Christmas crafts Feed

Our 2016 Advent Calendar ~ Themes & Ideas

IMG_0313 (1)

Hello again, my friends! It's a busy posting week here as we get our Advent season underway! This Friday I will host my first Advent Tea - and I am so excited about that! - but right now I'd like to share with you what we're doing for an Advent Calendar this year. (Daily activities are listed below.) I've teased a few pictures on FB and IG but here are ALL the details ... :)

Now, first of all, I cannot take credit for this idea. I first saw it on Pinterest as I searched for "nature-oriented Advent ideas" which led me to this lovely blog post by Kelly Rowe. As soon as I saw Kelly's Advent calendar project - which brilliantly utilizes an over-the-door, 24-pocket shoe organizer - I knew immediately we must do this! I am ALL about interesting visuals and hands-on holiday projects, so needless to say ... this really got my wheels turning!

First I ordered a plain plastic shoe-organizer from Amazon and hung it up in the kitchen. I did this before Thanksgiving to give it some time to air out. (Our guests were wondering what on earth we were getting up to!) Then I got my thinking cap on and started brainstorming our Advent activities.

Just like last year (and in Waldorf tradition - though that's not why I do it) I assigned each week of Advent an aspect of nature. So the weeks unfold like this: earth and sky (11/27-12/4), plants (12/5-12/11), animals (12/12-12/18) and humankind (12/19-12/25).

*Note: if you're wondering why I connect the two concepts - Advent and Nature - my reasons are explained in this post. :)

Next I listed liturgical feast days and natural phenomena such as the full moon and winter solstice ... as well as birthdays and any family/community events. Then I started brainstorming potential activities, going from pages of scattered notes to a more organized grid of 24 post-it notes, one for each day of each week:

IMG_0242 (1)

As you can see in the picture above, I also added book titles to each day's note. Some of these we own, but many we request from the library. (Note to self - I've got to get on that!)

With our activities decided, it was time to get those 24 pockets filled! So after Thanksgiving I stopped by the craft store with a hefty supplies list in hand. Thankfully I had coupons, plus there were plenty of sales. It was a MADHOUSE though and about 10 minutes in ... I really just wanted to be done and go home! But I kept going and got most of the things I needed. (A few things will be ordered or picked up at a later date.) As you'll see in my activities list below, we don't really do candy or toys, but rather, simple crafts and seasonal projects. They might take a little more effort and preparation but I feel it's worth it ... :)

IMG_0247

Now I'll admit I'm a bit like a kid in a candy store when I'm at the craft store. Can anyone relate, lol? I try so hard to stick to my list, but then I keep seeing all these neat things and envisioning all these "potential" projects - so I can hardly resist picking up extra supplies "just in case." Sometimes that turns out to be a good thing though, because an original idea might not work out right and something I picked up randomly might work even better. In any case, I am not ashamed to say I have a pretty healthy craft stash - but it all gets used in one way or another before too long.

Ok, enough of my explaining myself ... ;)

IMG_0252

So now it was time to make that shoe organizer look pretty! So I tied a ribbon to each hook and wrote down the four weekly Advent candle themes (with a fabric marker) ...

IMG_0255

And then I decorated and filled each pocket ... 

IMG_0254

On the front of each pocket is a small beige doily with a woodland-themed adhesive chipboard number. (They look like a slice of log with a little holly sprig and a red number.) I found these in the final moments of my HOUR-long craft store expedition! Just as I was about to give up on finding number stickers I liked, I stumbled across (literally) this last package dangling from a hook. And they are so perfect! If they had had a second package I would have bought more ...

Each pocket was then fitted with a small brown treat bag ...

IMG_0314

... and then filled with a few simple items.

IMG_0315

Some bags just have one or two things that will suggest what it is we'll be doing (while the bulk of the supplies are set aside).

IMG_0316

I really, really love how this came out!

IMG_0312

Now admittedly, it will be a challenge to keep my younger two boys out of these pockets! Earlybird (growing like a weed) can peek into most of them and Little Bear is just the right height (and age) to be filching through the lower bags whenever he gets a chance! So far though they are taking it to heart that they MUST keep their hands off ... and wait for it. 

In the meantime, I have a "key" to all these bags and I will check in with it each night. If tomorrow's project doesn't seem "doable" (due to time, energy or weather) I will change things up before morning comes - by either switching bags around or changing a bag's contents for something simpler.

Now finally, here is the description of each pocket - organized by weekly themes and listed by ...

Date: (items found in the bag), activities for the day, the book we will read. :)

Week One: Earth and Sky (Hope)

12/1: (stationary) Write a letter to Santa. What are you hoping for? The Christmas Cat

12/2: (starfish) Make a shell ornament for the tree. Song of the Stars

12/3: (pipe cleaners, colorful beads) Make a star ornament. The Christmas Star

12/4: (decorative items and paint) Decorate a small vase for our St. Barbara's Day branches. Let's hope they bloom by Christmas! The Star Child

Week Two: Plants (Peace)

12/5: (silk poinsettia bloom) Field trip to the nursery to buy poinsettia plants. (gifts) It's so peaceful in the greenhouse. The Legend of the Poinsettia

12/6: (candy canes & cocoa packs) Enjoy a special St. Nicholas Day treat! The Baker's Dozen: A Colonial American Tale

12/7: (mint sprig) Make mint-scented play-dough and small jars of mint-sugar-scrub. (gifts). Mint is a calming, peaceful herb. The Legend of the Candy Cane

12/8: (apple, small star cookie cutter) Enjoy a cup of spiced cider and grind spices for "glogg." The Tomten

12/9: (muslin spice bags, cinnamon stick, lemon) Fill spice bags (gifts) and help make a dried fruit garland. Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem

12/10: (evergreen sprig) Make salt dough ornaments (with evergreen impressions), make silver pinecones (gifts). Cobweb Christmas

12/11: (red candles): Walk with dad to find our yule log in the woods. Isn't it peaceful out here? Christmas Farm

Week Three: Animals (Joy)

12/12: (polar bear wooden ornament) Let's learn about the arctic! What can we do to help the polar bear? Who's That Knocking on Christmas Eve?

12/13: (reindeer lantern) Field trip to a local farm to see the lovely herd of reindeer. The Wild Christmas Reindeer

12/14: (new train ornament and "15" candles) Happy Birthday, EB! Here's the story of when you were born ... A Night of Great Joy

12/15: (colored Christmas light bulbs) Look outside - our solstice tree is all lit up! We hope the critters enjoy! Night Tree

12/16: (baby food jar, white glitter) Make a snowglobe. Decorate the solstice tree with edible ornaments. The Animals' Santa

12/17: (beeswax) Make candle jars and rolled candles. (gifts) An Early American Christmas

12/18: (mitten-shaped cookie cutter) Bake sugar cookies with Mom. The Mitten

Week Four: Humankind (Love)

12/19: (jingle bell ornament) Watch the Polar Express as a family. Discuss trust. The Polar Express

12/20: (clementine) Bake clementine snowball cookies and watch The Snowman. Discuss friendship. An Orange for Frankie

12/21: (snowflake cupcake liners) Bake "welcome winter" cupcakes. Discuss comfort. Sleep Tight Farm

12/22: (nativity ornament) As night falls, a surprise in the garden (new nativity figures under spotlight). Discuss family. B is for Bethlehem

12/23: (frame ornament) Make a family picture ornament for the tree. Discuss love. The Christmas Story

12/24: (felt heart shape) Make a scented heart tree ornament (stuffed with wool and herbs). Discuss giving. The Christmas Baby

*** 

Ok so that was a very long post! But I hope you enjoyed hearing about our Advent Calendar project this year and that maybe you found a few new ideas for your family. I am really looking forward to giving a little of my time and energy each day this Advent to this project. I think my children will enjoy it - I KNOW I will enjoy it. I know it probably sounds like a lot, but truly, these are all simple activities. They won't take up too much of our day. We have a few other Advent rituals planned and I will discuss them a bit more in my Tea post on Friday ...

What a wonderful season this is! So rich with potential and promise ... a wonderful time to shape how our children view the world. The one they live in at home and the one they face when they step outside their doors. My HOPE is that I bring a little peace, a little joy and a whole lot of LOVE into their Advent journey. So grateful to have these days before us!

So enjoy the rest of your evening, my friends! I will see you here again very soon ... later on Friday ... with a cup of tea and some pics to share ... and more thoughts on this most wonderful time of the year. :)

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


My Advent Tea Journal ~ O Christmas Tree!

Advent tea tree 7

Good afternoon, my friends! I hope this post finds you well ...

We're all on the mend here, slowly but surely. It's a tough time of year to get sick - it really puts a crimp in your plans! But in a way, it's a good reminder ... Advent is all about mood and mindset, not as much about where we go or what we get done. We had planned to take the boys to a tree farm over the weekend, and I had hoped to get to the library and the craft store for some supplies. (This week's activities - and my tea post itself - all hinged on doing these things!) But alas, nobody felt up to doing any of that, so "plans and hopes" were readjusted and we just stayed home (except for an emergency run to Stop N Shop for tissues and cat food, etc.) ...

So the "forest nature walk" didn't happen, the "cut-our-own-tree experience" didn't happen, and we didn't return home from the farm with rosy cheeks and happy hearts to a pot of simmering wassail. The tree was not up and decorated in time for this post, and we missed out on parish pancake breakfast entirely ...

But you know what? Getting sick really simplifies things. I found myself re-evaluating my list and editing our schedule by asking: "What is it we actually need? What can be set aside? What is most important for the people I love?"

Here's what we need: safety, warmth, nourishment, attention ... a feeling of being cared for, and time spent together. Well, we had all that, and then some ... so it was all good. :)

(Except for the sore throats and fevers.)

At one point on Sunday, we sent the two healthiest among us to the closest tree-lot and they came home lickedy-split with a really magnificent tree. We gathered the bits of greenery that were trimmed off and set them on our nature shelf. I still made up that pot of hot wassail since I had the ingredients on hand and they were so very good for a late autumn cold ...

We played music on Dad's phone, and I lit a few candles placed high out of reach, including this pretty one, a lovely gift from my dear aunt ...

Advent tea tree 9

And I reminded myself to just try to relax, reboot and follow where this Advent Sunday was taking us ...

I love seasonal homeschooling as you all know, and "evergreens" are this week's theme ... which also ties in nicely with our Advent-in-Nature plans for week two: exploring the beauty of Christmas greenery. So this was a great start - bringing a big, beautiful tree into our home!

Advent tea tree 10 (1)

My tree is nowhere near ready to show you, so I will do a follow-up post with a look around our Christmas room, including the tree. (Perhaps even a short video?) But for now, I have some questions for YOU, and if you'd be so kind - please leave me a comment below answering them or send me an email (with tree pics perhaps?) ... OR, link me up at your own blog! I bet you have a photo or two of your Christmas tree there ... ;)

>> bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com <<

***

Do you prefer live or artificial trees? Cut-your-own or pre-cut?

I prefer live trees, harvested from a local sustainable tree farm if possible.

Are there any special tree-trimming traditions your family follows each year?

Not particularly - we tend to just layer on lights, garland and then ornaments. And lately - between cats and kids - the ornaments have been all soft and non-breakable. Bill is in charge of getting the tree up, stable and lit ... the boys and I handle the decorations.

What is your favorite ornament?

Hard to say! I love all the antique glass bulbs that belonged to my grandparents and a few of the boys' handmade treasures. When I do my Christmas room tour I will zoom in on my favorites. :)

When do you put it up and when do you take it down?

We typically get our tree the second weekend of Advent and leave it up till New Year's Day ... though I love the tradition of waiting till Epiphany, I'm usually itchy to get it out. By January the cats have thrown up dry needles one too many times ...

Colored lights or white lights?

White for the house tree ... but I love having one outdoor tree trimmed in big colorful bulbs.

And now, here are notes from my Advent Tea Journal ...

What refreshments are you enjoying this week?

Advent tea tree 8

This week my "tea" is actually a yummy wassail ...  which, I just learned, means "to be in health." Something we can really use around here! It was a new recipe, prepared in the crockpot and full of good-for-you things ...

Wassail 1

Orange juice, apple juice, cranberry juice ... plus sliced lemons and oranges and fresh ginger root ... honey, cloves and cinnamon sticks, too ... The house smelled amazing, so being "trapped inside" was not such a bad thing, really! Also, the recipe makes A LOT and it can be reheated as leftovers.

I also had planned to make a special cake for the day, and I ended up doing that, too ...

Advent tea tree 3

Another new recipe, this is a Spelt Orange Bundt Cake from Mother Earth Living, and ... Oh MY. So delicious and moist, bursting with spice and citrus flavor. I think it would be a great cake for the Winter Solstice or Christmas Day. Fyi, I used whole wheat flour instead of spelt ... and left the butter sauce on the side for those in my family who can't do dairy. (I myself slathered it on.)

What are you reading this week?

Advent tea tree 15

Working through my basket of magazines (holiday issues are the BEST) plus a lovely old book about living a quieter, country Christmas ...

Advent tea tree 2

Tasha Tudor's Forever Christmas ... my folks gave this to me back in 2001. I love re-reading this (and watching her video, Take Peace) at this time of year and refreshing my Advent attitude a bit. I've never visited her house in Vermont but it's on my "someday" list! :)

Then we have the basket of "this week" books for the younger boys ...

Advent tea tree 4

Filled with lovely stories (and a field guide!) to go along with our nature theme (evergreens, Christmas greenery):

A Wish to Be a Christmas Tree

Night Tree

The Legend of the Poinsettia

The Family Christmas Tree Book

The Story of Holly & Ivy

(and not shown, on request at library):

 Christmas Farm

The Littlest Evergreen

***

What are you listening to this week?

Ancient noels

Ancient Noels is on request from my library, and we'll mostly be listening to it in the van as we drive around town. We're studying the Middle Ages this year and this month it's all about how Christmas was celebrated in medieval times - food, music, decorations, and festivities! With a soundtrack that features hammered dulcimer, recorder, pennywhistle, Celtic harp, cittern, guitar and tambourine ... this music takes you right there ... or so I'd like to imagine. ;)

(At home we're also enjoying holiday selections from Pandora Radio on our phones. I particularly like Charlie Brown music, classical Christmas and old vintage tunes.)

What are you working on this week?

Well, it's mostly all about Christmas preparations, but I'm also organizing my materials for that Planning Workshop I'm attending next Tuesday! :) 

Advent tea tree 1 (1)

Refreshing the file crate ...

Advent tea tree 11

... and assembling another homemade planner for 2016!

Then, as soon as they arrive, I'll be devoted to assembling Christmas cards ... :)

What's happening in nature this week?

Advent tea tree 16

Early sunsets ... surprisingly mild afternoons.

Advent tea tree 17

Though the mornings are quite frosty!

Some of you have asked if our Advent apple candles are still intact. Well ...

Advent tea tree 22

As you can see, I threw the critters off by offering a tasty pumpkin instead ... it's been fun to watch their antics. A couple of squirrels have been up on the table, sniffing at the apples and knocking over the center candle. They didn't cause too much harm though ...

Also this week we are searching our yard for any Christmas greenery we can find ... so far, plenty of evergreens, pinecones, English ivy and a few withering herbs ...

Advent tea tree 18 (1)

This photo will feature in my "nest assignment" next week. It's a bit bleak looking isn't it? Well, I have some thoughts on that ...

Any projects with the children this week?

Of course there will be tree decorating! And we'll spread it out over the week. Meanwhile, we've added some greenery to our manger table: a few evergreen sprigs, a pinecone and a (silk) poinsettia blossom, too.

Advent tea tree 23

That candle burns steadily all day and night.

Watching, waiting ...

Also, per my (admittedly, adventurous) Advent plans, we'll choose from the following craft ideas as time, (health) and supplies allow:

terrarium bulbs * nature ice molds * late autumn suncatchers * paperwhite bulb gifts * dried orange slice garlands * grinding whole spices with mortar and pestle * pine branch slice candleholders with Daddy * cinnamon stick-lined candles * gift jars of mulling spices * a local holiday greenhouse visit * water forest snow globes * twig ornaments * orange clove pomanders

(Now, in no way do I expect to do most of these crafts. Certainly not when we're all under the weather! And as I mentioned, I didn't get to the craft store as planned, so I'm short a few key supplies. But when I brainstorm a theme, I really go all out! I've pinned most of these ideas so we'll always have them if we need them. I'm hoping to get a few gifts made if nothing else, and I think the boys will really enjoy grinding spices. I have some oranges on hand to slice and dry and Bill is pretty eager to make some candleholders from our log pile.)

Any quotations to share, some words to inspire?

Advent tea tree 20

"Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the eyes of your children, they are all 30 feet tall."

~ Larry Wilde 

***

Well my friends, it's time to wrap up our Tea! I hope you enjoyed hearing about our "doings" and a preliminary peek at our tree! I will share how it turns out once we get it all done up ... and as I mentioned, I would LOVE to hear about your tree and tea! Please share with me here in the comments or send me your thoughts at ...

>> bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com <<

I look forward to hearing from you!

Wishing you all a lovely Tuesday, with my thanks as always for reading! 


Advent Crafts: Pretty Pebbles, Sparkly Stars ...

Happy Weekend, my friends! I have two quick crafts to share today!

Throughout Advent we are reveling in the beauty of creation, and how the whole wondrous world awaits the birth of its King. This week our focus was "earth and sky." We have been reading books and working on crafts with a focus on stars, shells, rocks and the returning sun. Today's activities included taking the boys outside after lunch to gather branches for St. Barbara's Day (an old fashioned, annual tradition) and gathering "rocks" for an afternoon craft ...

Advent grotto 2

"Daddy said it was ok to harvest pebbles from the driveway ... "

Advent grotto 3

Little Bear's favorite toy of the moment - this crazy little grabber thing. No idea where it came from but he loves to use it to pick things up and move them around. It came in very handy for all that gravel!

Advent grotto 19

So many colors and sizes and shapes! Cool to the touch and such gritty, crunchy sounds!

While Bill assisted Little Bear in rock retrieval, Earlybird and I snipped some forsythia branches ...

Advent grotto 4

Advent grotto 7

 Per St. Barbara's Day tradition, these should be blooming by Christmas ... :)

Advent grotto 6

Meanwhile, Little Bear explored a very large rock in our yard - his favorite digging spot - and the soft, pretty moss growing along our stone walls. We have lots of rocks in our yard - New England soil is very rocky!

Back inside, while the gravel was soaking (removing dirt and debris), the boys decorated some popsicle stick stars I had made up the day before ...

Advent grotto 8

Advent grotto 14

Advent grotto 9

I used a hot glue gun to form the star shapes and attached colorful yarn loops to the top. I think the shiny rainbow-colored stickers will look very pretty against the lights on the tree!

Now, here's the base for the grotto: a $1 frame I bought at the craft store.

Advent grotto 10

The little wooden stand I had on hand, but I also got that at the craft store some time ago, for just a few dollars.

Advent grotto rocks

Pretty pebbles drying on a dishcloth ... such an array!

As the rocks were drying and the kids were busy with stickers, I did a quick internet search for an image of the Holy Family ...

  Advent grotto 12

I loved the colors and style of this one. I printed it out on paper and then used a simple tacky glue to adhere it to the center of the frame.

Here's my work station on the kitchen island ...

Advent grotto 13 (1)

Clean and dry rocks, frame and glue gun.

Advent grotto 15

Now, I won't lie ... this did take some time and patience. But I found it very satisfying ... I kind of felt like a stone mason! Children who are old enough to handle a low-temp glue gun could do this craft on their own (what a nice activity for a dark afternoon), but neither of my younger boys fits that bill. And my 16yo was sick with a cold, so he was out of the loop ... and of course the 20 yo is off at college, preparing for exams! He'll be pressed into craft service once he's home later this month. ;)

Here is the grotto, finished at last:

Advent grotto 16

I LOVE how the candlelight reflects on the stones. :)

Advent grotto 1

I think this would make a nice gift, but I'm loving it on my desk windowsill!

There is also a rope attached to the back of the frame and it does seem strong enough for hanging. (The rocks weigh down the wooden frame a good deal.) But I like this arrangement and I could see making this with all kinds of images. I'm already thinking of one with St. Francis for our nature shelf ...

So over the weekend we have a pretty seashell ornament to make and a couple more star ornaments if time allows. Next week we'll be admiring the plants and trees of creation and gathering "Christmas greenery" which will add to our craft stash considerably! (Dried fruit, spices, evergreens, holiday flowers and berries, etc.)

Before I go, here are the books in our Advent basket this week. Some we owned and several I requested ahead from the library ...

The Star Child

Three Pebbles and a Song

The Christmas Star

Star Mother's Youngest Child

Only a Star

The Tiny Star

This is the Star

Lucia and the Light

Winter is Coming

The Shortest Day

**

 Well my friends, I'll be off for now. It's Saturday morning here and all my troops are up and about. Time to get the day rolling! But as always, thanks so much for stopping by ...

I will see you here again very soon!


Our Advent Garden: A Christmas Countdown!

Advent calendar 19

"Winter is dark, yet each tiny spark, brightens the way, to Christmas Day ... " ~ H. St. John

Two of my goals for Advent this year: keep things simple (yet meaningful), and weave nature into our days where we can. Happily, our 2015 Advent "calendar" meets both of these goals!

Every December I make a Christmas countdown of some sort for the boys. Usually there is a lot of busy-ness involved and the calendar itself is made of paper, involving pockets or post-its or tags of one kind or another. I love coming up with the daily activities but this year I'm scaling back on "scheduled" ideas and letting things just happen as time, energy and inspiration allows. A countdown, however, is always a must! It helps my special needs son practice patience and it adds to the overall atmosphere of anticipation in our Advent home.

So, as I jotted down nature notes for the coming weeks, inspiration struck! I love the Waldorf tradition of an Advent "spiral garden," and I kept returning to the idea of a hidden creche in the woods ...

Creche in the woods 1

(Remember this scene in Tasha Tudor's A Time to Keep? This has been on my to-do list for years!)

So I decided to combine these two ideas, and this is what I came up with ...

Advent One 9

I had Bill move an old round patio table in front of the bird feeders, in plain view of the kitchen nook window. (I could have placed this project far out in our woods, but practically speaking, it will be easier to get the kids about as far as the patio on a cold, wet or snowy afternoon.)

He also gathered some cedar branches which I laid out in a circle along the edge of the table. 

Advent calendar underway

(We have all kinds of evergreens in our yard, but the cedars have soft, feathery branches - a little easier to shape and softer on little hands.)

Next I gathered 24 rocks ... and my original idea was to have the boys find suitable rocks through the month of November (similar size, flattish shape) but since we didn't have much success in that endeavor, I bought two bags of river rocks at the craft store. I think they were about $4 a bag. I spaced them out on the table, nestling them into the cedar boughs ...

Advent calendar 1

I also purchased an outdoor (led), white pillar candle for the center of the table. I stood it on a red wooden heart in the very center of the table. This candle automatically turns on each day around 3 p.m. (just as it's getting dark) and shuts off around 8 p.m. (about the time the younger boys go to bed). It "burns" for 500 hours total, so that's plenty of light to get us through Advent!

Advent calendar 5

We can see the candle from the house and it's just magical! That one lonely light shining brightly through the darkness is powerful. I haven't said much about it so far ... I'm just letting the boys absorb the image ... and wonder.

Advent calendar 21

:)

At the four "corners" of the table, I placed a bright red apple (more on those in a minute) ...

Advent calendar 6

... and on each rock there is a gold star and a number.

Advent calendar 11

Underneath each rock is a word, written in black Sharpie.

Advent One 19

So each day through Advent, the boys will turn over one rock and find a word. I've set that daily activity for when the candle comes on. This gives us a rhythm to follow, and it's such a nice time of day when the sunlight dims and the world settles down. There's that air of transition and expectancy ...

Oh, look! It's getting dark and the candle is lit! Let's go check today's rock!

(Or at least this is how I imagine it happening.)

By the time we get to the last rock on December 24th, a special message will be revealed:

"And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.'" (Luke 2:10)

Now back to those apples! On each Sunday, I will prepare an apple to hold a beeswax tea light candle, and it will be lit, while we gather 'round ...

Advent One 11 (1)

... and say a simple prayer for the week ahead, focusing on hope (11/30), peace (12/6), joy (12/13), and love (12/20).

(Keeping the apples intact until their particular Sunday should, hopefully, keep them fresh longer - and make them less enticing to the birds and critters who visit our patio throughout the day.)

 

On Christmas eve, hovering over the white candle, a shining star will have appeared ...

Advent calendar 10 (1)

See the shepherd's hook above the candle? We'll hang a star we've made and painted with glow-in-the-dark paint/glitter. A homemade Star of Bethlehem!

Come Christmas morning, in place of the candle, there will be a lovely surprise ..

Can you guess?

*

*

*

Yes, there will be a small homemade creche in the center of the table! And if it's not quite "in the woods," it will be very close! Now, I'm sure we'll be up VERY early Christmas morning, so it will still be somewhat dark outside. We'll lead the boys out with candles (LED, natch) to discover the first and best gift of the year!

Of course, there will still be some hands-on activities throughout the month of December. I have assigned a theme to each week and I have some books, a little music and a few craft ideas in mind - and most of what we make will be a gift to give or a decoration for our tree. But I will have an outline of these themes and resources in a following post ... I have kept you here long enough for today!

I hope you enjoyed seeing how we put together our Advent Garden/Wreath/Calendar this year! It's something new and fun for my family and I love how it brings us outside each day ... even when the weather is so very December. It reminds us, in a very visual way, that ... though our days may be dark, the Light IS coming ... He gets a little closer every day.

:)

Enjoy the rest of your Thursday, my friends! See you here again very soon ...


My Advent Tea Journal ~ Gifts from the Heart

Advent One 8

Happy Monday, my friends! Blessings to all in this brand new season!

And oh, do I LOVE Advent. It's such a lovely time of anticipation and preparation, a stilling of the world in some ways (yet a rushing in others), as we journey towards the most beautiful night of the year. Today I am sitting down to tea, catching my breath (it is Monday after all!) and taking a little time to think about the Season ahead ...

(How I'd like it to be - and not be.)

Well, there is much involved in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and that includes gift-giving. And every year I hope to make as many gifts as possible (in the physical or spiritual sense), but as time and energy dwindles, I find myself ordering things from Amazon at the last minute, and feeling immensely grateful for my Prime membership's two-day free shipping! I yearn for a non-commercial holiday, yet it's such a challenge every year! The material world (and my own busy-ness) work together and conspire against me! Even so, ever the eternal optimist am I, and this year I aim to make as many gifts as possible with my boys' help, and to come up with offerings that would be much appreciated by those that we love. In short, gifts from the heart (and hands).

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic!

* Do you try to create gifts at this time of year?

* Are you super-organized (as I always wish I'd be) and start your gift-giving early each year, by starting projects, growing things, gathering materials, and just generally planning ahead?

* How do you encourage your children to give in a thoughtful manner? Even if their gift is something they've bought, they can put their hearts (not just their monies) into the selection.

 More on how you can share your thoughts on this theme at the end of this post, but for now, let me open my Tea Journal and share my notes with you ...

What refreshments am I enjoying this week?

This week it's Taylor's Scottish Breakfast Tea and a freshly baked star cookie. Not quite the "Swedish" spice cookie I was aiming for, but close enough! I usually like to bake shortbread on this particular feast day (St. Andrew of Scotland) because for one thing, I'm Scottish! And for another, I love shortbread! But today I was hoping to make some Swedish star cookies because I recently learned (through Ancestry DOT com) that I am in fact, 4% Scandinavian!

So since we're all about "stars" here this week, I decided to make some gingerbread star cookies. They're not technically Scandinavian, but I'm going to pretend they are ... ;)

Advent One 23

And I will confess to you, dear readers: this is not a homemade recipe, but some commercial, roll-out dough purchased at the store. It was just that kind of day - if we were going to have cookies, they were going to happen this way or no way! Also, as you can see, my stars are pretty wonky. The dough just would not cooperate!

(They still tasted great, though ...)

And how about this new mug? Isn't is sweet?

Advent One 27

I found it at HomeGoods recently for all of $5. (How could I resist?) I love the tiny stars and the four birds returning "HOME" (to the nest) ... :) 

Now, you may notice my nest chair is not where it's been in past posts ... well, I've been "remodeling" (re-feathering?) my nest a bit this week with an eye toward Christmas decorations. The tree will be going up in this room, so that changes things a little. I'll have a tour up sometime soon ...

What am I reading this week?

Advent One 22

Advent One 1

Advent One 6

Advent One 17

In addition to a few children's books that work well with our nature theme this week, I am also reading Advent and Christmas Wisdom from St. Francis of Assisi. This is my daily devotional (along with this and this) and I have a pretty little notepad to use along with it - an informal Advent "journal" where I can jot notes as I read. :)

 

(Note: In a separate post I'm going to outline our nature-inspired Advent plans for this year - which I keep hinting at, but not really explaining, lol! I don't mean to be secretive (as if!) but I don't want to bog down my Tea post with too much about all of that.)

What am I listening to this week?

A lovely CD I purchased years ago, recorded by a homeschooling family, Eventide Lullaby, as well as my own humming as Little Bear settles to sleep - tuneless, but still soothing, thankfully. Today, it was one of my favorite carols. :)

 What am I working on this week?

Advent One 2 (1)

Crafts for the first week of Advent - using as many natural materials as possible (some found and some purchased), and making handmade gifts with the boys. I'm also arranging a quiet manger corner in the living room. This will slowly be built up over the next four weeks, according to our nature themes. As you can see, we have a few donations already ... :)

Advent One 14

Advent One 5

They don't tend to stand still, though. :)

Oh! And I made up a little frame for myself ... seen here at the far right of the sill:

Advent One 25

This is a $1 acrylic frame found at the craft store. I printed out the Christmas Novena as well as a pretty nativity picture and cut them to fit the frame sleeves. A perfect reminder for the season!

What's happening in nature?

Ok, here's a new idea ... I am going to record a short nature video each week to share with you. A little commentary on our weather and how the season is unfolding and what we're up to in nature each week. I could not - for the life of me! - figure out how to share a video directly in this post, but I was able to get one up at my Facebook page. I believe anyone can access it whether they are FB users or not ... I hope you enjoy!

November Woods

 

A project with the children this week:

Well, most importantly - and with but moments to spare - we began our Advent calendar, with an apple candle on Sunday ...

Advent One 11 (1)

A tiny beeswax tea light is stuffed just inside ... and one apple is placed at each one of the table's four corners. 

(They may or may not be eaten by squirrels ... but that's just part of the fun.)


Advent One 20

A rock a day ... 24 in all. And beneath each one is a word, leading up to a verse. A little mystery to solve ...

And in the center of the table, a plain white, battery-lit candle. I set the candle to turn on each day as the sun lowers and to turn off around eight. We can see this table from the kitchen nook window, and it has been quite the focus of attention already ...

Waiting, wondering ...

We are also spending our outdoor time gathering twigs (as mentioned in the video) and little stones for crafts. And of course, getting busy with some of those crafts:

seashell ornaments * a pebble-filled grotto * yarn stars * twig stars * shell candles * grinding spices with a mortal and pestle * filling hand-sewn felt sachets with said spices ...

Will all of it get done? Not very likely ... but we'll do our best and pace ourselves, and hopefully make some nice handcrafts for our tree and our family and friends.

Now, I was thinking about the older boys, and how to involve them in our family Advent plans. It gets harder as kids get older to "reach" them and secure a little of their time! They will certainly be taking part in some of the activities, and helping with the youngers as they can, but I'd like to make this season a meaningful time for them as well. My plan is this:

  Each evening, they will think about the next day and decide on a small gift to give of themselves: to a friend, a family member, a teacher, etc. It might be hard to think of actions at first, but depending on their schedule, and who they'll be seeing, it should be easy enough to come up with some small token of affection or charity. It might just be a kind word or gesture of some sort, or even just an extra prayer. After all, the best gift we can prepare for the Baby Jesus each year is simply to treat others as we would treat Him.

"What can we give him? We can give him our heart ..."

I'm not asking them to keep track of this or even share what they've done if they'd rather not. But I think we can discuss this over supper each night and help call their attention to potential situations where they might give a small gift of their heart ... if they think and plan ahead it should be easier to pass out those "gifts!"

Words to inspire:

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mystery." ~ Albert Einstein

I don't even have a whole lot to say about that quote - I only just heard it today! - but it seems to go well with this season. A time of waiting and wondering ... and yes, mystery, too.

How was it possible? How can it be true? How did they manage? It's just such a miracle!

How beautiful would it be it to fully immerse ourselves in this special time? To experience the true spirit of the season - tuning out what the world is shouting at us through our TVs and laptops - and instead find the quiet where we can and just listen? I myself listen best in nature ...

Advent One 13

Peace

Well, my friends, as usual I've rambled on quite a bit, but goodness, do I love this topic and of course, sharing my photos! I hope you will continue the conversation with me - by leaving a comment below, or emailing me your thoughts (with pictures if you'd like!) or perhaps linking me up at your blog? You can reach me at:

> bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com <

I would love to hear about (see!) your tea and talk more about how we can give from our hearts this year. For those we love and those in need ... it's a wonderful time of year for giving, in every sense of the word.

And thanks so much for joining me! I will be back again soon - I have a little nest "assignment" to share this week, as well as some more reader nest posts, too! I will also be back with more details on our Advent with Nature plans ... I'm still figuring them all out because - oddly enough - I kind of let things wait till the last minute this year!

Enjoy the rest of your evening, everyone ... see you here again very soon!

p.s. Here's a link to my Homemade Gifts archive - there are several kid-friendly craft posts there, as well as a blog fair I hosted many years ago, The Loveliness of Handmade Gifts. There are lots of ideas and links in that one! :)


More Advent Fun: "The Snowman"

Snowman 3

Yesterday's Christmas vocabulary word was: snowman.

And so ... I planned to watch The Snowman with the boys, which is an animated version of an absolutely wonderful storybook by Raymond Briggs. I have loved this short movie for many years - I adore the soft animation, the dreamy music and the simple, sweet story. If you're unfamiliar with the plot, well, in a nutshell - a young boy (in what appears to be the English countryside) awakens to a snowy day and so, of course, rushes outside to build a snowman. And then, overnight (this is Christmas), the snowman comes to life and befriends the boy - taking him on a scenic journey to the north pole.

Magic.

I can watch it again and again - or just listen to it! - and all my boys have been riveted by it through the years. EB gets a little nervous sometimes so we have to skip forwards here and there ... and we also have to talk a bit about some of the boy's riskier behavior! (Leaving the house without his parent's permission, plugging in the tree lights, getting in a freezer, turning the key on his Dad's motorcycle, for instance!) Little Bear loved the motorcycle ride through the woods especially, and all the woodland animals that dashed out of the way.

Once the video had ended, we talked about how it's hard to say goodbye to someone we love. But then - when someone is gone from our life, can they still be with us in a way? I asked Earlybird: Why did the little boy feel sad in the morning? (The snowman had melted.) How could he remember the snowman when he was missing him? (Draw pictures, tell stories about him, build him again, believe he'll be with him again someday ...)

After the movie we set to work on a simple snowglobe craft. (Another Pinterest idea!)

Snowman 4

All we needed were a few pieces of construction paper, some white paint, colored Sharpies and a few cute thumbs. 

Check, check, check and double check!

Now, you'll notice there are no pictures of the baby making his thumbprint snowman ... and that's because it was very much a four-hand project (his and mine). As you can probably imagine, I held his hand and assisted him with the thumbprint making. (Keeping the paint on the paper and out of his mouth!) There are also no pictures of Earlybird making a snowman -and that's because he just flat out refused to do it, lol. Oh well, it happens that way sometimes ...

But here's how LB's craft looked (once I "finished" it up for him) ...

Snowman 2

Cute, right?

And then, while the baby napped, I had time to make some simple snowball cookies. These are a variation of the lemon snowballs I've made (and blogged about) for years - but in keeping with the snowman story, I used clementine zest and juice to flavor the dough ...

Snowman 5

I just dusted them with confectioner's sugar but they'd be such fun glazed with an orange-tinted icing (powdered sugar + milk + food dye) to look just like The Snowman's tangerine nose!

(Are oranges generally used for snowmen noses in Europe? As opposed to carrots which are the norm in the US? Just curious!)

Snowman 1

 Ah, a hot mug of tea and a tiny bite of cookie - enjoyed in a warm kitchen while the rain pelts the windows and the baby sleeps upstairs ...

* advent ❤ peace *

Well my friends, thanks for once again joining me for a little crafty fun. I hope you all had a nice Thursday! Enjoy your evening and I will see you here again very soon ...


Advent Activities: Think, Do, Read

Advent calendar 23

Well my friends ... here, at last, is my Advent activity outline! Below I have listed each date in Advent, the sticker (vocab word) I've chosen for that day, and the activity ideas I have noted in my plans.

As we are a Catholic family, many activities tie into our liturgical calendar and family faith traditions. There's also a good bit of baking and nature study, some simple conversation as well as several crafts. There are not too many outings, as we tend to stick close to home at this time of year. And it goes without saying there will be days when only a fraction of my "plans" are put into action. I try to respect energy, interest levels and moods (theirs and mine) as much as possible.

(Note: The books listed are ones we own as well as some I have on request from our local library. With the exception of the book for 12/23, which I purchased new for our collection ... because I couldn't resist!)

November 30th: evergreens

Today is the 1st day of Advent and a new Church year begins! We'll gather evergreens in the afternoon to place next to our Advent candles. Why are they called evergreens? (everlasting life) Light the first purple candle tonight.

Read: The Littlest Evergreen

December 1st: cookies

Happy December! "Rabbit, Rabbit!" Today we'll bake some cookies and talk about our favorite kinds at Christmas. (Who could we surprise with cookies who might not expect it? Let's make a plan.)

Read: The Gift of the Christmas Cookie

December 2nd: nuts and spices

Today we'll check our stock of baking supplies, especially spices. How do they smell? What makes spices so special? Why did the Magi bring spices as gifts for the Baby Jesus? We'll place our wise men dolls at the start of their journey (in a far corner of the house).

Read: We Three Kings

December 3rd: presents

Today we'll write (and decorate) a letter to Santa and then compose a list of gifts to give to our loved ones this year. What would make people happy and feel loved? (Stress actions and gestures over material gifts.) Also, we'll watch the lighting of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree on tv tonight!

Read: The Carpenter's Gift: A Christmas Tale about the Rockefeller Center Tree

December 4th: winter birds

Today is the Feast of St. Barbara! We'll say a special prayer for Grandma Barbara and later on we'll snip a forsythia branch to place in water. (Might it bloom by Christmas eve?) While we're outside, we'll check the state of our birdfeeders and feed our hungry bird friends. 

Read: Merry Christmas, Merry Crow 

December 5th: ornament

Today we'll bring our Christmas ornaments down from the attic and take a look through the boxes. We'll talk about family favorites and the stories behind special ornaments. We'll make some homemade ornaments together in the afternoon.

Read: The Spider's Gift: A Ukranian Christmas Story

December 6th: St. Nicholas

Today is the Feast of St. Nicholas, EB's patron saint! We'll watch St. Nicholas: A Story of Joyful Giving (Veggie Tales) with a snack of popcorn and hot cocoa (there might be a bishop's staff/candy cane stirrer in our mugs!). We'll clean the corner for the Christmas tree and at nightfall look for the Full Cold Moon in the dark, cold sky ...

Read: The Baker's Dozen: A St. Nicholas Tale

December 7th: Christmas tree 

Today is the 2nd Sunday of Advent and tonight we light our second purple candle. Where did the custom of Christmas trees come from? We'll read "The Song of the Christmas Tree Fairy," by Cicely Mary Barker. After Mass we'll head to the woods and cut down our Christmas tree! (Can we identify what kind of evergreen it is? Bring a field guide to the farm ...)

Read: The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree

December 8th: dove 

Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception! We'll set up our children's nativity and arrange star candles and flowers around our Mary statue. How can we be more peaceful - at home and in the world? Let's brainstorm some ideas and write them in a peace & prayer journal. 

Read: Can You Say Peace?

December 9th: bell

Today we will listen for the afternoon bells at church, and make some bells of our own at home! We'll listen to Mama's favorite carol, "The Carol of the Bells," which is based on a Ukranian folk chant. We will also read: "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Read: Jingle Bells

December 10th: snowman

Today we'll make thumbprint snowglobes and once we're done, we'll watch The Snowman on dvd. After Little Bear's nap, we'll have some warm milk with honey and almond and Mama's tangerine snowball cookies. We'll also read The Snowman aloud to LB. (And naturally, if we have snow, we'll build our own snowman!)

Read: The Snowman

December 11th: pinecone

Today we'll make pinecone seed ornaments for our bird tree, as well as some silver (glitter) pinecones to give as gifts. We'll attach tags that describe "The Legend of the Silver Pinecone." After dark we'll walk out to the bird tree and there will be a surprise ... colorful lights!

Read: Night Tree

December 12th: poinsettia

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe! We'll visit a local nursery to see all the poinsettias - the greenhouse, with its steamy warmth, will be a nice break from the chill December air. While we're there, we'll buy some amaryllis/paperwhite bulbs to prepare as gifts. At home, while Mama works on a poinsettia ornament, we'll watch Frosty the Snowman (note the scene when he gets stuck in the greenhouse!). For snack, we'll have cinnamon-sugar tortilla stars and "sangria" (fruit punch with chunky winter fruits).

Read: The Legend of the Poinsettia

December 13th: orange 

Today is the Feast of St. Lucia! For breakfast we'll have orange-cranberry muffins (lit by beeswax candles!) and spicy Swedish "glogg" (non-alcoholic version). Later on we'll slice oranges and hang them to dry in the kitchen window - they'll smell so good! We'll also say a prayer for big brother Bookworm who starts his final exams today!

An Orange for Frankie

December 14th: gingerbread

Today is the 3rd Sunday in Advent, and today we celebrate one of our greatest joys - our Earlybird himself! It's his 13th birthday!!! Earlybird (and his Papa, with whom he shares his birthday) will be honored at a special lunch with all his favorite foods and a delicious gingerbread cake! Tonight we light the pink candle.

Read: The Gingerbread Pirates

December 15th: fruitcake

Today we'll bake mini "fruitcake" breads for our neighbors. We'll be using the delicious fruits and nuts we ordered from King Arthur Flour. Once the breads are cool we'll wrap them well and store them somewhere cold. Then we'll make tags for the breads (which will be delivered on Christmas eve).

Read: The Polar Express

December 16th: reindeer

Today we'll watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and talk about what made him special and how it's ok to be different! How that which makes us different can also make us shine! We'll do a little research: Where do reindeer live? How do they live? Let's add some reindeer stickers to our map. Weather permitting, we'll visit our local farm to feed their beautiful reindeer.

Read: The Wild Christmas Reindeer

December 17th: stockings

Today we'll hang our Christmas stockings along the mantel and make a donation to a local toy drive. These will be items we've been adding to a bag all month. We'll talk about why it's important to help those who have less than we do, and sometimes that is in material form and sometimes it's through our time and actions. Let's brainstorm ways we as a family can help others in the new year.

Read: The Legend of the Christmas Stocking

December 18th: mint

Today we are going to bake all-natural candy-cane cookies and enjoy them with homemade hot peppermint cocoa. We will also have some homemade play-dough to shape and bake into letters. (upside down candy cane = j for Jesus) Before bed we will enjoy a minty herbal foot bath.

Read: The Legend of the Candy Cane

December 19th: candle

Today we'll roll beeswax candles to give as gifts and enjoy our supper by candlelight. We'll discuss light - the type and amount of light at this time of year (natural world) and also, why do we call Jesus the Light of the world? And tonight, a special dinner to welcome Bookworm home for Christmas break!

Read: An Early American Christmas

December 20th: snowflake

Today is the last day of Autumn! Let's talk about how seasons change, and how the Winter season is different from the Christmas season (natural/liturgical). We'll make snowflakes to celebrate the new season (either paper ones or these depending on energy and time) and brainstorm ways to get ready for winter storms!

Read: Snowflakes Fall

December 21st: yule log

Today is the 4th Sunday in Advent! It is also the Winter Solstice (6:03 p.m.), the shortest day of the year! After Mass we'll go for a walk (weather permitting) and listen to the silence of the woods. We'll bring home a fallen branch to make a 12 Days of Christmas Log. We'll talk about why we love our cats and how we can show them our love (care, kind words, special attention). As a special treat there will be a yule log for dessert at Sunday dinner!

Read: The Christmas Cat

December 22nd: holly

Today we'll walk around our property and look for what's still green. Are there any holly and ivy plants? As we walk, we'll listen to the old English carol, "The Holly and Ivy" (on Pandora). Back inside we'll have a coloring picture to do (this will be the first entry in our new nature logs) and we'll copy "The Song of the Holly Fairy" to accompany the picture. Why is the holly plant like a crown? (pointy edges) Who is the newborn king - why/how/when does he wear a crown?

Read: The Story of Holly & Ivy

December 23rd: star

Today we'll put the star on top of the Christmas tree and make some simple star ornaments using cardboard and yarn. We'll find Bethlehem on the world map (approximately) and place a glittery star sticker above it. Let's look at the night sky and see what stars we can pick out. And before bed, a special surprise! A new Christmas book for our collection ...

Read: Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story

December 24th: heart

Very simply: What (Who) is the heart of Christmas? Let's talk about the love Jesus has for us ... the love His parents had for Him ... and how we can we show Jesus we love Him this year? (stress the idea that Jesus is in everyone we meet) As the sun goes down we will pay a visit to the outdoor creche, and inside we'll light all our Advent candles and say a special prayer (one we've composed) together. Before bed, EB will have an herbal "Christmas" bath - soothing and softly scented.

Read: Manger

25 - Holy Family

Merry Christmas! Let's have a wonderful day!

**

Now, this calendar is primarily organized with Earlybird in mind (my 12 year old autistic son who is, developmentally, much younger than his calendar age) but as you can see, many activities involve the whole family and can be adapted for children of all ages. And as I said before, this will not all flow as smoothly as described - some days will just not go as planned. And that's ok, I've come to accept this aspect of special needs parenting! Each weekend I'll prepare in advance in hopes that things will work out, and then we'll take it day by day. I'm looking to establish a hopeful mood and make warm memories - not wear anyone out (most of all me!)

I hope, overall, that my children will remember the days of Advent as time well spent together - in a peaceful spirit, with present minds - as we prepared our hearts for the coming of Christ.

Blessings to all on this late Thursday eve ... see you here again very soon!


Advent: Moments of Peace & Joy

 First, a few moments of PEACE ...

Advent peace curtain over crib

I took this photo from my phone (retrieved from my pocket) as I was rocking Little Bear on my shoulder this morning ... looking out the window above his crib, admiring the soft, serene light ... grateful for the less complicated day ahead.

Advent peace milkweed

Another phone shot, Crackerjack and I took this picture yesterday outside the post office. We thought the spent milkweed pods looked especially lovely set amongst the snow, in the soft afternoon light. Late autumn greets early winter ...

Advent peace angel

And here's a gift from my parents ~ a sweet Christmas angel fresh from Vermont. <3

And now for some JOY ...

Advent joy ornaments from mum

 These are bags and boxes of beautiful Christmas ornaments ~ some on loan, some newly purchased, all brought over by my mother. I can't wait to "deck out" our tree!

 Advent joy snowman garland 

These funny snowmen are an old-fashioned paper garland; I have them sitting on my desktop. I was working on our Christmas cards when I took this picture. :)

Our lady guadalupe ornament

 Another painted wooden ornament, made in honor of today's feast. I'm having fun making these Marian-themed snowflakes! In fact, I have half a mind to make up a whole host of them for a pretty winter garland ...

Owen 6 month checkup 2

And finally, a "baby-joy" shot! Little Bear had his six-month check-up today, and I'm happy to report he's doing great! He had to have a whole bunch of shots though, and the poor boy cried his little heart out! As hard as it is to hear him cry, we did get to hear his first word: "Mummmm!"

**

Well, we're at midweek already, and I hope it's been a good one for you so far. Things have quieted down here - for the moment, and that's all I can count on, right? The next few days we'll be working on our Christmas decorations, nursing head colds, and anticipating a sizable snowstorm this weekend. Bookworm has started his finals at BC, so we're praying him through those, and looking forward to his return next week!

Thanks so much for stopping by, everyone ... see you here again very soon!


Advent: Moments of Peace & Joy

{Earlybird update at bottom of post.}

PEACE

Advent peace sunrise 

I've noticed my "peace" moments tend to happen in the morning ... I think this is when my day is still fairly simple and it's easier to be mindful of the blessings around me. As the day progresses, things get a bit noisier and more active ...

For instance, right now, it's 8:30 a.m. and Little Bear has just gone down for his morning nap. The middle boys are in the midst of their breakfast and the funny pages ... there are chores to get to, and lessons to lay out, but I'm taking this little break for myself. I'm sitting somewhere quiet and typing away, feeling creative and connected ... But wait - I hear footsteps ...

Shhh, you don't see me here!

;)

Sometimes, though, peace can be found late in the day, too ...

As the kettle boils and the sun sets, I find myself busy in the kitchen ... I take a moment to breathe a short prayer, light a candle in the window. A real, honest-to-goodness, wax-and-wick candle, one that burns slowly and softly. Not as brightly as those electric candles, perhaps - it requires more thought and attention - but it's real. I can't ignore it, my eyes return to it, the children ask about it ... the lighting of a flame - an ancient gesture in a modern life.

Advent peace blue candle

JOY

Advent joy book 1

A sweet, old-fashioned Christmas ABC book ... those illustrations remind us how beautiful a simpler life can be.

**

And a feast day craft - easy and rewarding:

Advent joy ornament 2 

A plain wooden ornament, painted with natural watercolors ... a precious picture printed out and cut to fit in the middle ... but no glitter to be found? How about a sprinkle of kosher salt?

Advent joy ornament 1

Looks so pretty in the lights of the tree ...

Advent joy o looking at tree

>>>Love<<<

**

Now, for a note on Earlybird ...

He is doing well. He is taking the medicine better and better each day. He gets a dose every 12 hours (by dropper) and so far, aside from a decreased appetite, it doesn't seem to be affecting him adversely. Most importantly he has not had a seizure since last Tuesday night.

So tomorrow he has his first test - an EEG. To prepare him for the procedure, we have to keep him up till midnight tonight, then let him sleep till 4 a.m. - wake him then, and keep him awake until the test at 10 a.m. Now - his blog name is not Earlybird for nothing - this is a child whose self-imposed bedtime is 7 p.m. Who sometimes begs to go to bed. So we really have our work cut out for us tonight ...

 My friends, my deepest thanks for your continued prayers ... I will post an update on his testing as soon as I am able, but please hold my boy in your thoughts and prayers. This will be difficult for him and I'm sure confusing, too. Bill and I are taking this one step at a time, just doing what needs to be done to the best we are able and keeping EB as comforted as we can. Your support, suggestions and encouragement mean the world to us!

Well, I hope you all have a lovely Tuesday ... relish the blessings in your life today and look for those little moments as you are able. Drop a note and share them here if you have the time ... and I'll be in touch just as soon as I can.


Advent: Moments of Peace & Joy

Happy Weekend, my friends!

Well, it was a quiet day for us yesterday ... I was feeling most grateful for the acceptance and peace in my heart. So much of our reality is shaped by our perception and how we feel about things. What's that old saying? If you can't change the way things are, change the way you think about them? Something like that. I find when I pray these days, I am asking God - not so much to change things (though that would be fantastic) - but for Him to grant me the strength to handle the things that do happen. And He's been so good to help me with that.

I am also deeply thankful for all your messages of support. What an outpouring we have received from you all, I can hardly express my gratitude. The prayers that are being said for my son, for my family ... I am truly overwhelmed by your kindness, and how you've taken us under your wings ...

My heartfelt thanks to you all.

Also, a few of you who have gone through similar issues have reached out with offers to connect, and I will be following up on those connections, most certainly. I am eager for advice and insight ... Thus far Earlybird is doing ok - he is tolerating the meds well. He is not at all pleased about getting them (he begins the day with "No medicine, all right?") but I think he's becoming more accepting of it, and Bill and I are getting better at it. (There's that old saying at work!)

(Some of you have asked about his tests - his EEG is next Wednesday, but more on that in a future post.)

Well it's time to get on with my post - the peace and the joy I found in my day yesterday. A day which, in light of all the recent turmoil, was wonderfully relaxed, and though I hate to use this word - I think you know what I mean when I say - normal.  Little Bear took a super long nap, so I was able to spend some much needed one-on-one time with EB ...

First, here's my moment of peace ...

O nap 1

Honestly, is there anything more peaceful than a sleeping baby?

:)

And now for a look at our simple joy ...

Advent joy craft 3

Glue! What could be better?

Well, maybe paint. 

Earlybird asked for paints, and I did have some set aside. (I have to use natural art materials with EB.) I also had the boys work on an oldie but goodie - the "reindeer hands-and-feet" project. My 14 year-old Crackerjack is such a good sport. I asked him to join us in our craft-making and he happily did so.

Advent joy craft 1

Advent joy craft 2

I called this "Advent painting" because the blended paints became mostly purple and pink. :)

Advent joy craft 4

R painting 2

Advent joy craft 5

 The tiny one in the middle is Little Bear's.

:)

A bit later in the day, Earlylbird helped me make some brownies, a special St. Nicholas Day treat. Bookworm was on his way home from college, and we were eager to make a fun family supper. 

Advent joy baking

They were later topped with peppermint frosting - and as you can imagine, they were a hit!

Advent joy brownie

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Well my posts have been rather long-winded lately - not quite the quck and simple things I had envisioned when I started my Advent Peace & Joy series! But I've had a lot to say, and you've all been kind enough to listen ...

I say this a lot, but truly, thank you for taking the time to stop by and spend a bit of your precious time here with me. I'm happy when my words resonate with someone and/or bring something forward that is is happy or helpful in some way. I'd like to ask that you leave me comments with your own prayer intentions - I am in prayer an awful lot these days and I would be honored to remember your intentions alongside mine. 

For now though, I will sign off ... we have a tree to decorate today! I will surely be sharing some of that joy here later on ...

Blessings and love to you all ... see you here again very soon!


A last-minute (child-friendly) gift ...

Now I know I keep revisiting this tissue-candle craft, but honestly, I'm a little in love with it! It's such an easy project and it makes such a pretty gift ... something you could make with your kids (of all ages) in a jiffy. Keep the supplies on hand and in the space of an hour you'll have a wonderful last-minute gift ... for a teacher or coach, your pastor, a neighbor or anyone, really. Because who wouldn't love a sparkly, colorful candle handmade by a child just for them? 

Crackerjack made one yesterday morning for his Art teacher ...

Candlecraft1

(Two things to note in this picture (aside from the kid and the craft) ... 1. the cat (helping as usual) and, 2. the new yellow paint in my dining room. I love it! :D)

Supplies:

glass candle holder

tealight candle

colorful art tissue paper

dry-clear glue

paint brush

clear, white or iridescent glitter

(*fixative?)

(Note: I think tearing the tissue paper into bits and setting out the pile for the kids to work from, saves time and makes the whole project less fussy.)

Working in small sections, let the kids brush the glass with glue, and then stick on bits of colorful paper.

Candlecraft2

Once the glass is covered (encourage the kids to fill in any gaps), apply one final *very thin* coat of glue all over the outside. This will smooth down any edges and keep the paper from peeling over time. (Depending on the age - and patience - of your child, this might be best done by Mama.)

The glue also creates the perfect sticky surface for sparkles! Just shake glitter over the candleholder (or roll it in glitter set on a paper plate).

Now let it dry!

Candlecraft3

The glitter idea was my mum's, and it really lends just the right festive touch to the final project. My mum made so many crafts with us when we were kids - all year long, but especially at Christmas. (I think that's why Christmas is so linked with crafting in my mind!)

One thing I wondered, though, (and it's too early right now to call Mum up and ask) is whether or not we should spray the final project with a fixative of some sort. If only to keep the glitter from shaking off. Any thoughts, dear crafty readers? :)

While I cleaned up the mess, CJ set our projects in the sunny front window ...

Candlecraft4

And before heading to class, we packed CJ's craft in a pretty little bag. We also added a small "tin" of our favorite holiday cookies:

Candlecraft5

But as pretty as the candle looks sparkling in the sun, I think it looks especially lovely shining in the dark:

Candlecraft6

:)

So there you have it! A quick and easy last minute gift - or a New Year's craft? - or maybe just a nice winter's day project. Something to keep in mind for after the holidays when Winter really sets in - as does cabin fever!

(Now, I promise to lay off the tissue-candle craft for a little while, lol!)

And it was so lovely to "have tea" with you all yesterday. As soon as I finish this post, I'll be jumping into the comments to catch up ... Maybe you'll consider joining me again today?

4:00 my time ~ I'll be here with another cup and another kind of tea ... or maybe something stronger, lol. ;)

Whether you join me or not, I do hope you all have a wonderful day! Take care of yourselves (and your loved ones!) and I will do my best to do the same.

See you all again sometime soon!

**


Our Advent Calendar is Ready to Go!

Adventfun3

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

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

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

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

And here's how it turned out!

Adventfun2

I just love how it looks!

Adventfun7

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

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

Adventfun10

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

Adventfun17

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

Adventfun6

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

Adventfun11

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

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

Now, a word on the chocolates ...

Adventfun12

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

So what we will do is this:

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

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

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

Adventfun13

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

... our little Star Children ...

Adventfun14

... and my Holiday Peace candle:

Adventfun15

I'm just so very pleased.

Adventfun16

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

~****~

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

:)


Advent in August?

Adventtree1

Behold, our 2011 Advent calendar project! :)

Not to get ahead of myself - this being August and all - but I absolutely love the season of Advent! And I love to come up with new projects that highlight the joyful anticipation of this time of year. In the past, I've made use of bulletin boards, grapevine wreaths and candle-lit windowsills ... but this year a lovely wooden tree will be the focus of our countdown celebration!

I found this neat craft at AC Moore this weekend. I happened to have a 50% coupon to use, and so I only spent $12.50, rather than the $24 full price! It looks very pretty plain, but I'd like to paint/glitter/decoupage the tree (with my mum's help no doubt) and then fill the tiny drawers with happy little things like treats and notes for the boys to find. I'm envisioning a frosty, sweet "woodland" motif ... and I think it will look quite nice in our "revamped" sitting room. :)

And now that the sitting room is coming together (the loveseat arrives this Thursday!) I'm eager to gather and coordinate our "school supplies" and learning spaces. Also, I'm ironing out a new fall schedule, trying to make room for home-centered learning and all our outside activities - not to mention general household upkeep as well!

Well, I hope you all had a nice weekend. Can you believe it's just TWO weeks till Labor Day?! No, I can't believe it either. It happens every year and yet somehow it still catches us by surprise - the summer just FLIES by! Our town starts school next week but our first day will be (and always is) the day after Labor Day. I've just put in our curriculum order and I'm working on an outline of themes, goals and activities for Earlybird.

Oh, and thank you for all your sweet kitty comments! They are doing really well - settling in, getting brave - venturing out into the rest of the house, and absolutely LOVING the bird windows! They really are so very curious ...

Adventtree2

Have a happy Monday, my friends ... I'll be back again very soon!

:)


Star Cookies & Crafts for Little Christmas

Starcookies1

Though the Church celebrated last Sunday, January 6th is the traditional date for Epiphany or "Little Christmas." I had a few activities planned for celebrating this day, but we were still feeling pretty much under the weather. Luckily my plans were pretty simple. :)

To begin with, we made some rich spice cookies. I mixed up the dough in the morning and let it chill in the fridge till just after lunchtime. Then we set about making a small batch of star-shaped cookies.

The dough was not very easy to work with (or maybe my cookie cutter skills were a little rusty, lol), so our cookies looked a little less like Christmas stars and a bit more like starfish - some with a missing leg! 

Starcookies6

(They tasted pretty yummy all the same.) 

While the cookies were baking, Earlybird and I sat down to make a paper crown craft - a project I found in this month's High Five MagazineFirst though, we spent some time making rainbows. We had watched Sid the Science Kid in the morning, and the episode was all about rainbows - which just fascinate EB. 

Starcookies4

(Note the tongue - how I love the concentration - and you can see how chapped his little face is from this cold!)

So while EB perfected his rainbows, I started cutting, folding and curling the paper into a crown shape. (Let me know if you'd like detailed instructions for making the crown. I couldn't find a link to the craft online.)

Starcookies5

I added the star stickers myself since EB was feeling pretty much "done" by this point, lol:

Starcookies7 

EB also balked at getting "fitted" - and retired to rest on the couch - so I asked Crackerjack to model the crown for my picture:

 Starcookies3 

This was a very easy craft. It would make a great project for Carnival (aka Mardi Gras), too!

Our final project - and this one was all CJ and me - was making a "Star Lantern."

Starcookies2

Very simply - we placed star stickers on a glass jam jar, and wrapped some twine around the rim to form a handle. (I threaded some small bells onto the twine before tying it off.) Lastly, we dropped a tealight inside and hung the lantern beside our nativity corner. Had we felt a little better we might have taken our lanterns outside for a late day walk ...

Either way, they looked very pretty in the winter afternoon light. :)

Well, the week's coming to a close, so I wish you all a happy and restful weekend. We're in for a good dose of snow here in New England - in fact, it's just starting to snow here now as I finish up this post ... just lovely.

Thanks, as always, for stopping by ~ I will see you all again very soon!


Lovely Light on St. Lucia's Day

Stlucia1

And just guess who these three little star boys might be?

If you read my blog last Advent, then you may recall that on the Feast of St. Lucia, we celebrated with orange buns and cone hats for the boys. This is a beautiful Swedish holiday ~ a lovely celebration of light at the darkest time of year. (You can learn more at this charming site here.)

Well, this morning a trio of starry-capped fellows appeared unexpectedly on our Christmas mantel. They were a surprise for the boys, and of course the candles glowing on the mantel at 6 a.m. drew their attention immediately!

I had made the star boys (or stjarngossar) late yesterday afternoon, and they were lickety-split quick to fix up. Just tiny wooden peg doll figures, painted pure white for the base and flesh-pink for the top. A bit of black pen added angelic faces and mere scraps of construction paper were curled into cone shapes to fit each little head. At the very tip of each hat, I placed a glittering star sticker. (Quick craft alert: These could be made into angels or carolers or even fairies just as easily!)

The next thing that caught their attention was the sweet fragrance of orange and cranberry in the air. Sure enough, I had a loaf bread in the oven ...

Stlucia2

The recipe came from here, and it's a good one - but even better with a light dusting of powdered sugar and just a dab of butter. ;)

I also made up a pot of Glogg to take with us to Nature Club today. Glogg is a Swedish drink for the coldest nights of the year ... a hot mulled wine by tradition, but obviously I didn't use wine. (Though that would be nice some night for just Bill and me!) Instead I steeped cranberry juice in mulling spices all morning and by the time we were leaving, it was ready to go - and the house smelled like a country store at Christmas. (Do you know what I mean? That welcoming, spicy warm smell? Mmm, just like Vermont.)

So we did get off to Nature Club at last, and while there, I took lots of pictures. I'll post those tomorrow, but let me just say that though our meeting was brief (the storm hit!), it was wonderful. We learned about the winter solstice, we listened to an Odds Bodkins story, we ate solstice cupcakes and we took a nature walk together through the snowy woods ...

Best of all perhaps, was the candle-lighting ceremony. As we passed around a candle with which to light our own little votives - our lights began to glow and the snow began to fall as if on cue. It surely felt as if Winter had begun ...

Stlucia4

I have to tell you though, it was a bit of a challenge to keep the "calm in my heart" on that drive home from Nature Club today! Goodness, the roads were terrible and the snow was coming down like crazy. But I just popped in a quiet tape of carols, sipped my glogg and whispered a prayer for our safe return home. :)

Now it's late afternoon and our home is surrounded by that lovely winter light that only a snowstorm affords. We have a Swedish book to read this evening - The Tomten and the Fox (if ever there was a quiet book, this is it) or perhaps an Elsa Beskow book or two. I love all her books, but I think Ollie's Ski Trip will do nicely for today. (Fyi, Earlybird is receiving The Sun Egg tomorrow for his birthday! I can't wait to read it, lol!)

Stlucia5

A snowy, candle-lit afternoon; here's that quiet at last ...


Gingerbread Goodness!

Ginger1

A busy morning of lessons and therapy (and all that ice gazing), left us with big appetites at yesterday's lunchtime. I insisted the boys eat up well because - according to our December 11th Advent Tag - we had an afternoon of gingerbread goodness ahead of us!

Normally, with Earlybird's dietary restrictions, I need to make things from scratch. But I spied these lovely gingerbread men at Whole Foods last week and, after checking the ingredients label, I decided they would be OK. (More than OK, they were soft and delicious and best of all, easy!) As much as I love making gingerbread (nothing smells more like Christmas, I think) some days there just isn't time. Yesterday was one of those days, so I was glad for these cookies in the cupboard!

For the record, the decorations - while hardly sugar-free - are all-natural and Feingold-approved. They had to be, for Eb's sake! From left to right: Sunspire Chocolate Baking Drops, Ghirardelli White Chocolate Baking Chips, homemade buttercream frosting, India Tree Snowflake Sprinkles and Sparkling White Sugar, Candied Ginger Babies, and a mixture of Sunspire Semi-Sweet Chocolate and Peanut Butter Baking Chips.

Well, you can just bet Earlybird was first to the table, and if you notice, he claimed the candy-coated chocolates for himself ...

Ginger2

I asked Bookworm to read aloud Gingerbread Baby while I kept EB from eating too many candies assisted Earlybird with his cookie. This beloved story is special to my Crackerjack - he LOVES Jan Brett anyway, but this particular book was a gift to him on his very first Christmas! (We always read the note inscribed inside before starting the story.)

Ginger10

Here's a parade of cookies for you ...

Ginger3

*Crackerjack's*

Ginger4

*EB's*

Ginger5

*Mine*

*If you squint, you can see mine is actually a gingerbread mama, complete with a ginger baby in each arm. ;)

(Note ~ Bookworm ate his too quickly for a photo, lol, but I can tell you he preferred the pb-and-chocolate chips.)

After we cleaned up the cookie concoctions, I set out a simple craft for Earlybird, who was eager to do something "with goo and 'parkles." I just cut out gingerbread men from brown construction paper and laid them out for him to embellish ...

Ginger6

... because nothing says "craft" to Eb like glitter and glue.

Ginger7

When they were all done, we set them out to "cool" ...

Ginger8

... and then strung them up in our window, alongside his minty watercolor hearts ...

Ginger12

Late in the afternoon as the sun started to fade and the boys had dispersed to various pursuits, I popped in Little Bear's Gingerbread Cookies to watch with Earlybird. You know, as children's programming goes, Little Bear has to be one of the best. We've loved LB since Bookworm was little!

These homey Advent Afternoons are rushing by so quickly! How many days are left now? Can it really be less than two weeks? And, just so you know, as of today, our cards are not in the mail, the tree is still half decorated, and I've yet to wrap a single package ... but somehow it will all get done. Right? Lol, maybe I should have made up Advent Tags for myself - with to-do's rather than treats!

Well, thanks, as always, for sharing our day with us ... and I hope you have a wonderful Wednesday!


Cookies, Crafts and ... Cobwebs?

Cobweb1

Yes, cobwebs! But in the very nicest way. :)

Are you familiar at all with the book The Cobweb Curtain by Jenny Koralek? Well, thanks to Cay's Christmas Mosaic I am now! What a beautiful story. I had tears in my eyes by the end ~ and all because of a spider! (Well, a spider and the part she plays in the greatest story ever told.)

When the Holy Family hides in her cave, a tiny spider spins a glorious web large enough and strong enough to provide them with warmth and protection. By morning, the soldiers have passed and the web is covered in a brilliant, breathtaking frost:

Cobweb3

This story touched us so, I knew a few crafts were in order. :)

First thing we did was to play around with some silver chenille stems, making all kinds of shapes for the tree:

Cobweb4

(Yes, that's Crackerjack in his pajama shirt, but as he pointed out to me, he was keeping to the theme.)

While the older boys worked on lessons, I made up a little crafty corner for Earlybird. Marianne of Learning2Love passed this idea on at 4Real and I loved it. I attached a large section of brown kraft paper to the wall - just beneath our classroom bulletin board, and just at the right EB height:

Cobweb10

I drew the outline of a Christmas tree, then cut it out and taped it down (using, ahem, a few thumbtacks to secure the edges).

Then I let EB have at it ~ he can fill this tree with drawings, stickers and we can even make little crafty paper ornaments to tape up over the next few weeks.

Cobweb5

By the way, I emptied the bulletin board today to make room for all the wonderful happy faces that arrive in the mail daily - Christmas greetings from friends and family. There are just a few cards so far, but before long it will look like this!

Oh yes, and about those cookies pictured at the top of this post? Very easy and quick. I sliced a roll of Pilsbury gingerbread dough (kept on hand for just this kind of day - no time for scratch baking!) and baked several cookies for our afternoon snack.

While the cookies were in the oven, I made up a batch of sugar icing and cobbled together a piping bag of sorts. When the cookies were cool, I started in on the cobweb designs:

Cobweb11

Cobweb12

A final dusting of frost (white sprinkles) made our cobweb cookies complete. (I managed to save just a few for Daddy!)

Bellies now full, we began a quick cobweb craft:

Cobweb6

I set out glitter and glue in all sizes and shapes, and placed a piece of wax paper at each seat. I showed them how to make a glitter cobweb and then stepped away and let them try it out. Except for some clogged nozzles it all went quite smoothly.

Cobweb7

(I feel I should mention - we have yet to decorate our tree, but the boys have added a few items of their own: bookmarks, pipe cleaners, and lol, Star Wars toys.)

And just like the cookies - a thread of glue (instead of icing) was spread in concentric circles, and a toothpick was dragged through to make the web design:

Cobweb8

Then a good shake of glitter to recall the story of the day:

Cobweb9

Originally I planned to let the shapes dry, then peel them gently off the wax paper and hang them as ornaments. (I did this last year with stars.) But since the glue was taking a while to dry, we decided to cut out the wax paper around them and hang them up in the tree.

Here's Crackerjack's:

Cobweb13

They really catch the light nicely. Or maybe, just like in the story, they are hiding the light safely within.

Well, thanks for stopping by and letting me share our day with you. :) It's getting late now so I'd best wrap up. I've just issued (pajama) marching orders and Bill just walked in, so ...

Good night! Have a wonderful weekend ...

*ETA: This morning we placed a cobweb ornament in the Nativity set - in front of a little cave (which once belonged to a dragon, lol). Just inside you can spy the Holy Family - just like in the story! :)

Cobweb14


Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Stnick1

So, what's the plan for the day? Well, I'm so glad you asked! ;)

This morning when the boys read their Advent tag, they were directed to search the Christmas tree for a special surprise. And there they found hanging - one for each of them - a shiny striped candy cane!

Stnick2

They are big, all-natural candy canes that I bought at Whole Foods! Now, I dont mean to sound like a candy cane snob, lol, but my Earlybird can't eat most candies due to food sensitivities, so I am always pleased to find natural alternatives when I can. You can't see it in the picture, but behind each candy cane's tag, I wrote the following stanza from a lovely blessing I found at the St. Nicholas Center:

Wherever these candy canes are hung,

On tree or wall or door,

May they carry with them

The bright blessing of God.

May all who shall taste them

Experience the joy of God

Upon their tongues and in their hearts.

After breakfast (and after math), we'll set in to work on a craft for the day, a very simple, St. Nicholas bookmark. I thought that since this is our Book Group day, the craft would be timely and practical. I photocopied our St. Nicholas holy card (you can easily find similar images online), for the boys to cut and apply to a few leftover bookmarks from Monday's Cocoa Storytime. They can then decorate them as they wish. While they work, I'll read aloud The Night before Christmas, and when I finish reading, I'll hand the book over to the boys - their memory work for this month is to learn this beloved poem by heart! :)

We also packed up some peppermint goodies to share with our friends at the library today (Hershey candy cane kisses and starlight mints).

Stnick3

And of course no trip to the library is complete without filling up a sack-full of books! Here's my wish list for today:

This afternoon after returning home from Book Group, we'll have a little snack - gingerbread men (I bought, rather than made) and cups of Candy Cane Lane tea ~ except we do a slight variation, steeping the herbal tea bag in a cup of cocoa for a few minutes. Crackerjack does not care for peppermint, so I'll be making him a cup of warmed almond milk. His candy cane is actually cherry-flavored which will make a delicious stirrer!

Well, Happy Thursday ~ I hope your day is a good one ~ see you again sometime soon!


Comforts & Joys for My Boys!

You might remember last week I posted about our homemade Advent calendar? Well, we kicked it off on Saturday and so far it has been a great success! Except for yesterday when the extreme cold cancelled our winter woods walk, the days have worked out mostly as planned.

As I described in my earlier post, I am hanging just one week's worth of tags at a time (this gives me a chance to determine what we can and can't do), but since I have most of the ideas written down now, I thought I'd share them here ~ just in case an idea jingles a bell with you. ;)

Now, some of the activities are just for the older two (like Book Group for instance) in which case, I've made up a little something for Earlybird to do with Nana at home.

*Brief note: Now that it's published I see this list looks HUGE, lol, but really each idea is simple and mostly home-centric. My goal is a quiet, happy Christmas for my family ~ a time of memorable, meaningful comforts and joys! I hope some little thing here might be helpful to you and yours. :)

And now on to the list ...

********************************************************************

* We'll spend a day making gifts for family and friends. This year, my friend Lisa shared a new idea with me - lovely little glass magnets. They're really easy to do so the boys should be able to make many in one day. (I'll be posting the craft instructions later this week.)

* One night we'll visit ZooLights with Nana and Papa! (A local zoo turns itself into a winter wonderland of twinkling lights at this time of year. We've never been, but I hear its beautiful and great fun!)

* One morning, we'll go on a winter woods walk. We'll gather natural materials like pinecones and evergreen boughs to use at home for decorations. We'll also cut branches of forsythia to bring inside and "force" in a vase of water - hopefully for Christmas bloom.

* One day we'll attend a Holiday Cocoa Storytime with our homeschooling group! Each child will bring his or her favorite winter holiday story to share. Stories will be read by the mums as the kids sip hot cocoa and munch on all kinds of goodies.

* We'll explore the science and folklore of the Winter Solstice at Nature Club one day! Our leader (one of our homeschooling mums) will explain the solstice to the children and then lead them through a candle lighting ceremony. Then we'll take a walk through the woods to find winter, and return to solstice cupcakes, hot cocoa and an Odds Bodkins tale from The Evergreens: Gentle Tales of Nature. The kids will all go home with a mistletoe craft!

*On the actual Solstice (Decemer 22) we'll decorate our spruce tree with homemade goodies for our birds and squirrels. We'll watch Little Bear's Winter Tales (which includes a story about a tree for the snow angels) and drink "snow cocoa." (White hot chocolate with a bit of orange.) We'll also make bark rubbings of our tree and write about it all in our nature notebooks.

* One day the older boys will go to Nana's to decorate a gingerbread house! At home, EB and I will have some online gingerbread fun and when brothers come home, the bedrooms will be made up with Christmas flannels and there will be white lights around the windows!

* On December 14th, we'll celebrate Earlybird's 6th birthday! (We'll also call Papa to wish him a Happy Birthday too!) Daddy will bring home EB's favorite pizza for supper and I'll make a vanilla cake with buttercream frosting and snowflake sprinkles (natural ones he can have!). Early in the day EB will receive a new paint set and we'll all paint together that afternoon. (From these paintings we'll make gift tags.)

* One day will be a Polar Express Day! We'll read the book at breakfast (a Christmas favorite!) and then bring up the Polar Express train set from out of storage. We'll set it up by the tree. After lunch we'll watch the movie curled up with hot-hot-hot-hot chocolate. :)

* One Sunday we'll attend a Caroling Christmas Party with our Parish! We'll bundle up and head over late in the afternoon. A hayride will take us caroling and then we'll return to church for pizza, cookies, ornament-making and a holiday movie!

* On the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12th), we'll read The Legend of the Poinsettia and make Aztec hot chocolate for tea. (Cinnamon pita chips, too!)

*We'll attend our Homeschool Games Day and bring Merry Christmas Bingo to share with the group. We'll bring cookies to share, too. (At home, Earlybird and Nana will make salt-dough ornaments to bake and paint.)

*We'll attend our Homeschool Book Group one day and pick out a few new Christmas books at the library before we head out. At home, Nana and EB will make crafty ornaments together for a large paper tree that we'll hang on the wall. (I got this idea from Marianne at Learning2Love!)

* One night we'll go on a Night-Lights drive! We'll all bundle up (the boys in their pj's, coats and and boots) and we'll drive them around the neighborhood to view all the pretty lights. I'll fill the boys' small thermal cups with cocoa they can sip along the way, and we'll listen to Christmas music as we drive.

* One day we'll visit a real barn to wish our favorite farm animals a happy Christmas. While we're there, we'll talk about how cold and uncomfortable a barn would be for a baby. Before we leave we'll buy some homemade pies for our freezer, and when we get home we'll use the pictures we took at the farm to write about our visit.

* One Saturday morning, we'll stop in at a local Starbucks for a special "holiday"drink from the menu (decaf or otherwise child-friendly). Meanwhile EB and Daddy will go to social skills group and come home to homemade cocoa together - and Daddy will surprise EB with special marshmallows he can have! Home altogether in the afternoon, we'll pop popcorn and watch videos of old-fashioned Christmas specials.

*One day we'll celebrate angels! We'll read a special book or two about angels ~ then we'll make an angel-bell ornament. Later we'll watch It's a Wonderful Life and enjoy some yummy angel kisses.

* We'll plan a merry Christmas for our kitties! First we'll read a few favorite books "to" the cats (if they're willing) ~ Cat in the Manger, A Pussycat's Christmas, Santa's Snow Cat, and The Christmas Cat. Later we'll make some felt-catnip toys as presents for Midget, Penny and Pooch.

* One afternoon we'll watch Take Peace: A Corgi Cottage Christmas with Tasha Tudor. We'll talk about how her Christmas in the country is different from (and similar to) ours. We'll read A Corgiville Christmas, and then, after sunset, Daddy will have a special surprise in our garden.

*One day Nana will come over to make her special fudge with the boys. We'll decorate little tins with stickers and labels and fill them up for family and friends. After we're done we'll serve Nana some Christmas tea and eat up all the "crumbles" of leftover fudge!

* On December 25th ~ Merry Christmas! We'll welcome home our whole family today! We'll also find a shining star hanging over our nativitiy set and the best surprise of all just inside. :)

********************************************************************

Well, as always, thanks for stopping by ~ and if anyone has an idea they'd like to share ~ well, I'm all ears! What comforts and joys does your family enjoy at this time of year? One can never have too many ideas to choose from ... because the beautiful thing about Christmas is, there's always next year!

Keep warm and well, everyone!