Catch-up Feed

Food, Flowers, Friends ... and a Day at the Fair!

(But not in that particular order ...)


Happy Sunday, my friends! I hope your weekend is going well, and to my Canadian friends ~ I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving (tomorrow). :)

As I write this post it is raining steadily here ... and OH MY is it chilly! I had to run out for groceries a bit ago (not my favorite thing to do on a Sunday) and I am so glad to be back home again, sipping my tea and typing away at my desk. I hear the Pats game on in the kitchen where Bill, God bless him, is filling the dishwasher (with Little Bear's "help"). I'm thinking about so many things - things I need to do, forgot to do, want to do - and feeling grateful we have a holiday tomorrow (Columbus Day here in America). It's one of those weekends when I really need just one more day of weekend!

Anyhoo ... I thought I'd share some pictures from last week. We had some very nice days, including a trip to the Fair, and a Nature Club meeting held here at our house. Please read on and I hope you enjoy!

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Here we are Tuesday morning at the Fair ... it was a little damp to start, but things dried out nicely throughout the morning. I will admit, I was a little anxious about this trip, as it had been several years since Earlybird had been to the Fair. As you can probably imagine, a large and crowded fairground is a rather challenging place for a child with autism. There's just so much stimulation - so many sights, sounds, smells - and way more people than he's used to being around. Previous fair visits had not gone so well, but we planned this year's visit with EB's behavioral therapist (who joined us during this outing). We hoped EB - who was really excited to go - would be able to handle it ... and happily, he did handle it! It was overwhelming for him at times, so we found quiet corners and simple things for him to do ...


First up, EB and Little Bear got to make apple cider the old-fashioned way ... 


These guys were SO nice, letting EB turn the wheel over and over again and patiently explaining the process to him. People like this - who take a few extra minutes and show a little extra patience - well, they just have no idea how much that means to parents whose children have special needs. For us it meant a quiet 10 minutes where EB could calm down and focus on something interesting. He felt a part of the Fair instead of outside of it.

A bit later on we found ourselves in another quiet spot ... inside the poultry barn, where even the loudest roosters and hens barely ruffled our feathers. Plus, the boys got to hold baby chicks!


The nice man in the cap pictured below noticed my boy needing a little distraction and said, "Hey, hang on a minute - let me get you a chick to hold." Well, Little Bear and Earlybird sat themselves right down on the bench and waited patiently (EB's beloved therapist right by his side) and true to his word, this kind gentleman placed a tiny chick right in their hands!



Catching our breath we moved on to enjoy our snacks outside the arena ... whoopie pies from a favorite bakery!

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(EB's ate his too fast for me to get many pictures, lol, but here is LB enjoying his.)

A stop in "Kiddieville" on our way out, and a train ride for Little Bear ...


Once with Daddy ...

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And once with Mama. :)

(Earlybird almost got on the train but changed his mind at the last minute. Maybe next year!)


Now, here are some pictures from our Nature Club meeting on Friday. Some of my longtime readers might remember years ago when I'd post about my homeschool group's Nature Club and what fun we had on those monthly adventures. Well, after a several-year break, I am happy to report the club is back up and running! This first meeting was just a gathering to get organized and so there were a few nature crafts set out for the kids and plenty of refreshments for all ...



These next couple of pictures have nothing to do with Nature Club - I just want to show you some more of my autumn decorating. :)





It was such a nice day so we were able to set up the activity tables on the  patio ...




Activities included: making leaf fossils, autumn suncatchers and leaf-creature pictures as well as rock painting and a backyard scavenger hunt. I think the kids all had a good time! (I didn't share pictures of our friends in this post, but there were about 20 kids in all, I believe.)

And hey, here's an idea ... how about we form some kind of "online" Nature Club? I often have friends and readers comment that they wish they had something like this club for their kids and while we obviously couldn't get together and explore nature "in real life," we could share our ideas and experiences with each other here at my blog! I will have to think on this a bit, but let me know if you think you (and your kids) might be interested ... I'd run this something like I have other group projects in the past ... like Field Days, Book Party and Planner Party and the like. Maybe a monthly theme and then folks could "report in" and share pictures and observations, a little bit about the nature where they live? I think that could be fun ... :)

Have to share this one, too ...


Our Earlybird is learning to ride a bike! :)

This an adult "trike" and so far he's taking to it pretty well! And just to note, he will wear a helmet once he starts really riding. This picture was taken in our driveway and he doesn't pedal further than a few feet at a time. The helmet will be a bit of a sensory challenge, but I know he'll wear it if it means he gets to ride around the neighborhood!

Last pic from Nature Club ...


Beautiful zinnias and cosmos! How lovely to be brought flowers from a friend's garden? I am resolved to grow a cutting garden next year...


New books on my desk ...

New books

The one of the far left is on loan from the library (it seems several friends are enjoying this story so I want to check it out!) while the other two are recent "splurges." The middle book will be my Advent reading and the book on the end is just FULL of wonderful information. Really nice layout, too. I am taking that one very slowly, reading a few pages every morning ... :)

And lastly ...

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I had to share this picture - taken on Main Street as I made my way home from the store. A horse and buggy making its way (slowly) down the road! Such is life in a small town ... :)

Well my friends, I'd best be off for now - I've kept you here quite long and so I thank you for your time and attention! I do hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend, whenever it might end, and I also hope and pray all my friends here are safe and sound. Especially those in the path of Hurricane Matthew!Take care of yourselves and your loved ones and I will see  you here again very soon ...

Playing Catch Up!

Hello my friends, and Happy Tuesday! And for that matter ... Happy June! :)

Gosh, it's been a while since I've posted ... and I'm sorry about that. Everything is fine here, we're just extra busy as the year winds down and a few computer issues have slowed me down a bit, too. I hope to find more blogging time this Summer because I have an awful lot of ideas and things I want to talk with you all about!

But for today, I'd like to play a little catch up and share some pictures from the past few weeks, as this will give you a glimpse of what's been going on around here ... most significantly ...


Chicks 1

Our baby chicks arrived three weeks ago! Aren't they sweet?

We ordered six one-day-old pullets and they sent us seven. Unfortunately, one of them didn't make it so we now have the original six. They are doing quite well, I'm happy to report! They are getting so big and Bill and the boys are working hard to finish the coop and pen! 

Chicken pen

We've got a few more weeks to get it done ...

Here are my "Full Flower Moon" cupcakes from a couple of weeks ago. We baked these as part of our seasonal homeschooling rhythm. (That week's theme was "Spring Flowers.") You probably saw these if you follow me on Facebook, but they're too pretty not to share again! :)

Flower cupcakes

More flowers from the spring garden .... also gathered during "Spring Flower" week.

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I love pretty vases and old pitchers, but nothing is more charming than a plain old Mason jar. :)

Here is a lovely pond in our neighborhood ...

Morning pond

On this walk I had Little Bear with me as you can see. We were saying "Good Morning" to the geese and frogs and turtles and blackbirds ... and whoever else we could hear on this breezy May day!


Some of the pretty purple phlox that bloomed last month ...

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Oh, and here is Little Bear's birthday cake! My mum made the cake and I supplied the trucks and "rock wall." Mum added Oreo crumbs to make the construction site!

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And here is a close up of a braided rug set we purchased for our kitchen - I am so in love with these colors! Bill and I stopped in at a moving sale up the street and I just could not pass these rugs up. (Two runners and an under-table rug.) They look great in the kitchen! Braided rugs just say "cozy home" to me ...

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Thankfully, Archie approved the purchase ... ;)

Kitchen table with peonies

The largest rug fit our breakfast nook perfectly! It means a little more vacuuming, but I'm ok with that. :)

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Oh and did I mention, Bookworm (our college boy) is home? He arrived mid-May and is with us till the end of August. It is SO good to have him home - to have ALL my chicks back in the nest! And of course, Little Bear is just soaking up all the extra big-brother attention. 💙

But back to the garden ...

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I love this little herb-and-flower patch, which I'm hoping to expand this summer. The yellow flowers are Yarrow, and the purpley things are Coral Bells, which the hummingbirds absolutely adore. They drink deep from those tiny pink blooms!

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On the other end of the scale - here are my gigantic pink blooms, our lovely Peonies! I wish they would linger longer ... they are the most photogenic flowers and do they ever smell heavenly!

But my Foxgloves are really stealing the show this Spring ...

Foxgloves sunshine

Foxgloves pink

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Foxgloves are biennial so they didn't bloom last year and the year before that was their first so they were fairly small. This year though, boy oh boy are they doing well! (And to think, we almost pulled them up thinking they were weeds!) Also known as Fairy Thimbles (or properly, Digitalis purpurea), this plant is one of my all-time favorites ... it reminds me of Beatrix Potter and Tasha Tudor ... a sweet, old-fashioned, country cottage kind of flower!

One last shot, here they are this morning under our glorious American flag ...

Flag day foxgloves

(Happy Flag Day!)

Ok, and finally, a little more wildlife news ... we have a woodchuck family living in our backyard!

Woodchuck 1

This is the mother - who, I think, wintered under our old shed on the hill and then spent the spring making herself a few dens here and there around our property. (We'd see her hurrying across the yard, with her mouth full of leaves!) Well, yesterday we watched her and her THREE babies enjoying our plentiful (organic, weedy) grass! They are so cute I can't stand it!

This picture doesn't really show them that well, but it was hard to get a picture through the sunroom window ...

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I can't wait to watch them this Summer!

We also have a red squirrel family that visits our deck every day for the seed I scatter ... there can be up to six squirrels at a time! There are also lots of chipmunks and gray squirrels, of course. The usual songbirds - goldfinches, chickadees, titmice, mourning doves, woodpeckers, wrens, cardinals - and a pair of HUGE ravens that are so incredibly majestic.

Oh, and a gorgeous fox trotted through our yard the other night as we sat in the kitchen nook enjoying our dinner. We have never seen one before!

(And yes, we are planning to keep our chickens in a pen! They will be allowed to roam "free" with supervision.)


Well my friends, that's all I have time for right now! I hope you enjoyed seeing these pictures and I thank you so much for joining me. I can't promise when my next post will be up, but I hope it won't be too long ... I would like to do a Q&A roundup and show you all how the Day Designer is working for me now that I've used it for a whole two weeks. :)

I do hope you are all enjoying your June so far - has your Summer begun yet? - and I wish you all a pleasant evening (or day as the case might be) ...

See you here again very soon! 

Wednesday Q & A: Due Dates, Desserts & Diet

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Good morning, my friends! I thought I'd do a little Q&A catch-up today ...

Now and again I am asked when I'm due, and I can tell you my "official" due date is May 27th (Memorial Day) - and that's (wow) three months from today! I tend to deliver close to my dd - Bookworm was born one day late (the day after the summer solstice), Crackerjack came two days early (two days before the Assumption) and Earlybird arrived a whole week early (just in time for his Papa's birthday!). But we'll have to wait and see what this baby has planned ... ;)

Yesterday, Michelle asked:

Can you share the recipe for the potato and leek soup? I think you have mentioned it before but I couldn't find the recipe. I bought leeks at the store today in hopes of making it Friday.

I'm trying this one, Michelle: Martha Stewart Potato Leek Soup. It sounds earthy and delicious - a perfect supper for the first of March. :)

Why leeks you might wonder, dear readers? Well March 1st is The Feast of St. David, who is the patron of Wales, and leeks are a national symbol (alongside the daffodil). Traditionally they are worn on a lapel, but I prefer the idea of serving them in a meal ...

Are we Welsh? No. But we're Catholic, and I enjoy working simple faith traditions into our everyday family life. Over the years they bring us a familiar, fun comfort - and happy memories, as well. :)

Now, Jen asked:

I wondered if you make a dessert almost every night? I think I would weigh 300 pounds if I ate all the yummy desserts you serve! :-) Which brings me to another question, I have noticed that there are always (or usually!) seem to be delicious sweets in your home? How do you keep your girlish figure, Dawn? Do you squeeze exercise into your already-busy schedule? I would love to hear your thoughts on this!

Ok, lots of points to touch on, Jen!

I do serve dessert at every dinner, but I don't always make it myself - and it's not always something big or special. I usually have simple cookies (vanilla wafers, gingersnaps, oatmeal raisin) or plain ice cream/frozen yogurt on hand. My family really enjoys a little something sweet after a meal and I feel as long as we keep it proportionate and nobody has issues tied to sweets, we're ok. I also try to keep our desserts as natural (homemade) and fruit-based (seasonal) as possible.

Honestly, I'm a big believer of "all things in moderation," so we don't forbid sweets, but we do monitor them. Earlybird is the only one of us who has a weight issue, and that is tied tightly into his autism: eating is an addiction for him - he literally wants to eat all the time. But it's not so much sweets he wants, but rather, carbs and dairy. And actually he rarely eats the family dessert - he's usually pretty happy with a couple of low fat "Fig Newmans" or a few graham crackers after a meal. Currently we're working with him on portion control and making healthier choices ... and this would be a great topic for a future post! I'll start a draft now. :)

But I do enjoy desserts, I'll admit! And I also love to bake. In fact, Bill, looking over my shoulder at this draft just said, "You love to bake stuff but you never eat it!" Which is not entirely true - I do allow myself to have a small sweet a day - but I don't eat it at night after supper, because that gives me heartburn. So I usually save my "sweet" for midday. I don't know if that makes a big difference, but I've heard it said it's wise to limit calories late in the day. And if I'm having a cupcake with lunch I'll only eat half a sandwich instead of a whole. I have to keep my meals small because I tend to have slow digestion - if I eat too much in one sitting my stomach can't deal.

Now, do I exercise?

Well, um ... no. 


I know I should - I really should - and I am always meaning to start! But the truth of it is, I just can't find the time ... or energy ... or motivation. Generally speaking, my weight stays about the same even without "formal" exercise ... but I know exercise is about way more than staying trim - it's about heart health and flexibility, etc. I have this conversation with my doctor at each annual physical!

Ideally, I'd be walking/using the eliptical a few times a week and doing some yoga or stretching every day. It's in the back of my mind that once I've recovered from this baby's birth I will get serious about doing something "formally" physical, a few times a week. I'm sure it won't be as easy to shed baby weight in my 40s as it was in my 20's and 30s!

As for watching my figure, well I try to stay aware of how my clothes are fitting - and if things feel snug I know I need to be a little more careful with my food choices for a week or two. All that said, I could definitely stand to eat healthier - I don't eat nearly as much produce as I should and I tend to shy away from whole grains. Our family food goals this year include eating less processed food, and eating a more varied (seasonal/local) diet - more food for a future post!

But Jen, I too would love to hear opinions on this subject ...

How do we moms fit exercise into an already busy schedule? Better yet - how do we find the energy to do said exercise if and when we have the time?


Well friends, I'll wrap things up here since this post is getting long and my time is getting short. Time to rattle my older boys' cages and get on with my day. I do hope your Wednesday's a good one, and if you have questions or comments, please leave me a note below!

See you here again sometime soon ...


Q & A Roundup

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Happy Friday, my friends! It's time for a little Q&A catch-up!

"It would be lovely to know about all of your [home management binder] sections but most especially your blog planning, prayer section and homeschooling section :) Thanks for sharing!" ~ Posted by: CeAnne @ Sanctus Simplicitus

CeAnne, here's a look at what I keep in those sections:

    * In my "Personal/Blog/Writing" section, I keep a running list of post ideas and suggestions, as well as notes for other writing projects and personal hobbies.

    * In my "Prayer Book," I keep a running list of prayer intentions. I used to have a box for this purpose, but it was out of the way and nobody seemed to use it. These days, when something comes up - a need or request for prayer - I can write it down here.

    * Behind my "Home Education" tab, I have copies of the current education plans and any correspondence with the school. I don't keep my actual lesson planning here (at least not presently) because it's just too big.


"I love the idea of a "storage binder" for the finished pages so the regular working binder doesn't get too big or too full. What size binder do you use for the everyday one?" ~ Posted by: MamaGames

MamaGames, my primary binder is about an inch-and-a-half wide. (I measured the width since I can't remember what size I bought!) It seems to be just wide enough, but not too unwieldly. I'm trying really hard to keep it useful, not overwhelming.


"I like the idea of the binder because then you can switch things around... so does the binder replace the spiral book you had made? I also like your clippings pages. Let us know how you like it. Will you move these to a yearly binder for storage?" ~ Posted by: Theresa

Theresa, I am using the binder in place of the spiral-bound daybook. I just don't have the time to make up something new right now and I'm trying to keep things all in one place. That said, I do have a small spiral-bound (commercial) planner which fits in my bag. (This is the planner that leaves the house - the binder I leave at home.) Someday when I have time I will get back to making my own daybook. That's really a passion of mine!

And as for the clipping pages, so far I'm finding this method to be pretty efficient. (I'm not loving it, but it is working.) And yes, all those pages are filed into the storage binder, right behind the daily pages and outdated monthly calendars. If this section grows bigger I will give the clippings a binder of their own.


"I do actually have a request...I am a new Catholic and I would love a post about the resources you use to teach Catholism to your sons, especially Early Bird, as my kids are little. Also, a far apart are your two older boys?" Posted by: Kristie


Kristie, that's a wonderful post idea and, as I am currently outlining our "Faith @ Home" year, I'll write something up soon. But I can easily answer your second question: my older two are four years apart, whereas there are only two years between the younger two. :)


"Do you have any homemade homeschool planning sheets you use on a regular basis?" ~ Posted by: Denise

Denise, I have used various lesson planning materials over the years - some homemade, others commercially produced. For many years I used a lesson planner made by a company that, alas, went out of business. Then I tried something similar by a different manufacturer but ultimately I found making something up on my own fit my needs best. 

I am currently setting up a notebook to use as my "teacher's planner" this year. When it's done I will be happy to show you, but I can tell you I like to plan things weekly (rather than daily) and I designate space for general notes as well as goals for each of the boys.

Have you seen Donna Young's website? There are loads of planning sheets available there - and all are printables, free to use.


Well, I have more questions to address, but this is all I have time for right now. (This day flew right by, did it not?) So I'll sign off for now, but please let me wish you all a happy weekend ... and thanks so much for stopping by!

I'll see you here again very soon.


A Few Things for Friday

First, and foremost, Happy Friday, my friends! I hope the week has been good to you. 

I'm behind on several things at the moment, so please accept my apologies for my lack of comment replies. I do plan to catch up later today, once we're back from Book Group. (My turn to lead ~ must bring cookies and discussion notes!) But I wanted to share a few quick thoughts before I kick-start my morning ...

 As I mentioned earlier this week, today is Dr. Suess Day (aka Read Across America Day). The Crafty Crow has a great round-up of Dr. Suess crafts here.

A few readers have asked about the "4 month/4 elements" unit study I spoke of the other day. I will absolutely share more about that very soon - I'm still working on the details myself! I can say it will be something the whole family will be involved in, though many of the activities will be geared towards my younger two boys (10 and 12).

(And oh my goodness, Penny and Tracy ~ That Nature Connection book is indeed quite a find! I was just working in ours yesterday in fact, gleaning ideas for our Spring Nature Learning. I should really do a proper review ... I think it's a relatively new book and not so well known as of yet.)

Now, on the domestic front, the new dishwasher arrived this week ... and so far I'm quite happy with it. The inside is a little smaller than my old one, but it works very quietly and efficiently. And happily, Ollie seems to be quite taken with it, too ...

Ollie's dishwasher 1

(You know we were worried about this. :))

Oh, and I was so interested to read all of your weather reports yesterday ~ March is truly a mercurial month! Today is cold and snowy here ~ it looks more like February should have, actually! The snow won't last long, though ... we're due for a heavy rainstorm tomorrow, and next week may reach into the 60s!

(Just in time for our local farm field trip ~ more on that later!)


Well my friends, I'm going to run ... but wanted to say hello, and let you all know I'm here, just a bit tied up this week. I hope you have a nice day ... stay safe and be well ... I will see you again very soon!


"February brings the rain ..."

Or, perhaps snow or sleet or sun or - if you're in my part of the world - a mild foggy mist! (Such odd weather we're having this winter ...)


Anyhoo ~ Good Wednesday, my friends ... and Happy February! Did you remember to say "Rabbit, Rabbit" this morning? I did remember ... though it was not the first thing I said. I think the first words I (m)uttered were, "Why is he awake already?"

I did however, make sure to rouse the older boys at ten minutes to seven, with a whispered, "Rabbit, Rabbit!" To which, two sleepy (slightly disgruntled) voices responded in kind.


And so now we're good to go ~ February can begin!

Today is also the Feast of St. Brigid, Patroness of Ireland (and dairy farmers). On this day we usually read this book and sometimes make these kinds of things but today's quite busy, so I'm not sure what we'll end up doing. And tomorrow brings Candlemas, so we're gathering up candles to be blessed at morning Mass. (Right after we find out what the groundhog has to say! Though honestly, I don't think it matters at this point ... I don't think Winter is bothering with us this year.)

Oh, and by the way ~ the soup last night was absolutely delicious! A real keeper for sure. So here's a link to the recipe in case anyone would like to try it. The soup was great all on its own, but Bookworm and I each added a dob of sour cream and a sprinkle of bacon. It was fantastic to dip our grilled cheese in ... and Bill (who was sent into work with a bowl of soup and a hunk of calzone) said it was just as good warmed over. (Note: Next time I will not pick the leaves off the rosemary branches - I will add the whole branches instead, and fish them out before pureeing. Also, since we were having panini, I didn't make the sage/parmesan croutons that the recipe calls for.)

Oh, and for those of us following Downton ... I know there was some question about whether or not we'd get to see the Christmas Special at some point. Well, my mum checked her 'GBH magazine (Boston's PBS channel) and it looks like the last episode of the season (to air 2/19) will be set at Christmastime. So that will be fun to see! I can't wait to see the set (and cast) all decked out in Christmas finery. :)

And, now for a couple of quick answers to recently posed questions: 

What time do I get up? I'm usually awake around - or just before - 5 (thanks to Earlybird), but I start my day at 5:30. (I doze/think/pray and fend off hungry cats before rising when the coffemaker beeps.) Bill usually gets up with EB first, and checks in with work/dozes on the couch/makes coffee ... then sometimes (when he has time) he returns to bed after I get up to catch a few more zzz's. I do like to get up early - even if EB didn't wake so early, I'd still be up before six. Six is kind of my "get the day going" point ... and I like to have time before that to adjust to the day ... and sufficiently caffeinate myself. ;)

What time do I go to bed? Well, EB goes to bed around 7, and we send the older two to bed by 8:30 (they're allowed to read for a while). Bill and I usually retire between 9:30 and 10, but we try to read for a bit before "lights out." I am currently reading this interesting book - just a chapter or two at a time. It apparently inspired both Upstairs, Downstairs and its descendent, our beloved Downton Abbey.

When do I work in my Daybook? This is a great question, and one I'm still answering myself! What I try to do is, over the weekend, fill in the daily pages as much as possible. Then, the evening before each day (sometimes before supper, sometimes after) I try to "work" in my daybook and really get a grip on the next day's agenda. What needs to be done? What about the boys' lessons? Any extra chores to catch up on? Any extra errands to squeeze in between activities? Those kinds of everyday challenges that are easier to face when considered beforehand.


Well, my friends ... I hope you all had a nice first day of February! Thanks so much for stopping by and "listening" to my rambles. I'll be back here again sometime tomorrow - somewhere in between church and the orthodontist and the art class and the supermarket, etc., etc.!

So, have a good night ... see you again soon!

Saturday Evening Post

Good evening, my friends! I hope you're all doing well. :)

I've been busy this afternoon, printing out and assembling my daybook ...


And it was going pretty smoothly - I was clipping right along, using my rather low-tech "spreadsheet" to keep all the pages in order - when one of the printer cartridges ran out (specifically, "magenta"). So I guess I'll have to run to Staples tomorrow ... where *sigh* I just happened to be this morning ... though regrettably I did not have "printer ink" on my list.

I did, however, pick up a few more MSHO supplies ... 


I just love all that orange!

And speaking of orange, Kim asked me to share the Orange-Spice Cocoa recipe I had taped into my journal and here it is, as found at The Food Network. Doesn't it sound delicous? I just may have that for my "Tuesday Tea" this week ...

Also, Daniele asked me to share the "Winter Car Checklist" also taped in my clippings diary. I found that list in Mary Jane's Farm magazine, but since I can't find it online, I will share it here with you all:

Winter Car Checklist

  • cell phone with portable charger and extra batteries
  • emergency phone numbers
  • full change of clothes
  • extra outerwear
  • sleeping bag
  • space blanket
  • pocket knife
  • whistle
  • small shovel
  • windshield scraper
  • radio
  • flashlight (and extra batteries)
  • beeswax candle
  • matches (in waterproof container)
  • small pot or mug
  • 2 gallons of water
  • non-perishable snacks
  • tow rope
  • bungee cord
  • tire chains
  • flares
  • jumper cables
  • brightly colored flag or help sign
  • first aid kit
  • basic tool kit (including duct tape)
  • paper towels
  • poncho or large trash bag
  • busy work

(Goodness! I'm sorry to say I have very few of these things in my van. Actually, I just checked this list with Bill and he tells me I have the windshield scraper and maybe some bandaids in the glove compartment. Clearly, I like living on the edge, lol.)


So that's all for now - just a quick little post to say "hi" and catch up. We're about to start supper (panini on the griddler) so I'll be off now ... but sweet dreams, my friends! And just think ... only one more sleep till Downton Abbey returns!


Talking Shop*

*i.e. file folder and calendar questions. :)


Good Thursday morning, my friends!

I'd like to catch up on some more blog comments, so if "shop talk" is not your cup of tea - feel free to skip this rather lengthy, detail-oriented post. I'm very sorry I've fallen so far behind on addressing reader questions - this is one area of organization I obviously need to work on! ;)

This first one's from Michelle ...

Thank you for the filing posts! I am feeling much better about mine now, because you showed pictures of where you keep your papers. My countertop looks a lot like yours. I like the idea of keeping folders in the basket as well. Do the big paper clips hold the bills to be paid? Also, do you keep your daily calendar open on the countertop? That seems to be my big dilema... going back and forth from the papers in the calendar to the papers in the files. I do love the feeling of being organized!

Michelle, thank you so much for commenting! I love the feeling of being organized too, which is why I'm constantly tweaking my "systems" to make them work as well as they can. I know I can never be on top of it all, but feeling some sense of control really makes my days flow more smoothly. And then "mama" feels happier ... so then everyone feels happier! ;)

Now, to answer your questions ... 

Yes, one of the binder clips holds our bills to be paid and there's another one holding business cards (from various health professionals, our hairdresser, the vet, etc.). I LOVE binder clips - I use them constantly, and keep an assortment of sizes on hand at all times!

As for my calendar ~ I do keep it out on the countertop, with the file folder just beside or beneath it. I generally keep my calendar open to the week at hand - so I can quickly see the day's agenda (aka, where we have to go) and specific daily to-do's (i.e. clean out the freezer, bag up the recycling, mail check, etc.). 


And this topic leads me to a question asked some time ago by a reader, Briar (such a pretty name!), about how often I repeat information ...

My other issue is that my calendar and to-do lists are online. This *mostly* works for me, but I find that it makes dealing with the paper aspects of my life difficult, because they aren't in sync. Which leads me to a question: how often do you repeat information? What things get written in the your calendar versus what gets written on the planning sheet? If, say, you have a book group meeting, does that go in your calendar, or just the planning sheet, or both? Do you also write that down in the lesson planner? I love the idea of the FCS, so I'm really hoping I can figure out a way to make it work for me this year.

This is something I struggle with, Briar. I love putting pen (or as the case may be, pencil) to paper, so it's very easy for me to get carried away. Graphophilia aside, and in the interest of time and efficiency, I do try to limit myself and keep things as streamlined as possible. And yet, I often find myself writing some information more than once. 

For instance, as you mention above, when I write down our Book Group event, I first write it down in my month-at-a-glance calendar:

"Book Group, 12:45"

> This information is helpful when I'm scheduling appointments, get-togethers and other activities. <

> I'll do this ahead, once I know when Book Group will be. <

Later, as I prepare for a new week ahead, I first consult that month-at-a-glance calendar. In my week-at-a-glance calendar (another section in my MomAgenda) I write the event/time in the Friday column, and if there's something I need to remember for that day - something I need to bring or do on the ride over or back, I jot it down here, too.

"Book Group, 12:45-2:00 - atm/gas" 

> This information is helpful when I'm planning out my day. <

> I'll do this several days ahead. <

Next I prepare the weekly planning sheet (the one that attaches to the front of my file folder), and here I write (under "Of Note") the event, along with a little more information:

"Book Group - Bridge to Terabithia"

> This is helpful when going back and writing end-of-year reports. <

> I do this on the Thursday before. <

So I do repeat the information, but I use it in different ways in each instance. The month @ a glance helps me schedule ahead, the week @ a glance helps me manage my day, and the weekly (file folder) planning sheet helps me give shape and feel to our week. It also helps me reflect on our week when I go back at year's end - I write yearly academic reports for the school system.

Now, all that said ...

I think it would be much more efficient and convenient to combine the second two actions - the week @ a glance calendar and the weekly planning sheet - thereby keeping all "weekly focus" in one place. I have yet to make that happen, but I'm working on it! It would have to be something of my own design - something that would work within the framework of the weekly file folder.

Because ultimately it would be great to have a (portable) month @ a glance calendar and a weekly file folder with all the planning space I need for the week, in general, and the days of the week, specifically. Then I'd just be writing down information twice - once on the monthly calendar and once on the weekly file folder. But until I get that all straightened out (envisioned/created*) I will go with what's working well for me now.

(*I'm thinking the inside file folder cover would be a great place for that week @ a glance calendar ...)

Now, if I haven't bored you all yet, lol, I'd like to also quickly address a relevant question left by by Trish a while back, about why I choose paper planning over computerized ...

Hi Dawn ... I have a question for you. I notice you have a MacBook (I do too) and was curious why you don't use iCal for your planning purposes? I go back and forth between paper planners and iCal and can't seem to figure out which I like best! I love the physical act of writing (I was an art major in college long ago and understand the joy of writing on nice paper!) but I also enjoy the wonderful portability and ease of the MacBook/iPhone combination... especially at the grocery store and out running errands. Any thoughts?

Tirsh, while I find digital planning intriguing - especially in the case of grocery shopping as you mention above - I can't seem to give up my paper paraphernalia!

First, there's my aforementioned paper passion - but there's also my overall comfort level. I just find it easier to check in with my planner stuff as it is spread out on my counter - than it is to hop on my computer.

Then there's the whole trust issue - plainly put, I don't fully trust my computerized tools! Recently my MacBook crashed (due to a crimped wire inside the hard drive) and I could have lost all kinds of things. (Thankfully, I didn't!) Sure it's pretty easy to misplace a list or a folder, but in the end, I'm just more comfortable using my low-tech systems.

For example, I have this handy little shopping notebook - it's small enough to fit in my purse, but big enough for a good amount of notes. In it, I write out a weekly grocery shopping list which includes other errands like the pharmacy/library/etc. 

Now, I know I could keep this list on my iPhone, but I really just like using that notebook! I clip timely coupons to it - I jot things in it through the week as I think of them. I keep it in my hand - or propped up in the child seat of my carriage - as I walk around the store. All these actions just seem easier to me in notebook, rather than phone, form.

Now, I don't mean to disparage digital planning as a whole - I think it works fantastically for some people! (In fact, here's an article on digital planning at And it probably is more efficient overall - and it's certainly less environmentally taxing. I won't rule out that someday I might be converted - but for now my paper junkie nature still rules, lol!


 Ok, that's all I have time for right now - I do have more reader comments and questions "on file" and will be getting to them just as soon as I can.

In the meantime, I hope you all have a lovely day ~ stay safe and be well!

I'll be back again very soon ...


Academic Calendars & Dry-Erase Boards

Happy Wednesday, my friends! It's bright and beautiful here this morning ~ I hope your day's off to a great start!

This morning I have question and a suggestion from Heather ...

My question: Do you know where can I find those 2 page-spread, month-at-a-glance calendars for Aug or Sept 2011 on? I have only seen them for Jan 2012 on. If you or anyone could help me on that I would be so grateful. I am slowly trying to get all the things I need for this system ... OK now my suggestion: For daily reminders, have you ever considered using one of those small dry erase boards that you can stick onto the front of your fridge? I think those are awesome. Hope that may help.

Heather, thank you so much for this wonderful comment! I'm sorry it's taken me so long to respond - most likely you've already found what you're looking for, but in case you haven't let me answer as best I can ...

So first, in regards to your question: I've seen lots of "academic" (summer start) calendars for sale at Staples - but are you looking for something spiral-bound (self-contained) or are you in need of loose-leaf pages (i.e. a refill)? I use "Day-Timer" 2 page-spread, month-at-a-glance calendar forms in my planning binder. At Amazon I found an academic version in desk size but I can only find a January start version in the folio (binder) size. The latter is what I use. (I currently have both the 2011 and 2012 calendars stored here.)

Does anyone have suggestions for Heather? Are there places (online or otherwise) where you find a good selection of calendar products? I usually shop at Staples (which I believe is a nationwide chain) or I order through Amazon. In fact, I got my most recent supply of calendar forms here

There are also sites found online, Heather, which allow you to print off month-at-a-glance calendar forms. The one that comes to mind is Donna Young but I'm sure there are others out there. There are probably even software programs - to purchase, or already installed in your computer - that allow you to do this on your own! I'm not too tech-savvy though, so I stick with what I know - so long as it's working for me! :)

Now, as for your suggestion ... I do actually have a small dry-erase board on my fridge, but I hardly ever use it! When EB was younger he was (more than) a little fixated on getting his hands on dry-erase markers, but due to the odor and dye, I can't let him use dry-erase markers - or any type of marker really. Having the markers out only presented a temptation so I kept them hidden in a drawer ... which really cut down on how much I used the board! (Plus he always seemed to find them, lol!)

Mostly when I use the board these days, I use it to post a "honey-do" list. ;) But I do like the idea of posting your daily chores on a dry-erase board ... The only real issue for me is I'd have to re-write my tasks each day.

For example, my Wednesday chores would post like this:

Clean Kitchen:


    wipe down appliances

    wash countertops/stovetop

    scrub and soak sink

    run baking soda down disposal

Go through cabinets/fridge/freezer

Start marketing list and menu for next week

Organize trash & recycling

This is what is noted on my Wednesday daily card. I have it posted at my workstation in something like this

Now, Earlybird still can't use those (any) markers, but he is much more understanding about them these days. So I do have a magnetic marker placed just above the board - I guess I've just never gotten into the habit of using it. But I can see where it would make a great place for posting daily reminders - for yourself and your family!

Do any other readers use a dry-erase board as part of their planning? There certainly are all kinds (sizes/shapes) of boards now - and multi-colored markers, etc. I'd love to know if you use a dry-erase board in your household - and how. Drop a note below if you'd like!


Well, thanks again to Heather for her thoughtful comments! For now, I must be off and get this day rolling ... just thought I'd sneak online and post another quick Q & A while I could. So have a great day, everyone ... I will see you again very soon!

Vase-flowers ~ Dawn

File Crate Posts & Crafts for Next Week

Happy Friday, everyone! 

This morning I'd like to take a minute to answer a couple of questions left overnight ...

Hi Dawn, Your planning system is so interesting. Do you have another post where you explain how you set up all these weekly folders? Thank you, Mary

Mary, here is my File Crate System archive which contains, to the best of my knowledge, every post I've done about the FCS. This post in particular - Revamping the File Crate System - is pretty thorough in explaining how I set it all up. (Note: I've since moved the weekly sheet into a planning binder, along with my month @ a glance calendar.) Please feel free to ask any other questions you might have about the file crate and folder system. Just drop a note in my comments box below. :)

Hi again Dawn! Is there any chance of daffodil cake pic and recipe, the lion craft, and the St. David's day details? Thanks, Holly

Sure, Holly!

Here are pictures of the cake I made for St. David's Day a few years ago ...



And here are the recipes for Daffodil Cake with Lemon Glaze

As for celebrating the Feast of St. David - here's a link with lots of activities and information. We'll probably do something with dragons and I'll make the daffodil cake for Tuesday night's dessert. I'll also add a daffodil plant to the nature shelf, as I revamp the learning room for March. (It feels so good to say March! We're that much closer to Spring!)

I also plan to make a very simple lion craft with Earlybird to celebrate the first day of March (which comes in like a lion, of course) and to kick off next month's "wind study." According to the the forecast, Tuesday looks to be brisk and very windy - perfect!

Well, I hope these links have been helpful! Before I go, I'd also like to say thank you to all who've left wonderful tips and encouragement for our Disney trip! I so appreciate any and all advice! To clarify, we are going to Disney World (Florida), as opposed to Disney Land (California), and the RV will be our means of travel! And though I don't want to say (for privacy/security reasons) exactly when we're going, I can tell you the trip's a little ways off. But we're all booked (my parents too!) and as you can guess, I've started lots of lists and ordered a few books. We also got a doctor's note for Earlybird (confirming his autism Dx) and really, my main concern there is just keeping him safe and not overwhelmed. I know I can't plan for everything, but I'll do my best to think ahead as much as possible!

Have a fantastic Friday, my friends ... it's a gray, rainy day here, but I honestly don't mind. With every hour that passes we see a little less snow, and a little more grass out there. Please keep it up, Mother Nature! Let's leave Winter behind for good, shall we?

See you all again soon ...


Just right for a cold winter's day ...


... baked apples with dried fruit & honey!

It was a perfect day to bake something warm and wonderful - it was so very cold, and quite windy as well! I found a recipe for baked apples in a magazine at our pediatrician's office last week - for the life of me I can't remember what it was called, but I wrote down the instructions in my planner so I could try it at home.

I started with six good-sized apples (a mix of Pink Lady and Golden Delicious), as well as dried cherries and golden raisins. The recipe also called for honey and orange juice concentrate.


First, I washed and cored the apples, and pricked the tops lightly with a fork. Then I placed the apples in muffin cups brushed with canola oil. I also placed a small piece of parchment paper beneath the apple, in the bottom of each compartment.


I filled each apple with 1 tablespoon dried fruit, 1 teaspoon frozen orange juice concentrate and 1 teaspoon honey.


They baked for 30 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

(Note to self: next time, place the muffin pan on a cookie sheet to collect spills!)


The boys were downstairs building Legos (enjoying the last bit of their lunch break) as the apples baked. Before too long I heard a voice call ...

"Mom? What's that smell that smells so good?"


So we all sat down to a baked apple before we resumed our lessons for the day. These made a very nice snack, but I think they would also be delicious served at breakfast or even as a side dish at supper. (They'd be perfect with pork chops!)

Now, before I go, I thought I'd answer a few food questions that have been left for me recently ...

Lecia asked for recipes for the chocolate-chip cookie cake and the raspberry danish from brunch. Well, first of all, the danish was store-bought, Lecia! I had wanted to make a scratch coffee cake, but didn't have the time between Mass and brunch, so store-bought danish made do. ;)

The chocolate chip cookie cake was all homemade, however. Here's the recipe:

Chocolate Chip Heart Cookie

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 egg

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray pan with Pam. In a large bowl, cream butter with sugars. Add egg and vanilla and mix well. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt; mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread dough into prepared pan with spatula. (I sprayed my hands and following manufacturer's directions I pressed the dough just short of the edges of the pan.) 


Bake 15-20 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool on rack 5 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool before cutting.

(Recipe from the Wilton Company)

We had this for dessert last night and it was SO yummy - a very nice, cakey texture, with a small amount of - but just enough - chocolate taste.

And Kristie asked me to expand on this week's long-day, "easy" dinner menus.

Here's what I have planned:

M - Valentine's Supper

T - baked ziti, salad and rolls

W - (frozen) chicken pie, butternut squash and roasted potatoes ... possibly, apple crisp for dessert (I have a lot of apples to use up.)

Th - hot dogs, veggies with ranch dip and tater puffs

F - pizza/leftovers 

Well, the timer on the pasta is ringing so I'd best wrap up. Thanks as always for stopping by ...

See you again very soon!

A Few Thursday Q & A's ...


On today's agenda ~ working in my planner, getting ready for next week.

So far I'm quite happy with my new planner. I'm still tweaking things, but the weekly section seems to work well with how I like to plan. The index cards though ... well, I'm not loving them so much. They're so great in theory! And they're very pretty in all their rainbow colors ... but for now I've reverted back to using my little spiral bound planner for my daily to-do's. Too much was slipping through the cracks!

So, I've had a few questions left in the comments recently and I thought I'd address them this morning ...

Jennifer asked for some links to posts on my routines and journals: (I can't find a post on my daily routine, so I'll see about writing something up on that soon - maybe a "day in the life" kind of thing?)

 My Weekly Homekeeping Routine

(This was written a few years ago, but I still pretty much follow this same schedule.)

Friday is Journal Day

My Journal: A Happy, Humble Hodgepodge

Tracy asked for the quick bread recipe, and it can be found in this post: A Little Taste of FallLori asked how I use baby food in that recipe. I simply use 2 cups worth of baby food (bananas, pears, squash etc.) for the "mix-and-match" portion of the recipe. It makes a very moist bread! 

And finally, Kristie asked for online instructions for making butter. This would be a great activity for a farm unit study! 


Well, that's all for now ... I hope you all have a nice Thursday! It's the Chinese New Year today, by the way, and 2011 is the "Year of the Rabbit." We looked up our zodiac animals here and Crackerjack was pleased to learn he was in fact a rabbit! (I'm a rooster, lol.) We're going to watch "Kung Fu Panda" today and possibly order Chinese for supper tonight. (It's a busy evening so I'm not sure we'll have time.)

What do you like to order when you get Chinese take-out? I myself love scallion pancakes. I order them every time. :)

Have a great day, everyone ... see you all again sometime soon!

Wednesday Q & A


Good morning, my friends ...

Well, Earlybird has the big-bad cold now - he woke up with a barking cough, and cranky as all get out, proclaiming, "I'm sick now!" So we're doing an impromptu mini-unit on germs this week - how we get sick, and how we can stay healthy. In the spirit of things I've set up a new book list called "Winter Health Study" and we'll be making some nutritious fruit smoothies and soup. Nothing like hands-on learning, right? ;)

Anyways, while I'm here, I wanted to catch up with some of the questions that have been left in recent comments ...

Oh! I've wanted to read Artful Blogging for the longest time! Do you like it? ~ Jen

It is an absolutely beautiful magazine, Jen. Lots of delicious eye candy, and some very inspiring stories and helpful suggestions. It's one of those magazines you can just flip through and absorb visually - and that would be enough - but even better when you can find the time to sit and read through the articles. Somerset magazines are quite expensive so aside from this gift issue I've only purchased AB once before. (I think it was a birthday treat to myself last year lol.) One thing I did come away with - besides maybe a bit of blog envy, lol - is a wish for a better camera. The photographs are just so clear and beautiful! My envy shames me a little though, because I am really very happy with my Cybershot. It's easy to use and that's why I use it so much - no lenses to mess with and I basically ignore the special settings. Still, I look at all those yummy pictures and ... sigh. ;)

Now, I have to admit to feeling a bit jealous that you have Where Women Cook....I have been searching high and low for at home in Florida and points in between. I guess I'll have to order it. Are you enjoying it? ~ Mary Chris

Mary Chris, I received both Artful Blogging and Where Women Cook as Christmas presents, but I have seen them at Barnes & Noble. They are absolutely beautiful and so inspiring! 

Where Women Cook, like AB, is also filled with lots of "eye candy" ... beautiful pictures - of food, dishes, cooking spaces, and some yummy recipes as well. I've only skimmed this issue so far - but I'm excited to dig in and read more thoroughly. Some of the women featured in this month's issue include ~ Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman), Joy Stinger (who raises makes lovely honey and wax crafts), Serena Thompson (The Farm Chicks), and MaryJane Butters (MaryJane's Farm). Scrumptious recipes are featured throughout, too ~ like Blackberry Scones, Meaty Lasagna and Saltine Caramel Bars.

Both Where Women Cook and Artful Blogging are splurges for sure, but well worth the money spent - for the information and inspiration!

I have 2 questions from older posts since I have exhausted my own search. 1.) Where do you purchase the 2010-11 Academic Daily planner and did you add the tabs yourself? 2.) I loved those autumn sheets. What brand? ~ Sherrylynne in Mpls

Sherrylynne, I buy the daily planner at my local Hallmark Paper Store, but I found it online here, too. And yes, I added the tabs myself - I think I bought them at Staples - possibly Target.

The sheets are from LL Bean, but I don't think they carry them anymore. For the record, they are incredibly soft and wash up so well. I definitely recommend LL Bean bedding in general. :)

Did you make those pizellecookies? They look yummy as does that poundcake. I'd like to try them both ~ Jan

I didn't make the pizelle cookies, Jan - they were an impulse buy at the supermarket down the street, lol. I've always wanted to try making pizzelle cookies - I'm not a big fan of anise (which is, I believe, the traditional flavoring for these delicate cookies) but I do love pizzelles made with vanilla or citrus. I like to serve them on the Feast of St. Agnes - a saint who is special to us - as "St. Agnes Snowflakes."

I've had my eye on this pizzelle maker for some time ... and I also like the idea of making homemade ice cream cones with pizzelle cookies. Especially since EB can't eat commercially made cones. 

It is funny that you posted a food post today because I read a book this week that reminded me so very much of you. It is called The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister. Have you ever read it? Such a lovely book! ~ Jackie

I have not read that book, but my library has a copy so I'll definitely be checking it out! Thank you for the recommendation!

Not that I have a lot of time for reading, but I am always grateful for good book recommendations, so please readers, if you have some - lay them on me! ;)

I was checking out some of my favorite sites and found this place and immediately thought of you. These are the cutest journals. ~ Nancy

Nancy, that is such a neat site! I loved looking through the journals they have posted there ... very inspiring! Thanks for the link. :)


OK, I think I've caught up with all the questions and links left for me recently. Thank you SO much to everyone who stops by, and special gratitude for those who leave an encouraging comment, or a helpful link. I appreciate each and every one of my visitors.

Have a wonderful Wednesday, everyone ~ hope your week is going well!

Busy with my Boys

I apologize again for being just too busy to blog recently! I may not have had time to sit down and write, but I did take photos as often as I could. I thought I might share some of them with you this fine Tuesday morning. :)

This is Earlybird's "Thankful Board." It's been a more meaningful project for him than the acorns we hung on our Seeds of Gratitude Tree.


He's still learning (and remembering) the holidays themselves and I find that concentrating on symbols are helpful. So of course I chose a giant sparkly turkey for this board! We added a card (and sometimes a photo) every few days or so, talking about what we are thankful for, and what thankful means - a tough concept to explain when you think of it! 

And here are some pictures from a neat little craft we did last week - I found it in the November issue of Family Fun: Nutty Boats


For obvious reasons we did this activity outside on the deck ...


Crackerjack was intrigued enough to join us ...


A skill we work on constantly with EB is patience and reigning in impulsive tendencies. Something as simple as pouring a cup of water into a bowl can be a real challenge for him 


For example, yesterday we made pumpkin breads together. He stayed by my side while I worked on the recipe, helped fetch ingredients (and put them away) and I allowed him to dump/pour the ingredients into the mixing bowl. (Sure, I snuck a little math in there *wink*.) He was a little quick sometimes but he's really come a long way from those impulses that tell him to act fast and make a mess!



A day or so later, Crackerjack had a science assignment to work on - he needed to dig up a sample of backyard dirt and examine what all was in it. Then he drew and labeled his results in his science notebook. EB had fun with this too.


But Earlybird had a real grand old time doing some "Thanksgiving Painting" last week!


I called it "Thanksgiving Painting" because we used autumnal colors. Due to EB's sensitivities, we have to be careful about the kind of art materials he uses. No Crayola for this boy ... I ordered a Clementine All Natural Paint a few months ago. (Note: I've found them available at Amazon. And I plan to order some more supplies for EB's birthday  next month.)


It was so nice to be able to indulge EB's love of finger painting. He even let me paint his palms so we could make the traditional Thanksgiving handprint turkey:


(Of course he immediately asked to clean his hands once we made the print, lol.)

We also used a brush.



The colors he painted with are so in tune with the season ...


Also, while Bookworm volunteered at the library yesterday, the younger two and I ran a quick errand at the grocery store ...


(Lol, EB was transfixed by the wide carrot selection.)

A full-blown shopping trip is not feasible with EB (I do those on Saturdays sans children), but we do take him for short visits to practice good public manners. Plus, the food store is just such fun! So much to see and to talk about. :) 

Back at home we marveled over the setting sun and how it filled our house with golden light and striking shadows.


This is our November Nature Shelf ~ the focus this month is squirrels, as you can see.

Now, as I reach the end of my post, I realize I didn't include Bookworm in any of these photos! He had a busy week too - the highlight being Saturday, when he took part in "SPLASH" weekend at MIT. He had a great time and can't wait for "SPARK" in the spring.

 So that's a bit of catch-up from me - a little look at what we've been up to! And now here we are only two days away from Thanksgiving ... We're hosting dinner this year for our family, so there's much to do these next few days - to cook, clean and create! I hope you're enjoying your November too ~ and I hope to be back again before the holiday ~ but until then, have a happy Turkey week and see you again soon. :)

Playing Catch Up

First of all thank you for all the brownie pan insight! I'm still waffling on the pan purchase ... and in the meantime I have myself half convinced I could really use a pizzelle maker lol ... for the homemade ice cream cones as well as the cookies. Can you tell someone has an Amazon gift certificate burning a hole in her virtual pocket? ;)

Second of all, thank you for all the dinner menu input! I'm printing out the comments left at my last post so I can peruse them at leisure. I appreciate all the ideas very much - please keep them coming! Would it help if I paste them all into a giant separate post or is it easy enough to access the comments section of that post?

And now for a couple of recent questions:

First question from OSG ...

I also love Learning room posts. A question though, where do you store things that don't fit in the baskets? 

There is a small pile of items stacked under the file crate table to the left of the cubbies - these are mostly novels the boys will be reading later in the year - but also, EB's learning games, a Rosetta Stone program we have yet to start, and several DVD's we will be using to supplement our studies (i.e. the PBS National Parks series, etc.). I keep all my teacher manuals are in an extra large tote bag tucked away beneath the worktable. (It's parked right below the chair where I sit and do my planning.) Otherwise, the baskets fit their materials rather nicely. All their textbooks, workbooks and notebooks reside here as well as the book they are currently reading (as assigned, not personal reading - those books are all over the house lol!).

Next question from Shelly ...

perfect!!! love the cubbies :) 
where did you get your baskets?

Shelly, we bought the baskets at the same unfinished furniture store where we purchased the cubbies. I'm not usually fond of the cotton liners (they tend to bunch up and get awfully dusty) but these seem to fit pretty well and of course I can always wash them if they get dingy.

OK, well that's all for this morning ... I hope you all have a nice Thursday (raining and foggy here) and I will back here again just as soon as I can. :)

Friday's This and That

Heading into the Valentine's Day weekend ...


.. and boy-oh-boy, it's a busy day here! I am well on the mend ... making cookies for the homeschool Valentine's party ... dropping them off at the church on our way to Teen Bowling. Giving a spelling quiz, admiring a food chain poster, correcting a "Giant Panda" report, and a couple of math lessons ... assigning a new chapter of this, reading about rabbits, practicing s-blends, tallying our bird count (and calculating percentages) ... 


Did I mention we were busy today? ;)

Thinking about next week too - Lent is upon us! Guess it's about time I came up with some plans for my family ... In the meantime, Abraham Lincoln's birthday is (was?) TODAY ... I will pick up a jelly roll (aka a "Lincoln Log") for dessert on the way home from bowling. 

(Our "Abe Tea" from 2007.) 

(And here's hoping Bill picks up pizza on his way home from work!)

Going to the Percy Jackson movie tomorrow - and a birthday party too! Hosting a family Valentine's Day brunch on Sunday and SO glad Bill has Monday off. We'll need a day to rest after these super busy few days!

Sorry this post is a bit scattered, but I really just wanted to pop in and say hi. :) I hope this week has been a good one for you, and my best wishes that you have a happy, healthy, holiday weekend. I'll see you all again sometime soon!

Good Tuesday Morning!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday! I can hardly believe another Christmas is coming to an end. I say this every year but really and truly - it all just FLEW by!

So we're getting back into the rhythm of everyday life here - slowly but surely. :) I have a couple of posts in draft, and I hope to get them up in the next day or two. It's a VERY busy week here - on top of all the regular back-to-life stuff going on this week (lessons, classes, clubs and the like), the kids have dentist appointments, I'm leading Book Group AND our Homeschool Support Group meeting (on the very same day!) and Bill and Crackerjack are preparing for their very first Cub scout camping trip!

By the way, the meeting I'm hosting on Thursday for my Support Group is all about the Basics of Blogging - and more specifically, how blogging can be used as a great homeschooling tool. If you have a blog, homeschooling or otherwise, and would like me to share it with my group Thursday night, please leave me a link below in the comments. Thanks so much!

Have a fantastic week, everyone ~ I'll be back here again soon!


Pictures and Notes from the Past Couple of Weeks ...

So, what have we been up to lately? :)

Well, we spent a (cold, gray) morning at the Topsfield Fair:


Made friends with a donkey ...


... and a sheep.


Got fall gardening ideas.


Spied the giant pumpkin (all 1,471.6 lbs)!


Marveled over the giant sand sculpture.


Enjoyed fried dough with my boys.


We took a bike ride through the autumn woods:


Watched a gray heron come in from flight ...


... and make his way to his nest. 


Spotted a beautiful turtle by the path ...


But look what was on his shell (a leech)!


We removed the leech and sent the turtle on his way.


Watched milkweed float by.


Listened to noisy mallards in the lake.


We met Old Frost in the yard one morning:





And we added a bit of flash to the night ...



We spent some time learning about (and meeting!) wolves:







And we made stuffed peppers for the Feast of St. Francis:






Topped with cheese in the final 10 minutes, this was an absolutely delicious dinner!

This promises to be a busy week, too ... on top of all the usual goings-on, we have two field trips this week (Walden Pond and Whole Foods), Bookworm starts his volunteer "job" at the library and I go in for surgery this Friday. Yes ... surgery ... but nothing serious thankfully; I'm just having my gallbladder removed. As some of you know I've not been feeling my best for a few months now, so I'm glad to be getting this taken care of. I will probably be MIA again next week while I recover, but will try to post again this week with pics from our field trips and a few other topics I want to discuss. :)

I hope you enjoyed catching up with our family ... and I hope you and yours had a wonderful weekend. It's snowing here right now if you can believe it! This feels a little more like December than October!

Take care, everyone ~ Talk again soon!

It's the most wonderful time of the year ...

... because I am DONE with the year-end reports and I have finally FINISHED the ed. plans for next year! 

*big sigh of relief*

Gosh, it took me so long to get all of this pulled together and I'm sorry I had to stay away but honestly staying offline was the best way for me to juggle all I had going on these past few weeks. And it's not just the reports - there's a lot going on here at home. Nothing bad, I promise you - I've just been busier than normal recently. And as for being online, sometimes there's no such thing as "a little bit connected" - sometimes it's better to just take a break from distractions (and as much as I love the internet I do find it completely distracting!) and focus on the task(s) at hand. 

But now I have sitting on my kitchen counter an especially thick package ready to mail to the school department - all three boys are accounted for coming and going. I will share our new year plans with you all very soon ...

I have tell you, I'm not sure how much I'll be blogging in the near future. I certainly don't want to give it up, but I have appreciated how much more present I've been to my family and my household this past month. I will have to work on a "workable" writing schedule for myself - maybe weekly updates until I get back in the groove - but for now I'll ease back into things by sharing a few photos from my backyard with you all ...






And now I have to turn my attention back to the preparations for Crackerjack's birthday party which we're holding here tomorrow ... things to clean, food to cook, party games to coordinate ... can you believe he'll be 10 years old next week?

Talk with you all again soon! Thanks for checking in and keeping my family in your thoughts and prayers. You are all always in mine. :)

~ A Little Note ~

Good Wednesday Morning, Everyone. :)

I've had a few emails from concerned readers wondering why I haven't posted in over a week. I apologize - I know I promised another File Crate post last week - but unfortunately I have not had much time to get online lately. I've been trying to finish up our end-of-the-year reports and outline our ed. plans for the new year; they're due this week. And while that's all going well (if slowly!), in a stroke of bad luck, I had a whole post ready to go Monday morning - yet somehow it deleted right as I went to post! 
I will try again just as soon as I have a little block of time to sit down at the computer, but in the meantime I hope you are all enjoying the week. It's turning into a lovely summer at last.

I'll be back just as soon as I can. :)