Children's Parties Feed

Halloween Ideas: A Paper Chain Countdown!

A bit of a long post ahead - I really had fun with this!

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Hello my friends, and Happy Tuesday!

Here is an overview of the Halloween Countdown Paper Chain I made for Earlybird to help him keep track of how many days he must wait for the holiday, which, in his opinion, should be here right NOW, as in today, no more waiting! I also wanted to shape his awareness of this holiday which to my mind is often overblown and over-commercialized (not to mention, downright inappropriate) when presented by the mainstream. As we happen to be studying the ancient Celts and our own Celtic ancestry this year, it is a perfect opportunity to learn where this holiday originated and how/why they celebrated it.

Ok ... here's how I put it together!

Halloween paper chain

I used regular construction paper, in Halloween shades, and cut out as many strips as there were days left till Halloween. (Ideally I would have started on October 1st, but this idea just came to me the other day as EB got itchy about the holiday's arrival.) Using coordinating Sharpies, I wrote the number of days left on the outside of the strip and on the inside (hidden from view) I wrote a simple activity or an interesting fact about the holiday ...

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It only took a few hours to pull together, and I think the daily "Halloween moment" will temper EB's impatience a bit. To keep it as easy as possible (because we all know fitting "extra" stuff into an already busy day is a challenge), I tried to consult my calendar as I worked out the ideas. For example, some things would work better on weekends (when Dad could come-with or help out), and some things could be woven smoothly into our weekly rhythm (e.g. nature walk on Monday, painting on Thursday, baking on Friday, etc.). It was fun coming up with these ideas! 

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(I think I said that already, but honestly, this stuff gets me so excited!)

So here is what each slip says - I hope you find some nuggets of fun for your family!

26 ... "Halloween began a long time ago in the country of Ireland. Find it on our map!"

25 ... "What sound does a ghost make? Write out your answer for me!"

24 ... "Halloween is sometimes called All Hallow's Eve. What is it the eve of?" (Check calendar if he can't recall what happens on November 1st - All Saint's Day.)

23 ... "Spiders are a symbol of Halloween. Let's do a fun worksheet about spiders for our science notebook!" (I've prepared a simple worksheet with labels, facts and shapes.)

22 ... "What do you think Halloween smells like?" (We'll make a collage of Halloween smells using pictures from old magazines of things like ... candy corn, pumpkins, apple cider, woodsmoke, autumn leaves, tree bark, mushrooms, chocolates, etc. I'm not sure how he'll answer so I'll try to have a wide array of foods and nature smells.)

21 ... "Did you know that a long time ago, the first Jack o'Lanterns were not made from pumpkins but turnips?!" (We'll find a turnip at the farmstand and try to carve it at home - and/or cook it for supper!)

20 ... "Today we will bake some special Halloween cupcakes for Bookworm to take back to college." (Earlybird LOVES to bake with me, and with Bookworm home for the weekend, this will be a good opportunity to use all the colorful sprinkles and gels we have collected.)

19 ... "Today we will listen to some fun Halloween music while driving around town." (Wee Sing for Halloween - a longtime favorite with my kids!)

18 ...  "What are the important rules for trick or treating safety?" (We'll talk about expectations for the night and write down important rules for having fun and staying safe.)

17 ... "Today we will read a special book about Halloween." (I have a very old book from when I was a little girl, Let's Find Out about Halloween. It even has my "notes" for a Halloween party I was hosting, roundabouts 3rd grade!)

16 ... "Today we will listen to The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." (I have requested the unabridged book on audio CD from the library but this might prove too intense for EB - in which case, I have the old Disney movie, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad ready to play instead.)

15 ... "Let's make a Halloween pizza for supper tonight!" (Following this recipe from Taste of Home ... and as a special treat, I'll have picked this up at the library: Martha's Halloween Ideas - EB's a HUGE Martha fan, as his is mum!)

14 ... "Today we will design and make costumes for you and Little Bear!" (As of now, EB wants to be a ghost, and he has declared LB should be a dragon ... I figure starting two weeks ahead gives us time to get them ready ...)

13 ... "Today we will go on a family "Halloween Woods Walk!" (Our homeschool habitat for the month of October is "deciduous woods," so we'll use this activity as a means of observing this particular environment. Why do the woods seem spooky sometimes? What do we hear? Scuttling leaves, animal noises, the wind in the trees ... We will also notice signs of death and decay in nature ... fallen leaves or a rotting log, for example.)

12 ... "Let's write a Halloween poem!" (I will have holiday-related words cut out for him to put together as a "poem" and glue on a sheet he can decorate.)

11 ... "Today we will do some fun Halloween word puzzles!" (I've ordered Halloween Mad Libs Junior from Amazon - it will be a good way to reinforce parts of speech!)

10 ... "Let's make Halloween Ornaments!" (We'll use Halloween cookie cutters to cut out holiday shapes from a salt-dough, bake and decorate - perhaps with melted crayons, details here. I will bring a branch inside so we can hang the ornaments as a fun foyer decoration.)

9 ... "Today we'll paint a Halloween sky picture!" (We'll set up on the patio, late in the afternoon ... using natural plant-based watercolor paints. We'll hang them to dry in a tree.)

8 ... "Let's have a special Halloween tea with Nana!" (We'll serve autumnal goodies like apples and cheese, iced squash muffins, pear cider and orange-spice tea. I'll have EB help me prepare the goodies and serve to his Nana.)

7 ... "Today we'll mail Halloween cards to our friends!" (I have a pack of sweet, vintage Halloween postcards - we'll work together to sign and address them, add stamps, stickers, and bring them to the post office.)

6 ... "How about a visit to a pumpkin patch today?" (After church we'll head to a local farm to sit in a "real sincere" pumpkin patch ... back at home we'll watch It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!")

5 ... "Today we'll rake leaves and make a crow craft!" (Halloween, in its roots, is an agricultural festival, important to people who lived by the land. We'll read a book called Scarecrow and make a cute crow craft using Little Bear's hands and feet!)

4 ... "Tonight's the Full Hunter's Moon! Let's take a walk after dark, observe the night sky and listen to the night sounds." (Back inside we'll read Whoo's There? A Bedtime Shadow Book ... and make "spooky" shadows on the wall!)

3 ... "This morning we'll search for spiderwebs on the lawn and make a spiderweb craft!" (We'll make these cute Paper Plate Spider Webs - I have black plates and sparkly yarn on hand - and maybe some spiderweb cookies, too!)

2 ... "Today we'll make some Halloween lanterns!" (We're going to use this simple craft idea, with jars I've saved and tissue paper I have on hand. The jars will be placed on our front steps to light the way for trick-or-treaters.)

1 ... "Today we'll put our garden to bed and there will be a bonfire at sunset!" (I love the idea of raking, composting, and tidying up the yard before winter ... Samhain (as it was called by the Celts) in fact means, "Summer's End." Crops were brought in for the winter and livestock driven between fires to ensure their protection. Our Halloween bonfire will take place on our patio, around our fire pit as the sun sets. We will add some of the herbs from our patch to the flames and enjoy that last smell of summer! A hearty supper will follow ...)

~* Happy Halloween! *~

Halloween is on a Saturday which is really convenient - Daddy is home with us all day. :) We will start our day with a walk through a local graveyard ... to pay our respects, and observe the quiet beauty of the place, how the earth is settling in for its own rest. We may make a headstone rubbing before we go - there are some beautiful, Revolution-era graves in this particular cemetery. Our day will also include carving pumpkins, roasting seeds, baking our Halloween cake, having a special supper with friends, dressing up, trick-or-treating/passing out candy, and watching some Halloween specials on tv ...

All good fun!

We hung the paper chain in the family room, out of Little Bear's reach - unless he climbs the hearth which, while unlikely, is not out of the realm of possibility! And each morning Earlybird will take a link off the chain and read what is up for the day ... :)

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 Note: I kept a list of my "paper chain agenda" in my planner so I can refresh my memory - don't want to be caught unawares! - and prep for any activities that day. (I can also change things up if I really need to.) I plan to look ahead before each weekend so I can pick up any materials we might need.

Now, I already have a "blessings" project in mind for November - a new twist on a beloved tradition - and I will post about that soon! In the meantime, I am almost ready to get my Masterpiece Monday up (really have to change up that name), as we watched Home Fires last night (LOVED it) and tonight we will watch Indian Summers ... so tomorrow I should be able to get that reaction post up. I am very curious to know what you all think!

Good night for now, my friends - what a sunset outside my windows! I love how the light is so low and golden at this time of year, setting the foliage ablaze ... chilly now, though it was a mild day ... and tomorrow looks to be a bit warmer!

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones - see you here again very soon!

We're Celebrating Crackerjack's 16th Birthday!

Which means, I have a whole lotta pictures to share! But first, a little throwback, just to keep it all in perspective ...

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Some of you may remember this wee fella from way back when I started blogging ... ten years ago (almost)? Well, as hard as it is for me to believe - let alone say - this little laddie is now a young man of SIXTEEN!

And let me tell you - though I know some of you know this - what a different experience it is planning a birthday party for a six year old as opposed to a 16 year old! There's far less planning and preparation involved - for example, there are no pinatas to hang or favor bags to fill, lol. Anyhoo, what we did this weekend was to have Jack invite friends over on Saturday to watch movies in the cool man cave ("cool," as in escaping the heat) and then on Sunday our family gathered for a simple cookout to celebrate our young man.

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The Birthday Boy himself!

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And the family gathered: my folks and Bill's folks and all our boys!

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August means farm-fresh corn at every chance. Seriously, we eat it several times a week at this time of year! And baked beans are traditional New England fare in any season, but I love them at parties, and they are always a Little Bear favorite!

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And here are some beautiful heirloom tomatoes from my friend Debbie's garden ... like jewels in the sun, so pretty in this bowl.

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And voila the birthday party spread! Hot dogs, burgers, (sliced sweet onions, tomatoes and crispy bacon), sausages, potato salad, garden salad, corn on the cob, baked beans, chips-n-dip ... and crabbies (a family favorite)!

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The liquid refreshments and pretty glassware were set up on the kitchen jetty ... lemonade, sodas, iced tea, and wine. 

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A tiny pumpkin from our garden! I love how it looks amongst all the summery-ness - a glimpse of things to come ...

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Bill and I with our boys - a bit of Christmas card practice!

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And here's our Bookworm, talking about his new TA position at BC this fall. He'll be quite the busy undergrad this year!

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I just love this picture of Mum and I with Little Bear. I love that we laugh so much as a family ... we have a lot of fun. :) 

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My brother Matt had to work all day but came up to the house after he got off of work a bit early. Earlybird was so thrilled he ran to the doors to let him in - with a big hug, natch. :)

(He brought some amazing grapes, by the way - he works at Trader Joe's, fyi - they are absolutely the sweetest I've ever had!)

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My brother (aka Unc Matt) and the birthday boy.

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Little Bear enjoying his bubba with his Papa. How sweet is this picture?

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LB giving out hugs and fist bumps. This one was for his Great Aunt Anne.

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What a happy day - love spending time with these folks! With my Dad and Bill's Godmother, Aunt Anne. 

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For CJ and his friends, I made "monster cupcakes" - aka squash muffins with a simple powdered sugar glaze. They were a hit! (And LB was a bit obsessed with the candles.)

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I am so grateful that CJ has such great friends and that they've been friends since they were little kids. Note the tiny guy on CJ's lap ... sneaking in where the action is. ;) He insisted on being at the table with the big boys. 

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Here's CJ with his friend, Kurt - and a great new Disney t-shirt in his favorite color!

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Crackerjack is a lot of things - kind, funny, thoughtful - but I especially love what a fantastic big brother he is. I think the greatest compliment anyone can be paid in life is to earn the love and trust and attachment of a young child. It says so much about a person when little ones feel safe and happy with them ... and as you can see from this picture, Little Bear and Crackerjack have a truly special bond. Fourteen years apart, but best buddies at heart. <3


Well I'll wrap up now, but I thank you for stopping by and sharing in our special day! I will be back to chat more another time - and I have pictures of my Day Designer to share (remember the daybook I bought at Target a while back?) ... I think I'm liking it!


Enjoy your evening, my friends and see you again soon!

Time Flies - and Little Bear turns TWO!

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 We can hardly believe that our littlest man - our happy surprise baby - is now a TWO YEAR OLD! Time does truly fly when you're having fun ... and boy, is this boy FUN! I'd like to share some pictures from his birthday if I may? 

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Here we are, my Little Bear and I, taking a moment during the party to relax under a shady canopy. You might notice the bottle in his hands ... well, he did wean himself from nursing around 19 months ... but giving up the bubba is not as smooth a transition, lol! But we're working on it ...

Ah, but before I get too far with the party pictures (which took place last weekend), here is our Little Bear with all his big brothers on his actual birthday night, reading cards and having a little birthday cake after supper ...

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He actually didn't eat a bite, lol! Little Bear's not the one for sweets ... give him some hummus or pasta, however ...

But now, back to the party ... our theme was "Things That Go!"

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Because Little Bear just LOVES all things that move, particularly trucks and trains. I placed vibrant red Gerber daisies in blue and green mason jars alongside some party store decorations ... so simple and pretty. Every table got bubbles as well because Little Bear just LOVES to chase bubbles!

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My mum made this cake, topped with her famous fudge frosting and some construction vehicles "on the job" ...

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There were also plenty of buttercream-topped chocolate cupcakes (also made by LB's Nana) with tiny vehicle picks for decoration ...

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There were balloons aplenty, natch ... 

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And because it was such a nice day, we were able to enjoy the outdoors and hold the party on the patio and in the yard ... You never know in June hereabouts, but we dodged the rain and got ourselves a dry day!

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More balloons! This one was tied to the mailbox ...

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The main tent was set up on the patio and that covered the dining tables ... we also set up two smaller brown canopies where we had a "bar" and casual seating. Note my herb containers off to the left ... more on those very soon!

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 So as I mentioned before, my mum made the cake and cupcakes ... I did the arranging and I think it came out rather clever! Those are chocolate sprinkles being hauled around by the trucks. :)

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Here's the little guy joining family at the table ... that was my grandmother's tablecloth - a soft white terry adorned with strawberries and yellow flowers. I love it for summer entertaining.

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And here are my two oldest sons with the birthday boy ... :)

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Here's my Bill manning the grill, catching up with our friend, Paul, my cousin Kate's husband. Our party menu featured burgers and hot dogs and sausages along with all kinds of sides.

Here's the buffet table in the sunroom as it got piled up with food. I lined the windowsills with favorite truck/train/boat/plane books and toys.

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There was, of course, punch!

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And after lunch came presents - present-opening is very much a family affair around here. ;)

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 Little Bear received many thoughtful gifts - trucks, books, finger puppets, summer tees and even a wading pool!

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And then it was time for cake! Note the face, lol ...

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... and then some yard games ...

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As well as some quality time in the sandbox!

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It was a lovely day spent with people we love, celebrating the littlest member of our family.  Time is indeed flying fast and I am grateful for every day - every simple, sweet, slow (or not) day I get to spend with my dear ones. And oh, how dear is this little one ... in all of his two year-old glory?


Well, my friends ... that's all for now! I'm hoping you all have a good week and thanking you all for stopping by!

I'll see you here again very soon ... 

A Party for Little Bear!

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Good Monday morning evening, my friends! I hope you all had a nice weekend. :)

Today I have a GINORMOUS post for you, all about Little Bear's birthday party ... I hope you don't mind a bit of "oversharing," lol! As many of you know, Little Bear turned one back in May - but for a few reasons his party was moved to August. Luckily the day was not too hot or humid as August can be here in New England - in fact, it was just about perfect!

Our party theme was "animal crackers" because LB just LOVES animals and animal sounds of all kinds these days. Orginally I toyed with an owl theme, inspired by my boy's love for this book, but we decided animals would be A. easier and B. more fitting right now. :)

So anyhoo - here we go, on a "little" tour of Little Bear's party ...

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We were expecting a good size crowd (40ish) so we rented the tables and chairs. The price was not too bad and this way everyone had a place to sit down and eat, all together. We purchased the tent (which came with windowed sides you can lower or raise) - it was basically the same price to buy as it was to rent and it fits our patio perfectly. 

The tables were set with soft shades of green, blue, yellow and orange.

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The centerpieces were also multicolored and relatively inexpensive:

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First I laid down a small felt mat in animal stripes or spots. The vases were candy-hued mason-style jars (set of 6 on sale at AC Moore for $5) filled with sunflowers and mums purchased at Trader Joe's. The small wooden frames I found at AC Moore ($1, unfinished) and were painted by my mother. She applied colorful animal stickers once the paint was dry, and I picked out favorite pictures of LB through his first year, one for each frame. Not shown is the tiny Beech-Nut "Just Bananas" baby food jar (emptied and washed) filled with tiny asters from the garden.

Here's a look at all the frames together, six in all:

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And I found these wooden animal masks at JoAnn Fabrics for $1 - Crackerjack painted them for me and we stuck them in big pots of sunny marigolds.

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Most of the party was held outside, but I'm not a fan of serving food al fresco (bugs drive me nuts, lol) so I set the buffet tables up in the sunroom.

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(This was taken early in the day before everything was ready.)

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A small table set to the side held plates, napkins and mason jars filled with plastic cutlery ...

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Windows and walls held (more) pictures of Little Bear taken throughout his 1st year!

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Appetizers included light fare such as chips, salsa, veggies and dip, shrimp with cocktail sauce and cheese and crackers ...

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... while lunch consisted of "heartier" fare: shredded barbecue chicken and sloppy joes (served from the larger crockpots) and baked beans (in the small slowcooker). (Love this Honey-Peach bbq chicken recipe! So easy and makes a ton.) Sliced garden tomatoes and onions, assorted pickles, soft rolls, turkey and ham calzones, fruit salad, green salad, pasta salad and deviled eggs. All typical New England fare. :)

Now, the drinks we arranged outside, under a canopy ...

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Another reason I was so glad the weather was nice! 

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Bill set up a couple of tables for beverages and some comfortable seating nearby.

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Now, you might have noticed, I have a real thing for Mason jars lately! They're fun and look "vintage" but they're quite practical, too - I find so many uses for them. Here I used them for serving drinks ...

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My mum and I made little name tags from golden scrapbook paper and tied them to the jars with twine. Folks coud jot down their name and have their own glass for the afternoon.

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An old (but pretty) tea tin held paper straws ...

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... and a wooden zebra kept the napkins from flying away.

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In addition to this "Bear-y Punch" we also had pitchers of "Lion-Ade" and "Tiger Tea." (Fruit punch, lemonade and iced tea, respectively.) My new beverage jar ($20 at Paper Source) was perched on a rather old garden pot. :)

It was such a nice day for sitting and chatting ...

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... and lawn games.

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Little Bear was all over the bocce balls!

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This was supposed to be my "zebra-safari" outfit but I think, perhaps, I looked a bit like a gondolier, lol.

Next it was time for presents!

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 And then of course, it was time for CAKE!

For Little Bear's first birthday I made an assortment of "small cakes."

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I baked chocolate and "funfetti" cupcakes and made up a batch of buttercream frosting. I also had a couple of cans of "key lime" and "blue raspberry" frosting in the pantry so we used them as well. We added some colorful sprinkles and animal crackers. Fun!

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Happy Birthday, dear Little Bear!

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This was his face when we sang to him:

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 Shy boy. :)

We also served up a few tubs of ice cream from a local shop - freshly made peach, raspberry, blackberry and blueberry! All fruit was picked at farms in the area (save for the blueberries - they came from Maine where everyone knows they grow the very best blueberries). :)

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Little Bear waltzed around sampling flavors ...

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A little bit from Mama, a little bit from Nana, a little bit from Aunt Ami ...

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Hey you, cameraman? You have any ice cream for me?


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A lovely day - so nice to spend time with our loved ones ...

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It's a blessing to share Little Bear's sweetness with our family and friends. I think he had a really nice day ...


Thanks so much for taking the time to read, and look through my photos. I am now onto my next "project" which is school reports and ed. plans due this month. (How did it become August already?!)

Have yourselves a lovely evening, my friends ... see you here again very soon! 

All Hallows, All Saints and All Souls ...

Good Morning my friends! And Happy November!

I'd like to share a few pictures from our Halloween, if I may. It was a lovely day - and a dry, cool night. A real mix of clouds and sun (and clouds and moon) and that crisp October air. Very autumnal.

We always begin our holiday by making note of the sunrise ...

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We were out and about earlier in the day, and then after lunch it was all about finishing up lessons and getting ready for our night!

Usually, Bill does the pumpkins with the boys, but with the hurricane and all, it just did not get done. So it was up to me to oversee the project - and wield the knife! - though I told the boys I drew the line at handling pumpkin guts, lol.

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The cats were fascinated with the whole process. :)

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Here are Crackerjack's designs: one "funny face" and one "fearsome face."

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These two jacks were placed on our front steps, nestled into garden planters on either side of the front door.

Some treats of the healthy kind ...

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And otherwise. ;)

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Throughout the afternoon I tidied the house, decorated a Halloween cake, and baked a couple of carrot breads with Earlybird. I also put on my favorite Halloween movie of all time ~ Meet Me in St. Louis, which may seem a strange choice, but if you remember the Halloween scene ("Tootie's the most horrible! She's the bravest of them all!") you'll know why I love it. :) 

At last the sun began to set ...

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And Halloween night was upon us!

We live in a quiet, sprawling neighborhood so we get a LOT of trick-or-treaters. I'm always anxious over the amount of candy we've purchased - will it be enough? One year we nearly ran out, and I was rifling through the boys' snack stash to see what I could add to the mix!

And we are very fortunate to have wonderful friends gather with us each year for tricks-or-treats. It's fun to see how the kids have changed each year! The dads take the kids around the neighborhood while the moms stay at home to pass out candy (and chat).

Bill took this picture (with his phone) of our younger boys out and about:

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Earlybird was a soccer player - though he insisted he was "just Earlybird" - and Crackerjack was a skeleton.

Once the gang got back from trick-or-treating, we had cider and cake ... and then the candy-trading commenced!

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 Our group shrinks a bit each year as the older kids get busy with various activities - for instance, Bookworm was at class last night and it felt strange not to have him with us! But that's what happens as life moves on - things necessarily change. Of course, next year our ranks will grow again - we'll have a new little one joining us! I mentioned that last night and Crackerjack piped up:

"I can't wait to take the little papoose out trick or treating!"


Well, now Halloween's a thing of the past, and we have two lovely feast days to celebrate: All Saints today, and All Souls tomorrow. By necessity, I'm keeping plans simple this year ...

Today we'll clean and fill our feeders and spruce up the nature corner in honor of our family patron, Saint Francis. And those of us who can make it will attend morning Mass.

For tomorrow, I'll arrange our altar of remembrance - we have little baby food jars all clean and ready to turn into votives. And if the weather's good and we have time, we'll stop by the cemetery to pay respects and maybe do some grave rubbings. And perhaps I'll bake those donuts I usually bake on Halloween morning (but did not this year) and of course there will be "Mexican" for supper. :)

Simple joys, really - little ways to stay connected to our Faith and all its lovely traditions. I just love this time of year ... it feels like an ending of one season and the beginning of another. And so it is - we're nearing the start of the holiday season as well as a new liturgical year ... and of course, the natural year is winding down swiftly as well.

Well my friends, I'll be off. I hope this week's been kind to you, and I wish you all a good day ...

See you here again very soon!

All Hallow's Eve Fun!

Since the boys were babies, Bill has taken Halloween off from work every year. We spend the day together doing family things, enjoying the last day of October with special food and seasonal fun. We usually go to our favorite farm, and stroll around admiring the fading foliage and withering fields. We pick out a pumpkin to carve back at home ... and we usually have hot cider and donuts for breakfast ...




After lunch, it's time to make the jack-o-lantern! Crackerjack draws out the design, Bill carves the pumpkin, Bookworm offers pointers - and Earlybird and I busy ourselves with preparing for the evening's party. Most years (though not this one) I roast the pumpkin seeds for an afternoon snack.


This was a first Halloween for Archie and Ollie.


(They really paid it no mind.)

Now, Bookworm chose a "spookier" than usual costume this year - a teenage vampire (a la Twilight). We don't usually do anything creepy (Halloween is all about innocent fun in our family), but I acquiesced to his wish to be something a little darker this year.

Here I am putting on his face paint ...


And here we are, those of us who dressed up ...

My (getting-so-tall!) Bookworm as a "vegetarian" vampire, me as a gypsy (though CJ insisted I wear a dagger so thus became a pirate) and Crackerjack as a "Lonesome Ghost" (from Walt Disney's classic cartoon).


(This was his own design - and with Nana's help he fashioned a costume out of an old bedsheet, white gloves and a funny black hat.)

The boys enjoyed an afternoon visit with my folks, aka Nana and Papa. They always have special treats on hand for my boys ...


Unfortunately, Earlybird was not feeling so well, so he pretty much refused to dress up this year. (The original plan was for him to be a "karate kid," wearing one of Bookworm's old uniforms.)

Here he is being comforted by Nana, my poor little fella ...


(Happily, after a special lunch out at "Wendy's," and a little rest, EB snapped back into action. He still didn't feel like dressing up, but he enjoyed the rest of the day, joining in the holiday fun.)

Before we knew it, the sun was setting and All Hallow's Eve had arrived. And as night fell, the moon hung low in the sky, a shimmering, silvery crescent ...


Old "Jack" welcomed the many trick-or-treaters who visited our home:


As did our cheerful balloon pumpkins ...


And of course we had plenty of candy on hand!


Now, every year we have two families over to celebrate All Hallow's Eve. These are friends we've known since our children were SO little - before even CJ and EB were born! So while the dads take the gaggle of kids trick-or-treating, the moms and I stay at home to answer the door, drink tea and chat. :) 

And when everyone gets back the party gets rolling! We have all kinds of goodies set out - cheese, crackers, grapes, brownies, cookies, cider and of course, a Halloween cake! 

Then the kids get down to the very important business of candy swapping ...


Once everyone's loot is sorted and stashed away, it's time to relax. :)

"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is playing in the family room, and the Wii is being played down the hall ... and by 9;30 or so, it's a wrap ...

Another Halloween come and gone!

It was - and always is - SUCH a fun night. It's become a cherished tradition to gather with these awesome friends to celebrate and watch the children grow and change each year.

But this morning as I sipped my coffee and admired a beautiful gray and pink sunrise, I breathed a sigh of post-holiday relief. November is finally upon us ...

And do you know, the first thing Crackerjack said (after "Rabbit, Rabbit!") was:

"Mom, only 23 more days till Thanksgiving!"

Lol, and so it goes ...

Have a terrific Tuesday, my friends - and Happy All Saints! - I will see you all again very soon!


Happy Birthday, Crackerjack!


It was a Smurfday Birthday this year! And Crackerjack is now officially TWELVE years old!

A few quick pictures from our party yesterday ... today we celebrate with family so I have but a few moments to post!


The balloons were actually supposed to be dispersed around the yard - along the fence, the trampoline, off the deck, etc. But we were running late and Bill brought them home literally moments before guests were scheduled to arrive. The list of "things to do" was consulted, and an ice-filled cooler and a grill ready-to-go took precedent over well-spaced balloons, lol!


And here's the buffet table ... we had burgers and dogs, veggies and dip, macaroni salad, macaroni and cheese and assorted chips. Oh! And a "Smurfberry Punch!"


I originally had a plan to display all the blue and white cupcakes (along with a red toadstool cupcake or two) on a tiered display something like this ... but alas, once again, time and toil got in the way of creative expression. Above you see my last minute variation. 

Here's a picture of how the cake and cupcakes ended up:


Not quite what I envisioned, but it all tasted quite yummy. (And as CJ reminded me, that's really the point!)

And why yes, I am wearing a "Smurfette" shirt. 


Well, I hope you all have a great weekend. I will be back tomorrow with another post (we have some happy news to share with you all) but for now I'm off to get ready for the next birthday party!

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Celebrating Peter and Beatrix!

My fellow Peter Rabbit fans, did you know that tomorrow, July 28th, is beloved author Beatrix Potter's birthday? May I take this opportunity to ask:

What is your favorite Beatrix Potter tale? Is it the same as your kids'?

Mine would be The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, natch. Crackerjack and Earybird both like The Tale of Samuel Whiskers or the Roly Poly Pudding best, while Bookworm (who had to think back aways, lol) is partial to The Tale of Pigling Bland.


So this would be a neat day to celebrate! Curl up somewhere comfy and read a few favorite children's books - or perhaps dig into a nice, old-fashioned mystery set in the English countryside? Maybe it's a day to find a quiet spot outside to sit and sketch or paint. Or if it's too hot or rainy, you could stay indoors and watch something like this (EB loves this series!) or peruse a website like this. I'd like to think a special way to honor Miss Potter's birthday would be to do something nice for the little birdies and wee beasties in your life ~ offer special treats, create a happy habitat, or make a donation to a local land trust or wildlife sanctuary if you can ...

And of course, whether indoors or out, an afternoon "Peter Rabbit Tea" would be fun!

A possible menu:

a fruity summer punch

assorted finger sandwiches

fresh vegetables served with a creamy herb dip

lovely little carrot cupcakes 

a pot of sweet children's tea


Peter did not seem to be enjoying 
himself; he kept hearing noises. 

Benjamin, on the contrary, was 
perfectly at home, and ate a lettuce 
leaf. He said that he was in the habit 
of coming to the garden with his 
father to get lettuces for their Sunday 

The lettuces certainly were very 

Peter did not eat anything; he said 
he should like to go home. Presently he dropped half the onions. 

From The Tale of Benjamin Bunny


Now, I know this was two posts in one day - in a week I swore I'd be ever-too-busy to blog, lol - but I just had to let you all know about this special day just in case you'd like to plan something fun for your family tomorrow. I know many of us (homeschoolers especially) have spent countless hours immersed in the wondrous world of Beatrix Potter.

She was a special lady - a brilliant artist and a gentle soul - and many a childhood was made all the more magical and memorable thanks to her dear little tales. 

So today I'm remembering Miss Potter, with true appreciation and much fondness ...

Hand-delicate ~ Dawn

Last night was Greek Mythology Night ...

... and it was so much fun!


Once a month our homeschool support group holds an 11-15 year old "Activity Night." We've been participating for several years now and it's something my boys really look forward to. The gist of it is, one family volunteers to "host" a month and organize the night's activities. Most months it's as simple as getting the kids together for pizza and a dvd at someone's home, but we've also gone out to the movies, visited a corn maze, held a Yankee Swap, and spent an evening at the mini golf course. It's always a fun night - for the kids as well as the mums (or dads as the case may be)!

Our family hosted this month's gathering, and we decided to go with the theme, "Greek Mythology Night." Our inspiration was this movie, this game and my boys' long-held fascination with ancient civilizations and mythology.

I started setting things up early Friday afternoon; this was the buffet table in its early stages:


Earlybird insisted the chip bags be part of the picture, lol. And no, chips are not necessarily "Greek" - not as far as I know - but these are 11-15 year old kids we're talking about. Chips are always a must on Activity Night. ;)

For the table I used a light green tablecloth, tall ivory candles and a length of grapevine garland. On the windowsill above, I lined up the Percy Jackson books as well as our beloved (and quite bedraggled) D'Aulaire Book of Greek Myths.

Just above the books the boys lined up some of their action figures ...


Dragons of all sorts, Cerberus (the three-headed dog), a (Lego) ogre, and several knights and gladiators rounded out the gallery.

So with the house more or less ready, and the food order called in, we waited to welcome our guests. (Six families in attendance this month, 12 kids in all.)

Our menu for the night:

Soda and water

Chips & salsa * Hummus & pita

Pizza (both regular and Greek)

Greek salad

Spinach pie (Spanakopita)

Greek Sweet Bread (Kouloura)

Assorted desserts & tea

After supper, the kids tried their hand at a Greek Mythology quiz one of the boys made up for the group. He awarded badges depending on quiz grade: mortal, demigod, oracle, minor god, Olympian god, fate.



It was a very challenging quiz!

After the quiz, the kids split into two teams and we had a little trivia game. I used the a Professor Noggin set of cards called "Creatures of Myth and Legend." The kids handled questions on everything from unicorns to phoenixes to leprechauns to golems! There was much laughter and not just a little competitive spirit. ;)

After the games, the desserts were spread out, plates were filled up and the kids settled down to watch the night's movie. The mom's settled in to drink tea and chat. :)

(Now, I don't know what setting I had my camera on, but all the pictures I took last night came out with an awful yellow hue. I'm still going to share them - just wanted to prepare you, lol! I promise, the food tasted much better than it looks in my pictures!)

And all these lovely treats were made by my friends ...


Holly's delicious Greek sweet bread, or "kouloura."


Beth's festive "Greek alphabet" cupcakes.


Yasmina's yummy vanilla twist cookies.


Laura's sweet, crunchy raspberry crumb bars.


And finally, Kim's soft and buttery "kourabiethes."

Dear readers, this night was such fun - one we'll remember always. And it was a late one too! - we said our goodbyes around 11:00! Needless to say, this was a long lazy morning ... and no cooking! We had plenty of delicious leftovers to enjoy. :)

Next month will be another movie night - February's pick is How to Train Your Dragon ... I wonder if there's such a thing as "Viking" cookies?

Well, thanks so much for stopping by today! I hope your weekend is going well. Take care of yourselves and have a good night ... I'll see you all again sometime soon.


A Hello and a Few August Pictures :)

Dear friends, thank you so much for your concern, for checking in here to say hello and see if I'm about ... suffice it to say, a whole host of issues kept me offline these past few weeks, but I'm here at last and eager to share some August pictures with you ... I hope you all have been well. :) 

First of all, we just got finished celebrating Crackerjack's 11th Birthday this past weekend ...


This was taken at his "friends" birthday party on Saturday. (The family celebration was held on Sunday.) It was another Lego theme party - our favors were smiley "minifig" face bags filled with a jumble of treats:


I found these football candles at Shaw's Marketplace (my grocery store of choice). I couldn't resist them - we get very excited about football season around here. Not that any of the boys play, but we are, as many of you know, super-huge Pats fans and what's more - football season means fall - and both are right around the corner. :)


We've been happily watching our little red squirrels - five in all at last count!


Since it's been so hot here this summer, the squirrels have taken to "lounging" in the seed trays. The above is actually an action shot - this fella was feeding himself in this very position! It was too funny to watch.

The squirrels have also taken to sampling the spruce needles ...


The raccoons have also made their presence known ... they're comical and so very clever.


Another critter to look for at this time of year is the grasshopper. We find them on our house - walking across clapboards or as in this case, a storm door.


I just took out a library book for Earlybird on grasshoppers because he's slightly freaked out when he sees them, lol. We also have a beautiful Tiger Swallowtail that graces our yard on occasion, as well as a pair of hummingbirds, ginormous dragonflies, lots of chipmunks, and we THINK a screech owl in the woods. (We've heard him but not seen him.) The boys also found this odd looking insect on the deck recently ...


We're pretty sure this is a Carolina Locust. Bookworm (who took this picture) said he had wings like a butterfly when he flew off. He also asked me if I thought we should alert the proper authorities considering the infamously destructive nature of these creatures. Lol.

I told him since we lived in a residential (rather than agricultural) area we were probably ok. But I asked him to let me know if he sees any more. :)

Above you see my most successful gardening venture this summer - my glorious morning glory vine!


The basil and nasturtiums have also done well.


The tomatoes, not so much.

I dare say we've used our deck more this summer than ever before. I bought some pretty sun lights for the railing ...


 They'll look even better when they're peeping out between morning glory blossoms. :)


That's all for now, folks! I hope to be back again before the start of the new year (academic, that is). I have lots of planning to do and a school room to set up. Hope to get it all done before Labor Day!

Be safe and well ~ and see you all again soon!

Easy Treats for Cinco de Mayo!


It's the 5th of May - Cinco de Mayo! Here are a couple of super easy Mexican treats to make with your kidlets today. :)

Cinnamon-Sugar Tortilla Chips

(Recipe from

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread 4 plain flour tortillas with softened, unsalted butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar. Cut into triangles (or use fun cookie cutter shapes). Bake for 10 minutes or until crisp.

*Note: little hands can help spread butter, sprinkle cinnamon-sugar, and if using cookie cutters, make shapes for baking.*


Fruity Virgin Sangria

(Made up on the spot. :))

Brew a small pot of herbal, kid-friendly tea (I used Little Citizen's Strawberry-Vanilla Red Tea). While the tea cools, fill a pitcher halfway full of fruit punch or juice (I used Welch's White Grape-Raspberry 100% juice). Add the steeped and cooled tea along with chunks of miscellaneous fruit (we added diced golden apples and orange slices). Let your "sangria" steep in the fridge for a while and then serve over ice.

*Note: Depending on your kids' tastes, you could add a little zip with plain or lime-flavored seltzer or a splash of citrusy soda like Sprite or 7-Up.*


Happy Mid-Week, my friends! :)

Crackerjack's Lego Birthday!

It sure is a day for smiles!

Before I get into the party pictures, I first have to tell you first that we got our approval letter in the mail today! We are all set to homeschool again this year! This is a big relief - our town has gotten slightly more difficult in recent years. We've never had a real problem, but I've been kind of holding my breath waiting for something to come up. No such worries this year though - we're good to go again. And, if you can believe it - and I hardly can - this will be our 10th year of homeschooling!

But now onto more important matters ~ today is Crackerjack's birthday! He turns 10 at 6 p.m. (or roundabouts). A little while ago he said to me, "Well, now I'm 10. I feel more mature somehow." Lol. Here are some pictures from his Lego-themed birthday party last weekend:

The birthday boy. :)

The mascots (mix and match Lego minifigures).

The candles (just a neat shot).

The pinata before ...

... and the pinata after. (That's Bill under there!)

The silliness ... ;)

And the birthday cake - yes, I made it! :) Pan can be found here.

So last weekend was friends, today is lunch with more friends and dinner will be his favorites. This weekend we will have his family party - no Legos this time, but aunts, uncles and grandparents, etc. Oh, and lasagna. ;)

Well, thanks for stopping by and checking in. Hope your Thursday is going swell, too. See you all again here real soon. :)

Thoughtful Friday ~ Love & Light


Candle light, moon light, star light,
The brightest glow is from love light.
~Grey Livingston~

(I have no idea who Grey Livingston is, but isn't that a beautiful quote?)

I took this picture around 6 a.m. ~ the moon was still up, still glowing in the western sky this morning. Earlybird and I (the only two awake so far) have been marveling at it from our learning room windows. As we watched the clouds slowly pass over the bright orb, I pointed out the dark markings on the moon's surface and mentioned, casually, that we might be seeing the "Man in the Moon." EB turned to me with wide eyes, and then fled the room. I think I significantly freaked out my youngest son for the day, lol.

Well, yesterday was one of the busiest days we've had in a long time. Bill was home for the day and we took the boys to our homeschool group's Valentine's Day party. It was loads of fun!

Here's Earlybird working on a project at the craft table:


(I took more pictures than just this one of EB, but the light was funny inside the church hall, so the photos did not come out very well. Suffice it to say, it was a wonderful time - games, crafts, food, Valentine mailboxes ... great friends.)

Later in the day, the older boys attended a birthday party while EB participated in his weekly social skills group. Dinner was a brief and late affair last night, and then it was early to bed!

Today will be busy, too - getting ready for Bookworm's Activity Night which we're hosting this month. We'll have about 10 kids between the ages of 11 and 14 here for pizza and a movie. 

All this to say, I know posting has been brief this week, but it's been crazy around here! I have an "organization" post waiting in the wings ... hopefully I'll get around to that this weekend.

And speaking of the weekend - I hope you all have a lovely Valentines Day! I will see you all again sometime soon. 

A Great 8!


I'd like to share some pictures from Crackerjack's "friend" birthday party which we held this past weekend. The theme this year was Toontown, which I should probably explain is an online Disney game ( in which the "toons" (mice, dogs, cats, rabbits, etc.) try to protect their fun and friendly town from the big bad "cogs" who are always trying to take over with their big ugly corporate buildings. (Hmmm, sense a political agenda there, lol?)

Needless to say, the kids play as the toons, and they get to pick their species, color, size, name etc. They then all work together (with other online toons) to "fight" the cogs with gags and funny jokes. It's an extremely child-friendly game (you can't communicate with the other players except by using toon talk); CJ almost always uses his allotted "video" time to play Toontown. Of course his brother plays it too as well as several of his friends, so that makes it all the more fun.

OK, so there's the theme all explained, now here are the pictures!


We had planned to have the tables set up on the deck, but a forecast threatening severe thunderstorms prompted us to move things inside (balloons and all).


We even moved the galvanized tubs of drinks inside just in case. I laid vinyl placemats underneath that colorful plaid blanket to minimize any moisture problems. The tub on the left held water bottles and lemonade juice boxes. The one of the left had the "hard stuff" -i.e. sodas!


Here are the cupcakes just after decorating. I baked up a yellow cake mix (Feingold-approved) and frosted the cakes with homemade buttercream frosting. On top I sprinkled all-natural organic jelly beans (again, EB-OK). The symbolism is this: in Toontown not only do you throw cupcakes at cogs, but you collect jelly beans as "currency" which you can use to decorate your toon home and buy your toon clothing as well as new phrases or gags.

As it turned out, the weather held, and a light cloud cover actually kept the temperature in check. So the backyard games were back on:


The first game the kids played was a variation of tag or a bit like ghost-in-the-graveyard. Upon arriving, all the kids became toons by choosing toon names (i.e. Captain Sniggle Puff, that kind of thing) which were then applied to their shirts (in the form of mailing labels). Bill and Mike (another dad at the party) were roped into offered to pose as cogs trying to stop the toons from getting the huge dollar bills taped all over the yard. The object of the game for the kids, er, toons - grab the money and get it back to home base (that large tree pictured there). If a cog tagged you, you had to freeze and wait for another toon to unfreeze you (by tagging you again). Once the bills were all recovered, the game was over and the toons all received megaphones as a prize. ("Megaphone" is another toon gag used against cogs.)   


Camera shy kids, obviously. ;)


The next game involved water, always a hit on a hot day. This was reminiscent of a VBS game we had played last year. A wheelbarrow was filled with water and stationed at one side of the yard; across from it, equidistant, stood two buckets of the same size. The kids were split into two teams and given paper cups. On go, they had to use their cups to move water from the barrel to their buckets. The team that filled their bucket first won.

As you can see from CJ's face above, he takes his competition rather seriously. That's my little EB in front doing his part for the team. :)


CJ received some cool gifts, including this Toontown t-shirt with a message for all cogs on the back!


Crackerjack was insistent he needed this crazy red headgear for the day (the hands resembled toon hands, he said). He wore it for all of two minutes, lol! EB seemed just as "happy" to wear them, as you can see. Guess who ended up wearing them most of the day (mostly because I kept forgetting I had them on)? 


Cake time! And yummy cold popsicles, too.


Crackerjack had such a great time, he loves being the center of attention!


These were the favor bags we made up. We started with black bags and decorated them with fireworks and golden star stickers. (On certain holidays, Toontown does fireworks every hour on the hour - my kids just love that part.) I used a gold metallic ink pen to write party guests' names. Inside the bags were all kinds of toon favors like marbles, jelly beans, duck beak whistles and paper money.

Well, thanks for stopping by and sharing in our fun! Once Crackerjack's birthday is over I know summer is really nearing its end. The next birthday will be Earlybird, just before Christmas - guess I have time to catch my breath before then. ;) 

The Ratatouille Re-cap (Long Form)


Months and months ago, the boys and I were sitting at a movie (Flushed Away, I think it was) enjoying all the previews before the main feature began. The trailer for Ratatouille rolled, and Bookworm just lit up - he laughed and laughed and as the final screen flashed, Premiering Summer 2007, he turned to me and said, "Mum, THAT is what I want to do for my birthday next year - take everyone to see Ratatouille!"

And so, months and months later, that is just what we did! :)

I have some pictures to post from our day, but I also want to share some of the party planning details with you. I know I love reading about how other mums pull off birthday parties (in fact that was how I got some of my ideas for our day, reading and gleaning inspiration online). So here goes.

Well, we began with a general idea - a matinee show, followed by cake and punch back at home. As a major Disney/Pixar production, Ratatouille has practically a whole aisle devoted to it at the party store. I picked up a few items there, but tried to brainstorm a bit on my own.

Now the logistics for a movie party can be tricky as far as informing your guests of the actual movie time. I couldn't get the show time till two days before the party, so I noted on the invitations that we would be seeing the "1:00-ish" show and that I would email the precise time as soon as I could pin it down. Our party was Friday, I had the movie start time (1:15) by Wednesday night and sent an email early Thursday morning. I asked our guests to meet at the theater at 12:45 in order to have plenty of time to organize and order snacks. To save even more time, I used an online ticket purchasing service. I tallied how many adults and children we would have, ordered the tickets and printed out one "ticket" for the whole party. I kept that piece of paper in my wallet.

As his friends arrived at the theater, Bookworm said hello and, armed with a pen and index card, tallied drink orders. By the time the group was assembled, we were ready to pick up our kid packs (I had warned the concession stand we were coming) and head in to get good seats. (By the way, the way the print-your-own-tickets thing works is you hand the piece of paper to the ticket checker, he scans the bar code in at a machine and hands you back all the little stubs for your guests.)

If you've read any of the Ratatouille reviews, it will not surprise you to hear that we all LOVED this movie. First of all, it was rated G and it is so hard these days to find a G movie. When we go to the movies, we go as families, bringing kids of all ages, so we want it to be something everyone can enjoy. Ratatouille appealed to all of us young and not so young - great story, plenty of laughs, visually amazing, and really very sweet.

Look at these faces, can't you tell they had fun?


OK, so now we all headed back home caravan style for the rest of the party. It was an exciting ride home, actually, because as we drove west, the skies began to darken and streaks of lightening flashed off in the distance. Literally, just moments after we all got safely inside, it began to storm like crazy. We even had hail!


So, as Bookworm set about opening presents, Bill put out the snacks while I mixed up the punch and worked on remedying a cake catastrophe that occured while we were at the movie (more on that later). But for now, let me backtrack a bit to describe the food, favors and decorations.

As usual we set up the two dining room tables for serving food buffet style - one for snacks and one for punch and cake. I purchased bright yellow plastic tablecloths for the tables, which, fyi, can be reused or recycled. I bought a couple of packages of Ratatouille themed cups, plates and napkins but supplemented with inexpensive plain yellow paper goods. For good measure, we bought some plastic rats to place about the tables (they ended up in the goody bags, lol).

We also strung some lights along the windows, to emulate the "City of Lights" (Ratatouille takes place in Paris). I took these pictures earlier in the day so the lights don't show up too well, but it worked out nicely in the end because the day turned so dark and stormy. The lights really stood out during the party:


I also set up small tray tables and chairs to look like cafe seating.


Later on, the above table was filled with cheese-themed snacks: cheddar mini crackers, cheese puffs, cheddar jack chips, and a cheese board with crackers alongside. We also had a veggie-and-dip tray and fruit salad served in yellow cups.

The soup pot centerpiece idea came from this wonderful birthday party idea site: Amazing Moms. We used our copper stock pot and filled it with colorful summer flowers - but to keep things in theme, I perched a plastic rat peeking out of the flowers!


To keep the flowers in place, I placed several glass jam jars inside the pot:


And here's a look at the punch bowl:


This was a blend of orange-pineapple juice cocktail, topped with scoops of vanilla-orange sherbet and a can of ginger ale to make it all frothy. Refreshing!

All right, now about that cake situation.

Bookworm's request was his favorite orange cake (Duncan Hines Orange Supreme). I had it in mind to bake it as a double layer cake and frost it to look like a cheese wheel. I made homemade buttercream frosting, tinted it yellow, frosted the assembled cooled cake and then we added circles of orange fruit leather. The hope was that it would call to mind Swiss cheese.


The plan was I would cut a large wedge out and place a small cupcake decorated like a rat inside the wedge. The rat cupcake has pink candy-coated chocolates for eyes and a gumdrop nose, black licorice whiskers and pink paper ears. Cute, right?

Well, as they say, the best laid plans ...

When we returned home from the movie, Bill, who had stayed home with Earlybird (who cannot tolerate cinema movies - too much noise and commotion) pulled me aside for a quick de-briefing. Apparently, when he was busy cutting up vegetables, EB had a little fun pulling at the tablecloth - a bit too much fun, because he brought the whole cake plate (domed glass, mind you) over the side and on top of himself, crashing the plate and wrecking the cake, but thankfully not harming himself in the process.

The sum of it all was: we were without a birthday cake.

BUT! I remembered the extra cupcakes I had made, and fortunately the rat escaped much harm. (He lost a few whiskers but that was all.) As it turned out I had exactly 12 cupcakes for 12 kids!


I didn't have enough confectioner's sugar to whip up a new batch of frosting, so we used whipped cream instead. Bookworm was really a good sport about it. With a shrug of his shoulders he said, "Oh well. Can we bake an orange cake again later this weekend?"


He really is such a sweet kid. :)

So, for the final touch, the favors:


We bought plain yellow bags and orange tissue paper and prepared one bag per family. Inside the bags we tucked some Ratatouille candy, organic lollipops, Ratatouille stickers, a plastic "pet" rat, and an issue of a Kids Cooking magazine. On the outside we wrote Merci! (French for thank you) and attached a recipe card template on which Bookworm wrote his thanks. I had meant to also include a copy of a Ratatouille Activity Guide for each child but it slipped my mind.

SO, there is our Ratatouille party - from soup to nuts! :) I hope you enjoyed a look at our party plans, and as always, thanks for stopping by. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

More Birthday for Bookworm!

And this is not even the end of it, lol - he still has his "friends" party coming up after the holiday - a trip to the movies followed by a party back at home. Oh, it's so good to be a kid! :)

These pictures here are from our family gathering last night. My folks and my brother came over for a cookout supper and cake and ice cream (or, in this case, ice cream cake). Damee, my grandmother, wasn't feeling well enough to make it to the party, and Bill's folks are away for the summer (in Alaska, no less!) so I wanted to post a lot of pictures of the boys, especially for them. I also wanted to share the ice cream cake recipe with you all (it was so easy and yummy!) so I tacked that on the end.


Not surprisingly, Bookworm got lots of help opening his presents. Here we have Earlybird, who was absolutely convinced this new notepad was for him. Bookworm was a good sport and let his little brother hold onto it while while he dug into the rest of the present pile. He was very excited to receive many new books from my folks - most of all I think for The Two Towers (the second installment in the Lord of the Rings trilogy).


Crackerjack helped too - of course, he's a bit more hands-off. ;)


Bookworm received a package all the way from Alaska filled with birthday goodies from his grandparents. We all thought the rubbing of a petroglyph was cool, but I think he liked the Pokedex the best.


Crackerjack and Uncle Matt. In case you can't tell, we're Sox fans around here.


Bookworm had help blowing out his candles (Earlybird made a fast getaway - he doesn't care much for the happy birthday song, lol.)


And here's a close-up of the ice cream cake. It doesn't look very fancy, but it was really quite delicious and refreshing. Bookworm found the recipe some time ago and kept it in mind for just this occasion. The original recipe called for peppermint ice cream and crushed peppermint candies on top, but we substituted mint chocolate chip ice cream and chocolate chips for the top. Not a bad trade, eh?

And before I go, here's the recipe, as found in Williams-Sonoma Kids Baking:

Chocolate Cake

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Ice Cream Layer

  • 1/2 gallon of your favorite: peppermint, vanilla, mint chocolate chip or chocolate)

Whipped Cream

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, well chilled
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Crushed hard peppermint candies or chocolate chips

Before you start:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9x13 baking dish with butter. (I used canola spray)

Make the cake:

Put the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt into the sifter and sift into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar with a whisk. In a medium bowl, using the whisk, beat the water, egg, oil and vanilla until blended. Pour the egg mixture and stir together with the whisk just until blended. Pour the batter into the prepared dish. Use a rubber spatula to scrape all the batter out of the bowl into the dish. Put the dish in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Using oven mitts, remove the dish from the oven and set it on the cooling rack to cool completely.

Spread on the ice cream layer:

When the cake is cool, remove the ice cream from the freezer and set it on the counter to soften for 10 to 15 minutes. Drop large globs of the ice cream over the top of the cake with the rubber spatula and spread them out to make a thick, even layer. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for about 4 hours, until the ice cream is hard.

Make the whipped cream:

In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer on low speed to beat the cream, sugar and vanilla. When the cream begins to thicken and no longer splatters, increase the speed to medium high. Continue to beat until medium-firm peaks form, about 3 minutes.

Decorate the cake:

Spread the whipped cream evenly over the frozen cake with a rubber spatula, then sprinkle with crushed candies (or chocolate chips).

Cut into 12 squares. Remove immediately from the pan with the metal spatula. Serve immediately or store in the freezer.

Very easy and yummy - a cool summer dessert! You could really play around with the flavors and toppings. A fun combination for the Fourth of July would be vanilla ice cream inside with blueberries and strawberries on top. :)

Friends, Food and a Great Movie!

What an awesome way to celebrate Bookworm's 12th birthday!!

Last night we hosted our homeschool group's Activity Night! Bookworm was very excited to host the group on his birthday night - he could think of no better way to celebrate than to hang out with his friends. :)

Activity Night is a monthly gathering of tweens (ages 10-14) at one family's home. The host family orders a pizza supper and everyone brings favorite snacks to share. (This being a bunch of tweens, the snacks range from Doritos, to Pringles to Oreos, lol.) After the kids eat, they sit down to watch a movie together, though sometimes the chosen activity is a game night or trading cards. Each family gets to choose their activity, and we decided to show the movie National Treasure, which is one of Bookworm's favorites. Have you seen it? It's a great family-friendly historical-action-suspense movie. Many, many thumbs up. :)

We spent the afternoon preparing the environment. Here are a few before pictures:


The concession stand.


The viewing room.


The mums' corner - just one room over, but still close enough. ;)


A fresh batch of chocolate cupcakes to celebrate BW's birthday.

Just about six o'clock, the gang started arriving. Bill and Earlybird left to have dinner out and spend the evening at Nana and Papa's house, but Crackerjack got to stay with the "big kids." He was so excited to be included!


Sorry this photo is blurry, but I had to show you our packed house! We had 14 kids in all, and several mums stayed to chat and visit. Above you see the group enjoying their supper as the movie started. Activity Night generally runs between 6 and 9 p.m. and as National Treasure is a long movie, I started it while they were eating. After the pizza, sodas and snacks followed, as well as plenty of cookies and cupcakes. We mums enjoyed tea, coffee and lots of conversation.


After the movie the kids gathered around my laptop to watch the trailer for the National Treasure sequel, Book of Secrets, opening this December. We're already planning a field trip, with perhaps a Book Group tie-in that month.


And here we have the aftermath! Contrary to what this picture might suggest, we have TONS of food leftover!

It was such a great time, and I was once again reminded of how blessed we are to be part of such an awesome group of people. And now I'm off to make an ice cream cake for Bookworm's family party later today (pictures to come later!). Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

A BIG Post about CJ's BIG Day!


It finally arrived ~ Crackerjack's First Holy Communion! I'd like to share some lots of photos with you from his BIG day ...

How happy those early moments were as the church bells were ringing and the families were filing in ~ faces beaming, exchanging excited hello's and how-have-you-been's. All the children looked splendid in their special day finery. CJ wore the beige suit worn by his big brother just four years ago.

And speaking of his big brother ...


A few minutes later, my dad snapped a picture of us in the pew:


The children making their FHC today each were assigned a pew, and at the end of each pew their personal banners were hung - the ones we made a few weeks back. They really looked lovely! Each one was unique and thoughtfully made. I'm happy to report CJ's withstood the storage - nary a sequin or felt shape was misplaced.

Father's homily had the children laughing and quite involved. At one point several children were brought up in front of the altar (CJ included - he never misses an opportunity to participate) and asked to hold various items that one would bring camping. It might sound like a curious homily, but Father made a wonderful and memorable point.

Watching these dear children receive the Blessed Sacrament for the very first time - hands folded, faces upturned - was just so beautiful. This picture was taken at the very end of Mass, when the children performed their special Trinity Song, the one they sang at the beginning of each class throughout the year.


Before we headed home, CJ got to speak with our Pastor for a few minutes. Don't you just love the panel on the front of his chasuble? Especially chosen for today, I would presume!


Back at home it was time to celebrate with family and friends! Not surprisingly, the jacket quicky came off.


Today, CJ has the whole world in his hands!


Here are my boys with two of their best friends, Curran and Abby. Their mom, Lisa, one of my best friends, helped out immensely today, watching Earlybird for us, and getting that casserole in the oven at 10 a.m. sharp! :)

Here's how the cake and punch table looked (not shown is the banner stretched across the windows):


A close up of the cake ...


... which was rather humble and homemade - but yummy!


CJ requested a "Strawberry Sherbet Punch," so I made something up. Doesn't a punch just make a party? CJ was so surprised by the dove!

The rest of our meal was comprised of glazed kielbasa, Brunch Casserole (eggs-cheese-bread-tomatoes - positively NO calories, lol), fruit salad, angel food cake with whipped cream ...


... and of course lots of freshly brewed coffee.

After a while, CJ kicked back and relaxed. Here he is with his great-grandmother, Damee:


And hanging out with his great Uncle George:


Many of our family members could not make it today, due to a college graduation and a long-planned vacation. CJ missed them all, but knew in his heart how many people were thinking of him, praying for him, and just loving him all up today.   

It is now late afternoon, and Earlybird and Bill are both napping. The older two boys and I are curled up on the couch, enjoying these quiet Sunday afternoon hours. The rain is still steady, but the sun keeps breaking through brightly. (We're on rainbow watch, lol!)

Thank you so much for sharing in our day. I hope you all had a nice weekend, too! See you sometime tomorrow. :)

The Loveliness of Saint Patrick's Day


What a wonderful holiday to celebrate, for as the saying goes, everyone's a little bit Irish on March 17th! This Monday, my dear friend Mary Ellen is hosting the Loveliness of Saint Patrick's Day at her Bonny Blue House, and I am so thrilled because, A. I'm Irish and, B. I love Saint Patrick's Day!

The feast day itself is next Saturday, so there is plenty of time left to plan a few fun activities for your family. I'd like to share some ideas with you now, and then later on show you the pictures of our actual celebrations. :)

Good Books

What's a feast day without a bushel of good books to read?


Please see my righthand sidebar (Early Spring Basket) for the whole list.

Every year I like to add a few new titles to our Saint Patrick's Day collection. This year we've added The St. Patrick's Day Shillelagh, and Bookworm will begin Beyond the Western Sea Book 1: Escape from Home for book group next month. I'm hoping Barnes & Noble has a copy of Small Beauties: The Journey of Darcy Heart O'Hara as it's a fairly new book (if not I will order it). All three books share a theme of the devastating potato famine of the 1800s. A good start to a rabbit trail, don't you think? This will be a perfect week to focus our geography studies on the heart of the Emerald Isle.

Food & Drink

Many supermarkets now have an aisle devoted to imported and/or ethnic foods. I was happily surprised to see Ireland represented at my local Shaws! What a fun field trip it would be to take the kids to the market and let them choose an item or two to try - Irish tea, biscuits, pudding, jelly, etc.

Naturally, I've been busily tearing ideas out of magazines, recipes among them - pasting some in my journal and leaving others to file:


Some of these ideas will show up in our celebrations this week:

  • Thursday teatime (Irish theme).
  • Friday co-op party!
  • Saturday visit Damee (bring muffins and little gifts).
  • Sunday family dinner (Irish dinner).

(Details to follow through the week!)


  • We'll all be wearing green, of course.Darbyogill
  • I've ordered (ahem) three videos for next week:
  • Irish music is a must. I'm sure there will be plenty of PBS shows featuring Irish music. I think our local classical radio station has something planned, too.
  • Oh! One more thing - I read somewhere that Chutes and Ladders can be played with a St. Patrick's theme, Snakes and Ladders. (St. Patrick having famously driven the snakes out of Ireland.) Here's the idea and here's more background.

Crafts & Faith

I have a few crafts in mind, the first being something we make with these materials:


We will also make a spiritual bouquet to bring to my grandmother on Saturday - only instead of a flower of prayers, we will make a four-leaf clover of prayers! These would make nice St. Patrick's Day cards for friends and family.

More craft ideas for your consideration:


It needs more stickers, and we are completely out of tea lights!

  • Make up a BreastPlate Booklet with the children. On each page, write one line of the prayer; the children then may illustrate it on the opposite side. (Not my original idea; I found it in this book.)
    • Christ with me, Christ before me,
      Christ behind me, Christ within me,
      Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
      Christ at my right, Christ at my left . . .
      Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
      Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
      Christ in every eye that sees me . . .

In Boston, on Saturday, Mass will be said at noon at The Holy Cross Cathedral - along with harp music and Gaelic! How cool! (Maybe next year!)


Next week looks to be very mild around here, (for us, lol), in the high 50s and 60s. Not much rain, but some clouds - perfect Saint Patrick's Day weather if you ask me! We will get out at least one day this week for a nature walk, to see what's blooming. (Who knows we might even spy a leprechaun home ...)

As we walk we will also look for shades of green. There may be some after the portended mild weather (and if not, I will do as Mrs. Sharp suggests, and plant a few bunches of shamrocks here and there!). Next year I hope to have some Lenten Rose in the garden, perhaps in this startling but lovely shade!

Happily, my grocery store is selling small pot of shamrocks this week. I'll pick up a few and hope to keep them alive until Saturday. They would make a perfect still-life for the March nature notebook, possibly accompanied by this charming poem by Ella Higginson, in whole or part:

I know a place where the sun is like gold,
And the cherry blossoms burst with snow,
And down underneath is the loveliest nook,
Where the four-leaf clovers grow.

One leaf is for hope, and one is for faith,
And one is for love, you know,
And God put another in for luck, -
If you search, you will find where they grow.

But you must have hope, and you must have faith,
You must love and be strong - and so,
If you work, if you wait, you will find the place
Where the four-leaf clovers grow.

And may I leave you with this picture of two of my young Irish laddies? I made this card back when Crackerjack (now seven) was just a wee babe of seven months. Bookworm was four and Earlybird was but a sparkle in his Daddy's eye. :)

(The blanket they are sitting on was brought home from Ireland by my cousin, and the sweaters were knit by another cousin's wife!)


Many blessings to you and yours this upcoming feast of Saint Patrick! And remember that old Irish proverb - There is no fireside like your own fireside.

God bless!

Homeschooling Has Many Perks ...

Like going to a birthday party during your lunch break!


Here are the older two boys who were invited to a "Pump it Up" birthday party this morning from 11:30 till 1. (Nana stayed home with EB.)

Pump it Up is a ... well, how exactly do I describe it? It is a party place at which kids play on all manner of inflatable moon-bounce apparatus for an hour or so. There's some music involved as well as much running, jumping, sliding, laughing and sweating. There was also pizza and cake before all was said and done.


Above you see Crackerjack sliding ...


Bookworm "boxing" ...


And this is CJ casting one last look at his mother before beginning his match ...


Here is the group taking a breather just before lunch was served.


And joining the birthday boy on his throne are my two guys. Happy Birthday Kurt!


The light saber favors were a huge hit with the kids. Before we all headed out, a group duel was a must. By 2:00 we were back home and back to work! :)

Lunch and gym were never this fun! Hope you had a fun day, too!