...


The bears and the apine village ...


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


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).


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


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).


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.)


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 ...


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 ...


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!


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 ...



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!


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:


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.


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 ...


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!


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):


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:


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


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.


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:


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:


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) ...


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!

Everyday Nature: Maple Sugaring

Despite the impending snow, it certainly felt like March today ... gray, drizzly, and mild. LeavessquareIt's been nice to have the windows cracked open, for the breeze is kinder than it was a month ago. The woods are damp with snowmelt and lively with birdsong. Newly sprung from its frosty pen, the earth smells - well - earthy. However removed we are from nature in our everyday life, we know in our bones, spring is near.

Here in New England, March means maple sugaring time. We don't have any sugar maples on our property, but if the storm clears out in time, we are planning to attend a local sugaring demonstration this weekend! I can hardly wait - I cannot believe I have lived practically my entire life in New England and I have never been to a sugaring demonstration. I thought the experience would make a nice entry in our nature notebooks.

So today we kicked off our maple study on a rather (sugar) high note. While I prepared delicous maple cupcakes, we played the Maple Leaf Ragg and we talked about trees in general, in light of their role as a natural resource.

We began with a quick brainstorm: How do trees help us?

  • lumber
  • firewood
  • paper
  • fruit
  • nuts
  • shelter (for animals)
  • oxygen
  • shade
  • maple syrup!

Here are the cupcakes on our "display" table, as well as a few books for the week. (I also made note that the table is made of maple!) On the far left is a page from An American Celebration: The Art of Charles Wysocki; it shows an old-fashioned maple sugaring scene. In fact, you can see it in the Amazon "look inside." (Grandma Moses, Tasha Tudor and Eastman Johnson also have done sugaring scenes.)


Here's a cupcake a bit closer up; I held it near the window so you could see it better. :)


And here's the page from my March 2006 journal where I saved this recipe from Country Living last year. This shows how the cupcakes are supposed to look. Mine are not as smooth or pretty, but if I may so, they tasted awfully good. ;)


We'll see what else develops after our "field trip" this weekend. We'll take lots of pictures of course - though I think it will be too cold and slushy to do much sketching while we're there. I wish we had a sugar maple we could visit year round as is suggested in the Handbook of Nature Study. It is the perfect time of year to "adopt" a tree - and watch it grow through the seasons.

If you're interested in learning more about maple sugaring, you might check out any of the titles I have listed in my Early Spring Basket on the righthand sidebar. (Still to add: The Big Tree and Ox-Cart Man). The Handbook has a wonderful Maple Sugaring chapter, and Project Seasons has many interesting activities (including maple math!). There is also an incredibly complete unit study I found online here.

And, if you are intrested in making the maple cupcakes, the link for the recipe is here.

Very yummy! :)

A Lotta Quiet = A Little Trouble

It had been far too quiet for far too long (in this house that means approximately five minutes), so I went to peek in on Earlybird. He's generally not a quiet child - though speech-delayed, he is quite verbal. You always know where he is and what he's up to. I thought he was playing quietly in his room, and I was half-right. This is what I found:


(He's not in this particular picture because he immediately ran to the other side of the room as if he had nothing to do with this! And yes, I walked down there camera-in-hand. I just had a feeling.)

Sure enough, he was painting - and all by his little 4-going-on-5 self did he set this activity up. As you know, EB does a lot of painting, only it is done at the kitchen counter, and it is not only set up, but overseen by, his mama!

Well, for some reason, EB decided to forgo the usual "asking first" route, and took matters into his own hands. I have to give him credit, though, as he was very thorough and neat about it!

He got a container of acrylic craft paint from my bedroom (don't we all keep craft paints in our bedrooms, lol?) and not only opened it himself but found a glass ball jar and poured the contents into the jar - not the whole container, mind you, just enough. Such restraint! He found a paintbrush and a piece of paper, cleared off a spot to work on ... (that would be his toy cubby in his bedroom - where we decidedly do not paint!) and set to work.



You see him here painting again because I didn't have the heart to take it all away, and, of course, I wanted to capture some action shots. ;)

The amazing thing is, he only spilled a tiny bit of paint on my bedroom desk when he made the transfer! Except for needing his hands washed, the whole (unsupervised) project came off rather smoothly!

So what we have here (completely disregarding the lack-of-permission issue for the moment) is really good independent initiative and awesome fine motor skills too! There was a reason he was quiet of course - he probably wasn't too sure his mama would have said yes to an impromptu paint session. I just might have, but he wasn't taking any chances - so he took matters into his own (industrious, able, adorable) hands!

In other Earlybird news, his language is progressing beautifully! His speech therapist is thrilled with his progress and said he is able to do so much more than he was able to only a month ago. For example, today he said apple as clear as a bell! (Before it was buppa or something like that.) He pulled an apple off the Chirstmas tree (separate issue), held it out to me and said:

"Wook, a apple!"

And I said, "EB! Did you say apple?" And he said:

"NO, a biiiigggg apple!"

I was even further thrilled when he pulled a smaller apple off the tree, brought it over to me, and said,

"Wook! A mall (small) apple!"

Amazing! At that moment Bookworm walked into the living room, so I promptly told him what had just transpired and he said:

"Oh yeah, I taught him that. We looked at the tree for a while yesterday and I talked with him about the apples."

Oh, I love it. I love it on so many levels.

And one more thing ~ he can say red now! (It used to be "ehd.")

Oh, how much joy this brings me! How I love this little boy who will be 5 in just over a week. (Can that possibly be?) Thanks for letting me "brag" a bit over my little guy's accomplishments. We are so blessed by this child and this journey, I just had to share!